Outdoor Gift Guide for Cyber Monday!

After having an almost tech free long weekend and a solid #OptOutside Black Friday with the family I’m ready to share a few of my favorite hand-picked deals on outdoor gear for tomorrow’s Cyber Monday… some of these are limited to tonight/tomorrow only so don’t miss out!

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Prism Ice Screw Case

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Prism Ice Screw Case

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Prism Ice Screw Case

This is the nicest ice screw carrying case I’ve ever seen! Granted ice screw cases can be hard to come by. I’ve had an old OR case that was ready to be replaced and was quite happy to receive this one. It’s the perfect size, ultra-light, made out of bombproof material, and has a nice outer zippered pocket that holds an Allen wrench for tightening tools, a few heavy-duty zip ties for field repairs, a small file for field tune-ups, and thanks to a tip from Ragged Mountain Guides a silicone gun cloth that helps ultra-light aluminum ice screws perform better in dense ice. I’m also pretty excited to be reviewing the Prism Crampon Bag and Prism Pack this winter too!


Luci Solar String Lights

Luci String Lights
Photo from http://www.mpowered.com

These are 40% off through tomorrow with promo code “CYBER40”! Awesome for outdoor light both at home and while backpacking that really is a killer deal. I’m also a fan of the new Luci Base Light that can charge your smartphone while also providing great back-up light. We have that model and a few of the Original Luci Lights that we use while car camping and during power-outages at home.


Larger online retailer sales…

Backcountry has some great deals (up to 40% off) on Arc’teryx, Black Diamond, and Patagonia! You can see everything here!

REI has some of the same types of discount up to 50% off here!

EMS‘s biggest deals are with their “Doorbusters” with some up to 75% off all viewable here!


Unique gifts (you won’t find these at a box store)

Mountains For Breakfast $15-$25

Product Collage-01

I’m going to start with some local artists who make hand crafted art with a strong mountain vibe and sense of community because they have a strong mountain vibe and sense of community! Seriously these two friends live enriched lives out of their Tacoma’s and converted vans while building their brands and chasing adventures all over the country. You can support them while giving something that is truly hand-made and inspired. Check out Brittni’s line of drink sweaters, hand poured candles, and stylish Trucker hats here!


Stay Wild Never Mild $2.50-$23

Stay Wild Never Mild

What can I say about my friend Erik, aka @smellybagofdirt? I met him last winter after noticing his somewhat noticeable van all over the valley (or indisposed) then got to know him as an avalanche course student and soon to be bunk-mate and ski partner in Iceland… Talk to him for 10 minutes and you’ll see he’s on his way to making his mark in the world. He just launched his website and is offering some original stickers, posters, and t-shirts. If you have an adrenaline junkie in on your holiday shopping list you’ll find a unique gift from Erik for sure!


Wilderness First Aid Course $195

Wilderness First Aid Course

Anyone who plays in the mountains, and I mean anyone, should take a basic Wilderness First Aid Course. It’s a 16 hour commitment. It could save you or your partners lives. The courses are offered all over the country. There is absolutely no reason not to have a basic first aid course under your belt if you want to play in the mountains. Yet we resist signing up for one. Make it easy for your loved ones by signing them up and paying for it!


Avalanche Course

Ortovox Avalanche Shovel Comparison

This is for the loved ones who like to play on steep snowy slopes! Everyone who knows me knows avalanche education is a huge part of my life. My first brush with this hazard was a life changing event and I can’t advocate enough for getting this education before you wished you had it! If you have someone in your life who has back-country skiing, ice climbing, or winter mountaineering on their short list of things to do help prep them for success by signing them up for an avalanche course!


Hydro Flask ($25-$40)

IMG_1645

hydro-flask-options

This socially responsible company makes the coolest water bottles and tumblers out there! Super high quality stainless steel technology keeps cold drinks cold for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 6 hours! Customization and tons of color and style options means there is a Hydro Flask out there for just about everyone! Check out their Holiday Gift guide here.


