Cascades Climbing Trip Gear List

Those who know me know I can be a little obsessive about gear. I enjoy making detailed gear lists for trips sometimes weighing everything down to the ounce. I shared my first gear list for ski touring in Iceland this past April and most recently in a trip report for climbing Mount Shuksan in the Cascades. Since I have two more trip reports for the Cascades coming soon I’ve decided to give the gear list its own post that can be easily linked too without taking up so much space in the trip report.

Packing for Cascades Climbing Trip
Packing for Cascades Climbing Trip

Having over 20 years in outdoor retail I love chatting about gear so if you have any questions about any of my recommendations, or suggestions for better products, please comment below!


Cascades Gear List


Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack

Hyperlight Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack

At just over 2 pounds this pack has enough space for 3-4 day alpine endeavor’s, rides comfortably, and is made of materials that will last for over a decade of adventure! Also made in Maine!

Buy from Hyperlite Mountain Gear


Black Diamond HiLight Tent

Black Diamond HiLite Tent

A super lightweight and pack-able 2 person single wall tent. I spent 12 nights in this from car camping between climbs to dug in at 11,000 feet at Ingraham Flats on Rainier and the tent performed perfectly through-out!

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Western Mountaineering TerraLite 25 Degree Sleeping Bag

Western Mountaineering TerraLite 25 Degree Sleeping Bag

This was the best gear purchase I’ve made in over a decade. I have a few sleeping bags from a great heritage -30 EMS down bag to a fairly light 35 degree synthetic sleeping bag but I decided to upgrade for this trip and I could not have been happier for my first Western Mountaineering sleeping bag! I’ll go into greater detail in a review later but for now I’ll just say I slept GREAT in this compressible lightweight sleeping bag!

Buy on Backcountry          Buy on Amazon


Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner

Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner

This goes with me everywhere. It’s super comfy on airplanes as a blanket and in hostels around the world. I also like that it keeps my expensive down sleeping bag clean (extending its life) even after weeks of griming sleeping!

Buy on Backcountry         Buy on Amazon


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Mattress

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Mattress

I upgraded from my older, heavier, bulkier Therm-a-Rest Prolite sleeping pad with this in “short” and doubled it up with the closed cell foam pad listed below. It was a great combo for both warmth and comfort!

Buy on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Mattress

Therm-a-Rest RidgeREst SOLite Mattress

Affordable added warmth and comfort, I used a full length model to pair with the short model mentioned above for a very comfortable and adaptable combo.

Buy on Backcountry         Buy on Amazon


MSR WindBoiler 1.0 L Stove System

MSR WindBoiler 1.0 L Stove System

This stove was amazing on this trip! Super fast and efficient for melting snow I could easily budget just 2 ounces of fuel per person per day assuming we had water sources at Lake Ann and below Winnie’s Slide bivy site.

Buy on Amazon       Buy on Backcountry


Food

For dinner and breakfast I went with Mountain House meals. The egg scrambles were one of my favorite. For a dinner appetizer I carried a Lipton noodle soup packet and combined it with a Miso soup packet, great for replacing lost sodium and electrolytes! The Mountain House Pad Thai and Chicken Fajita Bowl both tasted great!


Sea To Summit Delta Spork With Knife

Sea to Summit Delta Spork

Simple lightweight option to make meal time easy!

Buy on Backcountry        Buy on Amazon


Arcteryx Acrux Mountaineering Boots

Arc'teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots

My mountaineering boots of choice, full review of them here. While I LOVE these boots for my cold New England ice climbing and mountaineering adventures they turned out to be a little too warm for Shuksan and Forbidden (but perfect for Rainier, more on that later). My co-guide Jordan who has been having a banner season in the Cascades was rocking the Salomon S-Lab X Alpine Carbon 2 GTX Boots… these things look AWESOME! Basically comfy enough for long warmish approaches, crampon compatible, and climb rock really well… I will be getting a pair of these before my next summer Cascade adventure!

Buy Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon

Buy Salomon S-Lab X Alpine Carbon 2 GTX Boots on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


Petzl Vasak Leverlock Crampons

Petzl Vasak Crampons

Make sure you select the Leverlock or FL option! Great all around mountaineering crampon in my book! I have led grade 5 ice in them and walked hundreds of miles in them from Washington to Katahdin over the last decade and they are still going strong! I do plan to shave a little weight for these longer glaciated non-water ice routes by picking up a pair of Petzl Leopard Crampons soon!

Buy Petzl Vasak Crampons on Backcountry          On Amazon

Buy Petzl Leopard on Backcountry        On Amazon


Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles

Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles

The lightest most compatible trekking poles I have ever seen! I’ve been loving these! I’ve used them all over the White Mountains including a 2 hour car-to-car ascent of the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle! You can see them during one attempt in this video.

Buy on Backcountry        Buy on Amazon


Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe

Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe

This has been my mountaineering axe for almost 15 years and is the right balance of weight and durability.

Buy on Backcounty       Buy on Amazon


Petzl Sirocco Helmet

Petzl Sirocco Helmet

Finally got the latest version of this iconic helmet and went into a ton of detail in a long form review last month here!

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Petzl Sitta Harness

Petzl Sitta Harness

I brought this harness for the more technical climbing on Shuksan and Forbidden and my full review of it is here.

