Wigwam Ultimax Merino Trailblaze Pro

“Wigwam’s patented ULTIMAX moisture control system combines with soft Merino wool for the world’s greatest Merino sock”
That’s what it say on the packaging of this new sock, they’re not pissing about by making vague insinuations about performance are they?

Wigwam have sorted their range out which is something of a relief, the packaging all matches now and is colour coded which brings the brand together on a stand rather than it looking like TK Maxx at closing time on a Saturday. Green is for Trail/Outdoor Socks and the Trailblaze Pro’s here are a new range-topping super sock.
Socks can save you or ruin your day, simple as that. A wrinkle inside a boot, fabric that holds onto moisture, socks that stretch when wet inside a trail shoe, all misery and the supplier of discomfort and blisters. I’ve used a lot of Wigwam’s in a lot of footwear and a lot of different conditions and they’ve all been reliably anonymous fine performers, the worst case scenario for a review.

The Trailblaze Pro’s share the family genes and bring together all the best bits from the socks I’ve been using the past few years, below, one of the socks is ootsides in to give a better view of the construction. The toe is described as seamless and the join really is devoid of sensation on your foot, I’m still getting test socks sent in that have seams here that feel like pipecleaners have been sewn across the toe, Wigwam have got it right, and it’s a feature across the range too.
If I was pushed to give this sock some sort of tag it would probably be enduro because of the mix of styles, there’s cushioning under the foot and around the heel for soothing the miles, where the top of the foot is light mesh to dry you quicker. This works really well in mesh shoes and if you add in the Ultimax moisture control which directionally pulls moisture from the foot to the ankle to dry it, it makes for a comfy time on the trail.
Also comfy is the merino content, it’s a soft sock, performance doesn’t have to be unfeeling you know. There’s enough synthetic in there to hold it all together though, the truth is that a mixed discipline sock lasts longer than pure merino.

See this Ultimax thing? I’ve been given a pair of white socks to test the theory, you put the bottom of the sock in a bowl of water with food dye in it and the sock should suck the dye up towards the ankle. I have purple food dye, and I’ll give it a go when the girls are out for long enough and come back with the results. As long as I can still wear the socks afterwards.

For now, whatever the hype and wacky technical explanations, the Trailblaze Pro’s are a cracking pair of socks and they’re a good weight for walking in trail shoes and lighter mids or boots. They keep their shape after washing and on your feet too, be they dry or wet with sweat or from bog hopping. Stink avoidance is good, the merino content plays its part ther and there’s a Fresh Guard treatment too, which is represented by an amusing drawing of a nose on the packaging.

See, socks are more interesting than you’d think.

Keela Pinnacle Pro & ADS Baselayer and some thoughts on pricing too.

I never mention price in my reviews, I did try it once with a little fact box at the end of the review but I got bored of that after about ten minutes. It’s not that price is no object if I was looking around the shops, indeed these days it would be very much on my mind and empty wallet, but is it not just a little patronising for me to tell folk that something is too expensive for them or if they purchase this other thing they’ll be making do with cheap? What do you judge it by, your own income, the national average, some notional limit of perceived value?
The cost of something is very much a personal issue, kit is either good or not, and these days there’s not much if any in the “not” category in the real outdoor shops, so I like to say what I think of something and let anyone who might read it judge for themselves whether it’s right for their needs and budget.

In saying that, when I had to look at gear for folk who want to start hillwalking and have to make those first vital purchases I wanted to recommend without compromise, but also not price folk out of their initial enthusiasm.
Keela was a no-brainer for this, the Pinnacle Pr0 (UK medium dammit) is a real mountain jacket with a great hood and pockets, pit zips, good cut and it looks nice too for just under a ton.
It’s heavy at 776g and doesn’t have a cutting edge fabric, but the compromise has to come from somewhere and it’s not that big a deal, ten years ago I was happy to find a shell jacket around that weight and I see myself grinning in my old photies.
It’s a little old school in design and detailing, but totally functional, and as I know from a stack of these that instructors use, they’re durable too. It’s reasonably priced yes, but a cheap option? I think that’s a dangerous word to apply here or anywhere, so that decision would be up you, me and everyone else who wants to take it off the rack and look at it.

The ADS Long Sleeve Zip Top is another one to ponder, under £20 and at first glance no different from any other baselayer on the market. Are £40 baselayers twice as good? Are we paying more for better fabrics, more ethical manufacturing, more pre-production testing or just a flasher logo? All of the above to varying degrees maybe?
It’s a nice enough shirt, and I’ve got a short sleeve version on test which I’ll come back too.

I’m not singling out Keela here for any particular reason, it just kind of fitted in with some recent thoughts and conversations. Looking at my own favourites they span from cheapos to top end. Not all expensive is the best made or designed, not all cheap stuff is a bargain and not all of the middle ground is a safe bet, it’s a big market in there and some folk want to claim it at any cost.


Montane Sabretooth Pants

Here’s frustration on two legs. I put together some gear pages for a supplement a couple of months back and some of what I got a hold of was what was quickly available, and that meant some UK size mediums which don’t fit me, not USA size mediums which do. Dammit.
I’m going to do a few quickies on some of it and first up are the Montane Sabretooth Pants.

These are probably long overdue, the closest they’ve done that I can recall were the Terra Ice Pants some years ago which were a proper winter pant and the Sabretooth’s do fill a gap in the range. I’ve used the Sabretooth Jacket many times which is a match for the pants in design and fabric and is a crap weather winner, so I’d expect the pants to be the same. That’s not a hunch, although I lay on the floor breathing in hard trying to pull these mediums on in vain, the design of the Sabretooths mostly tells us what we need to know.

The Polartec Powershield fabric is a good call, wind and water resistant and it’s proven tough  as well. It’s got enough stretch and along with a good cut, articulation and a diamond crotch, it should be a winner in these pants.
There’s plenty detailing, double stitching all over the place for a start. There’s a stretchy thigh pocket, two mesh hip pockets and a rear pocket which no one will ever use. The zips are all nicely contrasting red which matches the jacket (my original jacket version is all-black, harrumph) and there’s grabable zip puller on there.

The ankles cuffs have some options. There’s a zipped gusset to adjust for footwear size and easy on-off, poppers to cinch the ankle in and two ferrules for an underfoot cord as you’ll probably not want to wear gaiters with these, so you can still seal the snow out with some DIY bungee.

The waist has a single button closure and zip fly with nice big belt loops for your own belt. There’s a set of removeable braces, a feature I love in winter pants, the elastic is soft enough with plenty of length adjustment and a nice patch fillet thing (there’ll be a word for it, but I don’t know it) on your lower back which is a good idea as pulling braces on in a tent often leads to fankling, and this might help prevent that.

I didn’t weigh them, no one needs to know the weight of the trousers they’re wearing unless they’re a test pilot. Anyway, the look good to me, the inner soft face of the fabric is nice against the skin and the design looks to be right on the money. Damn my size largeness.

Still, all is not lost, it’ll be a very Montane winter on here, there’s plenty more coming up.