Gear Review- Black Diamond First Light Hoody

For the last couple months I’ve been testing the Black Diamond First Light Hoody. From early season recon missions into Tuckerman Ravine searching for climbable November ice to blustery cliff top rigging work while creating an instructional video with Northeast Mountaineering I’ve cultivated some appreciation for the versatility of this “light puffy”. Lightly insulated hooded jackets like this are a great addition to almost any climber or skier’s kit. If you are looking for a full on winter belay jacket you can check out some other models I am reviewing here.

Black Diamond First Light Hoody Review

Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Insulation

The Black Diamond First Light Hoody uses 60 gsm of PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation Active with a traditional tube style baffling. This is a high end insulation that resists “migration”; basically it stays put within its baffles reducing gaps in protection. PrimaLoft® also claims it is more wind resistant but less thermally efficient than the PrimaLoft® Gold Eco.

Black Diamond First Light Hoody

So this type of PrimaLoft insulation isn’t as close to high loft down in terms of heat retention per weight but feels quite warm for the weight of this piece. It also boosts excellent breath-ability and will still retain heat if you get soaked in a “not quite full winter” rain event.

The Patagonia Nano Puff and Black Diamond First Light Hoody

The Patagonia Nano Puff and Black Diamond First Light Hoody, birds of a synthetic feather

Shell/Lining

The Black Diamond First Light Hoody uses Schoeller® stretch-woven nylon with NanoSphere® Technology (80 gsm, 93% nylon, 7% elastane). This is a highly breathable shell fabric which allows this jacket to stay on during high output effort in cold conditions (skinning with sub-zero ambient temps) without overheating. In hand the shell fabric feels like it will handle abrasion better than some others in this category. The nylon woven mesh liner adds a bit of weight to this piece (65 gsm, 100% nylon) but is super soft and feels great directly on skin.

Weight/Compress-ability

Manufacturer specs state 510 grams, 18 oz. My home scale on my size large reads 568 grams, 20 oz. The jacket compresses easily enough into its internal chest pocket and only appears to be slightly larger in packing size than the Nano Puff (but about 50% heavier).

Black Diamond First Light Hoody vs. Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody

Black Diamond First Light Hoody vs. Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody pack-ability

A carabiner sewn loop allows you to clip this off to the back of your harness if you are leaving your pack on the ground and the top of the pitch looks a little bit more breezy than the base of the route.

Sizing/Fit

I found the sizing to be spot on. I went with a large which fits my 42 inch chest, 180lb build, with a little extra space for a soft-shell and base-layers but not too baggy to throw on over a t-shirt. The hood is sized to fit perfectly over your helmet.

Black Diamond First Light Hoody Review

Black Diamond First Light HoodyL

Summary

Yet another fantastic option in the growing lightweight hooded jacket category the Black Diamond First Light Hoody is an ideal “just in case” piece for edge season climbing and an obvious go-to choice for hard & fast winter objectives. If sharing leads on a multi-pitch ice climb I would still bring a full duty belay jacket like the models I am reviewing here. If you haven’t added a “light puffy” to your kit yet or the one you have needs replacing this should be on your radar.

If you think you’d like this jacket you can find other reviews and competitive pricing right here on Amazon. If you liked this review please leave a comment below and subscribe above!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Black Diamond provided this item for purposes of review. The opinions expressed above are my own. Affiliate links above help support this blog.

Northeast Alpine Start has presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Strava.

Some promotional videos of this product:

http://classic.avantlink.com/affiliate_app_confirm.php?mode=js&authResponse=1726d3094b0dde4e7c5bf9c27f39e63a5b628a22

Posted in Gear Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Tech Tip- Saddlebagging your Rappel Ropes

Saddlebagging your ropes for rappelling is a great way to prevent mini-epics and is also more polite than dropping your ropes on parties climbing below you. It works great on low angle terrain where your ropes won’t fall free and in vegetated areas where every bush and krummholz conspire to lengthen your descent time. Last week I went out with Northeast Mountaineering to create this instructional video on the technique. Enjoy, and please like, share, and/or comment below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Posted in Tech Tips | 3 Comments

Gear Review: La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boots

This Fall La Sportiva asked me if I would be interested in reviewing the La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boots in their new “Highlander” color from a hunter’s perspective. Since I have very limited experience hunting I enlisted my good friend Alec to help review a pair. Alec has been getting out almost every weekend since the hunting season started.

