Who ever knew you could get a babysitter to come over at 6am? Well, now I do! My wife and I were lucky enough to experience this crack-of-dawn babysitter who was as happy as could be at 6 am, certainly more awake than I was, which was good because soon she was going to have a 2-year-old to deal with while I was out schralping the powder in the Mt. Rose backcountry with all sorts of new gear. While the conditions were a bit wind crusted in spots, it was a great morning to be out with my beautiful wife for a dawn patrol ski during one of our busiest weeks of the year and to be testing some of our new arrivals. As you can see here, I was using all stuff that we sell here at the shop and here is my expert review of all this great outdoor gear for your reading pleasure. I will go head to toe.
Smith Variant Brim Helmet with Smith Phenom Goggles – This is a superb combination that I got it last year. If I had waited until this year, I would have the Smith Vantage helmet instead, but that’s how it goes. The Variant Brim is well ventilated, adjustable and fits my head with ease. The Phenom goggles go hand in hand with the Smith helmets. They fit great, no gaper gap at all and no fogging up due to the efficient air system that works between the helmet and goggles. I would go with a Vantage now, simply because it is lighter and has a better vent system.
Balconi Polar Visor Hat – I use this on the way up and I love it.
First, it is a visor so it keeps the snow off your face or the sun, whichever the weather gods decide to provide. I love visor hats when I am hiking because it allows my head to breathe very effectively and therefore regulates the rest of my body temp. Huge fan, get one if you like winter hat/visors.
Mammut Albaron Jacket – I think I might have found my dream jacket when I found this little beauty. This is a Gore Tex Pro Shell jacket, which basically means it is super minimalist, packs up smaller than a down jacket, has huge pit zips and even bigger front pockets. You can see in the picture above, there is even some tacky, reinforced material on the shoulders for wear and tear from your pack. This jacket is completely minimalist in all other ways. No stupid pull cords, no extra soft material for your delicate chin, nothing. This is a standard, lightweight, fully waterproof and breathable shell jacket that looks super hot on me, if you don’t mind my saying. I highly recommend this jacket!
Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Pants – This is our first season carrying any Outdoor Research product and so far, we are very impressed with their quality and attention to detail. I have been looking for a true soft shell pant that actually fits for a very long time, and I am proud to say, I finally found a pair. I am wearing a size medium and they fit great for my 5’8″ frame. Most soft shell pants are too long on me, but not these. Some of the details that first stuck out at me: Cuff guards on the inside of boot, zippers on the outside of the boot, huge ventilation zips on each leg (see pic), 2 thigh pockets, 2 rear pockets and a built-in belt that is actually easy to adjust.
These pants are extremely comfortable, move and glide with your every movement and are a now my go-to pant for all my backcountry travels.
Black Diamond Quadrant Boots – Generally, I subject myself to using all the demo gear in the shop rather than ever getting anything of my own, but that changed this season with the Quadrant boots. I had a chance to demo them last year in development mode, and loved them so much I picked up a pair this year. This is a true touring boot and what I like most is the flexibility this boot offers. It is incredibly stiff when in ski mode and skis like a charm even on big skis like the Zealot or Megawatts. In traditional alpine touring boot designs, the cuff edge and middle buckles limit the forward range of motion in walk mode; Black Diamond‘s Pivoting Cuff moves up and out of the way to allow the boot to flex farther forward than conventionally possible. This is a huge plus for us backcountry tourers because it now allows for a greater range of motion while walking, boot packing or even ice climbing. I am also a total believer and convert in the Boa system. I think this system is super slick and easy to adjust. It really allows you to get the liner to the perfect tension. Also, it allows you to unbuckle your boots and relieve tension on your feet, while keeping your foot in place in the liner which prevents any rubbing or blistering. All in all, these boots kick butt and that recommendation is coming from a telemarker turned ATer mostly due to these boots and Dynafit bindings.
Black Diamond Drift Skis with Dynafit TLT ST Bindings – Black Diamond is really trying to enter the backcountry-specific market this year, and the Quadrant and Drift are the premier boots and skis respectively that they are doing it with. The Drift is 136 at the tip, 100 under foot and light as a feather. Mounting them up with Dynafit bindings is the only way to go in my opinion, don’t waste those weight savings with a heavy, unnecessary binding. These skis skied like a dream. The conditions today were extremely variable with hard pack giving way to wind crust then to dust on crust and finally, when down in the trees far enough, bottomless powder. These skis performed excellently in all those conditions. I was surprised at how solid they actually felt as I thought they would be more like noodles and not hold an edge very well, but I admit, I was wrong. They cut through all the variable conditions with no problem at all. I was also skiing the 176cm size and thought they were perfect.
I had a lot of other stuff on too, but these were the highlights. I hope you like our product reviews and if you have any questions, feel free to call the shop and talk to any of our gear experts or post your comment below and we will respond super fast. Happy New Year to all our loyal customers and blog readers! Here are a few more pics for your viewing pleasure.