Yeah, we’re back again at the temple of gear just a few blocks from the real Temple here in Salt Lake City. Sometimes I think I’d be more comfortable doing some prayer meditation over at the Tabernacle, but checking out what’s being done in the secular world by industrious humans is fun too. We had a few important contact appointments today that will bear later fruit. For now, I took a quick walk between business meetings to see what caught my eye.
While you won’t see much ski stuff at the summer OR show, many of our favorite backcountry focused gear folks are still here. Am stopping by BD today for the party line on changes at their company. More on that later.
For now, I did drive by La Sportiva and get the skinny on what’s happening with Vapor Nano, still probably the lightest backcountry ski (per surface area) on the market and a top favorite. We were paranoid they’d increase mass of the retail version. Happy to report they claim it’ll maintain same mass, with cosmetic chipping at the edges of the top-skin mitigated by the formerly white topskin having some darker grey at the edges so the black substrate doesn’t contrast so much.
Be that as it may, Vapor Nano is an expensive plank and costs what it does for a reason: it skis and it is light, so a bit of easily repaired cosmetic stuff is in my view a non-issue. Really, on most skis you can repair cosmetic chips the same way you detail tiny dings in your car paint — it you want to go that far.
In other ski info today, Benedikt ‘Beni’ Boehm of Dynafit is over in the great range attempting to climb and ski two 8,000 meter peaks in the same trip — another in the trend of expedition “enchainments” that seems to be picking up speed. Rumor has it this trip will theme a new ski from Dynafit called the ‘Double 8.’ According to insiders at Dynafit, all this surrounding a branding slogan “committed to the impossible.” Best wishes to Beni, alpinism on the 8,000-ers can be tricky, something he of course already knows having been through everything from apocalyptic snowstorms to the tragic Manaslu avalanche.
Goal Zero is a mandatory stop. While you can cobble backcountry PV systems from the many battery packs and portable panels available worldwide (take a quick look at Amazon), these guys continue to provide integrated gear with emphasis on everything: function, reliability, and even appearance. New this year is this sweet little “Venture” waterproof 30 watt-hour battery pack. Both USB connectors are the higher amperage variety that’ll give your device a quick charge if you’re rigged for it. Obvious LED lights indicated level of charge.
Showmanship demonstrates water resistance of Venture 30. In our view, any backcountry battery pack needs a modicum of moisture resistance, the more the better.
Goal Zero Sherpa 100 doubles the previous 50, lots of connectors including higher amperage USB.
We’re not big on endless backpack coverage of the seemingly infinite variety of rucksacks pumped out of China like smartphone cables, but I always stop by Mystery Ranch because they continue their aura of authenticity. Main take from them is their Blackjack airbag backpack will continue, with easier access to the pockets and otherwise the same mass and design. In their other packs, their line will become more cohesive in design, with a couple of lighter weight offerings in their ‘X series’ that are a welcome departure from their durable but admittedly heavy rucksacks. For example, at upper right notice their new ‘Ice Bag X-40’, which they designed with diligent crowd sourcing at ice festivals. With a roll top and minimalist feature set you could use this for speed alpinism or thru hiking — and it appears configurable as a ski pack.
I always stop by SOL to see what’s new in stylish mylar, as they continue to make some of the lightest, smallest and most affordable emergency bivvy sacks. Essentially, nearly any group of backcountry skiers should carry at least one SOL to cozy up a friend if you’re waiting for a rescue.
The SOL bivvys you want to consider. We prefer the two breathable versions, Escape and Escape Light (5.5 ounces). New this year you can get the Escape in a green ‘camo’ version (we’d still recommend the rescue orange color, but perhaps you need to make a game blind or surveillance shelter from your bivvy sack. In any case, since these things are so useful and can be had at reasonable prices they make nice gifts for backcountry folk.
At first I thought this SOL 5.8 ounce sleeping pad was a gimmick, but then I kept thinking. Combine with the 5.5 ounce Escape Light bivvy and you’ve got what could be a super effective emergency shelter at about 11 ounces, and you’re on snow so no worries about punctures (though they say you can easily repair with ‘scotch tape’). The lightweight backpack crowd will probably go crazy over this, though without internal insulation a blow-up air mattress is not as warm as it could be.
Since we’re on the subject of sleeping mats and pads. Sea to Summit has made a startling progression from basically selling drybags to their present line including sleeping bags and beautifully engineered blowup ‘airsprung’ mats with synthetic insulation (also available without insulation). This appeared to be super lightweight and highly functional — keep your eye on them.
I always glance at the ropes in the climbing product ghetto, it’s overwhelming but a few are always tempting as ski and glacier cords. In this case, Beal offers their 7.3 mm ‘Gully Unicore’ coming in at only 36 grams per meter, fully waterproof and with their Unicore sheath bonded to the core. This is the good stuff. A 30 meter chunk would mass at a kilo, super.
Back at it again today. Overall, positive spirit of the outdoor industry continues to evidence and with nice weather here in SLC we’re enjoying a brief respite from logging and driveway improvements up at WildSnow HQ in Colorado. Though I’ll admit I feel the chainsaw calling my name.