One of These Knots Can Kill You

It seems every year we lose climbers to a simple user error that can occur when joining two ropes together for a rappel. Compounding the issue is some media outlets refer to the knots (or bends) in question with various misnomers that create further confusion within the climbing community. There needs to be more widespread standardization of the options available for joining two ropes together and it starts with referring to them with the correct nomenclature.

The first thing to understand is any knot used to join two ropes together is technically referred to as a “bend knot” or simply “bend”. While there are quite a few bends that are appropriate for joining two ropes together it is the Flat Overhand Bend that has largely gained popularity for multiple reasons.

Flat Overhand Bend (FOB)

Flat Overhand Bend

Flat Overhand Bend

Like any option this one comes with advantages and considerations.


  1. Fast and easy to tie, especially with thick winter gloves on
  2. Low profile so less likely to get caught in cracks and on features while pulling the ropes
  3. Easy to untie even after a dozen high angle rappels
  4. Pull tests indicate a properly tied Flat Overhand Bend will not capsize unless loads exceed at least 1400 pounds, far more than any climber can generate on a rappel.


  1. Like any knot this one needs to be “dressed and stressed” to be safe. After forming the knot tighten all 4 strands separately.
  2. Leave 12 inches (30cms of tail). This is more than sufficient in the unlikely event of the knot capsizing. There has been at least one fatality when a cautious climber left 3+ foot tails and then threaded a tail through their belay device ending in catastrophic failure of the system. Twelve inches is sufficient.
  3. Use ropes of similar diameter. UIAA recommends within 3mm of each other, which with today’s modern (often skinny) ropes is usually easy to stay within. If using a thin tag line consider adding either an overhand tied with the thinner rope over the thicker rope and cinched tight to the flat overhand bend. The idea here is it will help prevent the knot from capsizing but in reality should not be needed. The practice of tying a 2nd flat overhand bend a few inches down from the first seems to negate most of the advantages (fast to tie and less likely to get stuck while pulling) so this author feels that practice is not needed.

I’ve made it this far without calling this bend knot by its more common name. I’ve decided to leave the common name out. It serves no educational purpose and its use should be considered archaic in nature.

Now we get into the two options that really exacerbate this issue. One of the two knots below can kill you.

Reverse Traced Figure of Eight Bend (Flemish Bend)

Reverse Traced Figure of Eight Bend

Reverse Traced Figure of Eight Bend

Like any option this one comes with advantages and considerations.


  1. Low profile so less likely to get caught in cracks and on features while pulling the ropes
  2. Super strong. If you look closely you realize this is the same option we use to tie into our harnesses. We can not generate enough force to get this knot to fail.


  1. Like any knot this one needs to be “dressed and stressed” to be safe. After forming the knot tighten all 4 strands separately.
  2. Leave 6 inches (15cms of tail). Since this knot can not capsize by design it is logical to follow the same guidelines as using the knot to tie into a harness. Six inches of tail on a dressed and stressed knot is sufficient.
  3. Adding “back-up” knots to both tails greatly increases the likely hood of a stuck rope and is completely unnecessary given the strength of the main knot.
  4. Can be very difficult to untie after heavy load, especially with gloves on and slick new ropes.
  5. While tecnhically called the “Flemish Bend” adding the METHOD one uses to create it (reverse traced) to the common name will help differientate between the two.

Flat Figure of Eight Bend


Figure of Eight Bend aka FATAL MISTAKE!

The above knot has a proven track record of killing climbers. It routinely capsizes and fails at loads easily generated in rappelling. So why is it still being used after years of accidents showing it’s not sufficient?

New Climber Perception

I’ve had hundreds of new clients look at the FOB (first knot pictured) and say “That’s it?” Having confidence that such a simple and quick to tie bend could be sufficient for joining two ropes together and committing our full body weight out over the abyss is not so easily won. Let’s be honest, its simplicity and small volume make people nervous regardless of its more than adequate strength.

