I like light pack-able gear so when I saw the new Black Diamond AirNet Harness I had to get my hands on one for a test drive. While this harness was designed and marketed towards high end sport and competition climbing (actually designed in collaboration with Adam Ondra for the Olympics) I’m willing to give up a few things for ultra-lightweight pack-ability. I now have three months of guiding with this harness and am ready to share what I think! Let’s start with the most noticeable features and then break down the minutia!
Without a doubt you’ll think they forgot to put the harness in the package when it arrives at your door. Manufacturer listed weight is 8.3 ounces (235 grams). On my home scale my size large weighed 9 3/8 ounces (264 grams). This is about an ounce (40 grams) lighter than the Petzl Sitta. This harness is truly featherlight!
The construction and materials used in this harness allow it to easily fit into the included storage sack when folded up with room to spare. The measurements of the stuff sack when are about 6 x 3 x 3.5 inches, so this harness only takes up about 60 cubic inches in your pack. It is super pack-able!
I went with a size large for my 34 inch waist. The patented “AirNet” technology definitely allows the full width of the waist belt (measured about 2 3/4 inches at widest) to distribute force during a leader fall or while hanging from a belay stance. Adjustable (via elastic) buckle-less leg loops (also measured about 2 3/4 inches at widest) distribute force when loaded but seem non-existent when just wearing the harness. In fact the harness is almost not noticeable when worn. I hiked many miles while wearing this harness and you can definitely forget you have it on.
Features I Liked
Other than the three things I mentioned above I liked the two pressure molded front gear loops, the auto adjusting butt straps (more like string), the great breathability of the material, and the unique “Infinity Belay Loop” which I’ve never seen before. Essentially it is low profile belay loop that is continuous and doesn’t have the traditional bar-tacking that can get caught when rotating it through the harness tie-in points. I also believe the Dynemma/Spectra type material the harness is constructed out of will lead to great than average life expectancy when compared to similar Nylon style harness!
Things I Would Have Liked
I wasn’t crazy about the super skinny low profile webbing used for the two rear gear loops. I understand this was a request from Adam who would cut his rear gear loops off to save weight (that’s dedication!). They worked for storing my “non-pro” things like cordelette, belay device, prussics, belay gloves, etc but they weren’t very easy to clip things to since they were so skinny and soft. And while this harness was not designed for ice climbing I would have loved two slits that I could add ice clippers to so I could carry this over to ice season.
Summary/Who is this for?
This is definitely a niche harness. Black Diamond states that this is the “ultimate competition and sport harness on the market” and it’s definitely a tough contender for that title! I also think those, like myself, who prioritize low weight and excellent pack-ability might be able to cross over into some traditional/alpine climbing use. I was able to comfortably carry my full rack up to a Black Diamond #3 Camelot with 10 alpine draws and my regular non-pro kit. If you’re carrying a double rack you’ll likely need to use a shoulder gear sling. If you need a more full featured harness for year round climbing check out my review of the Petzl Sitta.
If you’re looking to pickup an ultralight harness for non-winter use and don’t need enough space to carry a double rack you should check out the Black Diamond AirNet Harness!
A media sample was provided for purposes of review. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support this blog and the author receives a small commission when you make a purchase through them. Thank you!
Quick shout out that Backcountry is running 25% off almost every single Outdoor Research item right now.
My “pick” is the Echo Hooded LS Shirt. Northeast Mountaineering outfits their guides with this super versatile hoodie and it’s a great piece. If you’ve been waiting for a good sale on a sun hoodie you should also check out the Astroman Sun Hoodie! To see everything from Outdoor Research on sale go here!
While not the right season for it there is also a great deal on the Arc’teryx Atom LT Hooded Jacket, another item provided to me to guide in for Northeast Mountaineering. It is a definite staff favorite and the perfect “light hoodie” to add to your kit!
To see everything from Arc’teryx that is at least 20% off go here!
I thought I’d share what our family has been doing to stay healthy during these challenging days. I’m in no way an expert on nutrition and holistic living but I’ve noticed we’ve been doing some pretty positive things since the stay at home order.