Friendly Foot Shoe Deodorizer ($11)

Friendly Foot Shoe Deodorizer

I’m pretty sure the 10 seconds of silence from my girlfriend after asking her to marry me was enough time for her to accept that she loved a man with some seriously stinky feet. Luckily she said yes and I would soon find this foot powder, seriously the only product that works on my feet! 7 years later she is quick to remind me if she notices my supply running low. This one is a PERFECT stocking stuffer, pick it up on Amazon here.


Darn Tough Socks ($15-$27)

Darn Tough Socks
Darn Tough Socks

Possibly the best socks I’ve ever owned and made right over the border in Vermont! For mountaineering and ice climbing check out this model! These socks come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee and make an excellent stocking stuffer!


MaxxDry Heavy Duty Boot and Glove Dryer ($55)

MaxxDry Boot and Glove Dryer
MaxxDry Boot and Glove Dryer

Every home in the Northeast should have one of these! It’s effective enough that I can easily dry my boots and gloves along with my wife’s in just a couple hours. No balancing them over the floor base heaters or getting them too hot near the wood-stove and risking early de-lamination! You can pick on up on Amazon here.


A high end headlamp!

ONECOL

The Petzl Nao+ is the best headlamp for anyone who gets after dawn patrol or squeezes in late night pitches after work. I admittedly don’t own one yet but it is high on my wish list!


Shop Local!

While I do love these online deals I want to take up this space by encouraging you support local businesses, especially small specialty climbing shops, with your business! To that end if you can physically visit these stores please do!

Eastern Mountain Sports, North Conway, NH

International Mountain Equipment, North Conway, NH

Ragged Mountain Equipment, Intervale, NH

Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington, VT

Summary

Well there’s my small contribution to the every growing list of Holiday Gift Guides that are undoubtedly hitting your mailbox this season. My suggestions are heartfelt and I hope they help you flush out your buying needs this season.


Affiliate links above help support this blog.

Gear Review: Cassin X-Dream Ice Axe

(Originally posted September 2017)


The leaves are starting to turn high in our notches so I find myself starting to anticipate another great ice climbing season in the Northeast. Last season I had the opportunity to demo the CAMP/Cassin X-Dream Ice Axes and while I shared my positive impressions of them with dozens of climbing partners I never got around to a full detailed review. With the ice climbing season quickly approaching what better time than now?

Cassin X-Dream Ice Axe Review
The author on Black Pudding Gully, WI 4+, photo by Brent Doscher

If I had to describe these tools in one word it would easily be…

versatile

There is more custom-ability in this model then any other ice axe I have ever used! Let’s start with my favorite feature of the Cassin X-Dream’s!

Buy at REI              Buy on Amazon         Buy on Backcountry


The Handle

By simply loosening one bolt you can pivot the handle into a “dry-tooling” setting appropriate for high level mixed climbing and competitions. This setting will align the handle/pick in a configuration quite similar to the Petzl Ergo Ice Axe. I don’t personally climb in competitions or send overhanging mixed sport routes in the winter so I only tested these in the “ice” setting which was the perfect angle for comfortable swings on steep grade 4 and grade 5 waterfall ice routes, and is quite similar to the alignment of the Petzl Nomic. If you’ve never demo’d a tool with a handle angled like this it’s hard to explain how much of a difference it makes on steep ice allowing your wrist to stay in a much more natural position and facilitating the relaxed grip that is so crucial on grade 4+ ice.

CAMP/CASSIN X-Dream Review
Ergonomic handle allows for relaxed grip in steep terrain- photo by Brent Doscher

Micro-adjustable trigger finger ledges can be adjusted in multiple ways. With a small phillips head screw driver you can swap the main trigger finger ledge from the included “X-finger small” with an “X-finger large, sold separately, $6”. My medium sized hands preferred the smaller less obtrusive setting.

For those with very small hands you can snap in the X-Rest handle height insert (sold separately, $8) which raises the height of the handle interior by about 3 mm.

