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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.
As a guide, I hang my derriere over a cliff edge every day, often for hours at a time. I'm constantly securing myself into anchors while belaying, instructing and overseeing clients. In these cases, I like being snug on the anchor with my weight on the rope or other connection—it chases away the little butterflies in my stomach. Thus, having a quick and efficient way to protect myself while also providing adjustability is invaluable.
These days, it feels like everyone is coming out with a "new" belay device that's touted as somehow better than its predecessors. But, at least to me, it feels like many of the so-called improvements are superfluous and clumsy. I've sampled nearly all of the variations out there, but keep coming back to my trusty favorites for both recreational and guiding use.
After flying into the Lower Ruth Gorge in early May—following a five-day wait while more than two feet of snow fell—I began to doubt my "dark horse decision" to bring along the Big Agnes Battle Mountain 2 tent. But I've always had a soft spot for the dark horse, the little guy, and Big Agnes is certainly a David among a field of tenting Goliaths like Mountain Hardwear, MSR, Sierra Designs, and an army of others.
Andrew Councell reviews five gloves from Black Diamond that bridge the gap between skiing and mountaineering. "The average ski glove emphasizes warmth and is subsequently bulky, but Black Diamond has been producing ski gloves that can actually climb as well," he writes.