Getting back to the truck well after dark. 26 degrees and falling. Long days on the mountain always yield good beta. Today it was The North Face Denali Jacket, Sitka Gear Traverse Zip-T, 5.11 TDU Pants, Lowa Ranger GTX Boots, and the Mystery Ranch Crew Cab Backpack.
I have said it many times and I will say it again here, nothing beats real world testing. Case in point, I was out putting my new Lowa Ranger GTX boots through the paces and thinking hard about whether my brother should get these or move up a step to the stiffer, taller Tibet Pro GTX.
On the trail, with the Mystery Ranch Crew Cab loaded with 34 pounds of standard gear, the Rangers are very much in their element. A fantastic boot that feels perfect for the application. However, as soon as I turned up, got off the trail and bushwhacked my way to the top of the mountain I was feeling like I could use a touch more boot. It wasn’t that the Rangers didn’t do the job, they certainly did which is why I proclaimed them to be the all around best boot two years ago. In fact, the newly improved version is even better thanks to a traditional brown colored leather and more support throughout. It is just that the steep grade and cannalope sized rock strewn terrain would have been better handled with a taller, stiffer, beefier boot which describes the Lowa Tibet Pro GTX to a tee. So, since this is the kind of thing that Cody does on a very regular basis, it was obvious to me that he needs to go with the Tibet because they will serve him as well as the Rangers on the trail but better in extreme terrain.
Since I also had my Tibets with me, I went back to the bottom and tested my theory. I was right. The Rangers work but the Tibets are better when the going gets especially tough, nasty and steep. All the specs in the world won’t demonstrate that as well as a practical field trial.
By the way, just for your information, Lowa has what I consider to be the best line of boots on the market today. They cover the full spectrum with just the right amount of model overlap. Here are the Lowa boots that I recommend in order of stiffness and support; Renegade GTX Mid, Ranger GTX, Tibet Pro GTX, Hunter GTX Extreme (Schnees Sheep Hunter) and Silberhorn GTX. All great boots.
Why burn so much grey matter over exactly which boot to choose? To me it’s a matter of safety and performance. Besides, professionals use the right tool for the job.
Second lesson of the day was that I had forgotten just how good the 5.11 TDU Pants are. Truth is, they mistakenly got pushed to the back of the gear locker. They are made exceptionally well for durability and have features like Velcro ankle closures, hip slash pockets and knee pad slots that make them very useful for most kinds of backcountry work. What I like best about them though is the self adjusting waist and the absolutely outstanding battle dress uniform cargo pockets on the outter thighs.
The self adjusting waist allows you to wear everything from a t-shirt to a heavy weight base with mid layer on top and still tuck them in, it also lets you crank down on your pack belt without creating an irritating wad of bunched up waist material. It is like having an elastic waist band with belt loops sans the dork factor. The pockets are a study in efficiency and utility. They have separate mags pockets sewn directly to the pants leg so they don’t flop around and then the main pocket is lined with a low pile female Velcro type fabric for even more organization and pocket rigidity. That means that I can carry a SPOT, Garmin Foretrex 401 GPS, Surefire G2X Pro, ID card, Sharpie, Zeiss Mini Quik, bandana, Hanz gloves and some Windicator powder without everything ending up in a noisy, undulating mass at the bottom of the pockets. Genius and a godsend for the obsessive compulsive anal retentive.
The 5.11 pants line is great for trail and of course tactical work but they have an achilles heel, they are cotton so moisture either from precipitation or sweat is an issue. If I expect that to be a problem I go back to the excellent Sitka Gear Ascent or Mountain Pants which are made from a stretchy synthetic Schoeller cloth type material. Just wish I could get a hybrid of the two, either the 5.11s in a beefy Schoeller cloth or the Sitkas with better cargo pockets. Hopefully one of them or maybe Beyond will get right on that because I know Propper won’t.
In the picture above I am wearing a Sitka Gear Traverse Zip T-neck in Optifade camo and a sage green Denali fleece jacket from The North Face. Both are wonderful. The Traverse T is very much like the Polartec Power Dry fabric that I have raved about and it seems to perform just as well at moving slash dispersing perspiration so that it can evaporate away quickly. My only gripe with this top is that the zipper, by design, tends to open from the top on its own. A minor irritation.
The Denali Jacket is a long time, tried and true fleece insulation piece that needs little praise from me but I will give it anyway. It was one of the first of its kind and has proven itself worthy of a permanent place on any list for more than 20 years. It is a touch on the heavy side for ultralighting but it has pit zips and protective nylon overlays.
The Crew Cab pack from Mystery Ranch continues to impress and is fast becoming a favorite. You know that something is good when people are argue about who gets to use it.
To the elk hunters that needed a jump start, happy to help out. What goes around comes around. Good luck with your hunt. Send me an email, I have some info for you.
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