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The H series of stacking mugs from Snow Peak is like the cool, adult, outdoor version of the tub toys many of us played with as kids. Only these are made of titanium, insulated, and way cooler. This summer I had the chance to test and review the Snow Peak Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug courtesy of Snow Peak.
Snow Peak Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug Features
- Material: Titanium
- Dimensions: D 3.8" H 4.1"
- Capacity: 21.2 fl oz
- Weight: 4.4 oz
- Mesh Storage Bag Included
- Price: $54.95
Snow Peak Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug ReviewLightweight, insulated, packable are the three words that come to mind for the Snow Peak Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug. The H series includes 5 mugs and the H600 is the second largest. All five mugs nest together within the biggest one. The H600 holds just over 20 ounces and weighs in at just over 4 ounces. It's a good companion to your cook pot when going on two person trips. If you have the Snow Peak Trekker Kit or a number of other Snow Peak pots, it will nestle nicely inside along with your stove. It might not fit with the fuel canister though. I love that it's insulated, but not bulky. It gives just enough protection to keep your hands from burning when holding hot stuff and it's just enough to maintain temperature while you eat or drink. For drinking, the Snow Peak Hotlips are a great companion. Yes, they weren't made specifically to fit on the H series, however, they will work. It's a cool feature to have all five mugs in the series nestle together, however, I haven't thought of a time when I'd have more than 2. It's great for packing though. I did think the $55 price point is a little steep. Yes it is titanium but you must either really want the mug or you must really be out of other ways to shave weight. The outer wall is lightly brushed which helps give a little added friction. Even with gloves on, it didn't feel like it was going to slip out of my hand. The H series has 5 mugs ranging from 7 ounces to 30 ounces. All are handle-less. If you want a mug with handles, check out the Snow Peak Titanium Double series. With handles you will lose the stackability. The Good
Bottom Line:The Snow Peak Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug will be more than happy to be at home in your pack. And you will be more than happy to have it. Buy Now: Pick up the Snow Peak Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug [gallery]... Read more...
All it takes is one look to know that Osprey poured a ton of thought and development into the the Osprey Variant 37 Backpack. My experiences with the Variant 37 this summer were great and I'm looking forward to a full winter of using it. Oh yeah, Osprey sent it to me to test and review a some Oregon summer ski mountaineering trips.
Osprey Variant 37 Backpack Features
- Material: Matrix (420D nylon), Cordura (315D)
- Support/Suspension: HDPE frame sheet
- Removeable waist belt
- Hydration Compatible
- Ski Carry
- Climbing Gear Loops: 2
- Ice Axe Loops: 2
- Adjustable tool bungees
- Crampon compression pocket
- Glove friendly buckles
- Three-point haul system
- Underlid Pocket
- Wand Pocket
- Weight: (small) 3 lb 4 oz, (medium) 3 lb 6 oz, (large) 3 lb 9 oz
- Volume: (small) 2075 cu in, (medium) 2258 cu in, (large) 2441 cu in
- Price: $178.95
Osprey Variant 37 Backpack ReviewOut of the box I was stoked when I put the Osprey Variant 37 Backpack on for the first time and it fit me perfectly. I'm not that tall but I've had problems in the past with finding packs that fit. The Variant is jam packed with the features you want and a none of stuff you don't care about. The main compartment is big and open. The hydration sleeve is easy to access when empty and an easily fit a 100 oz resevoir. The top compression strap doubles as a rope strap. The extendable lid moves as your loads expands or shrinks. A spindrift collar rolls up under the lid but can unrolled to keep snow out. The lid also features top and under pockets. The crampon compression sleeve is large enought to fit crampons and an avie shovel blade. Side compression straps help keep contents in the sleeve and a small mesh patch at the bottom lets water drain. The "adjustable tool bungee y-clps" were a little funky to figure out but once I did I was a fan. When cinched down they are extremely secure. Definitely one of the better designs I've seen. The ice tool holsters are secure and have a beefier fabric behind them to protect from sharp edges and points. The tool holsters are versatile enough to hold an avie shovel handle. Each side features a wand pocket that doubles as a bottle holder if your so inclined. The ski carry loops were wide enough to easily fit my 115mm tails and carry in the a-frame style. The waist belt is removeable/stowable and features two gear loops for your alpine rack. It is about 3 inches wide and comfortable over a ski jacket and pants or over just a shirt and pants. Shoulder straps were comfy as well and shaped to stay out of the way. Performance was strong both on the uphills and on the down. The profile is slim enough that I didn't bump my elbows when skinning or hiking. On my Mt Hood trip I carried a fair amount of gear and the heavy load was stable and carried well. On ski descents I was able to cinch everything down tight enough to keep it from swaying around. The combination of all the compression straps, shoulder straps, and waist belt kept it secure on my torso. I was able to ski variable snow in variable terrain without worrying about the load. The layout of everything on the pack made the process of "load skis, unload skis, get the ice axe and crampons, stow it all, etc" a relatively painless task. One thing I did think was missing was some sort of side access. It always seems no matter how you pack you always need to fish something out of the bottom of the pack. On the side of the mountain, in the snow, it would have been nice to be able to get to the bottom of the pack without having to unload. The Good
- Great feature set
- Climbed and skied well
- No side access
Bottom Line:The Variant 37 is awesome. It's a strong performer for ski mountaineering. Buy Now: Pick up the Osprey Variant 37 Backpack ... Read more...
Looking for a lightweight cooking system? The Snow Peak Trekker Kit is a great option for someone starting out backpacking but is also a great upgrade kit for the seasoned backpacker as well. I've had the chance this summer, courtesy of Snow Peak, to test and review the Trekker Kit.
Snow Peak Trekker Kit Features
- Includes: GigaPower Stove, Trek 1400 Cookset, windscreen, carry bag
- Material: Stove: Stainless Steel, Pot: Titanium, Windscreen: Stainless Steel
- Output: Stove: 10,000 BTU's
- Boil Time: Stove: 4 min. 48 sec. / 1 liter
- Burn Time: 110 gram fuel: 50 min. on high, 250 gram fuel: 85 min. on high
- Dimensions: Pot: D 5.5" H 4.5"
- Stove: D 4.2", H 2.6"
- Windscreen: D 4.5" H 0.6"
- Capacity: Trek 1400: 47 fluid oz
- Size Stowed: D 5.75" H 5.9"
- Weight: 13.15 oz
- Price: $99.95
Snow Peak Trekker Kit ReviewThe Snow Peak Trekker Kit includes just about everything you need to get started with camp cooking. You get the stove, windscreen, and pot all in one. The Stove The stove is the Snow Peak GigaPower Stove. It folds down small, about 2x2x4 inches in an included plastic case. I'm a fan of the case because it helps protect the stove within the pot, however, you can ditch it to save a few grams. At 3.75 ounces (without case) the stove is decently light. The Piezo ignition saves the need for matches and is high quality. I'd say 80% of the time it would ignite on the first try and 19% of the time on the second try. The stove arms are wide enough to provide enough stability for the cookset. As will all canister stoves you need to be careful to not tip the whole thing over, but with the GigaPower it's not a precarious balancing act. The burner has good control. It can boil a quart of in just under 5 minutes (4:48) and can be adjusted down to get a slow simmer. Made out of stainless steel it's going to be able to handle bumps and jostling without falling apart. The Pot Included in the Trekker Kit is the Snow Peak Trek 1400 Cookset. The cookset includes a 47 oz pot (about 1.5L) and a frying pan lid (will hold 17 oz). Made of titanium the Trek 1400 weighs in at a scant 7.4 oz. Each piece features folding handles. Watch out for the pot handles when cooking on high, they will get hot. Also note that they don't lock into place. The pan features a squeeze handle does lock into place which is nice. Keep a watchful eye, the bottom of the pot is smooth so it will slide around on your stove if you aren't careful. The pot is large enough to fit a 250 gram fuel canister and the GigaPower stove inside with room to spare. I was also able to sneak in a long Titanium Spork. Snow Peak does make more cups and pots that will nest into the 1400 but you will end up sacrificing storing the stove and fuel canister inside. With that said, the storage bag is big enough that you can fit the canister on top of the pot and still be in the bag, keeping everything together. Snow Peak does back up the cookset with a lifetime warranty. The Windscreen My biggest gripe with canister stoves is the lack of windscreens. A slight breeze would drive down efficiency. The windscreen integrates with the GigaPower stove and nestles tightly into place. I have no idea what the efficiency gains are in numerical terms, but it does provide noticeable performance gains in the wind. It is well worth the extra weight. The Good
- Everything you need to boil water in a single kit (add in a spork and you've got everything you need)
- Lifetime Warranty on the pot and pan
- Pot is smooth so it will slide around on the stove
Bottom Line:The Snow Peak Trekker Kit is a great additional to any backpacking kit. It's lightweight, has what you need, and performs well. Buy Now: Pick up the Snow Peak Trekker Kit [gallery]... Read more...
A couple of weeks ago I made my first climbing attempt of Mt Hood in northern Oregon. The weather conspired against us with snowstorms and 45 mph winds. It was planned to be a ski mountaineering trip. The plan was to skin as high as possible then don crampons and ice axes for the summit push. The descent would be skis from the top of the Hogsback to the base. While the weather wasn't our friend we still skinned our way up through the resort and had a good ski descent. Another attempt later this month will be likely. Here's my gear list for the trip. I err on the side of caution and may have carried a little more than others would.
- Columbia Compounder Jacket
- Outdoor Research Havoc Jacket
- Patagonia Powderkeg Pants
- Patagonia Midweight Capilene Top
- Patagonia Midweight Capilene Bottoms
- Stoic Inbounds Glove
- Black Diamond Powerstretch Fleece Gloves
- Patagonia R1 Balaclava
- Julbo Orbiter Goggles
Ski and Climbing Gear
- Black Diamond Kilowatt Skis
- Fritschi Freeride Plus Bindings
- Black Diamond Method Boots
- Black Diamond Ascension Skins
- Black Diamond Whippet Pole
- Black Diamond Traverse Pole
- Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe
- Black Diamond Sabretooth Pro Crampons
- Backcountry Access Tracker DTS Beacon
- Voile T6 Tech Avalanche Shovel
- Black Diamond QuickDraw Guide Probe 300
- Petzl Ecrin Roc Helmet
- Petzl Reverso Belay Device
- Couple of shoulder length slings and locking carabiners
- Osprey Variant 37 Backpack
- Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag
- Princeton Tec Remix Headlamp
- GSI Glacier Stainless Dualist Cookset
- MSR Pocket Rocket Stove
- Vapur Element Bottle
Make your baselayers work a little bit harder. The Columbia Midweight Baselayers work harder for you with the addition of their Omni-Heat lining.
Columbia Midweight Baselayer Top Features
- Fabric: 86% polyester/14% elastane
- Omni-Heat thermal reflective
- Omni-Wick advanced evaporation
- Form fit
- 4-way comfort stretch
- Ergonomic seaming
- Thumb holes
- Price: $59.95
Columbia Midweight Baselayer Bottom Features
- Fabric: 86% polyester/14% elastane
- Omni-Heat thermal reflective
- Omni-Wick advanced evaporation
- Form fit
- 4-way comfort stretch
- Ergonomic seaming
- Gusset detail
- Price: $54.95
Columbia Midweight Baselayers ReviewThe Columbia Midweight Baselayers are a good all around baselayer for multi-season activities. In the fall and spring they work as stand alone layering pieces for cool weather exploits. I've found the top to be sufficient by itself for trail runs down into the 30s. In the winter they pair well as part of a layering system. The Omni-Heat reflective lining helps keep in additional warmth. As Columbia says "keeping you up to 20% warmer". When I first looked at the lining as I pulled the pieces out of the package I was skeptical. I thought it was going to feel like tin foil rubbing on my skin. I couldn't have been more wrong. The Omni-Heat lining is smooth and soft on the skin. I didn't notice it at all and it's surprisingly comfortable. The 4-way comfort stretch fabric helps with mobility and keeps you from feeling restricted when you're moving. The antimicrobial properties work wonders and you can even get away with wearing the pieces multiple times between washings. You know how typically with synthetic layers as you pull on your shirt for the second time you get repulsed by the stench? This isn't the case with the Columbia Midweight baselayer. The antimicrobial properties keep the smell at bay. The fit is definitely athletic. I'm 6 feet tall and 180 lbs and the large top and bottom fit me perfectly. One thing I will say on the fit is the arms are cut a little high so fits tight through the armpits. On the bottoms, do yourselves a favor gents and get the pair with the fly. I don't get why they'd make them without. The Good
- Warm & versatile
- Top fit a little tight through the armpits
- No fly on certain bottom models
Bottom Line:Looking for a solid baselayer to span multiple seasons? Get the Columbia Midweight Baselayers. Buy Now: Columbia Midweight Baselayers [gallery]... Read more...
With the Columbia Bugaglove Max Electric Gloves gone are the days of frozen hands and fingers. Columbia gave me a pair of gloves to test this winter and here's what I thought.
Columbia Bugaglove Max Electric Gloves Features
- Fabric: 100% goatskin leather
- Omni-Heat electric, thermal reflective, and insulated
- Techlite battery compartment
- Outdry waterproof
- Split cowhide palm patch
- Long gauntlet
- One-hand shock cord hem adjustment
- Nose wipe
- Precision fit grip
- Price: $399.99
Columbia Bugaglove Max Electric Gloves ReviewWhen I first heard about the Columbia Electric products I was highly skeptical. Adding electric heat to products has been tried in the past, rather unsuccesfully. This time around though, I think Columbia is on to something. The Columbia Bugaglove Max Electric Gloves are an all around good glove. First let's look at the heat. Operation is easy, just press the Columbia logo on the back of each glove. The heat comes in three modes: high, medium, and low. The button alternates colors when on: red for high, yellow for medium, green for low. On a full battery charge you'll get 2.5 hours on high, 3 hours on medium, 4 hours on low. The heat that is produced is more of a slow, radiating heat as opposed to a burst of heat. I've found the best heat performance comes from preheating the gloves before my hands were cold. The gloves will heat your hands back up after they are cold, but with the slow, radiating heat it does take some time. It won't be quick like a typical hand warmer. The gloves charge via micro-USB and take about 3 hours to charge. What I like about the cords is they are a micro-USB to USB combo which gives you a few different options for charging using the single cord and any available USB port. The gloves do come with everything necesary to charge, including 2 USB cables, 1 USB wall adapter, plus international adapter plugs. The gloves are lined with Omni-Heat reflective fabric which is supposed to reflect the heat that would ordinarily dissipate out of the glove back into the glove. I did find that the thumbs aren't heated. A little research shows a heating wire may cross the thumb but my thumbs still got cold. Without the heat, the Bugaglove is still a great winter glove. I found it preferrable for skiing. The goatskin leather is durable and very weather resistent. It's pliable, even in cold conditions. The gauntlets are long which is great when skiing or anytime you have to dig around in the snow. The gloves are bulky so dexterity is compromised similar to what you see for most winter gloves. The Outdry fabric is awesome and it definitely keeps your hands dry. My biggest gripe with the glove is there isn't a soft nose wipe. The specs say it's there but it's not. Any amount of time spend outside, especially skiing, and your nose is going to run. Goatskin leather isn't very good at wiping or absorbing. Sizing is good. I normally wear a size XL glove because I have long fingers. The XL in the Bugaglove fits me perfectly. Overall I've had a good experience with the Bugaglove. Are they worth $399? I'd be hard-pressed to say yes. It's a cool concept but I don't think it's worth it, yet. If you have the money to burn, go for it. Columbia is definitely on to something and I'm looking forward to future iterations of Electric. The Good
- Electic Heat
- Materials are high quality
- Good performing ski glove
- No nose wipe
Bottom Line:Warm glove, good glove, cool concept. If you have the money, spend it. Buy Now: Pick up the Columbia Bugaglove Max Electric Gloves[gallery orderby="title"]... Read more...
