Tech Tip: Optimizing your First Aid Kit

Adventure Medical Kits Wilderness First Aid


We all carry a first aid kit with us on our adventures right? For today’s Tech Tip I want to share what first aid kit I use and how I customize it with a few extra items. While you can go to a pharmacy and piece together your own kit I prefer to start with the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .7 Medical Kit as it’s a solid foundation to build upon. Here’s the details on the kit:

  • Designed for life in the bottom of the pack, zippered rip-stop silicon nylon outer bag has 2 inner DryFlex™ watertight pouches to ensure contents are kept clean and dry
  • Wound care items: 3 butterfly closure strips, 2 triple antibiotic ointments, 3 antiseptic wipes and 1 pair of nitrile gloves
  • Bandages: 8 sterile dressings, 2 non-adherent sterile dressings, 2 conforming gauze bandages, 5 adhesive bandages and 3 knuckle bandages
  • 10 yards adhesive tape, 1 elastic bandage, 11 pre-cut and shaped moleskin pieces and 3 alcohol swabs
  • Medications: 6 ibuprofen, 2 aspirin, 2 antihistamine and 2 AfterBite® sting-relief wipes
  • Other equipment: splinter picker forceps, 3 safety pins and a 26 x 2 in. roll of duct tape
Adventure Medical Kits Wilderness First Aid
Manufacturer Image

Technical specs

Best Use
Hiking, Backpacking
Material(s)
Silicone nylon pouch
Dimensions
8.5 x 6.5 x 2 inches
Weight
8 ounces

This is a great start for only 8 ounces! AMK markets this as ideal for 1-2 people for 1-4 day trips. While I do find the suggestion a bit arbitrary I feel this is a great size for a group leader or guide to start from. There is a .5 version that weighs less than 4 ounces that would be good for trail running, casual hiking, or just to keep in the glove box. A very minimalist .3 version is better than carrying nothing.

Now let’s get into what I add to this kit to make it a bit more capable of handling any situation. The first thing I add is a Petzl Zipka Headlamp. This 2.5 ounce headlamp has great light output and the retractable cord keeps it from getting tangled with other things in the kit. I consider this a bit of a “back-up” headlamp. If I know I’ll be out after dark I bring my Petzl Actik Core Headlamp and have the Zipka available to loan to someone who forgets their headlamp.

Adventure Medical Kits Wilderness First Aid
Adventure Medical Kits .7 First Aid Kit and every else I squeeze in there!

I then add a simple small knife that can be used for cutting bandages, duct tape, and clothing to make slings & swathes if need be. Occasionally it might even have to cut some summer sausage and hard cheese.

Then I add a fire starter, usually just a small Bic lighter but you can go for a fancy windproof one if you want!

Next I drop in a little bottle of Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets. I use these to treat water in an emergency.

Then I have a small travel size Advil bottle that I carry extra Antihistamines (Benadryl) and pain/fever reducers (Advil). I prefer to use this bottle and refill it from home when needed and save the prepackaged medications for when I forget to refill this container. Don’t forget to check the expiration dates on the prepackaged medications!

I also squeeze in a small notebook with a pencil. This is important for writing SOAP notes or sending detailed information with someone. On longer trips I carry a Rite in the Rain Notebook separate from my first aid kit.

With still room to spare I now add my two EpiPens. While I haven’t been tested for a bee allergy I feel it is a good idea for me to carry Epi after getting swarmed and stung by over a dozen yellow jackets last year. There’s also the fact that some one in my care may have a unexpected severe reaction when we are over an hour away from definitive care and having Epi in the party could be a life-saver. I also add a super light disposable CPR Face Shield.

Finally I add about 3 extra pairs of Nitrile gloves in addition to the one pair that comes with the kit. It has been my experience on multiple rescues that one pair of gloves is never enough in the mountains as they will definitely tear while dealing with a patient, and bystanders who might be able to help often don’t have their own gloves.

