One more day without a post here and I would officially be lazy. Very lazy. “Last year on this day was my last post” lazy 😦
Anyhow, since I’ve saved myself that, let me get to the point – ‘good gear’. For a long time I’ve been
frugal skimping on buying good gear, often with the attitude of roughing it out. And roughing it out is good but only so much. If you’re hiking a small hill nearby, or out on a trail for a few hours, surely you don’t need a down jacket or expensive Gore-Tex clad boots, normally. Then you’re doing multi-day backpacking trips, climbing a little more involved peaks, maybe spending long hours in the snow…Now you need to upgrade!
What piece of gear and how much to upgrade??
Of course, that depends on a lot of things, mostly how committed you are to the activity and how much comfort / value addition is that upgrade going to be in the overall experience. If you don’t mind splurging all at once, you can always just go ahead and buy the best gear right away. I personally upgraded different pieces as I felt most pressed and definitely appreciate all the good gear much more, now that I can clearly experience the difference!
Ok, enough with the ‘why and how’, here’s the
shiny (or not so?!) gear… The gear listed below isn’t top of the line in its category but as always, top of the line is easy to pick; getting a great value for money with a mid-range option is the tricky part.
1. Boots – SCARPA CHARMOZ PRO II GTX MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS
Boots are arguably the most important piece of gear on a mountain and I’m extremely happy with these! As promised, they’ve held up perfectly well in hours of continuous climbing in the snow, keeping my feet dry and warm. Although they don’t have significant insulation, for peaks in the Cascades, like Baker, Adams and Rainier, these boots are more than sufficient with a good pair of socks. They have a heel welt, making crampon attachment a breeze. There are boots with both heel and toe welts but unless you’re planning on doing some serious ice climbing, you would be better off with these.
2. Crampons – BLACK DIAMOND SERAC / SABRETOOTH
BD Serac – no jagged teeth
BD Sabretooth – notice the jagged side teeth
Both are fine crampons and again, for the kind of climbs I would be doing for a long time, I believe the Serac should be more than adequate. Plus I got it on sale – guess you can be a little frugal and upgrade gear after all! 🙂
Needless to say, get the right version (strap in front, clip at the heel, if that’s the kind of boots you got – these versions are called ‘semi-automatic’. Yeah, like the guns, only these don’t reload :p)
3. Gaiters – OUTDOOR RESEARCH CROCODILE
Outdoor Research is the favourite brand of gaiters for many. They come in multiple versions (Expedition, Crocodile, Verglass, Rocky Mountain and more perhaps) – however, NOT ALL have the Gore-Tex layer. The Crocodile version is a good balance of heavy duty material, Gore-Tex protection (waterproof) and price. Having said that, I’ve already managed to make a small rip in one of my gaiters after falling with crampons on my feet. Moral of the story – it’s only a matter of when you’ll rip them, not if, so you’ll have opportunities to try out multiple options after you can’t patch them anymore! 🙂
4. Soft shell pants – HYGAGA (yup, you read that right!)
Sure, you can spend upwards of $100 on ‘branded’ soft shell pants but these generic ones on eBay work amazingly well too, for less than half the price! As long as you’re wearing a decent layer inside (which you probably will regardless) you should be good. I’ve climbed in these in the snow without any long base layer and am perfectly happy. Plus they come with zips on the thighs (at the sides) to provide ventilation while hiking on a hot day, which is very much welcome.
5. Down jacket – SIERRA DESIGNS DRIDOWN HOODIE
Amazingly warm and comfortable with great features like thumb hole, hood, chin high coverage and pack-ability (into its own pocket!)
Other jackets in similar range are the Patagonia Nanopuff (synthetic, NOT down) and Patagonia Down jackets (although the one in similar price range doesn’t have a hood and the one which has a hood is more expensive plus it has only 600 fill vs Sierra Designs’ 800 fill).
Note: Sierra Designs also makes a ‘Stretch’ version of this jacket, which in my opinion is a bad trade off of wind permeability and water resistance for the supposed extra comfort. Comparing tech specs straight from their website reveals –
Sierra Designs – DriDown
Sierra Designs – Stretch DriDown
6. Outer Shell / Rain Jacket – MARMOT PRECIP
This is an extremely light, waterproof jacket from Marmot and packs small too. This jacket combined with a down jacket inside is a very robust package of warmth and wind/rain/snow protection. Plus, when it’s too warm to wear a puffy, you can simply throw this over your base layer for a comfortable wind protection layer.
More gear advice in the next post.