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Petzl Altitude Harness

Petzl Altitude Harness

I brought this harness for the less technical Disappointment Cleaver route on Mount Rainier. Super lightweight, pack-able, and able to put on while wearing skis. It is everything I want in a mountaineering harness. Detailed review coming soon.

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Petzl CORDEX Lightweight Belay Gloves

Petzl CORDEX Lightweight Belay Gloves

If ropes are involved these come with me. They were perfect for the warmer daytime glacier temps and offer great protection for rappelling, short-roping, etc.

Buy on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


Sterling Evolution Duetto Dry Rope, 30m 8.4mm

Sterling Rope Evolution Duetto Dry Rope

A solid choice for glacier and ski mountaineering trips.

Buy on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


MSR Snow Picket 60 cm

MSR Snow Picket

Two per rope team is ideal! I also pre-rigged this with a double length Dyneema sling and Petzl Ange S carabiner.

Buy on Amazon


AMK .7 First Aid Kit

AMK .7 First Aid Kit

I customize mine a little but this is a great base kit at the price!

Buy on Backountry      Buy on Amazon


Suunto MC-2 Compass

Suunto MC-2 Compass

My favorite and trusted compass/clinometer for the last two decades!

Buy on Amazon


Nalgene Tritan 32 oz water bottle

Nalgene Tritan 32oz Wide Mouth Bottle

A staple of every outdoor adventure, I carry two of these for my hydration needs!

Buy on Backcountry    Buy on Amazon


SOL Emergency Bivy Sack

SOL Emergency Bivy Sack

Super affordable and weighs less than 4 ounces means there is never a reason not to bring this!

Buy on Amazon


Revo Cusp S Sunglasses

I have the Solar Orange lens on this pair for lower light conditions

Buy on Amazon


SPOT Satelite GPS Messenger

SPOT 3 Satelitte GPS Messenger

Cell phone service is very spotty on Mount Shuksan. I was able to find a bar or two of service (Verizon) at Lake Ann (southwest side) and send and receive a few text messages. We had no service at the bivy site at the top of Fisher Chimney’s however I was able to FaceTime my wife from the summit! For the times with no service the SPOT GPS Messenger easily allowed me to send “check-in” messages home and in my opinion is an important piece of rescue gear should an incident occur.

Buy on Amazon


Petzl Actik Headlamp

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

I recently upgraded from my older Petzl Myo model and this new model is awesome! Up to 260 hours of burn time and able to through light 90 meters! If you’re due for a headlamp upgrade I highly suggest you check out this model!

Buy on Amazon


Petzl Zipka Headlamp

Petzl Zipka Headlamp

I always carry a spare headlamp on multi-day adventures and this is my choice back-up model. It’s small enough to fit in my first aid kit but still bright enough to function as a real headlamp.

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Quality Survival Lighter

UST Floating Lighter

Fire-starter is on every gear list, and this one is a good value!

Buy on Amazon


Garmin Fenix 3 HR GPS watch

Garmin Fenix 3 HR Watch

My current favorite GPS navigation capable smart-watch with optical heart-rate! This is the watch I used to create the GPS tracks linked in the trip report. It also allows one-button waypoint saving and the built in barometer/altimeter was a nice plus to our navigation plans.

Buy on Amazon


GoPro Hero 5 Session

GoPro Hero5 Session

A great little HD cam with advanced features beyond this post. You can see some of the footage about a minute into my Forbidden Peak video!

Buy on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


Anker PowerCore 10000 Charger for iPhone, GoPro, etc

Anker PowerCore 10000

This thing was great! About the size of a deck of cards it packs 10,000mAh which easily provided 4 full re-charges for my iPhone 6s and still have 50% juice left!

Buy on Amazon

Clothing


Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket

I absolutely love this piece and went into great detail about it in an in-depth review here.

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Black Diamond Alpine Pant

Black Diamond Alpine Pants

I’ve been wearing these back east for most of my Spring/Summer climbing season with multiple trips in Huntington Ravine and through-out the White Mountains so I felt confident taking them as my main climbing pant to the Cascades. Having essentially lived in them for two weeks of non-stop climbing I can whole heartedly endorse the comfort and performance of these soft-shell pants!

Buy on Backcountry     Buy on Amazon


Patagonia Technical Sunshade Hooded Shirt

Patagonia Technical Sunshade Hooded Shirt

This is in my opinion the most critical piece of glacier clothing you can own. I reviewed it in detail here but on a shade-less blazing glacier this one garment offers more protection and comfort than any other article of clothing I own. I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it… EVERY climber should own one of these! I do have a small cult following of “sunshade hoodies” who have “seen the light” or better yet “appreciate the shade” that these things bring… just get one and thank me later ok?

Buy on Backcountry


 Clothing to be linked soon:

Arcteryx Mid-weight Synthetic Insulated Hoody

Patagonia Fitz Roy Belay Parka

EMS Powerstretch Climb Hoodie

EMS Powerstretch Long Underwear Pants

One synthetic T-shirt

One Ortovox Rock & Roll Boxers

One pair midweight socks

One pair heavyweight socks

One pair lightweight glove liners

One pair midweight Outdoor Research Project Gloves

Outdoor research sun ball cap

iPhone 6s+ with headphones & charger


Crevasse Rescue Kit- Petzl Micro Traxion, SL OK, Tibloc, Sm’D, Oscilla
Personal Climbing Gear- Kong GiGi with Black Diamond Magnetron and Gridlock, Magnetron and Petzl Reverso 4, Cordelette with Petzl Ange S, 2 prussiks, knife, Petzl Cordex Belay Gloves on Petzl Ange S, Petzl Attache anchor biner
Group climbing gear- Alpine Rack and Draws
Group climbing gear- Sterling Nano IX 60m rope
Group climbing gear- Sterling Nano IX 28m rope

Thanks for reading! Got a question or comment? Please comment below and stay tuned for next week’s trip report of The West Ridge of Forbidden Peak!

