This is a technical jacket. The core specifications – Polartec’s new NeoShell fabric, taped seams, storm hood – are impressive. But most importantly it performs well. As with anything new, it’s a little stiff when you first put it on, but that concern quickly fades away as the totally bomber nature of the Zion is realized. While you’re still standing in the store trying it on, you are transported to icy crags and powder days.
This is a winter jacket. The insulative nature of the soft shell is such that during any sporty activity you will want to be in the near freezing/sub-freezing temperatures. The NeoShell fabric is totally windproof. I was impressed when bombing down ski slopes, dead into the wind, and though I felt the pressure of the wind against my body, the cold never seeped through.
The hood, with the jacket zipped all the way up, stayed on my head keeping my forehead warm – something I noticed as a concern earlier in the season before I had the Zion. Even in the wind, this jacket is quiet. While taking a phone call on my iPhone ear-buds, using the iPod port, the microphone tucked inside the jacket didn’t pick up any of the wind or rustling outside. The caller was impressed to know I was on a windy mountain slope and claimed it sounded as if I was inside somewhere.
» Full Story »
After trying various Garmont and Scarpa tele boots I found Crispi, an Italian brand that fits my feet perfectly: wide and high volume. I ordered the XP’s as they were described to have the broadest versatility, especially for a relatively new telemark skier. Medium weight to help punch through any crud snow and plenty stiff for tight response. These boots have served me well in all conditions from crusey groomers to earning turns in the backcountry. Most importantly they are very comfortable and my feet are totally secure in them. My heel stays in place and I’ve never had any issues of rubbing, blistering or cramping. I skied on them for a full season before I baked the thermal liners. After molding the liners to my feet I found a whole new level of comfort and control. The boots are also plenty warm which is very important when on a backcountry lunch break between climbs and runs sitting around in the snow. I have yet to take these boots on a multi-day tour to see what it’s like to put them on after sitting out overnight in the cold, but hopefully that will come soon.
The Crispi XP’s soft rubber Skywalk sole grips the snow well when walking around on compact snow and the duckbill is strong and stiff enough to punch enough of a lip to step on when booting it up sections too steep to make it worth while to skin up.
My few concerns stem from how easily the tongue under each of the upper buckles sometimes mesh the wrong way. I usually catch this when it becomes ridiculously difficult to lock the buckle down and after catching this the first time I know to keep an eye out for this. Also, the power strap is way too long. It makes me wonder how fat of a leg it can accommodate. Maybe it’s that long to work as a shoulder strap when strapping the boots together to carry them, but I’m not sure as I have a boot bag for them. Another little annoyance is having to flip up the D-ring where the leash attaches. I don’t really have a well thought out solution in mind, but if the D-ring could somehow stick out some and not just rest right up against the boot, it would make it easier to attach the ski leash.
Continue reading: click “Full Story” below.
» Full Story »
Most river trips are not limited to just being on the river. Sure, on some trips there is plenty of time to make the transition from being on the river to exploring the land along the river. But sometimes you want to hit the ground running right as you’re pulling your boat onto the shore. For both of these scenarios OR’s DryComp Ridge Sack fits the bill.
I have a nice little Mammut backpack that I love and use for the majority of my terrestrial trips. For it to come on my river trips it needs to be stored in a dry bag taking up valuable waterproof room. Enter the DryComp Ridge Sack.
Now the essential items needed on a hike could stay dry and just be strapped to the top of the dry bags on my boat and be ready to go in a moment. This was the case a few times on a recent rafting trip in the Arctic when we spotted some wildlife from the river and wanted to hike in for a closer look.
With a standard dry bag style rolling closure on the top the Ridge Sack performed as any dry bag would. A cargo net strapped on the outside made for easy access to important items like bear spray and lightly padded shoulder straps made the pack comfortable to wear even when packed full of heavy photography equipment, water, food and rain gear. The sternum strap has an emergency whistle built in and there is a thin strap and buckle set up as a waist belt which helps more when running with the pack then for standard walking use.
The OR DryComp Ridge Sack preformed as expected. Recommended for any wet trips.
» Full Story »
Photo: Nathaniel Wilder
After wearing a Kokatat Dry Suit for 15 days in the Arctic, it’s no wonder why Kokatat is the leader in the paddlesports attire field. This suit performed superbly, as expected: it kept me dry and warm, it was easy to put on and take off, and it was plenty comfortable.
