Gear Updates: May 2016

Here are some updates on different gear that I have been using and testing. As previously mentioned in a few different past articles, instead of waiting until I have 200, 500, 1000, or even 1500+ days of use with a specific piece of gear to write up a detailed review, I would instead post minor updates on the gear in shorter durations, so, here are some gear updates.


Three months ago (march 2016) I posted about the Kora ‘Shola 230’ Leggings. Later that month I posted a couple photos over on facebook (including the one herein) of the Kora ‘Shola 230 Zip’ top that I bought after getting the leggings (at these prices, I did not want to buy an entire outfit) and gotta say the top has impressed me.

The leggings I wore throughout most of March and into mid April almost every day. Both out on the trail and at home/around town. These Kora leggings were replacing a pair of Patagonia Capilene 3 Long Underwear Bottoms that I had been using for over five years. For those of you familiar with the PC3, I would say that these Kora 230 leggings are a bit warmer while moving, but a bit colder when standing around. The Kora leggings let a fair amount of air through, so take that as (n)either good or bad depending on your use/situation. I have been taking them with me on most of my recent adventures, but only to use as sleepwear. Been too warm to wear them while moving. In a few more months when the temperatures drop, I will get some more use out of them and try to remember to report back on them.

As for the Kora 230 Zip Top…

This is a garment I have fallen in love with. An almost perfect next-to-skin base layer. Except for a couple of weeks when I was down in the desert of Southern California working on the Mojave Trail last month, I have been wearing the Kora 230 Zip Top everyday.

I started off wearing it as a L2 but after a few days decided to wear it as a NtS garment and I have found it performs much better as NtS than it does as a L2.

Like the Kora 230 Leggings, the Zip Top is susceptible to wind flowing through it. Again, this can be both an advantage or disadvantage based on conditions and gear to balance out this factor.

I have found the Kora Zip Top to be as warm as comparable sheep wool, and while I understand from the numbers it is suppose to be better, from my initial ~100 days of ownership and use, I am not really ready to say it beats out any merino wool garment I have owned. That said, it is far more comfortable than any merino wool I have worn, and I have had a number of friends and family that are hyper sensitive to wool, who cannot even wear the finest of merino wool, try it on and they all said it “did not itch”, which is a huge factor for those folks that have that issue.


Suluk46 BucksawSuluk46 Bucksaw:

Those who have watched a recent video saw me out doing trail maintenance – something I spend the winter season doing – with a little hand bucksaw. It is a prototype from Suluk46 and from my last conversation with Steve he is thinking it will be released this summer. I have no knowledge of pricing or final weight. More info about it on this facebook post of mine. The ability to be hiking on a trail, coming across a blow down, stopping and cutting it, and be back on the trail in just a matter of minutes, is really nice.


Hoka One One ‘Speedgoat’ Shoes:

Yeah, downright love these shoes. The Hoka One One ‘Speedgoat’ has proven to me to be a near perfect shoe for both hiking and trail running. They got the grip and flexibility for trail running and the breathability and stability for hiking.

Currently on my third pair and probably time to buy a fourth pair. The body of the shoes have been holding up fine. The lugs, which are awesome, just tend to wear down a bit too fast.

Probably my only complaint, and a petty one, would be that I just do not like the shoelaces. No matter how I tighten them, they just keep coming undone. Ended up switching them out to some shoelaces I had on a previous version of shoe, and that solved the problem.

For the first two pair of the Speedgoat I kept the stock insoles inside the shoe. They performed very well. For this third pair I decided to pull them out and put in a pair of SOLE ‘Softec Response’ insoles, what has become my preferred insoles after ditching the Greens a number of years ago. They ride about the same, but I really do think that the stock insoles are worth keeping in, and going to on my next pair.

MLD Core Backpack:

Got two emails from a couple of guys here in the USA about the Core backpack, with a number of questions.