The X-Trigger pommel (included) attaches to the shaft for an optional third ledge and can be slid up or down to your preferred spot. I liked mine just above the X-Grip 2 friction tape that is also included on the shaft.

Finally the entire handle can be swapped out with the recently released X-Dream Alpine Grip, a feature that greatly improves security when topping out an ice route and switching back to piolet canne.

Cassin X-Dream Ice Axe Review
Original X-Dream Grip (included) next to X-Dream Alpine Grip, sold separately $79.95 ea.

The Picks

There are three picks designed for the Cassin X-Dream Ice Axes and they come stock with the “Mixte” pick which I found worked as well as any ice pick I’ve used across the major manufacture brands. All three are T-rated which adds confidence when torquing or utilizing The Stein Pull. I plan on buying a set of the ice picks this season as I think the addition of the small hammer will add a nice touch of head weight and help this tool step even closer into the alpine environment (occasional testing of pitons, tool tapping to gently set a pick on thin ice, etc).

CAMP/CASSIN X-Dream Review
Author samples the sweets on Black Pudding Gully- photo by Brent Doscher

Buy at REI                    Buy on Amazon         Buy on Backcountry


UPDATE: Soon after posting this review CAMP USA let me know that they just released two more compatible accessories that further add to the versatility of this tool. A new “Total Dry” pick designed for over-hanging hooking and competition. This brings the pick options on this axe to four! Also, and more exciting in my opinion is the new available head weights. I will be trying these out with a new set of ice picks this winter!


The Shaft

Cassin combines a T-rated aluminum shaft with a chromoly steel head that passes both CE and UIAA certification. Total weight is 1 lb 5 oz, 610 grams and the swing feels very natural and balanced. I did not find any need to adapt my swing to these like I have with some comparable models from other companies. With the included X-Grip friction tape and “third ledge” pommel I’ve found no need to supplement the rest of the shaft with after market grip tape. During placement the shaft dampens nicely without noticeable vibration and provides reliable feedback with each stick.

CAMP/CASSIN X-Dream Review
Balanced natural swings- photo by Brent Doscher

Summary

With a high degree of customization and optimization for steep ice, mixed routes, and competition climbing this Italian made ice axe should become a common sight on the steep ice drips around the world. If you lead or follow grade 4 and up waterfall ice you should try to demo a pair of these! While outfitting them with the new X-Dream Alpine Grip puts them in the running for the most expensive set of tools when it comes to waterfall ice axes sometimes you get what you pay for.

Buy at REI              Buy on Amazon         Buy on Backcountry

CAMP/CASSIN X-Dream Review
Author on Drool of the Beast, Grade 5- photo by Brent Doscher

Thanks for reading! See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

This product was provided for the purpose of review. All opinions are that of the author. Affiliate links support this blog.

The 2019/2020 Northeastern Ice Climbing Season Begins!

Ice Climbing New Hampshire
Northeast Mountaineering guides Joshua Klockars and Zach Coburn getting ready for another great ice season on Mount Washington! Photo by @mattybowman

Last week marked the official start of the Northeast ice climbing season with ascents of both of the usual suspects, the iconic Black Dike on Cannon Cliff and Pinnacle Gully in Huntington Ravine, Mount Washington. The Black Dike fell to Adam Bidwell and partner and from what I’ve heard a second party was right behind them. My fingers are crossed that the route comes in as good as it did last season when I was able to enjoy 3 early season ascents and am grateful my friend Dave Dillon of Chase The Summit was able to capture one of those climbs with his drone! Check out the footage and my “route guide” below!

 

Black Dike Route Guide (some spoilers)

Friend and fellow Northeast Mountaineering Guide Matty Bowman showed what early season dedication is all about by hiking up to Huntington Ravine 4 times in one week, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday before finally getting to send Pinnacle with Zach Coburn and Joshua Klockers on Friday, likely the first ascent of the season (though there were some tracks heading up to the route so who knows!)



