Backpacking with kids? Say goodbye to your ultra light backpacking dreams, my friends, you are now a mule that needs to haul some baggage. That said, you might as well do so as efficiently as possible. In a previous life, for trips of a week you would probably use 60-85 Liter packs. That old 70L pack mighty be your new weekend pack, as kids follow along behind you on the trail. Here are a couple well designed multi-day packs, made with excellent materials, that provide big load hauling for your starter family, and plenty of room for those long distance personal trips, in your future.
Arc’teryx Altra 62 – Women’s $449.00
The Arc’teryx Altra 62 backpack, for women, has the necessary size and comfortable harness system requirements, but what elevates it above the pack pile is it’s zippered access openings and lighter weight. As, my friend, John Harlin explains in the video, the easy access reduces the time spend rummaging blindly into the dark void, of a big pack. Beware: the pivot point on this pack can squeak, annoying you and your party. This means it’s time to reapply the provided grease, as per the directions.
Osprey Aether 70 – Men’s $290
The fabric Osprey uses on the inside of the shoulder straps of the Aether 70 is very comfortable on bare skin and, the breathability of the back foam is excellent. Although the Aether series doesn’t quite have the all-access features of the Altras, the strong J-zipper on the front panel provides quick access to gear in main compartment. The slid-in side pockets, easy-to-load hydration sleeve pocket, and two hipbelt pockets for goodies are sweet features on these big rigs from Ospery.
Ever since falling into a New Zealand river, with my climbing pack on, and spending the ensuing night shivering in a wet down sleeping bag, I’ve been wary of both raging river wades and down sleeping bags. Down is an excellent natural insulation that comes from the under plumage of ducks and geese. Since Eddie Bauer patented the first down jacket in 1940, it’s been the insulator of choice for outdoor enthusiasts around the world. Down insulation, having stood the test of time, can’t be matched by synthetic insulation in terms of weight, warmth, comfort, and durability. But, there’s a catch. Down loses all of its insulating properties when wet.
On a recent trip down Oregon’s Grand Ronde river I used a MSR AutoFlow Gravity filter to treat river water for a rafting crew of 12 people. As “impure” water, from the red 3 liter bag, drained through the filter tube, into my 5 gallon jugs, I played cards by the riverside. It is about as easy a job as you can have around camp. This isn’t the case with a pump-style filter, and for a large group, pumping water takes time, concentration and elbow grease. For two people, pumping water isn’t too bad but river trips aren’t too weight sensitive so I pack the gravity system all the time.
When choosing a water treatment system it’s good to consider activities, and your group size. If you’re traveling to a Third world country, a SteriPEN or iodine tabs are compact and kill viruses, along with all the usual bugs. If you’re treating water with a lot of silt, straining the water through a coffee filter or bandana first, will help. Sometimes just boiling water is the best and cheapest treatment. Read more ›
Comfort, while wearing a climbing harness, is situationally relative. If you are mainly skiing, walking or climbing on a glacier your comfort needs will be different than if you hanging on belay, or take repeated sport climbing falls. For example, adjustable and detachable leg loops are better on a mountaineering harness, when you are changing pant layers, changing from crampons to skis, or nature calls for the squat position. Fixed or non-detachable leg loops are lighter, less clunky, and more comfortable in the climbing gym and sport climbing. Below are a couple of our harness that illustrate the features available for, roughly, the same amount of money.
Like scuba gear, crampons allow you to exist in places you couldn’t…without their help. You can stand around on a 45 degree ice slope, with a cup of tea in your hand, shooting the bull with your climbing partner, with the assurance that you won’t slide off the mountain. You can cross and climb glaciers and snow slopes, climb frozen waterfalls and scratch your way up ice crusted rock faces; all with the aid of spikes on your boots. As with last week, I’ve picked-out a few pieces because of their diverse usage and sweet pricing. Like most climbing equipment, crampons have become more specialized according to their use. I’ve included representatives from the general mountaineering and technical alpine climbing catagories, leaving waterfall, mixed climbing and ski mountaineering for a winter posting.
As you examine your ice axe, this spring alpine climbing season, perhaps this is the year your wish list axe becomes an actual upgrade. There are a few rusty-headed relics that I would like to retire, and bolt to the wall for good. It’s great to keep old tools, as memories, but it is also great to get a nice crisp purchase on couloir ice. OMCgear has some sweet deals right now, and I’ve picked a few picked tools for the spotlight.
Sometimes I end up wearing a certain piece of clothing, for days, like it’s my lucky Linus blanket. As I sit here typing in an office chair, I’m wearing the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket, and realize that I have been wearing it almost daily (except for wash days) for months. Resort skiing, backcountry skiing, apres skiing, it doesn’t really matter what I’m doing; I wear it because it’s comfortable in a variety of temperatures, and it fits really well. A layering garment that has a large temperature zone sweet spot is what we’re all seeking. Changing in and out of layers takes time away from climbing and skiing. Bulky mid-layers are restrictive and heavy, fleece isn’t wind-proof, and goose down gets wet and doesn’t dry quickly. The success of a jacket using thin synthetic insulation and small denier nylon shell material would seem obvious but it has taken years to perfect. Read more ›
Ski testers get very little respect because most people don’t consider skiing work, but noting the nuanced differences between ski models takes time and effort. And sometimes it might rain on you. The last few days I was testing, next Fall’s alpine ski line-up, on Mt. Hood, and to put it simple “skis just get better and easier to ski”.
Dave’s garage fills up this time of year Photo: Aaron Talbot
April powder might be an oxymoron but we did have some fresh whipped cream texture that made sliding around enjoyable. The mid-week powder hounds must have been biking or boating because the usual “gold rush” for first tracks didn’t show. It ‘s nice to spoon you’re tracks on a fresh slope, run after run, to compare different ski characteristics, side by side. Off-Piste magazine and Oregon Mountain Community both specialize in backcountry skiing, so our goals overlapped nicely. Read more ›
If you aren’t familiar with the performance brand Arc’teryx, their product names might be confusing. Determining what product best suits your activity is as easy as reading the name of the product. Because Arc’yeryx names their products like a scientist might name a new animal. This taxonomy is not only the name of the product, but also a set of conditions that it was designed to be used in. To help decode the product names, here’s a handy reference guide.