Saturday, December 12, 2009

Review: The North Face Storm Peak II Boot

So I managed to snag these at Adventure Guide's winter sale for a crazy deal. I've been in the market for a solid pair of winter boots for a while now. I'm coming from years of wearing leather hikers in the winter and having uncomfortable, really, anything would be better!

OK So these boots are essentially a 3-layer laminate: a softshell outer bonded to a waterproof breathable membrane bonded to 200 delicious grams of Primaloft insulation with a microfleece lining. This makes them super weatherproof and pretty darn warm. They're also mad stylish.

Likes: Metatarsal support - the insole has an awesome little bump that you don't notice when the shoe is on but it adds some very nice support to your midfoot, seriously good stuff. Waterproofing - yay! Lightweight - the boots are definitely feathers compared to many other winter boots...that speaks to their purpose though.

These are obviously active boots. The insulation is not enough to keep your feet warm while just standing around, and the sole gets cold very easily. The lug pattern on the sole is good but definitely seem to be made more for running on groomed trails than bushwhacking on uneven terrain. One of the nice features is that the boot has a heel welt, which means it's compatible with the more secure versions of aluminum hiking crampons, a definite bonus.

All in all they would make great winter running boots or snowshoe-running boots, but if you're not going to be constantly moving, consider something with more insulation, definitely a more insulated/shielded footbed, and a sturdier lug pattern on the sole.

The North Face Storm Peak II, I give you 8 locking 'biners out of 10.

Fierce Boot Lust: KEEN Summit County

Friday, December 11, 2009

Review: MEC Compulsion Jacket

At first I felt a little weary about reviewing MEC products on here, just because they're only available from MEC, so the review may bias you towards the store. After some thought, though, I figured I could deliver a solid unbiased review of an MEC product as I would any other.

So begins the first of many MEC product reviews! To kick things off I'll be reviewing the first jacket that kicked off my gear obsession this year: the MEC Compulsion Softshell.

Material: It's made of Polartec Power Shield, a phenomenal softshell material also used by companies such as Arc'Teryx, Marmot, and Millet. The Compulsion has a low-loft grid-fleece backing so it's geared much more towards spring and fall when the weather is mild and wind is becoming an issue.

Fit: I'm essentially the standard Medium, and in the Compulsion I'm no different. 5'9, 168lbs, the jacket fits great. If anything I'd suggest a more form-fitting mid-section, but as it stands there is nice room for layering. I've got pretty broad shoulders and they fit well into the jacket.

Likes: Power Shield. Super wind resistant, nice and comfy, stretchy and easy to move in. MEC made a nice and simple layout with a full-zip, two hand pockets and elastic cuffs. The paneling in the jacket is good and facilitates movement well

Dislikes: The water repellancy left something to be desired. First time I wore it, I had it out in a light drizzle, no pack on, just walking the dog. The arms were OK but the shoulders had begun to wet through on the face after 10 minutes. I didn't get wet and the jacket dried wonderfully fast but I would like to see better off-the-shelf DWR (I also have a MEC Pedigree that is Power Shield and has exceptional water repellancy - review coming soon...). Otherwise, I'd ask for an arm pocket (you never know how handy they are until you have them!), either on the bicep or near the wrist.

All in all, The MEC Compulsion Softshell is a solid jacket at a good price point that slots in well for cooler weather (think early spring/fall days and late summer nights) and would be a great piece in anyone's layering arsenal.

MEC Compulsion Softshell, I give you 7.5 locking 'biners out of 10.

Current Lust: Mammut Broad Peak jacket. lightweight low-volume down sweater, perfect for winter layering.