A core group of AAI professional guides conduct Guides Choice field tests year round, throughout the world. Tests may be completed in a single long season (for example five summer months of intensive climbing in South America), or over several seasons (for example McKinley expeditions in the spring and Himalayan expeditions autumn). Because of the intensity and constancy of use, the wear and stress that gear receives during these tests corresponds to many years of use by a recreational climber.
The following products won this year's Guides Choice award:
Rab: Super Dru Jacket and eVent Technology
Rab advertises the following information about their jacket:
Fully protective light weight mountaineering jacket in eVent 3 layer fabricAAI guides have found this jacket to be incredibly sturdy. The American Alpine Institute award went to this particular jacket after all 28 of our regular guides gave it a universal approval.
- Total weight: 400g.
- Lightweight eVent 3 layer fabric with abrasion resist on high stress areas
- Fully protective wired peak helmet compatible hood with volume adjuster
- Single water resistant front YKK zip with internal storm flap and rain drain
- 3 outer map sized pockets with water resistant zips
- Adjustable cuffs and hem drawcords
The Rab Jacket was manufactured with eVent fabric which is a major upgrade from GoreTex. It breathes far better than GoreTex and doesn't leak.
The Rab Jacket has been tested in incredibly diverse environments. Guides have thrashed through steep wet slide alder wearing the jacket in the Cascades, have fought their way up the heavily vegetated gullies in Red Rock Canyon in it and have worn it to the top of Denali. The jacket held up to each of these different adverse environments.
CiloGear: WorkSack Backpack Series
CiloGear brought us an absolutely phenomenal product this year. Their Worksack series is currently the in pack for alpinists from all over the world.
CiloGear has been working with us since 2007 and we have seen them go through generations of packs. After a great deal of work and a great many designs, they have created a very very good pack.There is a misconception in a great deal of the pack construction out there. Some believe that the best way to build a pack is to add lots of extra straps and lots of extra flaps and lots of extra zippers that don't do anything for performance. CiloGear didn't do this. Instead, they created a perfect pack for the alpine climbing guide and the recreational climber alike. It has clean construction with no extra bells and whistles to get in the way of the pack's performance.
The CiloGear packs are light. They are versatile. And they are durable. This is the perfect storm that makes a pack close to perfect.
Drymax: Drymax Socks and fiber Technology
Drymax has completely revolutionized the way that we think about socks.
Most sport sock manufacturers claim that their socks wick the moisture away from the foot quickly. While this may be true to some extent, the question is, where does that moisture go? The fabric in a sock that wicks sweat away allows the moisture to adhere to the sock, which ultimately makes the sock wet. The sock may dry quickly when laid out in the sun, but that doesn't help you while your foot is inside of a boot. Wicking fibers require evaporation to dry and little of this happens in the closed environment of sport footwear.
Drymax has devised a fabric which forces the water through the sock and away from the foot. This helps keep the foot dry inside the boot. This may seem like it's been the goal of every sock manufacturer out there all along, but the science to make this happen has never been there before to do it right. Drymax is the first sock manufacturer to really do it right. The socks do exactly what they're supposed to do. They help keep your feet dry!
Cascade Design: NeoAir sleeping pad and Technology
Sleeping pads are almost universally problematic. They tend to be bulky. They tend to be uncomfortable. And when sleeping on the cold ground, they tend to be cold. The biggest problem of all is that if one does not get a good night's sleep, summit day will be all that much harder.
The combination of these problems leads to the reality that your sleeping pad is one of the most important pieces of gear that you carry. A poor sleeping pad could actually result in a climber's failure to summit!
The NeoAir sleeping pad breaks all the molds and stereotypes. It is exactly what a climber needs to be successful. First, it is one of the lightest air mattresses on the market. Second, it is literally three times warmer and more comfortable than its competitors. And third, the mattress packs down to the size of a water bottle. These three factors make this product absolutely awesome.
The NeoAir is designed with two sides, a summer side and a winter side. When the mattress is laid in its summer orientation it is slightly cooler. When it is laid in its winter orientation -- for sleeping on snow or the frozen ground -- it is significantly warmer due to technology which reflects the heat back up.
Every single guide who tested this product said that they wanted one immediately. Indeed, the guide's who have tested this particular product keep asking if they can "just use it for one more trip..."
Over the years we have tested a variety of solar technologies in the extreme environments of the Alaska Range and the Andes. In that time Brunton has gone through a number of generations of solar panels. The Solais Solar Panels and the technology behind them are the most durable, compact and effective on the market.
The Solais Panels are far smaller than the competitors but still provide a good amount of power per square inch. This is thanks to their new Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide (CIGS) technology. It is this technology that also allows the panels to collapse to a very packable size.
On this year's American Alpine Institute Denali expeditions, our guides were repeatedly asked if other teams would be able to borrow our Solais Solar Panels so that they could charge their technology. This is because no other panels would work in the low light. We were always able to get a charge, no matter how bad the blizzard.
Julbo: Bivouak Fully Fashionable Fuctional Glacier Glasses
Every guide at the American Alpine Institute wears Julbo glasses. This is because they are universally recognized as the premiere eyewear for mountain activities throughout the world.
Guides are always looking for versatility in the products that they choose to use. And while the other Julbo products are excellent, the Julbo Bivouak stands out. The Bivouak is fashionable and functional. This product has magnetic side-shields which allow for a lower level of light penetration while working in the snow but allows a quick and easy transition to higher ventilation and a more fashionable look when off the snow. This is due to the low profile easy-to-use side shield attachments.
Cost, versatility and fashion make this a highly useful product for guides and recreational climbers alike.
To learn more about the Guide's Choice testing program, click here.