First is getting the whole family outside for a minimum of an hour every day. Following an injury at the start of March I haven’t been able to go on strenuous hikes so to be honest these short nature walks with the family have been great. We walk our dirt road neighborhood or drive a couple miles to a relative’s paved neighborhood so the kids can ride their bikes. We’ve also started going to the Fryeburg Fairgrounds once a week which is a fantastic spot to ride bikes and play some frisbee as it has so much open space the dozen or so families there are easily able to stay distanced. One thing I’ve changed is I’ve started carrying my first aid kit 100% of the time, even for just short walks. While we are practicing very low risk outdoor activities we should still be prepared to handle unexpected scrapes and minor injuries!
PSA: The White Mountain National Forest is for the most part, “closed”. Details here.
I used to think my career as a climbing guide would keep me active enough I could eat whatever I wanted as I was getting plenty of exercise. Having crested 40 reality has caught up and following a period of inactivity post injury I’ve really cut out some of my favorite indulgences. We, like many, are cooking more at home then we ever have. We do take-out about once every two weeks both to give us a break from cooking and to support some of our favorite local restaurants.
The one food we’ve been eating a ton of lately is avocado. It’s on toast for breakfast in the morning and often in what ever veggie or turkey sandwich we make for lunch. I have to thank Absolutely Mindy for the tip about “Everything But The Bagel” seasoning… It is amazing on avocado and eggs! Most recently it was the serving vessel for some lobster salad we made with left-over lobster meat.
We’ve been drinking a lot of orange juice and taking our daily vitamins. I also put in for another order of Gnarly Nutrition, this time adding the Performance Greens to our pantry. This stuff is so delicious and packed with so much goodness! You can see my full review of a lot of their product line here!
Culling clothes, toys, and gear
We’ve spent a lot of time going through the kids clothes, toys, and gear. We’ve been able to donate outgrown clothes and toys through our local COVID-19 barter/trade Facebook group and it’s been great freeing up space and decluttering our living spaces.
So that’s it! Anything you’ve been doing more (or less) of during these strange days?
Stay healthy and see you in the mountains when they re-open!
Christmas might have come a little early for me this year when about a month ago a package arrived with the all new Hyperlite Mountain Gear Prism Alpine Climbing Kit. It’s no secret I’m a fan of HMG products after reviewing the HMG 3400 Ice Pack back in February 2016. You can find that review here. After three years of hard use I’m happy to report that pack is still 100% service-able and I still use it for hauling heavy loads while running waterfall rappelling trips (think 500+ feet of wet static ropes).
The HMG line of Ice Packs is pretty well known by northeastern climbers by now. I’d wager over a third of the packs I’ve seen so far this season have been HMG ice packs. Just two days ago on Mount Willard another climber remarked that 3/4 of us in the area actually had the new Prism Pack, and the 4th had an HMG Ice Pack… so word is already out these packs are awesome!
I’ll explain what sets the Prism apart from the Ice Pack’s, as there are some definite design changes you may or not be looking for. At the end of the day though, the Prism pack, and basically the whole Prism “Kit” is incredibly well designed and should earn some “Gear of the Year” awards from major outdoor gear publications. Alright let’s get into the details!
Charge headlong into the spectrum of winter’s white light with the pack built for alpine adventure. The Prism beckons ice climbers, mountaineers, alpinists, and backcountry skiers to think big and go deep. Designed to meet at the intersection of speed, weight, security, and comfort, this top-loading pack features an extendable drawstring closure and an adjustable, removable low-profile lid. The hip belt provides two gear racks and two ice clipper slots, but is removable when not required for the task at hand, or when wearing a climbing harness. Highly adjustable compression straps secure crucial equipment while keeping the pack close to the body for free and unrestricted movement.
Climbers can store a rope under the lid, glacier adventurers can store their wands in the side pockets, and backcountry skiers can depend on the A-frame carry when they’re on foot marching up the steep stuff. Alpinists of all types can round out the pack with the Prism Crampon Bag and Prism Ice Screw Case for an even more dialed setup. However you move when the cold comes calling, the Prism brings your pursuits into focus.
1.82 lbs | 29.1 oz | 827g Weight does not include hip belt and may vary slightly by torso size.
Main pack body is built with Dyneema® Composite Fabrics DCH150
Side panels, bottom, and lumbar are 375-Denier DCHW for the ultimate abrasion protection from the environment, ski edges, and sharp tools
Removable, Hardline with Dyneema® hip belt with 1/8” closed cell rigid foam and 1/4” closed cell foam padding and spacer mesh features (2) gear loops, (2) ice clipper slots, and an offset buckle to reduce tie-in clutter
Extendable collar and floating lid allow for pack expansion
Diamond pocket locks tool heads in place without additional buckles
Reflective bungees with quick-release pull tabs secure axe handles
External crampon pouch with easy-cinch closure keep crampons secure and within reach during the approach
Multi-purpose compression straps allow you to draw in your pack or attach additional items like snowboards and sleeping pads
Top overload strap secures gear stored under the lid and brings the load closer to your center of gravity
Exterior daisy chains provide multiple lashing points for other gear
Axe loop for non-technical mountaineering axes
Low profile side sleeve pockets with drainage holes hold mountaineering wands/pickets, or trekking/tent pole tips
Hardline with Dyneema® shoulder strap construction with 3/8” closed cell foam and spacer mesh
Adjustable sternum strap with self-tensioning elastic and whistle
One removable, contoured aluminum stay, and an integrated 1/4″ foam back panel pad and plastic stiffener provide shoulder and spine support for a comfortable and secure carry
Proprietary seam sealing on all side seams and behind all sewn-on pack features
Bar tacked reinforcements on all stress points provide enhanced strength and durability
Made in Biddeford, Maine, USA
REMOVABLE LID FEATURES
Adjustable and removable lid means you can overstuff your pack using the extendable drawstring collar and still have weather protection, or remove it completely to save weight on clear days
Waterproof, zippered pocket on the lid provides convenient storage for snacks, gloves, phone, map, or anything you want within easy reach
Elastic sides provide a snug fit to keep weather out, while helping secure a rope underneath
Lightweight, aluminum G-hooks attach the lid securely to daisy chains in the front and rear and are easy to use with gloves on
Now for some opinions!
The HMG Prism is 40 liters (2400 cubic inches), and the removable top lid adds another 3 liters (214 cubic inches). I find this to be the perfect day-size for technical ice climbing and mountaineering. I can easily fit my entire guiding kit including bivy sack and ultralight sleeping bag without any hassle. Lashing a rope under the top lid is super secure thanks to the top buckle, the lid itself, and the 4 compression straps that all have quick release buckles.
The 1/4″ foam back panel is given some rigidity with a single removable aluminum stay and plastic stiffener. I left the aluminum stay in place as the contoured shape of the back panel fit my back like it was custom made to my own specifications. While the waist belt is removable I chose to keep it attached to the back. On approaches it helps stabilize heavier loads and after racking up and starting the lead I’ll clip the hip belt behind the pack. This pack rides incredibly well. I did try removing the top pocket and stuffing it in the bag but discovered for some reason the frame would hit my helmet when I looked up on a steeper ice climb. The top pocket when in use actually can make the top of the pack have a lower profile and prevent any helmet contact.
This pack is loaded with some solid features, first of all is the welcome addition of a top pocket. Many of us have gotten use to the simple roll-top designs of the HMG Ice Packs and have learned to live without a top-pocket. Now that I have a top-pocket again I realize it is really helpful for storing snacks, maps, my cell phone, etc. Bonus this top pocket is totally waterproof, so if you have anything that must stay dry while climbing that drippy waterfall you basically have a built in dry pouch.
The second most noticeable feature while comparing to the HMG Ice Packs is the addition of a sewn external crampon pouch. This is definitely faster and more secure than the bungee attachments on other models. In fact while descending the Mount Willard trail two days ago my client who had secured his crampons with the bungee on an older model pack discovered the risk when halfway down the trail I heard an odd jingle sound and stopped to see if his crampons were still on his pack. They were not… luckily they were just 10 feet back up the trail having slipped out there bungee attachment.
I chose to pack my crampons inside the pack in the slick new Prism Crampon Case (more on that later) when I head out for the day but at the end of the day when I’m de-racking and dumping gear into the pack for the hike back to the car I might opt to just drop my iced up wet crampons into the external pocket.
