The zip-off cargo pant is quintessential dadwear, touched by near no one else. Unabashed adaptability its fatal flaw. Though in the wilderness, the convertible design is the picture of versatility, with more function (read: zippers) than any single inseam could pack. And in the hands of Japanese gear gods Snow Peak, the perfect (assumed) inspiration for their second official collab with New Balance’s celebrated Tokyo Design Studio—a zipper-heavy, 3-in-1 outdoors shoe called the Niobium Concept 1—aka, zip-off cargo pants for your feet— set to land stateside 04 September.
Part waterproof boot, part campsite mule, the Niobium is best described as a zipper system with a sole. The shoe is built on the sole unit of New Balance’s MT801 trail runner. Right above the outsole, a heel-mounted zip allows users to drop in one of two lining packages: a slipper-like sock or a mid-cut eVent bootie.
With the bootie, the Niobium becomes a stylish waterproof hiker, built for river mucks and muddy trails. Zip in the sock, however, and it becomes a fireside’s friend—a slip-on meant for giving your dogs a little fresh air. You can even pop the sock lining out for use as a tent slipper (or house shoe when time outside isn't in the cards).
It’s a single shoe for every part of a subalpine adventure: a neat gadget and legitimately functional. Unlike the zip-off pants, however, the Niobiums won’t get you laughed at anywhere there’s a cell signal.
Silhouette-wise, the tasteful tinkerers at Snow Peak worked with NB’s Tokyo Design Studio to build a palette of mixed media paneling around the MT801’s rugged, biomorphic base. Add the mossy green colorway and you’ve got a stylish sneaker and an unapologetically functional outdoors shoe. The final shape brings to mind a combination of Camper’s tank-like Kiko collabs with Roa’s luxury hikers. Unlike either style shoe, however, the Niobium is function-first.