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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
Chris Kalman continues his quest to find the best all-day, all-around climbing shoe. Everyone knows that a certain brand's TC Pro has set the standard in this category. Can the Acopa JB—named after the climbing legend and late Acopa executive John Bachar—compete? "It's a toss-up," Kalman reports. Four stars.
Whitney Clark was skeptical about the Beal Opera's skinny 8.5mm diameter when she first laid her hands on it—how well could such a thin cord really hold up against the sharp rock of alpine routes? The Opera is certified to be used as a single, twin or half rope, which adds great versatility for alpinists, and sure enough, the rope held up. After using the Opera at Index, Washington, the Cascades, Sawtooths and Wind River Range, Clark writes, "the Opera is a great choice for alpine routes when saving weight is key." Five stars.
The DMM Dragonfly Micro Cams are among the smallest and strongest cams ever made. Chris Kalman tested them on the thin cracks near his home in northern Arizona. He reports that there are some aspects of the design that he absolutely loves, but ultimately he was disappointed with the narrow size range of the cams compared to other brands. The narrow range required much more careful selection for placements. Three stars