The next thing I noticed about the pack was the ice axe attachments. This was definitely a new design as there were no buckles for securing the head of the ice axes. Instead HMG designed a “diamond pocket” pouch that the head of the tools simply rest in while the handles are secured with the typical bungee/cord-lock girth-hitch method. I was slightly concerned this might not be secure enough to keep from losing a tool while glissading but have found it to work really well. I tested with both the Petzl Nomics and the CAMP Cassin X-Dreams and the system really holds the tools in place during all manner of descents. For added security I like to capture the upper grip rest of whatever leash-less tool with the girt-hitch bungee attachment.
Another strong feature of this new pack is it’s ability to adapt. The fancy ice axe pouch works for technical tools, but what about a standard mountaineering axe? A single traditional ice axe loop is just below the pouch so you’re covered there! Ski mission? Quick release side compression straps allow for a solid A-frame carry. Glacier travel, or flagging a route in white out conditions on Mount Washington? At the bottom of both sides of the pack are sewn pouches so you could secure route wands, tent poles, trekking poles, camera trips-pods, etc.
HMG designed two accessories to flush out the awesomeness of this kit. The Prism Crampon Bag and the Prism Ice Screw Case. Good ice screw cases can be hard to come by and my old Outdoor Research one was nearing the end of its life. This one is designed to fit perfectly at the bottom of the pack which helps with efficient packing. I also like to keep my two Allen wrenches for field tightening of lose ice axe bolts and a few heavy-duty zip-ties in the small zippered pocket. The Crampon Bag has the right balance of padding and and light weight and since my current two crampons (Petzl Dart and CAMP Alpinist Tech) are SUPER sharp I’m enjoying not worrying about punching holes in some of the super nice puffy belay jackets I’m testing this winter. It’s also sized perfectly to slide down into the external crampon pouch if internal space is at a premium.
I’m also happy to report HMG is making this pack in 4 different sizes! Everyone should be able to find the perfect size! With Small, Medium, Large, and Tall being offered everyone should be able to find the perfect size. I went with a size medium as I have a 19 inch torso, and while the official recommendation was to go for a large I prefer the waist belt ride a little high on me incase I was to secure it while wearing a harness. Bottom line though stick to the size chart on the website and you should be good to go!
Right now there is a small discount available through HMG. The first option is to buy the whole kit. Full retail for the three items would be $525 if bought separately. Buying the kit at $475 saves you $50, then you can use promo code “PRISM” for another $25 off, bringing the final price down to $450 for the entire kit. That promotion runs through 12/15, so you have a little time to think about it! Of course if you already have a crampon bag and ice screw case you could just score the pack for $395!
You can buy this pack directly from the manufacturer here!
I said at the beginning I’m partial to HMG packs… they make amazing stuff. I have yet to go visit their manufacturing plant in Biddeford, ME but that is high on my bucket list. It’s awesome knowing these world class packs are made right across state-lines in Maine! If you haven’t purchased a HMG (or any “Dyneema Composite Fabric” pack) yet you might be in for a little bit of sticker shock when you compare them to packs made from regular ole’ nylon and Cordura. Before you balk at the cost be clear these materials are waterproof and stronger than steel. The abrasion resistance is quite impressive, they are are very UV resistant, and insanely light weight! These packs can easily handle a decade of hard use, and a weekend warrior might get a full career of climbing out of one of these packs. Just saying, sometimes you do get what you pay for!
A media sample was provided for purpose of review. All opinions are that of the author. Affiliate links above support the content created at Northeast Alpine Start.
After having an almost tech free long weekend and a solid #OptOutside Black Friday with the family I’m ready to share a few of my favorite hand-picked deals on outdoor gear for tomorrow’s Cyber Monday… some of these are limited to tonight/tomorrow only so don’t miss out!
This is the nicest ice screw carrying case I’ve ever seen! Granted ice screw cases can be hard to come by. I’ve had an old OR case that was ready to be replaced and was quite happy to receive this one. It’s the perfect size, ultra-light, made out of bombproof material, and has a nice outer zippered pocket that holds an Allen wrench for tightening tools, a few heavy-duty zip ties for field repairs, a small file for field tune-ups, and thanks to a tip from Ragged Mountain Guides a silicone gun cloth that helps ultra-light aluminum ice screws perform better in dense ice. I’m also pretty excited to be reviewing the Prism Crampon Bag and Prism Pack this winter too!
These are 40% off through tomorrow with promo code “CYBER40”! Awesome for outdoor light both at home and while backpacking that really is a killer deal. I’m also a fan of the new Luci Base Light that can charge your smartphone while also providing great back-up light. We have that model and a few of the Original Luci Lights that we use while car camping and during power-outages at home.
