At the beginning of last summer we received a Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket and our family has used it while camping and at home almost every day. We also lent it to some friends who camp more often then we did this summer to solicit their feedback (and get some rad pics of it being enjoyed, thanks @coreyoutdoors!)
The Montem Sneaky Snuggler Blanket is the ultimate camping quilt! With a temperature rating of 40°+ it keeps you warm indoors and out and you’ll stay comfy no matter where you go. Water and puncture resistant, folding out to a comfortable 54″ by 80″ making it perfect for one and extremely cozy for two.
Spreading out to 54″ by 80″ this blanket is comfy for one person, and it lets you get close and cozy with two.
Perfect for camping, lounging at home, and picnics at the park. You can bring the sneaky snuggler to anywhere or any event to feel warm and snuggled.
With this your body is free to move around on our large one person camping blanket, not bound together in a tough cocoon.
The Sneaky Snuggler Blanket was designed with you in mind so that you can be all tucked in wherever your adventure takes you. Easily converts to form with its convenient carry bag, only 9″ by 17″, making it the ultimate travel companion.
This quilt was made for both young and old, anyone who enjoys extreme comfort. Why use a restricting sleeping bag to sleep? Try our snuggly soft Sneaky Snuggler Blanket.
How We Tested
As soon as we received the blanket we started using it at home as both a couch throw and a picnic blanket at the Cranmore outdoor summer concert series. We used it on our annual camping trip to Camden, ME. When cooler nights arrived in the early Fall we used it as toasty comforter on our bed where it lived all winter. This Spring we’ve loaned it to some friends who have been using it on multiple overnights in the White Mountains.
How It Performed
For all domestic uses it is an awesome home comforter that we continue to use daily. It feels quite breathable for a synthetic insulated blanket. The 20D Ripstop nylon is super soft to the touch. While car camping in Maine we used this with a just sheets and a light fleece blanket with night time temps dipping into the lower 40’s. The kiddos (ages 3 & 7) both slept toasty warm, and Ms. Northeast Alpine Start stayed warm even though she is a cold sleeper. We never tested it in rain but it does come with a DWR treating to resist light precipitation, and being synthetic would still retain heat even if it got soaked (unlike down blankets).
The 54″ by 80″ size is plenty of room for a family of four picnic and 3 of us were able to get under it while car camping (one adult two kiddos). One small negative we could find was how slippery the material was when used with some of our sheets. It could slip off easily mid-night with just a little moving. It also would be considered a bit bulky/heavy for any significant backpacking trip. I would consider it best for car camping or very short approaches to tent sites (Hermit Lake, Mountain Pond, Sawyer River local examples).
The Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket is a bit high-end in the market of camping blankets. We found it incredibly versatile both indoors & out. While we wouldn’t hike it 8 miles to camp we find us tossing it in the car more often then not as it comes in handy on road trips and while visiting family out of state. If you’re looking for a awesome camp blanket you should check this one out! You can purchase direct from Montem here!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links help support this blog.
A few months ago I received a pair of Mammut Saentis Low Hiking Shoes to review. I’ve since logged over 100 miles of White Mountain mileage in them and am ready to share my thoughts in a review. Let’s start with the manufacture claims then get into how they faired on the trail!
Extremely light and flexible: the Saentis Low Men is a reliable multipurpose shoe for a range of applications. It performs excellently on fast-paced narrow forest trails but will also be an essential favorite lightweight shoe for the mountains. Its Michelin® sole gives it excellent grip and an optimum sure-footed step on uneven terrain. The outer material impresses with an extremely breathable mesh as well as robust properties for pleasant comfort and durability. From ascent to descent – the Saentis Low Men will take every situation in its stride and prove its great versatility.
Last index: mtrTech
Flex index: A4
Hybrid Shell: Blend of supple inner and tough outer materials for enhanced comfort and good adaptability.
Pre-shaped tongue construction
TPU toe cap
Cushioning Strobel construction
Michelin® rubber compound
Weight (UK 8.5) [g]340 <- my home scale put a pair of size UK 8 at 694 grams
I went with a men’s US 9, EUR 42, UK 8. This size fit my feet perfectly with more room in the toe box than I am accustomed to since I most often wear more technical approach shoes. The heel cup and forefoot width felt perfect with plenty of stretch to accommodate a wider foot. These might not be ideal for someone with a very narrow foot.
Breathability– The feature I most noticed during testing was the extreme breathability of these shoes. I wore them on multiple hot and humid hikes through July and August and my typically hot feet stayed much cooler than some other shoes I’ve tested in this category recently. While the vent mesh is super breathable this is not a water resistant shoe so you should hop over those puddles rather than plow through! If you do get them wet they dry quite quickly!
Traction– The Michelin® sole on these performed extremely well on dirt, mud, sand, and typical forest duff. On wet rock traction performance was a bit diminished over some softer approach shoe soles but still better than the types of soles found on most hiking boots.
