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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
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.
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz tested the Sea to Summit Alpha Pot Cookset and awarded it five stars for its "lightweight, compact, self-contained and user friendly" design.
Drew Thayer tested the Osprey Mutant 52 backpack on ski tours, cragging days and even a three-week packraft trip in the Amazon rainforest. While the pack isn't the most ideal option for serious alpine climbing, he found that it works well for a variety of missions. Four stars.
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz tested the Beal Escaper, which the company describes as a "detachable abseil system" that enables climbers to rappel on a single strand of rope and then still be able to retrieve the rope from below. Franz reports that if used properly the Escaper can be a handy tool to facilitate a fast retreat, but he also found that the device has some limitations. Three stars.
Chris Kalman details his experience with the D4 Octapod, a unique portaledge designed by the legendary big-wall gear inventor John Middendorf. Kalman tells the story of his early frustrations with the D4 ledge and how he ultimately came to love it, awarding it five stars.
Tad McCrea used the Cnoc Vecto and Versa Flow Gravity Water Filtering System on an expedition to Aconcagua where the rivers ran thick and brown with sediment. The simple, lightweight Vecto-Versa system worked well and kept Tad healthy. He awards it four stars.
Chris Kalman recently took the 7mm Maxim Personal Escape Rope to the big wall jungle of Cochamo, Chile, where he used the tag line to haul gear and rappel while exploring new routes. The Maxim PER is designed to be strong, light, water-resistant and its stiffness makes it less prone to getting snagged. Kalman reports that the rope is a great tool for alpinists, though they should be careful hauling with it to avoid core shots. Four stars.