So what does the new climber do? Well if one twist around the ropes forms a Flat Overhand Bend then two twists around the ropes must be safer right? That mindset creates the deadly Figure of Eight Bend pictured above… and kills people.


The common name I’ve heard used to describe both the Reverse Traced Figure of Eight (Flemish Bend) and the Figure of Eight Bend is the “Flat Eight”.

This needs to stop. One is a strong and suitable bend for rappelling. The other keeps killing people. We should not use the term “Flat Eight” as most climbers, especially new climbers, do not easily see the difference between the two. They tie a Figure of Eight Bend, thinking it is a “Flat Eight”.


In order to reduce or eliminate the amount of fatalities the confusion these options create, we, the climbing community at large, especially the widely read climbing magazines, need to step up and standardize our definitions of these knots and not use mis-leading negative sounding catchy names to describe safe practices. Using misnomers can encourage a new climber to switch to a different, and potentially much more dangerous option for joining two ropes together.

If every guide, mentor, instructor, and tenured climber starts referring to these knots with the correct terminology we will see a reduction in unnecessary loss of life.


Posted in Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , | 78 Comments

Tech Tip Tuesday-The One Handed Clove Hitch

In an effort to grow the Skill Zone of Northeast Alpine Start I’m going to start posting a tech tip every Tuesday. I’ll share some personal tips & tricks but I’ll also be highlighting lots of content around the web from other blogs, companies, fellow guides, etc. For our first weekly Tech Tip we are going to take a look at the one-handed clove hitch (and to a lesser extent the one-handed munter hitch).

The One Handed Clove Hitch

The One Handed Clove Hitch

But why one-handed you ask?

Without question I tie more clove hitches rock and ice climbing than any other knot. On a nine pitch route it would not be uncommon to tie the clove hitch more than a dozen times. There’s a few advantages to mastering this method of tying starting with the most important;


Climbers have slipped while building anchors in all aspects of climbing. The ability to hold onto the rock (or your ice axe) with one hand while tying a clove hitch with the other increases your security when on an exposed stance at the end of a pumpy pitch. Ice climbers should especially master this skill as being able to clove into an ice screw with one hand beats taking a whipper while ice climbing (but try to stay within your ability!)


 Learning to tie both these hitches directly onto the carabiner is faster than tying them any other way. For the clove hitch start by pulling the rope snug from your tie-in. This not only makes it easy to start the hitch but when you arr finished you should be at the perfect length from the master point. For the munter hitch, assuming you’re using it to belay your second, clip the first strand as soon as you are off belay. You can pull the rest of the unused rope up faster this way and when it comes tight on your partner a quick twist of the rope is added to the carabiner and your partner is on belay! Great for icy ropes!


It just looks cool. And climbing is all about looking cool.

Before heading out to the cliff to shoot a quick video of the process I did a quick search to see if anyone else had made a video on tying one-handed clove hitches. Well lo and behold this is a hot topic! So instead of adding to the insane amount of how-to videos on this skill I’ll just share them with you all here with my personal favorite first, these guys are funny!

Did I miss your video? Let me know I’ll add it😉

That’s it for this week’s Tech Tip. Stay tuned for a new one every Tuesday… well, almost every Tuesday.

Like this tip? Got a tip you think I should share? Let me know in the comments below and see you in the mountains!

-Northeast Alpine Start

P.S. Only 2 days left to enter to win a brand new Black Diamond C4 Camalot! Details on how to enter that raffle are at the end of this DMM Dragon/C4/Ultralight comparison review!

Posted in Tech Tips | 3 Comments

EMS® Men’s Feather Pack 800 DownTek™ Hooded Jacket Review

With morning temps close to freezing today it’s time to take another look at this returning piece from EMS’s Fall Outerwear line, check out my detailed review below!

