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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.
Every summer I spend many nights camped in the mountains, and this year has been no different. Alpine weather and conditions in my favorite local stomping grounds, the Bugaboos and Canadian Rockies, have tendencies to change faster than you can see them coming, and—all too often—you're shivering, getting snowed on or cowering from the latest thunderstorm. Fortunately, I was able to retreat on multiple occasions to the comforts of the Mountain Hardwear UltraLamina 32-degree synthetic sleeping bag.
I just returned from a rock-climbing trip to northern Patagonia's Bariloche, where we visited the new areas of La Buitrera and Roca Parada, a thousand-foot tower in the middle of the Patagonian pampa near Esquel. The new ultra-light Metolius Power Cams were our weapons of choice for all small cracks. Aside from being extremely light, the cams performed just as well on Patagonian granite as they did on andesite and sandstone. They are easy to place, have great range and holding power (5-10 kN, varying with size), and tested well in real life on numerous pitches, including a slippery 5.10c high off the deck.
Lightweight at about 4.5 pounds. Watertight. Tough, durable, double-walled. It was too good to be true... on the whole, Mountain Hardwear's Spire 2 lightweight expedition tent fit all the specs I could hope for here in the Bugaboos, where rugged weather comes standard.
Petzl has a long history of developing quality and innovative products, and their new line of ropes is no exception. Aside from the bright green color, the Nomad immediately caught my attention out of the bag with a manufactured "ready for action" butterfly coil that required no painstaking uncoiling or restacking. Sweet! I hadn't even tied in yet and the rope already won points with me.
Wild Country claims their Zero Friends to be the "smallest cams in the world but the biggest dogs on the block." After putting them to the test this past summer, I must say that I agree. The Zeros are the lightest, smallest, and strongest cams of their size on the market.
A stylish—and useful—new accessory released this year is Metolius' Logo Sock. The sock is considered the most important accessory, second to the shoe, in most circles. Who wouldn't want a pair of high performance socks with Metolius' iconic little climber dude on the cuff? For me, they were a wish-list must have! Not only would they enhance the most important fashion accessory—the shoe—the little dude would be accessorizing and performing alongside my most important piece of equipment: my feet on a summer climbing tour. I suppose, in this case, it would be a summer sock tour.