I had already been a huge fan of HitCase after reviewing the HitCase Pro iPhone case back in October 2018. You can find that full review here. Now HitCase has entered the more casual/stylish iPhone case market with the new HitCase Ferra model and I was happy to receive a media sample to check out a couple months ago.
In a market flooded with fashionable iPhone cases I was curious why HitCase would deviate from their “hard-core” type protective cases. As the founder and CEO of the company says, “Protective products on the market today are focused on making products cheaper, but in the race to make things cheaper, things got worse, sharp edges, flow lines, rough textures, careless design.”
HitCase definitely doesn’t take short-cuts with their cases and the Ferra looks and feels like a swanky hand-crafted Italian leather phone case. With 2 meter drop protection it certainly isn’t as bomber as the Pro case which boasts a 5 meter drop protection rating, but 2 meter’s is pretty good for a casual case. Stainless steel buttons add more style and I appreciate having access to my mute switch through an open port while using the case.
The best thing about the case, and all HitCases for that matter, is the ability to use the TrueLux lenses with the case. These lenses open up the photography capabilities of the already amazing iPhone X to new levels. With Macro, Wide, and SuperWide options you can get pretty creative with your smartphone photography. One important distinction between the Ferra and the more active sport Pro model is how these lenses secure to the case. While the HitCase Pro has these lenses secure by a few screw threads keeping the lenses safely attached during bumpy mountain bike or ski descents they only attach to the Ferra with a bit of magnetism. This is fine (and fast) for casual use/outdoor photography but if you want to shoot while being less stationary you might be better off with the HitCase Pro.
The HitCase Ferra is for someone who likes hand-crafted leather and wants something more than a cheaply made case to accessorize their tech. The ability to use the TrueLux lenses with a casual case is an additional benefit. While I appreciate the style my iPhone is now snuggled back in the HitCase Pro case which has become my all time favorite case so far! If you are looking for a really nice casual iPhone case maybe the HitCase Ferra is for you?
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Affiliate links help support this blog. A media sample was provided for purpose of review.
Climbing friends (and rap aficionados) you got to check this out from my friends over at The Dihedral <- happens to be an awesome climbing blog you should probably be following.
Climbing jargon has the tendency to isolate those in the know from those out of the scene. A major component of our site is built around rock climbing, and while rock climbing plays a role in many of our discussions, our primary aim centers around inclusiveness, community, and the role that nature plays in our lives. The notion of inclusiveness and climbing specific jargon tend to be at odds. This post is an attempt to remedy that apparent disconnect.
So, if you aren’t up to date on your contemporary climbing argot, I have taken the pains to construct a song to keep you in the loop!
My motivation for this song comes from one of the most underrated poetic lyricists of all time1. Big L.
Ebonics by Big L is truly a brilliant poetic classic that basically serves as a Google Translate from Standard English to what Big L…
I’ve tested most of the top brand iPhone cases designed for rugged outdoor use and the Hitcase PRO 2.0 is a standout in the category. I’ve been steadily beating on mine since last July when I received both the case and some of the accessories that sync so well with the Hitcase PRO design. A quick disclaimer before we start! Since I take all my pics with my iPhone I have zero images of the case since it hasn’t come off my phone since I put it on! Most images in this review are courtesy of Hitcase. Now let’s take a quick look at what makes this iPhone case so bad-ass.
The most distinctive feature of the Hitcase Pro is the “railslide” mounting system. Essentially Hitcase designed a rugged rail on the side of the case that allows you to quickly and securely attach the phone to a great selection of different mounts.
The monopod “ShootR” is basically a well though out selfie-stick! It’s super light and pack-able but the best feature is how it connects to the Hitcase railslide mount. This makes it feel very secure when shredding sick lines or hucking off a bridge into the river.
You can easily capture GoPro style footage while being hands free with the ChestR Mount.
There’s also mountain bike mounts, helmet mounts, vehicle mounts, and more! You can see the full selection of mounts here. The case can also attach to any GoPro® compatible mount, including drones, gimbals, and more.
The other big standout feature of Hitcase cases is the TrueLUX lenses that can attach to your iPhone camera to capture amazing images. With Macro, Wide, and SuperWide options these lenses definitely help you take shots you wouldn’t think possible on a smartphone.
Finally the case offers the type of protection you would expect from an “extreme” case. Waterproof and drop-proof to 16 feet. While I haven’t fully submerged mine I did have it in my pocket multiple times this summer while running Waterfall Rappelling courses. On more than one occasion it was exposed to high pressure directly in the waterfall and never experienced a leak!
See this case in action in this promotional video!
