First stop, check out WildSnow supporter B&D’s Dynafit “tech” compatible crampons. Bill has filled out his line, now offering standard sizes 80, 90, 95, 102,110 millimeters (and 120 or 135 available on special order).
All B&D crampons are now built with the slightly thicker alu Bill began using last year, and with a new reinforcement rib that’s bent up on top (see photo below).
Dynafit compatible ski cramps work best when they’re close to the width of your skis, snug so they resist any side-to-side torque. More available crampon widths make it much easier to achieve this good fit with various ski widths.
Bill is also working on a sweet tech compatible binding heel unit (pictured above) that’s super light, and converts from having a centimeter of for/aft adjustment to an even lighter unit with no adjustment range, similar to other “race” style tech heel units.
Next, Pacific Outdoors. These guys make a variety of stuff, but what stood out for me was their sleeping pads. They’ve really gone overboard on the tech, even including Aspen Aerogel under the torso area. That’s the “nano” unobtanium stuff that insulates well in mere millimeters of thickness. Using body-mapped Aspen Aerogel in a sleeping pad was an application that immediately occurred to me when I first saw the stuff being marketed, that time in a shoe insole. So good.
Also from Pacific Outdoors: They’re known for their drybags, so they applied that technology to a series of reusable ziplock bags made of nylon fabric, with clear plastic windows. The “Pneumo” bags (sounds like a medical device, eh?) come in quite a few sizes said to match those of common ziplock plastic bags. I don’t know about you, but we spend a ton of money on ziplocks every year, for use as everything from cell phone drybags to storing snowmobile parts. I’ll probably not use my Pneumos for greasy car parts — but they’ll work great for the cell phone or our favorite $20/pound cave aged Gruyère cheese that’s worth treating like gold.
On to La Sportiva for my promised assignation with Stratos carbon AT boot. Sure enough, there she was, svelte and glowing, waiting… Whoops, sharing too many details there.
Let me just say that Stratos, at an estimated MSRP of $2,200, is perhaps a very expensive date. She’s cool though, in that the Stratos liner is incredibly well integrated with the shell. Thing is, carbon don’t flex, so the liner has to work with your foot to give a carbon boot the feel of a conventional ski boot. In Stratos this is done with an ingenious method of combining an interior strap over the ankle with the usual external buckle which closes the lower shell. Cuff of course has a one-step close and downhill latch system, and so forth.
Only problem I could see with this admittedly pre-production Stratos sample is a closure system that’s quite complex. The boot industry tried this with the Dachstein AT boot many years ago. The Dachstein had a cuff system that had to be closed just so, or it would break the first time you flexed the cuff. Problem was, few people would take the time to close the Dachstein correctly, so the boot never went over great even though it had an amazingly comfortable walk mode. Stratos didn’t look that sensitive to breakage, but definitely had a user learning curve for getting them on your feet correctly. It’ll be interesting to see if that flies.
Mainly, I was told Stratos is the “tip of the pyramid” in terms of a full line of AT boots to be eventually birthed by Las Sportiva. My hope is they’re all carbon. I mean, the future is now, right?
As for the initial sticker shock at the Stratos $2,200 MSRP, after thinking about it I realized we’re talking a culture that’ll drive a rusted out Subaru with $20,000 worth of bicycles on the roof rack and wear a $300 jacket while splitting firewood. A couple of thousand for ski boots? Pocket change.
I got away from my expensive La Sportiva date ASAP (especially after I figured out she was anorexic and only weighed 2 lbs) and headed over to the Brooks Range Mountaineering house of gadgets for some more level-headed geekism. Best thing over there (other than the Rocket tent blogged yesterday) is a new packable rescue sled which is used in “drag bag” style. In other words, constructing this sled with skis is not necessary, though optional.
Skis really don’t make a great sled anyway, and they take time to construct, so for an appropriate injury this “drag bag” sled is a good idea. Fast. You’re a mile from the hut and someone blows out a knee. Throw ’em in the drag bag and they’ll be in the hut RICEing before you can say “watch out for that avalanche!”
I don’t know what it is about this OR trip, but it sure has a geek theme. So next stop was of course Garmin to play with GPS units for an hour. Oh the sacrifices we make!
I was having some trouble with Garmin’s GPS units not being what I thought of as user friendly. My Venture HC just seemed unnecessarily difficult to use for following a trackback, and I simply could not figure out how to accomplish certain things with the menus. Turns out most of my trouble with trackback was due to me expecting too much of the unit, when in reality I need the better Vista HCx that has an electronic compass which enables a more intuitive display of the track as you follow it. Which brings me to my main point about Garmin.
Garmin indeed has some impressive units, but their line is incredibly confusing with 27 (give or take a few) different handheld GPS “navigators” — and that’s not counting the wrist units. Even a shop employee related to Albert Einstein would have trouble keeping 27 GPS units sorted out in her or his little head, and forget a time harried blogger doing it. Garmin must have their reasons for this wealth of toys, but it seems crazy.
Shopping challenges aside, one of the most important features an alpinist or backcountry skier needs in a joystick controlled GPS is a control lock. Sadly, not happening with the Garmins of that ilk. As for the impressive touch screen units they were showing, I’m assuming these do not have a control lock in a conventional sense, but probably do have a way of blanking the screen so every bump and scrape doesn’t result in menus flashing and grinding their way to insanity. More about that when we get a test unit.
One last thing for today. I was looking around for cool stuff and found this high strength polymer carabiner. Not for climbing, but super light and very strong. Perfect utility biner for the lightweight backpacker and such. More info at ITN Military Products, though I don’t see this biner on their site yet.
That’s all the show highlights for now, more tomorrow or perhaps later today. Working it hard so we have lots of backcountry skiing gear review resources for the coming months — and the advertisers to support that!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.