Northeast Alpine Start

The EMS® Men’s Feather Pack Hooded Jacket was my most anticipated item in last years Fall/Winter line at Eastern Mountain Sports and it returns this year! I was amped to pick it up just in time for a quick alpine climb on Cannon Cliff.

EMS® Men’s Feather Pack 800 DownTek™ Hooded Jacket EMS® Men’s Feather Pack 800 DownTek™ Hooded Jacket

Built on the success of last year’s Icarus jackets (you remember, the ones that after the first production run EMS had low inventory right off the bat because employees snagged them all up?) this jacket falls in to the “light belay jacket” category. A few things set this jacket apart from your more casual winter coat and for me justified the purchase, even when my gear closet has no shortage of technical jackets!

EMS® Men’s Feather Pack 800 DownTek™ Hooded Jacket 1 fleece, 3 soft-shells, 1 hybrid, 2 hard-shells, 3 synthetic insulated and 2 down… off course I needed 1 more


The manufacturer states the average weight of a…

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Review: Petzl Sitta Harness

The Petzl Sitta (pronounced SEE-Tah) is a stand-out harness in the very small and exclusive class of high-end technical harnesses. I bought my first top-of-the-line harness back in 1995 when I realized I was addicted to climbing. The Petzl Guru was a stand out at that time both for its notice-able rescue orange color and its high price point (it was double what most harnesses cost in the 90’s).

Petzl Sitta Review

Petzl Sitta Review

Despite the price tag I never regretted the purchase as it was really comfortable for the era and served me well for the start of my climbing career from Red Rocks to the Rockies and back East. Since I retired it around 2000 I’ve gone through a steady stream of harnesses, almost always Petzl; Adajama, Corax, Calidris, Sama, another Adajama, then a Hirundos (review), and now the Petzl Sitta.

Let’s take a close look at this technically advanced harness!

Petzl Sitta Review

10.5 ounces (294 grams)


Without question the first thing you will notice when holding this harness in hand is how unbelievably light it is. My size large weighs in at 10.5 ounces (or 294 grams) on my home digital scale. Manufacturer specifications indicate a size large is 300 grams (10.58 ounces), so I’d say the claimed weight is easily met! The only similar featured harnesses on the market in this category are the Arcteryx  FL-365 which weighs in at 365 grams / 12.9 ounces (size not given) and the CAMP Air CR which weights in at 350 grams / 12.3 ounces (size medium).

That makes the Petzl Sitta the lightest full featured harness on the market designed with a broad spectrum of climbing disciplines in mind.


I’ve always preferred harnesses that pack up small. Since we usually don our helmets at the same time we put our harnesses on I’ve been in the practice of folding my harness up and storing it neatly inside my helmet like I show here in my Hirundos harness review:

Petzl Sitta Review

Petzl Hirundos stored in Petzl Sirocco Helmet

I’ve started doing things a little differently with the Petzl Sitta. Like most harnesses the Sitta comes with a storage bag. With every harness I’ve ever owned I’ve tossed the storage bag or used it for something else; make-shift crampon pouch, random organizing stuff sack, etc. But the stuff sack that comes with the Sitta is a bit more utilitarian. First, it’s small:

Petzl Sitta Review

About 6in x 4in x 4in

The harness packs up so small I find the space inside my helmet is too large to store the harness snugly, so I started using the stuff sack to store the harness in my pack. It’s small profile allows for more efficient packing when trying to maximize available space. After gearing up I started using the stuff sack as a mini-essentials kit since there is a conveniently sewn loop on the sack allowing you to clip it to the back of your harness if you are leaving your pack on the ground. I typically toss in some snacks, bug dope, small climbing knife, headlamp, phone & car keys!

Petzl Sitta Review

Just the essentials

While this isn’t re-inventing the wheel I think most harness stuff sacks are too big to really hang off the back of your harness. This one isn’t and the quality of the stuff sack material and zipper instills confidence. In fact you can clip a small loop from the zipper and the carry handle with one carabiner, which adds some redundancy and keeps the zipper closed when scumming your way up a chimney!

