Archive for the ‘Gear Reviews’ Category
Hitting the scale at only 238 grams (8.4 ounces), the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket has been my go-to, primary wear, top thermal garment (jacket) for a few years – and I freaking love it!
Featuring 15-denier rip-stop nylon shell, 50g Exceloft synthetic insulation, and a full front zipper, the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket is a jacket that can be a year around jacket for pretty much anybody anywhere.
It is perfect for the summer season on cold mornings, and a great thermal layer for the colder seasons.
In the world of sub 10 oz synthetic jackets, finding a jacket like the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket, can present a challenge but thankfully it is not really necessary to look all that hard as this jacket ticks off pretty much all of the checkboxes that I feel needs to be checked to fit into this category.
Normally I try very hard to not write about how x-product compares to y-product, but in this situation, that is, the sub 10 ounce hoodless jacket market, I think it is fair to be able to compare the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket to both the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (197 grams / 6.95 oz) and the Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket (135 grams / 4.8 oz). If you are into animal down thermals, the dominator on the market the last few years has been the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer – used by more big mile hikers I know and respect than any other animal down jacket in this weight/warmth category. Likewise, the Montbell Plasma 1000 has been embraced as one of the best weight/warmth animal down jackets you can buy.
While the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket is obviously not an animal down jacket, it can easily go head-to-head with those two amazing animal down jackets! Plus it is under the magical 10 oz mark, it is half as expensive as the Plasma 1000, and $200 dollars less expensive than the Ghost Whisperer! To say MH has gotten greedy with their price of the Ghost Whisperer is putting it mildly. You can buy both a Montbell Plasma AND a Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket for just a few dollars more and have one hell of a sweet multi-layer thermal system!
I am trying out a new pair of trail sandals, the Unshoes ‘PT Sleek‘ and thought I would post some photos of them. I will also use this post in the future for reviewing the sandals, once I get some usage on them.
I have been a big fan and wearer of the Luna Sandals “Oso” for three years, but somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to go with an over-the-toe style instead of between-the-toe style sandals.
The Unshoes ‘PT Sleek’ is basically the same as their much more popular ‘Pah Tempe’ except it has narrower webbing. That said, the webbing on the PT Sleek is wider than what the Luna sandals have (bummer) so I can only imagine that the Unshoes Pah Tempe must be along the same size webbing as what Teva and such must use.
I went with a 6mm outer and 4mm inner, so I could have as thick of shoe as possible. To compare, the Luna Oso is 11mm thick and it has served me well on trails for the last three years.
The weight of the PT Sleek in the configuration I have them are 165 grams (per sandal), which is 5.82 ounces – not bad for a 10mm sandal, and a smidgen lighter weight than the Oso (185g.)
The last photo shows the Unshoes PT Sleek on my left foot, and the Luna Oso on my right foot.
I do not have any thoughts on them at this point, I just got them. I will update this article once I get some use on them.
It took 10 business days from the time I bought them to them showing up.
Unshoes sandals are hand made in Cedar City, Utah, USA.
Two Week Later Update:
Well after two weeks of trying to get them to fit me correctly, these sandals are just not working out for me. No matter what I have done to try to keep my foot secure, I have just not been able to get them to stay secure on my feet. I have been emailing back and forth with them and nothing seems to work. Because they were taken outside twice (once to take the photos used within this article, and once to take photos that I sent to them to show how I had the straps tightened), with less than 20 feet of walking outside, they deemed them as no longer being “in new condition” and thus would not take them back in exchange for a larger pair without there being a “partial credit toward a new pair” – wow, just wow. So yeah, I will have zero future business with this company.
The Mountain Laurel Designs “FKT Quilt” is a synthetic quilt that is uniquely designed to help fill a niche in the quilt market, with a double layer of insulation on the lower half, and a single layer of insulation on the top half, thereby allowing you to leave at home your insulated leggings and insulated booties, for those colder nights.
