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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 generally avoids the packaged, freeze-dried or dehydrated meals when he goes camping, but he sampled several Good To-Go meal varieties in the backcountry with his wife, and they agreed the recipes were the best they'd ever tried for this type of food. The meals were flavorful and nutritious, replenishing tired bodies after long days of playing in the mountains, but still had the usual drawbacks of dehydrated ingredients, such as texture and digestion. Five stars.
Mike Lewis spent 58 nights in the Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag (19°F/-7°C) and slept well enough to award it five stars. He noted that there are some features that could be improved but he is otherwise impressed with the company's first sleeping bag designs.
Derek Franz stepped into the new La Sportiva Kataki rock shoes and is impressed with their performance on "tiny little nothings." He found that the shoes functioned well for their intended purpose of climbing vertical to moderately overhanging terrain. Five stars.
Mike Lewis used the Boreal Stetind boots for six weeks of guiding on snowy mountains in the Pacific Northwest and reports that the boots have some significant shortcomings in technical terrain. In this review he explains in detail why he awarded them two stars out of five.
John Easterling used the Patagonia Ascensionist 40-liter backpack for backcountry ski-mountaineering, desert climbing and a few things in between. He was initially skeptical of the pack's minimalist internal frame, but he found that the pack had the right balance between burliness and weight for technical day climbs or light overnight trips, and he awarded it four stars.
The Black Diamond Access Hoody has kept Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz comfy in a variety of temperatures and conditions since January. He's happy with the jacket except that the zipper started having trouble after one month of light use.
Chris Van Leuven wears hoodies often and has tested his share of them. His latest review awards the Ortovox Merino Fleece Light Hoody four stars. Van Leuven reports that the Ortovox is lighter than many other tops, but in terms of loft and warmth it's similar to heavier ones.
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz tested the NW Alpine Eyebright ultralight shell jacket, one of the lightest and most durable in its class because of its Dyneema construction. The jacket was structurally and functionally sound but it left some things to be desired when considering the hefty price tag.
An ice climbing boot that handles skis as well? Jess Roskelley tested the Arc'teryx Procline Carbon Lite boots and enjoyed their versatility for approaching and climbing routes in the snowy backcountry. He used the boots on mixed pitches and WI 6, and cruised out in full control of his skis on the way down—no more sliding into tree wells with soft boots mounted into Silveretta bindings! He awarded the Proclines four stars.
The Five Ten Quantum rock shoes were designed to be an all-around, high performance shoe. Chris Van Leuven tested them on slabs, cracks and steeps, and on a variety of rock types: he scampered up them all, and was so pleased he awarded the redesigned Quantums five stars.
Julbo sunglasses continue to stand the test of time and perform as well as ever with modern technology. The Explorer 2.0, which is complete with photochromic lenses that rarely fog up. Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz would have awarded them a perfect five stars if it weren't for one shortcoming. Four stars.
Alpinist Fashion Editor Paula Rumpelshorts reviews the latest in alpine outerwear: the Emperor Jacket (so lightweight and breathable, you'll hardly know it's there).
Patagonia introduces a modern version of an old idea for an unconventional alpine sleeping bag—the Hybrid, which is intended to be used with an insulated jacket to avoid redundant layers and save precious space in your alpine kit. Ryan Wichelns awards it four stars.
Part steel, part aluminum, and with Dyneema cord in place of a metal bar to connect the two halves, Mike Lewis finds that the Petzl Irvis Hybrid Crampons hit a nice balance between durability and lightweight packability. He would have awarded them five stars if not for one shortcoming.
Alpinist Associate Editor Paula Wright puts the Alpine Luddites White Light/White Heat backpack to the test, awarding it four stars. The company takes an a la carte approach to the gear it sells so that minimalists will have only the accessories they want, such as the foam layer that comes in a customizable thickness and doubles as a "bivy pad."