I had already been a huge fan of HitCase after reviewing the HitCase Pro iPhone case back in October 2018. You can find that full review here. Now HitCase has entered the more casual/stylish iPhone case market with the new HitCase Ferra model and I was happy to receive a media sample to check out a couple months ago.
In a market flooded with fashionable iPhone cases I was curious why HitCase would deviate from their “hard-core” type protective cases. As the founder and CEO of the company says, “Protective products on the market today are focused on making products cheaper, but in the race to make things cheaper, things got worse, sharp edges, flow lines, rough textures, careless design.”
HitCase definitely doesn’t take short-cuts with their cases and the Ferra looks and feels like a swanky hand-crafted Italian leather phone case. With 2 meter drop protection it certainly isn’t as bomber as the Pro case which boasts a 5 meter drop protection rating, but 2 meter’s is pretty good for a casual case. Stainless steel buttons add more style and I appreciate having access to my mute switch through an open port while using the case.
The best thing about the case, and all HitCases for that matter, is the ability to use the TrueLux lenses with the case. These lenses open up the photography capabilities of the already amazing iPhone X to new levels. With Macro, Wide, and SuperWide options you can get pretty creative with your smartphone photography. One important distinction between the Ferra and the more active sport Pro model is how these lenses secure to the case. While the HitCase Pro has these lenses secure by a few screw threads keeping the lenses safely attached during bumpy mountain bike or ski descents they only attach to the Ferra with a bit of magnetism. This is fine (and fast) for casual use/outdoor photography but if you want to shoot while being less stationary you might be better off with the HitCase Pro.
The HitCase Ferra is for someone who likes hand-crafted leather and wants something more than a cheaply made case to accessorize their tech. The ability to use the TrueLux lenses with a casual case is an additional benefit. While I appreciate the style my iPhone is now snuggled back in the HitCase Pro case which has become my all time favorite case so far! If you are looking for a really nice casual iPhone case maybe the HitCase Ferra is for you?
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Affiliate links help support this blog. A media sample was provided for purpose of review.
Over the last few years I’ve realized how important being able to quickly and clearly communicate with my partners in the mountains is. So much so that I’ve added a pair of hand-held radios to my “essentials” list. I started using BCA Link Radios while working on Mount Washington to stay in touch with other guides who worked for the same outfitter I did. After missing this reliable way to communicate on a recreational ski tour I started taking them with me on every ski trip. I also find them well suited to alpine and ice climbing gullies with long technical pitches that end at anchors out of sight (Pinnacle Gully and Black Dike are perfect examples).
The ease of being able to clearly communicate without yelling over the roar of the wind or interpret “rope tugs” adds greatly to your risk management strategies. Other benefits include being able to monitor National Weather Service current conditions and forecasts for your regions, summon outside help outside of cell phone coverage, and even tune into local FM stations on some models. I’ll share a few models worth looking at if you need to pick up a set of radios to improve your capabilities in the mountains.
We had a fleet of these at the guide service I first worked with. They are simple to use, rugged, and convenient. The “Smart Mic” allows you to access all the controls you need without having to take the radio out of your pack. Equipped with 22 FRS and GMRS channels and 121 sub-channels it is compatible with all standard FRS/GMRS radios.
Group Communication System with Smart Mic and base unit
Water- and dust-resistant to IP56 standards
Compatible with all standard FRS/GMRS radios
2.5-mile line-of-sight range ensures adequate coverage
140 hour maximum battery life keeps unit running all day (3.7 Volt Lithium Ion)
Temperature operating range between -4F to 158F
Smart Mic is compatible with 3.5mm TS or TRS earphone plug
Battery charger included
Pros: Super user friendly to first time radio owners. No licenses needed to operate. Rugged and Water Resistant (IP56). Convenient Smart Mic. Can program local NWS channel for weather updates. Integrates well with BCA line of Airbags and Stash backpacks. Removable battery means you can bring extra batteries on a trip.
Cons: A little pricey but discounted now that there is a new version out! Can not program channels that would require a license to use outside of emergencies.
The new version boosts some significant improvements over the time tested original. More power means greater range, with the 2.0 offering up to 6 miles (line of sight), more than double the range of the original. A stronger battery (2300mAh lithium ion) also gives you more time between recharging (400 hours vs 140 hours in the original). A redesigned Smart Mic claims to better shed snow when you’re riding in face shot territory.
Two-way radio built for backcountry touring
Smart Mic offers glove-friendly handling
Rechargeable battery offers 400 hours of standby power
Recommended line-of-sight usable range of 6 miles; max of approximately 40-miles
Pros: Super user friendly to first time radio owners. No licenses needed to operate. Rugged and Water Resistant (IP56). Convenient Smart Mic. Can program local NWS channel for weather updates. Integrates well with BCA line of Airbags and Stash backpacks.
Cons: Pretty expensive, but this is a high-end choice in the realm of FRS/GRMS radios. Can not program channels that would require a license to use outside of emergencies. Battery is no longer removable so you can’t bring extra batteries (but you can charge with a standard charger or USB)
The last few years I’ve been using the BaoFeng BF-F8HP and have been quite happy with them. With up to 8 watts of output they have great range. They can be programmed for FRS/GRMS. They can also be programmed to monitor and broadcast on licensed channels so care must be given you do not break FCC rules. You can listen to FM radio while the radio still monitors the channel your group is using, so if a communication is received the radio automatically mutes the FM radio station you were rocking out to while skinning up that non-consequential slope. You can also monitor National Weather Service regional weather.
Pros: Affordable. Dual band (monitor two channels at same time). Listen to local FM radio while hanging around camp or moving through no risk terrain. Can program local State and Federal frequencies to be used in case of emergency*
Cons: Not as water/weather resistant as the BCA Link Radios. I’ve ruined two in accidental immersion incidents (waterfall rappelling). In heavy rain I would want to keep this in the pack, maybe in a dry sack. “Boom mic” is not included and not as glove-friendly as BC Link Radios. I keep this radio out on my shoulder strap. Care must be given that you do not broadcast on frequencies that require licensing. If you need a fleet of them it’s good to have someone with a data cable and the PC software “Chirp” to program them.
What is legal?
Navigating what frequencies don’t require a license can be tricky. The BC Link Radios are quite powerful FRS/GRMS radios that keep it simple. The BaoFeng can land you a $15,000 fine if you are caught using licensed channels. Because of this I’ve decided to pursue an Technician license. An even easier to get license is the “Amateur” license and would probably make these issues even clearer.
You are allowed to monitor (listen) to channels that require a license to transmit on. You are also allowed to transmit on these channels without a license in the case of a real emergency. From the FCC:
Part 97.403: Safety of life and protection of property.
No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radio communication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.
All that said I’m looking forward to pursing a license so I can better answer these questions.
While some of the details of licensing can be unclear (without proper education) one thing that is clear is that handheld radios like these help us travel more safely and efficiently in the mountains. Here is an example of a conversation that could not happen with out radios from the top of a backcountry ski run:
“Dropping in 3” – alerts group I’m starting the first pitch of my ski run.
“Clear”- let’s group know next person can follow, I’ve stopped at a safer spot.
Even outside of avalanche terrain radios can assist with conveying hazards as they are discovered.
“Stay hard right at first corner to avoid a water bar”
In an alpine climbing scenario easily talking with your belayer when 50 meters apart and out of sight is comforting. None of the “Did he say off belay or OK?”. Was that three tugs or does she just need more slack?
Having both NWS weather updates and FM stations (BaoFeng) on long trips can help keep you informed and improve morale if stuck in your tent for an extra day waiting for good weather.
All of these reasons are why radios have become a part of my “essentials” every time I go into the mountains. Once you start using them you’ll wonder why you haven’t been using them all along!
Disclaimer: I do not have any level of radio license and information provided above may be incorrect. I will update this post after I have acquired a license but would love any comments from current licensed operators below and will make suggested edits where appropriate!
I’ve tested most of the top brand iPhone cases designed for rugged outdoor use and the Hitcase PRO 2.0 is a standout in the category. I’ve been steadily beating on mine since last July when I received both the case and some of the accessories that sync so well with the Hitcase PRO design. A quick disclaimer before we start! Since I take all my pics with my iPhone I have zero images of the case since it hasn’t come off my phone since I put it on! Most images in this review are courtesy of Hitcase. Now let’s take a quick look at what makes this iPhone case so bad-ass.
The most distinctive feature of the Hitcase Pro is the “railslide” mounting system. Essentially Hitcase designed a rugged rail on the side of the case that allows you to quickly and securely attach the phone to a great selection of different mounts.
The monopod “ShootR” is basically a well though out selfie-stick! It’s super light and pack-able but the best feature is how it connects to the Hitcase railslide mount. This makes it feel very secure when shredding sick lines or hucking off a bridge into the river.
You can easily capture GoPro style footage while being hands free with the ChestR Mount.
There’s also mountain bike mounts, helmet mounts, vehicle mounts, and more! You can see the full selection of mounts here. The case can also attach to any GoPro® compatible mount, including drones, gimbals, and more.
The other big standout feature of Hitcase cases is the TrueLUX lenses that can attach to your iPhone camera to capture amazing images. With Macro, Wide, and SuperWide options these lenses definitely help you take shots you wouldn’t think possible on a smartphone.
Finally the case offers the type of protection you would expect from an “extreme” case. Waterproof and drop-proof to 16 feet. While I haven’t fully submerged mine I did have it in my pocket multiple times this summer while running Waterfall Rappelling courses. On more than one occasion it was exposed to high pressure directly in the waterfall and never experienced a leak!
See this case in action in this promotional video!
My iPhone is one of my biggest investments especially since I upgraded to the X this year for the amazing camera. I take it on countless rock and ice climbs all year along with lots of back-country skiing and mountaineering trips. For those reasons I have to protect it! The Hitcase Pro goes beyond mere protection and adds utility and flexibility greatly increasing the value of the iPhone’s own camera. I’ve found myself leaving the GoPro at home more and more these days and just shooting everything on my iPhone. If you need solid protection for your phone and like to shoot outdoor active photography this might be the perfect phone case for you!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Disclaimer: Media samples were provided for purpose of review. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support the content created here at Northeast Alpine Start at no cost to you. Thank you!
There are already lots of reviews out there claiming which iPhone cases, out of literally hundreds, are the most protective. You will find models on some of those lists whose biggest “plus” are that it comes in 8 different colors with popping eye-catching patterns. I don’t need that. I need a case that can protect my investment in the most extreme weather conditions on the planet. I also don’t want a case that makes carrying my phone outside of my profession of mountain guiding awkward.
To that end I reached out to argue-ably the four biggest companies in iPhone case construction and asked for their most rugged model case to be submitted for review. Some manufacturers provided more than one model as they had models that would appeal to different end-users. After a full winter of back-country skiing, ice climbing, and mountaineering on one of the most inhospitable mountains in the world, I’m ready to share my opinions of these models, starting with my personal “Best in Class”. Full reviews for each model will post over the next few weeks and be linked here.
One of my favorite of the cases I tested was the ROKFORM Fuzion Pro Case. It is the only case in the line-up made with carbon fiber but the design of this case far exceeds the material used in its construction. Despite being a very modular case installation was really easy. After pushing the phone into the rubberized housing an aircraft aluminum exo-skeleton backed with carbon fiber easily snaps over the housing to secure the phone.
Before assembly you must select which insert you want to use.
The TwistLock is designed to secure your phone with a bombproof connection to various bike, motorcycle, and car mounts. This is the best way to secure your phone if you will be bombing down single track mountain bike trails, racing Motocross, or even doing a bit of 4×4 off roading in that beat up Jeep Wrangler of yours!
What really sets this model, and company for that matter apart, is the other type of mount they use. The magnetic lock has been a bit of a game changer for me. At first I just liked using the Super Grip Vent Mount in our vehicle. I have gone through quite a few “universal” window mounted phone holders over the years and have had issues with almost all of them. They typically break after a year or two and they create blind spots in your field of view. This little vent mount works flawlessly and keeps my phone where I want it without any blind spots in the front window. It also packs well so is perfect for those who often drive rental cars!
What I didn’t realize was how many other places having a magnetic phone case added convenience. When I head into the kitchen to start breakfast I just stick my phone right onto the refrigerator. I listen to the latest Podcast while getting the kiddos packed for school and when it’s time to grab the car keys and rush out the door there’s no searching for my phone.
Even while I’m typing this my phone is secured to the edge of my computer desk and not lost in the slightly chaotic mess of things I know I will organize and read soon!
