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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.
Climbing in the Alps all winter, I put the Terra Nova Quasar pack and its "Ultra" fabric through an ice-and-granite gauntlet. While the pack is a little worse for the wear, it's come out on the other side still capable of holding my gear.
With slim webbing straps, light weight and, of course, the ponytail hole, the Elia offers women-specific features that suggest it may have even been designed by a real she-climber (or at least a man on good terms with his feminine side).