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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
Chris Van Leuven compares the new DMM Dragon cams to other brands and finds he likes to mix and match for optimal weight and size-runs, awarding them four stars out of five.
Andrew Councell awards the La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX boots four out of five stars for their lightness, warmth and versatility on rock and snow.
Corey Buhay finds the Montane Hi Q Lux Pro Pull On jacket to be a versatile piece of equipment for staying warm and dry in the mountains. She awards it four stars out of five.
The Grivel Lambda HMS Twin Gate is an unusual auto-locking carabiner that can be clipped with one hand and provides extra security on critical protection points. Just don't try to use it with gloves.
Mike Lewis awards the Dynafit Yotei GTX Jacket five stars for its light weight, versatility and thoughtful design. There was but one tiny flaw...
Chris Van Leuven takes the Metolius Ultralight Master Cams on a cragging tour from New York to Colorado, and awards them four out of five stars.
The DMM Apex ice tools hold up to abuse and work well in a variety of terrain. Vermont climbing guide Tim Farr awards them four stars out of five.
The DMM Pivot shines as a simple, all-around assisted-braking belay device.
"Smaller rocks inevitably rained down. Just as the barrage ceased, a small rock whacked me in the head.... On the hard shell of the helmet, where the rock had hit, was a small ding. No cracks, no mess, just one clean dimple." Drew Thayer reviews the Mammut Wall Rider Helmet.
Chris Van Leuven reviews the Arc'teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots, crafted to be the "lowest volume weatherproof double boot ever made," the company says.
YOSAR team member Josh Huckaby reviews the Adidas Terrex Solo approach shoes: "The Terrex Solos felt light on my feet, and have just enough support for extended carry outs down the dusty trails around Yosemite National Park."
Reviewer Drew Thayer notes, "The Ultamid 4 is currently the lightest option for a spacious, four-person shelter that can adapt to just about any conditions.... It's a great shelter for backcountry pursuits where versatility and light weight are necessary. And it's made right here in the USA."
Climber and guidebook author Stewart M. Green reviews the Mammut Belay Chain: "Unlike the personal anchor systems made by Metolius, Sterling and Black Diamond that use six links of the same size, the Mammut chain links are of two different sizes. The first three links are 11 inches long, and the last three links are 3.5 inches long. These differing lengths allow you to attach to different anchors at a belay station easily and quickly."
As a guide, I'm often asked what I carry on my harness. In addition to standard climbing hardware, plus prussic cords, a Tibloc, and a Micro-Traxion for glacier travel, I carry a knife. Once my clients see the knife, they often reference Joe Simpson's classic mountaineering epic, Touching the Void. Unlike the moment of decision in the book when Simon cuts the rope to free himself while letting Simpson fall into a crevasse, I carry a knife for other reasons: these include to cut tat, add cordage to existing anchors, and cut the free ends from a stuck rope.
The insulation in the Brooks Range Drift 15 sleeping bag is treated with DownTek, a down coating that prevents the feathers from absorbing water. Since water rolls off the down, the feathers stay light and fluffy—keeping you warm. Unlike synthetic sleeping bags, which are typically bulkier and heavier than down, treated down sleeping bags offer the lightweight, low bulk warmth found in down bags without sacrificing packability.