At the beginning of last summer we received a Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket and our family has used it while camping and at home almost every day. We also lent it to some friends who camp more often then we did this summer to solicit their feedback (and get some rad pics of it being enjoyed, thanks @coreyoutdoors!)
The Montem Sneaky Snuggler Blanket is the ultimate camping quilt! With a temperature rating of 40°+ it keeps you warm indoors and out and you’ll stay comfy no matter where you go. Water and puncture resistant, folding out to a comfortable 54″ by 80″ making it perfect for one and extremely cozy for two.
Spreading out to 54″ by 80″ this blanket is comfy for one person, and it lets you get close and cozy with two.
Perfect for camping, lounging at home, and picnics at the park. You can bring the sneaky snuggler to anywhere or any event to feel warm and snuggled.
With this your body is free to move around on our large one person camping blanket, not bound together in a tough cocoon.
The Sneaky Snuggler Blanket was designed with you in mind so that you can be all tucked in wherever your adventure takes you. Easily converts to form with its convenient carry bag, only 9″ by 17″, making it the ultimate travel companion.
This quilt was made for both young and old, anyone who enjoys extreme comfort. Why use a restricting sleeping bag to sleep? Try our snuggly soft Sneaky Snuggler Blanket.
How We Tested
As soon as we received the blanket we started using it at home as both a couch throw and a picnic blanket at the Cranmore outdoor summer concert series. We used it on our annual camping trip to Camden, ME. When cooler nights arrived in the early Fall we used it as toasty comforter on our bed where it lived all winter. This Spring we’ve loaned it to some friends who have been using it on multiple overnights in the White Mountains.
How It Performed
For all domestic uses it is an awesome home comforter that we continue to use daily. It feels quite breathable for a synthetic insulated blanket. The 20D Ripstop nylon is super soft to the touch. While car camping in Maine we used this with a just sheets and a light fleece blanket with night time temps dipping into the lower 40’s. The kiddos (ages 3 & 7) both slept toasty warm, and Ms. Northeast Alpine Start stayed warm even though she is a cold sleeper. We never tested it in rain but it does come with a DWR treating to resist light precipitation, and being synthetic would still retain heat even if it got soaked (unlike down blankets).
The 54″ by 80″ size is plenty of room for a family of four picnic and 3 of us were able to get under it while car camping (one adult two kiddos). One small negative we could find was how slippery the material was when used with some of our sheets. It could slip off easily mid-night with just a little moving. It also would be considered a bit bulky/heavy for any significant backpacking trip. I would consider it best for car camping or very short approaches to tent sites (Hermit Lake, Mountain Pond, Sawyer River local examples).
The Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket is a bit high-end in the market of camping blankets. We found it incredibly versatile both indoors & out. While we wouldn’t hike it 8 miles to camp we find us tossing it in the car more often then not as it comes in handy on road trips and while visiting family out of state. If you’re looking for a awesome camp blanket you should check this one out! You can purchase direct from Montem here!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links help support this blog.
A few months ago I received a pair of Mammut Saentis Low Hiking Shoes to review. I’ve since logged over 100 miles of White Mountain mileage in them and am ready to share my thoughts in a review. Let’s start with the manufacture claims then get into how they faired on the trail!
Extremely light and flexible: the Saentis Low Men is a reliable multipurpose shoe for a range of applications. It performs excellently on fast-paced narrow forest trails but will also be an essential favorite lightweight shoe for the mountains. Its Michelin® sole gives it excellent grip and an optimum sure-footed step on uneven terrain. The outer material impresses with an extremely breathable mesh as well as robust properties for pleasant comfort and durability. From ascent to descent – the Saentis Low Men will take every situation in its stride and prove its great versatility.
Last index: mtrTech
Flex index: A4
Hybrid Shell: Blend of supple inner and tough outer materials for enhanced comfort and good adaptability.
Pre-shaped tongue construction
TPU toe cap
Cushioning Strobel construction
Michelin® rubber compound
Weight (UK 8.5) [g]340 <- my home scale put a pair of size UK 8 at 694 grams
I went with a men’s US 9, EUR 42, UK 8. This size fit my feet perfectly with more room in the toe box than I am accustomed to since I most often wear more technical approach shoes. The heel cup and forefoot width felt perfect with plenty of stretch to accommodate a wider foot. These might not be ideal for someone with a very narrow foot.