Larger online retailer sales…
Backcountry has some great deals (up to 40% off) on Arc’teryx, Black Diamond, and Patagonia! You can see everything here!
REI has some of the same types of discount up to 50% off here!
EMS‘s biggest deals are with their “Doorbusters” with some up to 75% off all viewable here!
Unique gifts (you won’t find these at a box store)
I’m going to start with some local artists who make hand crafted art with a strong mountain vibe and sense of community because they have a strong mountain vibe and sense of community! Seriously these two friends live enriched lives out of their Tacoma’s and converted vans while building their brands and chasing adventures all over the country. You can support them while giving something that is truly hand-made and inspired. Check out Brittni’s line of drink sweaters, hand poured candles, and stylish Trucker hats here!
What can I say about my friend Erik, aka @smellybagofdirt? I met him last winter after noticing his somewhat noticeable van all over the valley (or indisposed) then got to know him as an avalanche course student and soon to be bunk-mate and ski partner in Iceland… Talk to him for 10 minutes and you’ll see he’s on his way to making his mark in the world. He just launched his website and is offering some original stickers, posters, and t-shirts. If you have an adrenaline junkie in on your holiday shopping list you’ll find a unique gift from Erik for sure!
Anyone who plays in the mountains, and I mean anyone, should take a basic Wilderness First Aid Course. It’s a 16 hour commitment. It could save you or your partners lives. The courses are offered all over the country. There is absolutely no reason not to have a basic first aid course under your belt if you want to play in the mountains. Yet we resist signing up for one. Make it easy for your loved ones by signing them up and paying for it!
This is for the loved ones who like to play on steep snowy slopes! Everyone who knows me knows avalanche education is a huge part of my life. My first brush with this hazard was a life changing event and I can’t advocate enough for getting this education before you wished you had it! If you have someone in your life who has back-country skiing, ice climbing, or winter mountaineering on their short list of things to do help prep them for success by signing them up for an avalanche course!
This socially responsible company makes the coolest water bottles and tumblers out there! Super high quality stainless steel technology keeps cold drinks cold for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 6 hours! Customization and tons of color and style options means there is a Hydro Flask out there for just about everyone! Check out their Holiday Gift guide here.
I’m pretty sure the 10 seconds of silence from my girlfriend after asking her to marry me was enough time for her to accept that she loved a man with some seriously stinky feet. Luckily she said yes and I would soon find this foot powder, seriously the only product that works on my feet! 7 years later she is quick to remind me if she notices my supply running low. This one is a PERFECT stocking stuffer, pick it up on Amazon here.
Possibly the best socks I’ve ever owned and made right over the border in Vermont! For mountaineering and ice climbing check out this model! These socks come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee and make an excellent stocking stuffer!
Every home in the Northeast should have one of these! It’s effective enough that I can easily dry my boots and gloves along with my wife’s in just a couple hours. No balancing them over the floor base heaters or getting them too hot near the wood-stove and risking early de-lamination! You can pick on up on Amazon here.
The Petzl Nao+ is the best headlamp for anyone who gets after dawn patrol or squeezes in late night pitches after work. I admittedly don’t own one yet but it is high on my wish list!
While I do love these online deals I want to take up this space by encouraging you support local businesses, especially small specialty climbing shops, with your business! To that end if you can physically visit these stores please do!
Well there’s my small contribution to the every growing list of Holiday Gift Guides that are undoubtedly hitting your mailbox this season. My suggestions are heartfelt and I hope they help you flush out your buying needs this season.
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!
The new Salewa Wildfire Edge approach shoes arrived a few weeks ago and I’ve since logged a dozen or so days hiking and climbing in them. The obvious feature that intrigued me is the so called “Switchfit” system that promises a select-able performance orientated “climbing mode” and a comfortable casual “hiking mode”. I’ll go into how this “tech” lives up in reality but first let’s cover some of the less “edgy” features of this higher end approach shoe.