La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boot Review

La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boot Review

La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boot

Alex finding some signs of the buck he’s pursuing this season while the La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boots keep his feet warm & dry

How we tested:

The boots were tested pheasant hunting in high grass fields in early season, deer hunting from late October through late November with the season continuing until December 4th . For deer season, I have hunted in the White Mountains of NH and Colebrook, NH. We have yet to have had much snow in the lower elevations of the Whites yet, but there was snow in Colebrook and that was where I found the boots to be a little cold. In the White Mountains, I have been in rolling, rocky, steeper terrain. I have never felt like the terrain was too much or for the boot. The rubber of the sole maintained traction in all of the conditions that I found myself in. With two more weekend left in the season, I look forward to use them until the end.

La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boot Review

La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boot Review

Durability

So far there have been no issues with durability. The boots show no sign of wear and tear. The Thermo-Tech Injection™ TPU lacing system seems to provide a nice protective layer over the fabric. The only reason that I have reserved a rating of 10 is because I am still interested to see how the PU eyelets hold up over time.

Weight

At only 26.2 ounces (size 45.5), this boot is very light. Manufacturer weight for a size 42 is only 24 ounces. The heaviest aspect of this boot is the sole, but the balance is very comfortable.

Comfort

La Sportiva as a brand tends to run on the narrower side, but these boots run wider. As someone with a wider forefoot, having this extra width makes a big difference for my comfort. I have been wearing the boots with the tongue inserts in, but with it getting colder will be taking them out to allow for thicker socks. This boot is designed for a narrow to medium with foot, but the removable tongue allows for different volumes. The flex allows for great comfort while walking.

Features

The removable tongue is a great feature. The polymer shrouding over the upper makes for great durability. The stiff sole makes for great traction in varying terrain. Unlike some hiking boots, the laces are a perfect length so they do not drag or get caught on underbrush.

The Good

Light weight, soft upper, nice flexion in the ankle, stiff sole with nice rocker, highly waterproof, the tongue design (materials and removable insert).

The Bad

A little light on insulation, a little low in the upper, a little narrow if you have a really wide foot.

The Verdict

I am really enjoying this product especially for tracking, stalking and scouting. The rocker of the sole really makes up for how stiff it is in terms of moving quietly. With sitting for long periods of time, it is really nice to have the ability to flex my ankles to keep my feet from falling asleep. I have found with other boots that this has been a problem when taking a stand for a couple of hours. The ability to take out the tongue insert has been great for being able to vary the weight of socks that I’m wearing depending on conditions. The boot is fantastic for early to mid season hunting. The one place that it has fallen a little short is the lack of insulation. Sitting for three hours on a snowy day, my feet did get a bit cold. Once I got moving, everything warmed right up, but I am interested to continue to experiment with different sock combinations and how tight the boot is as the season goes on.

Overall, I am very happy with this boot and would highly recommend it especially if you are looking for something to lead you up to the part of the season where a heavier insulated boot is needed. -Alec F.

So there you have it! Sounds like a high end hunting boot to me and I might need to invest in a whole new hobby. If you want to pick a pair up you’ll probably find the best price on Amazon here. Thank you Alec for getting some feedback on these for La Sportiva and my readers!

See you in the mountains!

-Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: La Sportiva supplied Northeast Alpine Start with these boots for the purpose of review but that has in no way effected the opinion of our guest reviewer. Affiliate links in this post help support this website.

Posted in Footwear Reviews, Gear Reviews | 1 Comment

Eastern Snow Avalanche Workshop

A couple weeks ago I attended the sixth annual Eastern Snow & Avalanche Workshop and wrote a brief summary of the event with a few photos. Here, with permission, is a special sneak preview of the more detailed report my friend and colleague Jonathan Shefftz has written for The Avalanche Review before it goes to print! Enjoy!

6th Annual Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop

6th Annual Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop

Sixth Annual Eastern Snow & Avalanche Workshop (“ESAW”)

by Jonathan S. Shefftz

The sixth annual Eastern Snow & Avalanche Workshop (“ESAW”) on November 5 attracted approximately 150 attendees at Fryeburg Academy, just across the state border from New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in the White Mountains’ Presidential Range.

This year’s ESAW was as always a collaborative effort.  The organizing partners included the Snow Rangers of the USFS Mount Washington Avalanche Center (“MWAC”) and the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol (“MWVSP”).  ESAW once again relied on a grant from our lead sponsor the American Avalanche Association (“AAA”), to be led here soon by Eastern Representative-elect Mark Renson, with your faithful correspondent as AAA Member Representative.  Additional support came from our headline industry sponsor Outdoor Research.  Registration fee proceeds over and above hosting costs benefitted the White Mountain Avalanche Education Fund, which provides avalanche education to youth of the Northeast.