Comfort– As I mentioned earlier these fit my feet quite perfectly. The stretch mesh lining would easily accommodate a wider foot but my medium width feet stayed secure while traversing low angle slopes and the lacing system was very sufficient at keeping my feet from sliding forward during descents. The midsoles have plenty of cushioning for long days on the trail and the excellent breath-ability made wearing them a pleasure on multiple warm/hot hikes!
Durability– While I can’t comment too much on durability after just 100 or so miles I can attest that the appear to be holding up quite well. Close inspection of the stitching and junctions of the outer materials reveals these are crafted with the attention to detail Mammut is well known for! I have no doubt these could last for 800-1000 miles!
These are a great choice for trail running, hiking, and ultra-light backpacking. At $129 MRSP they offer an excellent value in a high quality hiking shoe. If you put a high priority on breath-ability, low weight, and comfort you should take a look at these!
Thanks to my friends at Friendly Foot I’ll be giving away two bottles of the best foot deodorizer ever made! I’m not kidding my wife notices right away if I haven’t been using my Friendly Foot powder! See for yourself how you and your loved ones need not suffer smelly feet by entering to win a bottle of the powder and the spray at the RaffleCopter link below!
I’m up early but it looks like my guiding day might get rained out so I decided to scour the web for some of the better deals on outdoor gear and clothing as most companies end their Labor Day sales today. Below is a curated list of what is not only on sale but something I have personally owned and tested or is on my wish list!
REI is running some sweet deals like 20% off Thule and Yakima racks and roof boxes! 25-30% off most REI, Big Agnes, and Nemo tents and sleeping pads! They also made it easy to find the items that are actually 50% off by grouping them under their “Peak Deals“. Expect limited quantity and sizes in there!
Eastern Mountain Sports is going big with quite a bit of inventory 70% off! 20% off all Black Diamond, 20% off La Sportiva Footwear, and a current coupon for an extra 20% off a full or sale priced item! COUPON CODE: “LABORDAY19“. There is a fairly long list of excluded brands though… you can see the list here. Finally they have summer clearance items listed at 70% here!
Patagonia is running some great web specials like 40% off the Micro Puff and Nano Puff jackets and hoodies visible here.
Just about every retailer is running sales today and since it looks like a wash-out here in the Northeast I think I’ll spend some time today organizing my gear closet and seeing if I’m all set for the rapidly approaching Fall!
Coming soon… I’ve got reviews in the works for the new Wild Country Revo Belay Device. The “Take20Summer” coupon code does work on this item by the way! I also finally got my hands on both the Mammut Smart 2.0 and the Mammut Alpine Smart and testing has begun! Expecting to have reviews on all of these done in time for Rocktober!
Climbing trip to Camden ME in two weeks! I’ve been to Camden twice for some family camping but this trip it’s just me and my buddy Bob heading out to sample the climbing there. Have you been? Must do routes? Let me know in the comments below!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
P.S. The above links are affiliate links. Making a purchase through one of them sends a small commission my way which helps keep content coming. Thank you!
I’m going to skip listing the whole manufacturer description and non-relevant specs as those are easily seen on the companies website linked above. Instead I’ll focus on how I tested, first impressions, who I think this pack is perfect for, and some of the minutia both good and bad.
How I Tested
I’ve worn this pack for about 40 miles of hiking in the White Mountains between May-August. I took it rock climbing once, hiking 6 times, and casual road biking with the family twice. Most of the testing was during the hottest weeks of our summer where the allure of actual cold water on a trip outweighed some of slight negatives of my first impressions of the pack (more on that below). While temps were often in the upper 80’s New England’s famed humidity often had heat index’s reach into the upper 90’s.
Right out of the box I was a bit concerned with the empty pack weight. At 3.6 pounds (1633 grams) this is definitely on the far end of the spectrum for packs I consider for day trips. Once I convinced my ounce-counter-self that not every pack design needs to focus on shaving grams I started looking at what I would gain with carrying a pack that was comparatively heavy on the volume to weight scale. Let’s start by addressing the penultimate claim Hydro Flask makes regarding this pack… it keeps water COLD for 4+ hours!
How it Performs
Keeping Water Cold– That is where this pack truly shines. I’ve tried a lot of tactics over the last two decades to carry cold water in the mountains on long hot days. I used to freeze hydration bladders the night before a hike and then enjoy the long slow melt out during a hike (but it never melted fast enough and my spine pretty much had frostbite). I’ve filled reservoirs half way with ice which might buy me two hours of cold hydration on the hottest hikes (but this “sweats” a lot of condensation adding a fair amount of moisture to the contents of my pack).
This is where the “Revolutionary Cold Flow™” system comes in. It starts with a 3 liter HydraPak® insulated reservoir that is easily removed thanks to the Plug-N-Play™ connection system. A “fill to here with ice” line is about a third of the way up the reservoir. Once filled with ice and topped off with cold tap water this insulated reservoir slides into an insulated pocket on the back panel of the pack. Interestingly the connected hose is not insulated which isn’t a big deal. After a bit of hiking without sipping you’ll notice how cold the reservoir still is after an ounce or two of warmer water thats been in the tube. Finally the back panel of the suspension system is well ventilated to help keep body heat from reaching the reservoir. In practice I found the system could easily uphold the 4+ hours claim even in 80 degree temps.