Petzl Sitta Review

Secure hang-ability


Reviewers all over the web have commented at length on how surprisingly comfortable this harness is and I’ll be echoing those sentiments. To quote’s review (which also granted Climbing’s Editor Choice Award to this harness):

“Lightweight harnesses aren’t supposed to be this comfortable”

I’ve worn the harness now for a little over two months and find it just as comfortable as the more padded Petzl Hirundos that I reviewed earlier this year. Petzl achieves a high degree of load distribution via their “WIREFRAME” construction. Spectra® strands are incorporated in the waist-belt and leg loops to aid with this. Basically Spectra® is a super strong static material. Because it does not stretch like regular nylon load distribution can be optimized with careful design. I would say this harness is as comfortable as any harness I have worn in the last 10 years! Another benefit of this high tech design is the harness is very breathable in hot humid weather and has a very sleek low profile when climbing with a larger backpack.


Petzl Sitta Review

WIREFRAME Construction

Petzl Sitta Review

Waist belt tapers from 3 inches to 2 1/4 inches in the back

Elasticized fixed leg loops:

I’ve said it before that I prefer this style of stretchy leg loop. It offers excellent freedom of movement, less weight, and less bulk. I actually feel these shouldn’t be called “fixed” because they really are “auto-adjustable”. The stretchy adjustable part stretches up to 2.5 inches which is more than enough for me to add some long-underwear and soft-shell pants for this winters ice climbing season!

Petzl Sitta Review

Auto Adjustable Buckle-less Leg Loops – My favorite!

Petzl Sitta Review

Leg loops 2 1/2 inches at widest


The reinforced tie-in points are made with high-tenacity polyethylene which resists fraying and wear from repeated rope movement at these high stress points. This really is a nice feature since I usually decide to retire my harness when I have notice-able “fray” in this area and this material will definitely slow any the harness “fuzz” development.

Petzl Sitta Review

High-tenacity polyethylene for improved resistance to wear from rope friction


Here’s another area Petzl has really been innovative with! The Petzl Sitta has the traditional 4 gear loops but there are some important design considerations to take note of. First, the front gear loops are LARGE and RIGID! I can rack a standard rack easily on the right front gear loop. The rigid support facilitates clipping & un-clipping protection and quick-draws.

Petzl Sitta Review

Right front large rigid gear loop with adjustable divider and soft rear gear loop for comfort while wearing a pack

The gear divider is interesting, it can be adjusted forward or back to give you some customization. I keep it in the middle and rack passive pro and small cams in front, and every thing bigger behind the divider. I’ve found having the divider is a really nice “blind reference” when reaching for gear without looking down. Need a .4 Black Diamond C4? Find the divider and it will be the carabiner right in front. Need a .5? Find the divider and it will be the carabiner just behind the divider.

Petzl Sitta Review

Racked up with full double rack up to size 3 and all multi-pitch tools (along with that sweet Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody hanging off the back!)

For ice climbing I plan on sliding the divider back since the Petzl Caritool slots are within the gear loop area. There is a spot for one Petzl Caritool on each side.


Different but related to comfort, how a harness fits is quite personal. We are all shaped differently, so to help you choose the correct size lets start with the official size chart from Petzl:

References C10AO S C10AO M C10AO L
Size S M L
Color(s) orange/white orange/white orange/white
Waist belt 67-77 cm 74-84 cm 81-92 cm
Leg loops 48-53 cm 52-57 cm 55-60 cm
Weight 240 g 270 g 300 g

You really should measure yourself accurately before you order, but for your convenience here’s a quick conversion of the waist sizes:

Small is for 26-30 inch waist.

Medium is for 29-33 inch waist.

Large is for 32-36 inch waist.