ESAW kicked off the prior Friday evening with a social event hosted by the Friends of MWAC and fueled by Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing at the International Mountain Equipment shop and guide service.  Then Saturday morning the avalanche presentations started up at Fryeburg Academy.

Chris Joosen, MWAC former Lead Snow Ranger (only the third since its 1951 formation) and outgoing AAA Eastern Representative, flew back East from his new Oregon home to serve yet again as our MC.  Also flying out East was our first presenter, Simon Trautman of the National Avalanche Center (“NAC”), who introduced us to “Avalanche Danger Scales and How Forecasters Use Them” including data to compare/contrast ratings distributions across the forecast centers of different nations.

We then retreated well below treeline as Tyler Ray of the newly formed Granite Backcountry Alliance (i.e., for the “Granite State” of New Hampshire) joined MWAC Snow Ranger Helon Hoffer for “Backcountry Skiing on Public Lands: The Creation of Legitimate and Sustainable Glades.”  Although New England backcountry skiing guidebooks reference only official ski trails (many cut by the famed Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression) plus the avalanche terrain at and above treeline, much of the backcountry skiing here actually takes place on the “down low”:  glades illicitly cut on public lands for “forest fire prevention” and other in-the-know euphemisms.  This was brought into the open in 2007 when two would-be Vermont backcountry skiers were criminally charged with felony-level violations for chainsawing a prominent line (aka “Jailhouse Chute”).  But recent collaboration in Vermont with the USFS between non-profit groups has created glades that are both nicely skiable and legitimately accessible.  The increasing availability of such terrain can offer a safe alternative to skiing at and above treeline when avalanche danger is elevated.  And fortuitously for the Granite Backcountry Alliance, the off-season position for Snow Ranger Hoffer is the USFS Trails Manager for much of the Presidentials Range.

Next, AAA’s Executive Director Jaime Musnicki returned to her native New England to make good on her plan to attend as many regional SAWs as possible, and also to present on “Personal Reflections:  Making Sense of Our Own Close Calls in Avalanche Terrain.” As if the incident she described in detail weren’t already harrowing enough, her partner had been her new boyfriend at the time, out on their first ski tour together.  And not only did Jaime come out on top of the debris, four years later the two of them are still together.

On a similar note, Jon Miller, of Dogy Down Films, although unable to attend in person, presented to us on “Risk, Rewards, and the Balancing of Mountain Experiences and Goals” via a tailored video introduction and debriefing for us to sandwich his film “Season on the Brink.”  His life-threatening fall this past spring in a Mount Washington couloir was extensively written up at the time, but the video footage he showed us — from both a partner and his own helmet cam — was especially terrifying.  Just as memorable were the assessments from the party members of “What really sticks with me is that we just shouldn’t have been there” and “A series of little details and little errors that added up.”  After a helicopter airlift, Jon spent a month in hospital care before regaining the ability to talk and walk normally.

Dallas Glass, our fourth Western presenter of the morning, here to lead the avalanche instructor training the following day for the American Avalanche Institute for Research and Education (“AIARE”), presented on “Blue Skies, Powder Days, and Las Vegas: Minimizing the Role of Luck in Avalanche Terrain.”  For ESAW regulars over the years, Dallas’s presentation was the perfect follow-up to the 2012 presentation to us by Blase Reardon (then of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center, and now of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center).  Back then, Blase had emphasized that the backcountry snowpack does not provide a consistent environment with regular feedback, but rather its feedback is inconsistent and often fatal.  (Remember Bruce Tremper’s analogy of playing soccer in a mine field.)  “Experts” are often just those who have gotten lucky over time, like many stock pickers who have beaten the market over a selected time period.  This year, Dallas explained how debriefing your day is the feedback loop that completes the risk management process.  Professional guides always hold a debriefing as part of their standard operating procedures.  To help recreationalists aspire toward this goal, Dallas quoted an incentivizing line from his fellow Pacific Northwest guide Larry Goldie:  “Why having a beer at the end of the day could save your life.”  It (the debriefing, not necessarily the alcoholic content!) allows us to identify when we got lucky and thereby recalibrate, so that on future trips we aren’t relying on “luck” to stay safe.  We have all gotten lucky in the mountains, but we need to recognize when that occurs so that we don’t need an incident to provide us feedback, and instead we can use “no event” days to learn from and grow as backcounty travelers.