Organization– For a mountain biking or hiking backpack I found the pack layout to be quite nice. There are two main compartments which feel to have the same volume when the bladder is full and in place. The outer pocket has some nice stretchy organization internal pockets. There is also a zippered top pocket that easily accommodates a first aid kit, lunch, headlamp, car keys, etc.
Comfort/Fit- I went with the M/L size for my 5’9″ build. The waist belt rides a little high as I’d expect for a pack designed with mountain biking in mind. The higher riding waist belt was also a benefit when used while wear a climbing harness. The contoured dense foam shoulder straps fit well. Most of the packs weight will be carried on the shoulders as the waist belt is pretty small. Not really an issue in a pack that is only intended for 15-20 pound loads. I found the pack to carry well while hiking and biking but I would chose the 10L version for a dedicated mountain-bike or trail running pack.
Who is this for? (Summary)
As I mentioned in my “first impressions” this pack is noticeably heavier than most of the packs I test. This weight is a necessary component of a hydration pack designed to be so well insulating. There really isn’t much on the market to compare this pack with for what it’s intention is. I see it as being more attractive for sports where an extra pound isn’t really a big deal (mountain biking, road biking, casual/family hiking, kayaking/canoeing, fishing). The luxury of cold water isn’t as important for sports where less is sometimes more (rock climbing, trail running, fast-hiking).
Made with waterproof zippers and fabric this pack would lend itself well to water sports, slot canyoneering, and wet climates. The lack of an insulated tube makes it a poor choice for winter sports and I’d keep this one in the gear room for the warmer months. It’s been perfect for a number of family hikes and a couple outdoor concerts at our local ski hill this summer.
All in all I’m happy to see Hydro Flask has entered this new market and think this first line of packs is a solid addition to their line. I’m also happy to see Hydro Flask still has a customer friendly warranty! If you put a premium on having cold drink stay cold for the longest possible time you should take a look at these packs!
Backcountry has both the 20L and 10L models in stock and is running a 20% off coupon! Details here!
You can also purchase directly from Hydro Flask here.
Thanks for reading!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample was provided for purpose of review. All opinions mentioned are that of the author. Affiliate links support the content created here at no cost to you! Thank you!
I’ve never really been into nutritional supplements that much. In fact I’ve probably actively avoided them to some extent due to over ambitious creatine supporters during my military years (so long ago!). I am however a big fan of hydration supplements and when I heard of a pro-deal opportunity from Gnarly Nutrition through my membership in the AMGA for some powdered sports drink mix I decided to place an order. I was so impressed with the drink mix I decided to reach out to the company to see if I could sample some of their other products. A few days later my sample kit had arrived!
I’ve now been using these products for over 3 months and feel I can share my impressions of them. We will start with the first one I was introduced to…
Gnarly’s Hydrate sports drink mix is much more than another version of powdered Gatorade. Developed to replace what you lose in sweat I was attracted to the low sugar amount used in the mix, only 4 grams per serving. This low amount of sugar helps transport water across the gut, where-as higher sugar amounts can lead to gut distress. Packed with a full spectrum of B-vitamins (100% B6, 167% B12) and healthy amounts of Magnesium (23%), Niacin (34%), and Riboflavin (100%).
What’s not in the mix can be as important as what is in it. In this case Gnarly uses NO artificial colors (yay no red dye #40!), no artificial flavors or sweeteners (sugar is organic cane sugar), no GMO‘s, no gluten (got some friends who are happy about that!), no soy, and 100% vegan.
But how does it taste?
I’ve only tried the Ruby Red Grapefruit flavor but I find it to be quite balanced on the sweet vs tart scale. I typically use just under two scoops for my 32 ounce Nalgene. The flavor is good whether I drop some ice in there on hotter days or finish the last swig after the bottle has been sitting in the sun getting warm at the end of the climbing day. Finally the mixture has excellent solubility and the mix dissolves completely without much agitation.
But how much does it cost?
Retail price for the 400 grams (14.10 ounces) bag is $25.95. That’s enough for about 40 12-16 ounce servings. That comes out to $.64/serving. That’s $.06/serving cheaper than the Nuun tablets I was using before. I will be joining the monthly subscription plan which brings the price down to $20.76, or $.52/serving. This makes Gnarly’s Hydrate one of the best values in the category market-wide!
Now we get into the world of “Branch Chain Amino Acids” or BCAA’s for short. I admit I didn’t have a clue as to what these were but don’t worry, it’s not too complicated. The following is an explanation from http://www.healthline.com:
The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are essential, meaning they can’t be produced by your body and must be obtained from food. BCAA supplements have been shown to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue and alleviate muscle soreness. They have also successfully been used in a hospital setting to prevent or slow muscle loss and to improve symptoms of liver disease.