I have a 34 inch waist, and the large waist belt fits perfectly. My thigh, measured at it’s thickest part, is about 59 cm. I still have plenty of stretch in the leg loops to accommodate thicker ice climbing layers.

Petzl Sitta Review



The above features make this harness an excellent choice for a slew of climbing disciplines. I’ll briefly give a 1-10 rating with a short explanation based on the features for each discipline before jumping into a summary:

  • Gym Climbing 5/10– If all you need is a gym harness this is overkill. Get a cheaper harness.
  • Sport Climbing 9.5/10– I can’t think of what else a dedicated sport climber could want from a harness. This is an excellent pick for sport climbing!
  • Traditional Climbing 9.5/10– Again, this harness has everything I would want for multi-pitch trad climbing
  • Ice Climbing 8.5/10– I’m REALLY looking forward to this ice season but wish they added just one more Petzl Caritool slot, preferably under the back of the right rear gear loop
  • Mountaineering 8.5/10– A great choice if skis and glaciers are not involved!
  • Glaciers & Ski Mountaineering 7.5/10– Closed leg loops make this less than ideal for glacier travel and ski mountaineering, but it’s not the end of the world. Just wear your harness all day, with this one you will forget it’s on!
  • Bouldering 1/10– What are you thinking?


It’s really hard to fairly compare this harness with what else is on the market.

Price-wise it is at the far upper end in the recreational category, but its incredible light-weight pack-ability and comfort can make it easy to justify the purchase. As mentioned near the beginning of the review only the Arcteryx  FL-365 and CAMP Air CR come close and I’m hoping to get samples of those to review here soon. For now I’m eagerly awaiting the cooler temps and early season ice climbing. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself and should just enjoy the quickly approaching foliage climbing season, definitely my favorite time to rock climb in the White Mountains!

If you’d like to upgrade to this harness you can purchase it directly off Amazon here!

Petzl Sitta Review

The Petzl Sitta Review

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts and opinions on the the review, harnesses, etc. below in the comments!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: This harness was provided to the author at no cost. All opinions stated above are his own. This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog.


Posted in Climbing Gear Reviews, Gear Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Suunto MC-2 Compass Review (and Giveaway)

After finishing another Wilderness Navigation Course today for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Pinkham Notch I decided it was finally time I post a review on the one piece of equipment I have carried in the mountains for over two decades. My compass, the Sunnto MC-2.

Suunto MC-2 Compass Review

Suunto MC-2 Compass Review

The compass is the 2nd piece of equipment listed in the often referred to “Ten Essentials” and is a must for anyone heading to the mountains for a bit of adventure. A great gear list for hiking & backpacking can be found here on

Since this piece of equipment is so important it’s wise to put a little thought into your choice. For the money, I have not found a more fully functional compass that can do as much as the Sunnto MC-2 anywhere, which is why I have happily replaced mine three times in the last 20 years when I misplaced (or loaned) it to someone and never got it back.

Without getting into the intricacies of accurate map & compass work I want to call out exactly what sets this compass apart in the field.

Sighting Mirror

Suunto MC-2 Compass Review

Suunto MC-2 Compass Review

How important is a sighting mirror? Depending on the range to your target the sighting mirror can play a significant role in accurate bearing reading. It allows you to hold the compass at eye level and arms length and still read the information given on the dial/bezel. Two “sights” are present, a higher “gun notch” and a level gap below the mirror, so you have better accuracy based on relative elevation to your target. I find I can get a bearing 3-4 degrees more accurately with this style than a regular “base-plate” type compass. In my lectures I compare the accuracy of this style compass to a rifle aimed from the shoulder vs. a pistol fired from the hip. A sighting mirror is more accurate hands down. It also has the added benefit of being an excellent signal mirror for search and rescue aircraft and allows me to easily put my prescription contacts in on multi-day trips!

