Fresh Tracks Overboot by Forty Below — Works with Tech Bindings


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Thousands of toes saved, one foot at a time. That should be Forty Below LTD’s motto with their long history of providing well made neoprene overboots to arctic sloggers and high altitude mountaineers.

Backcountry skiing on Denali summit.

Tyler and Colby in their 40 Below overboots, summit of Denali. Using this model required removing the overboot to work well in ski bindings, but new Fresh Tracks model works much better.

Ski alpinists also use Forty Below overboots, but models made for climbing boots are hard to zip over ski boots. More, they have too much material thickness in the toe area to work well with tech style (e.g., Dynafit) backcountry skiing bindings. Thus, the common strategy for skiers using thick neoprene overboots has been to wear them on the crampon climb ascent, but strip them for skiing. Not good, since you’re removing your foot protection while still in a harsh environment. In that case, if something happened to delay your descent you’d be stuck without your overboots on, perhaps trying to put them back on in adverse conditions. (Yes, with some effort and experience it is possible to wear the thicker overboots in a variety of ski bindings, but in our experience doing so is much less than ideal.)

Forty Below Fresh Tracks overboot in Dynafit backcountry skiing bindings.

Forty Below Fresh Tracks overboot in Dynafit backcountry skiing bindings. They work.

Not one to rest on his laurels (even if he does like resting by his fire ring in his back yard with full view of Mount Rainier), Forty Below designer/owner Joel Attaway has stepped up and designed a neoprene overboot specifically for backcountry skiers and ski alpinists.

My Fresh Tracks overboots arrived recently, follow along while I fit to my daily go-to Dynafit rig. Purpose: No, I’m not headed to the Karakorum any time soon — just rigging for warm feet at trailheads and during cold snowmobile approach rides.

Forty Below overboot on Dynafit bindings.

I cut the tech binding toe holes using a punch for a nice circular hole. You can do it with a razor blade as well. Just start small and keep it accurate. Locate fittings by probing with a sharp object.

The body of the Fresh Tracks is made of nylon covered 4.7 mm neoprene, with two layers of heat reflecting titanium. Key to performance in ski bindings is the overboot sole, which is the same stuff by only 2.5 mm thick so it works with Dynafit bindings and also makes it easier to clip in to toe-wire type bindings such as the Silvretta 500. (Critical areas of the toe and heel also use the thinner material, to help with ski and crampon bindings.) To prevent damage, the lower inside “instep” area of the overboots has a large patch of heavy duty Cordura nylon.

Cutout for Dynafit heel fittings. It's tough to get this looking 'factory' but it is really quite forgiving.

Cutout for Dynafit heel fittings. It's tough to get this looking 'factory' but it is really quite forgiving. Again, START SMALL and enlarge the hole as needed. It's more important to provide room at the lower side of the cut, for the heel pins to enter, than it is to have it larger at the top or sides. Once the tech binding heel pins enter the boot fitting, they'll push the overboot fabric out of the way. The pictured hole is probably too large on the top and sides, but the bottom is just about right.

Dynafit binding clearance

Dynafit binding clearance. With thicker overboots, it's clearance in this area that can give you trouble. The Fresh Tracks work fine once you're in the binding, but the fabric of the boot makes it hard to see the tech fittings when you're stepping into the binding, so you have to get used to taking a bit more care while clicking in.

Overboot heel in climbing mode.

Overboot heel in climbing mode. While the Fresh Tracks overboot has the amazingly durable and grippy sole that Forty Below is known for, I suspect this will be a wear point for folks who use the overboots a lot. Solution is probably to just watch for wear and apply coating such as Shoe Goo or Seam Grip as needed.

Overboot heel in Dynafit binding.

Heel in downhill mode, clicked into Dynafit tech binding. I didn't see any problems in this, but did notice that if I put my overboots on during the climb with boots on my feet, rather than back at camp or trailhead where I could carefully put the overboot on before putting my boots on my feet, I had trouble getting the toe and heel holes to line up well.

I can see seeral uses for Fresh Tracks overboots. Obviously, they’ll be terrific for high altitude ski mountaineering such as that on Denali, Logan, or overseas. But perhaps more importantly, it’s not uncommon for backcountry skiers to struggle with cold feet no matter how well they fit their ski boots and use tricks such as foot warmers and such. If you fall into that group, I strongly suggest you give overboots a try for colder days. Yes, it’s an extra step in the day and extra gear to fiddle with, but warm feet can be the key to the perfect day.

Shop for 40 Below overboots here.

Comments

16 Responses to “Fresh Tracks Overboot by Forty Below — Works with Tech Bindings”

  1. John S December 10th, 2010 2:25 pm

    Love it!! As a Canadian Rockies ski mountaineer, I’ll be trying some of these. I solved most of my cold feet problems by swapping Intuition liners into my MegaRides, but for winter tours, these look great.

    How hard are they to get on and off? I’m thinking about when in camp, and I want to pull the liners out of the boots.

