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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 hate tight rock shoes. Don't get me wrong—I realize the need for a precise, tight fit, though after nineteen pitches and almost eight hours, I will take comfort over anything else. My partner and I were nearing the top of Mt. Stuart's classic north ridge when I realized something remarkable: my feet were totally comfortable. While this isn't inconceivable in rock shoes, I wasn't used to this kind of comfort in a shoe that climbed so well. I had cranked them down for the two crux gendarme pitches and was able to edge easily on small nubbins. When the climbing backed off again, a quick flick of the Velcro put me back into super-comfy mode.
Fast and light always took a backseat to cheap and available when it came to my rack. I justified this mentality by telling myself that the added weight translated into added durability. That attitude completely changed when I picked up a box of Trango's Superfly Wire Gate biners.
Add smooth operation and a doubled sling for versatility, and the Max Cam has all the hallmarks of a standard in the making.
I've been climbing and skiing in Schoeller autumn, winter and spring for six or seven years now, and have come to appreciate—OK, love—the quiet comfort of that miracle fabric for my pants and jackets. They breathe perfectly and wear like iron. There's never a crinkly or rough moment, only a soft comfort you never notice on those long approaches, thrutchy offwidths and swooshing descents.
I admit it. I'm a shoe whore. When it comes to cragging, certain climbs require a very specific shoes. Currently my cragging quiver consists of about five shoes (that I can remember off the top of my head). Shoes range from super tight sporty edging shoes to finger-crack shoes to quick on-and-off bouldering shoes. I now have one shoe for just about everything. When I first tried out the Vision V at Blacktail Butte outside of Jackson I was a little skeptical. I felt a little weak but that is probably because I climbed too many moderates in the Bugaboos the two weeks before.
This is an ultra light, incredibly compact and highly breathable storm shell that I found to be ideal for a variety of uses. Featuring Gore-Tex Paclite fabric with narrowly taped seams, one chest pocket and a hood perfectly cut to use with a helmet, it had everything I needed and nothing more.
It was obvious as soon as I removed the OR Exos from their packaging and took one look at all the crucial features that I had never seen on gaiters before, that these were by far the most bomber gaiters imaginable. In the past, the instep strap on other gaiters has always been the first thing to go for me, rendering the gaiter useless, so I was particularly happy to see how reinforced these ones were.
We love this hardshell. This winter we wore the men's and women's Stretch Element in all conditions, from touring in Grand Teton National Park to competing in the Jackson Hole Freeskiing Open. It is one of the best all-around jackets out there, warm enough for cold days in the winter and light enough to wear during cool evenings in the spring and summer.
After enduring nearly a year of abuse throughout the Tetons, La Sportiva's Exum Ridge has established itself as my go-to shoe for approaches and scrambles up to easy fifth class.
I was pretty psyched when the new MSR XGK EX recently showed up at my door for testing. Being well acquainted with its predecessor from a number of trips before, I was immediately impressed with its new looks and features. The first things I noticed were the flexible fuel line, which is definitely the biggest improvement, followed by the slick, ultra stable retractable legs and pot supports, which compact neatly to fit in a 1.5 Liter pot.
The CiloGear WorkSacks are innovative. They can compress without straps or zippers for ultimate functionality, however, they do come with straps for added security. They are super light weight.
Ever since I got the Marmot Super Hero Jacket, I've worn it every day on the hill, and quite often off the hill. I've gotten more compliments on the jacket than on any item of skiwear I've ever owned (except maybe my neon green Obermeyer pants, but that's another story), and it's by far one of the most practical pieces I've ever had.
When the Sterling Ice Thong 7.7mm 30-meter twin rope arrived at my door, I spent the night rearranging my gear in different backpacks to see how well it stored in each. I was so stoked to see how little space it took up in my daypack.
These gloves are hot! As in warm – and stylish. The Manzella Arch Angel accompanied me this spring to Aspen where I competed in the Colorado Freeskiing Championships. It happened to be a cold, stormy weekend, dumping two feet of snow over the course of a few days. I was worried that I couldn't see the cliffs I was about to drop, but I wasn't worried about my hands staying warm.
I was psyched when Vanessa handed me the Patagonia Men's Down Jacket at the Snake River Brew Pub in Jackson Hole to try out. I was in town for some AMGA training and spent time touring in Grand Teton National Park and on Teton Pass. After wearing it around Jackson and some in the Northwest – where I'm based – I’ve found it very comfortable, well designed, and of course, warm.