Icebreaker, the veritable king of the wool world, has your back if you still don't have a gift for that active individual on your holiday gift list. The Icebreaker Tech Top, a midweight base layer, has almost all the functional features you'd want, and will keep the winter chill away for any outdoor activity.
Icebreaker Tech Top Details
- Icebreaker 260 g/m2 Merino Wool
- 3 Way Collar- Zipped up, zipped down or rolled down
- Drop tail hem
- MSRP: $110
Icebreaker Tech Top ReviewAfter making the Tech Top my go to piece for my last several ski tours, I am loving it! I have worn it for 10+ tours and haven't washed it yet- no stench! For my full "wool vs. synthetic" commentary, see my review of the Icebreaker GT 260 Express Leggings (which, coincidentally, I have worn on all the tours I've had the Tech Top out for). The heavier weight wool provides ample warmth on the cooler days, but might be overkill for the milder days.
- Thummies! Though I'm sure that's not the technical term, the Tech top comes with the ever-wonderful thumb loops which I refer to as thummies. Keeps your sleeves from riding up as you layer. I love it.
- Stink free and fuzzy soft. I'm not going to re-argue the benefits of wool here, but I continue to be a fan. After multiple wears, the Tech Top isn't smelly or scratchy. Go wool.
- The Tech Top isn't incredibly long. Though the back side is longer than the front (that's your drop tail hem), the front could use to be a bit longer. It worked fine for layering, but I would have loved to see it about an inch longer in the front.
- No pocket. I love the Napoleon pocket on layers like this and was a bit disappointed to see that the Tech top didn't come with one. That's usually my go-to location to stash my iPod and a CLIF shot.
Bottom LineA great cool weather layering piece that keeps the stink at bay.
Check it OutIcebreaker Tech Top... Read more...
enigma [ɪˈnɪgmə], noun a person, thing, or situation that is mysterious, puzzling, or ambiguousLooking for a shell jacket to protect you from all the elements? Continuing to be true to their mantra "Designed for Adventure," Outdoor Research has cranked out some incredible equipment for Fall 2011, and among that line is the Women's Enigma Jacket. The Enigma truly is an enigma- a lightweight yet durable GoreTex shell jacket at a super reasonable price. How often do you find that combo?
Outdoor Research Enigma Jacket: The Details
- Gore-Tex PacLite main body/Gore-Tex 3L Pro Shell fabric on shoulders and arms
- Entirely seam sealed
- Helmet compatible hood
- TorsoFlo™ double-sliding side zippers open fully from hem to armpits
- Two hand pockets with water-resistant zips and two internal stash pockets
- MSRP: $320
- Check out the Enigma Details on YouTube
Outdoor Research Enigma Jacket: The ReviewThe Outdoor Research Enigma Jacket has been a life saver thus far this fall in Alaska. With rain coming in feet, not inches, I'm always grateful to have good gear so that I can continue my outdoor pursuits, no matter the weather. From daily walks with my dog to ice climbing on the Matanuska Glacier, the Enigma has kept me nice and dry. I'm looking forward to making it my primary backcountry shell when ski season gets rolling. A word about sizing- the Enigma seems to be built to accommodate layers underneath, which is a great thing. However, if you were thinking about sizing up from your normal size to have room for a few extra layers, don't. You'll be swimming in GoreTex. The Enigma is built with that extra room already in the width and the sleeves, and I have plenty of room for my R1, Patagonia Micropuff or a mid-weight down jacket, and I ordered the same size I would have had I not been planning to layer.
- The full side zips aren't as weird as you'd think they'd be. I've never had a problem with them coming undone from the bottom up as I was concerned I might. I am not sure how much more ventilation I really need than your average pit zip, but the full zip doesn't seem to take away from the design in any way, so why not? I see where it could be nice to be able to fully unzip your sides while wearing a pack, and really get some ventilation.
- Because of the zippers running all the way down the side, the drawcord for the bottom of the jacket actually only runs through the back half of the jacket. Again, seemed weird at first, but I ended up loving the ability to cinch down the bottom of the jacket without the front of the jacket looking like a rumpled mess.
- The PacLite/ProShell combo makes this jacket lightweight yet bomber.
- A great value at $320. Most other companies are charging in excess of $400 for their GoreTex shells, some even more than $450. For much less, you get a solid jacket with all the features that you need in a shell.
- The pockets are not made of GoreTex material. So, if it's pouring rain and blowing sideways, and you think you'll warm your hands up by putting them in your pockets, well, you'll wish you hadn't. Though the zippers are water resistant, and the direct interior of the pocket has a small strip of GoreTex, the rest of the pocket is mesh. If precipitation is coming in from any direction besides straight down, you'll find the inside of your jacket a bit wet if you've used the pockets. It was never a problem for quick "in and out" trips into the pockets, but the few times I went to stash my hands to avoid moisture and cold temps, the lovely Alaska fall weather (read: feet of rain and blowing wind) found its way right inside my jacket.
Bottom LineA GoreTex Proshell/PacLite hybrid that keeps you dry for a decent price.
Check It OutOutdoor Research Enigma Jacket... Read more...
For years Sierra Designs has been cranking out some amazing gear -- always built for true mountain athletes such as Eric Larsen. I remember lusting after a red Sierra Designs anorak jacket back in college, and being even more impressed after I bought it and put it to use out in the elements. It performed better than my flashier Marmot jacket. Out of everything that Sierra Designs has put out there year after year -- and I've tried a lot of it -- the Cloud 15 sleeping bag is my favorite item yet. In fact, the Cloud 15 may be the best piece of camping gear I've tried this year. In my opinion there is nothing out there like the Cloud 15, visually or functionally. First of all, at one-pound-something it is confirmed to be the lightest 15F degree sleeping bag on the market. Secondly, it is one of the coolest looking pieces of soft goods I've seen from any brand. See the images at right? In the pictures it kind of looks like a white or silver bag with blue accents --- but if you look closely, that's not white or silver. It's transparent material, so you can see the down inside. I can't wait until Sierra Designs makes their Gnar puffy jacket out of this material. I was camping with some buddies up in the Cottonwood Canyons of Utah and had my Cloud 15 lying out to fluff before bed. It made gawkers out of my friends. Like I said, it is unique in the market. And I've used everything from Mont Bell to The North Face and everything in between. The Cloud 15 is precisely 1lb 12oz, has 900-fill down with 10D nylon ripstop (an ultralight nylon material), and is EN-tested for an accurate comfort rating at 15 degrees. That means it even comes in under the weight of the Marmot Plasma ultralight sleeping bag, which is listed 2oz heavier. As you can see in the full length image, the Cloud 15 uses vertical baffles rather than horizontal to save weight. The vertical baffles employ a technology called Insotech Flow, which is a patented approach to keeping down from migrating. If I understand it correctly, it is basically one-way flaps of material in the baffles -- similar to the principle you see at work in the veins of some mammals to reduce the backward flow of blood. Simplicity is elegance, making the Cloud 15 one of the most technologically advanced bags you could find. It comes with a storage bag and a stuff sack, as you might imagine. To save weight, the stuff sack lacks compression straps but is made of the same 10D ripstop nylon. And with 900 fill down, the Cloud 15 is highly compressible to avoid bulk. The bag has some great standard design features. As you can see in the pictures, Sierra Designs has cut the bag with a bit of a jacket-style hood (meaning it fits closer to your ears and comes down in a bit more of a straight angle towards the base of your neck, instead of being a broad triangle shape that drapes from your crown to the outside of your shoulders). As you would expect, it has a drawcord for the collar and draft tubes on both the zipper and the collar. It has a 40" zipper for entry and venting, and a trim but ergonomic foot box. Of course, you can't get every last creature comfort when you cut down the weight so deeply. For example, the 40" zipper doesn't allow for venting just your foot (unless you are under four feet tall). So when I've used this on warmer nights in Southern Utah I just laid out my whole left leg comfortably. This bag also doesn't sport draft tubes at the neck (just the collar and the zipper). And it isn't stitched with heavier flex thread to allow for stretchy movement the way the way some other Sierra Design bags are. But given the extreme light weight of this bag, the few missing features aren't enough to deter me from being thoroughly impressed. Great function, great performance, and very stylistic design. This is not muted earth tones. The performance-minded will be very pleased with this bag in almost all situations except snowy winter camping or extremely hot summer nights. Watch for the Sierra Designs Cloud 15 bag to come out in Spring 2012 at a retail price of $499. SHOP: Click here to see more Sierra Designs gear....Read more...
A surfing backpack, a lightweight dry bag that doubles as a backpack on summit bid morning, or just a daypack on the rainy days, the Outdoor Research Drycomp Ridge Sack is a versatile, well constructed dry bag with all the bells and whistles added on. My favorite type of gear is that which is simple, durable, durable and even more durable. The beauty of the Drycomp is in it's simplicity. It's a dry bag that is also a backpack. Add a sweet mesh storage compartment, the ability to strap on an ice axe, and that's the final product. Sometimes it's nice not to have six bazillion features- less to break out in the field. The crew at Outdoor Research has hit another home run with the Drycomp Ridge Sack (I don't actually watch baseball. But what's the equivalent in outdoorsy lingo? The crew at OR has sent another 5.13? Shredded another gnarly descent of backpack design? Somehow, the baseball analogy sounds better). Sometimes less is more, and that's definitely true of the Drycomp Ridge Sack. Just the right amount of features to make a great product, but not so many that you're wondering if you should wear the pack on your back, or ask it to cook you breakfast.
Outdoor Research Drycomp Ridge Sack Details
- 34 L drysack/backpack combo
- External Mesh pocket and elastic cord allow for extra layers/gear/h2o storage, ice axe loops allow you to toss your favorite piolet on as well
- Roll top/buckle closure
- $125 MSRP
Outdoor Research Drycomp Ridge Sack ReviewUsually, when you purchase a dry bag of any sorts, you're looking to keep water out of the things you put inside it. In my case, I was looking for a way to keep water inside the bag, and not anywhere else. I needed a bag to use for wetsuit transport on my bike/surf trip this past summer. Something that I could toss wet wetsuits in, and then hike back out from the beach without the wetsuits dripping through my pack and soaking my bum as I hiked out. A reverse dry bag, if you will. Instead of keeping things out, I wanted to keep them in. However backwards my approach to dry bag use may seem, the principal behind it is the same, and I can report that the Drycomp Ridge Sack did in fact keep the water (and the rather unsavory smell of damp wetsuit booties) inside the bag, just as I had hoped. With bomber radio-welded seams, I had no leaks in 6 weeks of wetsuit storage. I kept the bag on the back rack of my bicycle, bungee corded down until it was time to head down to the beach. Then, I'd undo the cords, and in an instant, I had myself a great backpack, with the wetsuits already packed. The mesh pocket on the outside allowed for a towel, snacks or a few tasty beverages to be stowed with ease.
- Keeps water in or out, depending on what your goal is
- Carries comfortably for short adventures
- Constructed of a lightweight and pliable material. Don't think of your typical hypalon drybag. Much lighter. And still as waterproof.
- Durable durable durable!
- Elastic cording on mesh pocket stretches out fast
Bottom LineSometimes less is more. Meet all your dry bag/backpack needs with the Outdoor Research Drycomp Ridge Sack.
Buy NowOutdoor Research Drycomp Ridge Sack... Read more...
Here at Gear.com we tend to get a little fanatical about our insoles -- in particular, custom insoles. But this time around, we're not looking at a pair of custom orthotics or Surefoot or cork or moldable insoles --- we're looking at a non-orthotic insole from Thinsulate that has one purpose: keep your foot warmer inside your snow boots than a stock insole can. Thinsulate has built the insoles with a series of layers intended to serve unique functions. The top layer is an abrasion-resistant fabric, as you might imagine. It is antimicrobial and is a wicking fabric to help keep feet drier and reduce odors (perhaps would be good for Thinsulate to consider a partnership with Agion Active for this material). The second layer below the top layer is what Thinsulate calls the comfort layer. This is a foot-conforming foam to provide some additional comfort. However, I would not put this on par with a custom moldable insole. This is merely a memory foam type of material to give a bit of cushion. Below the comfort layer is the thermal layer, and I believe this is where the insole differentiates from stock footbeds you'll find in most snow boots. The thermal layer is Thinsulate insulation to provide warmth without bulk. There's a reason the Thinsulate brand tends to get recommended from friend to friend. It appears to work. It's the Gore-tex of insulation. And that's what these insoles are for -- provide better warmth for snow boots and other winter shoes that don't require orthotic support insoles. The final base of the insoles is the bottom layer that is a shock absorbing foam. I swapped out my stock insoles in my snow boots from The North Face with the Thinsulate insoles, and I can say that they are comfortable on first try. They certainly beat the stock insole for warmth -- but that's not much of a hurdle, since the stock footbeds were basically a thin and floppy piece of foam. Nevertheless, I would venture a guess that the thermal layer is doing its job. For those who aren't picky about arch support or custom toe bridges as you might get from a moldable insole, this may be a good and inexpensive replacement for your stock footbeds in your snow boots. I can see these being particularly useful for non-aerobic winter activities, such as ice fishing. So if you are still using worthless stock footbeds in your snow boots, spring for a Thinsulate replacement and see for yourself if it turns up the heat for you. Shop: Search for more Thinsulate items....Read more...
Is it a hat? Is it a face mask? Neck warmer? The balaclava is kind of weird piece of gear, but it's extremely versatile and well worth having. The Patagonia R1 Balaclava is about as straight forward as it gets. I picked mine up for bike commuting this winter and I won't get another winter without it.
