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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...
What exactly is a "Compounder"? Adhesive substances? Nope. Fractions? Nope. An awesome jacket meant for whatever you can throw at it? Yep. Columbia continues to step up their game. The Columbia Compounder Jacket is great all-around jacket for those who like to get out doing a lot of different things. Columbia sent me the Compounder to review this spring and summer.
Columbia Compounder Jacket Features
- Fabric: 100% 2.5 layer polyester plain weave
- Omni-Dry ultra breathable waterproof fully seam sealed
- Omni-Wick EVAP® advanced evaporation
- Attached, adjustable, helmet compatible storm hood
- Drawcord adjustable hem
- Waterproof zippers
- Drop tail
- 5 pockets
- Internal key clip
- Abrasion resistant chin guard
- Center back length: 30 in
- Price: $300
Columbia Compounder Jacket ReviewThe Columbia Compounder Jacket would fit well in the "all-around" jacket category. It is a strong performer in a lot of different conditions. The combination of the 2.5 layer Omni-Dry construction was more than enough to keep the weather out. From rain storms, to blizzards, to 40 mph winds, the Compounder kept the weather at bay. I had full confidence when I wore it. The thing that sets it apart from other jackets is the Omni-Wick Evap technology. This is supposed to make the Compounder ultra breathable by using "a special compound that disperses sweat quickly across a broad surface area for accelerated evaporation.". I'm a sweat machine so I was very excited about this. I came away from testing with mixed feelings. Overall it does a decent job. In cold conditions it did well moving moisture. When temps were warmer I was sweating more than the jacket could move. It's definitely not an "active" jacket for running but it does well for hiking, backcountry skiing, resort skiing, or other activities that don't have high levels of output. To be completely fair, other shells have a hard time keeping up with moisture management. With that in mind, though, the Compounder is one of the better performing jackets when it comes to moisture management. It does come with full pit zips which help with additional ventilation. The hand pockets are mesh lined so if things get bad you can open them up as well. The downfall to the mesh pockets is when you get sweaty whatever is in your pockets will get soaked. The two hand warmer, two inside pouch, and one chest pocket allow you to carry way more than you need in your pockets. The fleece lined chin area keeps your face from getting rubbed raw. The drawcord hem will help keep the weather out. The Compounder is relatively lightweight and packs down pretty small. I've kept it stashed away in my pack for when I need it. Once again it's a good all-around jacket so it won't get as small or as lightweight as some shells out there. The hood is big and adjustable. It will fit over many helmets and can snug down tight. It handled 40 mph crosswinds on Mt Hood without shaking or flapping loose. I was able to adjust it small enough to give good coverage of my face. The length is long enough to give good coverage for when your skiing but not so long that you look like a dork when you wear it around town. The Good
- Great all-around jacket
- Lightweight and pack able
- Relatively breathable
- Mesh pockets allow contents to get sweaty
Bottom Line:The Columbia Compounder is a strong contender. It's a good all-around jacket. Buy Now: Pick up the Columbia Compounder Jacket[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
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...
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...
We just received some very cool news from The North Face's Expedition Team of Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards. They have successfully nabbed the summit of Pakistan's Gasherbrum II peak -- its first successful Winter ascent. Braving extreme cold, the weather held up just enough for their successful bid. Congratulations, fellas... well done! Read on for more details from The North Face.
We’re thrilled to announce that an expedition team of The North Face athletes, including Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards, has reached the Summit of Gasherbrum II (GII) at 8,035m (26,362ft) in Pakistan. This milestone achievement marks the first 8,000m peak to be climbed in the Karakorum mountain range during the winter season, and the first American [Richards] winter ascent of an 8000m peak. This is Moro's third 8,000m ascent in winter (Shisha Pangma in 2005 and Makalu in 2009) and Urubko's second (Makalu in 2009). Moro, Urubko and Richards left base camp (5,100m) on Sunday January 30th and reached the summit this morning at 11:28 am PKT (Pakistan Standard Time), with temperatures at about -23˚ C. The team is now beginning its descent back to base camp, which will take approximately two days. Via satellite phone, Moro said "It has been very hard, but the three of us feel well.” We wish the team the best of luck for the remaining descent. Weather Window Open As Moro, Urubko & Richards Go For Summit Lugano, Switzerland, January 29, 2011 – The North Face®, the world’s premier supplier of authentic, innovative and technically advanced outdoor apparel, equipment and footwear, receives a green light as Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards go for summit on the morning of Sunday January 30th 2011, in their attempt of the first winter ascent of 8,035m (26,362ft) peak, Gasherbrum II (GII), Pakistan. Taking advantage of the first short weather window of opportunity, despite the prevailing -46° temperature and forecasted cloudy conditions, Moro, Urubko & Richards leave base camp (5,100m) on Sunday January 30th 2011 at 07.00 a.m. (PKT Pakistan Standard Time) to climb to Camp 1 (6,500m). The team will sleep at Camp 1 for one night and aim to depart on Monday January 31st 2011 to continue climbing to Camp 2 (6,900m) for a further night’s stay. Weather is predicated favourable with sunshine on Tuesday February 1st 2011, allowing the climbers to establish a transitional Camp 3 at 7,300-7,500m. Moro, Urubko & Richards aim to summit GII during Wednesday February 2nd, 2011. Weather outlook is for clear skies in the morning, before clouds set in during the afternoon. Snowfall is forecasted during the return journey to Base Camp. Located in the Gilgit Baltistan province in Pakistan, near the Chinese border, Gasherbrum II, also known as K4, is the 13th highest mountain in the world and the third highest peak of the Gasherbrum Massif in the Himalayan Kakoram range. First climbed by an Austrian expedition, Fritz Moravec, Josef Larch and Hans Willenpart, on July 8th 1956, G2’s time-line of ‘first’ ascents and descents number less than ten. None include a successful winter ascent, as yet. The five non-ascended 8,000m peaks in winter are all located in the Karakoram, Pakistan and remain unclimbed despite 16 attempted winter expeditions since 1987.... Read more...
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.
It's amazing to me when I consider the various speed records that exist in the outdoors, specifically those of climbing mountains. A couple that immediately come to mind are Pemba Dorje Sherpa with the fastest Everest climb of 8 hours and 10 minutes followed by Rolando Garibotti with his Grand Traverse record from 2000 that stands at six hours, 49 minutes! (The Grand Traverse is a 9 peak, 14 mile, 12K vertical enchainment of the high peaks in the Tetons that includes the Grand Teton) Then there's photographer, skier, climber and adventurer Jimmy Chin, who is also sponsored by The North Face. This past week he managed to climb and ski the three Tetons (Grand, Middle and South) in a record 10 hours and 55 minutes car-to-car! If you've ever summited the Grand Teton, Middle Teton or South Teton, you'll know just how amazing this feat is. Heck, it took me and a climbing partner 14 hours to climb the Grand Teton car-to-car. Granted, skiing down is a lot faster than walking/rappelling but HUGE props to you Mr. Chin. Nice work! ---Get the details of his record including a map showing the route at TetonAT.com --photo of Jimmy courtesy of The North Face...Read more...