Extended Baseplate


Suunto MC-2 Review

While technically an off-shoot of the sighting mirror the fact that a fully opened Sunnto MC-2 can cover 7 inches across a map makes it really convenient for taking bearings and plotting location with known points (re-section & triangulation). These skills, when used with smaller base-plate compasses, often involve estimation, map folding, or the use of a straight edge to get an accurate reading. With the Sunnto MC-2 plotting on a map is simple.

Large clear dial


The orienteering lines are highly visible under the bezel/dial, making accurate measurement possible from any north-south lines on the map or along the edge of the map.


Suunto MC-2 Compass Review

Suunto MC-2 Compass Review

A clinometer measures slope angle. This is extremely important for those travelling in avalanche terrain as a difference of 5 degrees of slope can often mean the difference between a slope being stable  or unstable. Savvy mountain travelers in avalanche terrain are constantly checking slope angle, and to do so accurately one needs a clinometer. The Sunnto MC-2 has one built in that can function on the slope like the photo above, or in conjunction with the sighting mirror while looking up or down a slope.

The above photo of me measuring slope angle was coincidentally taken moments before a human triggered size-able avalanche caught 5 people on Mount Washington. One of the people caught is just disappearing out of the safer area we where at before the incident occurred. My write up of this incident is here.

Adjustable Declination

The Sunnto MC-2, like many top tier compasses, allows one to set the magnetic declination for the area of operation. I am not going to dive into a detailed conversation on declination in a gear review but simply put this is a solid feature for a vast majority of recreationalists and mountain professionals. There are many professionals out there that feel it is almost required. Since I teach courses to people with various pre-owned compasses my personal opinion is if one truly wants to understand solid map & compass work one needs to be able to navigate with an adjustable or non-adjustable compass. That being said, the fact it is an option on this compass is win-win, I just choose not to use it.

Magnifying glass

A small feature, but helpful none-the-less! This feature really helps when decoding small print & icons on a faded map!

1:24k and 1:62500 scales

The Sunnto MC-2  has two distance scales along the side calibrated to the two most popular USGS map scales. Combined with the included lanyard it should be quite easy to accurate estimate distances on your maps.

In case you want some manufacture specifications here they are:

  • High grade steel needle with jewel bearing
  • Balanced for northern hemisphere
  • Adjustable declination correction
  • Liquid filled capsule for stable operation
  • Mirror for sighting bearings and signaling
  • Sighting hole and notch for accurate bearings
  • Non-luminescent bezel
  • Clinometer
  • Luminescent markings for working in low light
  • Metric scales and inch ruler
  • Baseplate with magnifying lens
  • Detachable snap-lock lanyard with wristlock. Easy to detach for working with the map
  • Suunto limited lifetime warranty
  • Made in Finland
There is little improvement to suggest on such a well crafted piece of outdoor gear. For global travel Suunto does offer a slightly more expensive global version but for anyone staying in the northern hemisphere you can pick this compass up at a great price on Amazon right here. Using that link will help support this blog and earn you karma and increased karma means less chance of getting lost*.
I’m giving a away a mint condition Suunto MC-2 through Rafflecopter! You can get up to five entries in the contest, just click the Rafflecopter link for details!

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Suunto MC-2 Compass Review

Suunto MC-2 Compass Review

Disclaimer: David Lottmann has bought this compass, more than once with his own money, because he thinks it’s the best damn compass out there. This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog.

*not getting lost depends on trip preparation, not karma, but ordering through those links can’t hurt

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Posted in Gear Reviews, Land Navigation, Wilderness Navigation | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

DMM Dragons vs. Black Diamond C4 Camalots vs. Ultralights Comparison (and giveaway!)

For the last two decades Black Diamond Camalots have been a mainstay of my rack. When the new C4’s came out in 2005 I upgraded my whole rack and saved over a pound in the process. While I’d been aware of the DMM Dragon Cams for a few years it wasn’t until I needed to replace a few well loved cams on my rack that I decided to give them a try.

