Showing posts with label Boots. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boots. Show all posts

Gear Closet: Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX Boots Review

In need of a new pair of technical hiking boots for your upcoming adventures? If so, you'll want to add the new Mountain Trainer Mid GTX from Salewa to your list of potential options. This lightweight, yet sturdy and durable, boot offers excellent performance on a variety of terrains, and will keep your feet comfortable and dry no matter where the trail takes you.



Boasting a traditional suede upper, paired with a Gore-Tex lining, and a Vibram outsole, the Mountain Trainer has been built for alpine pursuits. The boot is perfect for scrambling over ice and snow, mud, rocks, and other surfaces you're bound to run into on your treks, offering good stability and support in both dry and wet conditions.

Gear Closet: Vasque Lost 40 Insulated Boots

February is an odd time of the year. We're still firmly locked into winter, and yet we can still catch glimpses of spring on the horizon from time to time as well. Despite those flirtations with warmer weather, it is far too early to put away our winter gear of course, keeping our down jackets, outer shells, base layers and other clothing close at hand. That includes winter boots that can keep our feet warm and dry, even when playing in the snow.

Recently, I've had a chance to test out a comfortable new pair of boots that certainly excel in that area. The Vasque Lost 40 is a mukluk style of boot that feature a classic look that is intermixed exquisitely well with lots of modern technology. The restful is a unique pair of boots that feel amazing on your feet and perform well in the winter.

The Lost 40 use a waterproof suede and soft-shell uppers to create a boot that is surprisingly supple. In fact, when you first see them, you'll probably question whether or not they'll actually be able to keep your feet warm and dry in inclement conditions. But, I've found that they perform exceptionally well, in all but the most west conditions. In fact, they are built to play outside in the winter weather, and my pair of boots didn't get overly damp inside in any way, even after hours outside.

The soft feel of these boots carries over to the interior as well. On your feet, they feel amazing comfortable. So much so that I didn't really feel the need to take them off, even after a few long hikes. The Lost 40 feel like an insulated slipper that can keep your feet warm, even while playing outdoors for one extended period of time in sub-zero conditions. And because they are extremely flexible, they are comfortable enough to wear around town, hiking a trail, snowshoeing in the backcountry, and more. They are not overly technical however, so don't expect to slap a pair of crampons on them and have them perform the same way as a more traditional boot.


When designing this boot, Vasque created a dual-zone lacing system that allows you to dial in the right fit on both the top and the bottom of the boot. This was a fantastic addition, and something I'd love to see incorporated in other winter boots as well. Basically, you can cinch up the section of the boot around your calf independently of a second lacing system that covers the ankle and foot. I found this to be a nice touch when finding a solid comfort level, particularly since the shoes ride so high up your leg. With a tradition lacing approach it can sometimes be difficult to get the boot cinched up properly in all of the right places.

One of the more common complaints that I've seen about the Lost 40 boot is that they can be difficult to get off and on, and I found that to be true when first using them as well. They do fit snugly, especially with a thicker pair of socks, so you end up working a bit harder to get in and out of them. I did find that they loosened up some after wearing them a bit, which helped in this area, but you'll have to discover a few tricks the help you be more efficient in putting them on and taking them off.

Vasque has incorporated a Vibram Overland Sole in these boots with the IceTrek compound. This gives them plenty of traction on wet, snowy, and icy surfaces, griping the ground like a set of lugs. This makes the shoes a good option for a variety of winter outings, although you may want to use something a bit more technical when wandering up into alpine environments. Other than that however, you're likely to find that you not only have good balance and traction in the snow, but plenty of stability too.

Other nice features of these boots include a soft felt inner lining and comfort and a thermal barrier made of aerogel that is embedded in the sole of the shoe. Both of these materials add extra warmth to the boot itself, making it perform much better than its weight would typically imply. In fact, I've worn these shoes in some seriously cold conditions, and have come away with feet that feel warm and toasty, even without adding extra thick socks.

Traditionally, the Lost 40 boots carried a price tag of $179.99, but as we transition away from the winter season, you can find them discounted online for as little as $142. That's a great price for a super-comfortable pair of winter boots that perform surprisingly well in a variety of conditions. If you find yourself in need of some new winter footwear, or simply are thinking ahead to next season, this is a great pair of boots to have in your gear closet. You'll find that they are quite versatile, feel great on your feet, and look good too.

Gear Closet: Garmont 9.81 Speed III Light Hiking Shoes

Looking for some new hiking shoes as spring starts to inch a bit closer? Looking for something lightweight, but stable, that can offer plenty of protection for your feet? If so, then the Garmont 9.81 Speed III hiking shoe just might be what you're looking for. Recently, I've had the chance to give these shoes a go, and now find myself wearing them almost daily. Although, I wasn't sure that would be the case when I first put them on.

While I had met with Garmont over the past couple of summer Outdoor Retailer shows, this was the first time I'd actually gotten the chance to test a pair of their shoes. I always liked the style and design the company's boots displayed, but good looks don't always translate into a comfortable fit. Still, I was very intrigued with what I saw, and was eager to put them to the test. So, when my test pair of the 9.81 Speed III arrived, I eagerly put them on to get a feel for what they were actually like.

I was immediately impressed with how good they felt on my feet. The polymer heel inserts and EVA midsole gave the shoe a stiff – but comfortable – ride that offered a solid level of protection without much bulk. The wide toe-box was great too, especially when wearing a thicker sock, while the mesh upper was durable and breathable at the same time. The 9.81 Speed III felt a bit like a nice cross-over shoe, straddling the line between a trail runner and a light hiker. For my money, that's not a bad space to fill.

But then, I started to walk around in them and my perception of the shoes soon changed. You see, while I really liked they way they looked and felt, as I wore them around the house and while taking the dog for a walk, I started to notice that the shoes were rubbing against my ankle, creating a bit of a hot spot. I soldiered through, keeping them on my feet for a few hours, before giving up and reverting to something in my closet that wasn't causing me pain.


To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I really wanted to like these shoes, but for some reason they were consistently rubbing my ankles, causing them to become quite sore. Thankfully, no blisters actually developed, but it was annoying and painful to say the least. Still, I was determined to give the 9.81 Speed another chance, so over the course of the next few days I wore them several more times, for shorter periods while wearing socks that were a bit thicker around the ankle. Gradually, the shoes started to loosen up a bit, and over time the rubbing on my ankles lessened. Now, it's to the point that I don't have the same issue any longer.

Regarding this issue I would say two things. First, everyone's feet are different, so it is entirely possible that you could put these shoes on and never experience the same level of discomfort that I did. My ankles just might be shaped in such a way as that they were not immediately compatible with Garmont's light hiker. The other thing to keep in mind is that every shoe requires a bit of a break-in period, and for these it took a few days to get them just right. Now, they feel great with no hot spots whatsoever.

In addition to being very comfortable to wear, the 9.81 Speed IIIs also offer a nice level of traction on a variety of surfaces. Garmont has equipped them with a Vibram Fast Trail outsole that is designed to allow the wearer to move quickly and agilely on mud, dirt, sand, and even light snow. These shoes perform well in both wet and dry conditions, and even though they aren't advertised as being waterproof, I found that my feet stayed dry in pretty much everything short of dunking them in a stream, and even then I wouldn't be surprised if they came out just fine.