Both wanted to know why I went with Dx fabric and not HDCF fabric. Suppose the answer to that is that (a) I kinda thought the wasabi green colour was kind of cool and (b) I am not a big fan of HDCF. I suppose it is ok for a full framed backpack, but I personally find it to be too stiff of a fabric for a non framed backpack. Just a personal thing I suppose. That said, I do miss not having a highly water resistant backpack – that is one area where a (H)/DCF backpack is always going to win.

One wanted to know if I thought the MLD Core road better than the ZPacks Zero. As I have said for years, I do not like, and try very hard, to compare products from different cottage manufacturers. Besides, there are a lot of factors involved. Fabric type. Shoulder strap design (fabric, thickness, j/s/h, straight or angled attachment, etc). How you load the pack. And such. Not to mention that these are basically just “bags with straps”{credit: henry shires}. I will share what I shared with him, “Yeah, I would just have to say toss a coin.” But, that said, I am finding the shoulder straps on the MLD Core to be a bit more friendly to my shoulders and neck sides than the zpacks zeros I have owned, but only with slightly heavier loads. For the average load inside of a 1000-1300 cubic inch backpack, it really should not ever be an issue, just when you start getting up there and pushing their max load weights.

Ultimate Direction PB Vest 3.0 -- with hard water bottle in burrito pocket

Ultimate Direction PB Vest:

This is for you Aaron :)

Update on the 2016 generation of the UPBPV that I posted photos of a little over a month ago.

Yes, it is a bit different from my first generation UDPBV, that is for sure. The pockets. The size. The ride. The fabric. The zippers. The pockets. The pockets. Oh, yeah, the pockets.

Most importantly, the ride… how does it ride?

Loaded up (as in, utterly stuffed with food, water and gear) it felt maybe a bit worse than my first generation – but let me explain that. First, I have had a problem, when fully loaded with a lot of water/weight, with the vest sliding down my back. That… sucks. The reason for all of this is because it has increased by 5L of volume since my first generation… and I can get a weeebit of weight shoved into 5L of space. Especially water. So, I think we have to be fair here and say that, yes, it does ride worse than my Gen1, when fully loaded to the max, but that is because it can haul a fair bit more weight. So, I suppose there is a fairness equation here that needs to take place to some extent. After all, at 16L, it is getting pretty dang close to a trail running backpack.

But when not loaded up to the max, I am finding this current generation to be as comfortable as my first generation UDPBV. The first gen was a bit stiffer along the back and that was nice, but the additional fabric mass of this current generation means the vest has more body hug, and that is really nice – the key aspect of a running vest, I feel.

I used it exclusively on a couple of 10 and 22 mile trail runs while down in the Mojave desert last month, as well as a few dozen trail and road runs up here in the Redwoods since I got it. I also used it as a day pack, and short excursions up different possible routes, while on an extended trail route development adventure, which is why I went down to the desert. It was nice to have a small vest to pull out of my 65L SMD Fusion backpack and put on to go explore a canyon or ridgeline.

All in all I am very glad I bought this vest. Did I need to? Nope. My Gen1 is still going strong after 1000+ miles, but the extra 5L of volume was totally worth buying it for. That is a fair bit of additional water storage!

Oh, also, the UD Groove Stereo Waist Belt… super cool waist belt. Worth the money? Heck no. It seriously falls into the WTF expensive category at $100 bucks. I bought it, yeah, but seriously UD… 100$… wtf. Yeah, very neat waist belt, probably the best I have owned. If it was maybe in the $45 range, I would give it a “hell yeah” rating, but at $100 bucks, nope. No way. I feel the same way about paying this kind of money for this as I did paying what I did for an Apple Watch. Both neat and narrowly focused POU, and both stupidly expensive. I’d sell my Apple Watch in a heartbeat if I could even remotely get what I paid for it, but that is not going to happen. I think the same would apply to the Groove Stereo… if you think it might be useful… which it really is the best waist running water belt I have owned… just want for the price to drop… hopefully it will… and hopefully before next season… sigh. But IF you can find the Groove Stereo on sale, heck yeah, for sure, go buy it if you need a water waist belt, it really is impressive.

flatcatgear_iso_clean_25Flat Cat Gear ‘Multi-Fuel 2.5 Stove’:

Oh, an update on this Multi-Fuel 2.0 stove. Had an email asking about this too. Most of you probably know I have been on a Soylent+Greenbelly diet, so this little stove has gotten almost no use over the last ~100 days, but the few times I did want something heated up (coffee/tea) I have used this stove. Before I went onto this diet I was using it almost every day.