DMM Dragon Cams Review

DMM Dragon Cams Review

I picked up the 2, 3, 4, and 5, which is equivalent to the Black Diamond C4 .75, 1, 2, and 3.

Since the numbers the manufacturers assigned for the sizes do not correlate well we will be happier if we refer to them by color (which thankfully correlates). So I picked up the green, red, yellow, and blue size.

DMM Dragon Cams Review

A welcome addition to the rack

While they felt light in hand manufacturer specs and my home scale confirmed they are almost identical in weight to the Black Diamond C4’s. A full set of each weighs within one ounce of the other, with the Dragons coming in a hair lighter.

While I was not able to obtain a set of Black Diamond Ultralights for this review using the manufacturer specifications I calculated one would save about 8 ounces, half a pound, over either the DMM Dragons or the Black Diamond C4’s for a full rack.  That weight savings comes at considerable cost, about $200 more for a full rack. The weight savings are noticeable throughout the size range but the largest gains are made in the biggest sizes.

DMM Dragon Cams Review

Breaking down the numbers

When comparing weight savings we have to take a look at probably the most noticeable feature of the DMM Dragons, the inclusion of an extendable dyneema sling.

DMM Dragon Cam Review

Expandable sling not extended

DMM Dragon Cam Review

Expandable sling extended

The advantages & disadvantages to this unique feature are a bit specific to the route & type of climbing you predominantly do, but lets take a look. First, you can gain 12-14cm of “free” extension on your placement without having to carry an extra quickdraw. How much weight can that save? Well 7-8 average quick-draws like the Petzl Djinns weigh close to 2 pounds, so that’s significant. On a straight up route where the gear is in-line this advantage is less pronounced as you’ll be clipping the sling un-extended, just like the sling on a C4. On a wandering line or alpine route this feature could probably save you a few draws and slings further reducing total pack weight.

DMM Dragon Cams Review

Hot forged thumb press

There are a few considerations with this design. First, the “thumb loop” found on the Black Diamond C4’s is considered to be one of the easiest to manipulate when pumped or trying to surgically get the best possible placement in a weird situation. Personally I feel the thump press on the DMM Dragons is plenty sufficient to keep control of the cam while making difficult placements. The thumb loop does provide a higher clip point on the protection, which should only be used for aid climbing applications, so this point is quite obscure for non-aid climbing applications. The last concern is the more complex cleaning process for the second. If the sling is extended it can be tricky to re-rack the cam one handed without it hanging low off the harness. With a little practice it can be done, but it is definitely not as easy as re-racking an unextended sling.

As for holding power there has been anecdotal comments since they were released in 2010 that the slightly thinner surface area might be a concern in softer rock (sandstone). I have not seen any evidence of DMM Dragons failing in softer sandstone conditions when a thicker cam head may have held, so I think that theory can be debunked at this point.

DMM Dragon Cams Review

DMM Dragon Cams Review

While I can only compare tech specs on the currently sold out Black Diamond Ultralights I am looking forward to reviewing them (and the Metolius Master Cams) in detail once I get my hands on them. I’m hoping the above spreadsheet is helpful for some when deciding if the additional weight savings is worth the additional moo-lah. For some it will be a resounding yes, and others will be happier with the flexibility of the DMM Dragons, or the time-tested standby of the C4’s (especially if also aid climbing).

Right now both DMM Dragon cams and Black Diamond C4’s are on sale on Amazon here and here! You could pick up a full set of Dragons for around $450 or C4’s for around $400!

I’m giving away a brand new Black Diamond Camalot C4 Size #1, a $79.95 value! The contest is being run through Rafflecopter and ends at 12:00am September 30th, 2016! Enter up to four times!

Just click the link below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: David Lottmann bought all the items referred to in this review with his own money. This post contains affiliate links.




