Gear Guide 2014: Trad Climbing
Anasazi Lace-Up – The Pink
Beloved workhorse brought back from the dead
“The Pinky is perfect,” one tester said of the sorely missed pink Anasazi lace-up’s high performance and incredible versatility. It was discontinued in 2007, but high demand brought it back. The new version features a redesigned and deeper heel that has a more aggressive taper toward the top, and testers deemed it “comfy but technical.” It was tight enough to inspire confidence on a variety of terrain, but it wasn’t so snug that testers’ feet were screaming after a short pitch. It’s flat-lasted with no downturn and plenty stiff enough to edge and provide support on long routes like Fine Jade (5.11a) in Castle Valley, Utah, but users were pleasantly surprised that it was also soft enough to smear on nothing holds. “I can face climb and jam on moderately difficult routes with the same amount of success,” one tester said. Tried-and-true Stealth C4 rubber was ultra-sticky, while the lined Cowdura upper (synthetic leather) molded to feet sans stretching—even after six months. Welcome back, Pinkies. We missed you.
The North Face Cinder 40
Bombproof bucket hauler
“With slimmed-down suspension and padding, this single-compartment pack carries better than most teched-out overnight bags, and the quick roll-top closure lets you access your gear faster than you can say ‘off belay.’ Not to mention it stands up on its own, which makes gear sorting fast and efficient.” Read the full review in our Editors' Choice Awards.
Evolv Addict Slipper
Keep jammin’ in a stiff slip-on
List features you want in a shoe for climbing hand cracks and you’ll likely find them all in the Evolv Addict. They’re rigid to support your feet for all-day wear and for protection in potentially painful cracks, but testers could still smear on delicate outside edges and nubs. Plus, the VTR rand puts thicker rubber in the toe area, for increased grip on twisting foot jams and more armor for sensitive toes. One tester took a pair on 15 pitches in a day of crack climbing at South Platte, Colorado, and he loved that there weren’t any laces, Velcro, or buckles to get caught or to pinch his foot: “I can throw my whole foot into a crack without fiddling to reposition and without major discomfort.” Generous elastic on top of the foot made them easy to put on, and a leather upper stretched up to about a half-size for maximum comfort after a break-in period. Testers found they fit narrow feet best.
Metolius 000 Micro TCU
Weighing in at less than an ounce, this triple zero is the lightest micro-cam on the market. Its range is from .26 inches to .4 inches, meaning it can fit in places where other pro doesn’t stand a chance. Rated to 5kN, it’s intended purely as an aid piece. Our test unit was an early model, clearly labeled not for climbing. Full disclosure, however, we couldn’t resist scouting out a thin crack to give it a whirl (not far off the deck, promise). The three machined cam lobes, barely wider than the steel cable, when retracted, bite solidly, and the cables flex for funky placements. Stay tuned for a full review.
The Meteor has long been a top helmet choice for all-around climbing, and this year it gets a few more updates that make it even better. It’s always shined as a well-vented and lightweight brain bucket, but by expanding the size of existing vents and adding a few more, designers were able to cut weight and make it more breathable without any loss of integrity. “One of the most breathable helmets I’ve worn,” one tester said. Though a smart adjustment system allowed this helmet to fit a wide variety of domes, Petzl added a smaller size (48 to 56cm and 53 to 61cm) for the most diminutive melons. The harness nests down into the helmet for easy packing. A soft headband molded to testers’ noggins for complete comfort and admirable sweat wicking, and testers were free of pressure points caused by other helmets. Favorite feature: Petzl’s magnetic buckle chinstrap (which was first seen on the Petzl Sirocco, out last year) makes on and off doable with one hand, a key trait for climbers of all types.
Wild Country Pro Guide Lite
Small change, big difference
Auto-blocking tube-style devices have made multi-pitch climbing much easier and safer as long as they’ve been around, but the biggest caveat has always been lowering the follower if he gets stuck or needs to move down for whatever reason. Wild Country fixed that problem by offering a much larger hole that can be used with almost any non-locking carabiner (and small lockers) on the market. “These devices with guide mode are a tried-and-true design, but with the bigger biner hole, I could easily lower my followers on anything from a single 10.5mm rope to 7.3mm half ropes,” one tester said who took it for rock and ice in Rocky Mountain National Park. (The device is rated for 7.7mm to 11mm, but our tester found it successfully locked with ropes down to 7.3mm.) At 2.7 ounces, the Pro Guide Lite is a welcome upgrade for anyone who uses these devices on the regular.