What’s cool about this kind of motivation is he took condition photos on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, so we can really watch the climb turn from “total shower” to do-able early season ice climbing…

BF220348-2C59-4252-8EC6-770D0A85F7A9
Pinnacle Gully from left to right top to bottom, 11/4, 11/5, 11/7, 11/8 (2019). All images courtesy of @mattybowman
ice climbing mount washington
Another look at five days of ice growth! All images courtesy of @mattybowman

Something that is interesting to me is comparing the actual ice growth and “climb-ability” to what conditions the Mount Washington Observatory as reporting. The “F6” is a data sheet that can help spot trends that might indicate a hike might be worth it for those who are keen on seeking out early season ice.

ice climbing New Hampshire
Weather data from the summit of Mount Washington for the beginning of November 2019

Reports came in of parties climbing Hillman’s Highway (pretty low angle scramble with some patches of ice), and Mike Pelchat posted a short video of someone grabbing a lead on a steep pillar of typical early season Tuckerman Ravine ice.

While I got the first seasonal ascent of Standard Route at Frankenstein last year I doubt I’ll get it this year as we just brought home a puppy and my free time is dedicated to potty training this puppy… but maybe? My bet is Standard is climbed by the end of this week, though it won’t be “in” for a couple more weeks.

Ice climbing New Hampshire
November 15th last year… just 3 day from now…. hmm? Photo by Alexander Roberts


So what are your goals for this season? For me I just want to find time to review some of the new gear I’ve got to demo. I’m most stoked about the new Cassin/Camp Tech Crampons, some Mammut boots, harness, and incredibly awesome looking belay jacket, and a handful of the best ice climbing ropes out there… so stay tuned for a heavy gear review season while juggling a full avalanche course schedule!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Affiliate links above support this blog.

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: Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15L Backpack (and Carabiner Contest)

Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15L Backpack Review


This summer I received the Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15 backpack to review and I’ve since logged about 25 days of multi-pitch rock climbing and guiding and a half dozen hikes with it. Weighing less than a pound but able to carry my full summer guiding kit I found this to be a great multi-pitch climbing pack and only have a couple small tweaks I’d love to see Black Diamond make.

Contest: I’m giving away two Black Diamond Mini Pearabiner Screwgate Carabiners! Read the photo captions below for how to enter!

UPDATE: Contest over! Congrats to Chris B. and Forrest for identifying the climbs!


Let’s start with the manufacturer description:

A worthy addition to any multi-pitch kit, the Rock Blitz 15 is designed to move with you pitch after pitch, carrying all the essentials to the summit. Featuring our signature Blitz-style main opening and a side zip pocket for quick on-route access to a phone, topo, or camera, this pack also has a stripped-down profile for moving fast on big lines. The top closure strap doubles as a rope carry once you summit, and external H2O hose routing gives you the option of staying hydrated on the send. The pack’s EVA padded shoulder straps and back panel make for all-day comfort, while the sternum strap and waist belt are fully removable to save weight on fast and light pushes.

  • Blitz-style main opening for ease of access while on route
  • External side zip pocket for quick access to guide book / phone / camera
  • Stripped down pack silhouette for moving fast on multi-pitch missions
  • Top strap also doubles as rope carry
  • External H2O hose routing
  • EVA Padded shoulder straps and back panel
  • Height adjustable waist belt for better fit above a climbing harness
  • Fully removable sternum strap and waist belt to shave weight when necessary

Volume :  15 L (915.4 cu in)

Average Stock Weight :  403 g (14.2 oz)

Materials :  840 D Nylon


Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15L Backpack Review
Top of the first pitch of “Story of O”, an awesome three pitch 5.6 at the Precipice climbing area in Acadia National Park, Maine

Sizing/Fit/Comfort

The Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15 only comes in one size. Like most climbing packs designed to be worn while leading multiple-pitch rock it rides high on my 5’9″ build, 16 inch torso. The thin waist belt easily rides above my harness and helps secure the pack from swinging around when moving over terrain. The contoured EVA foam shoulder straps easily distribute the weight of a full kit. My only wish is the sternum strap used a more traditional slide adjust system vs the girth-hitched attachment points it currently uses and that the sternum strap buckle had the built in whistle that most climbing packs use these days.

Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15L Backpack Review
The final anchor on the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle before stepping right and starting the “Fairy Tale Traverse”

Performance/Volume/Durability

For a simple pack there is some definite stand out features that made me really enjoy this pack. First off is the 15 liter volume. With careful packing I could fit a full guiding kit in here. For reference this is what I fit inside the pack:

This much gear was a snug fit and I’d either carry or just wear my Black Diamond Vapor helmet to the wall. The 840 denier ballistic nylon held up great to a full season of guiding. While I never hauled the bag up a pitch I did wear it through multiple squeeze chimney’s and the pack still looks quite new. The external side zip pocket is advertised to carry your phone, guidebook, or topo. I actually fit my first aid kit and my phone in it for easy access!


Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15L Backpack Review
Wearing the Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15 on the authors favorite short hike in the country

Video

Here’s a quick look at the pack after finishing a day of climbing at Cathedral Ledge.

Black Diamond also produced a sweet little video showcasing this pack and a couple other products. I especially liked how they used the “guidebook/phone” pocket… skip to 1:58 to see the 11th “essential”…

Summary

This is a great little rugged multi-pitch backpack! Not a lot of thrills but simple and effective for what it was designed for! While it’s main end-use is multi-pitch trad climbing I found it great for quick trail hikes around the White Mountains and along the Maine seacoast. It was also quite useful on a family vacation when were walking around multiple seacoast towns. If you’re in the market for such a pack take a good look at this one!

Buy on Moosejaw

Buy on Amazon <- only one left

For those who want a little extra room (and the option to carry ice axes) Black Diamond makes a 20 liter and 28 liter version!

IMG_9636
The author guiding on Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire

CONTEST/COMMENT BELOW

Could you figure out what climbs the two “anchor” pics were? The first who answers either one correctly win a Black Diamond Pearbiner Screwgate Locking Carabiner. If the first person gets both right first they win both carabiners! Bonus cool points if you can also name what pitch I was on!

UPDATE: Contest over! Congrats to Chris B. and Forrest for identifying the climbs!

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start



Disclaimer: A media sample was provided for purpose of review. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links above support the content created here at no additional cost to you. When you shop through these link a small commission is earned. Northeast Alpine Start is an Amazon Associate. Thank you.

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. 

Gear Review: BightGear Solstice Graphene Hoody

BightGear Solstice Graphene Hoody Review


There is no doubt that the single most worn piece of clothing while guiding this summer was the new BightGear Solstice Graphene Hoody. Most people who know me personally know of my affinity for the “sun hoody” category. This is a relatively new essential to outdoor clothing that is quickly growing as evidenced by the half dozen different manufactures that are making these now. I’ve had the chance to try many of them and this one is edging out my long time favorite Patagonia Technical Sunshade Hoody for a couple of reasons that I will get into below, but first… what is a “sun hoody” for and why should you consider adding it to your closet?

BightGear Solstice Graphene Hoody Review
Working at the top of Artist’s Bluff in Franconia Notch State Park, NH

Protection from sun & heat

I’ve had multiple clients, friends, co-workers, and fellow guides ask me why I am wearing long sleeves and a hood when it’s 85 degrees and humid out. They assume I must be over-heating dressed as I am, and surprised when I explain I feel cooler than going bare chested. A sun-hoody is personal shade that travels with you as you move through the mountains. The fabric is super thin and insanely breathable. The fit of this, one of the things that is making it my current #1, is perfectly “looser” which lets air flow through it more freely. When it is a scorching day I wear this directly over my bare skin and there is no more comfortable option aside spending the day in the AC! On cooler days I’ll wear one of my Ortovox merino t-shirts underneath. A great benefit to this is I do not have to wear sunscreen as often as the t-shirt only crowd… this is permanent UPF 55+!

