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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
"Man, I wish my thumbs were bigger." Testing these gloves is, unquestionably, the only time in my life I have uttered that phrase. The Marmot Alpinist Pro glove has, far and away, the largest thumb of any glove I've ever worn. I don't know how to rectify this fact with the rest of my impressions of the glove, which were generally positive.
Winter mountaineering: some people love it. But rarely do I picture the clear summit days with perfect cramponing and one-swing ice. Instead I think of the long and cold nights, my sleeping bag stuffed with everything I don't want to freeze. I consider days at a stretch in the tent, arguing over a magazine before tearing it in half, broken only by endless sessions of postholing. With these grudges in mind, I've been known to obsess over weight (hence the magazine instead of a book). When I received the new CiloGear Dyneema(R) 45 mountaineering pack to test, I knew immediately that it would lighten my load.
In December I headed down to Ouray, Colorado's Ice Park, to begin testing the Petzl Dartwin crampons. With all kinds of immediate climbing to be had, Ouray seemed the best place to determine effectiveness on everything from low-angle ice to crazy mixed testpieces...
Functional enough to withstand three weeks of high-altitude desert and mountain exploration, yet snazzy enough to sit down to tea with the King of Mustang, the Marmot Women's Snazette performed royally on a recent trip across the Himalaya.
A principal function of a climber's stove is to melt snow and ice, producing drinkable water. Hot soup, coffee and the occasional hot water bottle are perks, but on long trips fuel weight adds up. For Alaska I budget 48 ounces per day for a group of six—about 8 pounds of fuel each for a three-week expedition. While toiling with such donkeywork I imagine the ideal stove, where every calorie of fuel burned produces the maximum amount of water. This process, called heat transfer efficiency, inspired the design of the Jetboil Personal Cooking System (PCS).
Several years ago I humped a 92-pound pack full of the cheapest, heaviest climbing gear in the world uphill for several days in Wyoming's Wind River Range. We're talking old school: full-gate oval biners on everything; 11mm ropes; old, rigid-stem Friends; big hexes; everything horrid you can imagine. I seriously debated purchasing either a large dog or a small burro for my next expedition.