Posted in Climbing Gear Reviews, Gear Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

This Spring & Summer I climbed almost exclusively in the Petzl Hirundos and would like to share my opinion on this well received harness by Petzl. The Hirundos is a solid option for any climber looking to shed a couple ounces and gain a bit of comfort. Let’s have a look.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

Stock photo from

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

Exploring Middle Sugarloaf whilst wearing the Petzl Hirundos harness- May 2016


I prefer lightweight weight harnesses that pack up small. My home scale weighs my size XL Hirundos in at just over 11 ounces.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

11 1/4 ounces

This is a full pound lighter than my Petzl Corax that I used last winter and if there is a slight loss of comfort in the design I have not noticed. I also prefer harnesses that collapse neatly and fit easily inside my climbing helmet as I usually pack my helmet towards the top of my climbing pack. Since I usually don my helmet as soon as I get to the cliff it is most convenient to pack my harness with it.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

Efficient use of space


According to the official size chart I would have fit a large with 6 cms to spare but a similarly built co-worker suggested I purchase an XL and his advice was spot on.  My 5’9″ 180 lb frame with a 34 inch waist and thicker thighs definitely needed the XL despite the Petzl size chart.

References C36AO XS C36AO S C36AO M C36AO L C36AO XL
Color(s) orange orange orange orange orange
Size XS S M L XL
Waist belt 65-71 cm 71-77 cm 77-84 cm 84-92 cm 92-100 cm
Leg loops 48-53 cm 48-53 cm 52-57 cm 55-60 cm 57-62 cm
Weight 250 g 270 g 280 g 300 g 315 g

While this harness is marketed towards sport climbing (and alpine climbing) I would suggest anyone that has muscular thighs to consider sizing up if you can’t get to a gear shop to try it on. If you have more than a 36 inch waist you will want to look at other options.


The Hirundos uses something called “Fuseframe” technology. A fancy word for a pretty straight forward idea. Instead of just adding padding around the structural strength of the waist belt Petzl splits the support with “thermo-formed foam” in a way that reduces pressure points and aids in weight distribution. It is extremely comfortable for a harness that weighs less than a pound! I also found the mesh to be breathable and quick drying even when the humidity was high.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

A day in July on Cathedral Ledge

The stretchy fitted leg loop material is more comfortable to me than any “adjustable” metal buckled leg loops I have ever used, and has enough range of movement that I have no concerns about adding some long underwear and some soft-shell ice climbing pants to this outfit for some ice climbing this winter (is it winter yet?).


The “DoubleBack HD” buckle provides quick secure on/off adjustment of the harness. While double-back  buckles have become standard in this category this small profile buckle adjusts more smoothly than larger style buckles that are in common use.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

Slim buckle- stock photo from

As typical of this style harness there are 4 gear loops but Petzl has put more thought into them then just adding 4 loops. The front two are rigid, allowing easier clipping and un-clipping of quick-draws and protection. The rear two are flexible and soft which makes wearing a full size backpack a bit more comfortable (and aids in the compress-ability of the harness for packing).

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

Well designed gear loops- photo from

There are two integrated CARITOOL screw/tool holder slots so I’ll definitely be using this harness once the ice season starts (is it here yet?) If you ice climb you should definitely pick a couple of these up:

Rounding out the features are detachable rear buckles that can help with sorting a tangled harness (and answering nature’s call) and the inclusion of high-tenacity polyethylene (instead of just regular nylon) at the tie-in points that helps reduce abrasion and wear at a high stress point.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

Detachable butt straps- photo from



After 4 months of climbing sport, trad, and alpine I can give this harness a hearty endorsement. It’s light, pack-able, comfortable, and well thought out. If you’re looking for a new rig check this harness out on Amazon here!


If you liked this review or want to plug YOUR favorite harness please do so in the comments below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: David Lottmann bought this harness with his own money. This post contains affiliate links.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

Cannon Cliff

Posted in Climbing Gear Reviews, Gear Reviews, Ice Climbing, Mountaineering | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments