This year Patagonia has released a lighter version of their iconic DAS “Dead Air Space” synthetic parka and after a month of testing the Patagonia DAS Light Hoody I can honestly say it’s a amazing piece! Without a doubt you won’t find a warmer and more bomb-proof synthetic belay jacket under 12 ounces.
For insulation Patagonia used 65 grams of down-like “PlumaFill”. This 100% recycled insulation truly feels as warm as high quality down yet has the advantage of still retaining heat should it get wet. You’ll have to go out of your way to get it wet though thanks to the almost seamless Pertex® Quantum Pro fabric with both a PU dry coating and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. That’s about as close to waterproof as you can get while still having functional breath-ability and makes this jacket stand above the Micro and Nano Puff jackets with their sewn through quilted patterns.
A two way zipper for easy access to your belay loop, size-able chest pocket, helmet friendly hood, and two handwarmer pockets round out the features. The cut of the jacket is roomy, closer to a true belay jacket than a typical “light puffy”. I went with a size large for my 5′ 9″ 180lb frame and there was plenty of room to layer under it but it didn’t feel to baggy. My only suggestion is the left hand pocket that can be turned inside out to stuff the jacket needs to be a little bigger, it’s a bit of a challenge trying to get the jacket to stuff into that pocket.
Here’s a quick video review I did on the jacket:
Summary/Who is this for?
The Patagonia DAS Light Hoody is a pretty versatile piece. It’s an excellent choice for a fast & light ice climber/alpinist belay jacket if conditions are typical. It’s a great insurance piece for the back-country skier or rider who doesn’t plan to stop moving but wants to be prepared for any contingency and winter hikers will find it an excellent addition to their gear closet. If you’re looking for some cold weather protection this is a jacket you should be looking at!
Communication is crucial to safe backcountry travel, and nothing helps improve communication than a quality set of radios. This past summer I received a new pair of Rocky Talkies to review and after 6 months of hard use I’m ready to share my thoughts on them!
Right out of the box I could feel how durable these radios are. First there is the shatterproof front screen that is transparent for the LED display. Then there is the removable rubberized case for all-around drop protection. The case fits so snugly I didn’t even realize it was removable until I really started to dig into the radio after months of use. There isn’t much reason to remove the case unless you’re carrying spare batteries (more on battery life later).
In addition to having all this drop protection the radio comes with one of the most robust tether systems I’ve ever seen on a radio. A full strength Mammut Wall Light carabiner attaches the radio to my shoulder strap (or on my harness gear loop when not wearing a pack), and a metal snap-link auto retracting tether acts as a solid back-up and allows the radio to easily stay in reach.
For water resistance the radios carry an IP56 rating, meaning they are splash-proof and snow-proof but should not be fully submerged. I’ve noticed no effect after having my pair routinely exposed to heavy rain or waterfall spray while guiding waterfall rappelling trips all summer so I have a fair amount of confidence in this level of resistance.
The second feature that caught my attention was during my very first test run. I was standing at the top of a 200 foot waterfall and my co-guide was at the bottom as we prepared to send our guests down the rappel we had set up. I called him to make sure we were good-to-go and his response came back clearer than any radio, including some of the expensive and bigger radios I have been issued for search & rescue. The audio quality of these little hand-held radios far exceeds any of the other radios I have tested. It almost doesn’t sound like a radio, and sounds more like a 5 bar LTE connection with a modern smartphone!
There are only five buttons, which makes this radio incredibly easy to use right out of the box. No need for programming, though you can use advanced features to add privacy codes. A power button, channel flipper, push-to-talk, and volume up and down. So simple! With these buttons you are able to scan all channels, lock and un-lock the radio, change between high and low power, change channel, change privacy codes (CT, DCS), and check battery life.
This was one of the hardest features for me to truly test as I am almost never that far from my clients or partners. Alpine rock climbing in Huntington Ravine we are always within 60 meters of each other. This winter back-country skiing that distance can increase to a maximum of a half mile… still way within the suggested range. So I’ll share the claims and some of the great info Rocky Talkie has released to help address this popular question.
This is a 2-watt radio… the strongest watt option available that doesn’t require a license to transmit on. The antennae is fixed, which is something I like as other radio models I’ve used have removable antennas that often have been loose (and once almost lost).
