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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
Hyalite Canyon local Todd Preston tested out the new Black Diamond Ultralight Express screws on some of Montana's classic ice climbs. He concluded, "For...pursuits where weight savings can be critical, the Ultralights are clearly the new gold standard and I would rate them 5 stars. However, several days of climbing frozen waterfalls using both Ultralights and traditional Express screws revealed some design limitations...." Four stars.
Todd Preston is a geologist for the US Geological Survey who has been ice climbing for 20 years. He tested the Black Diamond Reactor ice tools and concluded that the Reactors are ideal for steep ice and cragging, awarding them a solid four stars.
Chris Van Leuven tested the latest version of the Petzl Nomic ice tools. He reports that the upgraded Nomics have that same familiar look and feel—same swing—as with previous generations, but are now more functional and come with additional features. His main criticism is that the tools come standard with the Pur'Ice pick, which is too narrow for hard mixed/dry tooling, and other picks must be ordered separately. Four stars.
Whitney Clark tested The North Face Women's Summit L4 Softshell Pants in a variety of alpine climbing conditions and found them to be well designed to handle the wear and tear of ascending rock and snow and they were also well-made for female climbers. Her main complaint is that the fabric pilled after washing. Four Stars.
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz took the SPOT X 2-Way Satellite Messenger into the mountains and desert to test its capabilities. He appreciated the device's unlimited two-way messaging and navigational tools, not to mention the potential to send an SOS signal if he needed a rescue, but he reports that there is room for improvement. Three stars.
Alpine guide Mallorie Estenson has been using the Osprey Mutant 22-liter backpack for multipitch climbs around the Pacific Northwest, and she found it to be well designed for those fast-and-light day trips when you want to bring a bit more than the rope, rack and shirt on your back. Four stars.
Longtime climber and endurance athlete Quinn Brett tested the Suunto 9 wristwatch and found it to be mostly user-friendly, offering a wealth of data to assist mountain go-getters. Her main criticisms about the watch are its bulky size and some difficulty synchronizing the watch with her phone. Four stars.
A review of Climbing Addicts "Yosemite Gray" and "Wall Street Gold" Chalk prompts a treatise on climbing chalk by Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz. He found the camouflaged chalk to be as effective as anything else he's used, and the grey and brown varieties blend in well with a range of rock types, including limestone, granite and sandstone. Five stars.
Foehn is a new, small clothing company based in Quebec, Canada, that came on the market this year and has a touching backstory. Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz tried the company's flagship item, the Brise Pant, and found them to be well made for climbing and moving around in the mountains. Four stars.
The Sea to Summit Ultralight Air Mat is a summer backcountry mattress that can pack down to the size of a large burrito and that inflates to provide 2 inches of air cushion. Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz found it to be so comfortable he awarded it a perfect rating. Five stars.
The La Sportiva TX4 Mid boots are described by the company as an "access boot designed to excel in tricky, technical terrain." Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz finds that the feather-light boots live up to that classification but are not ideal for weak or injured feet that need more support. Four stars.
Mike Lewis finds that the three-person Nemo Chogori Mountaineering tent provides a good in-between option between lightweight tents and expedition tents. The former don't fare as well against the harsh conditions typically found high on a mountain, and the latter are too bulky and heavy to be ideal for fast-and-light missions. The Nemo Chogori filled the niche for Lewis, who awards it four stars.
The Cragsmith 45 is Patagonia's largest backpack, which the company refers to as the "gear dumpster." Chris Van Leuven has been lugging it around for several months and enjoys the pack's durability, convenient loading options and how well it encapsulates just about anything he wants, from clothes and a sleeping bag to ice tools, in addition to the standard rock climbing kit. Four stars.
Black Diamond describes the new Vision Harness as an ultralight alpine harness that is "the lightest fully functional harness we've ever made." Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz put the claim to the test and was fairly satisfied with the results, awarding it four stars.
Mike Lewis finds that the Ortovox Col Becchei softshell jacket is well designed for alpine and rock climbing as well as backcountry skiing, but he has concerns about the $320 price tag.