Gear Locker: Kona fat bikes, Petzl crampons, all-weather shoes and gaiters
It’s a wide winter world out there, and lift lines just don’t scream “winter” to some folks.
For the mountaineers, winter hikers and ice climbers of the world, gear looks much different than the fashion show on the slopes. There are no ski boots or tall tees — just crampons, technical outers and the most functional components possible. Then there are fat bikes, and that’s an entirely new world in its own right.
Here’s a look at the best off-ski gear for the season, including a Kona fat bike, Petzl crampons and a Fulsus hardshell made in Frisco.
Fulsus USA Mountain Jacket Hardshell 2.0, $345-$385
Sizes: XS (women only), Small, Medium, Large
Type: Hardshell outer jacket
Born in Leadville and now based in Frisco, Fulsus USA is the sister company to Mike Collins’ Freeride Systems. Both wear the “Made in Colorado” label with pride, and both are known for bulletproof construction with sleek, clean styling. Collins and his crew build their jackets after plenty of trial and error right here in Summit County, meaning they’re made to handle anything for much cheaper than
This season, Fulsus tweaked the fit and a few features on its flagship outer, the Mountain Jacket Hardshell, and introduced a women’s version. The 2.0 is still made with Polartec Neoshell, a three-layer outer fabric with slight stretch, and features minimal pockets, a perfectly crafted hood and just enough room to layer. But the company is getting better and better at breathability every season, making the 2015-16 model a stellar choice for winter endurance athletes.
Find it: All Fulsus USA jackets are available through the company website at http://www.fulsususa.com (use discount code Locals20 for 20-percent off). You can also find shells and outers at Frisco Emporium (313 W Main St. in Frisco) for up to 20-percent off until the season begins.
Salomon Speedcross CS men’s shoe, $145
Sizes: U.S. mens’ 7-14
Winter running is a love and hate sort of thing. On one end, few things compare to cruising through the crisp, cool mountain air when the slopes are slammed on a Saturday. On the other end, this is still the mountains, and crisp, cool air also means ice, snow, slush puddles and frozen feet.
That’s where the Salomon Speedcross CS comes in. It’s the go-to shoe for many summer trail runners, sure, but that CS (short for Climashell) makes it a secret weapon come winter. The upper is completely waterproof but still breathable, with an aggressive rubber outsole for glue-like traction, even in the slippery stuff. Leave your YakTraks at home — you won’t need them. The shoe can be a little tight with thick socks, so be sure to pair it with a thinner ski sock.
Find it: The Salomon Speedcross is available at Vertical Runner in Breckenridge (301 N Main St.). You can also track it down at other specialty outdoor retailers in Summit, including Christy Sports in Dillon and Breckenridge.
Kona Wo fat bike, $1,899
Frame size: 15.4 in., 16.3 in., 17.1 in., 18 in.
Weight: 34 pounds
The fat bike movement is here to stay, which means the industry’s best niche manufacturers are now building models to take on anything. A 2015-16 Salsa model even comes with full suspension — more or less a moot point with big, thick, moon-boot tires. But hey, this is mountain biking, and manufacturers can’t say no to something new and shiny.
The Kona Wo doesn’t fall into the “more tech is better” trap. No, the frame is fully rigid, but anyone who has been on a Kona means that’s the only tech you need. The bike itself will handle the demands of just about any trail, whether you’re cruising the bike path or bombing slip-n-slide trails.
The 29er movement hasn’t hit the fat bike community (yet), so all tires are 26 inches in circumference. Width is the variable with fat bikes, and the Wo frame can handle up to a 5-inch tread. The complete comes with Shimano brakes and shifters, but fat bike components are interchangeable with standard MTB cousins. Only the crank is different to fit the wider wheelbase.
Find it: The Kona Wo is available for rental or purchase at Rebel Sports in Frisco (220 Main St.). You can also find it online through the Kona website at http://www.konaworld.com.
SE Bikes F@R 26 fat bike, $1,100-$1,400
Frame size: 15 in., 17 in., 19 in., 21 in.
Weight: 36 pounds
SE Bikes is the latest company to enter the fat bike world. From one look at the fully rigid F@R frame, you can tell SE is an old-school BMX manufacturer. It’s simple, clean and triangular, with no unnecessary frills or weak points. The aluminum alloy is strong and light — 35-36 pounds with all components is about average for a fat bike — and the components are standard Shimano.
As a complete, the F@R is also much more affordable than most of its peers, fat bike and mountain bike alike. If you’ve been waiting for an excuse to take up fat biking, this is it.
Find it: The SE Bikes F@R is available for rental or purchase at Rebel Sports in Frisco (220 Main St.). You can also find online or brick-and-mortar retailers through the SE Bikes website at http://www.sebikes.com.
Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiter, $49
Sizes: U.S. men’s 6-15, U.S. women’s 5-11
Gaiters are a mountaineer’s best friend. Be honest: Even the best trekking pants can snag on equipment or get too warm during a full day on the route. Then again, so can a cheap-o pair of floppy gaiters.
The Armadillo LT from Hillsound is an affordable solution to both problems. The nylon lower is rough and rugged to prevent scrapes and punctures. On the upper third, breathable three-layer stretch fabric moves with your leg without slipping. The best part: They come with a lifetime warranty.
Find it: The Armadillo LT is available through the Hillsound website at http://www.hillsound.com.
Grivel G12 crampon, $140-$175
Sizes: U.S. men’s 5.5-13, U.S. women’s 7-14
Crampon technology moves at a glacial pace. After all, they’re essentially spikes with straps attached. But, like all mountaineering equipment, movement and reliability are paramount. It’s your life on the line.
Italy’s Grivel has spikes and straps down to a science. The G12 is the company’s standard 12-point crampon, made with chromolly steel spikes and a semi-rigid base. The toe and heel straps are built with the same DuPont plastic used in high-end alpine ski bindings. This crampon is a good match for mountaineers and ice climbers who get out often, with a forked toecap made to cradle well-worn boots. At less than 32 ounces, you’ll hardly even notice they’re there.
Find it: The Grivel G12 is available online from a slew of outlets, including Backcountry.com, REI.com and Amazon.
Petzl Vasak crampon, $125-$175
Sizes: U.S. men’s 5.5-12, U.S. women’s 7-13
The Vasak from climbing powerhouse Petzl is a near-perfect model for casual hikers, veteran mountaineers, ice climbers — just about anyone who needs traction on the steep, slick stuff. The 12-point design features spikes that are angled just right for climbing, descending and traversing, all attached to a base that can be set to flexible or semi-rigid for flexible boots. The strap system is a combination of plastic and webbing fabric, with a split toecap attached to steel rings for custom fit. They weigh about 33 ounces.
Come March, Petzl is releasing a new version of the Vasak with a slightly different look and updated strap configuration. The spike angles will be the same.
Find it: The Petzl Vasak is available online from REI.com, Backcountry.com and Moosejaw.com.
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