Kuiu released a new Youtube video yesterday in which founder Jason Hairston talks about some additions to their 2015 product line.
SCARPA GRAND DRU GTX BOOTS – We knew something was going on when the FOOTWEAR tab was removed from their website. It is back now. The Zamberlan Pamir is out and an exclusive deal with Scarpa North America to distribute up to 600 pair of these new (a non-insulated version of the Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX in a different color) boots is in. Apparently the Zamberlans were just too stiff to be used anywhere but the most extreme terrain which is pretty much what I have been saying since they were introduced.
I am a Scarpa fan so this is good news to me but these still look like big, heavy, very stiff boots so I don’t know how much more versatile or appealing they will be. We will see how big this niche is. The other issue that concerns me is that there was no mention of wide or narrow versions Like Lowa offers in many of their high end boots. Scarpa only makes a few models that come in widths and I am doubting that a limited run of 600 boots will be one of them but we will have to wait and see.
Jason says in the video that their internal testing of this boot produced positive results which I am sure is true but as I have said many times before, pro staff gear reviews are highly biased and often dubious. They can’t be relied on because they lack independence and perspective. In house testers have a vested interest in favoring the gear being tested. Case in point, Kuiu testers said wonderful things about the Zamberlan boots to promote pre-orders but less than a year and a half later they have shit canned them for something new that is supposed to be better. Hopefully we will see some independent opinions on these soon.
ULTRA MERINO SOCKS – So they have done a deal with the New Zealand Sock Company to produce a new wool sock. OK. How are these going to be different or better than the myriad of other high performance socks on the market? Don’t know yet. They do say Kuiu on them so at least the brand wagoners will be happy.
KENAI JACKET – Sounded a little bit to me from the video like they want to move away from their Super Down (treated goose down) products towards a new synthetic insulation due to noise and breathability issues.
This Kenai Jacket is insulated with a continuous fiber product (ala Climasheild, Lamilite, Polarguard, etc) called 3DeFX from their go to source, Toray. However, I don’t understand why the breathability of insulation layer jackets is such a big deal in this situation. I mean, are these guys wearing them while they are generating a bunch of heat huffing and puffing their way up a mountain? Why don’t they just strip down to their base and keep the puffy in their pack until they stop? As for noise, I don’t care about the noise my middle and base layers make, it is the outer shells that are the problem and how much difference will the type of insulation the jackets are filled with make anyway. Not much I suspect.
The most interesting thing about the Kenai to me is that it is an insulation layer jacket with pitzips which is something longtime readers know I like. The Moonstone Cirrus Ultralight and Marmot TR6 Jackets, which both had pitzips, are old favorites of mine but that was mainly because as a SAR Tech-EMT I was often hanging on a rope on the side of a cliff for long periods of time so I had to stay with what I was wearing when I went over. Pitzips on my insulation layer combined with pitzips on my shell layer allowed me to dump heat and ventilate without actually taking anything off when I got too warm.
BTW, Jason says in the video that Patagonia is also using this Toray 3DeFX insulation. After searching the Patagonia website, speaking with their customer service reps and asking my industry contacts I can find no evidence of that.
Anyway, Kuiu continues to expand and in the process make things happen. I have to give them credit for that.
UPDATE – It took a while and some digging but I have been able to confirm that Patagonia is indeed using Toray 3DeFX synthetic insulation in one of their new pieces, the Nano-Air Jacket. Patagonia calls the insulation “Fullrange” not 3DeFX but they have good things to say about it which carries some weight with me.
I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of “highly breathable” and “insulation” working in the same garment since those two things usually work at cross purposes but it has been done in the past with Windstopper (WL Gore) fleece. Problem with those pieces was while they were very effective and extremely durable they were comparatively heavy.
In any event, I need to try this for myself. If it will in fact allow me to do less donning/doffing of layers in order to properly regulate temperature (heat generation/perspiration control) relative to exertion level and its insulative qualities are not significantly compromised by the wind then we may have something useful that is worth considering. Stay tuned.