My iPhone is one of my biggest investments especially since I upgraded to the X this year for the amazing camera. I take it on countless rock and ice climbs all year along with lots of back-country skiing and mountaineering trips. For those reasons I have to protect it! The Hitcase Pro goes beyond mere protection and adds utility and flexibility greatly increasing the value of the iPhone’s own camera. I’ve found myself leaving the GoPro at home more and more these days and just shooting everything on my iPhone. If you need solid protection for your phone and like to shoot outdoor active photography this might be the perfect phone case for you!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Disclaimer: Media samples were provided for purpose of review. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support the content created here at Northeast Alpine Start at no cost to you. Thank you!
I try not to post to many “sale” type posts but I noticed this morning Backcountry.com is running a great sale on Black Diamond gear and I’m quite a big fan of this brand having reviewed quite a bit of climbing gear and clothing over the years. So I’m leaving this short post here to make sure you’re aware of it with some of my favorite call outs! If you’re not interested in my personal favorites and just want to see everything they have listed on sale go here!
Last year Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) released their first entry into the high end ultra-light outerwear market with the intrepidly named brow-raising jacket, “The Shell“. Already well known for their ultralight backpacks and shelters made from expensive but high performance fabrics this level of design in a piece of clothing was sure to turn heads and I was quite excited to find out I would receive a demo model to review.
How I Tested
I started testing in February while in the middle of my winter guiding season. This allowed me about 25 days of back-country skiing, mountaineering, and waterfall ice climbing to get acquainted. I only parted with my test model for a week to allow a fellow guide a chance to bring it on a South America climbing trip and was happy to get it back in time for a week long trip back-country skiing in Iceland. All in all this demo model saw 35+ days of combined multi-sport use from New Hampshire’s rugged White Mountains, to 17,000 feet on Ishinca in the Andes, to the Trollaski Penisula in northern Iceland. The results are in!
Generally I like to start a gear review focused on the single most positive aspect of the item I’m reviewing and work down from there. With the HMG “The Shell” there was a four-way tie between Durability, Weight, and Pack-ability, and Performance. But durability ultimately wins out as this is the one feature I feel justifies the sticker shock when one first sees the price. This jacket is made from DCF-WPB fabric with Dyneema.
Dyneema is stronger than steel for its weight and has excellent fatigue resistance (cyclic bending) and UV, chemical and abrasion resistance. This durability is brazenly referred to from HMG as “tough as f*#k”. Although the jacket has only been out for less than a year I’d say it is safe to assume this material and construction will last 3-4 times longer than pieces that try to achieve what this jacket achieves with so little weight. A more conservative statement would be “This jacket will easily have triple the lifespan of non-Dyneema jackets.” So if this jacket can easily outlast models that cost half as much while offering the benefits I will get into below that sticker shock might start to subside.
If you get a chance to take one of these off the rack at a gear show you are going to be surprised at the weight, or lack of. You’ll need to look twice to make sure you really are holding it. A technical specification of 5.8 ounces does not do it justice, you need to hold this in your hand to get a sense of what “feather weight” really feels like. The only other shell I have tested that can come close to this ultra-light feel is the Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket (2 ounces heavier). An amazing jacket at a more affordable price, but not 100% water-proof or nearly as indestructible as The Shell.
The Shell has one small zippered pocket on the front right that can be turned inside out and used as a storage sack complete with a small sewn carabiner loop for attaching to the back of your harness. The stuffed size is about the size of a softball with about a 4 inch diameter. This pack-ability will let you stuff this into the smallest of CamelBaks, running packs, and waist packs for go anywhere mobility.
There’s manufacturer claims and real life performance. Let’s look at each.
Claim: Waterproof Ratting: 10,000mm– This means the jacket should handle moderate to heavy rain.
Real-life: Unfortunate for our snow-pack but fortunate for my testing this past winter was plagued by multiple mid-winter rain events that allowed some serious testing of the waterproof claim from HMG. I wore this on at least three rainy adventures and my experience was that this jacket truly is waterproof. At first I was concerned about the front zipper as it did not look like the polyurethane waterproof thin zippers I was expecting (the small pocket on the jacket uses that style). Turns out HMG went with a longer lasting VISLON® Aquaguard® Zipper for the main zipper and I found it to be impenetrable even in the 40-50 mph raining-sideways-summit-day I had on Mount Washington. The slight stiffener in the visor on the hood was just enough to help keep the heaviest of downpours of the face.
Claim: Breathability Rating: 32,000 gm2/24hr– This is an incredibly high rating of breathablity for a fabric that also can claim true waterproofness!