As I mentioned, this was my first go around with a shoe from Garmont, and ultimately I came away quite impressed. They are very comfortable to wear, provide a nice level of stability, and seem extremely durable so far. In fact, other than being scuffed up with dirt from the trail, they still look brand new and fresh from the box, even though I've been wearing them a lot over the past couple of weeks. During that time, I've found them to be an excellent walking shoe, both on and off the trail. Garmont says that these shoes were designed for fast hiking, subalpine trekking, and Nordic walking, all of which I think they would be excellent for. I also think they'd make a good approach shoe for those who like to move light and fast, although they are a bit heavy for pure trail running.

Priced at $140, I see the 9.81 Speed III shoe as an affordable and versatile option for use in a variety of outdoor activities and settings. The fact that they happen to look good is a nice bonus too. Find out more at GarmontNorthAmerica.com.

Gear Closet: DryGuy Force Dry DX and Travel Dry DX - Never Have Wet Boots Again!

Winter can be an amazing season for playing outdoors, provided you have all of the year you need to keep you warm and comfortable in the snow and cold temperatures. That includes a good set of baselayers, a warm coat, and of course a great pair of boots. But even the best boots can get soaked through after hours of fun in the snow, which can make putting them back on the next day for another outdoor excursion a dreadful affair. Fortunately, there is away to avoid that, and always have warm, dry boots at all times.

A company called DryGuy makes some excellent solutions for keeping your shoes and boots dry and comfortable all year round. Yes, their products are fantastic for use in the winter, but I've also found that they come in handy for drying my running shoes after a run in the rain or even a humid workout during the summer too. I've been using a couple of their products for awhile now, and have come to appreciate the simple joys of never having to worry about wet footwear ever again. Here are two devices that can help you achieve the same feeling.

Force Dry DX ($80)
DryGuy's flagship product is the Force Dry DX, a device that was specifically built to not only warm your boots, but dry-out your gloves and other gear too. This handy little machine uses the company's signature "forced air" process to blow heated air into your boots as a way to remove moisture without harming the shoes in any way.

It does this by first drawing air into the Force Dry DX, where it flows past a heading element, before being expelled into the shoes that are placed on its extension tubes, which have vents on the end. That heated air (warmed up to 105ºF/40.5ºC) then goes to work removing moisture from your boots, running shoes, or gloves, making them far more comfortable to put on again when you need them. The process takes between 1-3 hours to complete depending on the garment being dried and how soaked it is. But, once complete, the device not only removes the dampness, but also prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi that could lead to foul odors too.


The Force Dry DX includes four individual pillars built into the device, each of which can accept a show, glove, or other item. That means you can dry as many as two pairs of shoes at any given time. DryGuy even offers several accessories, such as a helmet holder or an adapter to dry your fishing waders, to extend the functionality of the machine a bit further. This helps to make this product an all around solution for keeping you warm and dry, no matter what your favorite outdoor activity happens to be.

The DryGuy team says that dry garments are 25 times warmer than wet ones. I don't know if that number is accurate, but anyone who has spent any time outdoors in wet shoes, socks, or gloves can tell you how uncomfortable that can be. Chances are, if you're outside in the winter, you'll experience this at some point in your life. But thanks to the Force Dry DX, you don't have to start your day out with wet feet before you've even gone outside. Simply set this gadget up in your garage or some out of the way corner, and let it work its magic. You'll be amazed at how useful it is not just in the winter, but all year round. And price at $80, it might be the best investment you've made in a long time as well.

Travel Dry DX ($40)
Of course, our outdoor adventures aren't just confined to when we're close at home. We often have to endure wet footwear while on the road too, which is why DryGuy has invented the Travel Dry DX, a portable version of the Force Dry DX that you can take with you anywhere.

The Travel Dry DX works under the same principle, but rather than placing your shoes on the drying pillars, it actually comes with two small devices that slide into your boots to help remove moisture in the same way. A small fan efficiently and silently draws air into a heating element, which then pushes it into the shoe to help dry it out. While not quite as warm as the more powerful Force Dry DX, the Travel Dry does accomplish the same task, albeit at a bit slower pace.

DryGuy thought ahead while designing the Travel Dry, allowing it to be powered by either AC wall outlet or by plugging it into the 12V DC outlet (read cigarette lighter) port in your car. This makes it easy to warm your boots while on the road, allowing you to even arrive at the ski resort or tail head with dry shoes. I would have liked to have seen an option to power this model with USB as well, which would make the use of a portable battery pack a viable one. But, I'm not sure how efficient that would be for using the Travel Dry DX for extended periods of time.

I had a chance to use this product last week while I was on the road in Aspen, Colorado attending the X Games, and have to say I was extremely glad to have it with me. At the end of a long day outside in the snow, my boots were indeed cold and damp. But, I simply dropped the Travel Dry DX heating elements into each shoe and let them run over night. The next day, they were dry and comfortable and ready to go once again. And at just $40, this is once again a very affordable option for frequent travelers.

On its website, DryGuy offers a few other options, including the Simple Dry, which is a basic boot dryer for $40. I haven't used that particular model, but from what I understand, it uses simple convection drying methods rather than the forced air method employed by the Force Dry DX. That means that it will remove the moisture from your footwear, but it isn't quite so fast and efficient. But unless you're on a strict budget, I'd recommend purchasing the flagship model, as you'll likely to be happier with its improved performance.

Find out more about these products, and all of the DryGuy line-up, at DryGuy.com.

Gear Closet: Merrell Capra Venture Hiking Boots

As many of you know, last week I traveled to Bryce Canyon in Utah to test out a bunch of new gear from my friends at REI. I knew that while I was out there we would be backpacking through remote sections of the national park and camping in the wild. I saw that as the perfect opportunity to try out some new hiking boots as well, thinking that a couple of days on the trail would make the perfect testing grounds. Turns out the weather we encountered in Bryce was wild too, ranging from light rain to heavy downpours, followed by hail, gale-force winds, flash floods, tornadoes, and the occasional bout of sunshine. In short, it was exactly the kind of weather you need to see just how good your gear truly is. Thankfully, I made a good decision when it came to footwear.

For this trip, my boot of choice was the new Capra Venture from Merrell. These lightweight and very comfortable boots are a new addition to the company's line-up this fall, and being a big fan of the footwear that Merrell produces, I was eager to see how well they performed on what was expected to be a challenging, but dry, hiking trail in Bryce. It was far from that however, and over the course of two days of backpacking, we encountered conditions that would test the resolve of any boot. Thankfully, the Capra Venture met that challenge nicely, and kept my feet well protected the entire time.

This boot features a couple of new components to the outdoor industry that I was looking forward to putting to the test. Those included the new Gore-Tex Surround materials and the Vibram Megagrip outsole. Gore-Tex Surrounded as been specifically designed to create a more breathable, yet still waterproof, boot that can be worn in warmer environments. That's exactly what I had in mind when I chose it to take with me to Bryce Canyon, but due to heavy rains and cooler temperatures, my Capra Ventures were forced to deal with far more water and moisture than anticipated.

So how did they hold up? Very well for the most part. The shoes kept my feet warm and dry for the bulk of the trip, which included crossing through swollen streams, walking in lots of mud, and hiking in incessant rainstorms. Late in the afternoon on our first day out in Bryce my feed did start to get a little damp, but considering the amount of moisture we were facing on the trail this was more of a case of the boots soaking out, and possibly getting some moisture in over the top from y saturated shell pants, more than anything else. Either way, it wasn't a great deal of water that made its way inside of the boots, but it was worth noting nonetheless.


