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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
While not the lightest or warmest insulating layer on the market, the Redpoint Optimus from The North Face shines as an extremely versatile piece. It provides the perfect amount of insulation for those stop and go activities when layered over or under your hardshell/softshell.
Kudos to The North Face for coming up with a great-fitting pack geared specifically for technical climbing. The Spire is available in 30, 33(w's), 38, and 45 liter capacities, so you can find what you need for both cragging and alpine routes. I am definitely a pack critic and often carve off fluff with my knife, but I have lugged this one up many peaks as is.
The Petzl Grigri self-braking belay/descender device is a true industry standard. What can I say about the Grigri that has not been said over the years? Sure, some people will tell you that the Grigri does not give a dynamic belay and therefore increases forces on gear placements, blah, blah,...these are the ones still using figure-eights. However, proper use should negate this issue.
There is a reason the Ecrin Roc is the most rented helmet in the world: it is nearly indestructible (more than we can say for our noggins), extremely adjustable and unquestionably comfortable.
MSR’s Titan cookware feels like it's not even there when it's in your pack, which is just what the titanium is supposed to do. These "light is right" pots help keep you charging ahead, for the long haul.
MSR, Minimal...Simple…Reliable…, these are all words that come to mind when describing the Superfly from Mountain Safety Research. This lightweight (4.6 oz) torch will provide endless performance for years. Its clean, basic design has minimal moving parts making it less likely to fall apart when you really need it.
The Mountain Hardwear EV2 tent is so high tech, when I'm in it, I feel as if I am in the space shuttle. With its integrated vestibule, it's kind of shaped like one too. The three-pole design and non-stretching fabric reinforcements make it out-of-this-world sturdy against the warp-speed winds at high altitude.
This jacket demonstrates Cloudveil's ability to create clothing that performs well in the backcountry yet also corners the fashion market for the "post-adventure" night out on the town.
"Wow" is the typical reaction I get when showing the Charlet Moser Atzar Ice Tool.
This is the kind of sleeping pad that should not be allowed near El Cap. It is far too precious to be rubbing up against harsh granite all night long. After all, we must treat this "super-food" of the gear world with the utmost care and respect. This superlight pad keeps your hips happy and consciousness in deep slumber without adding any more weight than necessary.
When Craig Luebben assigned Curt Love and me Cloud Tower for the last day of our AMGA Rock Guide Exam, we were psyched. Our first question was, "Can we borrow your rack of new C4s?" The weight difference, at 20-percent less, was very noticeable.
It hurts to take off the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody as the temperatures rise here in the Tetons and hardshells become the jacket de jour. I have become so attached to this jacket that I can't wait for the winter months to arrive so I can put it back into the rotation.
At 3lb 3oz, and 30.8 sq. ft. of space, the Lighthouse is an awesome choice when space, weight and strength are priorities. It is surprising that a tent this light can also be so sturdy.
The Arc'teryx NoZone backpack belies the need for a porter or a weight-carrying boyfriend. The suspension makes lugging a Cassin Ridge load feel like going for an afternoon of sport climbing.
Mammut has scored big with the Butterfly suspension system in its 2005 Ice Pack line. Available in 35 and 45 liter options, the Ice Pack delivers in performance, weight and value.