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The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: Miya Tsudome is a former rock climbing guide who now makes a living as a photographer, and she's also a van-life veteran who can appreciate camping accessories like the BioLite AlpenGlow Lanterns. She writes: "After I've lived with [them] for over six months now, [they have] definitely improved my camping game.... Each lamp features eight light modes: cool white, warm white, single color, multi-color, and candle flicker. There are also some fun options if you shake the lamp in each mode." Four stars
Mountain Standards Gear Review: Lance Colley tested the Edelrid Neo 3R rope while living and working in Yosemite this past autumn. Colley enjoys speed climbing on big walls and has a few records to his name, and he was able to put some heavy mileage on Edelrid's new rope design, which is made with 50% recycled pre-consumer materials. He writes: "The durability, handling and price of the Neo 3R matches any of the other ropes on the market, but the Neo 3R packs technology that could make those ropes obsolete. This rope is built for climbers ready to embrace a sustainable future." 5 stars.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz has been using the Black Diamond Crack Gloves to jam cracks across the west for the past several months. He writes: "I've used these gloves in Yosemite, Black Canyon and Utah desert, and also crammed them into some sharp, crumbly choss cracks near my home on Colorado's Western Slope, and they're holding up well, much better than I predicted based on how thin they felt when I first tried them on.... I found these puppies to perform well in thin hand cracks as well as for offwidth teacup fist jams." Five stars.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: Corey Buhay, a member of the US Ice Climbing Team, has been testing the Sterling Ion R 9.4 XEROS rope. The new XEROS technology is the first of its kind in which every filament of the rope is dry-treated, a process that adds a deeply integrated level of protection from water absorption. Buhay writes: "While I haven't been using the rope long enough to vouch for its long-term durability, the new XEROS technology exceeds expectations on all counts so far. If you're looking for a rope that's meticulously dry-treated and reliable in all conditions, the Ion R 9.4 XEROS is a safe bet." Five stars.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: IFMGA/AMGA guide Mike Lewis has been using the Mountain Hardwear Phantom Down Parka for several months. He writes: "Its 800 fill down is really warm, making it a good choice for the 6000-meter objectives such as Denali, Aconcagua, Ama Dablam, Cotopaxi, Elbrus—basically, anything that is not an 8000-meter monster.... It appears that few products compare to the Mountain Hardwear Phantom Down Parka in terms of its warmth-to-weight ratio at 619 grams (20 oz.)" Five stars.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: Digital Editor Derek Franz has been using the Gnarly Nutrition Pre and BCAA (branched chain amino acid) dietary supplements for the past year. Though unable to definitively say how much of a difference, if any, the supplements have made for his fitness, he writes: "What I do know, is that my fitness has been on an upward roll lately, and Gnarly has been one of many ingredients along the way, so I can't discount it." As with most any dietary supplement, Franz notes, there can be serious side effects if they aren't used properly. Four stars.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: IFMGA/AMGA guide Mike Lewis has been using the Dragon Alliance PXV2 snow goggles this past winter. The goggles come with two fog- and scratch-resistant lenses, and feature a Swiftlock changing system that allowed him to swap out the lenses with gloved hands on a ski lift. He writes: "My suggested ideal uses for the Dragon PXV2 goggles include downhill resort skiing, heli and cat skiing, backcountry skiing, high altitude mountaineering and polar exploration." Five stars.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: IFMGA/AMGA Mountain Guide Mike Lewis has been appreciating the Trango Agility 9.1mm rope for its handling and added safety feature of prominent red markings on each end of the line. He writes: "I believe the red ends will likely become a standard in rope design and manufacturing, and...the tight 'Spider Wear' construction allows [the Agility] to run through a device as smooth or smoother than any rope I've ever used." Five stars.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: Alpinist Digital Editor considers the merits of the oft-overlooked Metolius Offset Master Cams during a solo aid-climbing trip to Arches National Park (Ancestral Puebloan, Hopi, Navajo, Ouray, Paiute, Uintah, Ute, Zuni land). While he generally prefers the other brands, Franz notes that the Metolius design has its place on the rack. He writes: "Each design lends itself to being more suited for different situations. That's why I think it's important to 'diversify your portfolio,' as investment bankers say, and carry a variety of brands and styles. This is especially important when aid climbing because small variances can make all the difference between a solid placement and a sketchy one.... The Metolius Ultralight Offset Master Cams turned out to be the MVP (most valuable piece) during a solo ascent of the Tower of Babel (5.6 C3-, 450')." Three stars.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: IFMGA/AMGA mountain guide Mike Lewis has been using the Blue Ice Akila ice axes for a variety of missions. He writes: "The Akilas kick butt for skiing and light and fast technical mountaineering because they are light, have technical picks and curved shafts (so knuckles don't slam into ice when ice climbing), and are short and can fit either on the back of a small pack, or even in it. Whip them off the pack for some low-angled ice or even a steep bulge, and then plunge them in 50-degree snow to top out a major mountaineering objective. An effortlessly slidable plastic pinky rest makes for easy gripping on technical ice, yet can be moved out of the way, further up the shaft or completely off the axe, when sinking into deep snow." Five stars.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: IFMGA/AMGA Mountain Guide Mike Lewis announces that the Trango Vergo has replaced the Petzl Grigri in his kit, awarding the Trango Vergo five stars. He writes: “Having been a die-hard fan of the…Grigri for more than 20 years, I now proclaim that after less than three months of using the Trango Vergo assisted braking belay and rappel device, I am officially a Vergo convert. A light sadness trickles through my body in making this bold statement.”
Mountain Standards Gear Review: IFMGA guide Rob Coppolillo has been testing a set of Edelrid Starling Protect Pro Dry 8.2mm Twin/Half ropes in Chamonix for the past several months. The Protect design adds a high degree of cut-resistance to the sheath, though it also adds some dollars and grams to the bottom line. After using the ropes on about 50 pitches of rock and 15 pitches on ice, in addition to some deliberate abuse on some sharp edges, he writes: "I think the Starling 8.2 makes a ton of sense on multipitch alpine rock." Five stars.
US Ice Climbing Team Member and Ouray Ice Festival gold medalist Corey Buhay has been using the Grivel Dark Machines all season, from Colorado to Cody, Wyoming. In this report, she tells us where the Dark Machines shone, and where they left her swinging for something better. "What a pity that the glorious ease of use existed only for Cody's steeper pitches. For many of the area's ice climbs, the crux sections are stitched together with lower-angle WI2-3 gullies and slabs. On those portions of climbs...the arched profile of the Dark Machines proved to be more of a liability than an asset...." 3.5 stars.
Tad McCrea used the Fixe Ultralight Alien Revolution cams on 20 big routes in the Sierra Nevada Range this past summer and he was very happy with their light weight and performance, especially for the Double Sling design that allowed him to carry less gear for extending placements. He did not find any significant drawbacks to the latest version of this long beloved cam . Five stars
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz has been wearing the unusual "armless" Ombraz Sunglasses since last spring. Instead of the typical rigid arms that are on most glasses, they are worn with an integrated lanyard that keeps them around the face or allows them to hang around the neck. The glasses also pack flat, allowing for easy stowing. Franz reports that Ombraz are highly durable with quality Zeiss Optics lenses. They are comfortable to wear with a variety of helmets but are less fashionable than traditional sunglasses. Four stars.