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, August 10, 2016

Summer 2016 Outdoor Retailer Trade Show: Footwear of Interest

By Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl

 Footwear (this article)

There are so many footwear brands at Outdoor Retailer that we could easily devote all of our time to footwear. Instead, we highlight several new shoes that we found that should be of interest to lightweight and ultralight hikers.

Overall, we are preferably looking for all-synthetic materials, no-stitch construction, reinforcement for stability, cushioning, a wide toebox and snug heelcup, and a good traction outsole.

Please note the following:
·         Items covered will be available for purchase in spring 2017, unless noted otherwise.
·         Weights are per shoe for a men’s size 9, unless noted otherwise.

The new North Face Endurus Hiker and Runner have ExtraFoam midsole (thick foam cushioning), an all-synthetic upper, stitching in the hiker but no-stitch in the runner, and grippy Vibram outsole. The hiker (top) weighs 14.3 ounces/shoe and costs $130; a Gore-Tex version will be available. The Endurus Runner (bottom) has a 6 mm heel rise (20 mm/14 mm heel/forefoot sole unit), weighs 11.2 ounces/shoe and also costs $130.

Coming from Columbia and Montrail, is OutDry Extreme Footwear, with the OutDry Extreme membrane on the outside. Examples are the Terrebonne OutDry Extreme Mid (top), a hiking shoe with a Vibram outsole (17.5 oz/shoe, $150); and the Caldorado II OutDry Extreme, a trail runner (9.4 oz/shoe, $155). Both shoes are all-synthetic and have no-stitch construction, which is what we like to see.

Last year I reported on the Lone Peak NeoShell (bottom shoe), which is a low-cut shoe coming out this spring (10.9 ounces/shoe and $149). A mid-high version, the Altra Lone Peak NeoShell Mid (top shoe) is coming out now 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.

The new Salomon XA Enduro Shoe is intended for rough terrain and wet surfaces. It has a built-in gaiter at the top to keep grit out, reinforcement to provide stability, all synthetic materials, no-sew construction, a Contragrip outsole with wet-traction rubber, and weight of 10.6 ounces/shoe; $160.

As I reported from the winter 2016 OR, Under Armor is in the footwear business now and they have some good lightweight shoes suitable for hiking. This time we found the Under Armour FKT Trail Shoe, part of their Horizon trail run collection. FKT stands for Fastest Known Time. The collection features no-stitch sonic welded upper, durable welded overlays, ESS plate for protection, a translucent rip-stop upper with internal forefoot bootie construction, a high-density foam tongue, and a Michelin outsole with a Wild Dig Decent’ R lug pattern for all-weather traction. Weight is just 10 ounces/shoe and costs $130. It has a 7 millimeter heel rise.

We didn’t pay much attention to Sketchers shoes before, but then we started hearing some good things about their latest models. At their booth we found a new version of the Sketchers Go Trail Shoe, which will be available in September. This one has stitching around the toebox and 4 millimeters of heel rise. Weight is 9.6 ounces/shoe and MSRP is $120.

 Footwear (this article)

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