Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Vibram Five Fingers KSO First Look

Two weeks ago a light and small package from fitnessfootwear.com landed on my doorstep. In it I found a pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSO in Ninja Black (what else?!), Size 41, weight 300 grams for the pair. Since then a new relationship has started, and wearing any other shoes is something I don't look forward to.

VFF KSO 6 Chillin at the lake. And yes, you can swim in them!

The first time I read about Vibram Five Fingers "shoes" was on the Red Yeti's blog, and earlier this year LAUFBURSCHE and Ultra Knilch went for a hike and run with them. All of them were of the highest words about them, and so I decided to get a pair.


I was thinking a bit about which VFFs to get - the Bikilas looked tempting, but as they weren't yet available I went for the KSOs. The strap around the top of the foot for some extra support is useful, and the abrasion-resistant stretch nylon/ mesh upper is warm when wet wet yet airy, so no overheating. The problem with the mesh is that it lets a bit of tiny sand through, and worse, allows mosquitos to bite you.

Perfect grip on rocks, wood, mud, forest floor, moss and anything in between...

... thanks to the super grippy Vibram sole.

So, how is it walking "barefoot"? I love it. As I said above, after wearing my VFFs it is difficult to put other shoes on. My gait in the VFFs is more natural, I love the "massaging" effect of them - no worries, you're not getting hurt when walking over sharp stones, gravel, glass or similar sharp objects which usally would feel painful when walking barefoot. My partner tried them on last Sunday, and came home with a smile on her face and told me that it was the first time she felt she'd like to go for a run, and decided to get a pair herself!

Feels so soft and great, walking on moss!

During the IWG Forest week I wore the VFF KSOs for the first time, a whole day straight, including offtrail navigating through dense forests, bogs, clearings, up and down hills with small climbing passages, and never did I feel scared to hurt myself, twist my ankle or similar. The perfect sole protects your foot so well that I didn't even bother looking where I walked. Last week I was wearing them when we went to search mushrooms, and this week - BCU Canoe and Kayak week - I will wear them every day as they're perfect for that. Even hiking with a good 10 kg on my back they were perfect, I didn't worry I might injure myself - which I think is the biggest worry people might have.

That worry comes from the brainwashing Meindl, HanWag & Co. are sending out (of needing boots to protect your ankles, etc.) and after decades of brainwashing the idea that hiking = hiking boots is firmly in the minds of the majority of hikers. But with the VFFs your feet are moving the way evolution intended them to, your five toes give the best grip - better than any sole ever will (that includes, I am afraid, the Inov-8 Roclite sole). Your gait is natural and you strike ball first, instead of heel first - the latter sends a shockwave through your joints and spine and is very unhealthy.


Well, what is the conclusion? I will continue to use my Inov-8s, yes, but my number one go to footwear till the snow is here will be my VFF KSOs. They feel just to comfortable, natural, healthy, relaxing and good to miss an opportunity to use them. On the coming Russia expedition we apparently are "required" to take Wellies to cross bogs and rivers - I will take my KSOs at a fraction of the weight and triple the comfort. After all, wet feet should be embraced instead of feared. In my opinion they are perfect for the lightweight and UL backpacker, as with our small loads and our open minds we are ready to take the next step of going barefoot! Finally, I'll follow this first look up with a long-time review after I walked few more hikes and trips with them, but so far I haven't been that excited to put my shoes on since I learned to tie my laces!

In case you now are ready to try barefoot walking, visit the Vibram Five Fingers UK stockist FitnessFootwear.com and choose a pair for your needs. I'm getting a second pair for when the first is in the wash =)

Interview: Henrik Raßmann From Trekking-Lite-Store.com

Monday is interview day, and I am glad to present you this interesting interview today. UL gear is still hard to come by in Europe, especially if one wants gear from cottage manufacturers - postage, import taxes and duties and other fees make UL cottage gear expensive in Europe. Henrik Raßmann, the owner of the trekking-lite-store.com tries to make the life of UL backpackers easier by selling gear from MLD, Tarptents, ZPacks, Gossamer Gear and other UL brands here in the old world, so take a cup of tea and enjoy this interview!

Henrik, please briefly introduce yourself and tell us who you are.

My name is Henrik Raßmann, and I am the owner of the trekking-lite-store.com which was founded at the beginning of the year. I am an outdoor and hiking fan, 35 years young, a married man and father of a newborn.
Since when are you backpacking, and how did you start?

