Zpacks just did a product refresh on their Nero Backpack to fix what I have always felt where some much needed changes.
Without a doubt the biggest change is them doing away with the annoying cordage system on the roll-top closure system. It was a serious PITA and I am not really sure anybody liked it. They now have a traditional buckle system for securing the roll-top closure.
Check out the attached video for a complete overview on the changes.
You can see my original thoughts on the Nero in this post from back in April of 2017.
Last November I posted about the Massdrop ‘Veil Wind Shell‘, which is the newest wind jacket that I have been testing.
Earlier this month, January 2019, Massdrop announced they are now making a pair of wind pants, called the ‘Veil Wind Pants‘, and I thought that I would share about them, and some of my personal initial thoughts about them, based on what I can see from their specs, and my usage with their wind jacket.
Unlike in the world of wind jackets, which is a market that has become plenteous as of late, there are not as many companies out there making wind pants, so it is usually worth taking a look at when new wind pants hit the market – I am not saying buying, but at least taking a look.
I am not going to get into the topics of “why use wind pants when you can just use rain pants” or “do we really need yet another company making wind pants” or those type of stupid questions. Those always just get filed into the trash bin. A lack of understanding should not mean you just bash something or question it. I have zero knowledge and experience of gear used in deep snow or polar expeditions, so why would I start bashing on them. Don’t let a keyboard diminish who you are.
Let us start by taking a look at the features of these wind pants.
Massdrop approached me a few months back asking me if I would be interested in helping them develop a pair of wind pants using their Veil fabric, so I have had some insight, if not direct influence, into the features of these wind pants.
As some of you may know, I have worn a single pair of Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants for over two thousand (2,000) days, as well as the Montbell Tachyon wind pants (which I gave away, I just did not like them) and a few other pair of wind pants that will go unnamed as I thought they sucked. But suffice to say, I have come to know what I want in a pair of wind pants, but that is far from saying what it is that others want in a pair of wind pants, of that I will fully admit.
So when Massdrop approached me on what features I thought a pair of wind pants should have, I basically listed off the features of the Dynamo wind pants, that is:
An elastic top with a cord closure method.
Bottom leg zippers to help with getting them on/off without having to take your shoes/boots off.
The really sweet samue underfoot straps.
And no stupid pockets.
Those four things pretty much made up the list of features that I suggested to them, in what I thought a pair of ultralight wind pants should have, nothing more, nothing less.
Unexpectedly, a box showed up from Massdrop a month or two later with a prototype pair of the wind pants. So, awesomely, for the last couple of months I have had the oppertunity to provide additional feedback and try them out.
Somewhere along the way I mentioned to them that the one issue that the Dynamo wind pants have had, both for me and other hikers that have contacted me about them after buying a pair after reading my reviews on them, is that the crotch threads are always blowing out. I have had to restitch the crotch area on my Dynamo wind pants more than once, a lot more, sigh. So one of the things that Massdrop has done is introduce reinforced crotch seams to try to prevent this from happening on the Veil wind pants. So, now I can sit down around camp and not worry about yet-another-oops-moment.
One thing I would like to mention is that the Massdrop website seems to indicate that the bottom leg zippers are for “increase ventilation when you need it“. I just gotta say that that is a statement that I would like to see them remove. The bottom leg zippers are not for ventilation, they are for making it easier to take the pants off without having to take your shoes off. Wind pants, for many people, are something that are taking on/off multiple times throughout your hiking day. As the wind comes up, on they go. When the wind stops, you take them off. Now, granted, some folks, like me, wear them as my primary leg garments, but for the most part, wind pants are typically one of those garments that are just part of the layering system that involves being taken on/off as dictated by the weather. So yeah, the bottom zippers are just a convenience feature. In my 2000+ days of wearing wind pants, not a single time have I ever up-zipped (??) the zippers on my wind pants to help ventilate them. Maybe just me though.
So, fast Forward to earlier this month when Massdrop announced their new Veil Wind Pants, and how about that, almost all of the features I suggested have made it into their final production ‘Veil Wind Pants‘. The exception being an internal pocket that acts as a stuff-pocket for storing the pants when not in use, which, I have to say, I have found to be kinda nice.
Let’s Talk Fabric:
Now, we cannot really talk about wind pants, just like we cannot talk about wind jackets, without talking about the fabric, because really, regardless of features, if the fabric on wind garments (jackets, pants, gloves, hoods, whatever) suck, no amount of cool features is going to matter. Fabric is king in the world of wind garments, and that is why so much is written and talked about in the world of wind garments, I should know, I have published way too many articles about them, admittedly.
What we do know about the Veil fabric is that it has a CFM of 11. That is not amazing, and it is not horrible. It places it in a sort of middle-of-the-road.