BightGear Solstice Graphene Hoody Review
Guiding Alex F. on the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle… he loves his Solstice Hoody!

Protection from bugs

Our bug season can be brutal in the Northeast. Many people use a few cans of DEET or Picaridin to survive. I treat my main outdoor clothing with Permethrin twice a season and stay bite free all Spring & Summer. No black flies in the eyes. No mosquito bites. Zero ticks. Not one. And I get to skip coating myself with toxic repellents. Win win win! I write more on my bug defense program in this post if interested.

BightGear Solstice Graphene Hoody Review
Friend and summer camp co-worker Julian also rocking the Solstice this summer after I turned him on to it!

Here’s some of the manufacturer deets:

The Solstice Graphene is guide grit plus lab smarts. 

NEED TO KNOW:

  • Function: The newest, best iteration of Bight Gear’s classic baselayer. Graphene fabric takes this piece to new heights with a light-as-air feel, UPF 55+ sun protection, next-gen moisture wicking, and natural antimicrobial properties.
  • Layering: Good for a range of temps and conditions. Wear alone as a sun hoodie, or as a next-to-skin baselayer under other layers when things get cold.
  • Fit: Relaxed

FEATURES:

  • Gen7 Graphene fabric
  • Naturally antimicrobial for reduced stink
  • UPF 55+ sun protection
  • Oversized hood for full coverage with or without a hat
  • Overlap below the chin to protect neck area from sun exposure
  • Fast-drying
  • Raglan sleeve for increased comfort and mobility
  • Thumbholes with extra hand coverage for sun protection
  • Drop tail hem provides coverage and length where needed most
  • Flat seam construction for chafe-free comfort
  • Relaxed fit

STATS:

  • Fabrics: 95% Polyester (.04% graphene), 5% spandex
  • Country of Origin: El Salvador
  • Weight: 7.7oz

IN MORE DETAIL:

This is the best baselayer we’ve ever made. Period. Years of development and iteration led us to a new synthetic fabric that feels like cotton, but wicks like synthetic. It incorporates Graphene nanomaterial for increased heat transfer and odor reduction, and comes in at UPF 55+ sun protection to keep you from getting microwaved up high.


Reading that over reminded me I wanted to talk about the lack of smell, or the “naturally antimicrobial for reduced stink. I’m not sure how this works but I would routinely wear mine for two weeks straight before washing without it collecting any body odor.

Sizing/Fit

BightGear Solstice Graphene Hoody Review

I went with a size large due to a 42 inch chest and I find it to be a perfect “looser” fit. The sleeves are a bit on the long side which I’ve come to like. The material is stretchy enough I can easily roll them up so they are out of the way while climbing but when it’s really blazing hot and sunny I can let them drape over the backs of my hands while using the thumb loops. That back length is excellent for tucking under a climbing harness and it stays put all day.

BightGear Solstice Graphene Hoody Review
Not just for work I lived in this thing all summer including a family vacation to the Maine seacoast. I would think everyone who spends a lot of time on the water would love one of these!

Summary

If you don’t own a sun hoody yet you need one. A life spent outdoors is a life well spent, but is also one that is prone to skin damage and worse. A sun hoody will keep you more comfortable on more adventures than most any other piece of clothing in your kit. This one, designed by the guides who work on Mount Rainier, is a solid choice in this category! I genuinely feel it is worth full retail ($69.00), but I got some good news! BightGear hooked me up with a discount code for 30% off to share with my readers!

Use promo-code “GuideDaveL” to pick this up for $48.30!

Shop Men’s          Shop Women’s

I regret not getting this review finished sooner as they are just about sold out in men’s with only small and XL left. They do have full size run’s in women’s though and hope to get more men’s sizes back in stock soon! This code is also valid on any full priced items from BightGear!

BightGear Solstice Graphene Hoody Review
Alpine climbing on New Hampshire’s famed Cannon Cliff!

Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

 

A media sample was provided for purpose of review. 

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!