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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.
The rest of the MS Team
Alpinist digital editor Derek Franz has been using the Zenbivy Light bed system for the past year. As a guy who prefers to avoid the constriction of mummy sleeping bags, he sleeps comfortably with the Zenbivy in a variety of environments. His only critique is that the setup can be a little tedious. Four stars.
Alpinist Tad McCrea has been using the latest model of the Petzl Quark ice tools for the past year. As a longtime user of the earlier models, he reports that the tools continue to live up to his expectations. He writes, "If you already have a set of the last Quarks, maybe you don't need to jump to an upgrade just yet, but if you want a set of axes that handle it all, and are in the market for an alpinist's dream tool, look no further." 4.5 stars.
Alaskan climber Clint Helander generally prefers softshell jackets instead of hardshells when climbing and skiing, but the Rab Muztag GTX Jacket proved to be an exception. He writes, "I have always appreciated the ability of softshells to breathe and stretch while I methodically plod up steep snow slopes. In my mind, Gore-Tex jackets were still too heavy and restrictive in regard to movement.... I was happy to be proven wrong." Five stars.
Whitney Clark used the women-specific Lowa Alpine Expert Gore-Tex boots in her snowy stomping grounds of the Sierra Nevada Range. She appreciated their lightness and comfort. The boots weren't as warm as she would've liked, however, and on one occasion the supposedly waterproof boots soaked through while she was postholing and her feet got wet while her partner's feet stayed dry. Four stars.
Scott Coldiron has been using the lightweight Grivel G20 Plus crampons for ice and mixed climbing in Montana’s Cabinet Range. These lightweight monopoint crampons have become his favorite choice out of the five other crampon models he owns. Five stars.
Aisha Weinhold is an accomplished ski-mountaineer and a climber who grew up in the mountains surrounding Aspen, Colorado. She has appreciated the Petzl Meteor helmet because it is well suited (and dual-rated) for both climbing and ski-mountaineering. Four stars.
Scott Coldiron has a lot of experience when it comes to staying warm on frozen alpine routes. He's been using the Valandre Troll jacket in Montana's Cabinet Range and reports, "Simply put, this jacket lofts better under all conditions than other down jackets I've used, and the resulting warmth it creates is impressive." It's also more expensive, however, and it lacks a couple features he would've liked to have. Four stars.
Alpinist Digital Editor tested the Edelrid Bulletproof quickdraw at Rifle Mountain Park, a world-famous sport crag where the volume of traffic frequently destroys carabiners. The Bulletproof showed hardly any signs of wear after hanging on one of the canyon's most popular routes for four months, earning five stars. "Wait! This review is for Alpinist, what the hell is this sport climbing equipment doing here?" Franz writes. Read the article at Alpinist.com for his answer.
Kate Erwin used Sea to Summit's Flame IV women-specific sleeping bag in British Columbia's Purcell Range last October and found that the mapped-baffle design was effective in keeping her warmer than other bags she's used of comparable weight. 4 stars.
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz has been wearing the Salewa Wildfire Edge approach shoes everywhere for the last several months. He reports that the shoes provide excellent support, feature very sticky rubber and are best described as "technical." Five stars.
Clint Helander recently discovered a new personal standard when it comes to freeze-dried food. In this review he explains why Peak Refuel meals are in a different category from other backcountry food products that he has tried over the last 20 years. Five stars.
Chris Kalman checks out a little-known shoe company named Unparallel that makes climbing shoes eerily similar to the well-known designs made by Five Ten. He found that even Unparallel's proprietary rubber is similar to the famous Stealth C4 rubber that Kalman has loved for many years. The fit and sizing of the Up Lace felt slightly different to him compared to the Anasazi, however. Four stars.
After extensive testing, Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz reports that the Lowa Rockets are best suited for toe- and heel-hooking, with a secure fit that ensures they won't slide off the heel. Franz had trouble finding a size to fit his foot comfortably, however, and there is some bagginess over the top of the big toe. Three stars.
Whitney Clark tested the Mystery Ranch Scepter 50 backpack in Patagonia and in the Sierra Nevada Range. She reports that the pack provides a comfortable suspension system and is great for hauling loads. "I think that the Scepter 50 does really well if you have just the perfect amount of gear, but it does not adjust well to smaller or bigger loads," she writes. Four stars.
Chris Kalman put the Scarpa Maestro Mid through the paces on different styles of climbs to see how they compared to his La Sportiva TC Pros, which have set the standard for this type of shoe for several years. Kalman notes some differences between the shoes, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, and concludes that the Scarpa Maestros are a solid alternative, especially for people who have not found an ideal fit in the TC Pros. Four stars.