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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.
After a big session on the Torres in Patagonia last winter I came back to advanced base camp and found my body seizing up from raw abuse. I had never used an Exped Downmat 9 (distributed in North America by Outdoor Research), but I snagged one out of a friend's tent and collapsed into a solid night's sleep. As soon as I woke up I was jealous of my buddy's pad and swore I'd never do another expedition without one. Since then, the Downmat 9 has allowed me to have sweet dreams while camped on the rock slabs in the Bugaboos, as well as some winter roadside bivies along the Icefields Parkway in the cold Canadian Rockies.
Preparing for an ice climbing trip is like preparing for war. The enemy: screaming barfies, brittle ice and—worst of all—warming your partner's freezing toes on your stomach. So when packing for a day of climbing in the Canadian Rockies, I was glad to know my feet would be well taken care of in the Trango Extreme Evo Light boots. I have owned the La Sportiva Trango boots, the little sister boot without a toe-bail notch, for a while. They are super comfortable, but a bit soft for long sections of ice. So for the artillery, I chose the Trango Extremes.
In my decade-long quest to find the perfect little pack, one that has all the right features and none of the bells and whistles, this one comes as close as it gets. The Lowe Alpine Summit Attack 30 Hyperlite is the only pack I've owned that's been spared the knife and trimming that my other packs have been subjected to. It may not be the beefiest, but as long as it lasts, it'll be comfortably on my back.
With a huge rack in my pack and a bunch of loose 'biners and runners for alpine draws, I sometimes overlook a fundamental piece of climbing gear: the standard quickdraw. New for spring 2008 DMM is introducing the Shadow Quickdraw. The Shadow is a desirable piece of gear for the discerning climber who wants full-sized carabiners yet appreciates that ultimate combination: light weight and super strong.
Having spent numerous ski tours climbing and skiing steep, bulletproof terrain, I found myself wanting some added security in the often-precarious ski mountaineering environment. The latest model of the Black Diamond Whippet provided what I was looking for.
Being a certified gear whore isn't necessarily a bad thing, but being a gear whore in Jackson, Wyoming—where rent is unfathomably exorbitant—is certainly frustrating. You see, I live in a crawl space.