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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 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.
Photographer Jeremy Joseph used the La Sportiva Trango Tower GTX boots for miles of hiking to access the most scenic locations in Colorado's fourteeners. He was mostly happy with the boots' performance, and he awarded them four stars.
Clint Helander lives, works and climbs in Alaska, where the risk of bear encounters is a regular hazard. He tested the BASU eAlarm and found it to be a versatile and helpful device.
Mary Harlan, an AMGA-trained rock, ice, snow and ski guide, compares the new Hilleberg Nammatj 2 GT to the Hilleberg design she used on Denali in 2012. She and her husband stayed comfortable in the tent on a spring backcountry ski trip but would have liked to have had more interior pockets. Four stars.
Alpinist contributor Whitney Clark tests the durability, warmth and water-resistance of the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hoody. It did its job but she longed for a built-in stuff sack that would have allowed her to clip it to her harness. Four stars.
The new GriGri+ is heavier and packed with new features, such as a switch for toprope/lead-belay modes and an anti-panic function. Chris Van Leuven learns why the GriGri+ doesn't replace the GriGri 2 yet still adds a worthwhile option to the family of Petzl belay devices. Four stars.
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.