Breathability– The feature I most noticed during testing was the extreme breathability of these shoes. I wore them on multiple hot and humid hikes through July and August and my typically hot feet stayed much cooler than some other shoes I’ve tested in this category recently. While the vent mesh is super breathable this is not a water resistant shoe so you should hop over those puddles rather than plow through! If you do get them wet they dry quite quickly!
Traction– The Michelin® sole on these performed extremely well on dirt, mud, sand, and typical forest duff. On wet rock traction performance was a bit diminished over some softer approach shoe soles but still better than the types of soles found on most hiking boots.
Comfort– As I mentioned earlier these fit my feet quite perfectly. The stretch mesh lining would easily accommodate a wider foot but my medium width feet stayed secure while traversing low angle slopes and the lacing system was very sufficient at keeping my feet from sliding forward during descents. The midsoles have plenty of cushioning for long days on the trail and the excellent breath-ability made wearing them a pleasure on multiple warm/hot hikes!
Durability– While I can’t comment too much on durability after just 100 or so miles I can attest that the appear to be holding up quite well. Close inspection of the stitching and junctions of the outer materials reveals these are crafted with the attention to detail Mammut is well known for! I have no doubt these could last for 800-1000 miles!
These are a great choice for trail running, hiking, and ultra-light backpacking. At $129 MRSP they offer an excellent value in a high quality hiking shoe. If you put a high priority on breath-ability, low weight, and comfort you should take a look at these!
Thanks to my friends at Friendly Foot I’ll be giving away two bottles of the best foot deodorizer ever made! I’m not kidding my wife notices right away if I haven’t been using my Friendly Foot powder! See for yourself how you and your loved ones need not suffer smelly feet by entering to win a bottle of the powder and the spray at the RaffleCopter link below!
There is no doubt that the single most worn piece of clothing while guiding this summer was the new BightGear Solstice Graphene Hoody. Most people who know me personally know of my affinity for the “sun hoody” category. This is a relatively new essential to outdoor clothing that is quickly growing as evidenced by the half dozen different manufactures that are making these now. I’ve had the chance to try many of them and this one is edging out my long time favorite Patagonia Technical Sunshade Hoody for a couple of reasons that I will get into below, but first… what is a “sun hoody” for and why should you consider adding it to your closet?
Protection from sun & heat
I’ve had multiple clients, friends, co-workers, and fellow guides ask me why I am wearing long sleeves and a hood when it’s 85 degrees and humid out. They assume I must be over-heating dressed as I am, and surprised when I explain I feel cooler than going bare chested. A sun-hoody is personal shade that travels with you as you move through the mountains. The fabric is super thin and insanely breathable. The fit of this, one of the things that is making it my current #1, is perfectly “looser” which lets air flow through it more freely. When it is a scorching day I wear this directly over my bare skin and there is no more comfortable option aside spending the day in the AC! On cooler days I’ll wear one of my Ortovox merino t-shirts underneath. A great benefit to this is I do not have to wear sunscreen as often as the t-shirt only crowd… this is permanent UPF 55+!
Protection from bugs
Our bug season can be brutal in the Northeast. Many people use a few cans of DEET or Picaridin to survive. I treat my main outdoor clothing with Permethrin twice a season and stay bite free all Spring & Summer. No black flies in the eyes. No mosquito bites. Zero ticks. Not one. And I get to skip coating myself with toxic repellents. Win win win! I write more on my bug defense program in this post if interested.
Here’s some of the manufacturer deets:
The Solstice Graphene is guide grit plus lab smarts.
NEED TO KNOW:
Function: The newest, best iteration of Bight Gear’s classic baselayer. Graphene fabric takes this piece to new heights with a light-as-air feel, UPF 55+ sun protection, next-gen moisture wicking, and natural antimicrobial properties.
Layering: Good for a range of temps and conditions. Wear alone as a sun hoodie, or as a next-to-skin baselayer under other layers when things get cold.