Basically I am a water sports enthusiast from childhood on. I paddled very often through Sweden, Eastern Europe and Canada. Always I remanaged my pack afterwards, which means testing, optimizing, self-improving, ordering new stuff and testing again. That starts with a radical reduction to the minimum, then using only natural stuff like cotton, wool, wax-cotton, leather, rubber-ponchos, steel, a newbuilt Wood-Canvas Canoe, an very old folding-kayak.
Like the pioneers in the 50´s I made my trips by feet and by kajak. That brought me the strongest and most important experiences in outoor living. Taking notice of the weather became very important. Nowadays the experiences are unpayable experiences for UL-Tarp-Trekking. Using open cooking fires, wax-cotton stuffsacks and clothing and all the other oldfashioned stuff brought me extremly close to living in nature with a minimum of gear.
At that point I didn't care about “baseweight”. Also as a touring guide, I am gaining outdoor experiences since the early 90s (Mainly in Sweden). Later in 1997, after carrying the heaviest backpacks ever through Sweden, I have started reading more about optimizing trekking gear. At that point, after all my trips, I always questioned my gear regarding weight and functionality, so that over the years I had my lessons learned.
An old friend and hiking partner of mine gave some advice about lightening up in a lot of gear talks when we crossed the woods. Then one day he sent me a copy of Ray Jardines book. That was the invisible start for trekking-lite-store.com a lot of years later.
The next step for me was to change and to lighten up my minimum gear. I tried some tents till I came to my first Kerlon-MYOG-Tarp. Aluminium became Titanium, PU-coated nylon became thin SilNylon, Stuffsacks were made of cuben. I got my first 7 gram spoon, my first 9 gram headlight, cut my eva-mattres and so on.
How often are you out backpacking nowadays?

After trekking-lite-store.com was founded my freetime was cut. My trips are fast and short now. Not more than 3 days the last months. But for the next year I have made some plans ...

Are you a UL backpacker? If so, what is your typical baseweight?

Yes I call myself an UL-backpacker, but I am not using extrem solutions. My baseweight for a 3-day-hiking-trip is about 3900 gram. Adding water, food and fuel makes a 6000-6500 gram weight. Easy to handle with my Murmur.

Trekking-Lite-Store.com is a new UL Shop in Germany, which also sells US cottage gear, for example from Tarptent and Mountain Laurel Designs. Can you tell us a bit more about how you decided to start the company, if it was difficult to start a such a specialized business in Germany, and how you see the future of your business?

After some really good jobs in a planning office in Berlin and as project leader at a young travel agency I knew that I want my own business. In the “outdoor” area I got my best skills. The typical questions when preparing a tour ever were the same: What do I really need? Is there a way to lighten stuff? Will it be tough enough for a while? And where can I order these things?
Especially the last question ever took me to the same problem: There are many manufacturers and many merchants, but there is even more stuff. To get good lightweight gear some extensive researches were needed and I had to order overseas in some cases.
So, I had the idea to form trekking-lite-store.com to offer the lightest outdoor-equipment and functional clothing for trekking and outdoor, produced by well known brands and garage-manufacturers all in one store. It was very exciting to start my own business, to go that way, to be my own boss and worker. The most important job was planing all processes of the shop, to realize the design and software. I got in contact with a lot of cottages and manufacturers. Most of all cottages like TarpTent and bigger players like GoLite and Montane supported me since the first steps before founding.
Founding in Germany sometimes were bureaucratic but easier than I thought because I got good partners and mentors. The feedback from the last OUTDOOR in Friedrichshafen shows me a lighten up trend in every gear category. So UL is not longer made for a little group only.

Are your clients already UL backpackers, or are there also people who just start to lighten up their loads?

Some customers of mine start to lighten up their gear, some like lightweight backpacking, others are hiking UL and SUL.

Henrik, we love to be let in on the work-in-progress stuff! Can you let us know what kind of new products and companies you're planning to get into the shop in the future?

Some deliveries will come from Bushbuddy and Four Dog Stoves next week. It is planned to increase the portfolio of the offered brands, maybe the TiTri from TrailDesigns will coming soon, the Sublite Sil from TarpTent (I got this week.) And next spring a women's collection of clothing and sleeping bags will also come.

What is the current best-seller, and where do your customer come from?

Best-sellers are tents, packs, cooking ware and clothing. Mostly I sell in Germany, but I have delivered to Denmark, Netherland, Luxembourg, France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, England, Australia and Japan.

Are you in touch with other shops and UL manufacturers in Europe, the USA, Japan or other places?

Oh yes. A lot of manufacturers are situated in (East- and West-) Europe and the well-known UL cottages in the USA.

What is your own favorite backpack, sleep system and shelter? Any other favourite piece of gear which you always carry with you?