Real-life: I’ll be honest and state that I was concerned about the breathability of a waterproof jacket with no pit zips or side ventilation. My concerns were first alleviated during an avalanche course I was teaching when I skinned from the trail-head to Hermit Lake, (2.3 miles, 1,870 elevation) in 1 hour 20 minutes on a 28°F (-2°C) day. It was one of the few times I’d ever left a shell jacket on while skinning in such fair weather all the way to Hermit Lake. Having easily logged another 20,000 feet of uphill travel in the back-country while wearing The Shell I can whole-heartedly attest to an accurate breathability rating! The only other pieces I could compare this level of breathability to is the Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket or the Patagonia Houdini (not as indestructible as The Shell, or considered waterproof).
The only media sample I could get was a size medium so the fit was a touch snug for my 180 lb 5’9″ build with a 42 inch chest. HMG’s sizing chart would put me into a size large which I think probably would have been perfect. It is important to recognize that Dyneema fabrics have almost no stretch to them which means clothing must be quite quite close to your body’s own specifications or quickly be to tight or to baggy. That said I was able to wear this as a “second skin” right over my Ortovox Merino wool T-shirts. In cold conditions I’d layer my mid-weight puffy jacket’s, my full belay jackets, or my heavy ski jackets over it. If I wanted to wear more insulation under it I would have to get into my appropriate size, which would have been a large. Bottom line is following the sizing info on the HMG website and it should fit you well!
You can read the manufacturer specifications and right of HMG’s website here so I’m not going to cut & paste them here (unless you find that more convenient)? I am going to share the quick promotional video they produced as I think it shows the hood fit and other features quite well:
“The Shell”. Such a simple and confident name for a garment. It makes me think of the LOTR “one ring to rule them all” line for some reason. Is this the one shell you’ll ever need? Probably not. It is a niche type item. It is the epitome of minimalist functional artisan design. I love how it performed. I love the weight and pack-ability of it. I love that it is made in Maine!
Who is this for? This is an obvious winner for the ultra-light crowd, whether you’re a climber, skier, long distance trail runner, or sea kayak-er I can see this becoming a new favorite. The simple expected lifespan of this piece (Dyneema does not degrade naturally as fast as nylon) means this could be one of the best value pieces out there for its intended purpose. Hyperlite Mountain Gear has entered the outerwear business with The Shell, and I’m really glad they did!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Disclaimer: Hyperlite Mountain Gear provided me with this media sample. This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you.
Over the last ten years I’ve had the opportunity to thoroughly test many of the most popular avalanche safety products on the market while teaching close to a dozen avalanche courses each winter. I was already a huge fan of Ortovox products before I was invited to join their Athlete Team and have been sharing my love of the brand personally with my students for two winters now. In part 1 of my avalanche gear series I’ll explain what makes Ortovox beacons different and try to help you decide which avalanche transceiver* (beacon) best suits your end goal!
*Note to the reader, the words “transceiver” and “beacon” will be considered synonyms.
Part 1: Transceivers
If you have ever taken an avalanche course and asked the instructor “What’s the best beacon?” you will probably get the same non-endorsing answer, “The one you practice the most with”.
While there is some good-natured truth to that boxed statement let’s get real. There are some specific features and design choices someone shopping for an avalanche beacon should consider. In no particular order;
Is the beacon intuitive (especially under stress)?
Can the beacon handle multiple burial situations?
Does the beacon have a “flagging” function?
How “search-able” am I? <- We will get into that in more detail
Ortovox has three models of transceivers which completely cover the range of user groups who are looking for a beacon. Before we get into what makes each model different let’s look at the single most important feature that sets Ortovox beacons apart from all others out there!
What does that mean? Well all Ortovox beacons (and any decent modern beacon these days) uses triple antenna’s while searching. We know that triple antenna’s are faster and more accurate at locating a buried partner than extinct single antenna beacons and outgoing dual antenna beacons, especially during the final moments of a fine search (getting you closer to the victim before you start probing). I would strongly encourage, regardless of brand, you only shop triple-antenna beacons at this point.
So when a triple antenna beacon is in search mode it uses two antenna’s during the signal search phase and turns on the third vertical antenna when you get close to the victim to aid in pinpointing there location and reduce probing time.
Ortovox takes this technology one step further though to make it easier to be found! Simply put, when searching with a triple antenna beacon any beacon will use all three of its antenna’s. When transmitting however it can only use one. All other beacons on the market will only transmit on the biggest antenna regardless off orientation. Before we move on with how Ortovox has innovated a great feature here let’s make sure we understand what a “flux line” is.