In terms of traction, the Vibram Megagrip performed extremely well too. Walking on slick trails throughout both days in the park, I was able to keep my footing without too much trouble at all. That is to say, when the outsoles had a chance to actually grip the ground. There was so much mud collecting on the bottom of the boots that it was difficult to keep them clean. This happened to everyone on the trip, no matter what type of boots they were wearing at the time. But when the soles of the Capra Venture actually touched the surface of the ground, they held firm and reliably, instilling a great deal of confidence in the guy wearing them.

Aside from these two new innovations, Merrell has brought a great deal of other design elements that I appreciated greatly. For instance, the boot has a nice low profile that looks good and feels very comfortable on your feet. It also happens to be fairly lightweight when you consider the level of protection it brings to the table. While the ultralight backpacking crowd are sure to prefer something else, those of us who would rather hike in boots will certainly enjoy the lack of bulk and weight here. Best of all, Merrell has still built the shoe to provide plenty of protection and cushioning, as at the end of the day my feet and legs still felt strong and ready to go.

Built with a bellows tongue to help keep debris out of the interior of the boot, the Capra Venture also comes a nicely molded footbed to provide comfort and support. As a result, these boots were comfortable on my feet immediately and required a very minimal amount of break-in time before they were ready to go. I experienced no hotspots, blisters, or abrasions after two hard days on the trail, and thankfully I didn't end up getting any mud, dirt, rocks, or any other unwanted debris inside the shoe. At the end of the trek, my feet were in just as good of condition as they were went they set out, which is about all you can ask for out of a pair of boots.

In terms of durability, the Capra Venture once again impresses. I wouldn't expect a boot to show much wear and tear after just a couple of days on the trail, but my pair was put through the wringer and still managed to come out looking practically brand new. That is, after I hosed off all of the mud and dirt that had accumulated along just about every surface. Once cleaned and dry, I was hard pressed to be able to tell that they had not been just taken out of the box, despite miles of hiking in poor weather conditions.

If you're in the market for a new pair of backpacking or trekking boots, and you're looking for something that can provide plenty of protection without a lot of weight, the Merrell Capra Venture is a great choice. It not only comes packed with the latest fabrics from Gore and a new outsole from Vibram, it has decades of Merrell's heritage behind its design too. The result is a boot that is meant for those of us who hike longer distances while carrying a sizable load in in our backpacks. On the Bryce Canyon trip my pack was stuffed with all kinds of gear, including a new three-person tent that I was carrying by myself, but these boots still kept me fresh, moving fast, and feeling strong.

Priced at $230, the Capra Venture is about inline with what I would expect to pay for a very good backpacking boot. The fact that they are so lightweight and comfortable however puts them in a bit of a class all their own, and in my eyes makes them well worth the cost for someone who needs this level of performance. This isn't a boot designed for a short hike on a perfectly groomed trail on a Saturday morning – although it would do just fine in that environment. Instead, this is outdoor footwear built for adventures in rough and tumble places. It's meant for hiking longer distances and for trekking in remote places. If that's where you find yourself heading on a regular basis, the Capra Venture is definitely a boot for you.


Gear Closet: Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Hiking Shoes

A couple of weeks back I took a look at the new Altra Superior 2.0 trail running shoes, and found them to be an excellent choice for runners. At the time I mentioned that I was testing another pair of shoes from the company as well, and was eager to put them through their paces. Last week while visiting Quebec I had the opportunity to do just that, and ended up coming away just as impressed.

This time out I was testing the new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mid, a hybrid shoe of sorts that blends the best elements of a trail runner with a lightweight hiker. It features Altra's proprietary Foot Shape technology that allows for more room in the toe box for a more natural fit, and its Abound materials that allow energy to return to the foot when walking. They also have a zero-drop sole that allows both the forefoot and heel to strike the ground at the same time, which encourages better form throughout the length of your run or hike.

This being the "mid" version of the original Lone Peak shoe it comes with more ankle support built-in. This not only comes in handy when hiking demanding trails, it also gives the shoe a look that more resembles a hiking boot as well. Since I was using them more in that capacity rather than as trail runners, I appreciated the extra support, even on routes that weren't especially demanding.

When compared to other hiking shoes, the Lone Peak 3.0 Mid is extremely lightweight, tipping the scale at just 10 ounces (283 grams). That made them extremely easy to pack for my Canadian adventure, and helped to reduce fatigue when wearing them for extended periods of time, both on the trail and walking around town. In fact, I'd say that these shoes are more on par weight-wise with the trail running shoes I wear from other companies, rather than most hiking shoes. In other words, if you're in the market for a new pair of hikers and are looking to shave off some ounces, this just might be the shoe you've been looking for.


In terms of comfort, the Lone Peak feels more this a sneaker than a hiking shoe as well. They are very comfortable on your feet while still managing to provide a high level of support in all the areas you need it – most notably the arch, ankle, and footbed. I will say that my feet did get a bit warm at times thanks to the Polartech fabrics used in their construction, but not so much that they were actually uncomfortable. My feet tend to run warm most of the time anyway, so this wasn't completely surprising considering they were being worn on a summer hike.

The other important factor for a trail running or hiking shoe is traction on a variety of surfaces, and the Lone Peak doesn't disappoint here either. It uses Altra's new MaxTrac outsole and TrailClaw lugs to keep you sure footed even on rocks, mud, water, and fine dirt. I suspect they'd be fine on snow – and to a lesser extent ice – as well, although I haven't had the opportunity to test them in that environment just yet.

If there is one complaint I have about these shoes it is a minor one. They can be a bit tough to get on at first, as they have a narrow opening that can be difficult to slide your foot into without taking the laces out of the first few eyelets. The more I wore them however, the easier they were to get on my feet, in part because they started to loosen up some, and because I also learned the best way to get them into place. Still, I was put off by this at the beginning, so it is important to point out. Your first foray with these shoes may have similar results, so don't write them off based on that first impression.

That said, these are one of the more comfortable pairs of shoes that I've had the opportunity to try out in a long time. I really love the wide toe box that gives my feet plenty of room, and I appreciated the amount of cushioning and support that they provide too. On top of that, they are super versatile, transitioning from trail to town without missing a beat. I even wore them on a 35 mile bike ride and came away feeling great too. That makes them a nice set of footwear to have in your closet and a great choice for travelers too.

Priced at $160, these are the perfect shoes for fast packers, lightweight backpackers, trail runners looking for some extra ankle support, or hikers who just want a lightweight, yet durable option. Buy them now at CampSaver.

Karakoram 2016: Body Found on K2, Help Required to Identify

Sad news from K2 where a team of researchers have discovered the remains of a fallen climber, but no one has been able to identify him or her just yet. A request for help has been sent out to the mountaineering community in the hopes of determining just who was found on the mountain.

According to this story at Montagna.tv, Michele Cucchi and Paolo Petrignani – working in conjunction with Pakistani guides – were in Base Camp on K2 a couple of weeks back. The team had traveled there to record the current state of the glaciers in that area, and the impact of environmental change on their health. The group climbed up to ABC and could see the damage done by a massive avalanche that hit Camp 3 back in July, sweeping away tents, fixed ropes, and a cache of bottled oxygen. The avalanche effectively brought an end to the K2 climbing season, sending all of the teams there home without a single summit.

