Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket

Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket

Greetings Adventurers!

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!

This jacket has made it into my “Top Picks” pieces of gear!

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-round 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!

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Unshoes ‘PT Sleek’

The Unshoes "PT Sleek" fresh out of their package. 6mm outsole and 4mm footbed.
The Unshoes “PT Sleek” fresh out of their package. 6mm outsole and 4mm footbed.

Greetings Adventurers!

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.

Mountain Laurel Designs – FKT Quilt

The MLD FKT Quilt does away with velcro at the footbox, and opts for snap buttons to save weight.

Greetings Adventurers!

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?

Continue reading “Mountain Laurel Designs – FKT Quilt”

ZPacks Ventum Wind Shell Jacket

The ZPacks 'Ventum' Wind Shell Jacket packs down to about the size of two AAA batteries!
The ZPacks ‘Ventum’ Wind Shell Jacket packs down to about the size of two AAA batteries!

Greetings Adventurers!

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!

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Kora ‘Shola 230’ Leggings

Kora Shola 230 Leggings - 000Greetings Adventurers!

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.

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Solumbra, Ultra Athlete Shirt and Pants – Long Term Review [600+ consecutive days]

Sun Precautions "Ultra Athlete Shirt & Pants"
Sun Precautions “Ultra Athlete Shirt & Pants”, stone colour

Greetings Adventurers!

This is my first long term review of the Ultra Athlete Shirt and Ultra Athlete Pants sun protective garments made in Seattle Washington by Solumbra.

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!

Continue reading “Solumbra, Ultra Athlete Shirt and Pants – Long Term Review [600+ consecutive days]”

2015 Gear of the Year

Greetings adventurers!

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!

Continue reading “2015 Gear of the Year”

GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip Coffee Maker

GSI UL Coffee Filter + Montbell Double Wall Ti Cup
GSI UL Coffee Filter + Montbell Double Wall Ti Cup

Been hesitant to write about something as common and possibly inconsequential as a method of making coffee while out on the trail…

So why write one?

Meh, do not really know. Perhaps this GSI UL Coffee Filter has just impressed me enough to spend the thirty minutes writing this up.

I use to drink Starbucks Via both on the trail and at home. I would buy the 50-count House Blend off amazon. But I eventually got to the point where it was just not all that pleasurable.  Every Christmas I still buy a few boxes of the Christmas blend but that seems to be it these days.

I am not some kind of coffee connoisseur but I sure do love the flavor of a couple of brands of coffee. The first is Jamaica Blue Mountain Peaberry (amazon) and the second is New Mexico Piñon Coffee ‘Dark Piñon’ (amazon).

I have bought a number of different drip filters for hiking with, including a Finum Gold Filter that I used for about four years. When it finally gave out I was going to buy another one, but the GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip (amazon) caught my eye. Continue reading “GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip Coffee Maker”

MSR WindBurner Stove System

The MSR WindBurner. A WindProof Stove System
The MSR WindBurner – An Amazingly Windproof Stove System!

Greetings Adventurers!

The MSR WindBurner is quickly becoming one of my favorite stoves systems. In a market that is continuing to get more and more myopic by companies flooding the market with nearly identical products, it has been a refreshing change to see MSR actually try to solve some problems and not just put to market something that is the same’ol’same’ol that everybody else is spewing out.

I remember when the MSR WindBurner was first announced and the internet was being flooded by hikers complaining about the weight of the system – comparing it to xyz-other brands, without even stopping to consider some of the advantages of that extra bit of weight – but, that is just typical hiker hyperbull and ignorant attacking that seems to be all too common these days by hikers, I suppose. It was a shame that those folks focused so much on the weight, yet utterly failed to stop and really take a look at the design.

Yes, when it comes to talking about gear, the purpose of the website has always been to focus on some of the lightest of the lightest weight gear out there. But as my readers well know, I have on many occasions been a hiker that is willing to stand up and say that sometimes adding weight in order to get a better performance, experience, durability, and quality of life while out on the long trail, is a perfectly acceptable decision.

Over the course of this article, and future articles on the MSR WindBurner, I am going to be clear and honest about exactly how I think the MSR WindBurner is when it comes to that statement.

While the MSR WindBurner is a tad bit heavier than most other all-in-one systems on the market – and this really is key to understanding why the MSR WindBurner deserves some serious consideration — MSR put some serious thinking into solving problems.

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ZPacks Arc Haul Zip

ZPacks Arc Haul Zip + ZPacks Duplex

The ZPacks Arc Haul Zip, the latest backpack to be released by ZPacks, is a full featured backpack for those looking for the ability to carry a heavier load than the ZPacks Arc Zip.

If you are not familiar with the “Zip” backpack from ZPacks, I recommend reading my ZPacks Arc Zip review of this great front panel loader, it will go into detail of all of the features of the Zip, along with some of the history of the three years I spent developing the Zip, now being manufactured by ZPacks.

The “Haul” came about, as I understand it, as a result of ZPacks getting a lot of feedback from long distance hikers about the desire to carry heavier loads (thus the name “Haul”) for those longer stretches between resupply towns. The Haul increased the load capability of the standard Arc Zip from 30 lbs (14 kg) up to 40 lbs (18 kg).

It accomplished this through a number of ways:

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