September 11, 2014

Dirty Girl Gaiters

Dirty Girl Gaiters

Of course we all hate scree gaiters, but the darned things tend to be useful—particularly (as is often the case) when we’ve decided not to bring them. Leave the scree gaiters at home, and you can bet that easy trail hike you’re expecting is going to turn into a steep field of calf-deep sand and gravel, where a nannyish voice will continuously snark in your ears if only you’d remembered (more…)

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September 4, 2014

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor

The only thing wrong with La Sportiva’s Ultra Raptor is that it’s not a mid. For ultra-class hikers and runners, this is an outstanding all-day shoe. The Ultra Raptor is reasonably light (I’m measuring my US 10.0 pair at one pound, ten ounces, post-use), eminently stable, and confidence-inspiring in that most critical of metrics—extended use comfort. La Sportiva specs this as a medium/wide fit (more…)

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August 27, 2014

Black Diamond Speed 22

Black Diamond Speed 22

The Speed is back—sort of. In its original, 2005 edition, Black Diamond’s Speed backpack was a masterpiece of light-is-right design. The original, 30-liter Speed backpack gave us a floating lid, side compression straps, a stiff single-stay frame, and not much else. For fast travel with heavy loads, the pack was and is just about perfect. Big ski mountaineering day trips? Check. Desert hikes that demand (more…)

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August 15, 2014

Sony A7S

Sony A7S

Here is what I remember most about film: not the waiting, to get your slides back, but the anticipation. Film added something to every shot, a twist of scene or color or light, a dash of magic that took the mundane and made it art. Digital is not like that. We’ve gained in many ways incomparable advantages by switching to ones and zeros, but in those quantized bits surely anticipation has long since given way (more…)

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August 5, 2014

Salomon X Ultra Mid

Salomon X Ultra Mid

Salomon is well known for cutting-edge trail runners, but can they make a Mid? Yes—and it’s a good one. The X Ultra Mid GTX is rugged, stable, and very light. I admit I absolutely obsess over hiking shoes—and in particular, the mid category. Many of us prefer hiking in the lightest shoe possible, but still need the support of a heavier shoe for bearing overnight loads, scrambling over talus, or crunching vertical (more…)

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July 24, 2014

Mountain Hardwear Optic

Mountain Hardwear Optic

Let’s call Mountain Hardwear’s Optic 3.5 a car-camping tent with backpacking aspirations. The Optic isn’t light, but it is abundantly livable. You get 45 square feet of floor space and a 48-inch interior height. Combined with the Optic’s innovative marquee feature—a 180° view—all that space makes for a very comfortable interior, downright roomy for two adults, and easily big enough for three (more…)

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June 24, 2014

Sony RX100-III

Sony RX100-III

Is it possible the closer we get to perfection, the farther away it seems? The updates to Sony’s third-edition RX100 digital compact are practically a wish list of the impossible. How about a wider, brighter 24-70mm Zeiss lens, for starters? How about a bright, high-resolution pop-up electronic viewfinder? And how about Sony’s Bionz-X image processor engine, which confers the holy grail of HD video (more…)

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April 30, 2014

The Vipec’s Viability

The Vipec's Viability

In the immortal words of Lee Lau, NEVER TRUST A FIRST GENERATION TOURING BINDING YOU MORONS. I found myself admiring the clarity of Lee’s admonition as I was pondering the spectrum of reviews on Fritchi’s Vipec tech binding—or should we call it a nouveau-tech binding? Either way, the Vipec is both a remarkable evolution and a vexing reminder that technological advances are rarely without their hiccups (more…)

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April 18, 2014

Kabookie vs. Bonafide

Kabookie vs. Bonafide

Short answer: I prefer the Kabookie. I’ve played around with both skis for over a year now, and for my body weight (about 145lbs), I’m just not seeing much benefit from the Bonafide’s full metal sheet. Kabookie and Bonafide are geometrically identical—same sidecut, same dimensions. The principle published difference is that metal sheet, which extends full length on the Bonafide, but only underfoot for the Kabookie (more…)

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April 10, 2014

Tecnica Mach1

Tecnica Mach1

New for the upcoming 2014-2015 season is Tecnica’s Mach1, which employs what Tecnica calls a paradigm shift in ski boot construction: designing “from the inside out.” By this, Tecnica means they’ve built the liner to fit the foot, and then built the shell to fit the liner, instead of the reverse. Don’t other boot makers already do this? Yes, to some extent—obviously they’re not oblivious (more…)

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