After lunch, Jaime Musnicki explained the upcoming split between recreational versus professional tracks in U.S. avalanche training.  Fortunately the details need not be reiterated here, since you the dear reader have of course already carefully read every single prior TAR article on this subject.  (Right?)  This fed into a panel discussion on avalanche education with Jaime Musnicki, Jeff Lane (previously a MWAC Snow Ranger for ten years), Simon Trautman, and Dallas Glass, moderated by MWAC Snow Ranger Frank Carus.

Thus far we had been getting off lightly on the technical side.  To ratchet everything up several notches, as always we could rely on Dr. Sam Colbeck, retired from the U.S. Army’s Cold Region Research and Engineering Laboratory (in Hanover, NH) after three decades of groundbreaking cold lab and field research in snow crystal bonding and wet grain relationships.  In his fifth year of ESAW presentations, this time Sam explained “Why Skis Slide on Snow.”  The answer is not simply “because it’s fun” since that’s why we use skis to slide on snow, as opposed to why they are actually able to slide so well.

And those skis slide especially well on very steep terrain with lots of blown-in snow, which was the focus of the presentation by Frank Carus on “Forecasting Avalanche Danger in Inherently Dangerous Terrain” regarding the couloirs in the at-treeline glacial cirques on our Mount Washingon.  Next, Simon Trautman presented on “What are we doing now?” at the NAC, following up on the presentation at the 2014 ESAW by the NAC’s Director Karl Birkeland.

And finally, Chris Joosen wrapped up with “Reflecting on a Life with Avalanches” incorporating his 26 years working on Mount Washington.  His conclusion was followed by a standing ovation from all attendees.  And from all us who have depended for so many years on Chris’s work and his direction of the MWAC Snow Rangers, thank you!

We concluded with our annual expo, including rep displays for AAA, AIARE, Backcountry Access, Black Diamond / Pieps, Catamount Trail Association, Bryce & Ronnie Athlete Safety & Security (“BRASS”) Foundation, DPS Skis, Friends of MWAC, Granite Backcountry Alliance, La Sportiva, Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation, Mammut / Barryvox, MWVSP, Mount Washington Weather Observatory, Petzl & Adventure Medical, Salomon, Northeast Mountaineering guides, Ortovox / Deuter, and Outdoor Research.  Throughout the day we had raffled off and auctioned donations from these sponsors plus ARVA, Dynafit, Hagan, MSR, Pomoca, Ski the East, and Toko.  

Jonathan Shefftz patrols at Northfield Mountain and Mount Greylock in Western Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and daughter (who notched her first-ever October ski outing this season). He is an AIARE-qualified instructor, NSP avalanche instructor, and AAA governing board member. When he is not searching out elusive freshies in Southern New England or “coaching” his daughter’s skiing (i.e., picking her up off the snow), he works as a financial economics consultant and has been qualified as an expert witness in state and federal courts. He can be reached at JShefftz@post.harvard.edu or just look for the lycra-clad skinner training for his NE Rando Race Series.

 

Posted in Avalanche Courses, Backcountry Skiing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Gear Review: Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody

A couple months ago I got my hands on the iconic Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody and I’ve come to discover why I often see climbers milling about both at the cliffs and at the local coffee shop in this well designed piece. The non-hooded version of this jacket won the Editors Choice Classic Award from Climbing Magazine. I prefer hoods on almost all my outdoor clothing so I was happy to review the hooded version. This jacket falls into the “light puffy” category. If you are looking for a full on winter belay jacket you can check out some “full puffy” models I am reviewing here.

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody

Patagonia Men’s Nano Puff® Hoody- photo from Patagonia.com

So let’s break down what makes this piece an excellent addition to your outdoor wardrobe!

Insulation

The Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody uses super light and compressible 60-g PrimaLoft® Gold ECO Insulation. “Gold” Primaloft is the highest level of synthetic insulation and of course being the environmentally conscious company Patagonia is known for they went with the ECO version of Gold which is 55% post-consumer recycled content. So you can feel warm and fuzzy while feeling warm and… ok that’s a bit too cheesy.

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody

The “brick quilting” pattern is superior to other less expensive baffling methods and keeps the insulation in place preventing cold spots.

Shell/Lining

The Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody uses 1.4-oz 22-denier 100% recycled polyester with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. Well what does that mean? 1.4-oz 22-denier feels like silk!

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody

Brick Quilting Pattern = no cold spots

This isn’t a cheap nylon taffeta but a very abrasion resistant and pack-able material. It is quite comfortable over bare skin which is good since I broke this out repeated this Fall to wear directly over a t-shirt.

