Partnering with Chris Davenport, one of the most accomplished big mountain athletes skiing today, Scarpa will release a line of ridiculously nice, new free-ride boots next season. The Freedom SL ($750) is the Cadillac of the line, weighing in at three pounds and 13 ounces, with an interchangeable metal sole system that’ll let you step into any kind of alpine or AT binding. The four-buckle boot will have a new shell mold and construction to reduce the overall volume, and a carbon-fiber core adds stiffness to this otherwise soft boot. The ski/walk mechanism (which hinges at the back of the boot) provides 27 degrees of movement, with seven degrees of resistance and 20 degrees of forward flex. That means you can hike uphill unfettered—you’ll even appreciate the flexibility when you’re hoofing it from your car to the ski lodge. The boot will also come with Scarpa’s heat-moldable Intuition liners, some of the lightest and most comfortable on the market. Oh, and the graphics for each boot are unique, which may appeal to some free-riders more than all the tech specs we love!
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brooks-range.com, 15.5 ounces
It’s nearly impossible to imagine life without puffy coats. Not the super-light, somewhat anemic down sweaters that made headlines the last two years with their helium weightlessness (although we like those too), but the pillowy Michelin Man down coats that are so plush and lofty that they double as a comforter or sleeping bag on chilly nights. The 800-fill down Mojave jacket has a loft that is lush, but not exorbitant (consider it a Stay Puff Marshmallow man with six-pack abs). It offers just enough insulation to keep you warm in single digit temps, but it’s not so heavy that the jacket can only be worn in sub-zero climates. It utilizes a new treatment that renders the down water resistant—an improvement in feather insulation that arguably pushes the needle in the outdoor apparel category. There are a few companies who specialized in “waterproof” down; Brooks Range utilizes DownTek technology, a process that applies a micro-thin nanopolymer to the feathers, creating a water repellent, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial insulation that doesn’t soak up water. Our Oregon testers wore the Mojave in day-long drizzle and wet snow showers—even when the entire garment got damp from a downpour, it dried faster than traditional down by at least 50 percent (while the lightweight durable Pertex Quantum fabric shell is water-resistant, the jacket isn’t seam sealed). Better still, the down never wetted out or clumped. The jacket has a deep hood that can be pulled forward and snugged around the face with the tug of a toggled draw cord, or adjusted with a small Velcro strap to stay upright without blocking peripheral vision. Two deep, zippered hand-warmer pockets are lined with a soft microfleece and an internal Napoleon zip pocket secures phone, wallet, and chap stick. The jacket packs down to the size of a football.
www.camelbak.com, one pound, one ounce
Anyone who has paid the price for drinking questionable water knows the peace of mind that bottled water brings. But when you’re on the go, especially in the backcountry or traveling, pure stuff can be hard to find. The CamelBak All Clear offers a great solution. The All Clear employs a built-in UV-C light bulb that kills all illness-causing organisms in just 60 seconds. I really like the simplicity of this system. The lid, which houses the UV bulb, battery, display, and charging port, only has a single button. Push the button, the UV light goes on, you wait a minute, and the bacteria and viruses are zapped. The light and bottle do all the work, with an easy-to-see LCD display that counts down the time remaining, so you know when your water is ready. It’s that easy. One big difference between the UV purification and more traditional filtration is taste, color, and particles. With UV purification systems (like the All Clear) the water you put in the bottle is exactly the same as the water you get out—only it’s safe to drink. If you’re drinking from puddles and swamps, you might prefer a standard filtration system that not only purifies the water, but cleans it as well. But, as our testers found, most of the time they weren’t limited to pond scum or mud puddles as a hydration source. The bottle is slightly heavy for backpacking and does take five hours to fully charge but it’s ideal for any trip where the prospect of drinking local water sends a shiver up your spine. I also found that it works as lantern in a pinch, even if it does only runs for a minute at a time—likely the longest it’s taken me to pitch my tent after dark. When you first charge the All Clear, you need to do the full five hours—otherwise you’ll get an error message (and the UV light doesn’t glow).
Nothing ruins an epic day on the mountain faster than aching feet after the first few runs. The solution—buying a new pair of ski or snowboard boots—certainly tantalizes. But the problem could very well be your footbed—the removable foot-shaped pad (insole) that sits directly under your foot in the boot. That’s where EZ-Fit comes in. Application is a breeze: free the old factory insoles from inside your boots, use them as a pattern to trim the Snow insoles with a sharp pair of scissors, then drop ‘em in. They start to mold to the contours of your feet the moment you put on the boots.You’ll quickly notice better stability, less foot fatigue and improved control on edging and power transfer. The cushioning and comfort provided also helps you avoid pain in the foot, knee, hip, and lower back, breathing new life into your ski and snowboard boots—and hopefully to your next outing to the slopes.
www.sierradesigns.com, two lbs, 12 oz
This is a great pack for an overnight or long weekend. Its 30 liters of storage proved roomy enough to hold a tent, small sleeping bag, and food. The pack fits quite well on a medium-length torso, with seemingly endless adjustment possibilities. Due to a perforated 3-D framesheet that keeps the pack off your back, there’s little to no sweat build-up, even on sweltering summer days and uphill slogs. Our testers carried a 25- to 35-pound loads through scrub oak thickets and fallen deadwood without issue, attesting that the pack’s durable, nylon-coated pack-bag won’t rip or shred. A thermo molded hipbelt and lightly cushioned shoulder straps are easy to adjust, providing a hot spot-free carry over rough terrain. One tester wished for lash straps on the bottom of the pack for additional room for a bag or sleeping pad on longer trips, but after packing light for long weekends, was glad he didn’t have bulky items swinging around and compromising the pack’s sleek design. The pack comes with a removable rain cover, although our tester had a tough time fitting it back in the mini pocket on the bottom of the pack.