A group of friends and I embarked on a 15-day journey down the Kongakut River in the far northeastern corner of Alaska from the Brooks Mountains to the Arctic Ocean in packrafts and inflatable kayaks. Granted, we didn’t hit much (if any, really) whitewater. At most we paddled through a very mild Class III. So, the risk of getting totally immersed in the water was slim – though, it did happen to 3 of the 4 packrafters. Ironically not to the one wearing a full dry suit (me)! The others on the trip were wearing various combinations of dry bottoms, dry tops and neoprene. As long as they stayed in their boat, they remained plenty dry, save their feet. Another score for the dry suit with booties: dry feet snuggled in toasty wool Teko socks for the whole trip.
» Full Story »
Lateral access to my gear was a phenomenal convenience on my recent 15-day river trip in the Arctic. The biggest concern anyone has regarding the functionality of a dry bag is “does it keep my gear dry?”. In short, yes. Granted, I never tipped my boat to have it mauled by massive rapids as a potential test. But everything I put in those bags for days on the river stayed totally dry – guarding against full over-the-bow waves and a few squalls of rain.
I had two 45-liter bags with me and I organized them roughly by gear I needed for my in-camp kit: sleeping bag, pad, warm clothes for around camp, cook kit, etc. The other bag was filled with gear used for other aspects of the trip like boots for day hikes, hiking clothes, bug nets, various hats, and the such. The bags do have little windows in them and I had to make use of those as both of the bags I had were the same color. There’s the one change I would make on my next trip: different colored bags to distinguish them. Having two 45-liter bags instead of one large 90-liter bag kept my gear more organized and I often found myself all packed up and ready to get on the river well before some of my companions dealing with larger bags. Granted, most of our individual circumstances and styles varied, but I was able to develop an efficient system.
It was so nice to no longer have to think about what order to pack things as was the case with the standard top loading dry bags (what goes on the bottom and will be hard to get to vs. what needs to be easy to get to on top). I could open the lateral access and see nearly everything in the bag. Closing the bag was simple. With the standard style of folding, purging, rolling and clipping there was no learning curve to transition to the lateral style. The only hiccup I found in the workflow of this style is the clips on the side of the bag flop around some (as they’re attached to the cinch straps) and often ended up under the bag. I had to lift the bag and take a hand to fish them out, placing a knee on the top of the bag so it didn’t come undone.
In closing the bag, there are two options. For full waterproof protection there are clips on the side of the bag with cinch straps as described above. But if you’re in camp and just want to seal up the bag so it will withstand whatever weather might blow through camp, OR placed opposite style clips on either side of the bag so you can pull the two sides together much like how smaller dry bags close.
Another nice aspect of using the smaller 45-liter bags was I had more options in the configuration of strapping them to my raft. On a packraft options are very limited, but we had to make some major accommodations to be able to fit all of our gear and food and other supplies on these smaller style boats. More on that in the packraft review.
In the end, these are great bags and I recommend them.
» Full Story »
The TrekSta Evolution is a really great all-round shoe. Putting them on and experiencing the NestFIT insole for the first time was a unique experience. The textured insole felt odd at first, but once my foot was in the shoe and settled the tri-density footbed and well-researched last wrapped around my foot and felt very secure.
Since getting a pair I have tested them in the Brooks Range in Alaska, along the shore of the Arctic Ocean, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, in the Mahoosuc Mountains in Maine, and on the rugged Sawatch Range along the Continental Divide in Colorado. Along with plodding through numerous airports (they slip off and on easily for security), mashed in my luggage, and on nice strolls in various parks. They handled each of these conditions admirably and remain my go-to shoe for anything active. Even replacing heavy hiking boots at times.
In Alaska, I tromped across the tundra and soaked my shoes in the morning dew as well as in the marshy grasses where the permafrost has prevented the spring melt to absorb into the ground. My feet stayed perfectly warm in my Teko wool socks and the shoes dried easily by the fire that evening. The grippy sole did well along the wet rocks and logs of the White and Mahoosuc Mountains (though I did push the edge some and slipped here and there). And finally, amongst the jagged rocks on and off trail in the Sawatch Range in Colorado, the Evolution provided superb traction and support.
Other technical aspects I appreciate about the shoe are the ribbed laces that keep them from coming untied amidst the rigorous pounding and the mesh sides allow for breathability. The downside of the mesh is the shoes are far from waterproof. The one feature I’ve not yet had a chance to test is the IceLock system built into the sole for icy conditions.
I’ve been looking for a good trail shoe for some time and the TrekSta Evolution has filled the need nicely.
» Full Story »