These additions bring my first aid kit up to one pound 5 ounces. Considering that if I grab my first aid kit I have 5 of the “Ten Essentials” I’m more than ok with that weight! I also carry either my SOL Escape Bivy (summer) or my more durable Ortovox Single Bivy (winter or while on rescues).

Adventure Medical Kits First Aid Kits
Bigger more rugged bivy in the winter or when out on rescues… smaller lighter bivy for summer/day use…

I’ve also taken to sliding a Saywer SAM Splint down into the back panel of my pack. While I can improvise splints from my wilderness medicine training a real SAM splint is really nice to have for quick ankle/wrist fractures or as an effective neck collar.

I feel the above set-up is quite adequate for the amount of time I spend in the mountains both guiding and recreating. For expedition leaders or large outing club type groups I’d suggest looking at the Adventure Medical Kit Ultralight/Watertight PRO Medical Kit. It’s quite all inclusive with a SAM Splint, EMT Shears, precision forceps, and more.

Summary

Undoubtedly carrying a first aid kit in the mountains is a very good idea. Accidents will happen. The longer your recreate in the mountains the more likely you, someone in your party, or someone you come across, will need a touch of first aid. Hopefully it’s something minor like a blister or small scrape. Unfortunately we can’t remove all risk from our outdoor hobbies and will are going to break some bones, or worse. There’s two things YOU can do to make these situations better.

#1 Carry the right gear

#2 Get some training

Wilderness First Aid
Image from soloschools.com
Wilderness First Aid
Image from soloschools.com

Wilderness First Aid courses are offered all over the country! Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (SOLO) teaches Wildness First Aid (16 hours), Wilderness First Responder (72+ hours), and Wilderness EMT (170+ hours). If you have zero medical training, and wish to play in the mountains for decades to come, do yourself a huge solid and sign up for one of these courses! You’ll be more prepared to handle what comes your way!

I hope you found this helpful. If you did please let me know in the comments below. If you carry something different or I missed a key item please let me know! Just so you are aware the links above (except for SOLO) are affiliate links. That means if you click on them, and make a purchase, a small commission is earned. That really helps keep this blog going, so if you do make a purchase thanks! If not maybe just share this article with someone you think could benefit from it!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start



Gear Review: Hoka One One Sky Arkali Hiking Shoe (and GIVEAWAY!)

Hoka One One Sky Arkali ReviewHoka One One (pronounced Hoka oh-nay oh-nay) released their new multi-use hiking shoe, the Sky Arkali, back in March of 2019. Over the last few months I’ve hiked a few dozen miles in the White Mountains with them and I’m ready to share the results!


Buy on Backcountry (Men’s and Women’s)

Buy on REI (Just Men’s)

Buy on Moosejaw (Just Men’s)


First here is the manufacturer’s description of the shoe:

The Arkali continues to challenge what’s possible in a hiking shoe. There’s off-road, offtrail and then there’s off the map. HOKA ONE ONE® has just gone vertical with the Arkali. A combination of running shoe innovation (light and comfortable), climbing shoe technology (exceptional grip and traction) and hiking boot engineering (rugged and protective), the Arkali looks ready for anything. And with a MATRYX® upper, high-abrasion toe cap and adjustable heel and ankle straps, it is. It features a PROFLY™ midsole, which has a softer heel and more responsive toe-off, plus 5mm multidirectional Vibram® Megagrip rubber lugs. The Arkali is waiting to take you to the top of the world.

FEATURES

  • MATRYX® upper featuring high-tensile synthetic fiber strands across the midfoot for unparalleled strength and durability at minimal weight
  • High-abrasion rubber toe cap extends to the midfoot for increased protection
  • Ankle and heel straps offer structural and proprioceptive support on uneventerrain
  • PROFLY™ midsole for a cushioned landing and propulsive toe-off
  • EVA top midsole for running shoe cushion at an incredibly light weight
  • Rangi™ bottom foam offers durable cushioning and a responsive feel
  • Vibram® Megagrip hi-traction outsole with 5mm lugs
  • Multidirectional lugs for supreme grip
  • 100% Vegan
  • RN 88276

Hoka One One Sky Arkali Review

Now let’s get into how they performed!