As far as true protection, the ROKFORM Fuzion Pro exceeds Military Drop Test Standard MIL-STD 801G-516.6 (basically can survive multiple falls from 2 meters (6.6 feet). Only two other models in the test had higher ratings. The case works with Rokforms’ own high-end screen protector or any other third party protector.
The case is not waterproof, but the iPhone X features native IP67 Water Resistance. What that means is it can withstand a quick dunk in up to three feet of water. This level of water-resistance is enough for non-water sports and allows this case to have virtually zero impact on sound quality both from the iPhone speakers and to a greater extent while talking to someone on speakerphone. Most fully encased waterproof cases make the caller sound like they are in a tin-can when using their speaker phone (it drives my wife nuts!). If you do need 100% waterproof-ness check out the CATALYST Waterproof iPhone X Case and the Pelican Marine Cases, both of which I will submit detailed reviews on soon!
The only thing I could think to improve was the lack of a lanyard. However after a quick call to the company to confirm this feature was missing I was guided to the fact that there is a lanyard attachment point on the aluminum housing that works with most third party lanyards, and of course Rokform’s own lanyard! So not much I can suggest changing here… this is an awesome case!
The ROKFORM Fuzion Pro is a standout in the category of rugged outdoor iPhone X cases. While it doesn’t come in sparkly glitter colors it really is a well engineered blend of materials and design. With the TwistLock option for “must not disconnect” extreme sports and the MagneticLock for everyday convenience this is definitely one of the best all-around cases I tested.
Chances are if you are reading this you have a climber, skier, hiker, mountain biker, or trail runner in your life. You’ve probably already started to see “holiday guides” come from various retailers and bloggers. Here I present my personal hand selected gift ideas for the adventurous mountain traveler in your life. Some are locally hand-crafted ideas from friends and others are time tested national brands so please take a look!
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.
Another socially and environmentally conscious company Life Straw makes getting safe drinking water possible with innovation and effective products. I have been using the Life Straw Steel model over the last couple months and it’s becoming a standard part of my day kit.
This device allows someone to summon help even when they are far away from cell phone service. It provides piece of mind to my wife when I’m out on a week long trip in the mountains by allowing me to send “check-in” messages that show her where in the world I am. This is an excellent gift for the adventurer in your life!
I’ve had the VSSL Supplies model for two years now and it’s an integral part of our home emergency kit (extended power-outs) and comes with us on road trips as part of our “on the go” kit. While it’s a little heavy for me to take climbing I know a few hunters that have added it to their day kit and it has a lot to offer the casual back-packer and car-camper. See my detailed review I posted 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!
My friend Brittni started this hand-crafted company just last year and I’ve been seeing her work at local coffee shops and at the crags! The iconic “drink sweater” is right at home keeping that pre-climb coffee warm or that post-climb beer cold! I’m definitely excited to be giving something handmade to some of my loved ones this season!
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.
This charger sees almost daily use as I use my iPhone extensively while out climbing and for most of my video editing. What I like most about this charger is that I can get at least 3 full charges from it and it charges much faster than a wall outlet. You can pick this stocking stuffer up on Amazon here.
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 grimy sleeping!
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!
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. I would like to upgrade to the new Fenix 5 soon!
My personal favorite avalanche beacon with a host of advantages over other beacons on the market. Super fast processor and “Smart Antennae” technology helps you find and be found faster. On sale on Backcountry.com now!
These high end goggles out perform every other brand I have ever tried. As a brand ambassador I can share my promo code “ALPINESTARTF&F” which will get you 20% off when ordering directly from www.revo.com!
Perhaps your loved one has been talking about taking an ice climbing course or avalanche safety course for a couple of years now but hasn’t pulled the trigger? Give them the nudge they need with a gift certificate for a course at Northeast Mountaineering! Also be sure to use promo code “DavidNEM” when you book a course for a chance to win a free guided adventure of your choice!
UPDATE: A couple readers pointed out an excellent gift idea is a membership to an organization dedicated to access, education, and conservation. To that end I’m embarrassed I didn’t think of that without the nudge so may I also include a membership to the Access Fund and/or the American Alpine Club, two organizations I have supported through membership for over the last 15 years!
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 this stores please do!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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?
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!