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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
I rarely find a backpacking or climbing equipment problem that cannot be solved with intelligent application of webbing and Speedy Stitcher. And because its potential is limited only by your imagination, it's easily the best $21.99 of gear you will ever buy.
I bought the C.A.M.P. Scorpio V-Threader as a replacement for my C.A.M.P. Joker, a near-perfect v-threader that I dropped in the Alaska Range. Though both tools are light, simple and thread Abalakovs effectively, two differences make the Scorpio frustrating and ineffective at half its purpose.
While the design looks too strange to be functional, and the price tag steep, I have to admit the performance of this odd shape signals a notable advance in ice axe technology.
Every climber has a different torso length, forearm length, wrist flexibility, posture and middle school softball trauma; everyone's swing is different. Consequently, the swing of this tool will feel good to some and not to others. The Nomic climbs beautifully for me. It is one of the very few pieces of equipment that actually increases my ability level dramatically, rather than simply making me look the part.
Wild Country issued a voluntary recall of the Helium carabiner on December 10, 2012. Find details in the following press release.
After spending several months playing with Wild County's new Ropeman 3, I began to wonder if I was using it incorrectly. Should it really be this hard?, I wondered. When Alpinist was contacted recently to help spread the word of the recall, I felt relieved that it wasn't just me.
Geography is a big determinant of destiny. So it's only logical that Italy, a mountainous and boot-shaped country, would be home to many of the companies producing high-end footwear for our alpine endeavors. The nation with a centuries-old heritage of crafting fashionable and functional shoes is home to brands including La Sportiva, Scarpa, Kayland and the makers of my recently worn ice boots, Asolo.
It's the modular components that really make the new Quarks stand out: I'll start at the spike. If climbing more snow than ice, simply use a hex wrench (provided) to remove the bottom grip rest. This allows for a great plunging experience from a technical tool.
It was 1994 and I was headed to the Valley. I'd saved up for an extended climbing trip and I would return to Salt Lake City with a donut for an account balance. A couple big-ticket items would put a dent in that savings right from the start. One was a portaledge. The other was a GriGri.
In all, the NeoAir's most impressive feature is its (remarkable) compressibility. On top of that, the outer nylon has a pleasant, grippy-but-not-sticky feel that keeps the pad from sliding around the tent; the entire package rolls nicely when you are deflating it; and it's more durable than I would have imagined. But there are a few things that keep this from being perfect in my mind.
I group the Variant with obsolete layers such as the heavy-duty Synchilla jacket. Wind rips right through the fabric, necessitating a windproof layer that makes me overheat. Sure, fancy new designs look good at the coffee shop but this jacket, at least, is not mountain functional.
Climbing in the Alps all winter, I put the Terra Nova Quasar pack and its "Ultra" fabric through an ice-and-granite gauntlet. While the pack is a little worse for the wear, it's come out on the other side still capable of holding my gear.
With slim webbing straps, light weight and, of course, the ponytail hole, the Elia offers women-specific features that suggest it may have even been designed by a real she-climber (or at least a man on good terms with his feminine side).