But how does it taste?
I’ve been using the caffeinated version of “Strawberry Lemonade” and like the Gnarly Pre-Workout option I found the flavor a bit on the tart side. This one however does not have the beta-alanine so it seemed to have 100% solubility. If you have an issue with any “texture” in your sport drink you might prefer this one over the Gnarly Pre-Workout.
But does it work?
Like the Gnarly Pre-Workout I definitely noticed an energy boost on days I used this vs days I went pure water/food. I marked noticeable reduced soreness after quite a few 7+ hour back-country ski days. After one particularly high mileage/elevation week towards the end of the winter I was almost surprised on my next day off when I felt like I could easily crush another day without taking a rest day.
But how much does it cost?
Retail price for the 368 grams (12.98 ounces) drum is $39.95. That’s enough for about 30 12-16 ounce servings. That comes out to $1.33/serving. The monthly subscription plan brings the price down to $30.36, or $1.07/serving.
The Gnarly Pre-Workout has the recovery benefits of BCAAs plus beta-alanine to help with muscular endurance (by buffering acid), citrulline malate to increase blood flow to and from working muscles AND caffeine/ginseng for that extra energy boost. If you want to read up more on how these things work take a look at this article. With only 6 ingredients the advantage of Gnarly’s BCAA mix you know everything going into your body. Some competitors have “proprietary” blends so they don’t disclose the full ingredient list.
But how does it taste?
This one only comes in a “Strawberry Lemonade” caffeinated or decaffeinated version. I’ve been testing the caffeinated version. I found the flavor a bit on the tart side. Not crazy pucker your face tart but tart. It is a “lemonade” flavor after all so that can be expected. One thing I noticed is the mix is not 100% soluble. The beta-alanine is “extended release” which means you will still have some texture in the drink and some settling will occur. Best practice is to do a little swirl when you’re getting to the bottom so you don’t miss out on any of those non-essential amino acids!
But does it work?
I definitely noticed an energy boost on days I used this vs days I went pure water/food. That shouldn’t be a surprise as it has caffeine, ginger-root, and all the BCAA’s previously mentioned! Gnarly has won over a skeptic in the supplement arena!
But how much does it cost?
Retail price for the 420 grams (14.82 ounces) drum is $37.95. That’s enough for about 30 12-16 ounce servings. That comes out to $1.265/serving. The monthly subscription plan brings the price down to $30.36, or $1.01/serving.
Last but not least is Gnarly’s flagship protein supplement, Whey. Not all Whey proteins are created equal. Gnarly makes its whey from the milk of grass fed New Zealand cows, free of GMOs and hormones. Packed with digestive enzymes and probiotics that help break down protein and increases assimilation this mix definitely has helped my digestive system. Lactase is used which helps break down lactose, and while I’ve never felt lactose intolerant I can see this being helpful for most consumers.
But how does it taste?
I recalled trying a Whey shake many years ago and finding the texture to be close to water-logged cardboard. This stuff is so different from that memory. With almost 100% solubility I’ve been making smooth morning chocolate banana shakes a couple times a week and they are so yum! Both my 7 year old son and 3 year old daughter find the flavor to be excellent!
But does it work?
There is no doubt here, that’s a hard yes! Whey is one of the most researched and published supplements out there. I’ve definitely been feeling the benefits over the last few months and have become a believer. If you want to do some reading on how it works and link to many medical and factual studies check out this article from Healthline.com
But how much does it cost?
Retail price for the 900 grams (32 ounces) drum is $59.95. That’s enough for about 20 8-12 ounce servings. That comes out to $2.99/serving. The monthly subscription plan brings the price down to $47.96, or $2.40/serving.
I’m really happy I put my skepticism aside and went all in to test these nutritional supplements. While at the end of the day a healthy diet and regular exercise keep me relatively healthy I can feel that these products are making a difference in both my energy level, and, to a greater extent, my recovery time after long days in the mountains. If you’re a supplement person already you’re probably not surprised. Maybe you’ve been with one brand for awhile and would like to try something new? If you’re new to using supplements here is an awesome place to start! Gnarly has put together an excellent article to help you decide which supplement is right for you! Check it out here!
Here’s your chance to try almost all the Gnarly products for free! Just click the RaffleCopter link below to enter!
After a long snowy winter many climbers and hikers are chomping at the chance to get on some dry Spring rock and trail. Unfortunately right around this time many insects are chomping at the chance to chomp on us! Namely:
In this post I’d like to share some of my favorite strategies to keep the dreaded “bug season” from keeping you from enjoying what it is you do in the mountains! To combat these four little buggers we will use a four-pronged approach! First…
Step 1: The first line of defense should be clothing. Everyone knows long-sleeves and pants are preferable for bug protection but they seem so hot when the temperature and humidity is high right? Well some long-sleeve options actually feel cooler than going shirtless! Here’s my current favorite tops when dealing with an onslaught of bloodthirsty insects and warm temps!
I have a detailed review of this staple of my outdoor clothing kit here, but the gist of it is every New England climber (and possibly every climber/traveler everywhere) should own this piece. Solid UPF protection and bug protection in a super comfy hoodie. Win win win.
Step 2: I’ve used this stuff on my clothes from Peru to Okinawa to my home-state of New Hampshire with a season blatantly called “bug season” and I’m 100% convinced it is the most effective and safe option for true bug protection. You can Goggle all the research in the world on this product but I’ll just leave the highlights here:
It is for clothing/gear/shoes… not skin.
It dries in a few hours after treating and is then 100% safe to humans, no “leaching” into your sweaty skin
It lasts for weeks even with washing (I only treat my “bug season” outfit once a year each Spring)
While safe for almost all mammals it is not safe with cats for some reason. Do not spray your cat with this.
Pro-tip: treat your approach/hiking shoes and you will likely never find a tick crawling up your leg unless the grass you walk through is higher than your shoes. Treat your hiking pants and shirt and wade through fields of ticks with little worry. You can pick up a bottle cheap on Amazon here.
Step 3: Generally bug season in the US is from early April to early May but in the White Mountains it’s a usually a little later, and Spring we’ve had some prolonged late season cold and snow that has pushed it back a bit further than normal. I’ve only seen two ticks on my so far and haven’t seen my first mosquito yet, while southern NH is probably getting into the thick of it as I type this. Also biting things are most active an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. Climbing mid-day might help reduce bloody interactions.
Step 4: I have long carried a small 4 oz bottle of DEET as a last resort when all the above measures fall to protect from an onslaught of thirsty flying things. Both products are effective, but Picaridin is showing more appeal as it is definitely less toxic to both us and the plastics/nylon we come in contact with. Regardless of which you use, I recommend trying the first three steps on my list and carrying a small bottle of this as a “last resort”.
Protecting yourself from biting insects and the diseases they can carry should be more thought-out then just stepping out of the car and soaking yourself (and your kids) with an aerosol can of bug dope. Hopefully some of these tips can help keep you bite-free while you are out doing what you do!
Even though we are into our fourth week of Spring, Winter is certainly holding on here in Mount Washington Valley where we received 4 inches of snow just yesterday! While I haven’t hung up the skis or ice tools yet (planning an alpine ski tour for this Thursday) I figured I better get my season recap out there because before we know it Spring will actually arrive and I’ve got a busy line-up of early season rock climbing objectives and gear reviews to work on!
This winter started off in epic fashion with over 50 inches of snow recorded on the summit of Mount Washington in October! This set us up for some great early ice season conditions and I kicked my season off on November 15th with the first of the season ascent of Standard Route at Frankenstein Cliffs.
After one more trip up Standard and a bit of a thrutch up an early season Dracula I found myself climbing the Black Dike three times in a month! All three times were memorable with the highlight being the third trip where I beat my own personal time on the route (90 minutes) and had the amazing opportunity of my friend Dave Dillon of Chase The Summit shooting the climb with his drone. I’ll cherish this footage forever Dave! Thank you!
November saw over 60 inches of snow on Mount Washington and in-hindsight I found myself wishing we had scheduled some early season avalanche courses, we definitely had the conditions to run a couple!
Our first avalanche course started on December 14th and our last one ended on March 31st. All in all Northeast Mountaineering had a record breaking 179 students take an AIARE course with me this winter! Taking my first avalanche course was such a pivotal moment in my life back in 2003 and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to help these participants get on a path of learning how to manage risk in our amazing snowy environments! I’m also grateful to have been able to work alongside Grant Price who was a fantastic co-facilitator and who I learned quite a bit from over the season. To all of my students this past winter, thank you!
There were two stand-out moments for me during the avalanche course season. The first was a complete failure in my own group management strategies that resulted in getting a student into a very uncomfortable and risky situation. I’d been teaching people how to look out for Human Factors and Heuristic Traps for over a decade and found myself anything but immune to their ability to cloud our judgement and steer us to make poor decisions. I shared some of this humbling tale in this post if you are interested in more details.
The second stand-out was triggering and getting carried in D2 size slab avalanche while guiding a back-country ski trip into Tuckerman Ravine. Despite fearing a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking I shared that experience in this post.
Reviews and Giveaways
Through-out the winter I got to review some really awesome gear including the new Petzl Nomics, the Arc’teryx FL-365 harness, and the BightGear Caldera Parka. I have a few more reviews almost finished that will post soon. The review section of the blog has definitely grown over the last two years! I’ve got quite a few giveaways planned for this summer and every footwear review will have a chance to wind some of that amazing Friendly Foot! Let me know in the comments if there is something you would like me to review and I’ll try to get my hands on it!
Granite Backcountry Alliance
My only regret is I didn’t get to explore more of the Granite Backcountry Alliances glade projects! I got two runs in at the locals favorite Maple Villa Glade and one super fun trip off the Baldface Knob… the stuff GBA is doing is nothing short of incredible for the New England BC ski community… if you haven’t checked them out and considered contributing or volunteering please do so!
