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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
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.
Alpinist digital editor Derek Franz tested the Patagonia Micro Puff jacket and found that the lightweight, synthetic garment outperforms those of similar weights with down feathers. "It lives up to the hype," Franz writes. Five stars.
The Grivel Stealth Hard Shell helmet offers the protection of a hard shell and a foam helmet in one, making it durable against repeated knocks as well as from side impacts. Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz found it to be a worthy brain bucket for big-wall, ice and alpine climbing, but the strap system and one-size fit left a bit to be desired. Four stars.
After lugging the Blue Ice Warthog 40L backpack around the mountains for several months, IFMGA/AMGA guide Mike Lewis came to some conclusions: the pack is ideal for ice, rock and alpine climbing (5 stars for that category), but the lack of a padded hip belt makes it less comfortable to carry long distances when you're not wearing a harness and you want to load more of the pack weight onto the hips instead of the shoulders. "For someone who is specifically looking for a pack with an unpadded, removable hip belt for technical climbing, this pack is a slam-dunk," Lewis writes.
If Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz had to pick just one type of shoe to wear for the rest of his life, there's no doubt it would be a pair of approach shoes. The Lowa Approach Pro Los have become his first choice to wear everywhere, all the time. Five stars.
Mallorie Estenson, an alpine guide and climber based in the Pacific Northwest, has been using the MSR Advance Pro 2 Ultralight—a single-wall, four-season tent—on some ski-mountaineering trips in Washington this winter. The tent is intended to be simple and compact so that it can fit onto narrow ledges found on the side of a mountain. Estenson reports that it was light, easy to set up, and comfortable enough for her to give it four stars.
Blue Ice is a small, relatively new company that started in a garage in Europe and now has a presence in North America. IFMGA/AMGA guide Mike Lewis has been using the Blue Ice Yeti 50L backpack, and aside from a few details that didn't comply with his exact personal preferences, he liked it well enough to award it five stars.
Alaskan alpinist Clint Helander finds the Mountain Equipment Citadel Mitt to be a lightweight and versatile option for climbs that require cutting down on bulk and extra grams. Five stars.
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz recently used the Sterling WorkPro static line to haul a 100-pound bag on his first solo big wall. The WorkPro was supple, strong and durable—everything you'd want from a static rope. Five stars.
Chris Van Leuven used the Black Diamond ATC Pilot to catch gear-ripping falls and liked its simple design and smooth rope handling so well that it became his go-to belay device for single-pitch cragging. Five stars.
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz used the Mountain Equipment Xeros 800-fill, Russian Goose Down bag in warm, sweaty conditions as well as cold, wet ones, and the bag kept him remarkably dry and comfortably warm. "I have never experienced a more efficient sleeping bag," he reports. Five stars.
Whitney Clark takes the Sterling Fusion Nano IX along for some rugged granite adventures in Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada mountains. The 9mm rope can be used as a thick half-rope or a skinny single rope, and features Sterling's new DryXP treatment, which exceeds the UIAA certification of less than 5 percent water absorption, keeping the rope light and durable in even the wettest conditions. Clark put those claims to the test and awarded the Fusion Nano IX five stars.
BJ Sbarra reports on his experience with Petzl's redesigned Sirocco helmet, and reflects on the evolution of climbing's head protection. The new Sirocco is more durable and lighter than ever, making it one of the best all-around helmets available.