Rocky Talkie makes these range claims:
Line-of-sight: 25+ miles Mountains: 1 to 5 miles Forest/Hills: 0.5 to 3 miles City: Up to 1 mile
To further illustrate how the range of these radios, and many radios in general, are effected by the terrain they are being used in they published this excellent blog post addressing this topic.
I found the battery life to be substantial, especially for such a small radio. My informal testing showed the battery would last for over 12 days of use while guiding both waterfall rappelling and rock climbing trips. These were 5 to 8 hour long trips were radio use was light. Based on that I would expect I could easily get 3-5 cold backcountry ski tours in before needing to charge. It charges with a USB-C to USB-a cable (included).
Some more info on battery life from the manufacturer:
The Rocky Talkie has a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 1550 mAhrs. Battery life is dependent on how frequently the radios send and receive signals. With normal usage, the battery can be expected to last 3-5 days (assuming the radio is used 8hrs/day). The battery will last over 120 hrs when in standby mode (the radio is on but not transmitting or receiving signals). The battery life was tested in high power mode (2 Watts), so you can expect a slightly longer battery life on low power mode (.5 Watt).
Dedication to Rescue Teams
Rocky Talkie has pledged to donate $2 of every radio sold to search and rescue teams. They are giving $10,000 every year through an annual award and through a grant program. That kind of support from a manufacturer is really appreciated!
For under 5 ounces this might be one of the best things you could add to your outdoor kit when it comes to overall team safety. The rugged feel of these radios inspire confidence in their longevity. The crystal clear audio instills confidence that the message I am sending or receiving will be understood. While there are a lot of handhelds on the market these days, you’d be hard pressed to find many other options that were obviously designed for with the climber and skier in mind!
As I finish this review I see that they are currently sold out… not surprised as I’ve watched outfitters and rescue teams across the country snap these up. The guide service I work for, Northeast Mountaineering, has purchased a fleet of 10 for our guides to use this winter! They should be back in-stock by early November, so you can subscribe to their email for notification of the restock here.
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!
All new for 2020! The pinnacle series from Deuter has been completely redesigned and overhauled – resulting in a new, minimalistic Guide Lite 30. Balanced load distribution and stability are results of a flexible, tensioned Delrin U-frame. Its ultra-lightweight. uncluttered design includes quick, one-handed, access via a draw cord closure. Mountaineers and alpinists will love the lightweight nature and minimalistic feature set of the Guide Lite 24. Our newly innovated ice axe attachment has 3 points of contact, yet still allows users to remove the ice axe nimbly, and without taking off the pack.
Manufacturer Website Listed Weight: 1.43 lbs
I did find some weight discrepancies when using my home electric cooking scale. Normally packs are an ounce or two off but in this case the complete pack was a half-pound heavier than claimed. I took the removable components off the pack and weighed everything separately and together to get a better idea of the true weight based on each configuration.
The complete pack weighed 2 lbs, 1 ounce (938 grams). The top lid weighed 3.5 ounces (94 grams). The waist belt weight 5.5 ounces (160 grams). So the claimed pack weight looks to match the completely stripped down version of the pack at 1 lb, 8 ounces (684 grams).
For a pack of this volume I do feel this is slightly on the heavier side when compared to similar packs in the class. This extra weight probably comes from the more robust internal frame and thicker closed cell foam shoulder and back pads then similar models.
Deuter lists the “length” as 22 inches. I wasn’t sure what this was referring too. User torso length? That would be a giant (or at least MLB player). I broke out my tape measure and it appears that the length of the pack when flattened from bottom to the top (not including extendable collar) is about 22 inches, so I’m thinking that’s what they are listing in the specs. More importantly though is what size torso will this pack fit, and for that I took some more measurements. This pack only comes in one size (though there is a woman’s version and a larger capacity version). Measuring from the top of the shoulder straps to the middle of the waist belt is about 17 inches. This would be the closest measurement to torso length (if you don’t know your torso length it’s easy to measure with a tape measure, YouTube it!).
I have a 19 inch torso (5’9″ tall but torso length is more accurate when fitting packs). That means this pack rides a bit high on me when it comes to the waist belt. This worked fine for me as I often was wearing this pack over my harness, and I preferred to leave the waist belt on and clip it above my harness. Combined with the sternum strap this helped the back hug my back closely while climbing.
