May 5, 2007 at 7:11 am #1223098
Just got back today from three days in the Japan 'alps', near Kamikochi. Tested a lot of new gear.
Brief results now.. I will have time to write a more detailed report in a few days if anyone is interested.
Montbell #7 long :) used this 1 lb 50'F summer bag to sleep on a pad, on the snow, at 25F ambient temp. No, that is not a misprint. Love this bag.
BlackDiamond HiLight :) bombproof, no drippy condensation, rainproof.My new go-to tent at 1200g.
Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian :( zipper failed on day 2; BIG disappointment
SnowClaw :) 173 grams of multi-usefulness; shovel, seat, snow anchor, crampon tray, etc..
Montbell Versalite 50 :( wast belt failed on day 3; critical design flaw; do not buy this piece of junk.
Caldera cone :| joint failed, but new design fixes this problem, so no worries.
Black Diamond Raven Pro :) chopped ice, all types of self-belay, self-arrest easy; did it all at 14oz with a steel head.
Camp XLA 210 :) self belay, boot belay, self-arrest all OK; too light to chop ice but its a joy to carry at only 210g!May 5, 2007 at 10:04 am #1388257
A 50F bag in 25F conditions…now whats the rest of the story? : )
You'd have to be the warmest sleeping person in the world, wearing one of those suits the everest climbers wear, or sharing the tent with another person?May 5, 2007 at 10:33 am #1388258
Brett, please elaborate on your gear reviews.
If one were sharing the Hi-light w/ the person in the picture, I think 25F in a #7, would be quite possible. ;-)> Don't hit me.
The Raven Pro is a fine, reliable axe. Not the bleeding edge lightest, but a piece of gear one can trust.
I agree that Montbell packs are probably the weakest part of Montbell's line.
I would like to hear more about the conditions you used the Hi-light in, and just more in general about using an Epic tent in the generally more humid conditions of the Japan Alps ( compared to, say, the Sierra). I do think the world about Epic fabric in shelters but it seems everyone has an outspoken opinion about it's utility—-anyway, the BD Epic tents have been my go-to tents for going on 3 years, now ( when not tarp-camping).
I should run along now to today's trail run, before the Montbellistas track me down :-P— will see answers Mon.May 7, 2007 at 5:26 am #1388378
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
I keep checking back to read your opinions of the BD HighLIght, but nothing yet! Ahhh! Don't do this to us, Brett! Whad'ya thunk, whadya thunk, whadya thunk, eh? Why is it your "go to tent"? (Sorry, American expressions sometimes confuse me)
Also curious why you would call the MontBell Versalite "crap". Everything I've ever bought from MontBell, including their packs, has been extremely well constructed, with great choices of materials. Are you sure there just wasn't a bad buckle or so? And if there was just take it back to MontBell, they will do their best to correct the problem, no?
Last summer I hiked on and off in the most remote part of the North Japan Alps alongside a woman who for five days used the Versalite. She really loved the pack and had no trouble with it. So it confuses me that you had trouble with it.May 7, 2007 at 6:34 am #1388381
Miguel, the waist belt ripped on the Versalite.
Brett has a review showing the failure here:
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/reviews/display_reviews?forum_thread_id=7529&cat=Backpacks%20%2D%20External%20Frame&cid=15May 7, 2007 at 8:39 am #1388390
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Thanks Steve, hadn't noticed the update on Brett's report.
That definitely would do it and shame on MontBell for such an elementary pack design flaw!May 7, 2007 at 2:15 pm #1388447
Im on a business trip and barely have time to eat or catch a couple hours sleep. Miguel, I should have been more clear about the cause for my strong opinion. That design flaw on a structural member is inexcusable. Contrast that with the Patagonia lightweight travel pack I brought along as a 'tent bag', 'food bag', and 'bus bag'. It is designed really well; more later.. sorry again guys.
Kevin, I would estimate the humidity during the thunder storms/wet snow at near 90%; two people breathing normally (really), and still no drippy condensation, just tactile moisture all over the fabric. I kept closing the vents more and more till they were completely closed. The material breathes. I was glad I took the time to seam seal it despite the 'clear' weather forcast.
I missed having a vestibule when the winds tore the trash-bag pack covers to shreds; I just stacked the packs and relied on the sil-nylon to keep the inner sack contents dry. It worked. Boots were in the packs.
I was concerned that the tents were in an avalanche zone, but no one else seemed to care, and I am a total novice, so I eventually relaxed.
There was a lot of copter activity, with climbing rangers and an MD being flown around..
May 7, 2007 at 2:18 pm #1388449
I heart Epic Tents.
Photos—those are some lovely snow-filled couloirs I'd love to ski down.May 7, 2007 at 2:37 pm #1388454
"I was concerned that the tents were in an avalanche zone, but no one else seemed to care, and I am a total novice, so I eventually relaxed."
Unfortunately, it may well have been an avalanche zone and you were probably right to be concerned. I have to say, the snow in your photos looked pretty wet. I didn't necessarily do what the locals were doing unless it looked OK to me or there was a professional guide involved. Given the death rate in the Alps,in both Summer and Winter, I'm confident that they didn't always know what they were doing.May 16, 2007 at 8:04 pm #1389470
In fact, there were many people carrying skis up, to ski down those chutes, and there was fresh snow in the morning. Some people had really short skis, others had telemarking gear, a few strong people had downhill skis and boots.
About the avalanche hazard, I realize now some of the noise I thought was rolling thunder at night during the thunderstorms was infact small avalanches in the night. After seeing one the next day, and hearing it; I could place the sound. They were all well away from the mountain hut and tent-city.
Miguel, the BD tent simply did its job keeping water and wind and spindrift off us. At less than 3 lbs including stakes it really is my go to tent now. However, if I am just walking to a 'camping' site, and not hiking all day; I would bring a heavier REI Quarter dome for its vestibules. Thats one thing I missed on the HiLight. In fact I own the vestibule, but it is awkward and floppy due to its tube shape.
I believe if I was ready for a three person backpacking tent, I would again consider BD, and its larger epic tents.
About the 'rest of the story' pushing the 50F rated bag down to 25F; there is no secret.. I wore micropuff pants and a thermawrap top, with a wool-1 base layer. My head was a little cool, but I didn't bother putting on my hat since I could sleep. Cinching the hood right around my nose and mouth, and letting the bag loft fully allowed the inner baffles of the MB superstrech system to squeeze out most the extra air. Thus, there was little 'pumping' of hot air in and out of the bag as I breathed, because there WAS NO extra air, the bag was hugging my body loosely. I dont know if any other bag without the SS system could do this.
And by the way, the outside temp was 25, but inside the zipped up HiLights microclimate it was certainly a few degrees warmer. Still, I am very happy witht the MB superstretch + HiLight system. Its nice to know I can carry a 1 lb down bag for all conceivable trips I would take.
It seems there is truth to the idea that females sleep 'cooler', my GF was wearing my MB light alpine down jacket, and sleeping in a MB #3 down, and was STILL cool!
A note about sleeping pads; I had a 1/8" open cell foam tent mat which, combined with my MB UL mat was enough insulation to sleep on the snow. I did not need my GossamerGear Thinlight 1/8 pad at all; so next time it will stay at home. I was really worried about sleeping on snow, but turns out an insulation factor of R2.5 is enough for me.
The SnowClaw snow shovel worked great. It can really move huge volumes of snow just as quickly as a shovel of comparable size, and I used it to level the tent foundation, and then as a snow anchor for one corner of the tent. Also used it as a seat. Great product which I will always strap to my pack for snow trips.
The Stubai Universal crampons were great in the snow and loose ice. Climbing a few feeet of vertical ice though, the torque on the front points separates the rear of the crampon from the shoe. I would really have to tighten the strap down to keep it in place; but thats not what they are designed for; it was just an experiment..
About the BD Raven pro; I bought the 65cm, but should have bought the 70cm. I had to stoop quite a bit during piolet canne. It will be replaced. (Im 5' 9.5")
Kevin, if you read this, what length do you use?
May 16, 2007 at 8:37 pm #1389475
Actually, Brett, for general mtneering, I use a 70 cm axe. Much longer, it becomes unwieldy for use on steeper ground and less strong for a boot-axe belay in certain conditions—I do have to stoop for probing, but it's tolerable. Unless it's heavily crevassed terrain, I don't really use the axe for piolet canne—preferring ski poles—I would probably be on skis on that kind of terrain, anyway. For alpine climbing (not including more technical ice tools) or alpine ski touring (I really should get a BD Whippet) as well "as just in case" on some of my more extreme off-trail backpacks, I carry a 55cm axe. The shorter axe is more suitable for steeper terrain, saves weight and is the shortest axe I can use safely for self-arrest. I prefer a steel head for it's superior bite and durability over lighter aluminum.
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