Out of the box the first thing I noticed was these are much more of a shoe then the ultra-light approach type shoes I typically review. I had heard a lot about the comfort of Hoka One One shoes and was looking forward to seeing what all the hype was about. The most obvious characteristic of the brand is the noticeable amount of “cushion” these shoes employ. From out-sole to insole I measure a full 1.75 inches of cushion. This is easily double the amount of cushioning in all other brands of hiking and approach shoes I have reviewed and a brand trait that has made Hoka One One quite popular in the running world.

Despite the bulk of the shoe I was impressed to see that Hoka was able to keep the weight down to just shy of a pound per shoe. I will mention that Hoka does not specify on their website that they are not listing the “per pair” weight, but actually listing “per shoe” weight. That’s a little odd in my opinion as almost all shoe manufacturers list weight “per pair”. Regardless, the shoe is noticeably lighter than many hiking boots on the market especially when considering the amount of comfort and support I will get into in more detail below. But first let’s go over fit and sizing…


Fit and Sizing

Hoka One One Sky Arkali Review

I wear between a US men’s size 8.5 and size 9 depending on the brand and for these I went with the 8.5. I have a medium width foot with a slight Morton’s tow and average arch. These fit my feet quite well with plenty of width if my foot was a little on the wider side. The approach shoe style lacing made it easy to snug them up for a semi-technical descent and I had plenty of wiggle room on the spacious toe box. The lacing and Velcro system easily held my feet in place while descending so I had no issue with “toe bang” while moving fast downhill. To help with sizing Hoka has collected this feedback from purchaser’s:

Hoka One One Sky Arkali Review


Comfort

Hoka One One Sky Arkali Review

While the fit was great the true test came on a rugged and heavily rooted trail on Mount Chocorua. After each mile I became aware of how well the extra padding in these shoes was keeping the bottom of my feet for getting the least bit tender. When I test thinner approach style shoes I often search for smoother surfaces while hiking to avoid late day foot soreness but these hiking shoes are so protective under foot that I stopped looking for the ideal foot placements and just cruised along.

Hoka One One Sky Arkali Review

They are not waterproof, which doesn’t bother me at all as I prefer breath-ability over waterproof for all my non-winter adventuring. That said they did feel a little on the warm side, which was perfect for the crisp Fall hikes I’ve been using them on but they did feel like they might be a little warm for hot weather trips.


Traction

Hoka One One Sky Arkali Review

The Hoka One One Sky Arkali boosts one of the most aggressive soles I’ve tested in this category. 5mm Vibram® Megagrip rubber lugs tore up and down multiple wooded trails and performed well on low angle wet and dry slab. I would not push these into low 5th class terrain like some truly dedicated approach shoes as the amount of space between your foot and the footholds, along with the style of out-sole, do not inspire confidence in technical terrain. For 95% off the White Mountain trail system these have more than enough traction!


Summary

My first test run of a Hoka One One shoe went quite well. I can see how adding a bit more cushioning might remove some of the sensitivity of the shoe but it goes a long way at keeping your feet happy after pounding down a dozen miles of rough trail. So who are these for? They are a bit bulky for rock climbers to use as an approach shoe. I think these are a great choice for day hiking, fast hiking, and trail running if your prefer more padding over saving a few ounces. Long distance ultra-light backpackers will find this a solid choice as well. Ultimately anyone who has ever had sore feet after a long hike might benefit from trying the Hoka One One brand, and the Sky Arkali is a great place to start!

Buy on Backcountry (Men’s and Women’s)

Buy on REI (Just Men’s)

Buy on Moosejaw (Just Men’s)


Friendly Foot Giveaway!