Gen7 Graphene fabric
Naturally antimicrobial for reduced stink
UPF 55+ sun protection
Oversized hood for full coverage with or without a hat
Overlap below the chin to protect neck area from sun exposure
Raglan sleeve for increased comfort and mobility
Thumbholes with extra hand coverage for sun protection
Drop tail hem provides coverage and length where needed most
This is the best baselayer we’ve ever made. Period. Years of development and iteration led us to a new synthetic fabric that feels like cotton, but wicks like synthetic. It incorporates Graphene nanomaterial for increased heat transfer and odor reduction, and comes in at UPF 55+ sun protection to keep you from getting microwaved up high.
Reading that over reminded me I wanted to talk about the lack of smell, or the “naturally antimicrobial for reduced stink. I’m not sure how this works but I would routinely wear mine for two weeks straight before washing without it collecting any body odor.
I went with a size large due to a 42 inch chest and I find it to be a perfect “looser” fit. The sleeves are a bit on the long side which I’ve come to like. The material is stretchy enough I can easily roll them up so they are out of the way while climbing but when it’s really blazing hot and sunny I can let them drape over the backs of my hands while using the thumb loops. That back length is excellent for tucking under a climbing harness and it stays put all day.
If you don’t own a sun hoody yet you need one. A life spent outdoors is a life well spent, but is also one that is prone to skin damage and worse. A sun hoody will keep you more comfortable on more adventures than most any other piece of clothing in your kit. This one, designed by the guides who work on Mount Rainier, is a solid choice in this category! I genuinely feel it is worth full retail ($69.00), but I got some good news! BightGear hooked me up with a discount code for 30% off to share with my readers!
Use promo-code “GuideDaveL” to pick this up for $48.30!
I regret not getting this review finished sooner as they are just about sold out in men’s with only small and XL left. They do have full size run’s in women’s though and hope to get more men’s sizes back in stock soon! This code is also valid on any full priced items from BightGear!
Thanks for reading!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample was provided for purpose of review.
I’m up early but it looks like my guiding day might get rained out so I decided to scour the web for some of the better deals on outdoor gear and clothing as most companies end their Labor Day sales today. Below is a curated list of what is not only on sale but something I have personally owned and tested or is on my wish list!
REI is running some sweet deals like 20% off Thule and Yakima racks and roof boxes! 25-30% off most REI, Big Agnes, and Nemo tents and sleeping pads! They also made it easy to find the items that are actually 50% off by grouping them under their “Peak Deals“. Expect limited quantity and sizes in there!
Eastern Mountain Sports is going big with quite a bit of inventory 70% off! 20% off all Black Diamond, 20% off La Sportiva Footwear, and a current coupon for an extra 20% off a full or sale priced item! COUPON CODE: “LABORDAY19“. There is a fairly long list of excluded brands though… you can see the list here. Finally they have summer clearance items listed at 70% here!
Patagonia is running some great web specials like 40% off the Micro Puff and Nano Puff jackets and hoodies visible here.
Just about every retailer is running sales today and since it looks like a wash-out here in the Northeast I think I’ll spend some time today organizing my gear closet and seeing if I’m all set for the rapidly approaching Fall!
Coming soon… I’ve got reviews in the works for the new Wild Country Revo Belay Device. The “Take20Summer” coupon code does work on this item by the way! I also finally got my hands on both the Mammut Smart 2.0 and the Mammut Alpine Smart and testing has begun! Expecting to have reviews on all of these done in time for Rocktober!
Climbing trip to Camden ME in two weeks! I’ve been to Camden twice for some family camping but this trip it’s just me and my buddy Bob heading out to sample the climbing there. Have you been? Must do routes? Let me know in the comments below!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
P.S. The above links are affiliate links. Making a purchase through one of them sends a small commission my way which helps keep content coming. Thank you!
I’m going to skip listing the whole manufacturer description and non-relevant specs as those are easily seen on the companies website linked above. Instead I’ll focus on how I tested, first impressions, who I think this pack is perfect for, and some of the minutia both good and bad.
How I Tested
I’ve worn this pack for about 40 miles of hiking in the White Mountains between May-August. I took it rock climbing once, hiking 6 times, and casual road biking with the family twice. Most of the testing was during the hottest weeks of our summer where the allure of actual cold water on a trip outweighed some of slight negatives of my first impressions of the pack (more on that below). While temps were often in the upper 80’s New England’s famed humidity often had heat index’s reach into the upper 90’s.
