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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
With an ultralight piece of equipment, I usually expect ultralight performance. But the little axe whacked solid placements on water ice just like a technical tool. It even overdrove at times, forcing me to bang on the adze to get it out.
While many packs boast functional versatility, it's clear that the Osprey Variant 37 was designed with the influences of professional alpinists.
The Firetail GTX could be the ultimate all-in-one Teton or Rocky Mountain National Park shoe, with enough hiking chops for long approaches and plenty of climbing prowess for moderate routes.
For its price tag, the Togir Light has a great set of features. But a few drawbacks are hard to ignore.
Nearly as light as aluminum crampons yet much more technical, the Nanotechs will sit lightly on the pack for the approach and still perform decently on a section of steep ice or mixed.
In winter it's charged through powder in the Absarokas and high Rockies; in spring it's tackled mud season on hiking and biking trails across Wyoming; in summer it's scraped up long alpine routes in the Tetons; and in fall it's explored from the canyons of Red Rocks to the top of Castleton Tower.
The Express is to ice climbing what the Camalot is to rock climbing: a well-designed workhorse that sets the industry standard.
I look for equipment that will do everything. For me this means finding the driest and most durable half rope I can. So this autumn I picked up a pair of Petzl Dragonflys, curious to see how much winter climbing they could handle.
I tested the Radion for four months this winter on steep ice, meandering gullies and snow mountaineering slogs. In some regards, the Radion design is without equal. But in other respects—or the wrong conditions—the Radion is exasperating.
The drill has served me well for a full active climbing season. It has completely replaced my entire rack. On most of my climbs I now rely completely on the drill for all of my placements. At first it was a bit awkward drilling on lead. The weight of the drill can be difficult to manage one handed and beginners might be advised to carry a single wide range cam to rest on while drilling. However much of the weight lies in the external battery pack that you clip to your harness and after some practice I have been able to drill single handily with my stronger arm while hanging on my left. Also knowing that you can always rely on your last bolt it is possible to go further between protection than traditionally without compromising safety.
I lived in the tent for about thirty days before Applebee's granite slabs started wearing on the floor and the back corners' poles punched right through the fabric. Those areas should be beefed up and handled with care. All in all, the tent saw a lot of abuse, but only the floor showed signs of damage.
The Speed 30 is an excellent choice for big outings that require all of your precious energy. The pack weighs 2 pounds, 3 ounces but is easy to knock down to a mere 20 ounces if you strip off its removable top pocket, hip belt, ultralight plastic framesheet and stay. It's hydration compatible, and it adjusts to multiple torso lengths.
The Mark is so much better than all those initials I used to sketch onto my gear—they always took a detective's eye to discover, and eventually they’d wear off. The Mark takes only one application, and it stays on, no matter the beating.
I would recommend the Distance as a great lightweight, durable hiking boot—not as a true approach shoe. Its performance as a hiking boot earned them a spot inside my duffle for my fall climb of Cho Oyu.
Six months ago I unpacked a new 60-Liter WorkSack made by CiloGear, and it was love at first sight. I marveled at its simplicity and then loaded it up to find a number of basic-but-brilliant features: a removable frame sheet and bivy pad; lightweight, strong techy materials such as SilNylon; removable compression straps; simple suspension; all the right pockets and no extras; a single interior compartment; a dense foam hip belt: PERFECTION!