Gear Review- Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

The Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka is a weather bomb-proof choice in the growing field of belay jackets.  I’ve been testing this jacket heavily since mid-last-winter and when there is any chance of freezing rain or -30 wind chills I’m likely selecting this piece out of my quiver of belay jackets for a warm piece of mind. Let’s take a look at what Outdoor Research put into this portable oven!

Outdoor Research Belay Parka Review
The author standing on avalanche debris from the 1/12/18 monster wet slab avalanche in Tuckerman Ravine, Mount Washington

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Insulation

Not all synthetic insulation is created equal. In the case of well known Primaloft did you know it comes in three different qualities? Black, Silver, and Gold? For this high-end piece Outdoor Research used the highest level of Primaloft Gold, which is the most thermally efficient and compressible insulation that Primaloft makes.

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review
Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review

Not only did Outdoor Research select arguably the best synthetic insulation available they distributed it intelligently through the parka but using 200 grams/m2 in the torso and 160 grams/m2 in the lower body and lower sleeves. This maximizes thermal efficiency without having a parka that won’t fit in your sleek ice climbing pack.


Shell Material

Following the trend of using the best possible synthetic insulation Outdoor Research went with the well known Pertex brand of shell fabric for the shell material. Like Primaloft there are options here and they selected the Pertex “Endurance” material which incorporates an ultra-thin air permeable coating that is both highly breathable, water and wind resistant. This layer protects the insulation material from the elements to maintain loft and retain warmth.

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review
Pertex Endurance Shell Fabric
  • Composition – 100% Polyamide (Nylon)
  • Weight – < 35g / m2
  • Air permeability – 1.0cc (max)
  • Optimum strength to weight ratio
  • Windproof
  • Downproof

    Weight/Pack-ability

At 30 ounces this jacket comes in a little heavier than my other synthetic belay jackets and obviously a down jacket would be an unfair side to side comparison in the weight department but what you gain with those extra 8-10 ounces is security in the harshest and sometimes wet environments. While I love down belay jackets for real cold & dry conditions the truth is, especially this winter, that we often see rain, freezing rain, mixed precipitation, followed by some insane cold snap. In these turbulent weather patterns a synthetic belay parka is a safer choice, and I don’t mind the extra weight. Surprisingly despite the “sleeping bag” feel of this parka it manages to pack down to a very reasonable size. One of my favorite features is it stuffs into a velcro compartment that is part of the jacket! No random included stuff sack that I am sure to mis-place!

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review
Internal velcro-storage option
Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review
Stuff size easily fits in in my small 2400 Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack (and is the perfect size for a pillow on overnights)

You will also notice in the upper photo that there are two large oversized internal mesh pockets that easily fit a water bottle or your bulkier climbing gloves while you are adjusting crampons or performing other dexterity requiring tasks (no need to leave those damp gloves on the freezing ground right?)


Minutia

Rounding out the feature set here is an properly sized hood that easily fits over my climbing helmet but also has chin draw-cords and a goggle draw-cord on the back to help the hood move with your head when looking around. Speaking of the hood there is a semi-stiff visor that has been very welcome when dealing with any type of heavy precipitation. It’s the first belay parka I’ve seen this feature on and it definitely makes a difference when climbing out of that dripping ice cave! Two hand-warmer pockets, a standard zippered chest pocket, and velcro cuff’s top off the small details.


Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review


Summary

If you have ever been cold while waiting for your partner to finish a lead, standing around top-roping at the local crag, transitioning to crampons and mountaineering axe at the base of the steeps, or just eating an apple during a quick snack break mid-trip, you should have a look at this belay jacket. This caliber of jacket is part of my “unexpected bivy” gear list, meaning I think about it as a sleeping bag for my torso. Combined with a bivy sack and proper insulated pants I’d be confident spending the night out in some pretty horrid conditions (though I’d prefer a warm bed).

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Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Getting Ready for the Ice Climbing Season

Ice season is coming and while it is taking a little longer to get here than last year that gives you a little more time to get your kit together! Here’s some content I’ve previously posted to help you do just that!

early season ice climbing
Left of Left Gully on November 7th, 2017… that’s in right? photo courtesy of @mjsak

A little stoke video from my season last winter!