Patagonia R1 Balaclava Features
- R1® stretch fabric (made from 41% recycled polyester) provides wicking warmth, breathable comfort
- Lightweight and very compact
- Face opening can be worn above mouth or under chin
- Fit is smooth and clean without being restrictive
- R1: 6.8-oz 93% polyester (41% recycled)/7% spandex. Recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program
- 56 g (2 oz)
- Price: $35.00
Patagonia R1 Balaclava ReviewOut of all the balaclavas I researched the Patagonia R1 Balaclava was about as simple as they get. There's a ton of options with a lot of "specialized" uses, depending on what you want it to do. I was looking for something that I could use mainly for bike commuting but could also work for other cold weather pursuits. I liked the simplicity. The R1 fabric is a lightweight fleece with a small waffle pattern on the inside. It's extremely soft to the touch and didn't irritate my face at all. The face mask is big enough and stretchy enough that I could wear it either under my chin or pulled up to my eyes. It was very warm and yet slim enough to fit underneath my bike helmet. With that in mind it would also fit under a ski helmet, sled helmet, or even a climbing helmet. It was warm enough that on my coldest commute day (-7 degrees F) it kept my head and face warm. The extra bonus is when you wear it, you feel like a ninja. The Good
- Face mask could fit under your chin or pulled up to your eyes
- Looks really cool
- I couldn't find anything bad
Bottom Line:What's there to say about a balaclava? The Patagonia R1 Balaclava is a simple, versatile design, warm, well made. Buy Now: Patagonia R1 Balaclava Name ... Read more...
The quest continues. For the 3rd year in a row, I look for the perfect alpine touring boot. Having tried out the Black Diamond Shivas, the Black Diamond Swifts, and the Scarpa Divas, I find myself becoming somewhat of a boot aficionado. This year's endeavor? The Scarpa Shakas. Anyone remember the Skookums? These are a newer, Women's specific version of that same boot. Just as stiff, just a burly, but with a women's specific fit. Here's the rundown:
Scarpa Shaka Features
- Buckles: 4 + Active Power Strap
- Liners: Intuition Speed Pro Womens Liners
- Sole: Skywalk Active Sole
- Weight (sz 25): 3lbs 10oz for one boot
- Binding Compatibility: Alpine Touring and TLT (Dynafit and G3 Onyx/Ruby)
- Forward Lean: 19-23 degrees
- Flex Index: 110 with Ski Tongue, 90 with walk tongue
- MSRP: $719
Scarpa Shaka ReviewOf this year's Scarpa Women's alpine touring boot line, the Scarpa Shaka is built to be the "burlier" of the two available boots, with an emphasis on its versatility between inbounds and outbounds skiing while still being fairly lightweight (looking for the lighter, more touring oriented boot? Stop here and check out the Scarpa Gea). I've had the opportunity to ski the boot both in bounds and for some resort days, and Scarpa has hit a nice mix with the Shaka. The Shaka is a more "touring oriented" boot in the sense that it is not the traditional alpine-wrap style boot, and comes with both a "Ski Tongue," which makes the boot a stiffer 110 flex, and a "Walk Tongue," a 90 flex, intended for longer tours. I had a chance to ski the boot with both. The touring tongue, while offering less resistance for longer tours, creates an unusual flex patter in the boot when skiing down, and seems to "bottom out" at a certain point while flexing. This occurs when you've flexed the boot to the point where the bottom ankle buckle and top over-the-foot buckle hit each other due to lack of support in the tongue. I am not an aggressive skier by any means, but still found it easy to overflex the boot with the touring tongue. However, the boot performs much better with the "Ski Tongue" installed (imagine that... the Ski tongue skis better!). Though the touring is not quite as easy, for day tours, it's certainly manageable. I'd say the trade off of increased resistance when touring is worth the significantly increased flex pattern that the boot offers when skiing with the stiffer tongue. I skied the Shaka in bounds for some Tram laps at Alyeska and felt like it performed just as well as my Alpine boots- handled the crud well and was responsive. The Shaka has many of the same features as the old Skookum- the active power strap above the 4th buckle really does act as a 5th buckle, providing more support than your average power strap. It's wider and thicker, creating that much more support for you as you flex the boot. It also has a movable spoiler on the rear of the boot, which is a nice feature for those of us with mondo calves- you can move the spoiler down so as to not completely cut off circulation to your feet by crushing your calf muscle. Or, for those of you who like a bit more height in the back, you can add that by moving the spoiler up. The Shaka also has the same "power ribs" along the back of the boot, intended to give it even more stability and burl. Despite all these features, the Shaka manages to keep it's weight down at an impressive 3lbs 10oz for 1 boot (sz 25). Not bad! The lighter Scarpa Gea weighs in at 2lbs 15oz. So, we're talking a difference of just over a half a pound per boot. Now, the most important part- the fit. The Shakas are ideal for people with high volume feet. The toe box is wide, the heel is wide, and there is a lot of general space in that shell. This, for me, was a deal breaker with this otherwise well constructed boot. I have a narrower heel, so even with a good Thermomold of the liners and a butterfly foam pad on the back, my heels were a-movin' in these boots, which made touring difficult without wrenching down all the buckles. However, if you're a lady with a higher volume, wider foot, this is the way to go! Scarpa has made a solid boot that skis well and tours well, and if the fit is right, you're stoked.
- Burly yet lightweight boot
- Comes with Intuition Liners, hands down the best liners on the market.
- The idea of a "touring" tongue is well intended, but it doesn't ski well. Stick with the Ski Tongue for performance, even if it means more difficult touring.
Bottom LineThe Shaka charges like an alpine boot on resort days and is still light enough to be your regular backcountry boot. Buy Now: Scarpa Shaka Alpine Touring Boot... Read more...
Beacon- check. Probe- check. Shovel- check. Compact and lightweight, the G3 SpadeTECH Elle Shovel is the one for you if you're a sidecountry skier who makes sure to take all the correct equipment with you each time you head out, and you're tired of fighting to get your pack zipped because your shovel is too big!
Details: G3 SpadeTech Elle Shovel
- Compact Size- The SpadeTECH Elle Shovel was designed for female skiers, who usually have smaller packs. The size allows you to fit it inside your smaller pack, and not have fight with your zipper to ensure that it closes.
- T Handle- Easy to grip, the handle was ergonomically designed so that it's easier to hold.
- Reduced Blade Size- Aimed at being a more efficient shoveler as opposed to just using brute force.
- Handle and blade detach. This seems like such a simple feature, yet I can think of a few shovels that don't have it, which is an even bigger pain for fitting the shovel into your pack!
- Material- Durable yet lightweight aluminum. Never ever ever would I purchase a plastic shovel- I don't care how durable the manufacturer says it is. Plastic snaps. G3 has it right by making their shovels out of aluminum.
Bottom Line: G3 SpadeTech Elle ShovelIf you're an occasional backcountry or sidecountry female user who is tired of trying to jam that huge shovel into your daypack, this is a perfect solution. It's lightweight, durable, easy to assemble and comfortable to shovel with- a great choice for lots of female skiers out there! You'll actually be able to close your daypack with this one, as opposed to having your shovel blade sticking out the top. It'd also function fantastically as a mountaineering shovel- great for digging out a tent platform. However, if you're an avid backcountry user, conducting snow studies and practicing avalanche burial and recovery scenarios on a regular basis, I'd say that opting for G3s AviTech shovel is a better choice if you're only going to own 1 shovel. Its larger blade makes for more efficient shoveling and a better platform for snow studies. While it's bigger that the SpadeTECH Elle, I'd say that size difference is a bonus. The pack I carry for most all tours, day or week long, is big enough to accommodate a large shovel. Compression tests in facet-y snow are more difficult with the SpadeTech Elle shovel, since the blade's surface area doesn't cover the entire area of the column you'd be isolating. If you have proper shovel technique, you're going to move more snow with a larger blade than a smaller one for rescues. That being said, sometimes it's nice to have that smaller shovel for sidecountry days. Having options never hurt anyone, and I'll definitely take my SpadeTECH Elle on those days. Big backcountry days, I'll still reach for a larger shovel. So, be sure to assess your shovel needs- if you're an occasional user, or looking for a versatile shovel that you can use in the backcountry and also as a mountaineering shovel, the SpadeTECH Elle shovel is definitely the way to go. Lighter, fits in your pack, and, as a bonus, the graphics match the G3 Alpinist Elle Climbing Skins. Who says you can't kick backcountry a@$ and look good at the same time? If you're a heavy backcountry user looking to conduct regular snow assessments and recovery scenarios, look more towards the G3 AviTECH shovel.
Buy NowAre you diggin' it? Pick up a G3 SpadeTech Elle Shovel today!... Read more...
No one likes to be that person at the car who's fumbling with their skins when the rest of the crew is ready to hit the trail. Rest assured, with Genuine Guide Gear's Alpinist Elle Climbing Skins, that won't be you. I hate being the one who holds things up , (and worse, being the girl that's holding things up) struggling to rip skins apart, and bouncing from one friend to another, each grabbing and end of your perma-stuck climbing skins and pulling for dear life, only to result in someone losing their grip and landing on their behind. We've all been there. Well, maybe not all of us. Those lucky people who bought G3's climbing skins as their first pair probably haven't been down this embarrassing road. With G3's RipStrip Technology and non-toxic, solvent free adhesive, they've achieved the finite balance in all things sticky- sticks to the skins and to each other when we need it to, comes off/apart easily when we don't. Add a laminated tail strap and a revolutionary tip connector and the single best skin trimming tool on the market and you've got one hell of a product. For those of you who read my initial review of the Alpinist elle skins, you know they had me with their skin trimming tool. Easy to use, no repositioning required; it is amazing. Even if the skin itself didn't outperform my others, I would have been a convert for life, just for the ease of trimming. However, the details that G3 addresses in their skin make sure that after you're converted, you're just as satisfied as you were right after trimming that first edge.
Details: G3 Alpinist Elle Climbing Skin
- Synthetic plush skin with a non-toxic, solvent free adhesive and integrated RipStrip Technology- The RipStrip is what keeps you from struggling to get the skins off your skis or off each other, reducing skin to skin adhesion. They still have plenty of stick when you need it, but no more fumbling to get them apart!
- Tip Connector- No more tip loops! If you've got a square edged ski like me (I've been riding the Moment Reagans this season), this will be the only skin that actually functions for you. The pivoting steel heads have the lowest profile of any skin connection out there, and once they're on, they're not moving. For those of us with those square edged skis- regular tip loops won't work, since there's no taper at the end of the ski. The pivoting tip connectors of the Alpinist Elle Skins allow you to turn them and toss the skin right on- no post factory modification involving duct tape required!
- Tail Connector- Instead of adjusting your metal clamp portion once, and then snapping it on and off the ski each time (which results in some unslightly loss of ski graphics at the tail of your ski), this tail connector has a fluid metal tooth that you bring to the ski each time, and then pull tight on the plastic tail strap. To remove, instead of snapping off the metal tooth, you release the tension on the tail strap, and then the metal tooth can be freely moved away from your skin. This took some getting used to, but in the end, it seems significantly more secure, and damages the end of my ski less. The tail connector is also laminated into the skin itself, so no worries about rivets coming undone and losing a tail piece.
- Sizing- Skins come in sizes from Extra Short to Extra Long, accommodating skis from 153cm to 199cm. Each length comes in widths that range from 70mm to 140mm. Price ranges according to skin length and width.
- Skin Trimming Tool- Don't believe me when I say it's the best one out there? Check out this video from G3.
Bottom Line: G3 Alpinist Elle Climbing SkinsG3 has nailed it. Lightweight, easy to rip apart, innovative tip connectors and a rad skin trimming tool. It glides well, folds up to be nice and small (stuffs easily into the front of my size small shell jacket for the ski down) and seems to be holding up well.
Buy Now: G3 Alpinist Elle Climbing SkinsTrim a new pair and never look back with your Alpinist Elle Climbing Skins. Dudes, looking for the same amazing technology but not such a pretty pattern? Check out the Alpinist Climbing Skins. Same great features but without the "Elle" and sweet blue skin graphics.... Read more...
Truly impressive overall, the Helly Hansen Verglas 3L is one solid hardshell jacket for skiing, climbing or other technical backcountry needs. Slipping this jacket on, the fit is spot-on for efficient outdoor pursuits. Without much extra material, the Verglas 3L has enough size to accommodate a fleece or light puffy insulation layer, but not much else. For me, the cut and fit of the Verglas 3L is a huge plus. The size Large fits my 5'11", 170 lb frame perfectly, so keep in mind that this trim jacket has an athletic cut. The quality construction is evident in every detail of the Verglas 3L. Everything is as expected -- from the adjustable hood to the grippable zipper pulls. Some of the other nice features include the vented collar to expel moisture when fully-zipped and prevent your breath from condensing inside. It actually does seem to expel moisture a bit better than a solid collar does. The Verglas 3L does fit comfortably under a pack and wears well. It has grippy rubber patches on the tops of the shoulders and on both hips to keep your shoulder straps and waistbelt in place on the jacket -- a nice little touch. Chest pocket access is great with a pack on, but the handwarmer pockets are essentially put off limits. The waterproof zippers reduce bulk and keep out the elements quite well. Speaking of elements, even a solid 34-degree wet, sloppy snowfall couldn't penetrate the shell. I spent a good hour in solid, wet snow and it was impenetrable. Durability has been great thus far, but I'll report back after a few car wash ski exits (scrub oak, aspen and fir variety). I've stashed this jacket in my ski pack and it compacts down pretty well -- about what you'd expect from a 3-layer hardshell. It's my hardshell of choice as I roll it up and toss it into the bottom of my Osprey Kode 30 backpack for the downhill. The articulated fit is nice and efficient without excess bulk, which is perfect for backcountry adventures. The zip off powder skirt is a nice touch and can be removed to lighten the load a bit. I kept it in place and appreciated the extra protection it provided. The articulated sleeves feature an angled cuff to better match your natural arm movement. It does help keep the cuffs in place, but not as well as it would if Helly Hansen had chosen to add some grippy patches ton the inside cuff. Mated with my Swany X-Claim gloves, the cuff did work its way off the midsize glove over time... again, some lightweight grippy on the interior of the cuff would minimize this -- a small change that hopefully can be made. Unfortunately, my jacket has a sizeable crease in the visor (likely my fault for not packing it so well) and it now doesn't sit quite right. I'm trying to work that out so it doesn't interfere with my vision but for now, it still insists on folding down right in the middle where a crease has been set. I just need to be more careful when packing it away in my ski pack. The Good
- Tough as nails
- Excellent waterproof capabilities
- Breathes well for this type of material
- Great athletic fit
- Love the tall collar and breathing ports
- Articulated sleeves with angle-cut cuffs add to the overall comfort
- Zip-off powder skirt is great to have
- Sleeve cuffs could use some grippy material to keep in place
- A bit spendy at $425
Bottom Line: Helly Hansen Verglas 3L JacketThe Helly Hansen Verglas 3L jacket has impressed me from the get-go with its efficient fit, smart function and overall quality construction. When considering a bulletproof hardshell, the Verglas 3L stands up there with the best jackets on the market with a few added touches (breathing ports in collar, zip-off powder skirt, grippy shoulders and waist, etc.) that are unavailable elsewhere. Buy Now: Visit HellyHansen.com... Read more...