I have exclusively (like, 99% of the time) used the Swissmar F65400 Fire Gel with it – which is, after all, why I bought it. Crazy safe fuel. Amazing stuff. I have not counted how many pots of water I have boiled with the single 33oz bottle of fuel, but it has been a lot and I am not even half way through the bottle. Just to experiment I tried using Iso 70 and Iso 90 (or maybe 99?) and both of those worked, but it did take a bit more fuel than I thought it would. Not a big deal, just something I noticed and remembered. I did use yellow bottle Heet once, and it burned wicked hot.

I remember after getting it I emailed Jon (owner of FCG) and commented on how big it is. I was thinking it would be a bit smaller. This stove works awesome on the larger pots, such as my favorite, the Toaks 900ml (which, btw, FCG has on crazy sale for the month of may) but for things such as beer can stoves and such, and in some ways even the 600ml pots, it just has too large of a flame pattern. I would love to see FCG release a smaller multi-fuel (aka: junior multi-fuel stove ???). But still, if you are like me and want to take a non-canister stove with you, and one that is about as safe as you can get, that Swissmar fire Gel mixed with this Multi-fuel stove is proving to be an extremely safe combo!

End Thoughts:

If I missed anything I told somebody I would post an update on, or if you have any questions, drop me a message. It has been a couple of crazy months… a few thousand miles of driving for a few hundred miles of hiking, trail running, and trail development. I likely have forgotten something, pre-apologies if I have.

8 thoughts on “Gear Updates: May 2016

  1. Hi John, I am considering purchasing the ladies Kora Zip Top. I like Merino, but I sometimes find it a bit scratchy. I emailed Kora to ask the weight for the ladies, but they did not get back to me. Can you weigh the men’s version? Also, is there any stretch to the fabric? Much appreciated!

    1. Hey Sara, I posted a photo of the mens medium on a scale on my facebook page awhile back. Looks like 268g. As for stretch… very little. It is a very tight weave.

  2. If you’re discussing shoes I think it’d be most helpful stating your personal size.
    I can’t see trying $140.00 for the Hoka 1 1 Speedboat shoes when their size chart only lists one width.

    1. >>> their size chart only lists one width

      That does seem to be the case with trail runners these days.

      I remember thinking the same thing the first time I bought the Inov-8 X Talon 212. A shoe I greatly miss (the most awesome lugs ever!) and a shoe I greatly do not miss (way too narrow of toebox).

  3. Hey John,

    What do you think of the MLD Core’s curved side panels/main body? Do they indeed seem to keep the pack body closer to the back and provide a better fit? Thanks for the informative reading as usual.

    1. Hey Paul.

      Understand the question, but gotta say I just do not really know the answer to it. This is one rather small backpack… don’t remember the exact dimensions but something like 10x20x5… so whatever kind of catenary cuts it might have, are super hard to detect just looking at it. Maybe the curves do and I just have not noticed it, but it is not something that stands out as a screaming “buy me because of this” feature/design concept.

      It does hug the body pretty nice (obviously nothing like a UD vest, but far better than a traditional full size backpack) but I think most of the comfort [for me] comes from the shoulder straps. The offset angle (what’s it called… a ‘dutch angle’ or something like that??) and the shape of them at the top (bowed away from the neck muscles), and how they narrow at the bottom (less cutting into your sides/armpits), all just makes for one really nice backpack shoulder strap. Would probably not work on a high volume/heavy backpack, but for a little thing like the 22L Core, yeah, they absolutely work.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    1. Yeah, I had that problem with the inov-8 x-talon 212 for a couple of generations of it. the speedgoat does have a wider toebox as i am sure you know, but still not a hiker shoe toebox wide, by any means – but, it is not really a hiker trail shoe by design, I suppose.

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