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Posts Tagged skiwear

Pakems Packable Boots

In my quest for the perfect apres ski boot and all-round, packable outdoor travel shoe, I gave Pakems a trial run. This brand new product designed by a single mom is marketed as a lightweight, compressible shoe designed for use after a ski day. Pakems come in two styles (for both men and women): a high top for winter use and a low top for summer. Both are made from water-resistant ripstop fabric with an insulated, DWR-coated upper, and EVA midsole, and a rubber outsole. Both tighten with a very simple single-pull lace system.

pakems-footwear

The shoes are undeniably simple, but that’s the point. They’re meant to get you from Point A to Point B in comfort, after changing out of your technical footwear (ski boots in winter, hiking boots in summer). The sole is quite flat, and you don’t get a terribly secure fit, which for me means I won’t be walking in them too far. However, they’re comfortable, and after a day of exercise, they’re certainly a relief to slip on.

How small do they pack down? My size 8 Pakems measure about 10 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 2 inches thick. They weigh about 13 ounces (a size 10 weighs 15). They come with a small compression bag, but I ditched that pretty quickly in favor of simply squishing my Pakems down into my backpack or bag. If you do use the compression bag, it comes with a strap designed to attach to a backpack or even your waist…I found this overkill, but the strap does also work as a ski boot carrying device when you’re wearing your Pakems, which I’ll admit is pretty nifty.

In most cases, I have room in my ski boot bag for a standard pair of snow boots to change into, but for the days I don’t want to (or cannot) secure a ski locker and opt to carry a small backpack all day, the Pakems fit nicely. They’re also nice to keep in the car to slip your feet into for the drive home (from winter sport days or summer hikes). I’d also bring mine along for river rafting days in the early summer or late fall, when my feet get cold after being wet.

Pakems boots

My Pakems are comfortable, but not very breathable…again, these are not designed for long-term wear or long distances. They’ll easily get you from the ski lodge to the parking lot or village, and look decent on your feet while grabbing that apres ski drink, but aren’t meant to go the distance. The low top version is ideal for backpackers who like to bring an extra pair of comfortable shoes for evenings around the campfire; I now favor them over my sandals for this purpose, as they keep my feet dry and clean in addition to giving them a much-needed hug after a day of hiking. Think of them as slippers for the backcountry.

The only difference between the high top version and the low top version: the high top covers to just above the ankle, whereas the low top is cut below. You’ll want the high top for winter wear. At the time of my review, Pakems came in only black, but they have now come out with a variety of fun patterns and colors. Pick up a pair at the Pakems website for $70 (high top) or $60 (low top) or Amazon for as low as $47 for the high top. They’re also available at Moosejaw.com.

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Hillsound Super Armadillo Gaiter

Hillsound gaitersA good pair of gaiters is one of those winter gear items you think you might not need until you realize (too late) that you really, really do. If you’re snowshoeing, nordic skiing, or traveling to a glacial destination this winter, or doing any serious backcountry trekking any time this year, do yourself a favor and invest in gaiters now. Alternatively, they make for a great gift, so put them on your list and hope for the best.

I’ve been playing in some early season Tahoe snow with the Hillsound Super Armadillo gaiter, where even in December, the powder is heavy and wet. I’m pleased to report dry feet and legs after several snowshoe treks.  I also wore them through wet sagebrush and dense vegetation on a fall hike off-trail, and enjoyed a lack of abrasions (or visible wear to the gaiters).

The Super Armadillo is Hillsound’s newest gaiter, featuring a base of what they call SuperFabric, which I suppose is self explanatory. Basically, it’s the most durable barrier on the market today. The upper of the Armadillo is waterproof Flexia fabric (a term that’s also quite helpfully descriptive). What all this meant to me as I hiked in underbrush and snow: the gaiters were stretchy, moving with my body, and breathable. I wore them over both nylon trekking pants and waterproof snow pants.

The gaiters are listed as slash-resistant, which makes sense (I’d resist getting slashed, too). I didn’t put this to the test, however, because I grew attached to my pair and didn’t want to push my luck. Even though they’re breathable, they feel quite significant while on; you definitely feel the extra weight (even though it isn’t much). They secure with both a strap under the boot and a full YKK zipper from top to bottom. The zipper is covered by a protective strap at the base and the top, and there’s an extra clip at the top, which, along with the stretch fabric, ensures the gaiters are not going to slip down as you move.

The Super Armadillo retails for $78 on Hillsound or find it on Amazon for a few bucks less. They come in men’s or women’s, and sizes range from S-XL for men and S-L for women. Keep in mind that the gaiter fit very snugly in order to keep moisture and dirt out: if you plan to wear over baggy pants, size accordingly.

If you want to upgrade, consider the Hillsound Armadillo Nano gaiter, which, out of the box, looks a lot like the Super Armadillo, but is made from Schoeller fabric, which offers a wind and waterproof membrane that reacts to changing temperatures. Yes, it would seem to have a brain…adjusting heat retention as needed. Kind of creepy, but also cool. (No pun intended.) As if that weren’t enough, the surface is self-cleaning: dirt cannot adhere to it. This upgrade will only set you back about $20, as the Nano retails for $98 on Hillsound or a $1 less on Amazon.

