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Cascade Rock by Blake Herrington

March 8, 2016
by Ian Mayer

If you haven’t gotten your hands on “Cascades Rock,” the new guidebook by Blake Herrington, you’ll be very excited when you do. Blake does a great job of covering a lot of ground, not only himself with repeats and ascents all over the Cascades, but in his coverage of climbs of varying grades at both “roadside” areas like Index and Washington Pass, to the Gunsight Range, “two days away from the nearest road.” Color pictures, short bios, and back history make the book a pleasure to read, while simple topos, and hiking route images make it easy to make sure you’re going the right way. This book holds its own right next to the Beckey Guides.

We recommend this book to any rock climber who is not afraid of hiking for their climbs. There are a few 4th class and easy 5th class climbs, but in general the book starts at 5.6, and requires knowledge of anchor placement and building. Climb with care, and always check your knot.



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Patagonia Nano Air Jacket

March 1, 2016
by Jon Dorman

Patagonia’s Nano-Air Jacket quickly became my favorite layer this winter for several reasons:

  1. Comfort: The first is how comfortable the face fabric is. The fine-ness of the weave and fibers makes this piece surprisingly soft, making it really comfortable next to the skin. This jacket was my go to après ski jacket because, again, it is just so darn comfy.
  2. All Weather Warmth: On colder days, or super wet days on the mountain, wearing a capilene t-shirt and the Nano-Air under my shell worked really well, keeping me warm, but not too warm. An added benefit of layering in this fashion was if my outer shell wetted out, the Nano-Air’s water resistant outer fabric kept me warm and dry. The synthetic insulation retains its insulating properties even when wet. If you wore a fleece layer under the jacket and put a shell over it I could see it keeping you warm in the coldest of situations.  
  3. Breathable: Being so breathable it also served me well as an outer touring layer on colder sunny days. In addition to being a great mountain layer for me I wore it nearly every day on my way to work.
  4. Water Resistant:  It does a pretty good job of keeping you dry in a light rain, so I wore it on hikes down in town with my two little boys too.  When I first got it water even beaded off it and keeping it clean was easy. It’s one of those jackets that was kind of self cleaning, another added bonus for a semi-retired dirtbag like myself.  

Overall I would recommend it to anyone and I hope they never stop producing this thing.



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Compactor Poles by Black Diamond

February 19, 2016
by Ian Mayer

The Compactor Pole by Black Diamond is a durable ski pole, which folds down into three sections, which makes it great for a number of winter activities.

The Compactor Pole works much like an Avalanche Probe, making it very durable. Once the three sections are made rigid, there is no chance for them to slip, even on steep side-hills when you’re really pushing on them. They are definitely heavier than an in-bounds ski pole, made to take the varied abuse that comes with skiing or riding in the backcountry.

Snowboarders and splitboarders will love how small this pole gets, making it able to fit in most 20L+ packs. However if you’re concerned about keeping up with your lightning fast skier friends during transitions from touring to riding, consider folding up your poles and holding them in your hands. It was easy to get used to riding while holding something in my hands (as easy as a selfie-stick!), and then they are one less item you need to remove from your pack when switching back to touring.!

They might also be useful for those who are combining skiing with ice climbing. It would give you the option to carry your poles in your pack while you’re ice climbing, if your tool straps aren’t great for carrying the poles. It may not make a huge difference, but sometimes options are a good thing!

They also make great poles for the summer months. Take the powder baskets off for the hike in, then pop them back on for the snowfields and glaciers! When you’re ready to rope up, fit the poles into your pack, check your knot, and start climbing!

They come in a short and long version, and are available at Backcountry Essentials.



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2015 Goggle Gear Guide

September 26, 2015
Backcountry Essentials

2015 BCE Goggle Gear Guide

We’ve just received a shipment of Smith Optic Goggles. There are a lot of great, made-in-America options to choose from, so here is a guide to help with some of the features of each!

SMith Optics I/O7 

  • Quick-release lens change
  • Lens pivots to fit different helmets and faces
  • Smith’s Largest Spherical Lens
  • 5X Anti-Fog Technology (Smith’s highest level)

I/O

  • Quick-release lens change
  • Spherical Lens
  • 5X Anti-Fog Technology (Smith’s highest level)

I/OX

  • Interchangeable Lens’
  • Extra Large Spherical Lens
  • 5X Anti-Fog Technology (Smith’s highest level)

Vice

  • Semi-rimless frame design
  • Outriggers for helmet integration
  • Potex filter for preventing optical distortion during changes in elevation
  • Fog-X anti-fog coating
  • Interchangeable Lens’

Squad

  • Semi-rimless frame design
  • Massive cylindrical lens
  • Fog X anti-fog coating
  • Fully integrated strap connection for worry-free riding
  • Interchangeable Lens’

Scope

  • One of Smith’s Best-Sellers
  • Airflow lens technology
  • Interchangeable Lens’

Knowledge Turbo Fan OTG

  • Over-the-glass (OTG) Techonology (Accommodates eyeglasses)
  • Two-speed micro-electric exhaust fan
  • 5X Anti-Fog Technology (Smith’s highest level)

Knowledge OTG

  • Over-the-glass (OTG) Techonology (Accommodates eyeglasses)
  • Adjustable lens ventilation

Transit

  • Designed specifically for women
  • Fog-X anti-fog coating

Daredevil

  • Designed specifically for kids
  • Over-the-glass (OTG) Techonology (Accommodates eyeglasses)
  • Fog-X anti-fog inner lens

Gambler

  • Designed specifically for kids
  • Designed for wintry conditions
  • Fog-X anti-fog inner

Sidekick

  • Designed specifically for kids
  • Fog-X anti-fog inner lens


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Petzl Corax

August 26, 2015
by Ian Mayer

The Petzl Corax is a great multi-use harness, especially for those who are either just getting into the sport of rock climbing, or those who want one harness that can do any job pretty well.

The Corax has all of the features of a great cragging harness: light weight, durable, and simple. It has two gear loops on each side, as well as an extra small loop on each side, which can be used to rack ice screws in the winter. All of the buckles (two on the waist and one on each leg) are double-buckled and therefore just need to be tightened in order to be used properly. The waist and leg loops have enough padding to endure some hanging, but you may want to search for something more comfortable if you’ll be on a larger wall with consistent hanging belays.

What makes the Corax a great multi-use harness is how much it is able to adjust. The most notable feature of the Corax is that it has two adjustment points at the waist, which make it easy to always fit your belay loop centered, no matter how many layers you have on. The leg loops adjust to be big enough to use with mountaineering or ski boots, and the leg loops detach from the back so you can wear the harness on a bivy ledge or when nature calls.

While there are more specialized harnesses out there for the different disciplines of mountaineering, the Corax is able to excel at rock climbing, while doing a pretty good job at everything else.



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MSR Whisperlite International

June 13, 2015
by Mattias Evangelista

MSR has been one of the most recognized names in camping stoves for decades, and for good reason. At the heart of MSR's impressive stove line is the Whisperlite International. Simple, proven design makes this my go to stove for almost every occasion. Weighing in at just under 16oz the Whisperlite packs extremely light, yet I'm constantly impressed with its quick cook time. I average about a 5 minute boil time, and have no trouble cooking meals for multiple people. The versatility of being able to switch between white gas and kerosene is incredibly handy, especially when traveling out of the U.S.. hence the "International" name. The only knock I have against the stove is a lack of a "simmer" option. However, this has never been an issue for me and if you can achieve a simmer level of flame by removing the gas bottle, relieving the pressure, re attaching the fuel and pumping fewer times than normal. I would highly recommend this product to anyone looking for a simple, reliable stove that performs great at any elevation.



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Boulder X Mid GTX

April 22, 2015
Backcountry Essentials

Just like it's shorter brother the Boulder X mid GTX has proved to be a great versatile shoe. I have had a pair of the boulder x's for the last 2 years and love the shoe. From wearing them around town to scrambling around larabee to hiking down to lost lake the shoe gives good grip and fits snug on the foot due to the mythos lacing system. So I was exicited to see LaSportiva come out with a taller version. It still fits snug in the toe for those steeper scrambles or inpromptu bouldering sessions but is really comfortable right out of the box. I was actually really suprised how comfortable asnd lightweight these puppies are. The added ankle support is much appreciated and also keeps unwanted hitchikers out of your shoe (something the boulder x isnt very good at doing). The almost full wrap rand keeps them tough in the scree and protects the leather.  I haven't had a chance to put the Gore-Tex to the test but it's nice to have it in there. Having a full leather upper I would still waterproof with Obenauf's or Snowseal if I was planning on taking them through a stream or in the snow.  All in all LaSportiva has created the perfect lightweight all around hiker/approach shoe, lightweight and comfortable enough to wear around town on wet winter days but supportive enough to take to the trail/approach.



