Tuesday, August 3, 2010

AAI Guides Choice Awards Announced!

This year the American Alpine Institute presented five awards at the annual Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. The equipment and clothing awarded the AAI Guides Choice designation have proven to be of the highest quality in their product category. The awards are determined on the basis of excellence in design, performance, and durability demonstrated in rigorous international field tests conducted by professional guides of AAI. Evaluations are made throughout the year in desert, cold weather, rain, snow, high wind, and high altitude environments. The American Alpine Institute has no financial ties or financial interest in any manufacturer or distributor. All testers and their expenses are paid by AAI.

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:

John Baldwin – Exploring the Coast Mountains on Skis 3rd Edition

http://www.guideschoice.com/scripts/prodView.asp?idproduct=1050If you are a backcountry skier looking for a tick list that will last you the rest of your life, then John Baldwin’s newest edition of Exploring the Coast Mountains of Skis is it! This ski guide is packed full of ski trips that range from Washington States North Cascades Region, north to the Panhandle of Alaska. The 3rd edition packs an excess of 300 ski trips, more than 125 additional trips compared to the previous edition! A larger format and better photos make this guide more worthy of a coffee table than a bookshelf. Baldwin includes every detail for each trip including, number of days, distance, elevation gain, topographic map references, difficulty, and time of year to go! The route descriptions are very clear, concise and easy to follow. This book is easily one of the most comprehensive ski guides there is.

Black Diamond – Couloir Harness

http://www.guideschoice.com/scripts/prodView.asp?idproduct=1063When on a ski trip or climbing in glaciated terrain, the last thing that you want is a big bulky harness. The Couloir Harness from Black Diamond is the perfect ultra light solution when space and weight are primary concerns. Weighing in at a scant 8 ounces and the ability to pack down to the size of your fist, you won’t think twice about which harness you will bring on your next trip into the mountains. Just because it is lightweight does not mean that Black Diamond has left out any features. The Couloir comes with two gear loops to rack gear and four slots to insert ice clippers to rack your ice screws. Quick release buckles on the leg loops allow the harness to easily be put on or removed even if you are wearing crampons, or skis. If that isn’t enough you will be happy to see that there is also a dedicated belay loop and haul loop, two things that are generally hard to find on an alpine style harness. The Couloir Harness is by far the most full featured ultra light alpine harness on the market!

Edelrid – Madillo Helmet

A helmet is essential to safety when climbing, but they are always awkward to pack away when it is not being used, and no one wants a helmet swinging from their pack as they hike down a trail. Edelrid has designed the Madillo helmet to remedy this problem. The Madillo has the ability to be folded up into a very compact package that will fit nearly anywhere in your pack! The Madillo’s side panels slide up into the top of the shell and the back panel folds inward reducing the helmets volume by nearly 50%. Two different densities of foam are used strategically to ensure comfort and shock absorption. Our guides reported that, “The Madillo performed much better than other helmets” and “The packability sets this helmet in a category all to itself”. The Madillo is the most innovative advancement in helmet technology that the sport of climbing has ever seen!

Kayland Boots – Hyper Traction Boot

One of the biggest challenges for any alpine climber is to find a pair of boots that you can use in a variety of conditions, and different styles of climbing. Kayland’s Hyper Traction boots have proven to deliver these qualities! The Hyper Tractions are packed full of features and technology to keep your feet warm, dry and comfortable. With the Vibram® Teton Sole you are guaranteed the grip that you need when hiking and scrambling. The A5 board lasted construction will give you the stiffness you need when edging on those small features when on alpine rock. The combination of Dryver®, Primaloft® and event® in the lining provide the essential warmth and dryness for those spring climbs in glaciated terrain. If that’s not enough, the Hyper Traction’s also have their own Schoeller® gaiter to keep the snow and scree out of the top of your boot! As one of our guides puts it, “These are the only boots I have used in the last five years that not only do the things I want as a guide [and] they do everything I want as a climber”. From climbing alpine rock and ice in the North Cascades, to mountaineering at over 20,000 feet on Bolivia’s Illimani, Kayland’s Hyper Traction boots have proven to be one of the best all-around boots there are!

Patagonia - R1
No matter what activity or what season; the Patagonia R1 will have a place in your pack. The R1 has been made worthy of being part of the American Alpine Institute guide uniform. The Regulator® Insulation Technology gives the R1 superior warmth to weight ratio. Worn alone the R1 makes a great light insulation layer, or paired with other layers it can boost your warmth on those cold days in the mountains. The interior grid pattern made from Polartec Power Dry® allows for better airflow through the fleece therefore decreasing dry time if the R1 becomes wet. Patagonia has paid attention to detail in the R1 by offsetting the shoulder seams so that they do not cause pressure points while wearing a backpack, As a good steward to the environment, Patagonia is using polyester material that is made up of recycled items, such as scrap fabrics, plastic bottles, and even old garments that have been turned back into Patagonia through their Common Threads Recycling Program!

--AAI Guides Choice Staff

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