With 24 liters (1,465 cubic inches) I could easily carry my full rock guiding kit or my 4000 footer packing list while I work on the 48’s with my son this summer. The extendable collar adds another 600 or so cubic inches. An external helmet carry system frees up even more pack space, and a climbing rope can easily be secured over the top of the pack thanks to long enough top-side compression straps with fast release buckles.
This pack definitely carries well. The internal frame feels like a thin plastic sheet reinforced with two stiffer stays running down the sides. This made awkward loads (like a full trad-rack) carry with no pressure points. The waist belt is quite wide (4.5 inches at widest) and wraps perfectly around the body. In my case this was a bit over the hip bone but a shorter user would find it quite comfy. The height adjustable sternum strap (with whistle) did a great job of keeping the pack centered. I would suggest they remove the “load lifting” straps and buckles as they really don’t serve a function since they are attached at the top of back panel. Overall this was a very comfy pack for day-hiking and rock climbing multi-pitch routes.
Quite a few features on this pack that some may really like and others may find a little bit excessive for an alpine pack. Things I really liked was the well sized removable top pocket with both external and internal compartments. It also has a great “alpine emergency” info graphic under the lid that lists emergency numbers for different countries, universal SOS signals, and more. The pack is hydration system compatible through I did not use a system with the pack. I also didn’t test this pack in winter so I have not used the ice axe carry system but playing with it at home it’s pretty slick. While seemingly cosmetic I’m a huge fan of the high visibility orange color that this pack is available in.
The new Deuter Guide Lite 30+ Backpack is a solid choice for a technical backpack that also has the carrying comfort and features one might look for in a more general day hiking backpack. Dual ice axe and rope carrying capability let it cross over to both winter mountaineering and ice climbing applications. This is a pack worth looking at if you’d like a well made pack that can serve you well whether hiking 4000 footers or getting in some multi-pitch climbing.
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample was provided for review. Affiliate links above help support this blog.
The Fall of 2019 introduced me to a new level of stress and anxiety when I unexpectedly lost my father in a very difficult fashion. I didn’t realize how depressed I had become as I struggled processing the grief. An injury in early March took me out of work and almost any physical activity for a month, then COVID hit. The thought of my now widowed mother being stuck in Florida away from any family for the summer during the pandemic led to high blood pressure and sleepless nights. A few sessions with a therapist helped but I needed to figure something else out.
I had received some samples from the Colorado based 43 CBD Solutions almost a year ago but had not bothered testing them as I wasn’t sure if I believed in the claims of what these products could do. My first taste of the CBD Hemp Oil Tincture was a hour before giving my father’s Eulogy. I couldn’t be sure it was having any positive effect on me as my emotions during this time were so overwhelmed with what was happening.
Most of the winter passed with me focusing on work and realizing I still wasn’t processing my grief in a healthy way. When the Spring ski accident and COVID-19 shutdown occurred it created even more stress and I started to feel like I would implode. On a call with my therapist he asked me if I was breathing. I realized sub-consciously I was barely taking full breaths. My chest felt tight. I still had moderate hypertension (high-blood pressure). I decided to give the 43 CBD products another try.
I’ve never used other CBD products before so I find it hard to review or compare. After months of weekly use I’m confident they are making a difference. I don’t use them every day but 2 or 3 times a week I will take a few drops of the oil on the tongue after waking up, and I do feel a little more relaxed during the day. It is a discreet feeling that is really hard to define but I do feel less “edgy”. I haven’t felt at all “high”, but for anyone slightly concerned about having any THC in their system they did just release a THC-free line.
I’ve also taken a few drops on some nights and have noticed I sleep better on the nights I do. I’ve been using the 1000mg CBD Ultra Deep Tissue Salve on my elbows (minor tendonitis) and can honestly say I have never used a better rub for muscle/tendon/joint pain relief! The relief is almost instant and seems to last longer than “IcyHot” rubs I used to use. I’ve also noticed better circulation in my arms when using it and I don’t get “pins and needles” while sleeping.
Rounding out the products I’ve tested is a small pocket tin I use as a lip balm and on the go pain relief. While I don’t use marijuana I find the natural hemp smell to have a calming effect.
