“Just the right balance of stiffness and agility,” said one tester after three days of summer mountaineering above Chamonix, France. Credit the dual-density PU midsole with a full polypropylene shank for ultra-stable frontpointing and a flexible nylon notch for unencumbered ankle movement. “On low-angled glacial terrain, I could feel the pronounced rocker propelling my strides forward, even with crampons on,” said our tester.
Mountaineering Gear and Ice Climbing Gear
Every season, the latest gear promises more breathability or warmth or weather protection. But which pieces work so well you can forget they’re there? And which should just be forgotten? From crystal-clear days on cracks at Lumpy Ridge to hail and heart-stopping thunder in the Black Canyon, we reviewed more than 100 articles of clothing to bring you the best of the bunch.
What makes a pant superior isn’t just about what it does do, but also about what it doesn’t do. It shouldn’t hinder upward progress; be too tight or too baggy; make you sweat or itch; look unstylish; have too many or too few pockets; or interact poorly with your harness and other gear. From the Alps of Switzerland to Boulder Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park of Colorado, the Miage didn’t do any of those things, acting as a perfect all-around pant.
With around 30 backcountry testing days, from climbing Utah ice to teaching avalanche courses and skiing in the Pacific Northwest, the Helix proved its worth as a perfect “quiver of one” waterproof/breathable shell. Polartec NeoShell’s updated membrane is more permeable than the previous version, allowing air to pull moisture away from the skin at the first sign of sweat, rather than building up moisture before it’s released (which causes that clammy feeling).
“Although I was skeptical at first, this piece has revamped my layering system,” said a tester who took it ice climbing for 14 consecutive days in Utah. It was so windproof and breathable, one tester wondered, “How do they do it?” Eight-hundred-fill down on the front and back torso insulated key body parts, and FlashDry Pertex Quantum GL nylon on the sleeves and sides blocked the wind while wicking and drying sweat.
Three testers raved about this midweight fleece after using it across the world, from bouldering in Hueco Tanks, Texas, to climbing alpine routes in Patagonia. “It was the most efficient midlayer I’ve ever worn: It warms without overheating, and it breathes in all the right places,” one tester said. The Pontetorto Technostretch fleece provided plenty of insulation in the torso and arms, while a lighter version of that fabric allowed more airflow under the arms and around the hips.
This solar recharger has been around for a few years, but it got a sizeable downgrade (in a good way) this year, now weighing just 1.1 lbs. The whole kit (recharger, Nomad 13 solar panels, AC inverter) can charge anything from a smartphone to a laptop.
We’ve given this tent a lot of ink (and our sister pub Backpacker gave it an Editors’ Choice Snow award), and for good reason. From Everest to Peru, testers raved about the ideal combo of mountain-worthy features and livability that’s rare in four-season tents.
Swiveling waistbelts and “dynamic suspension” are becoming pretty common among packs, but for its new line of mid-sized packs, Millet is doing something unique. The pivot point lies several inches above the lumbar pad, in the middle of your lower back. Our testers said these innovations significantly increased stability and carrying comfort: “It moved with me when I was boulder-hopping on the way to the Petit Grepon in Rocky Mountain National Park,” one tester said.
Puffy jackets keep your upper half warm, so why not don some puff in the southern hemisphere? Our tester wore these PrimaLoft-insulated pants winter camping in four western states and raved about the light weight (11 oz. for a medium), packability, and warmth in temps as low as 8°F.
Leashless tools are great—until you drop one from the fifth pitch of an alpine route (though a guide we know met her husband that way). Cassin’s new tether makes drops inconsequential, and numerous innovations make this tether more versatile than its competitors. For starters, each of the three attachments (harness and two elasticized tethers) swivels independently from a connector at your waist.
A “workhorse for a variety of climbing” is how our main tester described the burly, 36-liter Alpinist Pro after using it for everything from ice routes in Washington’s Cascades to rock climbs in Arizona’s Cochise Stronghold. Despite weighing only 2 lbs., 10 oz., the pack has plentiful features.