Part 1: Fisher Chimney’s, Mount Shuksan

Part 2: The West Ridge, Forbidden Peak

Part 3: Disappointment Cleaver, Mount Rainier

Affiliate links help support this blog

Gear Review- Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack

I’ve been hoping to test a Mountain Tools pack for a couple of years now and early this summer I finally got my hands on one of this California companies new models, the ultra-light sleek and streamlined Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack.

Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack Review
Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack Review- photo from mtntools.com

After multiple cragging days on Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledges, some fast & light missions in Huntington Ravine, and some excellent alpine climbing in the northern Cascades, I’m ready to share my opinions of this pack. As usual I like to start with the obvious and work through the minutiae later on in the review.


Weight

Weighing in at only 11 ounces (310 grams) this pack seems to accomplish a lot with its design. For comparison one of the most popular similar styles from a competitor weighs 8 ounces more! The foam back pad is removable if one wishes to save yet another ounce but I prefer the padding stay intact when carrying an alpine rack with a few cams that might otherwise prod your back a little. Because this pack is so light I’ve been able to comfortably strap it to the outside of my Hyperlight Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack for multi-day alpine climbs when I wanted to have a smaller summit pack along.

Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle
Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle- photo by Benny Allen

Durability

Made of 210 denier nylon with a polyester grid the material feels quite bomb-proof and abrasion resistant in hand. A “PET” laminate and hydrophobic webbing makes this pack highly water-resistant if not completely waterproof. After about 20 days of use the only noticeable wear is a small tear on the bottom, smaller than a dime, from a razor sharp rock I didn’t see during a quick “butt scoot” move while running down the Huntington Ravine trail. I’m certainly not disappointed that the material ripped on this feature and actually quite impressed with how fast the “rip-stop” material halted the tear. A lesser pack fabric would have probably ended in a much larger tear.

Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack Review
The author on the summit of Forbidden Peak, north Cascades

Comfort

This pack is designed to ride close and high on the torso for optimum climbing performance. As I mentioned I find the removable thin foam back pad to be a boon in comfort so I leave it intact. The shoulder straps have thin foam padding and contour nicely around my shoulders. The sternum strap easily adjusts to the proper height and has my often praised feature, the built-in whistle. The waist belt is very thin and easily rides above my harness. A “V” connection of the waist-belt to the pack body helps draw the pack in closer to the body further making this pack ride as if it were part of you. Considering the light loads you are likely to be hauling in this pack it is more than enough comfortable!

Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack Review
Author on the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak- photo by Matty Bowman

Storage

At 1,450 cubic inches (24 liters) one does have to consider what they will be carrying. I can easily fit the following gear inside the pack (and generally pack it in this order):

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket

AMK .7 First Aid Kit

SOL Emergency Bivy Sack

Nalgene Tritan 32 oz water bottle

Standard Trad Rack (set of Wallnuts, BD X4’s .1-.4, BD C4’s .4-#2)

Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack Review
Light climbing rack

Set of 5 alpine quick-draws and 2 mini-quads

Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack Review
Alpine Draws and Mini-Quads!

Personal Climbing Gear

Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack Review
Personal Climbing Gear

Five Ten Rogue Climbing Shoes

AMK .7 First Aid Kit

Inside the zippered mesh pocket I keep my Petzl Zipka Headlamp, some lip-balm, and my energy gels/bars.

Full length daisy chains on the outside of the pack allow easy attachment of my Petzl Sirocco Helmet (review here)and chalk bag. The two compression straps allow securing of a climbing rope.

Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack Review
Mountain Tools Slipstream Pack Review

Accessories/Hydration

It would be great if Mountain Tools could add a single ice axe loop. There is an accessory offered for $7.95, “Ice Tool Straps” that probably addresses this desire but I think a single sewn loop at the bottom would be a great addition. The foam back panel sleeve does have room for a 2-3L hydration bladder but there is no hydration port so you would have to run the tube through the main zipper. For this reason I like to stick with a collapsible water bottle like the new Vapur Eclipse 1L water bottle I’ve been using. “Speed Racks” are also available for an additional $29.95 though I did not get a chance to demo that accessory.


Summary

While at first look this pack doesn’t seem to be that complicated its design reveals simplicity, functionality, and durability. It is an almost ideal summit pack, light enough to “piggy back” on your overnight pack, compressible enough to double as a sleeping bag stuff sack, durable enough to scum up countless chimneys, and balanced enough to skip down many more descents. If you are in need of a fast & light summit pack this one deserves some consideration!

About Mountain Tools: Mountain Tools is a family owned business serving climbers and mountaineers since 1980. We represent a comprehensive selection of gear from the best manufacturers and ship to our customers world wide and design and manufacture over 100 products – with the Mountain Tools label – to improve our climbing efficiency – including our  Packs for Climbers, Web Gear and Climbers Luggage.  Our experience includes outfitting expeditions, big wall climbing, guiding rock, ice and alpine treks plus volunteer search management and technical rescue. 

Disclaimer: This sample was provided to the author for purpose of review. Affiliate links help support this blog.


Gear Review- Ortovox Tour Rider 30 Backpack

For the majority of the winter I have been touring in the Ortovox Tour Rider 30. Ultimately it’s a well thought out design that rides well but it did have a couple small quirks I’ll share in my review.

Ortovox Tour Rider 30 Backpack Review
Ortovox Tour Rider 30 Backpack Review, photo from http://www.ortovox.com

As always let’s start with the manufacture description and specs before digging into the details.


Description

The Tour Rider 30 is the ideal backpack for long day tours. In addition to a separate safety compartment, the backpack is also equipped with ski and snowboard fastenings, front and rear access to the main compartment and an ice axe and hiking pole fastening. As with all ORTOVOX backpacks, the Tour Rider 30 has an integrated signal whistle and chest strap. The body-hugging cut, the load control cords in combination with the foam back and ergonomic straps make this the perfect backpack.

Features

  • Chest strap with signal whistle
  • Ice axe and hiking pole loops
  • Bright Inside
  • Water-resistant zipper
  • Separate safety compartment
  • Helmet net
  • Access to main compartment: front
  • Hip pocket
  • A-Skifix
  • D-Skifix
  • Compression strap
  • Hydration system compatible
  • Access to main compartment: back

Specs

WEIGHT 2 lb.

MATERIAL 450D Polyester + 600D Polyester


Ortovox Tour Rider 30 Backpack Review
Touring up the west side of Mount Washington on an epic east coast powder day, photo by @cfphotography
Now let’s look at some opinions on this model!

What I love

Access

This pack has a front panel that allows almost complete access to every nook and cranny in the main compartment but if what you are looking for is tucked away at the very bottom the whole back panel zips open for total access.

Comfort

The foam panels in the back panel and the gel-like closed cell foam used in both the shoulder straps and waist belt is the perfect material for helping this pack carry well on long up tracks. The pack rides a little high on me which worked well when I was using it with a ski mountaineering harness.

Lightweight and Streamlined

Weighing only 2 pounds and having tapered sides and bottom this pack has that “bullet” feel to it and is unlikely to get caught while bushwhacking your way into the next drainage in search of fresh lines.

Ortovox Tour Rider 30 Backpack Review
The author chases powder while testing the Ortovox Tour Rider 30 Backpack

What I would change

There is a small zippered pocket on the top that at first appears to be a goggle pocket but isn’t fleece lined or quite big enough for a pair of goggles. I used it to keep my headlamp, knife, and a few snacks handy but I’d like the option to stow my goggles in that area. The avalanche gear storage is a bit interesting on this pack. The probe and shovel handle have dedicated slots inside on the back panel while the shovel blade fits best in a zippered pocket on the outside of the pack. I prefer to keep my tools all in one spot and generally lean towards external avalanche safety gear pockets (like on the Ortovox Haute Route that I am also reviewing) that do not require accessing the main compartment to remove or stow.

Summary

For short to medium length back-country ski tours this is a really nice option. Small enough to be useful for side-country touring and big enough to stretch into a full day tour this is a solid choice in a line up of well designed Ortovox packs and one you should consider taking a look at!

Disclaimer: Affiliate links help support this blog. Author is a DPS and Revo ambassador and Ortovox Athlete and has received product support from these companies. 

Patagonia Cragsmith Pack 35L Review

The Patagonia Cragsmith Pack 35L is a thoughtfully designed gear hauler well suited for “cragging”. Cragging simply means rock climbing on smaller cliffs, usually single pitch in nature. Compared to multi-pitch climbing cragging implies less commitment, frequent returns back to the ground, social environments, and well… fun. To that end it can be nice to use a more voluminous backpack than one that you might wish to take up a long multi-pitch route.

IMG_0274

Let’s start with the features that are the most noticeable.

Capacity

The “35L” in the model name stands for 35 liters (volume). Patagonia also lists this as 2,130 cubic inches on their product page. There is no industry standard for determining pack volume, so it can sometimes be difficult to compare volume across brands. To me this pack feels to have a significantly greater amount of volume than listed. It absolutely swallows a 60 meter rope, full traditional rack, clothing, water, first aid, harness, helmet, shoes, and lunch with plenty of room to spare!

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
Monster capacity for 35 liters!

You can see how much more space is unused by looking at the top of the pack in the above photo. I would easily say this pack is closer to what other companies might list as 40L or even 45L.

Convenience

Compared to lightweight alpine climbing packs this style of pack is not “streamlined” to wear while climbing like the Ortovox Trad 25. It’s designed to be super convenient moving about from route to route, whether it be clipping bolts at Rumney Rocks or working on your crack skills at the North End of Cathedral Ledge this pack will make life easy.

First, there’s the two loading options, top-loading, and back-panel. Both have merits. The top-loading access is what I use to pack the bag before heading out to the cliff. I love how I can open it up like a giant trash can and just drop a rope & all associated climbing gear inside without having to micro manage my available space. Then, when I get to the base of our objective, I open up the full size back panel and can easily grab the gear I need in the order I need it.

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
Ready to rack

Harness on, rack up, flake the rope, shoes on… it’s definitely better than dumping everything in the dirt and sorting it there. Finally, when the climbing is over, it’s back to top-load mode so I can rip off my harness (probably with a less than perfectly organized rack hanging off it) and just shove it in back in the back. Forget minute organization when everyone is thinking of post climb beers. This pack certainly helps with being first ready to start the hike back to the car!

Features

There’s quite a bit to mention here. I like the side zippered compartment that easily holds a full size guidebook.

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
Dedicated guidebook pocket

Roomy top pocket easily fits my lunch, snacks, headlamp, and car keys.

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
Roomy top pocket with key clip

There’s a rope attachment system on the top of the pack:

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
External rope attachment

While this is a nice thought I’m unlikely to use it. First, there is plenty of room to store a rope inside this pack with a full double rack. Second, without side compression straps you’ll need to carry some extra bungies or something to really secure the rope. Better to carry the rope inside this pack, there’s plenty of room! If you are carrying a heavier load and need to carry the rope externally you’re going to want to consider the only real criticism I have for the pack:

Comfort

There’s no easy way around this so I’ll just come out and say it. This pack is not super comfortable. While personal comfort is quite subjective, and the hard climbers of the day can schlep 70lb loads in Black Diamond Haul Bags with virtually no “comfort” features this pack fell short in my book in the comfort category, and here’s why;

Support. There really isn’t any. The back panel access design that worked so well in the Patagonia Snow Drifter lacks any significant support for carrying heavier loads. The real difference here is the Snow Drifter is optimized for back-country ski loads (15-20lbs maybe). A more rigid internal frame is not needed because the carrying loads are so light. This pack however is designed to swallow a lot of heavy climbing gear. A rope and double rack can quickly approach and exceed 30 pounds. The back panel is just too flimsy to be able to transfer any of this weight to the wide padded waist belt. The “load lifters” are attached directly at the end of the shoulder straps, eliminating any chance of actually “lifting” the load when properly used.

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L
Load lifters that can’t lift

And finally, the “Airflow Mesh” used in the back panel and shoulder straps, which I found excellent for winter use with the SnowDrifter pack, felt too insulating and warm for hot sweaty climbing days. I prefer closed cell foam back panels that don’t seem to absorb a gallon of sweat when I am working hard.

That being said this pack was very well designed for cragging! Not multi-pitch rock climbing, not alpine climbing, not hiking or backpacking. When judged on that specific use alone this pack really shows some promise. A quick summary of my pros/cons:

Pros:

Space galore!

Amazing accessibility!

Features designed for convenience!

Durable!

Cons:

Doesn’t carry heavy loads well

A bit “warm” on the back

What I would like to see:

If there is another incarnation of this pack I think it would be a good idea to add some support to that back panel. A removable aluminum stay or two that could direct some of the load to the padded waist-belt would be nice. A light-weight compression strap system would greatly increase the versatility of this pack. While acknowledging this is designed for cragging it would carry better if we could cinch it down a bit when it isn’t fully loaded.

Summary:

When looked at objectively for the intended use “cragging” this is a fantastic pack despite a couple short comings. If you find yourself schlepping gear from parking lot to cliff in less than a mile on a regular basis this is a contender to make your life easier. Check it out at your local Patagonia store or online here.

Did you like this review? Have you tried this pack? What’s your favorite climbing pack? Let me know in the comments below and you’ll be entered to win a “Tat Cutter Neck Knife” from Colonial Knives. Drawing 8/28/16 Winner notified via email 8/29/16 and announced here.

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review

Disclosure: Patagonia provided the author with a sample of this pack for review. This post contains affiliate links which help to fund this website. 

Petzl Bug Pack Review (and Colonial Knife Giveaway)

The Petzl Bug pack is a solid choice for a small climbing pack designed for short to moderate length multi-pitch rock climbs. While a little on the heavier side (1lb 2.5oz) when compared to other styles in this category it’s clear Petzl has used the extra weight to build in some durability and well thought out features. Let’s break it down:

S71O-BUG_LowRes
Petzl Bug Review- photo from Petzl.com

Size:

At 18 liters (1,100 cubic inches) this pack falls in to the same category of small tech packs like the Black Diamond Bullet16 L (976 cu in), 1 lb 2 oz., and the super light Patagonia Linked Pack, 16 L (976 cu in), 16.5 oz. It is 2 liters larger than these comparable packs and I found this extra room enough to easily store this load out:

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody (my review here)

Patagonia Technical Sunshade Hoody (my review here)

AMK Ultralight First Aid Kit .9 (modified a bit)

Five Ten Rogue Lace-up Climbing Shoes (my comfy moderate trad shoe, review coming)

Nalgene Everyday Wide-Mouth Water Bottle, 1L

Lunch, Petzl Zipka Headlamp, Colonial Ameba Knife, Ben’s DEET

My “Cathedral Rack” (Basically a set of nuts, smaller tri-cams, set of Black Diamond X4’s and C4’s from .3 to size 2). 8 alpine draws, 2 quick-draws, 2 cordelette’s, 2 double length slings, couple prussiks, 5 lockers, Gigi and belay device.

Petzl Bug Review
Using every inch of 1,100 cubic inches

The pack does appear and pack noticeably bigger than the narrower profiled Black Diamond Bullet, mainly due to the extra 2 liters & slightly wider shape.

Comfort/Fit:

With closed cell foam padding in the back and the contoured shoulder straps this pack carries the light loads it is intended for quite comfortably. By design it rides very high on the back to not interfere with the harness. The waist-belt can fold away though I usually opt for just clipping it around of the outside front of the pack when it’s time to harness up.

Petzl Bug Review
Petzl Bug Review- photo from Petzl.com

Features:

Rope attachment

Packs under 20L typically can not fit the climbing rope inside so an attachment system for carrying the rope on the outside is important. While some current reviewers and online retailers suggest attaching the rope to the bottom that is outdated info. The carrying system is designed to carry the rope more comfortably over the top of the pack with an adjustable top strap and two side compression straps to ensure a solid attachment. While different styles of coiling can work I’ve found the “single strand butterfly” coil sits best when attaching ropes to the top of packs.

Compartmentalization/Organization

There are some design choices here that while adding a couple ounces of weight have also added some nice convenience. The most noticeable (and questionable in my opinion), is the open wide external pocket on the back of the pack. This pack is intended to store a guidebook or route topo for quick access. It’s quite big, basically the full size of the padded back, and has no method to secure any contents in it. The thought of my guidebook slipping out on a steep Gunks route or a few pitches up Cannon has me questioning whether I would every find a use for this feature, and because the zippered pocket on the front of the pack is very generously sized I opted to keep my guidebook there.

Petzl Bug Review
Petzl Bug Review

There is an interior pocket that can accommodate my 100 ounce CamelBak Hydration Bladder with hydration port and a smaller mesh pocket with key clip.

Petzl Bug Review
Petzl Bug Review- photo from Petzl.com

Carrying a 70-100 oz. bladder costs quite a bit of storage space for my rack so if I was hitting up a bigger objective (Cannon) with this pack on a hot day I’d opt to rack up at the car and take the extra water. If my climb required a longer approach than Cannon (Huntington/Katahdin) I’d opt for a larger pack that could carry both 100oz. and my full rack with ease, like the Ortovox Trad 25 backpack that I reviewed last month here.

Rounding out the features (and another distinct difference between the other same-class packs I mentioned at the beginning of the review) is the addition of the daisy loops down the front of the pack giving the climber a convenient place to clip some gear that didn’t make it into the pack while “de-racking” after that epic send.

Petzl Bug Review
Petzl Bug Review- the author testing the pack on Cathedral Ledge, photo by Sue B.

Suggestions:

A sternum strap buckle whistle has become a standard for me on all of my climbing and back-country skiing packs. This “10 Essential” may not be needed often but when it is I like having it within arms reach at all times, and this would be an easy thing to add in the the next Bug’s development. I’d also like more info on the pack material as details are a bit vague “very durable: bottom and sides lined with high-tenacity fabric”. While I’m not concerned with the lack of brand name recognition here (and during my 2 month test period the pack handled abrasive situations quite well) it makes it hard to objectively compare when this denier/technology is omitted)

Conclusion:

When it comes to backpacks Petzl’s line is mostly focused on packs designed for caving /canyoning (descending) rather than climbing (ascending) with this pack being the only pack they’ve designed with the climber in mind. Despite this being the only offering from Petzl in this niche the Bug holds up well against companies with a larger focus on producing climbing specific packs. With a competitive price point and unique features in this class of packs it is definitely worth your consideration!

If you’re thinking of picking one up you can order through Amazon here. Doing so helps support this blog!

Did you like this review? Have you tried this pack? What’s your favorite climbing pack? Interested in the coiling video mentioned above? Let me know in the comments below and you’ll be entered to win a “Tat Cutter Neck Knife” from Colonial Knives. Drawing 7/28/16 Winner notified 7/29/16 and announced here. CONGRATS TAYLOR FOR WINNING THE CONTEST!

Colonial
Colonial Knife Company Tat Cutter Neck Knife

See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

Disclaimer: This pack was provided to demo for the purpose of this review and has been returned to Petzl. This post contains affiliate links.

 

 

Ortovox Trad 25 Backpack Review

I’ve been using Ortovox avalanche shovels, probes, and beacons for over 5 years now so I was pretty excited when I got the opportunity to try out the new Ortovox Trad 25 Backpack. Designed for multi-pitch rock climbing with some unique forward thinking features this is definitely a contender for best design in this category.

Ortovox Trad 25 Backpack Review
Ortovox Trad 25 Backpack- photo from http://www.ortovox.com

Let’s take an in-depth look at the different characteristics of this pack.

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Comfort

The dense molded foam used in the shoulder straps and back feel almost gel like. It is very comfortable. The shoulder straps are the appropriate width and contour to my 5’9″ frame perfectly. The length is perfect for my 19 inch torso and the pack rides at the right height when I’m wearing my harness. There is a shorter torso women’s version available as well.

Ortovox Trad 25 Review
Gel-like molded foam back panel and shoulder straps
Ortovox Trad 25 Review
Contoured breathable shoulder straps
Ortovox Trad 25 Review
Rides well on the back

Weight


For the amount of features this pack boosts it’s pretty impressive it only weighs one pound 12 ounces (750 grams). You can further lighten the pack by removing the aluminum frame but I found the pack rides so comfortably with the frame intact I left it in.