 

Gear

Need to upgrade or round out your ice rack? Check out my Ice Screw Comparison article.

Petzl Laser Light Speed Ice Screws
Petzl Laser Light Speed Ice Screws

Thinking about a new set of ice axes for steep ice? I’m excited for my second season on the Cassin X-Dreams that I reviewed here!

ice climbing screw review
The author places a screw on the classic grade 5 backcountry ice climb, Drool of The Beast- photo by Brent Doscher Photography

Time for a new harness? Check out my review of the Petzl Sitta and the Petzl Hirundous!

Black Diamond Alpine Softshell Pants Review
The Petzl Sitta harness reviewed here. Photo by @cfphotography

Need to update your “Ten Essentials”? You can see exactly what I carry here.

IMG_9187

Need a new ice climbing pack? Check out the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack here!

New ice climbing boots? Have a look at the Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots here.

Knowledge

Bookmark the Avalanche Bulletin and the Higher Summits Forecast so you know what the conditions might be like before you leave the car.

Brush up your avalanche skills. Get your beacon out and practice with your partner! Haven’t taken an avalanche course yet? NOW is the time to sign up for one!

Last chance to sign up for the annual Eastern Snow Avalanche Workshop (ESAW) happening this Saturday in Fryeburg, ME!

You need to get fresh lithium batteries for your headlamp! I always have Energizer AA’s and AAA’s on hand. The best deal I can find on these batteries is on Amazon which is linked here.

Maybe start using a Mini-Quad for your ice anchors?

Master tying the One-Handed Clove-Hitch and a Munter-Hitch on the carabiner (great when dealing with iced up ropes that don’t work well in plaquettes)

Watch an educational and motivational sick video!

I’m predicting we hear about something being climbing this weekend… it will be barely climbable, but will signal the start of the ice season. For us mortals the ice will be reasonable in 2-3 weeks, plenty of time to have your kit together!

See you out there,

Northeast Alpine Start



 

Mount Washington Ascent 12-19-16

This past Monday I headed up to the rockpile again with Virginia/Maryland based Max & Rachel. After gearing up at the Northeast Mountaineering bunkhouse we hit the trail at about 8:15. Following last weeks snow/rain/deep freeze trail conditions were quite nice on the lower Tuckerman Trail. The first “step” on Winter Lionhead had considerable water ice but full crampons and ice axe, and a little coaching saw us through it in quick time. Above this step cramponing was great all the way to the summit which we reached around 1:15pm in really low wind conditions. Definitely a great day on the mountain and I hope to see Max & Rachel back for another adventure this winter!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

P.S. If you decide to book an adventure with Northeast Mountaineering use promo code “DavidNEM” to get a chance at winning a free guided day of your choosing!

Mount Washington Avalanche Center issues first General Advisory’s

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center issued it’s initial General Advisory for the 2014/15 season a few days ago on December 6th. The current Winter Storm Warning has prompted an update today. Monday also saw the first reported human triggered avalanche of the season;

“A climber was descending Yale Gully when he triggered a small avalanche below him. He later triggered another small pocket at the top of the fan which took him off his feet.” -MWAC

Here is a shot one of the USFS Rangers took last Friday of Yale:

Yale Gully- photo courtesy of MWAC
Yale Gully- photo courtesy of MWAC

Not much snow up there right? Early season snow packs can be deceiving. The final words of an avalanche bulletin, even a general advisory, can carry some important clues;

“Don’t let the lack of a danger rating lull you into complacency. Traveling through small snowfields can put you into or underneath unstable snow, and all of these pockets are going to be subjected to additional load over the course of the next few days.”- Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger

UPDATE 12/10/14: Please see additional information from this incident with a first hand account of what happened here.

Have you put fresh batteries in your beacon yet? Now is a great time to get outside with you partners and run through some rescue drills. Remember it’s the people you tour with that will give you the best chance of surviving a mistake!

Also, if you have procrastinated signing up for an avalanche course you might want to do so today. Out of 7 scheduled courses we are already sold out of seats for 4. That leaves only 3 courses to chose from and it is not even Christmas yet! Go here to find out more and sign up!

See you on the mountain,

NEAlpineStart