Weight/Compress-ability

12.8 oz. / 362 grams. Ultralight weight and super compressible, this is undoubtedly where the jacket go its namesake. Nano in this sense means extremely small. The Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody easily stuffs into its own internal chest pocket which measures about 8 x 7 x 4 inches.

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody

A lot of warmth in a small little package

A carabiner sewn loop allows you to clip this off to the back of your harness if you are leaving your pack on the ground and the top of the pitch looks a little bit more breezy than the base of the route.

Sizing/Fit

I found the sizing to be spot on. I went with a large which fits my 42 inch chest with a little extra space for a soft-shell and base-layers but not too baggy to throw on over a t-shirt. The hood is sized to fit under your helmet but I found it would fit over as well, but a bit snug.

fullsizerender-2

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody

A blustery day rock climbing this Fall near Gorham, NH

Probably more comfortable, and warmer, to wear this hood under your helmet unlike traditional belay jackets with over-sized hoods.

Features

Rounding out some of the features I haven’t mentioned yet:

  • Center-front zipper has wicking interior storm flap and zipper garage at chin for next-to-skin comfort
  • Two zippered handwarmer pockets have cleanly finished zipper garages
  • Under-the-helmet hood construction is light and simple
  • Drawcord-adjustable drop-tail hem seals in warmth

Summary

This is a super versatile layer that can serve many purposes.

It’s the perfect balance of warmth, weight, and pack-ability for climbing on the edge seasons.

Fall rock climbing is the best rock climbing in the Northeast and this jacket is ideal as your insulating layer all on its own. The DWR finish and warm-when-wet insulation adds protection should you leave the rain shell at home and get surprised by a later afternoon shower. After the leaves have fallen and the ice is starting to grow this becomes an excellent mid-layer, taking the place of heavier and less compress-able 200 weight fleece jackets. With quality long underwear, a soft shell, Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody, and a hard-shell you have an adjustable system that can handle almost any winter conditions. I’ll still carry a heavier full on belay jacket when swapping leads ice climbing but for fast solo missions this is a perfect companion!

If you think you’d like this jacket you can find other reviews and competitive pricing right here on Amazon. If you liked this review please leave a comment below and subscribe above!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Patagonia provided this item for purposes of review. The opinions expressed above are my own. Affiliate links above help support this blog.

Northeast Alpine Start has presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Strava.

Posted in Clothing Reviews, Gear Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gear Preview: Synthetic Belay Jackets

This winter I’ve acquired a number of high end synthetic insulated belay jackets to review. Getting field time to fully test all five of these models will take a little time so I decided to post a first look comparison of these industry leading models so those shopping for a new belay jacket for this season will have some info to look at before the ice climbing season really gets underway. Below I will share some technical comparisons within the various models and some impressions of each. Full reviews of each model will be posting throughout the season and I will back-link here as they publish.

First let’s define the category here. The common definition of “belay jacket” should look something like:

belay jack·et

bee-lay ˈjakət/

noun

  1. 1.

    an outer garment extending to the hips with sleeves and a fastening down the front. An insulated hood and dimensions to fit over all other layers make a belay jacket stand apart from regular jackets. Also known as a “Puffy”.

I am going to limit this comparison to synthetic insulated options… apples to apples so to speak.

We will compare insulation, shell material, weight, fit, and features of each piece specifically trying to pull out how they differ from each other. Keep in mind this is not intended to be a full review of any of these jackets as that will need to wait until each has been sufficiently field tested. Here we go!

LaSportiva Latok 2.0 Jacket

La Sportiva Latok 2.0 Primaloft Belay Jacket

La Sportiva Latok 2.0 Primaloft Belay Jacket

Insulation

The LaSportiva Latok 2.0 uses Primaloft ECO Silver insulation. LaSportiva states they use “Body-mapped construction of 3 different weights of Primaloft used for thermal regulation”. I reached out to LaSportiva for more details and discovered they use 200 grams in the body, upper sleeves and shoulders have 133 grams, and lower sleeves have 80 grams.

Shell

10-Denier Ripstop (100% Nylon); Repeloff Nano Super DWR; Upper Body, Shoulders, and Sleeves: X2Weave-BR (85% Nylon, 15% Spandex); Repeloff Nano Super DWR

Weight/Compressability

29.3 oz. / 831 grams. This is the 2nd to heaviest model in the line up. It doesn’t feel very “crushable” for packing, and I’m assuming that may be due to the more cost effective Primaloft ECO insulation and regular (heavier) YKK zippers used throughout.