Right out of the box I was a bit concerned with the empty pack weight. At 3.6 pounds (1633 grams) this is definitely on the far end of the spectrum for packs I consider for day trips. Once I convinced my ounce-counter-self that not every pack design needs to focus on shaving grams I started looking at what I would gain with carrying a pack that was comparatively heavy on the volume to weight scale. Let’s start by addressing the penultimate claim Hydro Flask makes regarding this pack… it keeps water COLD for 4+ hours!
How it Performs
Keeping Water Cold– That is where this pack truly shines. I’ve tried a lot of tactics over the last two decades to carry cold water in the mountains on long hot days. I used to freeze hydration bladders the night before a hike and then enjoy the long slow melt out during a hike (but it never melted fast enough and my spine pretty much had frostbite). I’ve filled reservoirs half way with ice which might buy me two hours of cold hydration on the hottest hikes (but this “sweats” a lot of condensation adding a fair amount of moisture to the contents of my pack).
This is where the “Revolutionary Cold Flow™” system comes in. It starts with a 3 liter HydraPak® insulated reservoir that is easily removed thanks to the Plug-N-Play™ connection system. A “fill to here with ice” line is about a third of the way up the reservoir. Once filled with ice and topped off with cold tap water this insulated reservoir slides into an insulated pocket on the back panel of the pack. Interestingly the connected hose is not insulated which isn’t a big deal. After a bit of hiking without sipping you’ll notice how cold the reservoir still is after an ounce or two of warmer water thats been in the tube. Finally the back panel of the suspension system is well ventilated to help keep body heat from reaching the reservoir. In practice I found the system could easily uphold the 4+ hours claim even in 80 degree temps.
Organization– For a mountain biking or hiking backpack I found the pack layout to be quite nice. There are two main compartments which feel to have the same volume when the bladder is full and in place. The outer pocket has some nice stretchy organization internal pockets. There is also a zippered top pocket that easily accommodates a first aid kit, lunch, headlamp, car keys, etc.
Comfort/Fit- I went with the M/L size for my 5’9″ build. The waist belt rides a little high as I’d expect for a pack designed with mountain biking in mind. The higher riding waist belt was also a benefit when used while wear a climbing harness. The contoured dense foam shoulder straps fit well. Most of the packs weight will be carried on the shoulders as the waist belt is pretty small. Not really an issue in a pack that is only intended for 15-20 pound loads. I found the pack to carry well while hiking and biking but I would chose the 10L version for a dedicated mountain-bike or trail running pack.
Who is this for? (Summary)
As I mentioned in my “first impressions” this pack is noticeably heavier than most of the packs I test. This weight is a necessary component of a hydration pack designed to be so well insulating. There really isn’t much on the market to compare this pack with for what it’s intention is. I see it as being more attractive for sports where an extra pound isn’t really a big deal (mountain biking, road biking, casual/family hiking, kayaking/canoeing, fishing). The luxury of cold water isn’t as important for sports where less is sometimes more (rock climbing, trail running, fast-hiking).
Made with waterproof zippers and fabric this pack would lend itself well to water sports, slot canyoneering, and wet climates. The lack of an insulated tube makes it a poor choice for winter sports and I’d keep this one in the gear room for the warmer months. It’s been perfect for a number of family hikes and a couple outdoor concerts at our local ski hill this summer.
All in all I’m happy to see Hydro Flask has entered this new market and think this first line of packs is a solid addition to their line. I’m also happy to see Hydro Flask still has a customer friendly warranty! If you put a premium on having cold drink stay cold for the longest possible time you should take a look at these packs!
Backcountry has both the 20L and 10L models in stock and is running a 20% off coupon! Details here!
You can also purchase directly from Hydro Flask here.
Thanks for reading!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample was provided for purpose of review. All opinions mentioned are that of the author. Affiliate links support the content created here at no cost to you! Thank you!
My family and I just returned from a 4 day camping trip to beautiful Camden, ME. We camped there last year and decided to repeat the trip this season, albeit in a slightly different style. A few months ago I heard about this somewhat new company “Tentrr“. If you have ever used AirBnB then the concept really isn’t that new. Tentrr partners with local land owners and some state parks to offer a convenient way for people to get out and enjoy nature in a semi-“glamping” style.
This really is a clever idea and the growth of the company shows it is catching on! Launched in 2016 two years ago the company only had a couple dozen sites all located in New York (the company was born in NYC). In less then three years there are now 735 Tentrr sites located in 38 states! Over 15,000 campers have used the service.