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Big Agnes Boot Jack 24

April 18, 2015
by Mattias Evangelista

I feel "bang for you buck" is the best way to describe the BootJack. For $179 you get a 24 degree bag with DownTek,  features that would run you well into the $200 price range with competing bags. As far as performance goes, the Boot Jack has gone above and beyond my expectations pretty much across the board. As far as pack-ability and weight goes, it does pretty well,  packing down to about 8 inches by 8 inches and weighing in at just over 2 pounds. In terms of fit the bag is true to size and provides ample arm and leg room. Where the bag really shines is with its durability and use of DownTek. I recently took this bag out to the Washington Coast for a surf trip. A misreading of the tide charts and camping a bit too close to the water resulted with my friends and I waking up at 2am to waves rolling into the foot our tent and totally soaking the bottom half of my bag. Despite the unwelcome addition of moisture the DownTek fabric lived up to its reputation and the bag continued to a great job of keeping me warm for the rest of the trip. My only complaint with the Boot Jack is the zipper. It seemed to get caught on excess material pretty easily, never badly, and I wouldn't call it an "issue" just enough to be noticeable. Overall, this is an awesome bag for an awesome price offering great durability and function for any adventure. 



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Sea to Summit X- Pot 2.8L

April 12, 2015
by Jon Dorman

I have been a big fan of Sea to Summit’s X series ever since I first got an XL bowl. For those who are unfamiliar, the X series includes fully collapsible bowls, mugs, plates and now a fully featured cooking pot. They use high grade heat resistant silicone as the walls to be able to fold flat when not in use. I had doubts about how strong the pot sides would be especially when the pot is fully loaded with food, but the X-Pot is plenty stout. When sea to summit says fully featured pot they aren’t kidding, it has a hard anodized aluminum base, a BPA free durable lid with built in strainer holes, and handles that double as stays to keep the lid on when storing. It also has a nesting design and can fit 2 X-mugs and 2 X bowls inside the pot when folded down. It performed just about as good at retaining heat as my traditional aluminum cookware. The only downside to this pot is you have to be careful not to turn up your stove too high as the silicone shouldn’t be exposed to direct flame. That being said the aluminum base is plenty wide to contain most any camp stoves flame. This pot is a great addition to any camp cook set. It comes in 3 sizes a 1.4 liter perfect for 1 person, a 2.8 liter pot perfect for 2 people, or a 4.0L Pot for those who are truly hungry.

By Jon Dorman



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Arc’Teryx Khamski 48 Backpack

January 31, 2014
Backcountry Essentials

The Arc'teryx Khamski48 is a backpack specifically designed for the skier. Whether you are a Mt. Baker Ski Patroller doing morning control work or a backcountry enthusiast on the Isolation traverse, this pack has what you need.

I recently used the Khamski48 on a 3 day trip into the Monte Cristo subrange and was very impressed with its versatility, comfort and functionality.  It’s a clean pack and has no unnecessary frills. With its super burly construction using AC2 urethane treated fabric on the top and front panel, you never have to worry about the wet outside environs creeping into the sacred dry zone that is your backpack. Accompanied with a 420 denier rip-stop nylon, this pack is made to withstand the test of time. The high-density 80 foam back panel allows for minimal moisture absorption while creating a good level of stability. Its ergonomic shape is well thought out and creates a comfortable next-to-body fit.  The aluminum M-bar stays enable the 48 liters to be fully utilized and carried comfortably.  They can also be easily removed along with the lid for those quick dawn patrol tours up Mt. Herman.  Skis or split boards can be carried securely in either A-frame or diagonal fashion and won’t interfere with your rope and ice tools. It has several smaller pockets to aid organization. The huge wet pocket is my favorite feature because it's spacious enough for shovel, probe, skins and crampons.

Bottom line, this would be a welcome addition to any skier’s gear closet.



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