Weight watchers: Winter hikers look to go light, but keep cold-weather protection

With new, closer-to-the-ground designs, companies have had to face challenges of maintaining protection and durability in slimmer footwear for fall and winter 2013/14 lineups. SNEWS recaps our Winter Market coverage of the category.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Winter hiking boots are dropping weight for trekkers just like their summer brethren.

With new, closer-to-the-ground designs, companies have had to face challenges of maintaining protection and durability in slimmer footwear for fall and winter 2013/14 lineups.

Inspired by barefoot running shoes, Ecco couples natural-shaped footwear with rougher terrain, said Alex Nicolai, head of the brand’s sports business unit. Ecco builds its Biom Natural Motion series with the Biom Hike (MSRP $260) for ladies, Biom Terrain (MSRP $225) for day hiking and the Biom Ultra (MSRP $180) for multisport activities. The Biom Hike offers an exterior flexible heel counter, anatomical foam padding, and rounded forefoot in a yak leather body. The Ultra has the lowest sole profile and optional Gore-Tex.

“The idea is invincibility. The foot is made to walk and run, and needs more freedom,” Nicolai said. “Hiking boots should not be super-stiff but should offer protection.”

Hi-Tec dubs the new light and durable category, “sport hiking,” and offers the V-Lite SPHike Mid (MSRP $130), built on a trail running chassis, and the V-Lite Chaski Mid RGS (MSRP $145) for off-roaders with Vibram Rollingait System (RGS) technology. RGS claims to reduce muscle fatigue for energy optimization on trail descents, according to Bill Berta, general manager of Hi-Tec Sports.

Also slimming down, Obozbrings theNova Mid BDry for women and Rimrock Mid BDry for men (MSRPs $150) with its new Granite Peak construction, which sandwiches a dual density EVA midsole to its TPU chassis, plus a 4-millimeter carbon rubber outsole with large, jagged lugs. Merrelldrops to 4-millimeter platforms with the low and midrise Proterra Sport (MSRPs $140-160) in its premiere Gore-Tex Connectfit minimalist designs.

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Hiking boots are not just lighter, they are more versatile and cross-seasonal. They can afford rocky impact and varying conditions while also exhibiting around-the-town style.

“People are doing a lot less backcountry, and there have been a lot more park visits,” said Keen Product Manager Jeff Dill. “We wanted to reflect what people are doing with a running shoe style fit. Light and fast, and versatile are where we’re going.”

Keendebuts its low and midrise Marshall WP (MSRPs $120-$140) with durable high rebound PU Midsoles and waterproof closed mesh uppers. Columbia provides the slim Peakfreak Enduro OutDry Omni-Heat (MSRP $130) with OutDry waterproofing and partial Omni-Heat reflective lining. Milletoffers the low-profile Gore-Tex protected Rock Hopper GTX (MSRP $159), complete with thermoformed hygienic insole, EVA midsole and Vibram Ibex deep lugged outsole.

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On a higher front, The North Facelightens up high-altitude mountaineering with aero gel insulation — a compound designed by NASA to provide an extremely high warmth-to-weight ratio — in the men’s Verto S8K (MSRP $800), a 400-gram PrimaLoft, full-crampon boot for technical terrain, and the Verto S6K Extreme (MSRP $650) with 200-gram PrimaLoft for lower ascents. The North Face also sheds weight on the Arctic Guide (MSRP $150) for winter performance with Reflexion lining, 100-gram PrimaLoft Eco insulation over the toes, and IcePick temperature-sensitive outsole lugs.

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Salomon builds off its summer debut, adding winter performance features like gaiter hooks to the Synapse Winter CS WP (MSRP $170) for lighter multiuse adventures, and it introduces the Anka CS WP (MSRP $150) for trekking. Both offer protective Climashield waterproofing, Climatherm insulation and Contragrip outsoles.

Chaco returns to the closed-toe hiking category, following its last entry in 2007, with its new Active Adventure collection. It includes the women’s Azula Mid Waterproof (MSRP $140) and the men’s Hinterland Mid Waterproof (MSRP $145), which sit on the same platform as the company’s sandals with water-resistant nubuck, suede and polyester uppers and a seam-taped waterproof internal booty.

Lowa introduces the Laax (MSRP $225) for men, which is the height of a regular hiking
boot, featuring a leather and fabric upper with PU injected construction, and insulation via Gore-Tex’s Paralana poly blend. The boot is made to move from hiking to snowshoeing and everything in between.

Vasqueoffers up its men’s Arrowhead (MSRP $160) with PU coated leather for increased durability, 200 grams of Thinsulate, fuzzy fleece and reflective lining. The women’s counterpart is the Skadia (MSRP $150). Both products feature the company’s ColdHold compound outsole, which remains flexible no matter how low temperatures drop.

--Morgan Tilton

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