I have been using the FKT Quilt since it was released. The idea and concept appealed to me so when it was time to acquire another quilt, something able to be used in warmer weather than the MLD Spirit 28 I have and reviewed, I just had to get one and give it a try. So has the idea/concept worked out for me? What are my thoughts on it?
I have a rather long history of writing about wind shirts and have been a huge advocate of them over the years – even in times when big name hikers were saying they have no place in a hiker’s backpack – yet through it all, when I hit the trail, be it for a long hike, a day hike, trail running, or just a speed walk through my neighborhood, a wind jacket is something that goes with me. Really, why not. They are stupid light, pack down crazy small, and perform the job which they are designed to do.
The wind jacket that has been going along with me, for almost a year as of the time of this article (May 2016), has been the ZPacks ‘Ventum‘ Wind Shell Jacket. On my calibrated scale the wind jacket from ZPacks is an amazing 54 grams (1.9 ounces) and that is with a hood and a full zipper!
Recently I was able to acquire a pair of Kora ‘Shola 230’ leggings. This will be an on-going article as I use them over the next few hiking seasons.
Kora, a company based out of Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, manufacturers base layer garments made from Yak wool, rather than the all so popular sheep wool. The company goes into great detail of the superiority of Yak wool over sheep wool on their Yak Wool Fabric page, it is very much worth checking out.
Statements such as this are enough to get the attention of most folks:
It’s 40% warmer weight for weight, 66% more breathable and is 17% better at transporting water vapour away from the skin. Just like merino, it’s soft and naturally odour-resistant.
I first reviewed these two garments in August 2013 and in mid 2014 I decided to start wearing these two garments full time, until they gave out, I no longer like them, or I decide to start testing something else. So far, now 600+ consecutive days later, none of those three things have happened. When combined together with my original white colour non full zip, and my current stone colour full zip shirt, I have over 800 days wearing an Ultra Athlete Shirt.
Most of the specifics of these garments, such as weight, can be viewed in my initial review. I am not going to rehash through all the specs and such within this review, instead I want to focus on these two garments from the perspective of wearing them daily over the course of a year and a half.
The purpose of this long term usage test was not to see how the garments would perform in regards to thermoregulation – that is already known, but rather how the fabric and construction would hold up to long term use. As I have mentioned previously when talking about Solumbra garments, I have encountered other hikers that have been wearing the same Solumbra shirt for twenty plus years while out on the trail. Getting used on-trail for four or five months by PCT hikers is a great testament – but getting used for 500+ days at a time, well that puts things into my world of usage and testing.
So, how have these two pieces of garments lasted? Read on!
2015 has been a truly amazing year for outdoor adventurers – be it weekend hiking, long distance hiking, trail running, ultra running, FKT’ing, fastpacking (whatever it is we are suppose to believe that is, on any given month), and of course packrafting and bikepacking and beyond!
We have seen some amazing new fabrics hit the market. We have seen some the movement of old school designs merged together with new technology (yes, you are welcome.) We have seen companies making drastic changes to their catalog of products to usher in a new wave. We have seen big name companies bring big name hikers into their folds to get real trail experience on their design teams. Perhaps the greatest of all has been the massive cross-over of products from different adventures types to different adventure types – garments that use to be used exclusively for hikers are now being used by trail runners, ultra trail runners, and beyond – and probably more importantly, vise-versa. Shoe companies are starting to see fast moving hikers using footwear used by ultra trail runners at an insane rate. Companies that traditionally only sold to hikers have expanded to entirely new outdoor markets. And the list could go on.
For this year, in my “Gear of the Year” article, I want to focus on just a few very specific pieces of gear. In previous years I have covered a broad swath of different gear I have used throughout the year. However I decided that for 2015, I am going to keep it very specific – to focus solely on those pieces of gear that I have felt are the top of the line pieces of gear – gear that will be going with me on my 2106 adventures – and really, is that not what is most important… gear worthy enough to make it onto the trail another year!