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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.