Amongst the rubble Cucchi discovered a few oxygen bottles, the remains of several tents, and a human body under a thin layer of ice. The corpse was wearing a Millet boot that was reportedly a size 8 (pictured here). The boot is a recent model, which suggests the accident took place fairly recently as well, but the person who was found remains unidentified at this time. If you can potentially ID this person, you're urged to contact Montagna.tv as soon as possible.

As is tradition on K2, the remains of the climber were taken to the Gilkey Memorial where all of the victims of the "Savage Mountain" are laid to rest. This has been the case sine 1953 and it continues to this day.

Hopefully someone in the mountaineering community will see this story and help identify the unknown climber.

Gear Closet: Lowa Innox EVO Lo and Renegade GTX Mid Boots

Finding the right footwear to see you through your outdoor adventures is essential to enjoying your time outside. After all, if you're feet aren't happy, the rest of you probably isn't going to have a good time either. Fortunately, we live in a time when there are many good choices when it comes to shoes for our outdoor pursuits, with Lowa making some of the best options for a wide variety of activities, including hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, travel, or just kicking it around town. Recently, I had the chance to test two very different shoes from the company, coming away very impressed with both. Here are my thoughts on these two boots.

Lowa Innox EVO Lo Light Hiking Shoes
Lightweight and comfortable is the best way to describe these fantastic shoes, which have the soul of a trail runner and the sole of a hiking boot.

At first glance, the Innox EVO Lo resembles an athletic shoe more than a hiking boot, and since they weigh just 22 ounces for a pair, it would be easy to think they wouldn't offer all of the support you would need. But this hiking shoe has a stiff midsole that helps to protect the foot from jarring impacts, while still managing to maintain a level of flexibility that makes it an ideal choice for a wide variety of outdoor activities.


Lowa has packed quite a few features into these fairly simple looking shoes. For instance, the Innox EVO comes equipped with a Gore-Tex waterproof liner that helps keep moisture at bay. This makes them a great choice for use in damp environments, as the quick-drying and highly breathable fabrics that make up the shoe keep your feet dry and comfortable throughout the day. That's a great combination of performance features to have in any athletic shoe, let a lone a light hiker.

For me, these shoes have a bit of a snug fit, which is something that I happen to like. When it comes to athletic shoes I like to have a good feel for the surface benefits my feet, and these shoes provide that experience nicely. This helps to provide good footing in changing conditions, and gives a nice sense of agility and balance. And since the Innox EVO has a nice, aggressive sole, it feels like you could wear them just about anywhere without fear.

Perhaps my favorite thing about these shoes is there level of versatility. They are great for day hikes of course, but they could also be used for trail running in a pinch. But, they also make a great shoe for travel since they can be used both on the trail or walking around town. If you're someone who likes to travel light, this is an excellent option, as they just might be the only pair of shoes you need to take with you on you travels.

The Lowa Innox EVO Lo hiking shoes are priced at $175, which probably seems a bit pricey when compared to similar shoes from the competition. But because they are so comfortable, durable, and versatile, it actually feels like a true bargain. A pair of these shoes will definitely last you a long time, and see you through a wide variety of adventures. The fact that they look good too is just icing on the cake.

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Switching gears from the low-profile, light hikers of the Innox EVO, the Renegate GTX which is a completely different boot with a completely different purpose in mind. This is Lowa's best selling shoe of all time, and after wearing them on the trail it is easy to understand why. The combination of support, protection, and comfort they provide to your feet is exceptional, making them one of my favorite pairs of boots I've ever worn.

Whereas the Innox EVOs are great for day hiking and travel, the Renegade GTX is specifically built with trekking and backpacking in mind. These boots are made from Nubuck leather and feature a Vibram Evo outsole that provide great traction on mud, snow, ice, and other wet surfaces. A Gore-Tex liner does an excellent job of keeping water out, while a climate control footbed helps to keep your feet warm and dry. All of this really helps to keep your feet comfortable on longer hikes, making it much easier to trek for miles over a number of days as well.

One of the key elements you look for out of a good pair of backpacking boots is durability, and Renegade excels in that category too. I've worn these boots on a number of hikes, putting some decent mileage on them in the process. Other than getting a bit dirty and muddy, they actually still look brand new and fresh from the box. I've taken them on trails in Alaska, the Adirondacks, and closer to home, and so far there isn't a scratch, cut, or scuff on them anywhere. In fact, when I wash the mud and grime off of them upon returning home, you'd never know that they've ever hit a trail at all. This speaks well for the long-term life of these boots, which will likely serve you well for years of outdoor adventures.

The other thing that I really like about the Renegade GTX boots is that they are very comfortable, even after a long day on the trail. There are a lot of boots on the market that are durable and offer good traction, or can keep your feet protected and safe from the elements. But few boots can do all of that, plus are comfortable enough to wear all day long too. Lowa has made that boot, which is why it has been such a hit with their customers.

The Renegade GTX is a bit of overkill for short, local day hikes. But if you're an adventure traveler who treks mountain trails or goes backpacking through national parks, these are a great options for those more demanding outings. They are perfect for multi-day camping trips or even light mountaineering expeditions. Warm, comfortable, and very durable, these are boots that will see you safely through a wide variety of environments and challenges, with your feet completely protected the entire way. I fully endorse the Renegade boots for those types of experiences, as I know that they'll offer all of the support you'll need, and then some.

Lowa sells the Renegade GTX Mid for $230, which in mind is a very competitive price for this type of boot. When you consider the fact that a good pair of hiking boots is an investment in future adventures, I think you'll find these are a real bargain. This is a pair of shoes you'll have in your closet for years to come. There isn't much more to say than that, other than you can't go wrong with these boots.

Nat Geo Gives Us the Best New Gear for Spring 2016

Need some new gear for your upcoming spring adventures? National Geographic has you covered, as  Nat Geo Adventure presents its selections for the best new gear arriving on store shelves in the days ahead.

And just which items earn a nod from the NG crew? They recommend REI's new Flash 65 backpack, a new stove from Snow Peak, and the Concerto sleeping bag from Nemo. Other items on the list include Mountain Hardwear's new Ghost UL2 tent, an incredibly lightweight shell from The North Face, and a comfortable new backpacking boot from Vasque.

This is just a taste of the items that make Nat Geo's list. There are all kinds of other items including a mountain bike and bike accessories, jackets, knives, watches an other products that will no doubt be objects of lust for gear junkies and outdoor enthusiasts everywhere.

Spring is a great time to get outside and get back to chasing your favorite activities and adventures. Some new gear always helps with the process, and is good encouragement too.

Gear Closet: Hillsound Super Armadillo Gaiters and Trail Crampons

My recent winter trip to Quebec was an excellent opportunity to test some new gear in harsh conditions. Not only was the temperature well below zero most days, but there was also plenty of snow and ice on the ground to keep things interesting as well. Knowing that those would be the conditions that I encountered, I packed plenty of new equipment that I wanted to try out, including two items from Hillsound, a company that makes great pieces of gear for use in hiking in a wide variety of conditions, but especially the winter.

Hillsound Super Armadillo Nano Gaiters ($98)
I've had the pleasure of testing a pair of Hillsound Armadillo LT gaiters in the past, and came away very impressed. That product set my expectations high for the company's Super Armadillo Nano gaiter, which is the flagship model in the Hillsound line-up. Fortunately, I did not come away disappointed.

For those that haven't used gaiters before, they are a protective sleeve that you wear over your boots and the lower part of your legs to keep snow, rocks, dirt, mud, and grit out of your shoes. They come in very handy in wet, dirty conditions in particular, helping to protect your feet from nasty outside elements.