Course Suggestions for Spring
Even though mid-April is approaching I still have an ice climbing course booked for this upcoming weekend, and a back-country ski course on April 16th. Based on the current Higher Summits Forecast and the amount of snow we have on the ground it’s shaping up to be an EPIC alpine ski season (knock on wood). It will likely be pretty late when the Mount Washington Auto Road is able to open but as soon as it does I will be getting my annual season pass again… if we are lucky we will have a couple weeks of being able to access alpine skiing via the road through May!
All that said here’s a couple courses I teach you might consider to add some skills to your kit before the summer rock climbing season goes full swing!
Backcountry Skiing or Ski Mountaineering: Whether objective based (Gulf of Slides, Great Gulf, Monroe Brook) or skills based (crampon & axe use, route planning, protecting/rappeling with a rope) or a mix of both there is still a lot of snow up there and it is great to get on it while we can still ski all the way back to the car! Reach out to me if you’d like to plan something!
Wilderness Navigation– This 8 hour course covers a lot more than just map & compass skills. I start with Improvised “Survival” Navigation, then work up to advanced compass & map skills, and introduce modern web-based tools, and still leave time for a 3-4 hour field session! Check with me on availability before booking at the above link!
Self-Rescue for Recreational Rock Climbers– Can you escape a belay? Ascend a loaded rope to aid an injured lead climber? Create a counter-balance rappel and bring that injured lead climber back to the ground? That’s what we will learn in a one-day self-rescue course. We can run this course rain or shine, and if you want to follow more than single pitch routes you should acquire these skills! Contact me first to check on my availability then we can get you booked through Northeast Mountaineering at this link.
Other plans include growing my Tech Tips page… what do you want to see? Leave a comment below and if it’s a skill I can demonstrate I will! I’m also working on a webinar to share CalTopo/Avenza (smartphone trip-planning and navigational tools). I will likely offer this as a 2-3 hour course a couple nights in May/June. If that’s something you’d be into make sure you are subscribed!
Special shout out to Northeast Mountaineering for juggling all the crazy logistics of running a small but super busy guide service and avalanche course provider. Considering the amount of business that came through that little ole’ Bunkhouse in Jackson, NH things went incredibly smooth with only the most minor of hiccups along the way. Huge thanks as well to Ortovox for having me on their athlete team for another year, I am so honored to represent a small part of this amazing company! And stoked for another year with DPS Skis! I put so many miles on my DPS Tour 1 Wailer 99’s, and this was my first season with the Phantom Glide treatment… I will write a full post about that experience and have some video to share as well! Stay tuned for that. Finally thank you to Revo for supporting me with the best sunglasses and snow goggles I have ever worn. I didn’t know how quality lenses performed until I partnered with this company and I’m stoked to represent them all over the mountain!
Well I guess that’s pretty much it. It ain’t over yet but man it has been an AMAZING winter! Go enjoy a little bit more of winter… bug season will be here soon enough!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Affiliate links help support this blog. Thank you!
I’m fortunate to be able to review about a half-dozen of the industry’s best belay jackets each winter. Chances are from December to April I’m spending 5-6 days a week climbing frozen waterfalls or teaching avalanche courses up on notoriously cold Mount Washington. This gives me a lot of field time to put these jackets through the ringer and form some opinions which I am happy to share with you to help you navigate the myriad of choices out there!
Some impressive numbers from BightGear that speak to this process:
WEAR TESTING BY THE NUMBERS
2016 – Over 1.2 Million vertical feet of wear testing by our guide team of primary fabrics used in 76 sample prototypes to build 19 different styles.
2017 – Reached over 48 million vertical feet of wear testing and use of 143 prototypes by our team of 60+ guides, and thousands of RMI climbers on Mt. Rainier.
2018 – On target to reach over 100 million vertical feet of testing with the launch of the Bight Test program on mountains and outdoor playgrounds around the world.
Pretty cool right? Having learned all this I was more than happy to receive the BightGear Caldera Down Parka for a demo. After a month of testing in a variety of conditions I feel I can fairly share my opinion on this piece. In the realm of down insulated belay parkas the Caldera easily competes with the best in class options out there! Let’s start with the most noticeable then finish with the minutiae.
How Warm Is It?
BightGear stuffed this parka with over 6 ounces of 850 fill power HyperDRY™ Goose Down. That’s a lot of high loft quality down, and the result is a parka that feels like a nice sleeping bag for your torso. By using more I-beam baffles in the construction of the parka (vs sewn through) BightGear completely eliminates cold-spots. The arms and hood feel just as lofty as the torso which I prefer in this “over all” type parka. I’ve worn this over my other layers down to -16 Fahrenheit while demoing snow pits at 4,400 feet on Mount Washington. Even after an hour of standing relatively still while teaching the basics of snow-pack evaluation I was kept toasty.
How Dry Is It?
