May can bring snow showers or 70-degree days. Here’s the gear we’re loving now to get us through the shoulder season.
A REVOLUTIONARY HIKING BOOT
Finally, a ski-boot manufacturer is using the same custom-moldable fitting technology for hiking boots. This winter, Tecnica introduced its game-changing Forge GTX ($270) boot, and we were treated to a custom fit. Here’s how it works: Fit technicians (available at Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington and Pinnacle, in Stowe) heat up the insoles in a small oven to 180 degrees. As those start to cool, the technician will strap them to your feet to shape the insoles. Then, you place your feet and boots into what feels like giant inflatable socks. When the socks are inflated, the pressure molds the boot so that it hugs the arches and eases at the pressure points such as ankle bones.
The process seems complicated and expensive, but as anyone who has ever endured blisters knows, the slightest bit of extra space in a hiking boot is not your friend. And boots that are too tight are just plain painful. After about 20 hikes around town, on snowy and muddy trails, the boots seemed Goldilocks-perfect—not too big, not too small and easily the snuggest fit I’ve had in 20 years of hiking.
Other features I love: the overlap collar replaces a tongue, which keeps it from bunching up and keeps debris clear of your ankle. The laces are self-locking, and the Vibram sole is also neither too stiff nor too flexy. And the boot comes in leather or synthetic ($20 more). tecnicausa.com
BIBS YOU CAN ESCAPE FROM?
Women, listen up: Pearl Izumi has been trying to find the bib short for any woman who has ever had to answer nature’s call in the woods. The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Escape Bib Short ($170) has all the greatest features of the brand: super soft, stretchy Lycra, almost invisible seams, leg grips that won’t ride up and a chamois that is cushier and as comfortable as a Barcalounger. The straps are the same soft, stretch fabric, so they don’t cut into you, and they feature a nice bra-like clasp in front so they don’t slide. Undo that, crouch down and the shoulder straps stretch enough to allow you to drop trou, a better solution than the earlier versions which had a back clasp that would challenge Harry Houdini. pearlizumi.com
THE TAILGATE GOURMET
If you’ve ever tailgated or car camped and discovered you had more cookware and food than you had space for, the GCI Master Cook Station ($130) will have you drooling. It unfolds into three sections with no fewer than seven shelf surfaces and has a soft-shell sink with a drain that collapses when the unit is folded up. Side table features include: beverage holders, stem glass holders and hooks that can be used as a garbage bag/towel holder, or to hang cooking utensils. At 22.7 pounds, it is not light, so you probably don’t want to walk too far with it, but it does include a carry handle, and it folds into a 21.7 x 5.9 x 34.8 inch rectangle, which stores neatly into a car. gcioutdoor.coms
A COMPACT RAINBREAKER
If Vermont has a rainy season, we’re in it. Having a super lightweight and rainproof shell is a must if you’re headed out for a hike. Flylow’s Rainbreaker ($140) has taped seams that keep out all but a drenching rain, a hood that feels like a nice cozy tent for your head, and at 6.2 ounces is light enough and compact enough to stuff in an outside pocket of your pack. The fit is a bit baggy so you can pull it on over a mid-weight layer. The only downside: it only comes in men’s sizes. flylowgear.com