How it Works
Campers can search by zip code or town on either the Tentrr website or app and see what sites are in the area they wish to visit. Most of the sites sit on private land and are maintained by the land owners called “CampKeepers”. Like AirBnB hosts you’re likely to find a spectrum of personalities but most of the sites I browsed on the website sat on working family farms near rivers, beaches, or on hills with nice mountain vistas.
Basically there are four different types of Tentrr sites.
Backcountry– These are rustic campsites ranging from $25-$100 a night, but most are in the $40 range. This is a great option if you own your own tent and camping gear.
Signature– These are the backbone of the Tentrr concept and come quite equipped for a comfortable camping experience and range from $65-$200 a night with most sites listing in the $80-$120 range.
State Park– These are pretty much the same as a Signature Tentrr site except that it sits within a state park instead of on private land. This is the style we went with to take advantage of the state park facilities and playground for our kiddos. These currently are only located in Maine and cost $100 a night.
Curated– Tentrr also has a list of partner sites ranging from $45-$300. Many are luxury style yurts and larger tent style accommodations.
The easiest way to search the entire database of sites is from here.
We used the online booking service to locate one of two State Park sites in Camden Maine and it was easy to select the dates we wished to stay and check out. Confirmation emails include links with directions to the site along with helpful lists on what to bring camping with you if you are a bit new to the sport. A few days before our trip reminder emails are sent with the same info.
So what is included in a Tentrr Signature/State Park site? Let’s start with the obvious, the classic made-in-the-USA Colorado Wall Tent. This iconic tent is made in Denver, CO and the deluxe model used retails for $1,699! Some important features:
It has a 10 x 12 floor plan with a minimum 6 foot height reaching an apex of about 8 feet.
Screened windows on three sides and a large screened front door allow for plenty of ventilation.
In cooler temps they can be closed up to trap heat or keep out sideways rain.
A small wood stove made us want to come back for some cooler Fall camping trips.
Two queen sized inflatable mattresses set on a bunk bed offered plenty of room for our family of four. A foot pump stored under the beds quickly brought the mattresses up to our preferred firmness.
Two wooden storage crates worked well for us as nightstands, along with the stove providing a small table.
Outside there is a size-able raised porch with two comfy Adirondack style chairs. Down a few steps off the deck brings us to the table/kitchen set up with a pantry and raised cooking area. A 37 gallon steel trash can is provided with a full box of trash bags in the pantry and a pair of grilling tongs. A well made fire pit nearby had a brand new cooking grate over it.
So how did the family like this experience? What were the ups & downs? We were happy to not have to pack the tent this trip and have this deluxe one ready to go which meant we could kick back and relax quite quickly after arriving. A quick sweep with the provided broom and we were ready to move it!
The mattresses needed a quick top-off with the provided foot pump but are the higher end inflatable style that get and stay firm. We did not need to add any more air over the three nights we camped. One note on the mattresses though… they are extremely “squeaky”. The rubber rubs loudly when anyone moves on the bed. We tried to mitigate it by getting some blanket material in-between the bed and frame with limited success. We still slept really well once everyone stopped adjusting!
Another note to be aware of is the fact this is not a fully sealed tent. We had a pretty healthy colony of daddy long legs squatting on the property and had to constantly remind the kids that they are not spiders (though we did have to evict a few of those from time to time).
While not 100% bug proof we did find the tent to be quite weather tight as we experienced heavy rains twice during our stay, luckily both in the middle of the night. Everything stayed completely dry and we were happy we weren’t in our large family tent that would likely have seen a breakdown in it’s liquid defense program.
We definitely enjoyed the cooking and dining area set up having two dinners and breakfasts at camp during our stay. I used some p-cord to tie off “the pantry” but it would be nice if it could have an animal resistant latch added to it. Despite having a late night raccoon visit nothing got into our pantry or trash can.
All in all this was an awesome experience! I’ve seen comments online trying to compare the value to a local AirBnB and that’s not a really a fair comparison. This is a service for people who want to be a bit closer to nature than staying in someone’s well kept in-law apartment. This is an option for folks who want to go camping occasionally but don’t want to invest or store camping gear. This was a great option for us even though we own tons of expensive camping gear because we could just show up and skip set-up and go right into chill mode. We are already thinking of finding a new Tentrr spot to explore later this Fall so we can make use of the internal wood stove and enjoy some classic New England foliage!