Fit

This model has the most snug fit of all the models I am testing. It’s a bit tight in the shoulders and the hood is just big enough to fit comfortably over my helmet.

Features

The jacket is black, not my first choice in belay jacket color. Bright colors have a physcological effect when waiting out a storm or your partner takes a decade to lead the next pitch while you slowly turn into a popsicle. It also has a microfleece lined adjustable hood that fits over my helmet, albeit a bit snug. Rounding out the feature list: 2 Front Hand Warmer Pockets with Invisible Zippers, 2 Napolean Chest Pockets with YKK Zippers, 1 Inner Binded Phone Pocket with Headphone Access Port (fits iPhone 6 but not 6 Plus), 2 Large Inner Mesh Pockets, Adjustable drawcord at hem

Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket

Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket

Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket

 Insulation

The Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket uses 120g of Pinneco Core™ fill in the body and 80g in the sleeves. This “feels” warmer and puffier than the Primaloft ECO insulation used in the previous jacket and is 5 ounces lighter.

Shell

Big Agnes does not list much detail in relation to the shell fabric, just: “100% recycled polyester shell is wind-proof and water resistant”. I have reached out to Big Agnes for more info and will update this as soon as I hear back!

Weight/Compressability

24.5 oz. / 695 grams. The lightest option in our line up this piece easily stuffs into an included high quality 10 x 7 stuff-sack. Oddly the manufacturer’s website description references and interior chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack but I believe this must be a web error as there is no interior chest pockets and the exterior chest pocket is far to small to function as a reversible stuff sack.

Fit

This model fits well over my typical load out. The adjustable hood is the perfect size for my helmeted head.

Features

  • Center front zipper includes interior no-draft flap and a zipper garage at chin
  • Features YKK Reverse coil zippers
  • Textured zipper pulls are easy to use with gloves
  • Adjustable drawcord at hem seals out wind
  • Two zippered hand-warmer pockets with zipper garages
  • Large interior mesh pockets for extra stash space
  • Exterior check pocket
  • Separate stuff sack included
  • 120g Pinneco Core™ synthetic insulation in body, 80g in the sleeves
  • Insotect Tubic™ construction provides supreme loft and thermal efficiency
  • 100% recycled polyester shell is wind-proof and water resistant
  • Jacket weight, size Medium – 24.5oz/ 695g

Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka

black-diamond-stance

Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka

Insulation

The Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka uses two layers of 80 gsm PrimaLoft® Silver Hi-Loft Insulation insulation (basically 160 gsm), a continuous filament insulation made with fibers of differing thicknesses. Primaloft calls this their loftiest insulation and it definitely feels up there with the best synthetic insulation currently available.

Shell

This piece uses Pertex® Classic 40d plain-weave with a DWR finish (65 gsm, 100% nylon). I’ve always found Pertex® to be a solid performer in the breathable water resistent category so I’m happy to see Black Diamond went with this for the shell material. Interestingly the liner also has a DWR finish to it which I suppose is one extra layer of protection, Pertex Microlight 20 d ripstop with DWR finish (40 gsm, 100% nylon)

Weight/Compressability

26 oz. / 730 grams. This is the 2nd lightest model in the line up and packs up to a similar size as the rest.

Fit

This model fits great over my typical load out and the hood is especially comfortable over my climbing helmet. It also feels an inch or two longer than the above models which feels like it will provide a little more heat retention.

Features

  • Adjustable, climbing-helmet-compatible hood
  • Lightweight stretch cuffs
  • Two-way front zipper
  • Insulated wind flap
  • Drawcord hem
  • Two zip hand pockets, zip chest pockets, two internal drop pockets and internal stretch media pocket (no internal port though and really small size)

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

outdoor-research-perch

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

Insulation

The Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka uses industry leading PrimaLoft® Gold 100% polyester insulation 200 g/m2 body, 160 g/m2 lower body and lower sleeves. This is the best performing synthetic insulation in the line up and Outdoor Research definitely stuffed this jacket with more of it than any of the other models being tested.

Shell

This piece uses Pertex® Endurance 2L, 100% nylon 20D melange body and Pertex® Microlight, 100% nylon 22D ripstop lining. This is the highest performing shell material in this line up (also used in next jacket).

Weight/Compressability

30.4 oz. / 860 grams. This is the heaviest model in the line up but is also most likely the warmest of the bunch. It also has a somewhat innovative internal stuff sack design I’ve never seen before. Basically a Velcro “hidden pocket” in the lower back inverts into a stuff sack. Final stuffed size is probably 20-30% larger than others in this line-up with the obvious trade off being more warmth.