Edelrid Eagle Light 9.5
$240 (60m); scarpa.com/edelrid
Treated for maximum lifespan
Don’t fret about the thin diameter on the newest rope from Edelrid’s Pro Line; they’ve put three different finishing treatments on it to optimize durability. “It still has a supple and flexible feel,” one tester said after taking it to a new secret crag in the much-traveled Boulder Canyon, Colorado. Pro Shield, Dry Shield, and Thermo Shield treat both the entire unit and individual yarn fibers to increase dirt and water resistance while maintaining easy clipping, knotting, untying, and coiling. Our testers deemed this great for long days plugging gear because the Eagle Light stood up to tons of abrasion and running over edges, as well as catching a few big whips, and had no signs of wear. “Plus, it ran through all belay devices and carabiners like a dream.” Even after knotting it into a rats nest right out of the package, our tester found it didn’t twist up or kink once he got it properly flaked.
If you’ve found roll-up, tube-style rope bags annoying or too time-consuming, the Boralis might be right up your alley. Designers built it as a slim-profile bullet pack, with two narrow-webbing shoulder straps and a top carry handle like most backpacks have. Testers loved the almost automatic loading of the rope when picking up the 55” x 55” tarp: “Lifting all four corners automatically slides the rope into the middle, which is where the tarp opens into the pack itself. It’s really convenient.” One tester even carried this for a day of climbing single- and multi-pitch routes in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado. “When we were cragging, I could move it from route to route and have a protective tarp, but when we wanted to do a longer route and I wanted to carry some water, I just threw this on as a sleek bullet pack,” she said. “Not super comfy for all-day routes, but for a few pitches at a time, it was perfect.”
Black Diamond Camalot X4 Offsets
2013’s favorite product gets a counterpart
We raved about last year’s Editors’ Choice Award–winning Black Diamond Camalot X4’s “wider expansion range, more versatile placements, and increased durability,” so it’s another “no brainer” that we would love the complementary offsets. They have the same larger camming range of a double-axle design with the compactness of a single-axle design that we loved in the regular X4, but with two sets of cam lobes that are different sizes. This makes them ideal for any placements that aren’t perfectly parallel (think: pin scars and flared cracks). Testers loved the beefy but flexible armored stem, easy trigger action, and especially the bi-colored lobe heads and sling colors, which “made identification on even the most disorganized harness quick and easy. Just grab and go.” Five cams in the line cover placements that range from .33 inches to 1.62 inches, with weights that go from 1.9 ounces for the smallest to 3.5 ounces for the largest.
Edelrid Pure Slider
Easy, super-fast locking biner
From the school of simple, light, and ingenious comes this locking mechanism from the engineering wizards at Edelrid. It includes a small sliding tab on the outside of the gate near the nose; just place your thumb over the tab, push down and in, and the gate unlocks and opens almost simultaneously. “It’s the easiest locking mechanism I’ve ever used because there’s no new motion to learn,” one tester said. “It’s muscle memory I already have.” Since it’s an auto-locker, you don’t have to keep checking to make sure your gates are locked. And at only 1.5 times the weight of a light non-locker (1.5 oz.), you can carry a few extra on a long route without worrying about adding too much heft. “With a minimal weight penalty and easy-open system, there’s no reason not to pack a few,” said one tester who used this biner as the first clip on a sketchy sport climb in Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado.
Misty Mountain Sonic
When you’re pumping out 10 feet above your last fiddled-in nut, the last thing you want to sweat about is how much it might hurt to take a fall in your older-than-dirt harness. Don the completely redesigned Sonic and you’ll be as relaxed as Willie Nelson getting recreational in Colorado. Testers loved it for long routes like Yellow Spur (5.10a) and The Naked Edge (5.11a) in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, where tight belays forced semi-hanging stances. “I could sit in this harness for long periods without experiencing pain or numbness,” one user said. It has extra-wide leg loops and a high-backed, supportive waistbelt to prevent hot spots and digging. The waistbelt also flares out on the bottom, wrapping around hips instead of gouging into soft flesh in the midsection. A Hypalon patch in the rear of the waistbelt adds durability for scumming and chimney sections, and a large plastic buckle makes bathroom breaks a cinch. “An easy-to-operate buckle is crucial for quick bathroom breaks on long routes when you’re racing daylight,” one female tester said. A full-strength haul loop in the rear and four upturned gear loops round out the features.
