Devil’s Path, part 4: Mini Gear Review Session

Posted: February 26, 2012 by None Smith in English, Training
Tags: , , , ,

Nothing too extreme here, the story and adventure is over, so now it’s time to evaluate the gear!

The good:

Marmot “Never Summer” Sleeping Bag

I’ve relied on this wonderful down sleeping bag for a couple cold-weather trips now. Rated at 0 degrees F, it’s always a pleasure getting cozy in the bag and waiting to warm up. Once enough body heat radiates around the bag, I stay toasty warm all night. An added plus is that the bag can also zip from the feet up so that in warmer weather you can vent out the extra heat. The only downside that I noticed (and that other reviewers had mentioned), is that the bag can collect water fairly easily. Keeping the bag dry is of the utmost important, and more attention must be paid to water than you might with a synthetic bag.

Rab-Polartec Hat

When I was learning how to climb trad in New Paltz, NY, I spent a couple of minutes looking around it’s must-see climbing store, Rock and Snow. On a rack with what seemed like a thousand other hats, I pulled out this thin little $15 hat and tried it on. From there, well, the rest is history. It wicks water beautifully and traps in heat like no other. On cold days when biking to work, it fits snugly underneath my helmet. I’ve also been using it as my “dry” hat – the hat I put on when I stop for a rest and I’m sweating. It keeps me warm and helps dry out my hair.

Check out the Thermarest Z-lite and it's conforming features!

Mountain Hardware Liner gloves

I actually don’t know the name of these gloves – I only know that they have the famous Mountain Hardware “nut” logo on them. I picked them up at an REI Garage sale to be used as liner gloves inside my mountaineering mittens. Within or without the heavy-duty mittens, these thin gloves stand their ground. I’ve used them skiing and cold-weather hiking and they withstand a fair amount of wetness before I feel it on my hands and it affects my comfort level. In drier climates they are fantastic at wicking away moisture from hands and keep them happy and dry when dexterity counts. Great biking gloves.

Thermarest Z-lite

Really? Thirty US Dollars at REI? What a steal! The reviews of everyone else live up to the quality of this sleeping bad. You can see in the picture how it conformed nicely to my rocky, uneven bed and left me comfortable and warm all night. The way it folds up, along with the egg crate design makes it great to sleep on or simply use it to rest against a tree. Must-have for any backpacker, alpinist or adventurer.

MSR Pocket Rocket and GSI Soloist

A classic low-cost stove for any outdoor enthusiast, I was unsure how well it was going to do in the cold, snowy Devil’s Path conditions. From set-up to boiling (we melted and boiled snow), we were ready to eat within 15 minutes. The GSI Pinnacle Soloist (or Dualist) make this setup a great pair as the stove conveniently fits inside to pot. Easy to store, carry and assemble. Although for the 360Extremes expedition,

Oodles of Gear

I’m not sure how this will work at high altitudes or extremely cold temperatures.

Patagonia Capilene 2 pants

I got these randomly for Christmas but they are now my go-to for a warm base layer. I can wear them, sweat a bit, rest, and they will be completely dry without donning or doffing any layers. As with anything Patagonia, it stands up to it’s quality, now it’s time to see if it stands up to the test of time.

The Bad:

Polyester “heavy duty” pants

Never buy outdoor pants at Kohls or Walmart or any department store that has an outdoor department. Others may have had better luck at these stores with layering pants, but I, sadly, have not. The polyester, “work-mans” outdoor pants got wet and didn’t dry at all. Thankfully, I had an extra pair.

EMS Wool Socks

For around the house, lounging and casual wear – I love these socks. They’ve kept me warm with my Merrell Barefoots and compress enough to wear with my Miura climbing shoes on cold days. However, on this trip, they really didn’t stand up on their own (pun intended?). Once they got a little wet, they stayed wet well into the next day and nothing worked for drying them out. I’ll keep them and continue to use them, but extra care will be taken to keep them dry. Update: days later after returning home, I found a hole in one of them….

My trusty "Never Summer" front and center (well, to the left).

The Ugly:

Sorel Timberwolf boots – cold when standing still, bad grip

Let me start by saying that for the price, these boots are great. I’ve had bad experiences with boots and most of the time my feet are cold and wet. The great thing about these boots is that my first experience with them was the Devil’s Path (see what happened to my Merrell Isotherm 8s after hike number 2), and I only had one small blister on my big toe, left foot. So point one for comfort without breaking in. Second, they kept my feet dry the entire time despite wet, sometimes slushy conditions. If I was moving, my feet were warm and dry. Here’s the ugly: when I stood still, my feet got cold quite quickly. Maybe some sweat had condensed inside (I didn’t seem to notice any dampness), but either way, my feet got cold.

Second, durability. After what happened to my Merrell’s, I wanted firm soles and durable boots. These seemed to deliver both – the soles were firmer than most boots and the material had few seams. These all seemed like great features, again, especially for the price. The ugly that threw me off was not either of these things – I still hold they boots can be great light weight mountaineering boots (I have yet to test them with crampons) – but the lack of traction. I found myself slipping more than I felt comfortable. The more I walked, the more I lost some confidence in the boot’s traction. I’m not about to throw them in the “retired” bin just yet though. After all, I’ve only tested them once! I put these in the ugly category because they need further review.

Marmot Bastione Jacket

Another REI garage sale buy, and for $60 it seems like I couldn’t go wrong. I love Marmot, and the reviews I quickly read about the jacket seemed overall positive. The jacket’s fleece liner with shell seemed of good quality and well constructed. I used when I was out skiing once and there did not seem to be any big flaws. All good things, right? In the end, when I stood still, this jacket did not provide a lot of insulation. To be short, this is a great around town jacket/shoveling the drive way but it’s bulkiness, weight and seemingly lack of insulation left me doubtful in bringing it on my more extreme outings.

When all's said and done

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