At the Moment the Murmur rocks all my trips, sometimes the Jam, sometimes the ION over a day. As sleep system I use a combination of two ultra thin Eva Torsos plus short Neo Air, Yeti V.I.B 150 plus Sir Joseph Koteka 290. My favorite shelter is my seam sealed Contrail or a MYOG Tarp for two. For my next Autum trip I will use the Terra Nova Solar Elite. When it is rainy I carry always my ultra-light Vertical Shelter or when it is windy my Montane Dyno Jacket.

When and where was your last longer backpacking trip, and what was your baseweight? Are you planning to get out for a trip soon, and enjoy the summer season?

I am planning new trips when I have the time to make one. For the next year there are some longer trips on my memo board. My last five trips this year brought me to the big lakes in Mecklenburg. I circled them in two, three or five days. Base weight without fuel and food was round about 3500 gram.

Do you think ultralight backpacking will become more popular and break into the mass market, or will it continue to be something for a small group of people?

Oh yes, it will become more popular, if you look at all manufacturers in Europe. They lighten up their stuff, because materials become lighter but have the same strenght and durability.
Magazines are writing about UL and lightweight backpacking, Blogs too, You Tube and TV show a lot, from equipment to impressions from the AT.
The market is changing. One Outdoor-Magazin was laughing about UL some years ago, now the show us the latest UL Gear. But some sportsmen always use light-weight gear: Climbers, Bikers (Alpencross), Hikers. Even some pilgrims ask for infos or order gear. But it is a question of experiences to use ultra-light gear in the right way.
SUL will be something for a smaller group of hikers, I think.

Henrik, I thank you for taking the time to answer my questions =) Is there something you would like to add?

You are welcome. Many thanks that I could take part at your interview series!
And all the best for you and NORDIC LIGHTPACKING.

The Week in Review

Another exciting yet busy week at school is over, and again a bunch of interesting articles were written in the outdoor blogsphere. So while my teacher last week - who knows Ray Mears and Mors Kochanski - taught us all about skinning, butchering and preparing lamb and other foods, this is what happened online.

Jörgen is back from Virihaure where he was walking and packrafting in one of the most remote parts of Sweden - a must read for those who search wilderness!

James and his partner went for a walk in the Peak District after she suggested it. Great photos, and sheep!

Chris' photos from his last escape from Tokyo are a must see!

Comet is less than 300 miles from the Canadian border.

Fraser went canoeing on the Spey and kept up his humour - even after capsizing!

Maria and her daughter went listening to the sound of the sea on Kaunissaari.

Pig-Monkey went to the Goat Rocks and brought back great photos from his trip.

RioLeichtsinn went on a 48 h trip with quasinitro and Andi and the guys definitely had a lot of fun! Recommended read!

Sabine is back from her packrafting and backpacking trip in Greenland and her photos and story are worth your time. Really great to see that UL and lightweight gear also deliver in these environments!

Steven went to Ben Lomond and his superb photos make me envious! He currently is doing a Wainwrights Coast to Coast with his dad for which I wish them much fun and good weather!

Dave writes up the hours 68-93 on Seiland.

The Jolly Green Giant listens to his readers and gives us a AT & South River Falls trip report which is full of wildlife - a must see!

Roman Dial gives us the Andrew Skurka - who is set to finish his epic journey this coming week! - video compilation.

Finally, Part 2 and Part 3 of the Beuteltiere's Alp crossing á la Hannibal is online, go read their exciting adventure.

Geoff wrote a review of the Visor Buff so if you look for a multi-use headwear item for the summer, read this.

The Velo Hobo reviews the Thermo-Lite 2.0 Bivvy Sack and explains us how to stay warm in a hammock - I should have read that before my hammock tryout a week ago!

Die Beuteltiere review their gear used on the Alp crossing. It is a very interesting write-up of UL gear used on a two-person trip, so especially interesting for those who travel with their partner.

Maz also did an excellent gear review of his Mont Blanc tour and I also recommend that you check this out. I find these kind of write-ups - pioneered by PTC, I reckon - very interesting as they give a good, brief look at all the gear used on a trip.

Richard decided Old Gear Out - New Gear In - likely after reading all those excellent reviews online!

Roger looks at the Evernew Sidewinder.

Robin received after much trouble a ULA Ohm and shares his first impressions on his newest acquisition with us.

Benjamin aka hrXXLight reviews the Kupilka 21 cup.

Mike takes a look at the Ontario wildlife.

Wired has a DIY article for a Altoids Mini-BBQ, definitely something for all the MYOG folks out there!

Also for the MYOG folks is minimalgear's MYOG pot lid.

The Wood Trekker explains how to make a Buck Saw in the field.

And last, but certainly not least, Gustav explains what to do if you'd like to take your kids on the mountains and this is something every backpacking dad and mom should give a good read if they'd like to go out before the kids are older.