Capacity


I was a bit concerned 25 liters (1560 cubic inches) would not be enough for my multi-pitch rock climbing/guiding kit. Turned out I had plenty of room and I think this is a generous 25L pack. It is hydration compatible and even with my 100 ounce CamelBak I was able to get my entire kit inside

Ortovox Trad 25 Review
Hydration Compatible
Ortovox Trad 25 Review
My kit

When packing everything in this photo I was able to still get my helmet inside. On a subsequent trip where my partner was packing the rack I fit a Sterling Nano 60m 9.1mm climbing rope inside and strapped my helmet on the outside. For those wanting a bit more room for longer more committing routes the pack does come in a 35L size.

Accessibility


One of my favorite features of this pack is the “circumferential zipper”. While I can still cram my gear in via the lid covered top opening (which features it’s own innovative tightening system) when it is time to rack up I can easily get to my rack, quickdraws, shell jacket, etc.

Ortovox Trad 25 Review
Circumferential zipper access

The roomy top pocket easily fits my headlamp, bug dope, and lunch.

Rope Attachment


Once the pack is loaded up it’s easy to strap a rope on the outside. The top compression straps unhook and expand to fit any size rope and the bungee ice axe attachments on the bottom quickly secure the coil from swinging on your hike in.

Ortovox Trad 25 Review
Options for strapping rope on outside of pack

The fact that this ultralight pack can hold ice axes makes it a great choice for glaciated alpine terrain, though I would probably bump up to the 35L for longer routes.

Buy on Amazon

Ortovox Trad 25 Review
Tom finds it quiet comfortable while jamming some classic back-country crack
Ortovox Trad 25 Review
Ready for adventure

Durability


The main material seems to be a soft high count denier. I don’t have the exact specs but careful inspection of it reveals high quality stitching and no noticeable stress points. While I have only had the pack a few weeks I feel it will serve well for hundreds of climbs.

Forward Thinking Rescue


Here’s where Ortovox has really done something different. I’ve always known this company to be industry leading when it comes to safety, especially with their commitments to avalanche education. This guiding principle is evident in this pack in a few ways. First, is the simple color choice. As a search & rescue member I am a big fan of high visible orange. It’s one way to be “searchable”. “Be searchable”… that phrase was coined in conjunction with the Recco system that is included in this pack. While this technology is limited in the Northeast right now it’s gaining a lot of popularity in Europe and may gain more traction here. You can learn more about Recco here. Finally, on the inside of the circumferential zipper are imprinted images of alpine emergency signals. There’s also another concealed zippered pocket here that I just found while grabbing this image!

Ortovox Trad 25 Review
Emergency Info/Reference

Conclusion


For multi-pitch rock climbing this pack is a great choice. It’s clear Ortovox focuses on design functionality and safety in every product I’ve ever used from them, and this pack is no exception. If you’re looking around for a solid multi-pitch pack option you can purchase this one right here. Doing so helps support this blog!

Ortovox Trad 25 Review
The author looks at what comes next- photo by Matty B.

Buy on Amazon

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this review please like, share, subscribe, comment, or just send me some positive karma.

See you in the mountains,

-NEAlpineStart

Disclosure: Ortovox provided this sample for the purposes of this review and this post contains affiliate links.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack Review

I’ve been looking forward to getting this review published since November when a Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Pack arrived at my door. Seeing HMG’s new re-brand and website launch today was the kick in the pants I needed to finish this review. So here it is!

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack Review
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack

Buy from Hyperlight Mountain Gear

As soon as I took it out of the plastic I knew I was holding a well designed pack. A 55 liter technical backpack that felt indestructible in hand but only weighed 34 ounces, made out of waterproof highly durable fabric. At the risk of sounding cliche… it felt like the future of high end backpacks had arrived. A month later it waited patiently by the door for its first trip up Mount Washington:

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack Review
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack

I’ve since enjoyed a dozen days of ice climbing and a couple back-country ski tours with this pack and have formed more than just a first impression. I want to share with my readers what makes this pack… and HMG in general… one of the coolest outdoor gear companies I’ve come across.

The Company:

Only 6 years old, Hyperlite Mountain Gear has quickly risen to compete with the best of the best in the outdoor gear industry. Their philosophy boils down to making bombproof technical gear that will perform in the worse possible conditions outdoor recreationalists throw themselves at. Design feedback from a diverse team of ambassadors goes right to head of the company. From bombproof HMG shelters to technical basic essentials like stuff sacks this company doesn’t take outdoor function for granted. To top it off, their products are all made in good ole’ USA, only a few hours away in the great state of Maine!

So what really sets this company apart from most competitors? It’s obvious it’s their choice of fabric for their products. While most companies use various “deniers” of affordable rip-stop nylon and Cordura, Hyperlite Mountain Gear uses Dyneema® + Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (Formerly Cuben Fiber) Technology to provide incredibly lightweight, long lasting, water & abrasion resistant products. Read more on these materials here.

Buy from Hyperlight Mountain Gear

The pack:

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack Review
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack- Frankenstein Cliffs

I went with this model as I wanted a pack I could guide both ice climbing and back-county skiing with. For those end uses there are some differences in how the pack performs that I will dive into, but first the manufacturer supplied description and specs:

“We designed the 3400/55L series of Ice Packs to function perfectly for passionate adventurers trudging through snow, climbing big ice or alpine lines and spending multiple days in wintry landscapes. Streamlined and minimalist, this ultralight backpack becomes a seamless extension of the athlete wearing it, enabling light and fast alpine ascents. Achieve your optimal self on your one- or two-day FA in the Ruth, Alaska or while attempting a Teton’s Grand Traverse-style link up. Given a four-star review in Rock & Ice magazine’s 2013 Photo Annual issue, this pack offers exactly what you need and nothing more (i.e. no frills, gizmos or the latest trending colors). Made from 100% waterproof Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber), the 3400 Ice Pack is highly durable and weatherproof. Use it with our Stuff Sacks for a nearly perfect waterproof kit.

