If your New Year’s resolution is to lose a bit of weight in 2019, then shaving a few grams off your backcountry rig is a great place to start.
SkiZinal owners Eric and Penny Kendall took a selection of the latest scaled down, ultra-lightweight gear on a ‘fast and light’ trip to Lofoten last spring.
This is what they found….
Ortovox Ascent 32
Ortovox must have read my mind when they made the Ascent 32: it practically tells you what to store where. The capacious top zipped pocket is ideal for quick-access stuff (too often these are one-third the size they should be) and there’s a ‘flat’ pocket on the outside of the emergency gear pocket for valuables (with keyfob and Ortovox’s emergency-card pocket inside).
Colour coded zips have proper glove-friendly pulls (red for danger, for the shovel/probe compartment), there’s a bright interior to help you find things, and external rope fastening clips (useful on a pack of this size).
There’s not much more to it – in a good way. The hip-belt is just beefy enough, having been pared down along with all the other features. Only the tiny, flimsy plastic fastex buckles for both diagonal & side ski-carry let the pack down.
Verdict: Upgrade the under-powered ski-carry clips (a simple job) and you’ve got the perfect balance of weight and performance.
Weight: 246g, 48cm
So light that it’s ghostly, and comparable in weight to all-alloy axes thanks to Grivel’s metallurgical expertise.
Weight is saved by fitting a small alloy adze to the steel pick which is fine for most ski touring purposes. The open-tube end of the gently curved shaft (plugged a little way up with foam) feels good on snow climbs.
The head doesn’t sit brilliantly in the hand – a function of the pared-down construction – but for the short periods of use incurred when touring, it’s barely an issue.
Verdict: As light as you can get for steel pick performance. Ideal for an axe that will be in your pack more than in your hand.
Grivel Air Tech Light New Classic Crampon
Very reassuring when you’ve got a big trip ahead as they are both light and robust.
Too many uber light crampons just won’t stand up to the rigours of rock or hard ice, leaving you stuffed when you hit the next technical section.
The Air Tech hit that much-needed balance between durability and weight bang on and the ‘classic’ toe and heel attachment is tough, low tech and will fit anything.
Verdict: Grivel wrote the rule book when it comes to alpine ironmongery. ‘Nuff said.
Salewa Ortles harness
There’s a host of clever technical stuff here including variable width webbing that’s wide where it needs to be for comfort and narrow at the buckles to save weight.
Size/weight is incredible and the small fist-sized bag it packs into would pop into your shirt pocket (though you might look a bit funny).
Four very usable gear loops are the only frills in this stripped down feathery harness.
Salewa’s ‘Easy-Slide’ buckles make adjusting layers easy and allow the harness to be put on and off while wearing skis, as well as giving full leg size-adjustment.
Verdict: Reassuring quality in a comfortable harness for day-to-day use.
Mammut Base Jump Advanced SO Pants Women
These touring pants may feel light and cool but are warmer at the top of a drafty col or peak than you’d expect.
Fit is excellent and the materials do exactly what’s required of them, with generous ankle patches to protect against ski edges and crampon point snagging.
Don’t worry about lack of side zips/venting – the Schoeller soft-shell fabric is more than breathable and allows you to progress quietly through the mountain landscape, without the constant swish or rustle of other materials.
Keep a super-lightweight emergency overtrouser deep in your pack for that once in a hundred year storm, and you’ll have all bases covered.
Verdict: With trousers this stretchy, you won’t be able to blame your pants if you can’t nail your kickturns. Perfect on tour, all day, everyday.
Salewa Ortles Hybrid 2 Primaloft Jacket
When it comes to mid-layers, a hood is essential in my book.
The fit and thin insulation of the Ortles hood ticks the box perfectly as do the lower arms made of tissue-thin (uninsulated) wind resistant fabric.
The Ortles Hybrid just works, allowing vital cooling while climbing but somehow without chilling your arms.Light insulation covers back, shoulders and front, giving surprising protection in return for its minimal bulk and weight.
The best piece of clothing I’ve worn in a long time. Technically superb with excellent tailoring.
Scarpa F1 women’s
Weight: 1260g (per boot, size 27)
This boot is all about lightness but manages to deliver downhill performance worthy of more than just over 1kg per boot (which is what a size 25 amounts to).
At the heart of it all is the dial-down Boa tensioning system that gives solid foot hold without the need for heavy buckles. The bonus is a low-profile system that doesn’t snag when scrambling over rock.
Walk mode has a good range of motion, though without the super-softness of other touring boots, and the F1 lever is simple, minimal and effective. Scarpa haven’t cut any corners with the F1, managing to squeeze in a Recco reflector into this lightweight touring boot.
When it comes to fit, I reckon these come up slightly small compared to the Gea – Scarpa’s sister touring boot.
Verdict: If the Scarpa last fits, you need these in your life.
Dynafit Hoji Pro Tour
Weight: 1450g (per boot, size 27.5)
The Hojis both ski and climb superbly, which was the explicit design brief at the outset.
Ski performance is without compromise and the walk action is world-class, though I think that’s down to the tongue design rather than the new Dynafit ‘speed’ toe (which means you’ll probably need to change or adapt your crampons).
The one-clip buckling system for instantaneous, no-faff transitions between up and downhill is the icing on the cake.
Verdict: Excellent on both the ascent and the descent, the Hoji is a genuine all-round backcountry performer.
Movement Skis Alp Tracks 94 LTD
Weight: 169cm, 1.07kg per ski
Movement Skis are taking touring seriously.
At 94mm underfoot, the vital stats of these are spot on.
You’re unlikely to need any more width unless you’re heading for chest-deep powder and you should find good performance across most of the conditions you’ll typically encounter on tour. Build quality is obvious the moment you pick these up: light but not flimsy is the name of the quality game.
Simply putting carbon into something isn’t like waving a magic wand unless it’s used correctly, as it clearly is here.
Verdict: Blow the cash on a pair of these and some very light pin bindings, and you won’t look back.
If you’re in the market for any new lightweight touring kit for this season, hit us up with any questions below.
MORE FAST AND LIGHT GEAR:
18/19 SOTY MEN’S TOUR(FAST & LIGHT) – ATOMIC BACKLAND 85
Best Men’s Touring Ski (Fast and Light) 2017/18: Black Diamond Helio 95
Best Women’s Touring Ski 2018: Scott Superguide 88W