A couple years back an interesting story made its way around climbing Internet forums. In it, an experienced (relative to his partners) climber led a team of two others up the Shawangunks classic, High Exposure. High E is only a 5.6, but it’s a Gunks 5.6, which means it involves a roof of substantial size. Awkward in the extreme, the move past the roof has sent more than one unprepared follower into the ether. And let me tell you, that particular ether is immense. It’s not uncommon for the hapless second to end up dangling in mid air, unable to even touch the rock to resume climbing. Unfortunately, this particular leader rigged his second and third climbers in a cow-tail configuration. That means two followers on one rope, tied into the end 3-5 meters apart. The cow tail’s fatal flaw is that, if the last climber falls, he takes the second climber with him. It is as close to unavoidable as it’s possible to get, and this party was, of course, unable to avoid it. Even more unfortunately, the leader was belaying with a plaquette-style device, perhaps even an immensely popular Petzl Reverso 3 or Black Diamond ATC-Guide. He was unable to release it and lower his team to the ledge from which they started. Long story short... with the last climber out of reach of the wall, both of them hung in the air helpless as a two-inch trout, until some other brainiac attached the third climber to an intermediate anchor and instructed her to cut the rope. (Yes, cut the rope. Don’t even go there. That’s not the point of all this.) The point is, how many Reverso 3 and ATC-Guide users have actually tried to release a dangling follower -- under a full load with the climber hanging free in the air? I have a sawbuck that says very few.
|Petzl’s recommended release and lower method is difficult to accomplish under full load.|
|Redirect the sling and the brake, attach the sling to you, and then weight it fully to open the device wide. Keep your hand on the brake!|
A handful of years ago, almost simultaneously, three gear makers introduced radical new tech in spring-loaded camming devices, or SLCDs. Metolius’ Super Cam, Trango’s Max Cam and Omega Pacific’s Link Cam all debuted in the same year to fanfare and hype that spilled over from online forums and into the bars and crags climbers frequent. Now, in 2010, there’s another bizarre newcomer to the wide world of cams, but unless you frequent those forums, you probably haven’t heard of it, let alone seen one... let alone placed and climbed above one. This newest entry into the cam market, which hails from the Basque region of Spain, is the Totem Cam. And if you’ve never even heard of it, you might want to pay attention.
Totem Cams FeaturesThe Totem Cam is not an SLCD. It is a camming device, and it is spring loaded, but Totem calls it a DLCD, a direct load camming device. Every other camming device you’ve seen is essentially the same thing: a stem connects to an axle(s), and spring-loaded cam lobes rotate around that same axle. In a Totem Cam, the lobes still rotate around an axle, but instead of to that axle, the stem connects directly to each lobe.
- Direct loading applies forces equally to each lobe, which virtually eliminates any risk of idle lobes doing nothing while the rest of them work overtime. They also have...
- The narrowest head width available and...
- A very flexible stem.
- Totems are easy to operate, even with gloves on.
- By clipping only one side of the stem, Totems are loadable on just two lobes.
- They have an effective cam angle of approximately 13 degrees combined with hard 7075-T6 aluminum lobes and...
- An expansion range of 1.64:1, which isn't amazing, but it's respectable. (Compare to: BD Camalot, 1.72:1; Metolius Power Cam, 1.47:1)
Totem Cams ReviewMetolius’, OP’s and Trango’s offerings of a few years back, all felt... different. They all had a relatively substantial learning curve. Although Totems Cams actually employ some pretty radical new tech, they feel the same as any normal cam out there. The only learning curve comes in color-size recognition. The Good
- Two strands of cable stem attach to each lobe, which makes for an awful lot of stem (eight strands!), however, these cables are thin. The result is -- by far -- the most flexible camming device I’ve ever used, including the previous king of flex, the now defunct CCH Alien. This means a few things; the two I like the most are: one, shallow horizontal placements will be more secure than with a less flexible unit, and two, Totems can absorb rope drag more effectively, which makes them less likely to walk.
- Their narrow head width allows them to fit in placements where wider cams might not.
- A normal placement would involve clipping the sling equalized between the two main stems, but if you need an especially shallow vertical placement, such as in a pin scar, you can clip just one of them (see photo). Were I an aid climber, it would be difficult to describe how psyched I would be!
- A roughly 13-degree cam angle means that a Totem Cam exerts more force outward than most every other cam. In slick rock, that’s awesome. In crumbly rock, that sucks.
- While the three largest sizes correspond in color to Black Diamond’s Camalots of similar sizes, the two smallest do not correspond to anything. I grabbed the wrong size a couple times before that sank in.
- I have some question about the Totem Cam’s durability. The same stem cables that bring the flexibility are thinner than anything else out there by far, and the trigger springs are exposed for the tweaking. I’ll try to revisit this point a few more months down the road.
- Totem Cams aren’t exactly ubiquitous in American gear stores. A retailer friend of mine mentioned that Totem offered him an exclusive online retailership... if he bought 300 full sets of cams. At roughly $55 wholesale, plus shipping and customs from Europe, that would have obliterated both his profit margin and his inventory budget. As of right now, you can only buy these babies direct from Totem, and at $80 a pop plus shipping (unless you buy a full set), they ain’t cheap.
Bottom Line:Check the Totem website to compare specs, but I think you’ll find them not far off from most other cams -- they fall someplace in the middle of the spectrum for expansion range, strength and weight. They excel in flexibility and head width, and even though they look pretty funny, they feel great in the hand and are easy to place. My local crag is the New River Gorge. While I enjoy crack climbing, my favorite routes in the world are all facey trad climbs. Shallow horizontal placements abound around here, so having a cam this flexible is like a dream come true. I now climb above such placements with a confidence I haven’t felt since... well... I’ve never felt it. That alone makes Totem Cams worth it for me. Buy Now: Holiday money burning a hole in your pants? You could do a lot worse than burning some of it Totem’s way!... Read more...
Nothing against expedition-weight down jackets, but I'm just not a fan. Perhaps it's because I don't ice fish or hang out in the Himalaya, so maybe you should just ignore my aversion. On the other hand, a lightweight down puffy jacket always catches my eye. The new Sierra Designs Gnar Jacket is a perfect example of a natural down-filled jacket that doesn't make you look like the Michelin Man. Sierra Designs Gnar Jacket Features:
- 800 Fill Goose Down
- 100% Polyester Taffeta Lining
- 1 Interior Zip Pocket
- 2 Interior Dump Pockets
- Center Front Storm Flap
- Fitted Elasticized Hood
- Elasticized Hem and Cuffs
- Lining: 100% Polyester Ripstop
- Center Back Length: 28" (L)
- Weight: 11 oz
- Colors: Syrah, Spinach, Ranger, True Blue, Espresso, Black
- MSRP: $199 ($209 hooded)
Sierra Designs Gnar Down Jacket ReviewAs mentioned, I'm not a fan of looking like the Michelin Man, but I am a fan of efficient insulation with natural down fibers. Nothing compares to the compressibility and wearability of natural down. This Sierra Designs jacket features lightweight 800-fill feathers that feel like wearing air, but keep in the warmth. The baffle design keeps the insulation neatly in place and gives the jacket a nice look. The fit of the jacket is very standard (non-athletic), which does make it well-suited as an outer layer in a pinch or an around-town cruiser. Personally, I always like a more fitted jacket for weight reduction and to minimize bulk, but I can go either way with the Gnar Jacket. The sleeves on the Medium sample offer a perfect fit in both length and diameter, but for me the jacket body could be tightened up just a tad. As it is, you just get a little extra wiggle room in the middle and an occasional zipper-induced chest bump, but nothing major. Lets talk about the sleeves for a moment. Yes, they are the perfect length and they also feature thumb ports. I could go on and on about how much I love jackets with this feature, but I'll sum it up with this: I like the thumb ports. The handwarmer pockets are the perfect size and placement for keeping your digits out of the frigid air. My only gripe with the zippers on the pockets and the front is that the zipper pull is teeny tiny. It's great for weight reduction, but is downright difficult to use with gloves on. Inside, you'll find nice finishing touches and some large pockets. For all you music lovers... nope... you don't get an iPod port. Though this jacket may be lightweight, it packs a serious warmth-to-weight ratio. A single long-sleeve layer under this puppy and you're good to go nearly everywhere but the Arctic. The Good
- Ultralight insulation at its best
- Love the thumb ports in the sleeves (LOVE THEM)
- Sleeve fit overall is perfect (length+diameter)
- Good value at $199
- Uber comfortable to wear around town and in the backcountry
- Packs down to nuthin'
- DWR sheds water well
- Don't get it too wet
- Body fit could be streamlined just a tadl
- Collar diameter should be reduced or height increased
The coveted "Gear of the Year" award by the editors of Outside Magazine is the goal of most outdoor gear makers. With The North Face Kishtwar Jacket, it really comes as no surprise as initial tests have been extremely-favorable. I've seen the Polartec PowerShield Pro fabric in action, but have yet to try the Kishtwar. I've been pitching this jacket to anyone looking for a waterproof/breathable shell since I first saw it at Outdoor Retailer in January. This one will be flying off the shelves of your local REI. Buy Now: Find the Best Price on The North Face Kishtwar Jacket Read the release below:
10.06.2010 – SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — The North Face, the world’s premier supplier of authentic, innovative and technically advanced outdoor apparel, equipment and footwear, and Polartec, LLC, the developer, manufacturer and marketer of Polartec performance fabrics today announce The North Face Kishtwar Jacket was awarded “Gear of the Year” by Outside magazine. The Kishtwar is crafted of ground-breaking Polartec Power Shield Pro, which delivers the best combination of weather protection and breathability ever offered in a single fabric. "The Kishtwar just might be the ultimate soft shell. It’s made with a brand-new fabric from Polartec that somehow manages to be impressively breathable but also remarkably tough, windproof, and water-resistant,’" said Sam Moulton, Buyer’s Guide Editor at Outside magazine. "Add it all up and you've got a versatile soft shell for everything from backcountry skiing to cool-weather hiking." The holy grail of softshell jackets, the Kishtwar Jacket is designed for highly aerobic endeavors in foul weather. Polartec Power Shield Pro allows a high rate of air permeability that significantly improves moisture transport compared to softshells that do not allow airflow, while offering superior water resistance. The hydrophobic, microporous, polyurethane membrane stops water from penetrating while still allowing airflow. The Kishtwar features high abrasion resistance, four-way stretch and non-restrictive fit. “The Kishtwar is a revolutionary solution to adventurers who, until now, often had to choose between breathability and protection,” said Philip Hamilton, Vice President of Product for The North Face. “Working closely with longtime partner Polartec, we were able to create a solution. We are honored the Kishtwar stood out during Outside’s intensive testing process.” “Serious outdoor athletes and guides have been asking for a fabric like Polartec Power Shield Pro for years,” said Nate Simmons, Global Director of Marketing for Polartec. “Recent breakthroughs in membrane technology have finally made this combination of water resistance and air permeability possible. The North Face created an all-business jacket with the Kishtwar that will answer the needs of the most demanding users.” Outside magazine’s Buyer’s Guide features the latest and greatest of outdoor product and gear, as the ultimate guide for outdoor enthusiasts. Outside’s testing team looked at more than 50 of the best new jackets, and put a dozen through the paces on a wide variety of conditions, activity and terrain, including a mountain climb in Iceland, a trek to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal, and an adventure race in Patagonia. The North Face Kishtwar Jacket was also awarded “Gear of the Year” by National Geographic Adventure. http://on.natgeo.com/9ellZK For more than 40 years The North Face athlete team has defined the limits of what is humanly possible, and continually works with The North Face Research Design and Development teams, creating innovative designs that push new technologies and inspire cutting-edge products. Watch the Kishtwar in action – video: http://tnfvideo.com/video/kishtwar-jacket/ For more information on Polartec, visit www.polartec.com For more information on The North Face, check out www.thenorthface.com Visit Outside magazine at www.outsideonline.com About The North Face The North Face, a division of VF Outdoor, Inc., was founded in 1968. Headquartered in San Leandro, California, the company offers the most technically advanced products in the market to accomplished climbers, mountaineers, snowsport athletes, endurance athletes, and explorers. The company's products are sold in specialty mountaineering, backpacking, running, and snowsport retailers, premium-sporting goods retailers and major outdoor specialty retail chains. About Polartec, LLC Polartec, LLC is the developer, manufacturer and marketer of Polartec performance fabrics. Polartec products range from lightweight wicking base layers, to insulation layers, to extreme weather protection and are utilized by the best clothing brands in the world. In addition, Polartec fabrics are used extensively by all branches of the United States military including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Special Operations Forces.Buy Now: Find the Best Price on The North Face Kishtwar Jacket... Read more...
When Metolius introduced its Safe-Tech harnesses they were the first and only such harnesses of their kind. They were born of a simple idea -- make sure that every point possible to clip or tie into is bomb proof! Safe Tech did something no other harness did: it protected the wearer from the full range of stupid harness mistakes. Forget to double back your buckle? We got your back. Clip into a leg-loop keeper strap? You’re dumber than a bag of hair, but still, we got your back. In fact, anyplace you can clip on a Safe-Tech harness is STRONG. You may be a bit uncomfortable, but you’ll live to enjoy it. You might think that, years later, the game would be different and every harness out there would be so forgiving. And yet, Safe Tech is still unique in the harness world. Such unparalleled safety consciousness, however, is not the reason I wear a Metolius Safe-Tech Deluxe today.
Metolius Safe-Tech Deluxe FeaturesThat it sits firmly atop the heap when it comes to protecting me from a hypothermic fit of dehydrated brain farting is not the Safe-Tech Deluxe’s only redeeming quality. There’s so much more:
- Engineered to provide every possible extra margin of safety
- Wherever possible, each component is engineered to withstand a load of 10 kN. * 2250 lbf (10 kN) Spectra gear loops * 3600 lbf (16 kN) Spectra rope locator * 3600 lbf (16 kN) rear haul loop * 1500 lbf (6.6 kN) leg loop elastic
- Two belay/rappel loops make setting up for rapples and multi-pitch belays easier*
- Reinforced, Long-wearing tie-in point*
- 3-D adjustable-rise system assures the perfect fit
- Shaped 3/8" foam provides maximum support to the lower back
|The author hanging around in a Safe Tech. Photo: W. Young|
Metolius Safe-Tech Deluxe ReviewI’m almost as worried about accidentally tying into a gear loop as I am accidentally onsighting 5.15. Still, that’s sort of the reason I bought my first Safe-Tech harness over six years ago. I was setting a lot of routes in the local gym, and my preferred method of carrying holds from point A to point B was via 5-gallon bucket clipped to a gear loop. I was plagued by the notion that one might break and, perhaps, send a 20-lbs. bucket of plastic -- Wile E. Coyote style -- right onto some hapless child’s head. There are three main reasons I keep on buying them. The Good
- I don’t have a typical climber’s body, which puts me somewhat at the mercy of harness designers. 3-D allows me to customize all the usual suspects plus the harness’ rise -- the vertical distance between the swami and leg loops.
