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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 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.
During my first outing, the gusty winds and generally stormy conditions were enough to force my partner and I to descend from three quarters of the way up Cerro Torre's Compressor Route. Upon returning to camp on the Torre Glacier's "Sandy Wash," we were stoked to find the MSR Wind 2, standing as we left it, holding its own against the catabatic's ripping down from the Hielo Sur (the Southern Ice cap).
I spent over a week in the Canadian Rockies and the R1 Granular Jacket hardly ever left my body. I don't think I can say enough about this piece from Patagonia. As someone who has eliminated many fleece garments for typical layering in recent years I've found that the R1 is already indispensable for me.
This harness is a Cadillac for comfort and Petzl's slick buckle system helps keep you safe without having to double back the waist belt or leg loops. This feature also makes it super fast to change layers on the move. I've used the Corax extensively for rock climbing, ice climbing and alpine routes.
I put these boots to the test on Denali. They sailed me up and down the mountain attached to snowshoes, skis and crampons. I wore them nonstop for 21 days (when I wasn't sleeping or lucky enough to be in my down booties) and never got a single blister.
Petzl again led the pack in bringing us this super versatile, self-braking belay device. Most other manufacturers have scrambled to follow suit, but the Reverso still gets my vote for simplicity and smooth feed in all categories.
When La Sportiva first came out with the Exum Ridge approach shoe, it was a winner. I wore mine up and down the Grand Teton guiding moderate routes during many long days in the mountains until they practically fell off my feet, threadbare.
For me, a good mountain boot not only has to climb well, it has to get me to the climb. I'm not carrying a boot on my back, I'm going to wear it all day, there and back. I checked out the Vasque M-Finity on the 13,770-foot Grand Teton during the early part of last summer.
I am psyched that winter is on its way, so I can start using the Marmot Lithium Sleeping Bag again. Before I received this sack, I had been using a negative 20-degree option lined with a waterproof shell, from a leading competitor. When I first tried the Lithium from Marmot, I was amazed at how warm it kept me, at almost 2 pounds less in weight.
We have just received some samples of the new Exposure packs from Osprey. The haulers look nicely built with lightweight materials and many of the features that I personally tend to like, such as gear loops, removable lids, and "lockable" ski straps, something many packs lack. The big story about these packs is their moldable waist belts...yes, just like the liners of your plastic boots.