In all of my use of the Massdrop Veil Wind Jacket use, I have found it to be pretty good. In line with the other market leaders in that category of CFM.
Likewise, in my limited, a month or two, use of the prototype wind pants, they too have proven to be what I would expect them to be, with a 11-CFM rating.
If you really really want a true wind blocker, you would be an idiot to not go with the EE Copperfield, specifically selecting their 20-d rip-stop nylon option, which they have reported has a 1-CFM, in order words, pretty much zero amount of wind is going to get through. On the bad side though, it almost means it is going to pretty much have zero breathability, but if you are in a condition where you actually do need a totally wind-proof garment, you probably also do not want a garment that is breathing, in order to keep the warm air inside, helping your natural thermoregulation.
Now, we also know that the Veil fabric is a silicone coated 15d ripstop nylon. That is going to make it on the more durable side of wind pants in the ultralight market. Certainly more durable than the Dynamo’s, which a number of hikers that I know and respect have found to shred apart when they have used them.
Massdrop is also applying a DWR to the fabric. I do know what kind, or the process, or the amount, that is something I do not think that they have disclosed.
Lastly, we know that the fabric is a 31 gsm and an unknown type of antibacterial has been applied to it in order to help reduce odor buildup, though, I am not really sure why, it is ripstop nylon after all /shrugs/
So, The Elephant In The Room Question:
Why buy the Massdrop Veil Wind Pants over the Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants?
Sure, I am willing to take on this question… of course I am. No reason to shy away from it, as it is a totally legit question.
Well, for those who are after the lightest of the lightest, going with the Dynamo pants are going to help in your sub-2268 quest. Saving you 10 grams (0.3 ounces) of carry-weight when not wearing them!
And, for those who are maybe a bit more aggressives, shall we say umm, abusive, with their gear, the Veil pants are going to be a better option.
For those in areas that have higher levels of fog and light rain, the Veil wind pants are going to edge out the Dynamo pants as a result of both the fabric and what I feel/sense is better DRW on the fabric.
For those that are looking to save an extra $20 bucks in their overall gear setup, the Veil wind pants are less expensive. Hey, an extra $20 bucks saved on gear is an extra meal in town while out on your thru-hike!
Of course, the Veil wind pants, at least at this point in time, are still in production/pre-order phase, scheduled to be shipped sometime around June of this year, so, that is still a good five months away. To late for the 2019 thru-hiker season, that is for sure.
When it comes to features, it really does not matter, they are both pretty much identical.
So, if I were to be looking to buy a new pair of wind pants for the late 2019 hiking season, would I be buying a pair of the Dynamo or the Veil wind pants?
I think I would probably go with the Veil wind pants. The reasons being: they are $20 bucks less, and a garment being an extra 10 grams is something I no longer care about, and being more durable is always a good thing. Plus, I just kind of like supporting the folks at Massdrop – what they are doing within the ultralight community is just really neat and I think they deserve our support. So, yeah, go order yourself a pair of these Massdrop Veil Wind Pants!
I was recently at the Six Moon Designs office hanging out with them for a couple of days when their shipment of their new 2018 Gatewood Cape finally arrived from whatever port it came from.
After giving their staff some time to get the goodies out of the boxes, they let me grab one of each of the two new color capes and two of the old ones so I could take some side-by-side pictures of the new vs old.
They released this new version of the Gatewood Cape on March 07, 2018.
Below are the pictures – and thanks to the SMD staff for letting me take – and share – these pictures, even before they were released.
Earlier this morning, March 03, 2018, our good friends over at Vargo Outdoors released their second generation ‘ExoTi’ backpack, called the “ExoTi AR2“!
In almost every way the ExoTi AR2 is the backpack that many of us Vargo backpack fans have been waiting for!
The first generation of their “ExoTi” lineup, the ‘ExoTi 50‘, has been a backpack that has gone with me on numerous trips when I was in need of a larger volume backpack.
Of course, before the ExoTi 50 was the ‘Ti-Arc‘, a backpack that was loved by some and questioned by most others. None the less the ‘Ti-Arc’ set the groundwork for a new generation, a new evolution, of the modern day lightweight external frame backpack.
The Ti-Arc had a few initial things that needed to be changed, which Vargo addressed with the ExoTi 50. Now, with a second generation of the ‘ExoTi’, they have once again listened to their customers and made some changes.
A new backpack called the “Minimalist” was just announced. It is, as I am reading things, SMD basically taking their previous, and well-known-to-be-too-damn-heavy backpacks, and getting the weight down to be closer to many of the other comparable backpacks on the market these days… yet still using their ultimate class-defining, and what I feel to be the finest load weight distribution on the market, harness suspension system.