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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

Saturday, April 29, 2017

GEAR REVIEW: Topo Terraventure Trail Shoe

By Will Rietveld

Topo has found a way to maximize the performance of the Terraventure with the least amount of weight.

According to one study, taking 1 pound off your feet is equivalent to taking 6 pounds out of your backpack, so lightweight shoes are an important component of an ultralight backpacking kit. But not any lightweight shoe will do for backpacking, especially over rough terrain. My choice for ultralight backpacking footwear is lightweight, supportive, cushioned, grippy trail running shoes. That is the context of this review.

I have wide feet (E width), so my preference is shoes with a wide toebox so my feet can splay out. That feature also helps a lot when my feet swell during long hikes or runs. The toebox area is the only area where I want the extra width; I want the heelcup to be snug.

The Topo Terraventure is designed for running on rough trails, which makes it a good candidate for ultralight backpacking. (Topo Athletic photo)

Topo shoes are one of the few shoe brands offering that combination. Most others are simply “medium width”. I previously tested the Topo Hydroventure, a waterproof-breathable shoe made with eVent DVdry LT membrane and construction, and my feet loved them. Is the Topo Terraventure just as good?

Specifications and Features

Manufacturer
Topo Athletic (www.topoathletic.com)
Model
Terraventure
Weight
10.2 oz/shoe (men’s 9); 11.4 oz/shoe (men’s 12 tested)
Features
No-sew construction, nylon mesh upper with polyurethane overlays, wide toebox, fitted heel cup, gusseted tongue, Ghillie lacing system, 3mm heel to toe drop, flexible forefoot TPU rock plate, high-traction outsole, EVA midsole
MSRP
$110

Description

 
The Terraventure’s upper is nylon mesh with polyurethane overlays, and no-stitch construction.

 
An aggressive outsole lug design provides serious traction.

Soon after the shoes arrived I took them on a 12-day camping and hiking trip in the TucsonArizona area. The rubber outsoles have loads of grip and rarely slipped.

 Testing


Although the Terraventure has a fully gusseted tongue, I prefer to wear short lightweight gaiters over them to keep debris out, especially when hiking off-trail.

Over four months of testing I wore the Terraventure on 44 day hikes and one backpack, for a total of 48 testing days. Trail conditions varied widely: desert granite, hardpacked snow, frozen mud, slickrock, rocky trails, Utah sand, and steep dirt trails. I wore them trail running several days. The backpacking trip in Utah’s Canyonlands country included class 3 scrambling, bashing through brush, and walking sandy washes.

Performance

Fit – I found the fit to be the same as the Hydroventure, a wide toebox and snug heelcup. However, since my measured shoe size is a 12-E, I found the toebox none too wide. I had to wear thin socks in them to avoid scrunching my toes. The wide toebox is a welcome feature, even for h  for hikers with normal feet, because their feet pancake out on prolonged hikes.

Breathability – The mesh nylon upper provided good breathability; only a coarse mesh upper would provide more, but that has its disadvantages -- your toes get very dirty and sand enters easily. I wore the shoes in 89F temperatures in southern Arizona in relative comfort.

Traction – The Terraventure has a 6 mm rubber outsole with a very aggressive tread. Traction is outstanding.

Stability – The forefoot TPU rock plate insulates my feet from sharp rocks, while providing the right amount of stiffness for edging. For downhill hiking I like to tighten the laces over my instep to prevent toe jamming, and the Ghillie lacing system holds firm in that location without slipping.

Comfort – The EVA midsole is 14 mm in the heel and 11 mm at the ball. I found cushioning to be very good, but not as good as some other brands with enhanced cushioning. The Ghillie lacing allowed me to simply tug on the lacing to tighten it over my instep to enhance stability, especially on descents, while remaining looser in the lower section for maximum toebox width.

Durability – The Terraventure is amazingly durable. After 48 days of hiking on rough trails, off-trail bushwhacking, and some trail running, the uppers look like new and the outsoles are only lightly worn. The only evidence of use is some scuffing on the edges of the outsole.

Cleaned after 48 days of use, the only sign of use is some scuffing on the edges of the outsole; the nylon mesh upper looks like new. The outsole is worn some, but there is still a lot of life left in the shoes.


The only issue I had with the Terraventure is fine Utah sand sifts through the nylon upper when hiking in dry washes. In that situation I had to remove the shoes frequently and dump sand out of them.

 Assessment

 My overall evaluation of the Terraventure is very similar to the Hydroventure I previously reviewed: the Topo Terraventure is one of the best hiking shoes I have tested. Their wide toebox is what allows me to wear them in the first place, and all of their features add up to a near perfect shoe for ultralight backpacking and day hiking. For their minimal weight, their fit, comfort, traction, and durability are amazing.

An article I would like to write in the near future is my concept of the perfect shoe for ultralight backpacking. And a perfect example of that shoe is the Topo Terraventure.

I really like no-stitch upper construction. Over the years I have tested and reviewed numerous hiking boots and shoes, and found the nemesis is stitching at the fifth metatarsal head (the widest part of your forefoot on the outside). Hiking off-trail and sliding down scree slopes (scree skiing) puts a lot of wear on that exposed area, which wears the stitching through, and the seam comes apart. With no-stitch construction that problem is eliminated (see photos above).

The Terraventure is the most durable trail running shoe I have tested, and I have tested a lot. I usually end up with holes in the mesh in shoes with mesh uppers, but the Terraventure’s nylon mesh upper is essentially unscathed. It helps a lot to have a good polyurethane rand just above the outsole to protect the upper, and in particular a polyurethane overlay at the fifth metatarsal head, as described above and shown in the photos.

The aggressive traction outsole is another component of this shoe I especially like. It provides phenomenal traction, which is a necessity for hiking. At the end of my testing, there is still plenty of life left in the shoes.

For a shoe designed to provide stability on rough trails, the Terraventure is on the lighter end, which I also appreciate. Topo has found a way to maximize the performance of the Terraventure with the least amount of weight.

Finally, at $110 the Terraventure is a good value compared to stability shoes by other brands that cost $20 to $30 more.

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