I was definitely a skeptic going into this product testing. When I asked my licensed therapist his opinion on using CBD to help with anxiety he claimed the science supports their effectiveness but it can be hard to determine the quality of a somewhat unregulated industry and determine whether or not I’m experiencing some type of placebo reaction. I’ve come to the conclusion that the general feeling of well-being and lower blood pressure is a direct result of using these products, combined with increased exercise, hiking with the kids, and returning to productive and rewarding work. If you are experiencing stress and anxiety for any reason (and we all have enough reason right now to be stressed out), and have considered trying a CBD option, the choices can be a little over-whelming. The folks at 43 CBD Solutions have a quality product that goes through rigorous third party testing. You can feel safe in knowing exactly what you are putting into your body. And most importantly I now believe it works.
Right now they are offering a BOGO 50% offer! That’s a great deal considering they are already a competitively priced product! Just shop from here and enter “BOGO50” at checkout!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Affiliate links above help support this blog. Media samples were provided for purpose of review. All opinions stated above are the genuine opinions of the author.
This summer the kids and I have been enjoying some tasty protein and fruit bars from a company founded in the Pacific Northwest, Skout Organic. These bars are non-GMO, Vegan, Kosher, and Free of Gluten, Grain, Dairy, and Soy. While we don’t have any allergies in our household I like that I can keep a couple of these stashed in my pack to share with guests when we are out climbing.
Each of the protein bars offers 10g of protein while keeping the glycemic level low by using organic dates as the base. Each protein bar packs 210-220 calories in just under a 2 ounce bar. The kids bars have 90 calories and weigh just under one ounce each.
Both of the kids got to taste each flavor, and Alex (age 8) picked Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip as his favorite, while Madalena (age 4) went with Blueberry Blast. I had a tough time picking a favorite but at the end of the day I’ll go with Salted Chocolate for the best protein bar and Apple Pie for my favorite kids bar. On hot and humid Northeast days and I would love to see the kid sized fruit bars be available in a 2 ounce size! Adults need fruit too!
For those with nut allergies these options have no peanuts or tree nuts.
Summary and Giveaway!
There are a lot of quality protein bars out there to choose from these days but they are not all equal. Skout Organic does a ton of allergen testing to prevent cross contamination in all levels of production. They taste great and passed my kids rigorous testing! You can order directly from them and first time customers can get $5 off and free shipping here! Just use code “SAMPLER” at checkout!
You can also enter for a chance to win one of each sampler pack! That’s a $30 value! Enter to win at this Rafflecopter link below!
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!
Our family is a sun hoody family. Any one who hikes or climbs with me knows I won’t stop singing the praises of the sun hoody. Earlier this Spring as the bug season arrived I went through my gear closet to take stock of how many sun hoody’s we currently have in rotation (3 for me, 2 for my wife, none for the kids!?).
Getting my kids to enjoy outdoor time is especially important to me given how much screen time they are getting due to school being almost 100% online during the current pandemic, so I didn’t hesitate to order them both new sun hoody’s from REI. We went with the REI-Co-op Sahara Sun Hoodie for kids.
These are as nice as the adult versions I have tested from various quality manufacturers. With a 50+ UPF rating we don’t go through as much sun block as we usually would. The material is soft to the touch, comfortable on bare skin, and super breath-able. Alex (age 8) likes the thumb holes which keep the sleeves down and provide some extra coverage to the back of his hands. Madalena (age 4) loves the color purple.
REI makes a full size range from XXS (4-5 years) to XL (18 years). We got the XXS for our almost 5 year old daughter who is on the small side. It fit her great and we are expecting to get a second summer out of it. For our almost 9 year old son who is on the slightly tall side we got him the M (10-12 years) size and it definitely was not too big for him… we expect to get a second summer or two out of his!
With 50 SPF on such thin breathable fabric wearing these keeps the kids cooler than just wearing a t-shirt. While thin we haven’t noticed an mosquito getting through the fabric, though we do take the extra precaution of treating them with Sawyer Permethrin Clothing and Gear Repellent. This is another product we use every Spring. I treat one pair of hiking pants for each of us, and all of our sun hoodies, and one pair of hiking shoes each. There is simply not a more effective way of really repelling mosquitos, black flies, and ticks than using this clothing treatment. You can literally walk through a tick infested field of tall grass with pure immunity.