Finally I’ve reached out to a few friends who own land where a Tentrr site might be a good fit. If you own land with potential camping sites consider becoming a Tentrr Campkeeper and make $$$ sharing your land!
$100 Tentrr Gift Certificate Giveaway!
Here’s your chance to win a $100 Gift Certificate to Tentrr! You could use it for a couple nights at a beautiful rustic campsite or a free night at one of the fully equipped Signature or State Park sites located in 38 states! Just click on the Rafflecopter link below to see how to get entries in the giveaway which ends at 9 PM EST on 9/9/2019!
“What belay device is that?” was the question that popped up from my friend @sammyspindel on a short Instagram story clip of my anchor while belaying a client up the last pitch of Upper Refuse on Cathedral Ledge a few days ago. The question generated some great back and forth conversation and ultimately provided the motivation for this post, so thank you for the question Sammy!
What belay device I use is largely determined on what type of climbing I am doing. In this post I’m going to explain the advantages, disadvantages, and helpful strategies of some of the most popular options out there. I will attempt to break it down based on type and style of climbing (gym, sport, trad, alpine, ice, top-rope, multi-pitch, party of 2, party of 3). My hope is you’re able to make some informed choices over what belay device(s) you decide to use. I’ll try to work through these options from simplest to most complex.
Here we go…
The Munter Hitch
Every climber should learn how to use a Munter Hitch. This incredible hitch has served climbers well for over a hundred years. This skill can save the day when your partner drops their shiny new flavor of the day belay device off the top of the 3rd pitch of a 7 pitch climb or when your ropes are two icy from a dripping ice pillar in below freezing temps and you can’t get them bent through your tube-style device. All you need is a pear shaped locking carabiner. I prefer the Petzl Attache or Petzl William Locking Screwgate. Avoid auto-locking carabiners to facilitate tying the hitch onto the carabiner, something I demonstrate in this first video. The second video shows how this can be converted into an auto-locking Munter!
Practice this skill at home. Practice while watching the news. Learn to tie it with your eyes closed. Learn to tie it with one hand. Learn to tie it onto the belay carabiner on the anchor with one hand. Advanced users/aspiring guides: Learn to tie it on to a carabiner so it is already in the “belay” orientation. Learn to it on a carabiner so it is already in the “lower” orientation. Then learn to tie it in both those orientations when the carabiner is on your belay loop (I still struggle with mastering this last step as looking down at the carabiner turns my head upside down).
Some key points about the Munter Hitch…. IT DOES NOT “TWIST” THE ROPE! Improper use of the hitch will introduce serious “twists” and kinks into your rope. The solution? Always keep the brake strand parallel with the load strand. In that orientation you can watch the way the rope moves through the hitch without creating twists. If you hold the brake strand anywhere but parallel you will introduce twists. This is quite un-intuitive when using this hitch to rappel as our muscle memory wants us to pull back or down with the brake hand while rappelling. The proper hand position (and maximum braking power) is obtained by holding the brake strand straight up and parallel with the loaded rope. I know, crazy right? Moving on…
Standard Tube-Style Belay Devices
Almost every climber everywhere has owned and used a classic “tube-style” belay device. It’s as standard as needing a pair of climbing shoes and a chalk bag. There are more options in this category then ever before. While there are subtle differences in weight and design they all function relatively the same. While a summer camp or outdoor club might opt for the cheapest option I’d suggest for the majority of recreational climbers to go for one of the most popular models in use that includes a “higher friction” side to assist with braking and rappelling. The two models I see the most of are the Black Diamond ATC-XP and the Petzl Verso.
Some notes on this style device. I no longer carry one opting instead for the more versatile models that can be used in “plaquette” mode (more on that in a minute). That said for top-rope and lead, single pitch, gym, sport, and trad climbing there is nothing inherently “wrong” about choosing one of these simple devices.
