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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.
Bluebird days are so rare in Vermont that an overnight low of -18 degrees didn't dampen my enthusiasm for a day of ice climbing at Smugglers' Notch on Mt. Mansfield. I wore a Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket, a slim-and-trim synthetic belay parka, to keep warm if our pace slowed or we lost the sun.
The Black Diamond Xenos mixed/ice climbing harness is aptly named since it enables you to visit some of the most unique and uninhabitable places known to humankind, places where we truly are the aliens.
Mentor to many aspiring mountain guides, Marc Chauvin once told me, "When you're out of options, you're dead." Now that statement might seem obvious, but he meant it with some wordplay: perspective often has an influence on the options you see.
DTS BUGrip provides a comfortable, somewhat cushy, and nimble ride, with positive traction for nearly all conditions.
While the basic anatomy of a pack hasn't evolved much since the hand-sewn rucksacks of Norman Clyde, a thoughtfully designed pack can be a major help to a day in the mountains. There's a fine line, however, between a smooth design and gimmicks.