Out of the box these felt great. I went with a US men’s size 8 after Salewa recommended downsizing a bit. In a US Men’s Shoe I typically bounce between a 8.5-9 and since I wanted to be able to take full advantage of the “climbing mode” downsizing felt appropriate. The size 8 was the right call and the width was perfect for my medium width feet. The toe box is sufficiently snug without being too snug. This might not be the right choice if you have a very wide forefoot. The heel cup is also the right proportion for my foot and feels quite secure without having to lace them up excessively tight. An interesting feature of the removable foot bed is that they can be customized to adapt to different volume feet. I left them assembled for a “medium” fit and they feel great!
The outsole and midsole offer a fair amount of torsional rigidity and underfoot support. Forefoot flex is on the stiffer side for approach shoes which is advantageous for reduced foot fatigue on long rocky treks, security while edging in technical terrain, and a bit negative for smearing on slab.
Salewa uses a Pomoca sole which has one of the nicest tread patterns I’ve seen on a trail shoe. I found traction to be excellent in dirt, mud, and forest duff. The diamond shaped lugs are about 3 mm raised in the forefoot which make for great traction while fast-hiking up dirt trails during our “mud season”. On the heel 5 mm raised lugs made descending dirt/mud trails feel quite secure if I needed to pump the brakes.
Under the big toe the lugs have been suppressed to create a climbing zone, or “EdgePlate” which is becoming popular in this specialized shoe category. The idea here is to provide more surface area for technical rock climbing. These felt somewhat secure on dry 5th class rock that was edgy. They were definitely adequate for 5.5 featured face climbing, but 5.6 slab quickly felt in-secure. The rubber compound used is noticeably denser than something like 5.10 Stealth rubber. The advantage is I feel this sole will easily outlast a softer higher friction sole, at the cost of friction on slabby dry rock. On one test hike I encountered a very low angle wet section of granite bed-rock where I found the soles to really struggle with decent traction. This was a very un-traveled spot and my suspicion is I was walking on some Spring thin lichen that will pretty much make any shoe slip but friends who had joined my fared a bit better on this short section with their softer sole compounds.
For the most part these shoes provided excellent traction for what we encounter hiking and scrambling in the White Mountains, handled featured low fifth class rock well as long as it wasn’t too slabby, crushed muddy steep trail runs both up and down, and only came up short on wet “licheny” slab.
Time to talk about the elephant in the room! What is SwitchFit? Salewa says these shoes have a “hiking mode” and a “climbing mode”. At first look it might appear that the difference between these two “modes” is simply lacing the shoes tighter to activate “climbing mode”, and that’s not too far off from reality. However it you look a little closer there is some actual effective design in this system that changes how these shoes feel when you crank them tight. The last eyelet the laces run through functions like a 2:1 pulley attached to a Spectra type cord that runs around the heel. When you snug up the laces for technical climbing and pull the laces forward the snugger heel pushes your foot forward in the shoe. In this mode my foot felt completely stable while edging on 5.5-5.6 face climbs. To switch to “hiking mode” you simply loosen the lacing which opens the toe box up and makes for more comfortable hiking. It’s a pretty simple system but it does what it claims to do!
While I’ve only put a month or two of mileage on them I’m confident they will be be one of the longest lasting approach shoes I’ve tested. I base this on the thickness and relatively denser POMOCO outsole and the way Salewa wraps a substantial rubber rand up and over the big toe on the toe box. Close inspection of seams and eyelets reveals every point of potential stress has been appropriately re-enforced.
The Salewa Wildfire Edge is a well built durable approach shoe suitable for rugged trail runs, 4th and low-5th class scrambling, and fast & light backpacking. While the “SwitchFit” system might seem a bit gimmicky at the end of the day it does exactly what it claims. Durable and comfortable this is one of the best approach shoes I’ve tested. Nice work Salewa!
Every footwear review I run this summer will be an opportunity to win some of the best damn foot deodorizer ever! I’m been a die-hard fan of this stuff for at least 5 years now. My wife takes notice if my stock is getting low as it is the only thing that works on my funky feet! Climbing shoes, ski boots, approach shoes… it doesn’t matter! A sprinkle of this in my socks and my feet smell great after any full day adventure. Enter for a chance to win a bottle by clicking the Rafflecopter link below!
I’ve been a huge fan of Arc’teryx for quite a few years now and Backcountry is running an awesome sale on all Arc’teryx including footwear and gear! Below you’ll find my top ten picks from the sale, some of which I have linked to my in-depth reviews.