Scarpa Techno X
High performance for all-day wear
This Italian shoe company proved that comfort doesn’t mean sacrificing performance and vice versa with the new flat-lasted Techno X. Testers loved the stiffness for standing on the patina flakes of Skyline (5.8) and the shoe’s versatility for simultaneous jamming and dime-edging on Wheat Thin (5.7), both in City of Rocks, Idaho. “I could climb easy five-pitch routes just as well as I could pull hard on vertical, techy 5.11,” one tester said. “They had a tight feeling, which inspired confidence on tiny footholds, but they weren’t so tight that I had to take them off at every belay.” This is thanks to a tension-randing system (the rubber is stretched out as it’s placed on the shoe) that places the power in your toe like a high-performance kick, but without a downturn, these shoes remain easy to wear. Vibram XS Edge rubber remains one of the stickiest on the market, and 4mm thickness is enough to protect your feet but not eliminate sensitivity. Whatever your objective, as long as it’s vertical or less, the Techno X will do you right.
Outdoor Research Antimatter
Ultra-light summit pack
“Minimalist-obsessed folks will find this delightfully simple,” one tester said of the barely there bullet bag. It holds 18 liters, which is just enough for food, water, layers, camera, and small descent shoes, but it still packs into its own small pocket when every cubic inch is needed in a larger pack. The mesh shoulder straps were comfortable to wear even when the pack was stuffed to the brim, and on warm ascents, testers never found themselves with shoulder-strap-shaped sweat stains. Despite the almost negligible weight of 9.9 ounces, it still has some necessary features like two outer water bottle pockets and side compression straps to keep the weight in place.
Edelrid Mega Jul
Versatile device with added braking power
“Never choose between your versatile, lightweight tube-style device and heavier, safer assisted-braking device again. With the Mega Jul, you get both in an airy, durable stainless steel package that has even more uses than both.” Read the full review in our Editors' Choice Awards.
Petzl Contact 9.8
$215 (60m); petzl.com
Versatile workhorse rope
With a complete overhaul of their rope line, Petzl is focusing on striking a perfect balance between durability, minimal weight, and overall feel, and the Contact is right on the money. Testers found this rope “unusually resistant” to the rope-ruining sand and dirt of the Moab and Indian Creek desert areas, and one said, “My ropes usually get absolutely wrecked in the desert, but after a full week of towers, cracks, and bolt-clipping, the Contact still looked like new.” That’s thanks to the DuraTec dry treatment, which not only protects the cord from absorbing water, but it also repels dirt, which can be the real rope killer. Our testers climbed on it for five months; it never kinked or coiled, and “it might as well have just come out of the package.” A great feature we never got to test: UltraSonic Finish welds the core and the sheath together at the rope ends only, to prevent fraying in the spot where it’s most common. A super-great feature we did get to test: ClimbReady Coil means the rope is coiled and ready to go in the packaging. Open it, flake it, and climb—no more new-rope excitement cut short by annoying tangled messes.
Outdoor Research Handbrake Gloves
Beefy, burly mitt protection
“Gloves for people who don’t like to use gloves—and for those that do,” one tester said of this full-leather armor. Another user called them “lifetime durable” after a few months of 12-pitch days in Wyoming and California. An extra layer of suede is positioned right across the palm and inside of the thumb where the hands see the most abrasion when lowering and rappelling. The fingerless design gave testers much more dexterity so they weren’t fumbling through cowhide to operate carabiners or build anchors, and small, extended pull tabs on the middle and ring fingers gave these hand protectors an A+ for easy on-off. Despite the beefy construction, the gloves didn’t get swampy. Fat knuckle protection makes these suitable for aid climbing and big walling when the backs of your hands get wrecked. They’re sized slightly small, so consider up-sizing.
Omega Pacific Solution Nut Tool
Über-smart design in a small package
Nut tools of yore had one main goal: remove stuck gear, specifically passive gear like nuts, which rely on wedging and being somewhat “stuck” for their strength. After several decades, though, it’s clear that we climbers uses these little sticks for far more than just taking out nuts, but their design has not updated along with their usage. Omega Pacific stepped up to the plate by making the Solution, which features a flat end for hitting nuts, a small nub that fits into the slots of a cam lobe, and a ½” wrench for tightening loose bolts. “Hello, can you say genius?” one tester said of the Solution after using the two-sided pronged end to clean out a crack of moss and dirt. Convenient carabiner clip goes right on your harness or a sling, and at 1.4 ounces, it weighs about the same as a large non-locking carabiner. Another reason to salute the designers: It doubles as a bottle opener for your post-climb brew.