Sun hoodies are still a relatively new addition in the outdoor clothing market and a know a lot of people haven’t caught on yet. Once you start wearing one on a hot humid summer day though you’ll see the light (or the shade) that keeps you cooler and lets you play outside with less greasy sunblock and less toxic on skin bug repellents. For a couple years we couldn’t find kid sized sun hoodies so it’s great to see a company like REI making these for our little ones!
With the current COVID-19 crisis we are trying to be prepared as possible for the foresee-able future. One aspect of self-reliance that might be over looked is being able to deal with small medical emergencies at home. Any trip to a hospital will likely put further strain on an already stressed medical system. To that end now is a good time to take inventory of your home medical supplies.
My Medic is a first aid supply company that has an amazing variety of medical supplies. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to decide what first aid kit you should start with so they have a handy “kit finder” that will help you narrow the selection. Our home kit is the basic “MyFAK” model. Then we have one Solo kit in each of our cars.
While having a properly stocked first aid kit is important knowing how to use what is in it is even more important.
The SOLO School located in Conway, NH offers some of the best wilderness medicine training anywhere. While they are closed until at least May 1st once they are back running courses consider enrolling in one of their programs (classes are offered all over the country). There are also a half-dozen or more free online first aid classes. While stuck at home you could brush up on skills through websites like FirstAidForFree and the Red Cross.
Accident prevention is high on our priority list right now and being able to deal with small injuries without visiting the hospital means we are more self-sufficient. I’d encourage every one to adjust their personal level of risk acceptance until we get through this crisis. Our family is limiting our exercise to short nature walks and bike riding around our neighborhood. Bike gloves and helmets are a must when riding. Make sure you are getting an hour of responsible outdoor time every day! We hope everyone stays safe and sane during these difficult days!
I find it hard to believe the avalanche course season is almost over! I’ve had a great time teaching courses for Northeast Mountaineering with an amazing group of co-instructors and despite a relatively inconsistent Mother Nature field conditions have been quite prime for our course objectives.
One of the seasonal components of the AIARE Framework is “Continue Your Education”. AIARE 1 students often realize quite early in the course that becoming safer back-country travelers is a lifelong process. There is no finish line when it comes to avalanche education. To that end I share with my students one of the ways I’ve continued to learn about a subject I’ve been studying and teaching for over 10 years is by subscribing to multiple podcasts related to avalanche education. Multiple students have asked for a list of what podcasts I listen to which was the motivation of this post. So without further delay here’s my current playlist with a quick recap of what to expect from each. If you like to play in the snow you should give a few of these a listen on the commute into work or your drive up to the mountains!
“The podcast that helps keep you on top of the snow instead of buried beneath it.” This one is at the top of my list and if you only pick one podcast to listen to this is the one I’d recommend most. So many great episodes I hesitate to call out just one but I will… The April 5th, 2019 episode “Low Danger” is a must listen.
“Creating a stronger community through sharing stories, knowledge, and news amongst people who have a curious fascination with avalanches.” What can I say this podcast is fantastic! The range of guests is great and I haven’t found a single interview to not be engaging and enlightening… add it to your library!
Sadly it seems Doug hasn’t been able to keep this project going but the first two seasons are here for us to learn from. Doug focuses mostly on the human element and some of the episodes that have stayed with my had to do with effective communication in the backcountry and how we see ourselves in our stories (impaired objectivity). Definitely worth listening to the 1.5 seasons that are there and hopefully Doug can return to this project soon!
Honorable mention goes to the American Alpine Club’s Sharp End Podcast by Ashley Saupe. While not 100% about avalanches I’ve been a long time reader of the AAC’s Accidents in North American Climbing, a fantastic education resource in its own right and worth the annual cost of membership in my opinion! In each episode Ashley interviews those involved in climbing (and sometimes avalanche) accidents in an effort to learn what we can from these stories.
Well that’s the list. Within these 4 podcasts there are hundreds of hours of quality content that is sure to make you a more informed and safer backcountry traveler. If you found this post helpful please leave a comment below and if I missed one of your favorite podcasts please let me know! It doesn’t have to be avalanche related but outdoor recreation and risk management should be a consideration!
Happy listening and see you in the mountains!
Northeast Alpine Start
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