Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2015 Guides Choice Awards

We have announced the new Guides Choice Award winners for the 2015 spring and summer season. Through extensive testing by our professional guides these pieces of equipment have proven to exceed all performance expectations, based on all gear evaluated over the past testing periods. Congratulations to those receiving the Guides Choice Award this season, and we thank all the manufacturers that have submitted equipment for us to review.

Mountain Equipment Kinesis Jacket

The Kinesis Jacket embodies what a functional, active insulation piece should be. The Kinesis Jacket uses Polartec Alpha insulation in the body and a gridded wicking liner in the arms. The structure of Polartec Alpha allows it to be sewn to much more breathable and open liner fabrics, enhancing the garments breathability and decreasing the weight since not as much stitching is need to hold it in place. The Kinesis' high level of breathability allows the user to wear the jacket in a wider range of temperatures and at a higher level of physical activity without becoming too hot and sweaty. The Kinesis is sure to make it in your pack for nearly all of your outings.
Mountain Equipment Squall Hooded Jacket 
The Squall Hooded Jacket from Mountain Equipment got high marks due to its lightweight, yet protective features.  AAI Guide and gear tester Chad Cochran explains his take on the Squall Jacket, "The squall jacket is awesome!  I have been super impressed by the way it packs down but still is as durable as a suit of armor.  I used the jacket in as many different venues as possible including the High Sierra, the Tetons, Bear Tooths, dessert towers of the Canyonlands, Red Rock Canyon the Alaska Range and of course The Cascades. Rock, Ice, and Snow, it does it all. I really liked the large zippers and the chest pocket.  Without side pockets this soft-shell fit unencumbered under a harness and stayed put on long days in the mountains.  The offset zipper for the hood was a nice comfort when hunkering down in inclement weather, keeping the zipper away from ones mouth.  After over 100 days of use and abuse it only managed to get a small tear in the chest pocket from having something hard stashed there while wiggling through a squeeze chimney."
Darn Tough Hike / Trek Socks
Darn Tough Socks are exactly what they say they are, tough! If you haven't had a pair of socks that lasted for years, then you need to try these out. Some of our testers have had pairs that are 4 or 5 years old and still don't have holes in the toes or heel. Made from high quality Merino Wool the Hike / Trek series are constructed to not slip or bunch up in your boot. The seams are sewn so that there are no ridges or pressure points that could cause problems while hiking. Most people just plan on buying a new pair of socks if they wear them out. If you wear out a pair of Darn Toughs, they will give you a new pair! Backed by an unconditional lifetime guarantee they fully stand behind their product. 

Petzl Summit Evo Ice Axe
The Petzl Summit Evo is a long overdue improvement on the classic Summit ice axe. The Summit Evo features a much sexier water-jet-formed shaft that makes for a very ergonomic feel when used in mid-dagger position. We found the classic pick to work very well for self-arresting and provided plenty of purchase when swinging the axe to climb steeper terrain. The wide adze was especially useful when needing to chop steps or clear away surface snow and ice before placing ice screws. The rubberized grip on the lower shaft make the Summit Evo an especially good axe to pair with a technical tool for climbing moderately steep terrain. The curved shaft clears bulges and provides a nice balanced swing.
Cassin X-All Mountain Ice Tool

The X-All Mountain Ice tool is designed to be incredibly versatile ice tool meant for climbing ice of all steepness and difficulties. One of the biggest key features of the X-All Mountain is that the grips can easily be replaced and there are even three different grip types to choose from. Regarding performance, our lead tester for the X-All Mountain, Jason Martin stated "I primarily used the tool for vertical waterfall ice climbing, and for that application, I honestly cannot imagine a better tool." The curved shaft and ideal head-weight provide a very balanced swing that does not produce pick bounce, or shoulder fatigue that you will get with some swinging other similar tools on the market.  

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