The BightGear Caldera uses a silky 20D nylon rip-stop with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish. Most of the days I tested the parka were in temperatures well below those where I would encounter any liquid precipitation. I did expose it to a rather drippy ice climb a couple weeks ago and noticed water beads off as expected with a DWR finish. I also wore it over a soaked soft-shell jacket following a deluge of an ice climb and it dried me out quite quickly without feeling like it absorbed to much of the moisture. I’ve become a huge fan of the DWR treated down used in this parka as I believe regular down would quickly become a wet lump of non-insulating feathers under similar conditions.
How Light and Pack-able Is It?
BightGear lists the weight of a size large at 646 grams (22.8 ounces). My home scale weighed my large in at 640 grams (22.6 ounces). This is within an ounce of other similar style/priced options. It easily stuffs into my Hyperlight Mountain Gear waterproof stuff sack and if packing space is at a real premium I can use my extra small compression stuff sack to get this down to the size of a 32 ounce water bottle!
BightGear included a lot design choices to further make the Caldera one of the best down parkas I’ve ever tested. The hood fits perfectly over my climbing helmet and is well stuffed with down making it a comfortable place to retreat in the harshest conditions. The brushed tricot lining on the inside collar is super cozy when in “full turtle” mode. This same lining is in the well positioned hand warming front pockets. Articulated elbows make this jacket fit great over my other layers and the PowerStretch cuffs seal out cold and snow while playing in deep snow. There are also two stretchy inside stash pockets that can hold gloves or a water bottle.
It is clear that the BightGear Caldera Parka was designed by working mountain guides. It has everything you want in a big down “puffy” and nothing you don’t want. Of all the down parkas I have tested this one stands out as a top-pick for many reasons, not the least of which is the “half-sleeping bag” type feeling you get when you slip this on over your other layers. If you are looking to upgrade your belay jacket this one would be an excellent choice!
Exclusive 30% Off Discount!
I am super excited to be able to offer my readers a 30% off discount on ANY thing from BightGear’s Website! While I can not post the code publicly here all you need to do is shoot me a DM through Instagram, a PM through Facebook, or go old school and shoot me an email at email@example.com! This discount is only good until April 1st, 2019 so don’t delay!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample was provided for purpose of review.
Our little Hydroflask family is growing! It started with the orange 21 oz Standard Mouth Insulated Bottle that I bought about 5 or 6 years ago. This has served as my wife’s gym bottle and my “light cragging” water bottle quite well. I then bought my 40oz Tall Boy, which has carried everything from ice water for relaxing on the beach in the summer to hot mulled apple cider for Fall/Winter day hikes. A couple of years ago I picked up a first generation food flask (far left) which kept soups and chili’s hot while winter climbing on Mount Washington and ice climbing in Crawford Notch. Just recently Hydroflask sent me their updated version of the 12 oz Food Flask and a 16 oz Insulated Coffee Flask to review.
So what makes Hydroflask different from all the other water bottle/tumbler companies out there? Well that would be the TempShield™ double walled vacuum technology that keeps drinks hot or colder longer than the competition. I wanted to try to quantify this statement with a little informal testing. Granted this is not some “double blind” research but it illustrates the point. First test…
Keeping Hot… Hot
I had experienced it many times before finding my coffee or tea still piping hot 4-5 hours into a sub-zero climb on Mount Washington. More recently I’ve used the Food Flask to keep soup & chili hot for a mid-day hot lunch sans stove while ice climbing or back-country skiing. To illustrate this I added just boiled water to a room temperature 12 oz Food Flask.
I then placed this in my freezer at -10°F (-23°C) for about 4.5 hours.
Impressively the water temp was still quite hot. In real life practice you can get better results then this when using the Hydroflask for food or drink. First, you can “pre-heat” the container by filling it with boiled water while heating up your food or drink separately. Then dump the hot water and immediately put your hot drink/food in and seal the container. Second, the container gets even more insulation when carrying it in my backpack surrounded by puffy insulating layers of clothing. Finally, if it’s a hot meal like chili or soup I tend to not open it until I want to consume the whole container (lunch time). Having it open for only a few minutes in arctic temperatures and moderate winds will see stored heat quickly lost!
Keeping Cold… Cold
I have also discovered that this much insulation can keep my ice in solid form for multiple pours of a refreshing beverage while hitting our local little pond beach or a town music festival. It’s almost hard to believe how effective these can keep ice. For this informal experiment I packed the same room temperature 12 oz Food Flask with ice from our freezer, sealed it, and sat it on our kitchen table overnight. We are currently burning wood so our house is sitting around 70 degrees (yay shorts in the winter).
Around 1:30 pm the following day (19.5 hours later) I remembered I was doing the experiment, moved it to the kitchen counter, and opened it.
I’m confident that if I reran this for 24 hours there would still be some water in frozen form at the end of the 24 hours! So how does Hydroflask insulate so well? It comes down to their patented TempShield™ technology. I spare you the nitty gritty and just say that not all “double walled” constructions are created equal. If you are interested in some of the finer details you can read about it here.