- Shy of a big-wall harness, the Safe-Tech Deluxe is the king of low-back support.
- I have -- once or twice -- failed to double back my buckle before my partner caught it. Should I actually manage to leave the ground without the double pass, this buckle will still hold 10kN, which is more than most ropes’ impact-force ratings.
- I don't set in a gym anymore, but I do spend quite a bit of time equipping new routes and re-equipping old ones. With a Bosch, tools and a sack of steel hanging from the 10kN gear loop on my hip, I can swing around all day and never have to worry about it breaking.
- I don’t need two belay loops, but it’s easy enough to clip them as one.
Bottom Line:The Metolius Safe-Tech Deluxe is not just comfortable and safe. It’s more comfortable and more safe than any other harness in its class. So, if safety and comfort are your things, slip into a Metolius Safe-Tech Deluxe! If you can’t get it to fit you perfectly, well, it’s probably your fault, not the harness’. ... Read more...
Leading the charge in sustainability, Patagonia’s product line is now 90% recyclable through their Common Threads program. Kudos to Patagonia for that achievement. A new piece is the Ultralight Down Shirt ($250) that tips the scales at a mere 5.6 oz using ultralight ripstop nylon while being packed with 800-fill down for warmth. It’s packable and comfortable. The new Men’s Torrentshell Pullover ($119) is made for climbers who prefer a minimalist design so nothing gets caught up in harnesses or packs. This pullover is economical and streamlined for demanding climbers and mountaineers. Another great introduction is the new Air Flow running shirts. Available in both short-sleeve ($59) and sleeveless ($55), the Air Flow fabric features a subtle weave for extreme moisture wicking and performance. More Info: Visit Patagonia.com...Read more...
|A single factor-2 fall was harsh enough to produce core shots. The damage seen above was in the clove hitch near the belayer's end of the rope, which he had used to attach himself to the anchor. Photo courtesy of Rockclimbing.com user, "Sittingduck."|
- Leave your thin cord on the ground!
- Test your belay device on your rope of choice. Says Rich Goldstone: “If you can't do a single-strand free-hanging rappel comfortably, you'll never control a high-factor fall.”
- Buy a belay device with a grooved brake side, but be aware that according to knowledgeable and concerned sources, with a thin rope such a device still might not be enough of an edge. You may also be able to add friction to the system simply by adding a second belay ‘biner. Consider also buying a locking-assist device, such as a Mammut Smart. (But be aware that such devices are not automatically the best answer. They take a lot of practice to use well, and they tend to add impact force in a fall.)
- Wear gloves. In Goldstone’s opinion, “Gloves are in the same category as helmets.” Not everybody wears them, but everybody should.
- A guide hand is wasted in a hard fall. When belaying a leader who’s in a position to pitch bigtime, keep both hands on the brake whenever possible.
- When leading out on multi-pitch climbs always always always clip your first piece of protection before leaving the relative safety of the anchor. If possible, continue to protect often low on the pitch.
- If you believe a hard fall is likely, consider positioning the belayer several feet below the anchor, and then clipping the anchor as the first piece of protection. This shortens the potential fall relative to the amount of rope in the system and lowers the fall factor. (See photo at right.)
|Fall-factor 2 potential? CHECK. John Wesely races for the Hudson River Railroad on Grand Central, the Nears, Shawangunks, NY. Photo: © Greg Burns.|
Have you read Rope Thickness and Belay Devices, Part One? When ropes first began to really thin out, I purchased one that clocked in at a previously unheard of 9.4 millimeters. On its maiden voyage, I led out on the second pitch of something or other and placed a bomber mid-sized cam right off the belay. A few feet later I got something similarly solid, and shortly after that -- just below the crux -- I clipped a bolt. I was around 30 feet out from the belay with excellent protection, but that’s still not a lot of rope. Juggy holds were in short supply, slopers seemed more the norm, and soon, I was airborne. The fall was short by climbing standards, maybe six feet, but my wife, who was belaying with a (since discontinued) first-generation Petzl Reverso held the fall only with a maximum amount of effort. To this day, she reports being barely able to hold that small fall. She had both hands on the brake, and that alone probably saved my life. Do the math: six feet of fall divided by 30 feet of rope equals a fall factor of only 0.2. Had I fallen but a few feet higher, I might not be here to tell the tale. Had that fall been of a much higher factor, say with only the first piece off the belay -- or none -- I certainly would be talus food right now. It’s important to note that, with the knowledge of the time, we did everything right.
|Fall factor is the length of the fall before rope stretch (20 feet in the above diagram) divided by the amount of rope in the system (10 feet). This is the hardest fall possible on the least amount of energy-absorbing rope... and you and your belay device (not to mention the climber) might be left holding the bag.|
If you're like me your first experience with GoLite might have been when you saw a lightweight backpack that was small on features but light as a feather and thereby hard to forget. From the mountains of Colorado sprang a company that I think has set the bar for performance gear in the "light is right" circles. But that's not just inclined to backpacks. Since my first encounter with the brand 5 years ago, GoLite has made great strides into the worlds of lightweight footwear, hiking clothing and performance jackets like the Trinity Jacket which I scored a deal on earlier this year. When I head out into the backcountry there's one piece of gear I like to have stuffed into my pack, ready to break out if the elements turn nasty - an insulated jacket. Until now it's always been a down jacket, but when I picked up the GoLite Cady 2477 synthetic jacket I had a good feeling about it, especially when it weighs in at just one pound. Here are some features that standout: GoLite Cady 2477 Jacket Features
- Lightweight - just 1 pound
- 100% recycled shell material
- Water resistant shell
- 50% Olefin, 50% recycled polyester insulation
- Pit zips
- Two handwarmer pockets
- Very smooth and small zippers
- $150 retail price
GoLite Cady 2477 Jacket ReviewWhen you're carrying around a jacket in your pack just waiting for the conditions to be right to don it, you might start to wonder if it's a good call to carry "dead" weight. If there were a negative with the Cady it's the sizing which could only be concluded as generous or that it's completely off. Unless you like a baggy fit, I recommend sizing down so you don't waste money in shipping back an exchange. I'm 6'4'' and about 210 so I typically wear an XL jacket but the Large actually fit quite well. What could have been a negative in sizing gave me a good athletic fit that went well as a layer or an outer. During one particularly frigged ski tour this winter I had the Cady under my shell and on my most recent spring climb and ski decent of Mount Watson I used it on the summit and for the ski descent as my outer shell and if functioned equally well in both situations. The shell material is both water resistant and wind resistant and despite it's lightweight insulation I was quite surprised how much warmth it provided. I've never been one to measure warmth to weight ratios, but I would suspect the Cady is at or near the top of the list I'm sure someone has conjured up. In the cold wind atop a mountain the zipper pulls are great if you're wearing gloves and the zippers lightweight and more importantly flawless when it counts most. There's nothing worse than when you're on top of a windy peak trying to zip up your insulating jacket only to have the zipper catch on the nylon since its being puffed out. Talking zippers, I can see that come this spring and fall with the multi-directional front zipper this will be my companion on rock climbing outings where you can zip up from the bottom to belay and be free of the cool breezes while my buddy leads the next pitch. I didn't use the pit zips much but they are a nice feature to add to an insulating jacket. I can only imagine the R&D guys at GoLite were struggling with the added weight of two pit zips to an already featherweight jacket but the marketing and likely field testers won out on this feature. The Good
- Smooth zippers with easy to grip (with gloves) zipper pulls
- Water resistant and wind resistant shell
- Packs down very small
- Pit zips on an insulated jacket is a nice touch
- Recycled materials in the shell and insulation - thanks for thinking of the environment GoLite)
- Inconsistent sizing
- I did have a couple of small snags on the shell from backpack and ski use after 10+ days
Bottom Line on the GoLite Cady 2477 Synthetic Insulated JacketFew if anything in my backcountry skiing pack weighs less and delivers more security and comfort than the GoLite Cady. It's a well build and well thought out jacket that I'm certain will be seeing more summits, ski descents and adventures both as a back up jacket or as the main event. Buy Now Grab the GoLite Cady 2477 Jacket for your next climb, backcountry ski or backpacking adventure.... Read more...
This past weekend, I headed down to Moab for my last multi-sport weekend before it gets way too hot down there. I grabbed my climbing gear and my road bike and headed south with the intention of some cragging on Potash Road and a ride through Canyonlands National Park. After a sweet day of biking, my partner in adventure suggested something a bit more exciting than the Potash crag- Ancient Arts, a well-known tower in the Fisher Towers area outside Moab. Looking at my gear, I was never so happy to see my “Oh S#!t” kit packed inside my duffel. This little orange stuff sack and its contents come with me EVERYWHERE, including on multipitch climbs. Knowing that I had my little kit with me, I transitioned my day from a day at the crag to my first day of desert tower climbing. I thought I’d offer you some insight into what I bring with me any time I go outside, and why I chose the products I do. Much like the Boy Scouts “10 essentials,” this kit is what I consider my essentials any time I go outside. Do I use every part every time? Nope. Have I been SUPER psyched to have it with me on a few specific occasions? Absolutely. For all the products that our vendors carry, I’ve included a link to a more detailed review. Be sure to give it a click and check out specifics for each product. 1. Granite Gear Air Bag: Keeps all the below items with me! Lightest stuff sack I've been able to find that is still durable. 2. Purell Hand Sanitizer Wipes: Like carrying hand sanitizer with you, but with the added bonus of it being in wipe form, and no danger of it exploding all over your stuff if you change altitudes. Sanitize your hands and wipe off grime at the same time. 3. Coppertone Kids SPF 30 Stick Sunscreen: Wear sunscreen (anyone else remember that sweet song!?). To avoid getting it all over your hands before a climb, I'd use a stick form, and my fav is Coppertone Kids. It's waterproof and lasts for 6 hours. 4. Adventure Medical HeatSheet Emergency Bivvy: Super compact, and keeps you warm in a pinch. 5. Leatherman Juice Xe6 Multitool: 18 tools in one, including 1 straight knife, 1 serrated knife, screwdrivers and pliers. Great for unlocking frozen 'biners, severing cord, chopping up dinner or opening the post-climb celebratory beverage. 6. Mini Bic Lighter: Never know when you’re going to need to set something on fire! 7. Honey Stinger Energy Gel or Clif ShotBloks: Delicious! Quick energy when you really need it. Be sure to avoid that bonk! 8. 1 Luna Bar: Something with a bit more substance to snack on. 9. Charmin To Go Toilet Paper: No internal cardboard roll, just TP rolled on itself in a great tiny plastic container to keep the sand out. Great for emergency poos, nose blowings or wiping off your bloodied hands from the gnarley desert chimney you just sent. 10. Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets: If you ever end up somewhere and you’re out of water, yet have access to some source of liquid (snow, river, ice), iodine will keep you hydrated and bacteria free! (ok, there are 11 things. No one ever accused me of being good at math!) 11. Black Diamond Spot Headlamp: I never, ever, ever, ever leave without a headlamp. Even when you’re leaving at 6am. You never know what’s going to go down that is out of your control, and adding darkness to an already deteriorating situation makes it that much worse. Depending on the environment and weather forecast, I sometimes also take my Marmot Ion Windshirt, which compresses small enough to fit into my original granite gear stuff sack along with all of my other crucial materials. So, at full retail, the emergency kit I've put together costs about $80 dollars if you don't include the Leatherman (the most expensive item on my list, by far). If you're good with watching for deals, you can easily put the whole thing together for under $50, and then add the Leatherman the next time it goes on sale! The whole thing weighs about 2lbs (Leatherman also weighing the most). This way, I've got the essentials I feel I need, instead of some formulaic kit! Not too shabby for a homemade essentials kit, huh?...Read more...
I made a trip down to Coyote Gulch a few weeks ago for some light backpacking on my mini summer break, and one product I used every day was my Katadyn Hiker Water Filter (I also used my Black Diamond Lighthouse Tent, check out that review for an awesome lightweight tent). Katadyn specializes in water filtration systems, and makes a lot of really neat products. From water filters to desalination systems for boats to Micropur purification tablets, Katadyn is your water expert.
Katadyn Hiker Microfilter Specs
- Ideal for 1-2 persons
- Weight = 11 oz. Superlight!
- Max output of 1 liter/minute. I certainly don't have the arm strength to pump out a liter a minute, but the filter has that capability.
- Filters out Bacteria, Protozoa, cysts, algae, spores and sediments. This includes cryptosporidium!
- Comes with both Nalgene compatible and hydration bladder compatible attachments, so you can attach it right to your water container and worry less about spillage.
- Great for weekend, week-long and day trips. If you're looking for a product to serve you on a several month expedition, look more towards Katadyn's Endurance Series filters.
- Filter contains an active carbon core, which reduces "icky" tastes and colors in your water.
- At $59.95, it's a relatively inexpensive water filter for what you get!
As a grad student, my summer break lasts all of a week and a half. However, over that week and a half, I've been cramming in lots of adventures, and all of them have involved my Deuter Guide 30+ pack. I've had limited exposure to Deuter packs. The only other pack by Deuter that I've used is their massive NOLS pack, intended for huge loads and long periods of time. The Guide is a smaller, sleeker 30 liter pack (plus an extension), full of features. From the side zip to the ice tool holders, the guys and gals a Deuter have clearly put a lot of thought into the design of this pack.
Fit InfoThe SL means that the pack is a women's specific fit- shorter torso and slightly narrower overall. However- I'm usually a Small frame in BD packs, Arc'teryx packs and Marmot packs, and this SL torso was almost too short on me. If you're normally on the border between a Small and Regular torso length, I'd say size up with this one. Shoulder straps are set closer together, and are more narrow than on their regular packs. After wearing mine for a multi-day backpacking trip and for several days at the crag, I'm impressed at how well this pack carries. Super comfortable with moderate loads! I've yet to toss more than 40 lbs in it, but if you're carrying that much weight, you're probably looking at a larger volume pack anyways... The hip belt is conical and contoured up for women's hips. It also comes with a Vari-Flex his belt system, which allows the hip belt to pivot with you as you move over varied terrain. This distributes your load evenly, and adds to the carrying comfort of the pack. The hip belt is also removable, in case you want to go super-light one day.