  2. Lou December 10th, 2010 3:04 pm

    John, super easy to get on and off. During my test I did it on the trail, but it’s better to put them on the boots _before _ you put the boots on your feet, that way you can get everything lined up with the tech binding holes. Mine came off stork style, just standing on one foot and pulling. I’d like to see them be a bit lighter weight, perhaps with a thinner upper or something like that. But as is they’re super nice in my opinion.

  3. Tyler December 10th, 2010 3:13 pm

    John,

    The “Fresh Tracks” overboots seem to have an even easier on and off than the purple haze model we wore on Denali, probably because of the thinner material. Also…most guides/experienced folks on Denali seemed to use their overboots as camp-booties, with either insulated socks or their boot liners. (grippy and warm)

  4. Seth December 10th, 2010 3:32 pm

    Good work Joel. Thanks for posting Lou. I used -40′s on Denali.

    Forty Belows (Purple Hazes) were great for warm toes on approach and the climb. We also used them as comfy camp booties over our intuition liners, or sometimes alone for quick pee breaks from the igloo. Well worth their weight for any extended winter/cold tour. Especially now for ski boots. Joel also sold us a bunch of lightweight dehydrated “Just the Cheese” that was deluxe protien.

  5. John S December 10th, 2010 4:51 pm

    Can you still operate the tour/ski switch for the boot? Looks like the zipper gives good access to buckles and perhaps the switch.

  6. Lou December 10th, 2010 6:47 pm

    John, it unzips really easily and peels down. That keeps it simple rather than trying to have a Velcro flap or something over the touring latch.

  7. John S December 10th, 2010 11:35 pm

    Thanks Lou. Nice to see “the little guys” like Forty Below and Intuition bringing us the good stuff. (Intuition are still “little guys”, right?)

  8. tony December 11th, 2010 8:02 am

    what is the price and weight of the new FT overboots?

  9. XXX_er December 11th, 2010 1:52 pm

    They look good to me , nice job on cutting the holes for the fittings I think that is key , do they work in a freeride binding ?

    I can see needing to maintain all the cuts/rips/wear spots that are inevitable by using a liquid ureathane product but I could see folks trashing them/failing to fix them then complaining the product doesn’t hold up

  10. harpo March 24th, 2012 11:32 pm

    Lou, what size hole punch did you use for the toe holes? What did you use to cut the heel hole? A razor blade? Sissor?

  11. Lou March 28th, 2012 2:44 pm

    Harpo, I used a single edged razor blade to work the heel hole. Start small and enlarge as needed! The punch is 1/2 inch and might be a little big. What happens to the holes is that when you stretch the overboot over your boot, the holes get larger, so they can easily be too big. Lou

  12. harpo October 30th, 2012 8:10 am

    Hi Lou, I am thinking of taking these along on a BC (relatively) high altitude hut trip in January. One question, how do they work when your are walking around without skis or crampons on your feet? I am worried about how slippery they would be as well as how durable they would be. I have never taken crampons on a BC hut trip, but you are often without skis on your feet, either back at the hut or while scrambling up rocks to a summit.

  13. Lou Dawson October 30th, 2012 9:33 am

    Harpo, the soles are not designed for real walking or scrambling. They’re designed to be used with crampons or to be in ski bindings. Without crampons, they’re slippery and not durable. They do have some material on the bottom that’s more damage resistant than the top, but that’s just so your crampons won’t wear through, and so you can walk around a bit while in camp.

    If you’re having foot warmth problems and want something you can use without crampons, best thing is probably to upsize your ski boots, or use boot warmers.

    The “Boot Glove” product works with some mods so long as you’re not breaking trail. But they pack up with snow underneath if you’re stomping your way through powder.

    Lou

  14. harpo January 31st, 2013 10:53 am

    Hi Lou,

    Have you used the Fresh Tracks over boots at all since your last post? How have they been holding up?

    What mods do you have to make on the Boot Glove?

  15. Lou Dawson January 31st, 2013 11:35 am

    Harpo, I used the overboots a bit but frankly have not needed them much, as the Boot Glove seems to do what I need. Boot Glove mod consisted of adding a small length of cord that ties the toe to the lower cross strap, so the toe part of the rig won’t flip up. The cord wears out from walking, but easy to replace or protect with Seam Grip. Other than that, I put some Seam Grip on areas that might get ski cut. They work pretty well, other than for trail breaking when the snow packs up inside. Mainly, I just wear them when starting out in the morning from a cold trailhead. Lou

  16. Peter Landres February 3rd, 2013 8:31 am

    Hi Lou, have you tried or heard of anyone with skiing experience with the Wildline Insulated Gaiters available from Mountain Equipment Co-op?

    http://www.mec.ca/AST/ShopMEC/Footwear/Gaiters/PRD~0315-176/wildline-insulated-gore-tex-gaiters-unisex.jsp

    They are a classic mountaineering gaiter with a rubber rand that sits above the sole, but with thinsulate insulation above the rand. This style looks like it would solve all the problems mentioned in the above comments (no need to punch holes to fit the binding, the boot sole is completely exposed for good scrambling on rock, no snow build-up as with the Boot Glove). The downside is that having a full gaiter means more fussing at uphill/downhill transitions. But for those of us who are 60+ the thought of having warm toes would be worth the fuss. Thanks for any of your thoughts about this…

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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