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Down with funny shoes!
by Evan Hill

It cracks me up to see "new models" introduced every year. I agree that there have been real advances in fabrics and a handful of truly innovative and useful designs over the last ten years. The fiberglass wands in my DD frame pack kick @$$ and I wouldn't want to go without a platypus (although it is remarkably similar to the animal stomach water bags that man has been using for millennia). However, for the most part I think the new model stuff is just crap. You might replace the fabric in a jacket with a better fabric, but am I really to believe that designs are any better than they were 10 years ago? I love to see a company continue to produce a design that is nearly perfect. An example is the Lowe Contour series. It is hard to improve on 3 compression straps, a front loading sleeping bag compartment and a top pocket. Just about everything else is bells and whistles that add useless weight. Now everyone is cutting all of the useless bells and whistles again and we're going to end up with the same thing we had 10 years ago (although the fabrics will be a little better). Here is another example. When I was a kid in Alaska, all cross country ski bindings were cable bindings that worked with "waffle stompers". I used the same shoes for skiing that I did for hiking and hunting and cutting firewood, etc. Some time later, bindings changed and you couldn't get cable bindings and you had to wear funny shoes to go skiing. (ditto bicycling, but don't get me started). My only recourse was to come up with a rube goldberg combination of 3 pin bindings with the pins broken off and forward throw cable bindings from antique downhill skis. Now, everyone has discovered how nice it is not to have to wear funny shoes for everything and you can buy a pair of cable bindings that is practically identical to the ones I was using when I was six. Man has been using snow shoes for thousands of years, but keep your eyes open for the first pair of "snowshoeing boots" -- they will be absolutely necessary for the serious snowshoer. Innovation? Bah humbug. I think it is a *good* thing when a company can make the same product for 10 years virtually unchanged. That means they got it right 10 years ago. Down with funny shoes!