Key Features of the Guide 30 SL Pack
- Compression straps- Make the pack smaller when you've got smaller loads. 2 on each side, bottom ones are a hybrid ski strap/compression strap.
- Hydration compatible
- Ice Axe loops- Different than the previous years of the Guide and most packs. No longer do you have to muck with threading your Axe upside down, and then pulling it up to secure it. The ice axe loops on the pack are more like keeper loops- picks of the axes feed into small loops and are secured both at the bottom and the top of the pack.
- Crampon storage- Top of the pack. You'll need to toss some straps on the top yourself, but it's reinforced and the right size for storing them.
- Side access zipper
- Rope carrier- Easy rope storage on the top of your pack.
My Overall ImpressionI like it! Carries well, narrow profile, and enough cool features to make it interesting without being overwhelming. I'll definitely be using mine for many adventures. There's a few areas I think could use a bit of work, though.
- Top of the pack- Small! I'm used to stashing my day's food, headlamp, cell phone, keys and my emergency kit in the top of my packs. That won't all fit in this one. Also, the top of the pack is permanently attached to the pack by a piece of fabric. When you've got the pack completely full, the top of the pack doesn't sit properly on top of it, because the fabric section limits how far you can pull the top over.
- Ski Holders- They're sweet, and double as compression straps. However, when the pack is full, a pair of Karhu Berthas (100 underfoot) won't fit in the straps. Too wide.
- Compression straps- How many people use a Ridgerest when they backpack? I'd be willing to say a large majority of people out there do. Why is it, then, that ALL pack manufacturers make their straps on the side just small enough that it's a 30 minute wrestling match to get your Ridgerest onto the side of your pack? Certainly not just an issue with my Deuter Pack. Black Diamond, Arcteryx, Marmot, Gregory, they're all guilty too. Would it hurt to make that strap 2 inches longer to eliminate all that frustration?
Despite my attempts at changing the weather with my summer-oriented dressing, it doesn't seem to be working. To brave the snowing weather, I've been running around in my Backcountry.com Shift Hooded Softshell Jacket. I've had a few different softshells before, but never one with a hood. I'm never going back! In terms of weight, I'd say this softshell falls in the midrange. Certainly heavier than the Mountain Hardwear Transition Jacket, but not as heavy as the classic Mountain Hardwear Alchemy Jacket.
Backcountry.com Shift Hooded Softshell Jacket
- Wind-Resistant Polar-Tech PowerShield Lining: Makes the Shift wind resistant yet breathable. Certainly not the most wind resistant softshell I've owned, but definitely the most breathable. So, if you're looking for a jacket with less wind resistance but more breathability, the Shift is right up your alley.
- Pockets galore: Inner iPod pocket (if you're like me and wondering what exactly makes it an iPod pocket, it's that small hole that your headphones can come out of without keeping the pocket unzipped), outer upper sleeve pocket that's just large enough for an ID, credit card and GU shot, plus fleece lined hand warmer pockets.
- Sizing: This is the only area I'd say the Shift goes a bit awry. Normally an XS to a S in jackets, I am a Medium in the Shift. Also, I have a shorter torso, and it fits me perfectly. If you've got a longer torso, I'd be sure to try it on!
- 4 Way Stretch Material: Makes it a great jacket to run/ski tour/climb in. It moves with you!
Continuing with my adventure in my Five Ten Canyoneer 2 Shoes, I also needed something to keep my sandwich, camera and topo dry for the day for my first canyoneering experience! Since my stop in Zion was not planned, I hadn't come prepared with my pelican case for keeping things waterproof. All I had that was accessible and waterproof was my Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack. Normally a home for my sleeping bag, my Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack had already served me very well as a compression sack for my down bag. Thankfully, I had yet to have an experience where I had really been able to test the waterproof-ness of my stuff sack. A day in the canyons of Zion in March really put the eVent fabric to the test.
Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack
- eVent: What a cool idea for a stuff sack. Allows air out, but doesn't allow water in. No valve necessary for air escape, and totally waterproof.
- Reinforced stitching at crucial points: After hauling this compression sack up Shasta, Rainier, Baker, throughout most of Switzerland and down into the canyons in Zion National Park, none of the seams are even showing wear.
- Pull handle makes for easy grabbing, even if it's at the bottom of a pack.
- Comes in multiple sizes, from volumes of 6 liters up to 30 liters.
Puttin' it to the test!
Finally, my search has ended. I love to climb mountains, big ones. From time to time the only way up is through a pitch or two of ice. It is not practical, weight conscious, or safe to be changing up niche crampons (racers, vert specific, or such) as the route has varying demands. Is it possible to have crampons that can pick, stick, grab, and nab the smallest rock or ice vertical purchase and still be friendly enough for the repeated and range of motion mountaineering demands? YES. It IS the Black Diamond Sabretooth. The dual front points are horizontal for solid toe picking, yet the slight curve allows you to walk at various inclines without catching the ground then you roll over the ball of your foot. The secondary points are serrated, like little saw blades keeping you solid and upright. The sub points and multi angles of points are great for multi use and mixed climbing. No matter which angle the route demands your crampons can match it. The bails are easy to engage with gloved or naked hands. The metal tongue that connects the bail to the ankle strap may look dainty, but it’s burl… kind of like the hot girl you underestimated that could totally kick your… The ankle strap stays snug, I had to tighten it once after a seven hour day climbing. My foot is an 8.5 and the center bar accommodated my half size securely. You can order an extended bar if you need Sasquatch sizes (12+ US). I have taken these on day trips, Mount Shasta, trekking in Glacier NP, vertical ice throughout the Ouray area and Maple Canyon Falls. They have handled all of it beautifully. The Rundown:
- Strong, dependable, tested
- Easy to put on /take off with gloved or naked hands
- Multiple points & multiple angles
- Amazing capacity for mixed climbing or mixed use
I'm always on the prowl for jackets with lightweight and compressible insulation. Natural down is always nice to the touch, but unless it's a full-on puffy (think Michelin Man), down feather distribution becomes inconsistent. So, when it comes to ultralight and compressible insulation, I'm digging what PrimaLoft is up to these days and the Mountain Hardwear Hooded Compressor Jacket is a perfect incarnation of lightweight and packable.
An Ultralight HoodyAvailable in hooded and non-hooded (Compressor PL) varieties, this jacket features PrimaLoft One® insulation, which has densities and weights on par with natural down, but keeps you warmer when wet than other natural or synthetic insulation. This jacket is ultralight (1 lbs. 2 oz.) and packable (can squeeze this genie into a Nalgene bottle). The exterior shell is 15D nylon with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish to keep you as dry as possible. I love the silky-smooth texture of this fabric--it's not bulky and doesn't inhibit movement in any way. I dig the extra-tall collar/hood combination. It's the right diameter, is lightweight fleece-lined and can cover your face up to your eyeballs just in case it gets really cold.
Pockets, yes Pockets... and Zippers TooWith three exterior and one interior pocket, you've got cozy hand warmer pockets lined with ultrathin fleece (I said cozy, right?) with the ability to stash other small items in the exterior or interior chest pockets. One nice feature are the quality zipper pulls. They aren't bulky and awkward, nor are they the old standard "rope in a knot" pulls (thank you!!!), but instead they are simple and easy to pull with or without gloves on. The hood is easily cinched down via the dual drawcords. What keeps it in place is a nifty little slit in the side of the cord guide... pretty simple design and much better than the standard toggle. Of course the lower hem features a one-handed pull cord and the cuffs have Velcro closures to make sure the white stuff stays outside. Mountain Hardwear Hooded Compressor Jacket Specs:
- Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz.
- Colors: Red, Green, Grey
- Insulation: Primaloft One
- MSRP: $190
Nothing worse then trudging through winter and constantly digging snow out of your boots. When I go snowshoeing I wear my Keen Targhees because they are light and very easy to run around in. The Mountain Hardwear Ascent Ventigaiters go well with low cut shoes or boots for numerous reasons. The elastic in the back fits nice and snug on a variety of footwear. I had some OR crocodiles back in the day for mountaineering and ice climbing with my Makalus. The OR gaiters are good if you have a big momma beefy boot, otherwise they are very hard to fit snug without the elastic band.
Gaiter SizingIt is hard to find the right size in a gaiter. With the OR Crocs I wore an XL and with the Ventigaiter I'm in a large. I could probably go down to a medium in the Ventigaiter though because of the type of footwear I am doing. Good rule of thumb is to go by what footwear your wearing. I wear a 10 in the Keen Targhee and a medium/large works, also depends on how massively large your calves are. With side zips on most snow pants these days the vents on the Ventigaiter work very well. When I first saw the vent I thought I wouldn't use it but for trekking up to base camp on Rainier its nice to let the calves breath. The top cinch strap seems too big, I can never get it tight enough. I always feel like the gaiter fits really loose on me unless I have extra layers.
BOTTOM LINEFor recreational use the Ventigaiter is your boy. Watch out for crampons though, you probably want to step it up to a FTX gaiter so you don't slice up the fabric. BUY NOW: The Mountain Hardwear Ascent Ventigaiter at Backcountry.com.... Read more...
Mountaineering brings on the fatigue. There is no doubt about that. When your cranking 50lbs. of gear in steel shanked boots the last thing your mind needs is heavy clunky gear. The Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe has been by my side for years and it's going to take a yeti on steroids to pry it from my white knuckle grip. My first axe was the raven from about 7 years ago and the pick was hard to grip. It was very boxy and didn't feel good at all. The Pro is vastly different. The head fits nicely between your fingers as if BD came to your house and molded your hand. The Pro doesn't have a rubber grip and I don't think it's necessary, unless you don't use gloves then by all means get the grip. In any piece of gear your always going to find something lighter. The deal with ice axes is when they hollow out the shaft that means you have a hole at the bottom of your axe. The idea of buying a axe 3oz. lighter and then possibly picking up 3oz. of snow at 12,000 feet kinda screws with my head. And at that point in the climb my head needs a vacation. I like the Raven Pro because at 13.5oz (60cm) you get a dominate beefy axe that isn't the tank of the pick line-up or the most spendy. For a straight shaft it feels good in the hand and for self arrests it is easy to maneuver (Practice also has a little to do with it). When your pounding a fluke into the snow, it's all work and no play with the Pro; solid.
Ice Axe SizingMake sure when your sizing an axe to consider the fact your going to be wearing crampons while using the axe. It's ok if the axe feels a little short. I am 5'7" and use a 60cm axe and at first it felt too short but when your reaching up in the snow and trucking you don't want to be lugging a long pole up the hill. BUY NOW: The Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe at Backcountry.com... Read more...
Last week, before the crowds descended for the Ouray Ice Festival, I had an opportunity to get away from work and spend 4 days climbing in the Ouray Ice Park. Though the weather was beautiful and temps optimal, I still relied on my Black Diamond Mercury Mitts to keep my hands warm between climbs. After years of trying different mittens to keep my low-circulation hands warm, the warmest mitt I've found (with the exception of OR's Expedition Altimitts and BDs Absolute Mitts, both intended for extreme cold weather mountaineering and certainly NOT dexterous or practical for daily climbing use) is the Black Diamond Mercury Mitt. With removable liners, the mitt is ideal for warming your hands up after a cold climb or for spending a day resort skiing in. The gloves still have enough dexterity to belay in, and have a great leather palm that offers resistance for those same belays and for great grip on ski poles.
Cool Features of the Black Diamond Mercury Mitt
- Removable Liner- allows you to efficiently dry the mitts out and ensure both the shell and insides get dry. :Liner is made of primaloft, and it provides some primo insulation! Also, "lobster claw" feature isolates your index finger from the other 3, allowing for more dexterity.
- Big gauntlet! I can put these gloves on over my softshell and MH SubZero Hooded Puffy, and they fit easily over the layers around my wrist, and still come with a drawstring to tighten.
- "Dummy Straps"- certainly not the technical term, but I can't seem to find the official name for them. Know the straps that come on the mitts so you can attach them to your wrist, and then be able to yank them off real quick without losing them? Crucial feature for me. I can't count the times my mitts would be down the hill if it weren't for those guys. Surprisingly, many adult mitts don't come with these! Apparently when you're past the age of 6 you're supposed to be able to keep track of your stuff without strings on it... Right...
If bullet proof vests were any thinner you could probably just go with the Arcteryx Alpha SL jacket. I know eVent is the big topic right now but Gore-Tex Paclite is a tough contender still standing in the waterproof-breathable ring. Of all the shells I have tried the Alpha SL is probably my favorite. It is so low-key you really forget it's there even with the rain coming down. I'm not a huge fan of velcro wrist straps on sleeves however on the SL Arcteryx made them thinner and more "out of the way". My worst nightmare is when I bend my wrist skiing and it won't budge due to bunchy wrists on my jacket. The jacket is long enough to cover your hide but still gives you movement for backpacking. I even layered this jacket on Rainier with my Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero jacket and the SL layered well. At a mere 12oz. this is the do-it-all jacket for all the seasons. The SL stands for SuperLight, and believe me, thats what you get. Add the waterproof zippers and a helmet compatible hood and the Alpha SL makes all your other jackets obsolete. For me Arcteryx fits big, I usually wear a medium in most brands but a small is what works in this brand. I am 5'8" and 165lbs. dorky looking non-smoker...if that helps. BUY NOW: The Arcteryx Alpha SL Jacket at Backcountry.com....Read more...
Winter mountaineering guarantees two things for me- cold toes and frozen camel bak valves. Last season, I switched to carrying my water in a Nalgene, insulated by an Outdoor Research Water Bottle Parka. No more frozen water! The Outdoor Research Water Bottle Parka does an awesome job insulating, and also makes it easier to access your water when hiking with a pack on. Just attach the hook and loop closure snap to any part of your pack, and you're set. I attach mine to the bottom of my shoulder straps on my pack, making it easy to grab some water whenever I feel like it!
Outdoor Research Water Bottle Parkas
- Two different sizes- liter and half liter
- EVA molded foam around base and lid is great reinforcement! Drops, snags, rubs against rocks, the foam survives it all!
- Functions for both keeping things hot AND cold. Keeps your water from freezing, but can also double as a lightweight thermos! Hot coffee, anyone?
The best of both worlds is what you get with the La Sportiva Makalu boot. You get a tough rugged steel-shanked sole coupled with a comfortable soft side. What more could you ask for on your Ouray trip or glacier trek? Other then a foot massage after every pitch... The makalu has been my choice for the past 8 years for all my ice and glacier ascents. Recently a friend of mine has been shopping around for a boot and asked me what I think. Even with all the new tech and fancy details with other boots, I would get the makalu again. The rubber material around the toe is perfect for keeping the boot dry when your front pointing. The leather is plenty burly for years of abuse. I have seen a lot of forest fire fighters use this boot and you know those guys put on the serious miles. I put on Nikwax every so often and that keeps up the waterproofing just fine. The locking mechanism for the laces is a very nice feature when you need that extra 'oomf' and security. Especially when your ice climbing the laces keep you on your A-game. If your looking for warmth I would suggest going with the Nepal or Spantik. I've done all my Rainier ascents with the Makalu and have been fine though. The fact that their 2lbs. 1oz. is also nice, they won't weigh you down. BUY NOW: The La Sportiva Makalu Mountaineering boot at Backcountry.com....Read more...