Hoka One One Sky Arkali Review

Thanks to my friends at Friendly Foot every footwear review I do this year will include a chance to win a two bottles of the best damn foot deodorizer on the planet! I seriously use this stuff daily and my wife reminds me if I forget (my feet used to stink really bad). There are multiple ways to earn entries so just click the Rafflecopter link below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start



A media sample was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links above help support the content created here.

Gear Review- Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket

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!)

Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket Review
Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket- photo by Corey McMullen

From montemlife.com:

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

Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket Review
Photo by Corey McMullen

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

Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket Review
Photo by Corey McMullen

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).


Summary

Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket Review
Photo from montemlife.com

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. 

Gear Review- Mammut Saentis Low Hiking Shoes (And Friendly Foot Giveaway!)

Mammut Saentis Low Review

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!


Manufacturer Description:

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.

Mammut Saentis Hiking Shoes Review

Features:

  • Last index: mtrTech
  • Flex index: A4
  • Vent Mesh
  • 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
  • Cut Basic

Sizing/Fit

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.

Mammut Saentis Hiking Shoes Review

Mammut Saentis Hiking Shoes Review


Performance

  • 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!

Mammut Saentis Hiking Shoes Review


Summary

Mammut Saentis Hiking Shoe Review

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!

Buy from Mammut

Buy on Backcountry

Buy on Moosejaw

Buy on Amazon


Friendly Foot Giveaway!

Friendly Foot Shoe Deodorizer
Friendly Foot Shoe Deodorizer

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!

Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Comment below!

What’s your favorite hiking trail or trail run? Let me know in the comments below for an extra entry into the giveaway!

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

A media sample was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links support the content created at Northeast Alpine Start. 

Labor Day Deals on Outdoor Gear!

LaborCapture.PNG

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!

Backcountry has up to 50% off a few brands. Some great deals on Patagonia like 45% off some of the Nano Air and Nano Puff models! I reviewed the Nano Puff back in 2015 here and it’s still one of my favorite pieces! Black Diamond is up to 30% off with the Ultralights set at 25% off now is a great time to lighten up your rack! Some real saving’s on Arcteryx today like almost $200 off the Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots and 25% off the Atom AR Insulated Jacket!

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!

Gear Review- Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L Hydration Pack

Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L Hydration Backpack Review

Our family has used Hydro Flask tumblers and water-bottles for years so when I saw the company was diving into the hydration backpack market I jumped at a chance to review the new Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L Hydration Backpack (also available in a 10L version).

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

Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L Insulated Backpack Review
Product testing in the Green Hills Preserve, Mount Washington Valley, NH

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.

First Impressions

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).


    Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L Hydration Pack Review
    Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L HydraPak®

    • 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.

    Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L Hydration Pack Review
    Easy organization in outer pocket

  • 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.

    Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L Hydration Pack Review
    Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L Hydration Pack suspension system

    Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L Hydration Pack Review
    Hydro Flask Journey Series 20L Hydration Pack Review

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!

Purchasing

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!

Review- Gnarly Nutrition (and Giveaway)

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!

Gnarly Nutrition Review

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 Hydrate – Everyday Hydration

Gnarly Nutrition Review
Gnarly Hydrate

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!

Gnarly Nutrition Review
Gnarly Hydrate Nutrition Facts


Gnarly BCAAs – Reduced soreness and recovery time

Gnarly Nutrition Review
Gnarly BCAAs Branched Chain Amino Acids

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.

Gnarly Nutrition
Gnarly BCAAs Supplement Facts

Gnarly Pre-Workout – Get primed for performance

Gnarly Nutrition Review
Gnarly Pre-Workout

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.

Gnarly Nutrition Review
Gnarly Pre-Workout Supplement Facts

 


Gnarly Whey – Protein Supplement

Gnarly Nutrition Review
Gnarly Whey– Protein Supplement

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.