As their name implies, Hillsound's Armadillo Nano gaiter are lightweight and designed specifically for use in warmer weather. They're made from fabrics that are designed to be waterproof but also highly breathable at the same time. This combination comes in handy when the mercury starts to rise, as you'll get all the benefits of a typical gaiter, without making your feet considerable warmer.

Unlike some gaiters that I've used in the past, the fabrics that make up the these gaiters are also very stretchy too, which makes them easier to get on, and place them exactly where you want them. They also make them more comfortable to wear, as they allow you to move better with them on your feet.

In designing the latest edition of the Armadillo Nano gaiters, Hillsound did away with full velcro, and instead have integrated zippers. This also makes it easier to get them on, and lock them snugly in place. Those zippers – as with all the materials the make up this product – are very high quality and easy to operate, even with the ice, snow, and mud that you'll encounter out on the trail.

Speaking of high quality, I am once again impressed with Hillsound's build quality. These gaiters feel great in your hand, and even better when you're wearing them. But they also shrug off abuse with ease. Mine were quite wet and dirty after wearing them in the snow, but after cleaning them up, they looked completely brand new, without a hint that they had been warn at all.

Since these gaiters are designed for use in warmer weather, they didn't provide a lot of extra warmth in the cold conditions of winter. That said however, they still performed marvelously, keeping snow and ice at bay.

In comparing them to the LT model that I reviewed previously, the one big thing that stands out is price. The LT costs just $49, and offer exceptional performance in their own right. In fact, I'd still recommend them for more casual hikers and backpackers. But those who expect top performance out of their gear, and need something that is lighter, the Nano is the way to go. Simply put, this is probably the best performing gaiter on the market today, and it is worth the extra money if high performance is your goal.

Hillsound Trail Crampon ($59.99)
Another Hillsound product that I've tested in the past is the awesome Trail Pro Crampon. For those who need a lightweight crampon, it is a fantastic option that is affordable, easy to use, and works great. But most people don't need something so technical for their hikes, even in colder weather conditions. But keeping your footing on slick surfaces can still be a challenge and a little extra traction always comes in handy. For them, Hillsound offers the Trail Crampon, which is a lightweight solution that can keep you moving when ice becomes a real challenge.

The Trail Crampon slips over your existing hiking shoes, adding a set of spikes that provide added grip on snow and ice. Velcro straps hold the Trail Crampon in place, and I can tell you that once they are locked into position, I didn't experience any slipping or issue with them moving around on my shoes. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they stayed in place, as the same can't always be said about similar products from Hillsound competitors that I've tested in the past.

The great thing about the Trail Crampon is that it literally takes seconds to put them on, which means you can keep them in your backpack until you need them. Then, when you encounter poor surface conditions, you can slap them on and get moving.

Lightweight and very packable, this is a product that is easy to take with you anywhere. Throw them the pack of your car for use during winter, take them on a day hike when conditions could take a turn for the worse, and use them when you go backpacking in an alpine setting. They grip ice and snow incredibly well, and will provide you with sure footing no matter where you go.

Affordable and offering high performance, the Hillsound Trail Crampon is nicely priced at $60. They are also very durable, which means you'll have them at your disposal for many adventures to come, where you'll be glad you have them in your gear closet.

Gear Closet: Lowa Renegade Ice GTX Boots

In a few weeks, I'm setting off on an trip to Quebec, Canada that will see me snowshoeing, dogsledding, and generally having a good time in the snow. To say I'm looking forward to that experience would be a vast understatement, as it isn't often that I get to go play in those kinds of conditions. Knowing that I would be heading up north for a week of outdoor adventure, I figured it would be a good time to test some new gear in prime winter weather. I knew that I wanted to take some new clothing with me to try out, but I also thought it would be a great opportunity to put a new set of winter boots to the test as well. Lucky for me, my friends over at Lowa were willing to ship me a pair of their Renegade Ice GTX boots to take along on that trip. Little did I know that my opportunity to see how they would perform would come sooner than I expected.

While I wasn't completely caught up in the massive blizzard that struck the eastern United States last week, my city did see more than 8 inches (20 cm) of powder fall in a very short time. That was enough to bring the town to a halt for a couple of days, and it was a good excuse to get outside and enjoy winter weather that isn't all too common here. Luckily for me, I have all the right gear to do just that, including my new Lowa boots.

The Renegade Ice is an updated version of Lowa's Renegade GTX that has been specifically designed for use in the snow. As such, they are taller than the original GTX to provide extra support – and keep snow out – when you wade into deeper powder. They also have a Gore-Tex liner to keep moisture at bay, and a fleece lining on the interior for added warmth. The Renegade Ice also features a specially designed frame that is meant to give them added stability on snow and ice, while still keeping them lightweight and durable.

Putting these boots on for the first time, I found them a bit stiff out of the box. This isn't uncommon on winter boots in particular however, especially with the taller ankle support. It didn't take long for them to start to loosen up though, and after wearing them for an hour or so I didn't find them stiff to walk in at all, although they did continue to provide a nice level of support.


In terms of comfort, you couldn't ask for more out of a winter boot. The interior is soft and warm, and offers plenty of room for your toes, even while wearing a thicker sock. And despite all of the extra padding and thick soles, my foot still felt well connected to the ground, making it easy to keep my footing while walking across icy surfaces. In fact, these boots were practically all I wore for a three day period, which should tell you something about how well they actually feel on your feet.

Speaking of maintaining footing, the Renegade Ice incorporates Lowa's G3 winter sole, which features special lugs and fibers that are meant to hold it in place on snow and ice. While wearing them outside I experienced very little slipping at all, even when transitioning from different types of surfaces. The sole held me firmly in place when walking up and down hills too, which is often where you notice a boot struggling to maintain its footing. But that wasn't an issue at all here, as I hiked through deep powder and walked on thick ice without missing a beat.

In terms of durability, the Renegade Ice GTX boots feel extremely well made. Their leather uppers are tough as nails, and even though I wore them nonstop for three days in icy conditions, they still look like they're brand new. Judging from the time that I've spent with them so far, they seem like a boot that is built to survive in tough conditions, and I expect that a pair will see you through many winter adventures.

Because of their lightweight – yet warm – design, these boots would be perfect for snowshoeing, winter hiking, or other fast paced winter activities. In fact, the only time my feet ever got cold in them at all, was when I was standing in one place for an extended period of time. While moving, they were warm and cozy, and didn't cause any problems whatsoever.

The Renegade Ice GTX typically sell for $285, which is a competitive price for a boot that is designed for winter use. They can be found online for less however if you do a little searching. If you're in the market for a lightweight and warm boot for your active winter pursuits, this is a great option. I think you'll find they are up to just about anything that you throw at them.

Gear Closet: North Face Ultra Extreme II GTX Hiking Boots

Finding the right boot for winter activities can be a real challenge sometimes. You obviously want something warm and comfortable that can provide good traction on snow and ice, but all too many times that comes at the expense of weight and bulk. That isn't the case with the new Ultra Extreme II GTX boots from The North Face however, as this is footwear designed for the cold and snowy season that doesn't have to make compromises for the sake of performance.

One thing is for certain, these boots definitely know how to make a first impression. Taking them out of the box for the first time, I was struck with just how lightweight they are, but was a little dubious about how well they would perform as a result. The boots look great too, and feature TNF's signature high quality build construction.