A flux line is the pattern of the radio signal a transmitting beacon sends out. A searching beacon must get within this “flux line” area to start picking up the buried persons beacon.
In the above image you can see both an example of how these flux lines radiate out from the buried beacon, and at the top right an internal look at a triple antenna beacon. Take note of the three antenna’s, X, Y, and Z. So any other beacon on the market will only transmit on the X antenna. If the beacon is buried “flat” the flux lines will spread out far making it easier for a searching beacon to locate from distance. This is referred to as “strong coupling”.
If the victim gets buried with their beacon held in a vertical orientation, the flux lines radiate out more “vertically”, which is less than ideal for being found quickly. This is referred to as “weak coupling” between the searching beacon and the transmitting beacon. Essentially you are “less visible” and searchers must get closer to you before they can pick up a signal. Unless you have an Ortovox beacon.
With the previous information understood we can start to see what Ortovox does here. They have built in software and an internal gyroscope so that the transmitting beacon can analyze its orientation and select which ever of the three antennas will provide the best “coupling” with a searching beacon. While antenna X might send a farther signal than antenna Z that doesn’t help you much if the beacon is orientated vertically, essentially sending the signals straight up and down from the victim, instead of horizontally across the debris field. Because of “Smart-Antenna” technology you are essentially “more visible” regardless of what orientation you are buried in!
While that is one of my favorite features that sets Ortovox apart in the market let’s look at some of the other features you should consider when beacon shopping.
Or as Ortovox calls it “automatic switch-over”. What is that? Well if you are searching a debris field for a victim and your beacon is in search mode it is not transmitting a signal. If a secondary avalanche hits you it is crucial that your beacon go back into transmit mode so you can be located. Different brands have different strategies for getting a beacon to go back into transmit without user input. Some require specific boot-up steps every time you turn them on, others are based on long times in search modes or lack of motion (5 to 8 minutes in some cases). Every Ortovox beacon has an internal motion sensor and if the software does not sense significant movement within two minutes the beacon will automatically return to transmit mode. I greatly prefer this to other brands that take 5+ minutes to switch to transmit! If I’m not moving (i.e. buried in debris) I would much prefer my beacon to start transmitting again sooner rather than later!
Becoming more common across the industry Ortovox has placed a Recco reflector in every one of their models. This can speed up recovery in places with professional rescue teams (700+ ski areas around the world) and act as a back-up if your beacon is damaged or you forgot to put new batteries in (which should never happen with a proper Trailhead Function Check!).
Now that we’ve covered all the similarities of Ortovox beacons let’s look at the three individual models and decide which one is right for you!
Simple, effective, intuitive, compact. The Zoom+ fits great in my zippered ski pants pocket where I choose to carry it. Its straight forward design is a boon for both stressful situations and less-experienced back-country travelers. The advanced features mentioned above make this a great choice at the price point when compared to other beacons on the market. Highly recommended for those who spend limited time in avalanche terrain or stick to lower danger days (great for ice climbers, high-altitude mountaineers, etc). MRSP $289 This model also comes in a set with a great shovel and probe here!
With better visuals to aid during pinpointing and the ability to “flag” victims that you have a confirmed probe strike on this model should be attractive to the largest group of back-country travelers. Back-country skiers, riders, search & rescue members, and snow-mobilers would find this a solid choice in the category and this has been our rental transceiver of choice for the past two winters!
The top-of-the-line model in the Ortovox lineup the S1+ impresses. With a unique “flip phone” design the S1+ automatically goes in to search mode when you “flip open” the device.
Beyond that the most significant difference is the S1+ has one of the fastest, if not the fastest, processors on the market which allows it to display a digital visual “overview” of the scene which can greatly help you triage multiple burial scenarios. With a search strip width of 50 meters (10 more than the other two models and most other beacons out there) you can cover more ground and find poor coupled signals faster. Intuitive flagging functions help recover more people faster (when you have enough people to dig). Customization to suit your preferences and level of training are built in along with a digital inclinometer to help with terrain assessment/choice. This should be the choice of professional mountain guides, trip leaders, and those who simply want the best possible beacon on the market. MRSP $490
I hope you’ve found this post educational. At the end of the day there are a ton of great beacons on the market these days from quite a few different companies. I obviously love the Ortovox line and I think when you objectively compare features and get some hands-on time with any of the three models you’ll feel the same way. I’ll end with that most often cliche statement, that the best beacon really is the one you practice with the most! To that end consider upgrading your rescue skills with the all new 8 hour AIARE Avalanche Rescue Course! This is a fantastic addition in the field of avalanche education and something you should consider if you’ll be spending time in avalanche terrain in the future!