Eliza Kubarska laybacking in Barrah Canyon, Wadi Rum, Jordan
photo: David Kaszlikowski
I sometimes find it difficult to write about just one item of gear, so for this week, I thought it would be fun to do a “greatest hits” list in gear of a variety of disciplines and write a short blurb about each as a sampler of the kinds of awesome gear out there. I will list what I think are three pretty quality pieces of gear in a given category and within that category, have a “Luxury,” “Bargain” and “Mid-grade” piece of equipment.
Backpacking Backpacks [Around 60 Liters]:
1) GoLite Jam 50 Pack [$110]: This pack is a super lightweight functional pack. With no extra, unnecessary bells and whistles [which is my main complaint for many packs such as Osprey ones], this simple, minimalist, streamlined pack works for both weekend backpacking trips as well as longer excursions at a great price.
2) Osprey Aether 60 Pack [$260]: This backpack is a relatively lightweight and comfortable pack. It has several compartments including a sleeping bag one, hip belt pockets, external mesh pockets and more for the super organized camper. It comes in great colors and is highly versatile for most kinds of outdoor adventures.
3) ArcTeryx Altra 65 [$450]: This very expensive [like most things ArcTeryx] is an incredibly well designed backpack. Although this pack is heavier than the others listed, it has several cool features such as heavy-duty, durable, rip stop fabric, a pivoting hip belt for better load transfer and comfort when hiking and a long zipper than unzips almost the entire length of the pack for easy access to your things.
1) Black Diamond Beta Mid/ Mega Mid [$200/$269]: The Black Diamond Mids [Beta = 2 person, Mega = 4 person] are great, ultralight alternatives to tents. These floorless shelters are super packable and lightweight and offer huge amounts of space. However, due to their floorless nature, buggy areas, snowy or wet, boggy areas are not their ideal terrain. In addition, the Beta Mid required two trekking poles to set up.
2) Kelty Salida & REI Half Dome 2 [$169/$190]: I lumped these two tents, because they are very comparable in many ways. Weighing about the same, these all-around tents are both very easy to set up and are very roomy and lightweight for their price.
3) Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 [$400]: Weighing just a little over 2 lbs, this ultralight backpacking tent is incredibly roomy for its light weight. Although this comes at the cost of slightly less durable fabric, this tent has an amazing weight to space ratio that most tents cannot beat.
Sleeping Bags [15 Degree Bags]:
1) Marmot Plasma 15 [$560]: Weighing less than 2 lbs, this sleeping bag has high quality 900-fill down with an ultralight, very water resistant, durable shell material. It has a roomy foot box and comfortable mummy hood and neck baffle for those who are cold sleepers.
2) Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15 [$260]: This warm, comfortable, fast-drying synthetic bag is made from very high quality materials. Exceling in colder, wet conditions this bag is well constructed and moderately priced. However, I found that the 15 degree rating was a little warmer than the bag actually proved to be.
3) Montbell Spiral Down Hugger #1 [$400]: This absurdly comfortable sleeping bag is worth the few extra dollars. With its high quality down, light weight, clever design of spiral, elastic seams, this sleeping bag is especially comfortable for people like me who toss and turn, feeling constricted in their sleeping bags.
A versatile, hybrid-shell helmet for lightweight protection in any discipline, the Vector features excellent ventilation and a ratcheting adjuster.
Congratulations to Tommy and Alex on the First Ascent of Fitz Traverse!
In spite of a season plagued by bad conditions, Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold have just completed “the mother of all traverses” down in Patagonia. Rolando Garibotti, our friend and creator of Pataclimb.com, describes the feat:
This ridgeline involves climbing Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, Cerro Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot, Aguja Rafael Juárez, Aguja Saint-Exúpery and Aguja de l’S. In all they climbed over five kilometers of ridgeline, covering close to 4000 meters of vertical gain with difficulties to 7a (5.11d) C1 65 degrees. They simul-climbed much of the climb, dispatching 20-pitch sections such as Pilar Goretta in a mere three pitches.
This was Honnold’s first climb in Patagonia. Over the years Caldwell has done a number of impressive ascents in the area, most notably the first free and onsight ascent of Linea de Eleganza on Cerro Fitz Roy.
Respect, respect and more respect.
Photo: Rolando Garibotti
Named Backpacker Magazine’s 2012 Best All-Around Ultralight Pack, the Jam is incredibly lightweight while still providing the comfort and functionality you need. Made with stronger-than-steel Dyneema® and Ripstop Nylon, this lightweight backpacking go-to is as strong and durable as it gets. Improved suspension for carrying comfort, in addition to the GoLite ComPACKtor™ system for optimal compressibility, makes the Jam backpack ideal for everything from a weekend backpacking trip to a long distance thru hike.
Lightweight locking carabiners are hard to come by—especially full-size. The Photon Screw Gate accomplishes both brilliantly. The full-size design is easy to use even while wearing gloves making it a great choice for lightweight mountaineering and alpinism. The sharp nose profile easily slips into and out of webbing and old pins making it ideal for setting up snag-free anchors.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY, Y’ALL!
A slipper built for all climbers and for all terrain; the local gyms, Joshua Tree slabs and Indian Creek cracks. The Addict’s asymmetrical shape and low toe profile accommodates all abilities. Beginner to intermediate climbers will fit these with a more relaxed toe curl. Advanced climbers may down size a bit for increased toe power.
On January 15, 2014, Alex Honnold free-soloed El Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path) in El Portrero Chico, Mexico in a little over 3 hours. The climb rises 2,500 feet to the summit of El Toro. It could be the most difficult rope-less climb in history.
The hood adds a comfy bit of shelter so you can draw yourself into the brushed softness of our Nomad wool fleece. Made from 21 micron New Zealand Merino wool fabric, this is a piece that raises the bar for what a fleece should do and how a fleece should feel.
Lanterns are often viewed by hard-core alpinists, fast and light backpackers and other more “serious” outdoors people as unnecessary. Although I tend to be in this camp, the UCO Arka Lantern definitely is a bit of a game changer. This rechargeable, multipurpose lantern also serves as a flashlight and has a USB charging port that can fully charge one device and still have enough power for about five hours of light.
Lanterns can be nice for several reasons. The main one is that they give 360 degrees of light and allow people to share it, as opposed to headlamps which are generally for personal use, and give a more communal feeling toward wilderness outings.
The UCO Arka Lantern is a great multipurpose device. It switches from flashlight to lantern mode with ease. In “lantern mode” you can toggle back and forth from dimmer to brighter. When brighter, the battery will last from 6-8 hours, and when dimmer the battery will last up to 50 hours. You can also set the lantern on “night mode,” “strobe mode” and “S.O.S mode.” In addition to being able to be converted to a flashlight there are also two little hooks that you can use to hang the lantern.
There is a little light that indicates the battery left, however it is a little complicated to decipher and remember what color light indicates exactly how much battery is left. The really nice thing about this lantern is its ability to charge a variety of electronic devices as long as they have a USB charger. From cameras to GPS’ to iPhones, this lantern is useful for backcountry trips where electricity is not available and you may need to recharge an electronic device.
I have used this primarily for car camping and shorter backcountry excursions where I had to recharge my iPhone to text co-leaders, take copious photos and use the GPS to find trailheads etc… However I think it is lightweight enough for wilderness trips where you want communal, multipurpose light and a little energy boost for your electronics.
Tommy Rigby off Lobstonking Bobstoppers (V7), Ibex, Utah
photo: Sheralee Webb