 

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Teva winter boots: Jordanelle 2 and Chair 5

Don’t get confused by the names: men and women are set up with nearly the same winter boot this year from Teva, simply with different titles and slightly different design. The Teva Chair 5 for men and the Teva Jordanelle 2 for women both feature Thinsulate insulation, a grippy sole, and lace-up closure. And they’re both adorable.

Teva boots

 

With waterproof uppers and seam-sealed construction, both boots offer winter weather protection with 250g insulation. Both feature a removable boot liner, which makes getting the boot on and off much easier. Both lace up the front to mid-calf with easy hook-and-loop construction, and open wide so there’s no wiggling and whining while getting your wool-socked foot in (or is that just me?).

My favorite thing about the Jordanelle and Chair, however, is their weight. These boots are incredibly lightweight, considering the traction they offer. I can pack these boots when we travel to ski…even the size 12 Chair 5 my husband is wearing. Teva claims the Chair 5 and Jordanelle are approximately half the weight of comparable winter boots, and I believe them. Plus, both styles are crushable, so feel free to cram them into your suitcase…all will be good. You can literally fold the boot in half.

We took our Teva boots on a whirlwind Thanksgiving weekend in the snow, and while I usually curse my decision to bring winter or snow boots along for a road trip by mid-day of day 1, this time, I never minded. That’s because my Jordanelles were in my duffle, not rattling around the back of the car, to big to fit anywhere else.

The Chair 5 retails for $170 for men at Teva, but you can pick up a pair at Amazon for as low as $78. Colors include black and green. The Jordanelle retails for $180 (hey, no fair!) but can also be found on Amazon for $121. Color options include black, white, and purple. Also available at REI and Backcountry.

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Transpack ski and snowboard boot bags

Alternate title: OMG, I’ll never carry my ski gear in a shoulder bag ever again. Transpack specializes in backpack-style ski and snowboard boot bags, with several distinct models to choose from. What they all have in common: high quality construction, intelligent design, and comfort.

Transpack calls its design the ‘isosceles storage system’, which reminds me unpleasantly of high school geometry but, unlike my math education, turns out to be something I can actually use in the real world. What an ‘isosceles storage system means: the interior design of most Transpack bags is such that the toes of the boots meet together in the front of the pack, away from your back when you carry the load. The weight of the pack is distributed to the sides, which equals happy shoulders and neck muscles.

Go on the Transpack site, and you’ll be faced with a dizzying array of options. While they only make a few main styles of backpacks, there are several models in each category. To break it down and identify the main differences in styles, my skiing and snowboarding family and I tried out four different Transpacks. (We try to be helpful like that.)

For starters, no matter what your boot bag needs, Transpack has you well taken care of with backpack straps for an impressively comfortable carry. The question you have to ask yourself is: how big a bag do I need, how sturdy does it have to be, and where will it be traveling with me?

Transpack boot bags

Transpack breakdown (clockwise from top left): Compact Pro, Sidekick, XT1, and Edge Jr.

Transpack Pro:

This is the pack you need if you’re an every-weekend, all winter long kind of skier. I tested this out for myself, as I ski at least once per week all season long. The Pro comes in a standard size or a compact size, features the Isosceles Storage System (so it’s triangular shaped), and is made of super tough, treated 1680 ballistic nylon with a water resistant TPU tarpaulin bottom. You get reflective piping on the sides, a roomy central compartment for gear, side zippered pockets for ski or snowboard boots (with drainage), and many internal and external pockets, including a soft fleece-lined goggle pocket. There’s a stabilizing waist strap in addition to the shoulder straps, and a mesh padded back panel that you’d expect to see on a hiking day pack, not a boot bag. I found the compact Pro to be plenty big enough to store my helmet, my boots, gloves, two pairs of goggles, an extra shell, and all the little items that get lost in the bottom of a standard bag: sunscreen, car keys, screwdriver and binding adjustment tool, ski pass, sunglasses, and lip balm. I’d only opt for a standard for men with very large ski boots. The Pro is $119 through Transpack retailers like REI and $109 on Amazon, and comes in a variety of colors.

Transpack XT1:

If you plan to use your pack a little less often (say 2-3 major ski trips per season), you can save some dough downgrading from a Pro to an XT1. The main difference: the XT1 is made of water resistant coated 600 denier polyester instead of the higher grade ballistic nylon. There’s no major difference visibly. You still get the rubberized water resistant TPU tarp bottom, and because the XT1 is one of the more popular styles, it comes in a greater variety of colors and prints. The design is the same as the Pro, including the patented Isosceles Storage System. Our 12-year-old is using the XT1, and he’s been swapping out his ski boots and snowboard boots in the boot pockets, finding that they fit both easily. You get mesh zippered size pockets and a top pocket on the outside, perfect for ski passes, keys, and other small items. Like with the Pro, helmets, gloves, and other larger items fit in the main compartment. The XT1 retails for $90 at Transpack and can be found on Amazon or Sun And Ski Sports for as low as $69. (Your other economical option is the Edge, found on Amazon for under $50.)

