The American Alpine Institute Guides Choice Awards are being announced today at the 2014 Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. This years award winners have all been tested by AAI's professional staff and have proven to exceed expectations in performance, durability, and innovation.
CAMP’s EVO version of the legendary Tricam has two distinct improvements that make them even more versatile than the originals. The head is now tapered allowing for an additional passive protection mode, much like a standard wired nut. This taper also increases the stability of the added passive placement, making it less prone to wiggling out or walking. The Tricam EVO also has a stiffened sling so that placements can be made holding the Tricam vertically by the sling, like a wired stopper. The additional layer of material used to stiffen the sling also adds durability to the Tricam increasing your sense of security when used around sharper edges. Anyone who has used Tricams knows that they have a great range of crack sizes that they can be used in and that they are lightweight. We particularly like them in horizontal placements where a fall would most likely bend the stem of a camming unit and where regular stoppers are just a pain to place. The Tricam EVO works wonders from the wavering and pin scarred alpine cracks of the Cascades to splitter horizontal cracks of the Gunks. Many of our guides have come accustomed to carrying the 0.5 - 1.5 sizes on almost all of their rock climbs.
Delorme inReach Explorer
The Delorme inReach Explorer is the newest two-way, satellite texting and SOS device to hit the market. What sets the Explorer apart from other locating and communication beacons is that it also has built in GPS navigation features. Our gear testers found this combination of navigation and communication to be a great benefit when traveling in difficult and remote regions of the world. The added GPS navigation functionality was great for pre-trip planning. The ability to pre-set waypoints and routes using Delorme’s online map planning tools was quick and easy. While our guides are in the field our support staff can locate them, and see where they intend to go while they are following a planned route simply by checking their MapShare page. The main benefit that the inReach offers is two-way texting. Unlike other personal locator beacons the inReach allows you to compose messages and get replies in the field rather than picking from a few preset ones and then not being able to get a reply. Messages can also be sent from one inReach to another allowing multiple parties in the backcountry to stay in touch with each other. By downloading the Earthmate app to your smartphone and Bluetooth pairing it to the Explorer, sending text messages and viewing maps is incredibly easy. Because the inReach uses the Iridium Satellite Constellation, it acquires a satellite fix quickly and offers truly global coverage without dead-zones or down-times that other carrier constellations are plagued with. Messages that were sent to or from the inReach were delivered very quickly, usually in less than one minute. Because every message that is sent from the inReach has your location attached to it, recipients can always keep tabs on you as you travel. The inReach really allows for quick and easy communication during non-emergency situations, but still offers the SOS option in which search and rescue can be summoned to your location with the push of a button. After an SOS has been initiated, emergency responders can communicate with you via text messages to learn the specifics of your emergency. The inReach Explorer is the ideal satellite communication device for any recreationalist that ventures beyond cell phone range.
When it comes to softshell pants for alpine climbing there are several requirements that need to be met. They need to be comfortable, durable and seasonally versatile. The Mammut Courmayeur Advanced pant exhibit all of these qualities very well. Constructed from Schoeller Dryskin with 3XDRY technology, the Courmayeur has exceptional breathability and quickly transfers perspiration from the inside of the garment to the outside. The exterior of the Courmayeur is very water repellent and sheds snow or a light rain well and dries quickly in the event that they do become wet. One unique technology that the Courmayeur has is the application of Coldblack. This application is applied to the fabric and prevents the absorption of UV light, keeping the fabric cool to the touch. Coldblack made the Courmayeurs noticeably cooler on a bright sunny day on the glacier, even when wearing the black colored ones. The Courmayeur Advanced pants can also take a beating and just keep going. High wear areas like the knees, rear and cuffs are reinforced with a durable ripstop material. Despite AAI guides using them for many days in a row, on ice, snow and rock, they still look quite new, and will hold up to many years of use and abuse. Many of our guides climb snow and rock in the summer, and climb ice and ski in the winter. The last thing they wanted was to have several pairs of softshell pants to fit all of the activities they would be doing. The Courmayeur did fantastic for year-round use no matter the type of activity.
Our staff of guide testers found the Salewa Pro Guide to be an excellent four season mountaineering and ice climbing boot. The Salewa fit was spoken highly of, especially the roomy toe box and the ability to isolate different lacing zones for an almost custom fit. This adjustability came in handy for when temperatures dropped into the teens on those perfect ice climbing days when blood circulation to the toes can’t be compromised. Salewa also makes a wide last to accommodate climbers with particularly wide feet or for those who just don’t fit the narrower euro fit of other companies. The Pro Guide had better traction than every other boot we have ever tested. The super deep lugs of the Vibram sole gripped well in every type of terrain, from soft and loose, to the steep and slabby. The key feature that sets the Pro Guide apart from other boots the ability to change the sole from a flexible ¾ shank, walking mode to a completely rigid climbing mode. This adjustment is easily made with a turn of an allen wrench. A piece of spring steel that runs the length of the boots sole is either tensioned, or loosened, making the the sole rigid or flexible. In our initial tests one of our testers did strip the mechanism that adjusts the sole, but Salewa has since fixed the issue by using a larger hex size and using a more durable material in the cylinder. In walking mode the Pro Guide handled longer approaches and descents much more comfortably than full shank boots, and climbed and cramponed in steep terrain phenomenally in climb mode. While leading a trip in Bolivia, one of our guide testers stated that “I was able to walk a gravel road for several miles and then with the same boot, kick away at some hard blue ice. The ability to switch between walk and climb modes means no longer dreading approaches or descents from a trip in the mountains.”
Compared to chemical purification methods, the use of UV light to rid water of bacteria, viruses and other water-borne pathogens leaves no taste, is not harmful to your kidneys if needing to purify water over long periods of time, and is over 99.99% effective when used properly. The SteriPen Freedom offers a lightweight chemical-free way to purify water when in the backcountry or traveling abroad. The Freedom has several great features that our guides liked. The first is the size. At a little more than 5 inches long and only 2.6 ounces, the Freedom is the smallest and lightest SteriPen offered. It can easily be carried in a shirt pocket, or slipped into the lid of your pack to be at the ready. Another feature that our guides particularly liked was the USB rechargeability of the Freedom. On longer trips our guides used a solar panel to ensure the battery is always topped off and was never any worry about running out of juice to purify water. On a full charge you can expect to get around twenty 1 liter treatments, or forty ½ liter treatments. We put the Freedom to test in Bolivia where water quality can be less than ideal due to contamination from llamas and other pack type animals. Despite three weeks of exposure to this iffy water, no water-borne illnesses were developed thanks to the SteriPen Freedom.
--Jeff Voigt, Guides Choice Testing Manager
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