Last week I took these boots with me to Utah for a little pre-Outdoor Retailer adventure in the mountains near Park City. With plenty of snow on the ground I figured that would make a great test for this lightweight winter boot. I discovered that they performed better than I expected in most areas, particularly when taking part in winter activities such as snowshoeing and fat bike riding.

The boots feature a Gore-Tex liner that provides not only warmth and insulation, but a layer of waterproofing as well. My winter camping trip began with an evening of outdoor cooking and dinner shared with other writers and media folks, which ended up with most of staying out in the cold for more than four hours. Throughout that time, my feet stayed warm and dry, although by the time we were ready to call it quits for the night, my toes were starting to get a little frosty. But that is to be someone expected when you're standing around in cold weather conditions for extended periods of time. The next day when I set out on the trail for some snowshoeing, my feed remained plenty warm throughout the hike. Better yet, they also stayed dry, despite the fact the snow was quite deep.


Because these boots are so lightweight, they are also incredibly comfortable to wear, even on active excursions. Prior to setting out for Utah, I had only taken them out of the box and worn them around the house for a bit, but that was enough to tell me they wouldn't take long to break in. That turned out to be true, as after only wearing them for an hour or two, they were pretty much ready to go once I reached my destination. By the time I strapped on my snowshoes they already felt completely natural on my feet.

To give the Ultra Extreme II GTX boots plenty of grip on a variety of surfaces, The North Face uses a Vibram Icetrek outsole. This helps the shoes to stay stable in a variety of conditions, ranging from completely dry, to soaking wet, to frozen solid. Hiking in these boots on snow and ice, even without snowshoes, was a breeze, and I never once felt like they weren't up to the task. If anything, the grippy nature of the soles provided more confidence when tackling those conditions.

One of the the things that I like most about these boots is that they don't actually feel like you're wearing boots. The fit and comfort levels are more akin to an athletic shoe, albeit one with lots of ankle support. In fact, the UE II GTX's felt so good on my feet that I didn't bother to take them off for hours after we had left our snowy campground. Because they felt so great on my feet, and provided a nice level of warmth, there was simply no need, even after I had returned to Salt Lake City for the start of the convention.

If you're in the market for a lightweight hiking boot for active winter sports, these boots are more than up to the task, and with a price tag of $150, they are also quite a bargain in my opinion. Winter boots aren't cheap, and a good pair will generally set you back more than what The North Face is asking here. But as comfortable as these are on your feet, and as lightweight as they are in your pack, it is easy to recommend them for anyone who enjoys winter outdoor activities.

That said however, the Ultra Extreme II GTX is probably a bit too lightweight for extremely cold conditions. I used them in temperatures hovering around 20ºF (-6ºC) and had absolutely no problems, particularly when I was on the move. But if the temperatures dropped below 10ºF (-12ºC) I would have definitely wanted warmer socks at the bare minimum, and possibly warmer boots all around. Aside from that however, they performed exceptionally well, and I found myself truly falling in love with them. This is a great boot not just for winter sports, but cooler weather hikes as well, and I have a feeling I'll be getting a lot of use out of them in the weeks to come.

Gear Closet: Ahnu Ridgecrest Hiking Shoes

I'm lucky enough to get to test a wide variety of outdoor gear here at The Adventure Blog, including a lot of different types of footwear. In the past, I've had the opportunity to test some shoes from some of the biggest names in the outdoor industry, with some performing incredibly well, while others have left me completely disappointed. Recently, I had the chance to test a pair of hiking shoes from Ahnu for the very first time, and while it isn't a brand the is as well known as some of the others I've hiked in in the past, I came away completely impressed by the style, comfort, and quality of their products.

The new Ahnu Ridgecrest light hiking shoe is a waterproof, low-cut boot designed to take on rugged terrain and long distance trails. Unlike some other light hiking footwear that is available on the market today, this shoe is completely capable of taking on a monumental trek such as the Appalachian Trail or something similar. Rugged and durable, I have no doubt that you'll be able to walk hundreds of miles in these shoes before you'd ever need to think about replacing them.

The Ridgecrest features an eVent liner that helps to provide the waterproofing you need to keep your feet warm and dry in damp conditions. That same membrane is also breathable however, which allows heat and moisture to vent out as well. As a result, I found these shoes to be quite comfortable to wear in all but the warmest of conditions. Because they are a low-cut boot however, I'd recommend wearing gaiters with them when hiking in snow or very wet weather, as it will help to keep debris and water from seeping in over the top.


In terms of comfort for your feet, the Ridgecrest delivers as well. Out of the box, I found them to be a bit stiff, but after wearing them for a bit around the house, they soon started to break in nicely. After you've put a few miles on them, you're likely to find that they loosen up nicely, and are easy to walk in. The shoes provide a lot of support for the arch of your foot, and give you a nice sense of balance and control while wearing them. The inner padding helps feels great too, and when combined with an integrated shock-dispersal plate, they do a good job of protecting the foot from wear and tear too.

In terms of traction, the Ridgecrest performed well on a wide variety of terrains. I've worn them on dry trails, through mud, across slippery rocks, and even while fording shallow streams, all without any issues. These boots provide a nice sense of confidence and sure-footedness no matter where you go, and while I haven't had the chance to test them on snow and ice as of yet, I feel fairly confident that they would do fine on those surfaces too, provided it wasn't under extreme circumstances.

Lightweight and form fitting, the Ridgecrest at times feels more like a trail running shoe than a light hiker. That's pretty impressive considering they are made for thru-hiking on rough trails. But their level of performance is outstanding in all areas, which makes them easy to recommend for anyone looking for a low-cut boot that can be used to trek tough routes, or as an approach shoe for mountaineering expeditions. In fact, the versatility that the Ridgecrest offers is one of its strong points, making it a good all around option for adventure travelers, backpackers, and city dwellers alike.

Priced at $150, these boots feel like a real bargain. I've spent more than that on shoes that delivered less. If you're in the market for a new show that can safely and comfortably see you through a lot of outdoor adventures, it is easy to recommend Ahnu's Ridgecrest. They give you everything you could ask for in an outdoor shoe, and more.

Outside Publishes 2015 Holiday Gear Gift Guide

As the end of the year draws nearer, the holidays are also now in sight. That means it is time to start thinking about what you'd like to give the outdoor enthusiasts on your list this season. To help out with that dilemma, Outside magazine has published its 2015 Holiday Gift Guide, with more 113 products that they recommend for the gear hound in your life. 

The guide is broken down into various categories, including adventure, fitness, tech, travel, and so on.  Each of those broad sections is further subdivided with specific categories that fall under each of those headings. For instance, under the category of "adventure" you'll find options for the best backcountry tools and toys, big gifts that float on snow and water, and 8 gifts for those who have been exceptionally good this year. Each of the other sections are similarly broken down into subcategories as well.

As you can imagine, the gear items that Outside recommends vary greatly in price and size. Some of the products that they recommend include the Goal Zero Flip 10 portable battery for keeping your gadgets charged, the GoPro Hero 4 Session action camera, and the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Maximus Duffel. Other items that get the Outside editors seal of approval range from an axe from United By Blue, to a fitness monitor from Fitbit. You'll also find Smartwool's PhD Propulsion Hoody on the list, as well as Keen's new The 59 boot

If you're just getting ready to start your holiday shopping, and you're looking for some good suggestions for your outdoor adventurer, there are plenty of options to choose from on this gift guide. Better yet, if you're one of those people who are difficult to buy for, and always have people asking you what you want, choose a few items from the list or just send the link to those who are shopping for you. Chances are, you'll come away with something great to add to your gear closet. 