Gnarly Nutrition Review
Gnarly Whey

Summary

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!


Giveaway!

Gnarly Nutrition Review

Here’s your chance to try almost all the Gnarly products for free! Just click the RaffleCopter link below to enter!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

 

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How to: Surviving “Bug Season”

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:

Black-flies

Gnats

Mosquitoes

Ticks

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review
Black flies try to fly away with my climbing partner Tom on White Ledge in Albany, NH. How many black flies can you count?

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…


Clothing

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!

Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hoody
The Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hoody

Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hoody (Women’s Here)

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.


Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket (Women’s Here)

This ultralight ultra-breathable hooded “wind-shirt” is an excellent physical barrier for Cannon Cliff’s renowned alpine tough black-flies. You can see my detailed review of this piece here.

As for pant protection there are a ton of solid choices out there so a lot of it comes down to personal preference/style. I’m a fan of the Black Diamond Modernist Rock Pants but there are so many good options out there as long as you treat them with Step 2:


Permethrin

rock climbing bug protection

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:

  1. It is for clothing/gear/shoes… not skin.
  2. It dries in a few hours after treating and is then 100% safe to humans, no “leaching” into your sweaty skin
  3. It lasts for weeks even with washing (I only treat my “bug season” outfit once a year each Spring)
  4. 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.


Timing

Black Diamond Vapor Helmet Review
The author topping out the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle, Mount Washington. Photo by Brent Doscher

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.


DEET/PICARIDIN

rock climbing new hampshire bug season

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”.


Summary

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!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start



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Winter 2018/19 Season Recap

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.

ice climbing new hampshire
November 15th, 2018, first seasonal ascent of Standard Route- photo by Alexandra Roberts

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!

Avalanche Courses

Know Before You Go at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
Presenting at AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center- photo by AMC Parker Peltzer

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

Petzl Nomic 2019 Review
Alexandra Roberts takes the new Nomics for an alpine spin up Pinnacle Gully- photo by Brent Doscher

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

backcountry skiing granite backcountry alliance
Nice turns on Baldface Knob before dropping into the Granite Backcountry Alliance’s glade project- photo by Grant Price

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!

ski mountaineering backcountry skiing

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!

Wilderness Navigation
My favorite compass, the Sunnto MC-2

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.

rock climbing self rescue
Chris learns about the initial awkwardness of rope ascension having already “Escape the Belay”

Tech Tips

 

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!

Thanks!

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!

AIARE Avalanche Course
@Ortovox, @DPSskis, @Revo

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!

Gear Review- BightGear Caldera Down Parka

BightGear Caldera Parka Review
BightGear Caldera Parka Review- Photo by Alexandra Roberts

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!

A month or so ago a fellow guide introduced me to BightGear, a new brand born under the prestigious umbrella of Cascades based Whittaker Mountaineering. At its core this brand is an authentic “Guide Designed & Tested” label. Before a product is even released it must be tested for over 100k of vertical climbing.

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.
BightGear Caldera Parka Review
Guide designed and tested on the slopes of Mt. Rainier- photo courtesy of RMI/NEM Guide Jordan Cargill

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.

BightGear Caldera Parka Review
Using the volcanic capabilities of the Caldera to dry out after attempting to climb a full shower Black Pudding Gully- Photo by Alexandra Roberts

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.

BightGear Caldera Parka Review
Legit testing by one of the most renowned guide companies out there! Photo courtesy of Jordan Cargill

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 Caldera Parka Review
Easily stuffs into my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultralight Stuff Sack
BightGear Caldera Parka Review
Gets even smaller in my XS compression stuff sack

Minutiae

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.

BightGear Caldera Parka Review
Be warm and toasty hood easily fits over my climbing helmet

Summary

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!

BightGear Caldera Parka Review
Essentially a nice puffy down “sleeping bag for your torso”… with the right layers and a bivy sack this is a great option for a bivy sleep system.

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 nealpinestart@gmail.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.