Edge Jr:

For kids under 10, the Edge Jr is a manageable size. We’re big fans of kids carrying their own gear, but our eight-year-old really struggled with a shoulder-strap style bag. It kept slipping off his shoulder or thumping against his legs as he navigated the parking lot. With the Edge Jr, which is pretty much identical to the XT1 but smaller, he can easily carry his bag and his skis and poles. There’s plenty of room for a kid-sized helmet, gloves, boots, and outer layer, though this bag is missing the dedicated goggle pocket. I guess Transpack (correctly) assumes that kids have already scratched their goggles beyond repair anyway. The Edge Jr is $49 at Amazon, a bit less at Paragon Sports, and comes in fun prints, like gray camo.

Transpack Sidekick and Sidekick Pro:

The sidekick is the alternative to the Isosceles Storage System style. This backpack carries boots on the outside of the pack, using a Delta strap boot system with optional, stowaway boot covers to protect boots against the elements. Personally, I prefer for my boots to be zippered into an interior dedicated pocket, but the Sidekick is perfect for my 14-year-old, who wants a more versatile bag.

How is the Sidekick different? In addition to the exterior boot carry, this bag has a traditional backpack design, complete with hydration sleeve, laptop sleeve, and an exterior zippered helmet compartment. Our teen uses his bag to and from school ski trips, so he uses the laptop sleeve to stow homework and books. He also likes that he has the option of the hydration sleeve for use as an on-mountain pack. The Sidekick Pro is made from the same ballistic nylon as the regular Pro, and the regular Sidekick sports the polyester. The pack appears pretty bulky and cumbersome loaded up with ski boots on either side and helmet strapped in the outside pocket, but in fact, my son and I were both amazed by how well the shoulder and waist straps support the weight, and how well that weight is distributed. Like the other bags, you get plenty of interior and exterior pockets to keep your gear organized. The Sidekick Pro retails for $120 through Transpack retailers or as low as $99 on Amazon, in a good variety of solid colors.

Outfitting your entire family in quality boot bags is an investment, but we don’t plan on needing to replace our Transpacks for a long time. I can’t say the same of the cheaper shoulder strap bags we’ve used in the past. A set of Transpacks might make for a great holiday gift to the whole family under the tree this year. Just saying.

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ColdPruf Performance and Eco base layers

Autumn is here, and it will be ski and winter travel season in no time. I’ve already worn my ColdPruf base layers on more than one occasion here in Oregon, and will be packing them when I head north to Alberta, Canada next week.

ColdPruf offers multiple product lines, rating them from cold to extreme cold and low activity to high activity. I appreciate that each line falls somewhere on this scale, so you can easily identify which base layer you’ll need based on what you plan to use it for. I tried out their women’s crew and pant in both their Performance and Eco Pro-Tek lines.

Both are rated for ‘very cold’ (the middle option on the cold scale) and ‘high activity’ (the top option on the activity scale). Both tops are long-sleeved crews, and both pants feature an elastic waist and fitted legs, but the main similarities end there.

ColdPruf base layers

Performance women’s crew and pant:

The women’s crew features flat seams, a tag-less back, and hemmed cuffs, all great for high activity. Both the crew and the pant are made of 96% performance polyester and 4% spandex, for a nice stretch when exercising, skiing, hiking, or sitting. You get antimicrobial odor-control and great moisture management and evaporation (in plain language, this means you won’t feel chilled or wet when you sweat). The crew is lightweight and thin, making it an ideal layering piece that won’t add bulk. The performance pant offers the same single-layer engineering and flat seams, and adds a comfort waistband that really is just that. Both are a close fit with plenty of give.

Eco Pro-Tek women’s crew and pant:

The Eco crew offers a more flattering cut, with a lower neckline and nice accents to add some color. Both the crew and pant in this line are made of 100% Repreve recycled performance polyester with a mini waffle weave, and are extremely soft. After wearing a lot of synthetic base layer materials, this one is surprisingly comfortable. However, due to the lack of spandex, there is very little give in the Eco line, especially in the pant. I found that while I prefer them for casual wear or travel, I need a base layer with more flexibility while hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing.

The Eco offerings feature the flat seams that are attractive in the performance line, and are also tag- less. You get the same antimicrobial odor-blocking technology. Also like its Performance cousin, the Pro-Tek is single layer. (By the way, this seems to be the main difference between the performance/casual lines and the extreme performance lines at ColdPruf: single vs double layer.)

Pick up either the Eco Pro-Tek or Performance in both men’s and women’s versions, or outfit youth in ColdPruf’s Base or Enthusiast line. I wish they made the Eco line in youth sizes, because my tween son has taken to wearing my Eco Pro-Tek pants, simply due to their softness. For kids who don’t like ‘scratchy’ base layers, this is the solution.

The price is right: ColdPruf’s Performance crew is only $19.99 on Amazon and the Eco Pro-Tek is only $18.36. Pants are approximately the same cost. ColdPruf layers can also be found on Backcountry and Sunny Sports.

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