Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Outdoor Retailer Winter 2016: FOOTWEAR

By Will Rietveld

Please note that this article simply highlights new lightweight gear of interest, and by no means is it comprehensive of the category or constitute a review of the item. It’s simply a collection of new interesting gear for lightweight backcountry travel.

Items featured will be available in spring 2016 unless stated otherwise. Weights are for men’s size 9 unless stated otherwise.

Altra Lone Peak NeoShell Mid. Last year I reported on the Lone Peak NeoShell, which is a low-cut shoe coming out this spring (10.9 ounces/shoe and $149). A mid-high version (right) will come out in July 2016 that will weigh 11.9 ounces/shoe and cost $159. The unique features about these shoes are they are zero drop (no heel rise), have a wide toe box for foot expansion, and are the only shoes that use a Polartec NeoShell membrane as the outside shell of the shoe, which makes them waterproof-breathable.

Baffin Borealis Boot. I didn’t get the weight of this boot but it is a bit on the heavy side. It’s mostly a technology story, as told in the left photo. Two key features of this boot make it appealing: 1) it has an external TPU shell which makes it bombproof, and 2) it has a removable liner that can be used as a cabin shoe. It’s claimed comfortable temperature range is 41F to -22 F. MSRP is $230.

Fox River Adventure Cross-Terrain (AXT) Sock Collection. Socks in Fox River’s Basecamp, Turnpike, and Jasper lines – 13 styles in all – have been updated with a Spandex arch support, elastic on the sides of the heel pocket, mesh ventilation in the midfoot, comfort flat toe seam, and reinforced heel and toe. They’re made of 36% merino wool, 36% acrylic, 26% nylon, and 2% Spandex. MSRP for each is $13, which is a great value for a high-tech durable sock.

Saucony Razor Ice + Running Shoe. These shoes have a waterproof shell over the shoe inside, stitchless construction, and a Vibram Arctic Grip outsole. Weight is 11.6 oz/shoe and MSRP is $180. 

Topo HydroVenture Shoe. This is the first shoe to adopt the new eVent DVdry LT membrane and construction. It utilizes an upper construction that consists only of a three-layer waterproof laminate---the typical internal waterproof bootie has been completely eliminated in this new technology. eVent’s DVdry LT construction method reduces the amount of material and number of steps in constructing the shoe, which will increase manufacturing efficiency. The membrane on top is durable, flexible, and highly breathable (a 40% increase), and is protected by a TPU overlay which also provides extra support. Topo was not at the winter 2016 Outdoor Retailer show, so we will find out more about this shoe when it comes out this spring. MSRP is $120.

Under Armour Fat Tire GTX Boot. These full-height boots feature a Michelin rubber grippy outsole, a well padded midsole, Gore-Tex lining, and Boa closure. The heel rise is 7 mm. Weight is 15 oz/boot, MSRP is $200, available now.

Under Armour Verge Mid GTX Boot. The Verge Mid (left) is lighter than the Fat Tire at 13.1 oz/boot, which is good for a full-height boot. It has a lightweight breathable mesh upper with supportive welded overlays and Gore-Tex lining. The Michelin outsole with Wild Gripper rubber compound provides excellent traction on a variety of terrains. The heel rise is also 7mm, $170, available now.

Vasque Lost 40 Mukluk and Coldspark Boot. The Lost 40 (right) is an extreme cold weather boot, a modern day mukluk constructed of traditional and modern materials. A softshell and suede leather upper, a removable 7mm felted wool liner with 200g of 3M Thinsulate, and a midsole of AeroGel foam ensure feet will be warm and well-cushioned. The Lost 40 assures a snug fit with a unique 2-part zonal lacing system. A quick-lace toggle tightens at the bottom, while a separate lacing at the top with a snap-down garage keeps laces secure. The outsole is Vibram Overland with an anti-slip IceTrek compound. Weight is 3 pounds 1 ounce/pair and MSRP is $180. The Coldspark (left) is a lightweight insulated winter hiker. Using 200 grams of Thinsulate and Vasque’s proprietary UltraDry waterproofing, this boot will keep feet warm on winter hikes. The outsole is ColdHold Compound with harder, sharper lugs on the perimeter while the center lugs remain pliable in cold temperatures. The Coldspark UltraDry is Vasque’s fastest, lightest, most athletic winter boot to date. Weight is 2 pounds 3 ounces/pair and MSRP is $140.


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