2012 Guides Choice Award Winners
We have announced the new Guides Choice Award winners for the 2012 spring and summer season. Through extensive testing by our profesional 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.
Our guides found the Black Diamond Compactor Poles to be extremely convenient due to their use of Z-pole technology. Unlike most three section poles, the Compactors can break down to less than 16 inches long, making storage on or even in a pack easy. This was much appreciated by our backcountry snowboard testers. Although the Compactor poles are not as durable as other three section ski poles on the market, they still stood up well to the use and abuse that our ski and snowboard guides put them through. Climbers will find the Compactors great for use on the approach and easy to store on the climb. Flicklock adjustments allow for 20 centimeters of adjustability. Interchangeable basket design allows the Compactors to be used with powder baskets for winter activities or with trekking baskets for summer hiking and climbing.
The Camp Blitz Harness is one of the lightest harnesses that our guides have ever tested. Typically the lighter the harness the less features you get. This is not the case with the Blitz. Despite only weighing in at only 7.2 ounces the Blitz still offers four gear loops, an independent belay loop, two ice clipper slots, drop seat, and adequately wide waist and leg loops. The Blitz is ideally suited for ultra light alpine climbing, or expedition climbing.
The Corsa Nanotech Ice Axe is a perfect example of Camp thinking outside of the box when it comes to ultra light ice axe design. The combination of a 7075 aluminum shaft and head keep the axe very lightweight while a bolted on ultra hard but lightweight Sandvik Nanoflex steel pick and spike add durability to the high wear areas. The Corsa has a bent shaft that allows for some clearance if climbing steeper neve, yet still plunges cleanly for lower angle climbing. At only 8.8 ounces the Corsa is the perfect choice for ski mountaineering, ultra light alpine or high altitude climbing.
All climbers want carabiners to be lightweight, yet need them to be large enough to easily clip. The Camp Photon Wire carabiner is full size and weighs in at only 29 grams. A veteran AAI guide states "The photon is the best carabiner for alpine and ice climbing on the market today. It sports a massive gate opening, huge basket, and is easily to clip with gloves on." In all of our testing the Photon was preferred for it's larger size over other lightweight carabiners on the market as well as its smooth gate action that ensures an easy and secure clip.
We found the Stretch Neo Jacket to feel more like wearing a softshell than a hardshell. The outer fabric is more supple and quiet than most hardshells making it comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. The two napolean chest pockets make for easy access while wearing a backpack. The sizing runs a little larger than most other jackets, but this did allow for layering under the jacket without feeling constricted. Guides raved about the extremely high level of breathability while still being fully waterproof. The oversized hood fit over every ski and climbing helmet that we could get out hands on. When ice climbing the Stretch Neo stays put at the waist and did not ride up when swinging tools overhead.
Rab Stretch Neo Pants
When we test waterproof breathable pants usually we are making sure that they can keep you dry from the outside elements, but it turns out that the Stretch Neo pants not only do that incredibly well, but as one of our Denali testers found you can dry already wet pants while wearing them. In his words, "These pants were most amazing during a rainy day on the lower Kahiltna. It was June 12, and for whatever reason we were receiving sideways 34 degree rain for about two hours. For whatever reason I decided not to wear my hardshells this day, and opted just to wear my softshell. After about two hours of getting rained on, I decided to put on the Stretch Neo Pants. I figured this would be pointless because I was already soaked. We traveled for another 30 minutes before having to stop and set up a cook tent for the team (the rain was that bad). As I sat, I noticed that my pants were starting to wet through a bit. I realized that they weren't wetting out from the outside, but rather from the inside. It was still raining by the time we started moving, but only lightly at this point. By the time we got to camp a few hours later, I looked down and noticed that the Stretch Neo Pants appeared completely dry, and water was beading up on them. The NeoShell fabric actually allowed a saturated fabric underneath to breath well enough to dry out, while still remaining waterproof to the outside elements. This was absolutely astonishing to me, and had me completely sold on these pants."
Polartec has raised the bar for the performance of waterproof breathable fabrics with the development of NeoShell. The way that NeoShell differs from other waterproof fabrics is that it allows for two-way air exchange allowing for an easier transfer of water vapor out of the garment. Polartec understands that for a fabric to be fully waterproof, it only needs to have a hydrostatic head rating of 10,000 mm, which is a measure of resistance to water penetration. Most other waterproof breathable fabrics on the market have a rating of 20,000 mm, which prevents two-way air exchange, thus making the garment less breathable. All of the AAI testers found NeoShell garments to be fully waterproof and super breathable. One tester states, "NeoShell is as comfortable and breathable as a softshell, yet is still totally waterproof. When conditions are bad and there is no option but to endure them, NeoShell is my insurance for staying dry from the elements as well as my own perspiration."
Hilleberg has always been known as a 4-season tent manufacturer, but this year they debuted a new line of 3-season tents. The Anjan is a tunnel tent much like it's 4-season predecessor the Nallo, but is 20% lighter thanks to the super-light, extremely durable Kerlon 1000 outer fabric, and a trimmed up rain fly that does not go all the way to the ground. The Anjan is an ideal climbing tent for summer outings in the Rockies, Sierra or any time that you most likely will not need a 4-season tent. In warmer conditions it's high level of airflow helped keep the tent comfortable, while in damp conditions kept all condensation at bay. Starting at only 3 lb 3 oz. the Anjan is one of the lightest, comfortable, double-wall 3-season tents on the market.
The Petzl Micro Traxion boasts all of the awesome features that the Mini Traxion has, but is almost 50% lighter and has a 20% more efficient pulley! At only 85 grams our guides had no problem slapping the Micro Traxion on their harness for glacier or alpine use. The Micro Traxion weighs about 35 grams less than a lightweight pulley and the prussik loop that would need to be combined to do the same job that the Micro Traxion does by itself in a crevasse rescue situation. The 91% pulley efficiency is noticeable in hauling applications and its more compact design takes up much less room on the harness. The ability to turn the progress capture on and off makes the Micro Traxion extremely versatile in nearly every type of climbing from mountaineering to big-wall climbing.