Finally of note with this updated 12 oz Food Flask is the more rounded “pill shape” design and leak-proof design. This packs in my smaller ice climbing packs quite well and I haven’t had a single leak during over fifty miles of trail and thousands of feet of climbing.
I also have to say I love finding products that not only work well for my family but are made by companies committed to giving back, especially when it comes to our natural resources! Through “Parks For All” Hydroflask is currently providing over $110,000 in grants to help protect, restore, and provide access to various park projects. You can learn more here.
World Surf League Partnership
I’m not a surfer, but I have quite a few friends (and one kick ass niece) who is, so you surfer types can read up on what this is all about here.
Hydroflask stands behind their products with an excellent warranty. It’s not a “drop it off a thousand foot cliff get a new one” type warranty (I’m personally glad those types of warranties are becoming a thing of the past) but one that truly stands behind the craftsmanship yet maintains a slight bit of realistic expectation. You can read the full details here.
Disclaimer/Exclusive Reader Discount!
First off you should know of the 5 Hydroflask models I’ve talked about the updated 12 oz Food Flask and 16 oz Insulated Coffee Flask were provided by Hydroflask to review. The other three models pictured in the first pic were purchased with my own money. Getting a couple samples has not influenced my opinion on these items in any way!
Second, Hydroflask has already started offering free Holiday Shopping on all orders, no minimum purchase! You can find the daily code for free shipping at the top of Hydroflask website. Then you can also enter “ALPINESTART18” in the cart and get an extra 10% off your order (minimum order of $20). The free shipping and 10% off codes work together! I just tested it to buy myself a 16 oz Insulated Coffee Flask since the purple one they sent me works better for my wife!
A water bottle or coffee mug is such an essential for our daily lives. Once you start using a quality one from a company like Hydroflask you quickly realize that design matters. Whether replacing that old funky plastic gym bottle or realizing you can have hot soup 4000 feet up a winter climb without firing up the stove there is most definitely a Hydroflask model that would be a nice addition to your kit (or your friends & family’s kits). These make awesome holiday gifts and as such will be included in my 2018 Holiday Gift Guide coming out at the end of the month. Thanks for reading!
Spring in the White Mountains is here! After a long snowy winter many climbers and hikers are chomping at the chance to get on some dry rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and trail running. Unfortunately in a couple more weeks many insects will be chomping at the chance to chomp on us! Get your bug defense program up and running before “Black Fly Season” gets underway!
In this post I’d like to share some time tested strategies to keep the dreaded “bug season” from keeping you from enjoying what it is you do in the mountains. To combat these little buggers we will use a four-pronged approach! Clothing, Repellent, Timing, Location.
The first line of defense should be clothing. Everyone knows long-sleeves and pants are preferable for bug protection but they seem so hot when the temperature and humidity is high right? Some long-sleeve options actually feel cooler than going shirtless! Here’s my current favorite tops when dealing with an onslaught of bloodthirsty insects and warm temps!
These two pieces are super breathable and basically come with me on every adventure from April to September! For some lightweight breathable hiking and climbing pants check out the ExOfficio BugsAway Sol Cool Ampario Pants.
We will look at two layers of repellant. One for your clothing/gear and one for your skin. Without question the most effective insect repellent is permethrin.
Between wearing the proper clothing and treating it with Permethrin I rarely need to apply DEET to stay bite free but I do carry it as insurance during the worst feeding frenzies. A small application behind the ears and back of the neck can make leading a rock climb much more bare-able when those alpine gnats come out. Since I use it sparingly I tend to only pack the smallest of bottles like this great .5 ounce one from Sawyer. There are lots of size options for both spray and time-released lotions on Amazon.
Finally timing and location can help avoid the little nasties. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk so you could plan to be inside during those times. If you only have time to climb around dusk you could pick crags with consistent breezes. Some of my favorite destinations during the peak feeding season are Square Ledge in Pinkham Notch, Profile Cliff in Franconia Notch, Table Mountain off of Bear Notch Rd., and higher elevation stuff like Huntington Ravine (beware of those alpine gnats though). Avoid the low lying swampy areas during peak feeding times.
Pawtuckaway State Park, Stonehouse Pond, Longstack, lower Shell Pond, and even the North End of Cathedral Ledge can all be particularly nasty just before dusk during the peak feeding season. If you are walking through fields or tall grass on your hike out just assume you’ll pick up a few ticks and do a quick check at the car. I once skipped a tick check before driving home from a hike in Madison, NH and discovered 7 ticks crawling up my bare legs while driving (I wasn’t wearing my treated hiking shoes that day or wearing any repellent).
You can pick up most of the DEET and Permethrin products I suggested and support local businesses while in the White Mountains at these great shops!
Southern New England is already seeing the tick and mosquitoes appear which means we only have a week or two in the White Mountains before bug biting season starts for us. Now is the time to shore up your insect defense plan! To get your started you can enter to win a 3 oz bottle of Sawyer Premium Maxi DEET Insect Repellant. You can enter multiple ways through this link below!