This year, I made the switch from snowboarding back to skiing after 12 years of boarding. Naturally, I couldn't be seen wearing my ridiculous and baggy snowboarding pants while ski touring, so the switch in sports necessitated new pants. I went with a bomber pair of versatile bibs, the Arc'Teryx Theta SV Bibs, and man, did I end up with a killer pant! The Arc'Teryx Theta SV Bibs are made of GORE-TEX Pro Shell material, so they're fairly light and very water repellent. The bib style was new to me, after years of low-hip riding Burton snowboarding pants, but it's quickly growing on me for skiing and alpine climbing.
Arc'Teryx Theta SV Bibs- Favorite Features
- Bibs are high waisted! Definitely took some getting used to, but in the end, it keeps all the snow out of your backside on pow days (which have been plentiful in the Wasatch as of late!). The back panel on the bibs is a stretch panel, so you still have some moveablity. Also, they come with a built in "belt" so that you don't have extra material sagging around your waist.
- Suspenders on bibs can be unhooked at the front- so if you really don't want those bibs to feel like bibs, you can unhook the front, and roll the top down over the "belt." I tried this, and though it seemed to work, in the end, I just got so comfortable with the bibs and suspenders that I left it alone!
- Articulated knees and seat- great for the newbie skier (me!) who might be spending some time on their "seat"!
- Powder cuffs on pant- really adjustable! Fit around every boot I could try them on with, from alpine touring to ice climbing boots. Inner powder cuff has a great hook that attaches to shoelaces like a gaiter.
Probably one of my favorite genres of gear; the helmet. Instead of hitting the hospital after hitting the crag bring a helmet, and don't just hang it on the back of your pack put the lid on. Black Diamond has been perfecting the Half dome for a while now. Ever since my start on rock and ice my head has been cuddled underneath the domes foam and plastic.
Don't MessWhen your buying cams or safety gear you just don't skimp. It's not exactly the kind of gear you go to a flea market searching for a 'good deal'. Your head deserves the premium gear which is exactly what Black Diamond provides with the half dome. The headlamp clips are perfect for throwing on the lamp in a rush. They keep your light secure and if you ever flip upside down for whatever reason, don't worry about losing your light (been there done that). The weight is perfect for all around use. Coming in at 12.2oz the half dome feels solid up on top. On Rainer or on Potash this helmet is great for heat regulation and fits perfect with a beanie when needed.
BD DesignThe other thing I like about the helmet design is it doesn't shoot forward where you have to re-adjust all the time. The rear strap adjuster is an awesome bonus with the half dome to make adjusting a breeze. The chin strap is comfy and the strap are attached in such a way that when you tilt your head forward it stays solid. Save your dome and save the flea market for angel figurines and yucca rain sticks. BUY NOW: The Black Diamond Half Dome at Backcountry.com. ... Read more...
Garmont introduces a new men’s AT boot line for Winter 2009/2010 based on their ground-breaking a.d.d. Wrap. The Garmont A.D.D. Wrap overlap ski mountaineering boots set a new standard in ski mountaineering boots. Their unique overlap more closely follows the anatomy of the foot and lower leg for crisp, precise downhill performance, while cradling it comfortably and securely for touring comfort. The unique overlap design eliminates the restrictive tongue to allow more independent movement between the cuff and lower shell. That means better walking, climbing, and skinning, with a progressive downhill flex. These boots’ balanced design provides the best of all worlds: light and comfortable on the tour, formidable on the descent. Radium and Shogun utilize the Rapid Thermoformable liners, the most refined fully-thermoformable liners available. Helium has the lower Flash liner with the same technology. Four foam thicknesses and densities each serve a specific purpose. A new softer, thinner elastic thermoformable toe insert offers warmth and additional comfort. Extra reinforcement around the cuff aids in comfort when leveraging over fat skis and in high-speed turns. The tongue is reinforced with a plastic T-Bar® made of Pebax®. The new Stobel-stitch sole design allows the footbed and foot to sit flatter and more anchored in the liner, while it maximizes forefoot width for comfort. The Radium is the highest-performance ski mountaineering boot on the market, truly the best of both worlds—touring and skiing. It is light and very easy-walking, yet as stiff and responsive as an alpine boot. The Radium’s unique overlap design allows the cuff and lower shell to function very independently when hiking, yet it buckles down securely to descend like the best alpine boots. Its responsive multi-injected lower shell and cuff are built from Pebax® for the lightest weight and least temperature sensitivity. The new Shogun is the benchmark for step-in Touring Norm binding compatibility. Like the Radium, it is flexed for performance. Its multi-injected lower shell has a unique flex insert for touring ease, multi-injected cuff for a close, responsive fit with awesome leverage. Burly enough to rip the toughest terrain and conditions on big skis, it’s still light enough for extended tours. The Helium walks like an ultralight and skis like a 4-buckle. Its multi-injected Flex Insert is tuned for easy touring and scrambling, while its High Overlap shell and cuff close around the foot and leg securely for ripping the descent. The Helium’s High Overlap panel provides the forward contact and skiing control of a much bigger 4-buckle model—a huge advantage in such a tourable boot. TECH* or UNI compatible, the Helium is our choice for long tours and more technical terrain that requires scrambling and crampon work. The Daemon balances superb walking with outstanding skiing performance for the varied demands of all-around ski mountaineering. Thanks to its innovative a.d.d. Wrap overlap design, its cuff and lower shell move independently for easy touring, with precise, aggressive downhill performance. The Daemon is compatible with both the TECH* binding system and the ISO norm for step-in ski mountaineering bindings.
2009/1010 Garmont RadiumLiner: Rapid Thermoformable Sizes: 25-30.5 Mondo Color: Aubergine MSRP: $759.95 Binding Compatibility: Universal Ski Mountaineering, TECH*
2009/1010 Garmont ShogunLiner: Rapid Thermoformable Sizes: 25-30.5 Mondo Color: Red/Grey Pearl MSRP: $659.95 Binding Compatibility: Universal Ski Mountaineering
2009/1010 Garmont HeliumLiner: Flash Thermoformable Sizes: 25-30.5 Mondo Color: Spring Green MSRP: $729.95 Binding Compatibility: Universal Ski Mountaineering, TECH*
2009/1010 Garmont DaemonLiner: Rapid Pad-Lock Sizes: 25-30.5 Mondo Color: Blue/Grey Pearl MSRP: $629.95 Binding Compatibility: Universal Ski Mountaineering More Info: Visit GarmontUSA.com... Read more...
When I think of skins I can't help but laugh. Such an amazing and great invention and yet so easy to really screw up when your cutting them. For my first pair of un-used skins I jumped on to TGR and searched around for tips. Luckily I had some great advice that prevented some massive mistakes. Even if you do make a couple junky cuts the Black Diamond STS skins make up for it with solid performance on the up and up. The great thing about the STS skins is the rear attachment is all ready to go. I had to attach that thing back in the day for another pair of skins and it is super tough, and in the process I think I lost 30% of the pieces. Not good. Ok back to the STS. Fit super strong on the ski and don't flop around as your climbing. You can always get the Nikwax skin waterproofer that helps keep them dry and working primo, but as is these skins kill it. You will notice on the sticky side that their is about an inch wide strip that goes from the tip to the tail. Not exactly sure of the mind set behind this but I am pretty sure it is to decrease the amount of glue that your using to make taking the skin off easier. Leave it to BD to keep up on the innovation. Throw in a reversible tip loop to fit a wide range of tips and the ultra solid camming device for the tail and your on your way. You can also check out this video from Brig reviewing the Glidelite skins. BUY NOW: The Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS skins at Backcountry.com....Read more...
Let's talk about speed. Specifically, the Speed and how fast you can move when carrying it. The Black Diamond Speed pack is a stripped down, alpine-style pack burly enough for all your speed ascents without adding extra weight. A top loading pack that comes in 30 or 40 Liters, the Speed can be used for a multitude of adventures. Personally, I own both the 30L and the 40L size (yes, I know, I am a gear freak... Some women buy heels. I buy gear), and I use them for most all of my car to car climbs, a pack for a multipitch rock routes or a larger day hike pack.
Black Diamond Speed Pack- Loaded with cool features!
- Dual ice axe loops
- Crampon patch is reinforced so you can keep the 'pons on the outside of the pack and not worry about skewering it!
- Built with 210d Nylon... Which looks so light, it'd rip if you breathe on it wrong. However, after car to car ascents on Rainier, Hood and Shasta, and traveling around Europe for a month this past summer, I have HAMMERED this pack, and the material is still in top notch condition!
- Top of the pack is completely removable, so you can strip down more weight if you're not using it.
- Comes in a Small/Medium frame size or a Medium/Large frame size!
After a long day of classes yesterday, a friend and I decided that to waste the new snow would be sinful, so we headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon for some nighttime touring. I ran straight from classes to the hill, again totally psyched on gear that can perform in both situations. This time I was wearing my Arc'Teryx Rho LTW Zip Top. The Arc'Teryx Rho LTW Zip top is a great layering piece for adding warmth and still keeping you dry. The Merino wool (see, I told you all I was addicted!) insulates when wet, wicks great, and of course, keeps the stink to a minimum.
Arc'Teryx Rho LTW Zip Specs
- Great fit! Close to skin, but not 80's spandex tight. Definitely true to size, and nicely cut for a woman's figure.
- Laminated sleeve pocket is great for credit card, driver's license or iPod
- Zippered collar allows for some extra ventilation when you want it, or keeps your neck toasty when it gets a bit colder.
- Works great as a mid layer. I wear a super lightweight short sleeve underneath this most days. Functions as either a heavier next to skin layer or a lightweight mid layer, depending on what your system is, what the outside temp is and how active you're planning on being.
It was a nice sunny day at Snowbird. The ski area was buzzing with shredders, the slopes smelled of pine, and the clouds seemed to twinkle...errr hold up! Before this turns into poetry hour lets get into the gear. Had the chance to try out the Arcteryx Beta AR pant today and I am pleased to share my findings.
The GoodThis pant is beefy. The ankle panels feel like alligator skin and the GORE-TEX has a Chuck Norris beat down feel to it. Durability has never been a question with a brand like Arcteryx. The pant has nicely placed side zips to keep air passing through. The vent starts at the top of the pant a little below the waistline so you can actually grab it rather then fiddle around with your jacket. I used my Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch tight underneath and it was a good match for the semi-chilly temps. No back pocket, just a little pocket on the right to fit chapstick and two forms of I.D. I like the one pocket because it forces me to leave stuff in the car. The other thing that was missing, that I didn't miss, was that gator thingy that bunches up and hardly ever fits around my ski boot. They replaced that cuff with a cord cinch which is more minimalist. For the record the bottom of the pant fit perfect around my boot.
The Not So GoodI know these pants are focused towards mountaineering but for the price tag I would also like to use them for my telemark trail blazing. I found these pants really hard to drop a knee in. The knee is articulated somewhat but I think it is only slightly for ice climbing and hiking. When I did drop a knee I felt like the pant was either hiking up my leg or pulling my pants down. I'm gonna have to get with the program and match my sport with one of the many Arcteryx fraternities.
Beta AR Specs
- Weight: 16.6oz.
- 3/4 length side zips that are waterproof.
- Straight forward belt with elastic waist band.
If I ever start boxing my choice of vest weaponry would be the North Face Nupste Vest. The thing is straight up beefy and if anyone ever bit my ear off I could use it as a pillow to wait for the ambulance to arrive. My sorry 150 lbs. won't be entering the ring anytime soon so I'll probably just use this vest for keeping the vitals cozy in the cold.
The WarmthIn the past I used my down jacket under my shell for the super cold days. The problem with that is I limit my arms to little or no movement. Overheating is also a problem when sporting a full down coat. That all goes away when I slip on the Nupste underneath and in most cases has plenty of feathers to lock in the heat. For running a muck downtown late at night this vest also keeps my hands warm with the fleece lined pockets. Gotta keep the paws warm when your throwing snowballs at strangers.
The FabricOver the years The North Face has made a stronger more water resistant nylon with their insulated jackets. The nupste has a mini-ripstop weave nylon which is very durable however I wish it was even more water resistant then it is. That is my only gripe. Not that your going to be using this in a down pour but it's always nice to keep the feathers inside toasty and dry.
The Low Down
- 700 goose down fill, good for all around use.
- Weight: 19.2oz and has a stow pocket to make that pillow mentioned above.
- I usually wear a medium, the nupste is a bit big on me so consider sizing down.
Like Claire said, the Wasatch is getting the flakes and the chilly weather no doubt. I am glad to have the Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Tights on hand to get that extra warmth for making turns and avoiding hypothermia. Stretchy pants aren't just for Nacho Libre. These pants are going to be more of a heavyweight layering piece which I like for cold days and mountaineering. I am not a yoga person but I am sure if your into winter yoga the athletic fit will provide all the desired freedom. The stitch near the ankle is very low profile which is great for tucking it into my ski boot and not having it bunch up. The Polartec fleece also does wonders for keeping dry which surprises me for such a heavyweight bottom. I have been using capilene for a long time and its great for touring and for warmer conditions. The Power Stretch is 'the bottom' to sport for those colder temps where you need to be generating heat rather then focusing on the wicking power of a lighter bottom. I don't see that Mountain Hardwear has come out with the Nacho red and blue scheme, maybe next year.
Stretchy Pant Highlights
- Elastic waistband to reduce bulk.
- Snug athletic fit all around, no bagginess.
- I am 5'8" and the medium works great, around a 30" inseam.
- Impressive price for such a hardcore piece of gear.
It DUMPED here in the Wasatch yesterday! So, between my 8am mid term and 12:20pm class today, I headed up to Alta to get some pre-season touring in. I cruised up in a pair of shell pants and my Patagonia Capilene 3 Bottoms. Patagonia Capilene 3 Bottoms are great for those of us who get cold legs when kickin' it in the outdoors. Even while touring, my lower body is always cold. Top half, I'll be in a short sleeve shirt, but my bottom half seems to always require a bit more insulation. Patagonia Capilene 3 Bottoms appear to be just the right weight for me, from touring to keeping warm on the downhill as well.
Patagonia Capilene 3 Bottoms
- Mid rise waist fits nicely compared to other bottoms. You're not dealing with fabric all the way up your rib cage, but there's enough there to get the job done.