Tube Style Devices with “Plaquette” Mode
For little additional cost and weight you can carry a tube style belay device that can also serve in “plaquette” mode. This is ideal for lead climbers who wish to belay their partner directly off the anchor after leading a pitch. This European style of belaying has become much more prevalent in American climbing in the last few decades for good reason. At its core it is more comfortable for the belayer and much simpler should the second climber need assistance to pass a crux. The time tested choices here are the Black Diamond ATC Guide and the Petzl Reverso 4. Newer options that are gaining solid following’s are the DMM Pivot which makes direct lowered off the anchor while in “guide mode” easier and the Black Diamond ATC Alpine Guide that is optimized for working with skinny twin ropes.
Single Strand Brake Assisting Devices
This category covers devices like the Petzl GriGri, Petzl GriGri+, Black Diamond Pilot, and the new to the scene Wild Country Revo. While noticeably heavier (and pricier, except for the BD Pilot) than simpler tube style device than these devices have more applications then I think most people realize. Devices like the Petzl GriGri are just at home in the climbing gym as they are on large sandstone big walls (especially given the additional durability of the GriGri+). Some climbers may avoid using one of these devices due to needing to carry a second belay device for rappelling. Well, two things… first you can rappel with these (blocked-rappel options), but more importantly and something I will get into towards the end, what’s wrong with carrying two devices? It opens up a lot of options and solutions to potential climbing issues!
You can see my full review of the Petzl Grigri+ HERE!
You can see my full review of the Black Diamond ATC Pilot HERE!
Now we get to the device that sparked this whole post. My Kong Gi-Gi. This device’s most notable quality is that when used in plaquette mode it takes the least amount of force to belay two single rated ropes at the same time. I’ve found no device that comes close to the ease of belaying two single ropes when climbing with two seconds and using “parallel” technique, a common guiding tactic to belay two seconds at the same time.
While belaying directly off the anchor shouldn’t seem tiring I’ve known many guides who developed elbow tendinitis from the repetition of pulling two ropes through plaquettes up thousands of feet of moderate climbing over a decade or so of guiding. It can serve as a rappel device if needed, though that requires an extra locking carabiner and is a relatively low-friction rappel device (third hand back-up strongly recommended).
So what should you carry?
I guess it makes sense to break this down by end-use… there are so many tools available to us these days but here’s my take on optimizing your belay device load out:
If you’re really not sure you even like climbing but want your own belay device you can keep it simple an pick up a simple tube style belay device like the Black Diamond ATC-XP or Petzl Verso. I think the higher friction side is worth the extra cost. If you are addicted to climbing you might as well invest in a single strand brake-assisting device like the Black Diamond Pilot, Petzl GriGri, or Wild Country Revo.
If you’re going more than one pitch off the deck a plaquette device like the Black Diamond ATC Guide or Petzl Reverso 4 is an easy pick. I’ve started carrying my Petzl GriGri on multi-pitch trad routes for a multitude of reasons since it greatly simplifies rope ascension in a rescue scenario but also works great for hauling bags on big wall. “Lifer’s” with big wall aspirations should seriously consider the added durability of the Petzl GriGri+.
Here I’d go with the standard plaquette device like the Black Diamond ATC Guide or Petzl Reverso 4 and the knowledge of the Munter Hitch mentioned at the beginning to help deal with icy ropes. I leave single strand brake-assisting devices home when ice climbing as they tend to not work as well on ice ropes and weight is a premium. If you climb on really skinny floss like 7.7mm twin ropes you should look at the new Black Diamond ATC Alpine Guide!
Climbing in a party of 3 (Guiding-Style)
Parties of three typically climb in either “Caterpillar” or “Parallel” style. Basically “Caterpillar” is the leader climbs, then belays the first second, after the second arrives with the 2nd rope belays the 3rd climber. It’s slower but a better choice for harder routes and newer climbers as the other option “Parallel” means the leader takes both ropes and belays both seconds simultaneously. A lot of issues can crop up to make this a mini-epic. However for skilled leaders and guides this is often a method that can see a three person party move as fast as a two person party.
As I mentioned earlier carrying two belay devices can make sense in a lot of situations. These are the combos I find myself using most as a climbing guide:
At the end of the day there are an amazing array of belay devices to chose from. The above suggestions are just my personal experience with what has worked well for me. When I started this post I thought I would cover every device out there but there are just way to many options! Hopefully the suggestions and comments I’ve made help you pick a system that works for you! Let me know in the comments if I left out your favorite belay device or if you found any of this useful and…
See you in the mountains!
Northeast Alpine Start
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