Fit

This model fits great over my typical load out and the hood is especially comfortable over my climbing helmet. It also feels an inch or two longer than the first two models which feels like it will provide a little more heat retention.

Features

  • Staggered Insulation to Prevent Cold Spots
  • Helmet Compatible Wire-Brimmed Hood
  • Draft Tube Around Face
  • Two Internal Shove- It™ Pockets
  • Zip Chest Pockets, Zip Hand Pockets
  • Internal Pocket Doubles as Stuff Sack
  • Two Carabiner Loops Inside Stuff Sack
  • Internal Front Stormflap
  • Integrated Hood Cordlocks
  • Brushed Tricot-Lined Collar
  • Brushed Tricot Back of Hand Inside Pockets
  • Key Clip

Patagonia DAS Parka

Patagonia DAS Parka

Patagonia DAS Parka

*Disclaimer, when I asked Patagonia for a belay jacket for review they sent me the amazing down insulated Fitz Roy. Comparing down to synthetic belay jackets is like comparing apples to oranges when it comes to cost, weight, and compressability, so I am including the specs on the DAS even though I do not have one to fully review (yet)… the DAS should certainly be represented in this line up!

Insulation

The Patagonia DAS Parka uses 120-g PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation Hi-Loft and then adds a layer of 60-g PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Eco in the chest, abdomen and back to offer maximum thermal efficiency and water repellency.

Shell

Like the Outdoor Research Perch Belay Jacket this one uses the lightweight, nylon ripstop Pertex® Endurance shell with PU coating. It is durable, water-resistant, windproof and treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.

Weight/Compressability

23.6 oz. / 669 grams. This is the lightest model in the line up and hardest for me to fairly compare since I have not sourced one yet. Based on what I have researched I’ll say for the weight this one might be the warmest non-down belay jacket out there. However it saves weight by using a little less insulation. When compared side by side with the Outdoor Research Perch Belay jacket the numbers look like this:

Patagonia DAS vs Outdoor Research Perch

180gr/120gr vs 200gr/160gr

Mix of Primaloft Gold & Silver vs 100% Primaloft Gold

Fit

This model fits great over my typical load out and the hood is especially comfortable over my climbing helmet. It also feels an inch or two longer than the first two models which feels like it will provide a little more heat retention.

Features

    • Helmet-compatible hood with visor and single-pull drawcord to adjust overall volume and peripheral vision
    • Full-length 2-way zipper with internal, insulated wind flap and fold-over zipper garage for next-to-skin comfort
    • Pockets: two zippered, insulated handwarmers; two large interior mesh drop-ins; one exterior zippered chest
    • Elasticized cuffs and discreet drawcord at drop hem seal in warmth
    • Stuffsack included

Summary

These are all really nice offerings in the ever growing field of belay jackets. I look forward to getting some field time in each of them to pull out the minutia that sometimes helps one product edge out another. If you’d like to look for other consumer opinions on them or try one out yourself you can purchase directly off Amazon at these links, and doing so helps support this blog:

LaSportiva Latok 2.0 Jacket

Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket

Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

Patagonia DAS Parka

If you’d like to see some side by side stats:

comparison

Head to head

I hope this info helps you select the right belay jacket for the upcoming winter! If I missed your favorite model or you have any questions or comments please let me know below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

img_2731

Disclaimer: All of the products listed above were provided at no cost for purposes of review. All opinions stated are my own. Affiliate links above help support this blog.

Posted in Clothing Reviews, Gear Reviews | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Eastern Snow Avalanche Workshop, Instructor Refresher Course, and the first signs of winter

Last week I attended two annual events that always get me stoked on the upcoming winter season. The first was the sixth annual Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop. I haven’t missed one yet and although this one wasn’t held at the grand Omni Mount Washington Resort like last year the venue was quite nice (and a lot closer to home, just over the Maine border in Fryeburg).

The event kicked off Friday night at International Mountain Equipment in North Conway with registration, vendor booths, and beer courtesy of Moat Mountain Brewery. I set up a vendor table for the American Institute of Research and Education and was quite excited to see many former students in attendance. Next to my booth was DPS Skis, an amazing ski company I just became an ambassador for. I’ll be ripping the Wailer 112RP Tour 1 skis this season and will definitely post up more info once I’ve gotten some runs ticked.