- Gusseted crotch allows for a great range of motion, ideal for that back and fourth touring motion.
- Sizing runs on the larger size. At 5 foot 3 inches and 110 lbs, I needed an extra small to get the waist to fit just right. I'm usually a small in bottoms, not an extra small.
- Great wicking! Moisture is drawn away from your body very efficiently.
Everyone has a shirt or pair of comfy pants that they will never lend to anyone because the thought of losing it would make that person never want to get out of bed. Ok, this is mine. I have had the Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Zip T for 6 years now and this year on the anniversary I made sure to take it out for dinner. For a heavyweight layering piece I use it for skiing and for mountaineering. The reversible design is great for switching things up. You can switch out the soft side to outside for a more warmer trip and vice versa for the more colder weather. The zipper is also really nice because it doesn't irritate my chin at all. The arms stay nice and snug when you put on your shell so your not having to pull shirt scrunchies through the arm hole. For touring it is a little warm so I would stick to the merino. I have loved this shirt for hanging around camp and cold weather ski days. I know merino is pleasing the masses but Polartec will always have a spot in my drawer. Overall this a low bulk fit that is very comfy for all around winter use. Off the topic, I actually used this top for a job interview one time and it worked out nice. BUY NOW: Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Zip T at Backcountry.com....Read more...
For my light and fast alpine adventures that require a little more warmth than my transition tights, I love to use the Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants. The perfect weight for a lightweight softshell, they are awesome on their own in warmer temperatures, and make for great cold weather wear when paired with a baselayer. The Alpine Guide Pants are super stretchy and also wind resistant, so they work great for those colder days at the crag at the end of the season, when you're trying hard to stretch rock season as long as it can go (much like all of us are doing here in the Wasatch Range right now...)! If you are wanting to invest in one softshell pant that will serve a variety of uses, I would get this one!
Women's Alpine Guide Pant
- Belt Loops! My favorite feature on any climbing pant, and surprisingly enough, not a lot of pants have them.
- Pant legs have a zippered cuff, and also an elastic drawcord, so you can cinch them down tight when necessary or open the zipper for more space.
- DWR (Durable Water Repellent) Finish makes these pants great in snow and light rain.
- Low profile zippers on pockets keep them out of the way when not in use, still leaving you access to a total of 4 pockets, but not in an obtrusive way.
I will be the first to admit it- I am not a fan of change. So when I saw the new, redesigned Mountain Hardwear Gaiters, I was a bit skeptical. However, Mountain Hardwear has taken a great gaiter and improved upon its design to make it an awesome one! The Mountain Hardwear Xenon Stretch Gaiter is intended specifically for high altitude mountaineering, though it also works great for those snowy day hikes. Sizing is specifically adjusted to mountaineering boots, and the cordura portion of the gaiter keeps those crampon spike holes to a minimum.
Mountain Hardwear Xenon Stretch Gaiters
- Waterproof stretch panel on back allows for freedom of movement without sacrificing the integrity of water resistance.
- Widened velcro closure panels keep gaiters shut no matter how much you move in them!
- New buckle system eliminates possibility of breakage- stay put closure system with rubber keeps your bottom boot straps in place without the traditional metal buckle.
- Boot straps are replaceable! A broken strap no longer means a brand new gaiter.
- Despite being "men's" gaiters, the smaller size fits great on women's smaller boots.
Whenever I leave the house for a hike, no matter the length, one item always tossed into the back of my truck is my Black Diamond Expedition Trekking Poles. Collapsing down small, they fit on the side of any of my packs when not in use, and extend out to my length of choice when I need them. Along with hiking, I use these poles as my backcountry ski poles, for many of the same reasons. They work great for the ascent and descent. Black Diamond's poles use their patented FlickLock system, which I have yet to see fail in a variety of different uses. Once you set the lock at your chosen length, it stays there. No problem with your poles collapsing when you don't want them to!
Black Diamond Expedition Trekking Poles
- Patented FlickLock system keeps poles adjusted to your length, no matter what terrain you take them on!
- Poles come in 2 sizes (125cm and 140 cm)
- Plastic/Rubber combo on the grip doesn't freeze with snow like many of the foam grips do.
- 3 piece design allows the poles to collapse down smaller
It finally snowed today! And what was the first thing I did amidst the blowing wind and 6 fresh inches? Headed to the mountains, armed with all my winter gear, including my Patagonia R1 Balaclava. Headed for the summit, my R1Balaclava is always in the top of my pack, ready for when the weather gets to be too much for my face alone to handle. The Patagonia R1 Balaclava is thin enough to fit under a helmet easily, and yet thick enough to provide some serious warmth.
Key Features of the Patagonia R1 Balaclava
- Face opening covers nose, but can easily be pulled down to expose mouth, depending on the weather!
- Long cowl of balaclava keeps your neck covered
- Sized! Comes in Small, Medium and Large, so you can be guaranteed to get just the right fit.
- R1 material has some stretch to it, making the balaclava form fitting.
Most people buy a down jacket like the Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Hooded Jacket to wear for cold weather expeditions or frigid ice climbing belays. I bought mine to stay warm in my insanely cold college rental house. No, I actually bought mine for ice belays and glacier travel, but it has seen as much action in my kitchen in December as it has on summits in the cascades. The Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Hooded Jacket is a 650-fill down jacket. All the seems are welded, which eliminates stitching, thus eliminating cold spots. It also comes with a whopping 5 pockets; 2 outside fleece lined, 1 chest pocket and 2 internal mesh pockets (great for water bottle insulation and storage!). Another awesome feature of the Sub Zero SL is that the external fabric is Conduit SL laminate, offering a waterproof yet breathable outer later. This allows you to wear a down jacket out in the snow and be much less concerned about the down getting wet and losing its insulating properties.
Key Features of the Sub Zero SL Hooded Jacket
- Jacket now comes in both Women's and Men's sizes!
- Fleece lined outer pockets and collar make for extra comfort
- Reinforced abrasion areas (elbows, back of jacket) add durability
- Detachable hood with a one-handed draw cord.
So this past weekend I went back to the Tetons to climb, and it poured. Absolutely bucketed. Amidst all the rain, at the trailhead, I managed to leave on of my most treasured pieces of outdoor gear sitting out on a log, and didn't realize this until about 2 hours later, when we had already driven out of Jackson Hole and were well on our way home. I turned the car around, and headed straight back to pick up my beloved Patagonia Micro Puff Hooded Jacket. What piece of gear is worth driving a grand total of 4 hours extra for? The Patagonia Micro Puff Hooded Jacket. It's synthetic construction (made of recycled polyester fibers) keeps you warm even in the wettest of conditions, its primary advantage over down. Cut slightly longer so as to keep your lower back warm, but not so long that it becomes a hindrance with a pack on, Patagonia has hit it right on with their Micro Puff design.
Patagonia Micro Puff Hooded Jacket
- At 20 oz, a super lightweight choice for a puffy jacket
- Large, adjustable hood fits around helmets, but can also cinch down to fit around small heads!
- Adjustable drawcord hem allows you to tighten the bottom when the elements get the best of you
- 3 pockets allow for lots of storage
- Comes with a matching stuff sack for extra portability
Looking for a lightweight, minimalist harness for all your alpine climbing endeavors? The Alpine Bod is the harness for you. For use in any alpine environment, the Alpine Bod has 2 gear loops, easy removability, and best of all, packs down to the size of your fist! With Black Diamond's quick release leg loop system, you can easily take your harness off while keeping your crampons on, without having to worry about hopping around on one leg and hoping not to put a spike through your harness with the other (I like to call it the alpinist dance... Maybe I'll try that move out at the next party I go to!). You can simply unclip the leg loops and undo the waist buckle, and you're out! As a female, this is an added bonus for me for bathroom trips... You can even leave the waist belt buckled, meaning that you can stay tied in, a crucial point for glacier travel bathroom excursions.
Black Diamond Alpine Bod Harness
- Weighs only 14 oz and packs down to the size of your fist
- Comes in XS-XL, fitting waists from 26 inches to 37 inches
- 2 gear loops for ice screws, glacier rigs, or whatever your alpine adventure necessitates
Picking up the Grivel Air Tech Racing Ice Axe, you'll have to look twice to make sure you're actually holding it! At 14.1 oz, the Grivel Air Tech is the lightest forged steel ice axe on the market. With other great features, you can be sure that this light tool isn't cutting any corners to make weight. With a classic positive pick and a shovel on the head, the Grivel Air Tech Racing Axe has proven itself a valuable tool in multitudes of situations. The aggressive pick on the head makes the tool versatile enough to use as a technical ice tool if necessary. From high daggering on the Skillet Glacier on Mt. Moran to glacier travel in the Cascades, the axe is a critical tool for any weight conscious mountaineer who doesn't want to scrap the technical versatility.
Key Features of the Grivel Air Tech Racing Ice Axe
- Comes in a range of sizes, from 48cm up to 74cm
- Shaft resists up to 280kN of force, so it can take that brute force self arrest!
- Head composed of hot forged chromolly steel
As a first year graduate student in a clinical speech therapy program and a part time rock and ice climbing instructor, free time is not something I seem to get a lot of. However, on those rare weekends that I do have to myself, I love to pack as much adventure into a short period of time as possible. Recently, my climbing partner and I have developed a reputation as car-to-car maniacs, ascending large peaks in under 24 hours, with minimal gear and maximum speed. Among the peaks in the past year have been Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood (both in the same 3 day period!) and The Grand Teton all in this light and fast alpine style. An absolutely crucial part of these trips for both my climbing partner and myself is our Mountain Hardwear Transition Jackets. Lightweight yet bomber, these jackets provide the essential wind protection we need without being as bulky as a regular softshell layer. A breathable windstopper softshell with stretch side panels, the MH Transition Jacket does it all. From Mt. Rainier, to cross country skiing, to on campus bike commuting in cooler temperatures, this jacket is the best breathable wind resistance I own. Another plus for late night trail runs and biking- the Transition Jacket has several small reflector swatches on the jacket and an mp3 zip pocket in the back of the jacket.
Mountain Hardwear Transition Jacket
- At 10 oz, this lightweight, slim cut jacket provides maximum usage and minimal bulk.
- Thumb hooks in sleeves ensure that jacket stays anchored down on arms, but are retractable when not necessary.
- Small, fitted hood fits great under climbing and biking helmets.
- No frills, simplistic design for front of jacket keeps zipper pulls and pockets out of the way as you are haulin' in the backcountry.
Yeah, you've seen them being hauled on yaks, headed for Everest Base Camp on the North side. Perhaps it was that die hard climber you saw in Kennedy Airport on his way to some far off climbing destination and as he weaved his way through the suits a base camp duffel was his companion, carried like a backpack. For a split moment you pictured yourself, sans briefcase and suit, swapping places with the unshaven yet striking figure. Wherever you may have seen one, if you're like me, you've come to realize that when it comes to duffel bags that can take whatever you can dish out the Base Camp Duffel from The North Face is the standard. So I finally picked one up a couple of months ago. Now I, like that climber in Kennedy Airport, can toss all my cams, a rope, a harness, change of clothing, down jacket, et al into the duffel and head out on an adventure. Or, like the two weeks ago I can put my Scarpa Spirit 3 ski boots, my crampons, and the rest of my ski mountaineering gear into the duffel and head out to Mt. Hood to climb and ski the WyEast face. Regardless of the trip I get the feeling that this duffel is going to last me a LONG time.
The Ins and Outs of the Base Camp Duffel (BCD)Let's get into the details. The BCD comes in 4 different sizes and the in the large size which I have it weights in at 4lbs. The weight primarily is due to the PVC tarpaulin material that is very thick and water/wind/stain/everything you don't want inside proof. It's as bomber as it looks. The bottom of the bag has a tough cordura outer layer. The zipper is big and tough. It's two way and will allow for a lock. I'm not too psyched on the "D" opening, not because it's big and wide but because it doesn't allow for smooth zipping on the corners. I can't imagine that I'm the first person to find this annoying but hey, when you're The North Face I guess you just make stuff and people buy it, end of story. It's really not that big of a deal, but enough that I'm spending too much time talking about it. For carrying the bag there is a padded shoulder strap or if you're headed to the climbing crag just toss it on your back using the alpine-cut shoulder straps - converting this duffel into a "pack". Other features include a daisy chain, an internal mesh pocket on the flap that I found convenient for small stuff, twin haul handles on each end and four compression straps. Basically, it's not your basic duffel. Grandpa would be impressed.
- Plenty of size - Large=5600cu in and 28" x 16" x 16"
- Alpine-cut shoulder straps (read: real backpack straps)
- Bomber construction with cordura bottom and PVC tarpaulin material
- North Face guarantee that it will last or they'll replace it
Anyone that goes backcountry skiing with me knows that I've got a particular beanie that I typically use. It's knit acrylic with holes that are great for venting, but if it gets windy I have to put on a skull cap under the beanie to keep the wind at bay. If I'm climbing I'll likely wear the skull cap under my helmet but if I'm bouldering I've also got a separate beanie that I use. However, if I'm heading out around town I have yet another one that I'll wear and when I....ok, you get the picture. That was the way things happened in the hat world for me until I got my hands on the Meru Hat from Ibex.
Background on IbexIbex is the category leader in all things merino wool. Beyond leading the category they also lead the Merino industry in standards set for the care of the sheep that produce the wool they use. They have helped to raise the bar for merino farmers in New Zealand and set high standards for themselves both in the quality of merino and in dealing only with farmers who respect the animals that give them their livelihood, namely forbidding the practice of mulesing. The care of getting the best wool translates to the quality of their products.
How I Use the Meru HatThe Ibex Meru is branded as a midweight beanie but I'd call it light to mid weight. Despite its lighter build in now way does it mean you'll sacrifice warmth or dependability when things get down right cold or windy. In fact, last year during Discovery Channel's showing of "Beyond the Limit" which followed Russell Brice's Himex Expedition team on the North side of Everest, I noticed that one of the guides being interviewed was wearing the Meru! Talk about confirming the obvious! When it's windy the tightly woven merino is virtually windproof but unlike the Gore Windstopper beanie I have from The North Face, the Meru is soft, supple and breaths like, well, like nature intended it to. Ibex gave the Meru Hat flatlock seams which keeps it fitting well and free of those itchy spots that were so omnipresent in your wool hat that Grandma gave you when you were a kid.
Features and the Bottom LineTo recap the features of the Meru Hat:
- Flatlock seams and a bit of stretch both give the hat a smooth fit and feel
- Tightly woven wool is nearly windproof
- Light to Mid-weight build that is ample warm yet breathes very well
The first time I laid eyes on the Diad jacket from The North Face I knew buying it would be a no brainer. These were the basic specs:
- 7 oz total weight
- Fully adjustable hood
- Waterproof, seam-sealed, breathable
- Designed for Ski Mountaineering