We can custom fit this pack for skiers by adding reinforced Dyneema® side panels, bottom and ski holsters.

FEATURES

  • Made in Maine – External crampon and ice axe attachment system
  • Four external daisy chains
  • Removable, contoured aluminum stays
  • Dyneema® Hardline shoulder straps with 3/8” closed cell foam and spacer mesh
  • 1/4” foam back panel pad
  • Compression System
    • Roll-Top closure system with side compression straps for vertical compression
    • Four side compression straps for horizontal compression
    • Top Y-strap compression — Designed to secure gear
  • Internal zippered pocket
  • Dyneema® Hardline hip belt with 1/8” closed cell rigid foam, 3/8” closed cell foam and spacer mesh
  • Hip belt option with gear loops or zippered pockets with #5 YKK zipper
  • Adjustable sternum strap with self-tensioning elastic
  • Proprietary seam sealing on all side seams and behind all sewn-on pack features”

SPECS

Weight: 2.16 lbs | 34.6 oz | 981g

Load capacity: 25 – 40 lbs

Materials:

  • Body: 50D Dyneema®/Poly hybrid
  • Bottom: Double reinforced 150D Dyneema®/Poly hybrid
  • Crampon Patch: Dyneema® Hardline

Volume:

  • Interior: 3400 cu. in. (55L)

Dimensions:

  • Top Circumference: 40” (95.3cm)
  • Bottom Circumference: 33.5” (85.1cm)
  • Height (fully unrolled): 34” (72.6cm)
  • Back Width: 10.5” (26.7cm)

PERFORMANCE:

So how does it perform? Well the closest pack I have extensive experience with that I could compare it to is my long loved Wild Things Guide Pack. Rugged? Check. Streamlined? Check. Lightweight? Check. Where this pack strides forward is in volume. Weighing only 6 ounces more than my 1600cu. in. Wild Things pack this pack more than doubles capacity. I find this extra room, even for a day of accessible cragging, to be a boon for two reasons;

1. It swallows all my gear without me getting OCD about my packing. While I start off a trip super well organized at the end of the day when you’re ready to beat feet to the car I just want to dump my gear in without trying to “put the puzzle back together”. This pack opens up wide so I can dump my harness, helmet, and rack in and start making tracks to the trail-head!

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack Review
I can hold all of your gear!

2. Unplanned bivy. While I carry an AMK SOL Emergency Bivy Sack on every trip the 34 inches of unrolled length, half of which have has 1/4″ foam, would help insulate someone spending an extra night out.

I put together a quick video the other day showing what I typically pack for a day of ice climbing, so if you want a closer idea of what I shove in this pack check out this clip:

But how does it climb?

Performance:

I’ve lead over 4000 feet of technical ice climbing up to Grade 4 wearing this pack so far this season. That’s enough to know it climbs well.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack Review
East Face Slabs of Mount Willard, photo by Tom Carlson

The real beauty of this pack is it can haul 40 pounds of climbing gear to the route comfortably, then cinch down into a little streamlined assault pack that you can forget you are wearing. While the waist belt is remove-able I just opt for reverse clipping it when it’s time to harness up.

If I were to give this pack a grade based on end use it would look something like this:

Ice Climbing/Mountaineering A+++

Back-country Skiing B-

Ski Mountaineering A+

So why the lower grade for BC skiing? Well, because you can’t have one backpack that is awesome at everything. You just can’t. In the case of back-country skiing I want those convenient features like fleece lined goggle pockets and zippered compartmental access. A dedicated snow safety tool pocket is a must for those who ski in avalanche terrain a lot.

But you know what? Most great BC ski packs suffer in volume when it comes to Ski Mountaineering. Need to toss in some crampons and a bit of rope for when the terrain you’re accessing is getting a little gnarly? This pack has you covered. Heading into Baxter State Park for a few days of long alpine routes & maybe a ski descent off Hamlin Peak?

This is the pack I would bring.

Basically, if the route is demanding and technical in nature this is the pack to arm yourself with. If you’re sticking to wearing your skis in terrain under 40 degrees you might be better off with a dedicated touring pack like the Patagonia SnowDrifter.

But if you’re swinging the tools and getting into steep technical terrain this pack is an excellent choice.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack Review
Summit of Mt. Willard- photo by Tom Carlson

I’m excited to get some ski mountaineering trips in with this pack over the next few years. While this winter has really lagged in the Northeast I’m content knowing this pack will long outlive this El Nino by a decade or two. I’m also keen to test out more of HMG’s product line. If you are in the market for a top of the line ice climbing/mountaineering pack, this is definitely  a company you should be looking at.

Buy from Hyperlight Mountain Gear

See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

DISCLAIMER: While HMG supplied me with this pack for the review my opinions stated above are 100% mine, derived from 2 decades of wearing out packs ice climbing and skiing in the North East. Affiliate links help support this blog.