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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
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.
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz tested the NW Alpine Eyebright ultralight shell jacket, one of the lightest and most durable in its class because of its Dyneema construction. The jacket was structurally and functionally sound but it left some things to be desired when considering the hefty price tag.
An ice climbing boot that handles skis as well? Jess Roskelley tested the Arc'teryx Procline Carbon Lite boots and enjoyed their versatility for approaching and climbing routes in the snowy backcountry. He used the boots on mixed pitches and WI 6, and cruised out in full control of his skis on the way down—no more sliding into tree wells with soft boots mounted into Silveretta bindings! He awarded the Proclines four stars.
The Five Ten Quantum rock shoes were designed to be an all-around, high performance shoe. Chris Van Leuven tested them on slabs, cracks and steeps, and on a variety of rock types: he scampered up them all, and was so pleased he awarded the redesigned Quantums five stars.
Julbo sunglasses continue to stand the test of time and perform as well as ever with modern technology. The Explorer 2.0, which is complete with photochromic lenses that rarely fog up. Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz would have awarded them a perfect five stars if it weren't for one shortcoming. Four stars.
Alpinist Fashion Editor Paula Rumpelshorts reviews the latest in alpine outerwear: the Emperor Jacket (so lightweight and breathable, you'll hardly know it's there).
Patagonia introduces a modern version of an old idea for an unconventional alpine sleeping bag—the Hybrid, which is intended to be used with an insulated jacket to avoid redundant layers and save precious space in your alpine kit. Ryan Wichelns awards it four stars.
Part steel, part aluminum, and with Dyneema cord in place of a metal bar to connect the two halves, Mike Lewis finds that the Petzl Irvis Hybrid Crampons hit a nice balance between durability and lightweight packability. He would have awarded them five stars if not for one shortcoming.
Alpinist Associate Editor Paula Wright puts the Alpine Luddites White Light/White Heat backpack to the test, awarding it four stars. The company takes an a la carte approach to the gear it sells so that minimalists will have only the accessories they want, such as the foam layer that comes in a customizable thickness and doubles as a "bivy pad."
The Black Diamond First Light Hoody does its job but it's bulky for climbing and some features could be improved. Chris Van Leuven gives it three stars.
The Dynafit Yotei GTX Pants proved to be a versatile piece of outerwear for Mike Lewis, an AMGA-certified alpine guide, who reports that the pants work well for ski-touring and ice climbing while accommodating comfortable space for avalanche beacons and field books. The pants became his go-to option after testing them in Chile, Wyoming's Grand Tetons and Canada. He awards them five stars.
The Arc'teryx Alpha SV Jacket is a specialized piece of clothing built for the harshest climbing situations. Drew Thayer put it to the test on a month-long expedition in Alaska and awarded it five stars.
The 9.2mm Edelrid Topaz Pro Dry CT is a skinny rope that handles like a mid-weight. Chris Van Leuven has put thin cords to the test before, and he was mostly pleased with this one, awarding it four stars.
The La Sportiva TX2 approach shoes shine brightly on fast-and-light rock missions when you need to carry your approach shoes with you on the climb. Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz awards them five stars.