I did “Instagram Story” the whole event but forgot to actually save any of the pics from the day… so picture a bunch of people having a good time while checking our vendor booths from DPS Skis, LaSportiva, Petzl, Friends of Tuckerman Ravine, and Black Diamond and you get the idea.

Saturday started early at the beautiful Leura Hill Eastman Center for Performing Arts at Fryeburg Academy. I set up my AIARE booth again directly across from Ortovox, a company whose products I have been using for over a decade and also just became an ambassador for!

Ortovox, Voice of the Mountains

Ortovox, Voice of the Mountains

A couple years ago I reviewed the Ortovox Kodiak shovel here! Expect to hear a lot more about Ortovox products from me this winter!

Right at 8:15 the main event kicked off.

img_2671

6th Annual Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop

There were a lot of great topics & presenters this year. My friend and colleague Jonathan Shefftz is finishing edits of a write-up for the American Avalanche Associations publication “The Avalanche Review“, and when he is finished I’ll share his work (by permission) here. For now I’ll just mention my highlights:

USFS Snow Ranger Helon Hoffer got us excited about work being done to create sustainable (and legal) glades to increase our amount of available back-country ski terrain. Something near and dear to the recently formed Granite Backcountry Alliance. <– a great place to go if you are interested in what you can do to contribute!

After a quick break and some contacts at the AIARE booth I was back in my seat for Jaime Musnicki, the Executive Director of AAA, enlightening personal story of being caught in an avalanche and what she learned from this experience. This was followed by Jon Miller’s story via pre-recorded video of his life threatening fall down Hillman’s Highway late last winter and the impacts it has had on him and his friends and family.

Next up Dallas Glass, a climbing guide and former avalanche forecaster who is also in the AIARE Instructor Pool gave a very engaging talk on the role of luck in the mountains. Perhaps my favorite quote of the day, which he attributed to IMFGA guide Larry Goldie, was;

“Debrief the day… or Why Having A Beer At The End Of The Day Could Save Your Life”

We broke for lunch and had an afternoon filled with more great talks. Jaime (from AAA) once again took the stage and talked a bit about the upcoming split between the “Recreational and Professional Education Tracks”, more commonly referred to as the “Pro/Rec” split. This was a subject I was eager to learn more about and the following day I would have that chance during our AIARE Instructor Refresher Course.

Another round-table occurred, and Sam Colbeck, a true master of snow science, gave a highly technical talk with the simple name of “Why Skis Slide on Snow”… most importantly he answered the age old question are black ski bases faster than white ski bases? The definitive answer after breaking out a few technical terms that broke Google was… “maybe”. I hope Sam attends the next 10 ESAW’s… his talks are always the right mix of “wow I should try to be smarter” and “I hope I’m funny like that sometimes”.

Another break and then Frank Carus from the Mount Washington Avalanche Center gave us some insight of the difficulty of forecasting in terrain as dangerous as Mount Washington.

Following out going Lead Snow Ranger Christpher Joosen’s talk about his lifes work on the mountain (over 25 years!) we retired to our post-ESAW social hour and vendor booths.

I will link to Jonathan’s full report on the ESAW once it is finalized.

The next day a dozen avalanche educators from around the Northeast gathered at the Mount Washington Observatory’s conference room for an Instructor Refresher Course led by Dallas Glass.

AIARE Instructor Refresher Course

AIARE Instructor Refresher Course

This forum answered many of our questions about the upcoming Pro/Rec track splits and was a great opportunity to catch up with other educators. Towards the end we got a sneak peak of some of the bigger curriculum changes and were offered time to provide feedback and suggestions.

img_2716

A new Decision Making Framework?

Well the annual ESAW/IRC weekend always makes me desperate for some snow and ice so today I ran up to Hermit Lake to see how things were looking. Trail work on the Tuckerman Ravine trail currently creates about a mile detour via the Huntington Ravine Trail and Raymond path so plan accordingly. I will update this post once I hear the main trail is open again. There are pics on my Instagram from today if you are interested.

Finally if you are thinking about taking an avalanche course this winter might I suggest you think about booking your dates now? Most providers in the area fill up soon after Thanksgiving so if you want to have the best selection of dates now is a good time to nail it down. In addition if you book with Northeast Mountaineering before December 1st you can save 10% on the tuition. You also get 2 nights of lodging included. Oh and you get entered into a contest to win a free day of guiding for two people! So why wait? Use coupon code “davidNEM” at checkout to get both the 10% discount and be entered into the contest!

Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

 

Posted in Avalanche Courses, Backcountry Skiing, Professional Development | 1 Comment