Gear Closet: Hi Tec V-Lite Altitude Pro Boots

A couple of months back I had the opportunity to test a pair of hiking shoes from Hi-Tec called the V-Lite Flash Force, which I found to be extremely comfortable, versatile, and affordable. In fact, I was very impressed at the time with the amount of technical features that Hi-Tec had managed to squeeze into the shoe, which I thought was perfect for light hiking. So, with that in mind, I was eager to test yet another boot from the company, this time one that was designed for more aggressive trails and more challenging activities.

I got my first look at the V-Lite Altitude Pro Lite boots back at Outdoor Retailer in August. When I put them on in the Hi-Tec booth, I was immediately struck with just how comfortable they were. In fact, my exact words were that it felt like I was wearing a comfy couch on my feet. After having an opportunity to test these shoes further, I can safely say that they are definitely amongst the most comfortable hiking boots I have ever worn.

Before I delve too deeply into my thoughts on the Altitude Pro boots, let me first say that this shoe was designed in Europe, and had been available there for some time. In the spring of 2016, it'll make the leap across the pond to the U.S. as well, giving American hikers a new option for their upcoming trail excursions. In the U.K., the boot sells for £99.99, which is about $150 using the current exchange rate. If that price holds when they are released stateside, they'll be a heck of a bargain.

Designed for use on more aggressive trails, and in alpine settings, the Altitude Pro is fully waterproof, but comes with a breathable membrane that helps to keep your feet cooler and dryer. That said, much like with the V-Lite Flash Force, my feet were very warm in these boots, which would discourage me from wanting to wear them on summer hikes in warmer weather. They are fantastic for late-fall, winter, and early-spring use however, and if you're hiking in the mountains where cooler temperatures are the norm.


Also like the Flash Force, this shoe features a Vibram sole that includes the Rollingait System. This specially designed sole is meant to move naturally with the foot, keeping it more comfortable and reduce fatigue in your legs. It was originally developed to help with trail running and walking downhill, but it has evolved over time to become part of Hi-Tec's hiking shoes as well. This is one of those features that is difficult to actually judge how well it is working, but I'd venture to guess that it does play a role in the comfort of these boots. I would also say that my legs and feet did seem less tired when wearing them as well.

Durable and well made, the Altitude Pro seems like a shoe that will survive many trips in the outdoors, and continue to travel with you on hiking and backpacking trips for years to come. The fact that they are lightweight, provide good ankle support, and actually look good too means that you'll actually be looking forward to wearing them on those escapes.

Putting these boots to the test on a variety of terrains, I found that they offer good traction on dirt, mud, rocks, and other wet surfaces. I haven't had a chance to try them out in snow and ice just yet though, so I'm not sure how they'll perform in those conditions. We all know that winter poses a different set of challenges, but I suspect that these boots will do just fine in all but the worse of weather.

It is impossible to write about the Altitude Pro without coming back around to just how comfortable they are on your feet. While it is true that they are packed full of features and technology, the bottom line is that none of that makes much of a difference if a shoe isn't comfortable to wear. You'll have no fear of that here however, as Hi-Tec has done an outstanding job of creating a boot that is simply a joy to have on your feet.

If these boots are already available in your market, and you're considering buying new hiking shoes, these deserve to be on your list. I think you'll find that they provide outstanding performance in all but the most demanding mountain environments. If you live in North America, you'll have to be a bit patient and wait for their arrival here. They should hit store shelves in time for spring, and I promise they are well worth the wait.


Gear Closet: Hillsound Trail Crampons Pro

Now that winter is closer than we'd like to believe, it is time to start thinking about the gear we'll use to continue our favorite outdoor sports even when the temperatures start to drop and the snow begins to fly. After all, we're not going to let a little winter weather keep us from spending time outside, are we? A warm jacket and pair of pants are crucial of course, as are gloves, a hat, warm socks, base layers, and a good pair of boots as well. But once you've collected all of that essential gear, it is time to start thinking about other items that can enhance your winter adventures. Things like a good winter pack, ice axes, and of course crampons. 

Most of us don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of mountaineering crampons designed to take us up Everest or other major peaks. Instead, we can look for a solution that is built for more casual hiking and climbing on snow and ice. That's where the Trail Crampon Pro from Hillsound comes in. These rugged, easy to use, and affordable crampons will provide the performance you need – and than some – in some surprisingly poor conditions. 

The 10-point Trail Crampon Pro is designed for use in the backcountry on what Hillsound describes as "low to medium grade ascents" on both snow and ice. The aggressive metal spikes are made from carbon steel, which gives them a rugged, durable feel. This doesn't feel like a product that was meant for hikers out for a simple walk on winter trails, but are instead designed for those who demand better performance on terrain that is difficult and challenging. 

Hillsound warns that while this product have been built with features typically found on climbing and mountaineering crampons, they are not meant for use on highly technical ascents or ice climbing. That said, they do provide an impressive amount of grip on snow, ice, and rocks. The front toe spikes are great for digging in when going up the mountain, while the four heel spikes are invaluable while descending as well. 

Designed to be easy to use and highly customizable, hikers can quickly and easily adjust the Trail Crampon Pro to fit just about any boot. The both the length and width are customizable, and can be tightened down using an included allen wrench, ensuring you get just the right fit. I would recommend adjusting the sizing before heading out to the trail however, and you might want to put them on a time or two before hand as well. While they are not difficult to put on your boots, it does require a bit of practice. 

Hillsound has created an easy to use belt system to lock these crampons in place on your shoes. Two straps loop over the top of the boot, and slide into a set of ratchet buckle bindings. From there, you simply pull on the ratchets to adjust the fit as needed. This works quite well, making it a snap to dial in the proper fit. If crampons are too loose, your feet will slide around in them, making them useless on snow and ice. If they are too tight, you could develop blisters or hotspots, or even cut off circulation in your feet. Thankfully, that isn't likely to happen here, as the adjustment process is simple and straight forward. Hillsound even includes a set of alpine stoppers in the box to prevent the ratchets from coming loose in deep snow. 

I'm impressed with the quality and performance of this product. Hillsound has created a crampon that is easy to use, simple to walk in, and effective on difficult terrain. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the Trail Crampon Pro will meet the needs of most consumers, although mountaineers will probably need something a bit more aggressive. 

I also appreciate that they are easy to throw in your pack without taking up much room, and since they weigh just 23.5 oz. (667g), they don't add a lot of weight either. They are certainly not the lightest solution available, but few can match their performance to weight ratio. 

It is difficult to beat the price on these crampons as well. Hillsound has delivered a high quality product at a great price, selling the Trail Pros for just $79. That is certainly a reasonable price to pay if you enjoy winter backcountry pursuits. If that happens to be the case, you'll certainly appreciate having a pair of these in your gear closet. 

Nat Geo Presents Gear of the Year for Fall and Winter 2015

Hot on the heals of Outside magazine's 2016 winter buyer's guide comes National Geographic Adventure's picks for the absolute best outdoor gear for fall and winter 2015. As usual, the selection is filled with some amazing products that you'll want to have in your gear closet for the season ahead.

Some of the items that earned a spot on Nat Geo's list include new high-loft merino wool base layers from Patagonia, a pair of ski pants from Black Diamond that include a built-in avalanche transceiver, and a new pair of hiking boots from Hoka One One that have been getting a lot of attention since they were first revealed. Other gear that may be of interest for your favorite fall and winter outdoor activities include the new Jetboil Genesis Basecamp stove, an amazing water purifier from MSR, and Sierra Design's new four-season tent, the Convert 2.

This is just the tip of the iceberg however, as you'll also find Nat Geo's picks for the best fat tire bike, an ultra-bright trail light, skis, boots, cameras, travel bags, watches - both smart and traditional – and a whole lot more. All of the new gear is available now, and would obviously make good holiday gifts for yourself or your favorite outdoor enthusiast. Check out the entire list here.

Outside Shares 6 Pieces of Retro Gear They Love

If you're lucky enough to attend Outdoor Retailer – or just happen to watch outdoor gear trends closely – you've probably noticed a retro movement has been afoot in the industry over the past year or two. A number of big (and small!) gear manufacturers have created throwback products that incorporate modern fabrics and design elements into items that look like something right out of the 1970's or 80's. Sales of these products have been mixed, but there are a lot of old school outdoor enthusiasts who seem to love them.

Now, Outside magazine has listed their favorite pieces of retro gear that are currently available to purchase. The title of the article indicates that the list is six of the mag's all-time favorite pieces of gear, but in reality there are seven items shared with readers. Each product has a distinct look that is all of its own. Most look like something from a by-gone era, although Outside indicates that performance is more on par with modern standards.

Some of the items that earn a spot on the Outside list include the Hatcher external frame backpack from Alite, which will certainly bring back fond memories of backpacking trips from years gone by, and the Mountain Pass Horween Rio boot from Danner, which bares a strong resemblance to boots the company made more than three decades ago. I'm also kind of partial to the Yo Eddy mountain bike from Fat Chance, which looks like it just rolled off the assembly line in the 1990's. The bike has a steel frame and colors from that era, but has been updated to include modern disc brakes and now comes in 27.5" and 29" models.

Personally, I enjoy seeing this retro gear, but don't really use much of it myself. I think the designs for these products definitely induce a sense of nostalgia, but I tend to prefer the more modern looking products instead. Still, there does seem to be a market for these throw-back items, so don't be surprised when you see more of them on the trail in the days ahead.

Gear Closet: Hi-Tec V-Lite Flash Force Low Hiking Shoes

Now that fall is officially upon us, and the cooler weather of that season has returned, it is definitely time to head back outside and enjoy your favorite trail once again. This is particularly true as the autumn colors begin to tinge the tops of the trees in shades of gold and crimson. If you're in need of a new hiking shoe to comfortably see you through the season ahead – and beyond – than look no further than the new V-Lite Flash Force Low from Hi-Tec, a boot that offers a high level of comfort to go along with a wide variety of features designed to keep your foot protected out on the trail.

New for Hi-Tec's Spring 2016 collection, the V-Lite Flash will actually be available later this fall. The shoe is a real eye-catcher with its vibrant colors and aggressive Vibram outsole that is designed to maintain traction in a wide variety of terrains, including wet, slippery surfaces. Despite what appears to be a very dense sole, these shoes remain quite light. While they won't compete with a trail runner in terms of weight of course, they are still a lightweight alternative that offers better traction and all-around protection for the foot.

Hi-Tec has also integrated Vibram's RollinGait system into this shoe, which is designed to roll with the natural movement of the foot. This not only improves the comfort of the shoe, but reduces fatigue over time. As a result, you should be able to wear these shoes for longer periods of time, and over rough terrain, without your feet and legs getting quite so tired.


The shoe's upper is will remind you a lot more of a trail running shoe rather than a hiking boot. The synthetic fabrics are designed to breathe, helping to keep the foot cooler while out on a hike. Those fabrics are also easy to keep clean, shrugging off dirt and mud with ease. Despite these features however, I found my feet getting quite warm in them while testing. So much so that I found that in the hot conditions of the summer my feet were actually getting a little too warm, which makes me think the Flash Force shoes are better suited for cooler temperatures of the fall, and possibly even the winter, at least for me personally.

Overly warm feet aside, these are some extremely comfortable hikers to wear on the trail. The Ortholite insert that Hi-Tec includes with the Flash Force feel great on the foot, and they are also designed to improve your recovery following a long day on the trail. That same insert has anti-odor and anti-microbial properties, which meant that even though my feet were overly warm at times, my shoes didn't end up smelling horribly after a long hike. In fact, after putting these shoes to test in the field on numerous occasions, they still look like they just came out of the box, which is a testament to how well they handle wear and tear.

When I met with Hi-Tec at Outdoor Retailer last month, I was impressed with how great these low-cut hiking shoes felt on my feet. That same feeling continued after I received my pair to test as well, and they only got more comfortable after a short break in period. The lacing system on the Flash Force allow you to make them as snug as you'd like, while the overall fit and design cradle my feet perfectly, keeping them very comfortable even when walking on uneven, rocky terrain. And the athletic design of the shoe makes it easy to move fast on the trail as well, without your legs and feet feeling overly fatigued later. All qualities that I greatly appreciate in a good hiking shoe.

I'm looking forward to breaking these shoes out even more in the cooler months ahead. Other than them being a bit overly warm for summer hiking, they are a fantastic shoe in every other way. And I suspect as the season grows colder, I'll actually come to appreciate that warmth quite a bit.

If you're in the market for a new pair of light hiking shoes, and you want something with more of an athletic look, than the V-Lite Flash Force boots just might be exactly what you're looking for. I can't stress enough just how comfortable they are to wear, and how impressed I am with their overall build quality. This feels like a shoe that can accompany you on many hikes, and still continue to maintain their support, traction, and good looks.

The Flash Force will begin shipping this fall with an MSRP of $140. That is a highly competitive price for a shoe that offers so much performance. Check them out when you get the chance. I think you'll like what you find.


Best Gear from Summer Outdoor Retailer 2015

As many of you know, last week the 2015 Summer Outdoor Retailer convention was held in Salt Lake City, with many gear manufacturers unveiling their latest and greatest products there. Most of those items won't go on sale for weeks – or even months – yet, but as usual OR gave us a glimpse of what to expect in terms of gear trends and new products that will make our outdoor adventures and travel experiences much better.

This year, there was a focus on expanding what defines an outdoor adventure, with many companies debuting products that were designed for both fashion and function. There is definitely a trend in pursuing urban adventure as well, with a lot of products transitioning nicely from trail to town. The outdoor industry is finding that many younger people don't want to spend their days hiking and backpacking a rugged trail, but instead they like to spend time with their friends outdoors at an event such as a concert or festival. Products designed for this market are very different from what we traditionally think of in terms of tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags.

Of course, many of the online gear sites put together their picks for the best new items on display at Outdoor Retailer, not the lest of which was "Best New Gear Awards" that we handed out over at the Gear Institute. I serve as the news editor for the site, and helped in the selection process. Amongst the products that we honored were an amazing water purifier from MSR, a lightweight tent from Mountain Hardwear, and the lightest waterproof jacket available today (3.5 oz) from Berghaus.

We weren't the only site handing out awards however. The Gear Junkie selected his favorite products from Summer OR as well, with several items making a repeat appearance from the Gear Institute list. Outside magazine also weighed in with their thoughts, honoring other impressive gear items from the show as well.

All in all, it was another good Outdoor Retailer, with plenty of gear for us to covet. That said, there were very few items that were revolutionary, but plenty that made incremental improvements that will certainly be welcomed by the outdoor community.