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Plum Binding Review – Why I’ll Never Buy Them Again

Plum is a ski product manufacturer out of Europe that, about a decade ago, was one of the few companies other than Dynafit that made tech bindings. Since then a number of other companies have gotten into the tech binding manufacturing market, such as G3 and Salomon, and I would highly recommend purchasing any of those other offerings and staying away from Plum.

The reason for my opinion stems from the fact I’ve been skiing on Plum bindings (specifically the Guide M’s) for the past four years. On the upside, the bindings are incredibly light — the lightest on the market in fact at 670g a pair. But as with all lightweight gear, there is a cost. And it’s a cost that is too high for anyone to pay, in my opinion. I’m referring to the fact the bindings are prone to breaking and when you’re in the middle of the backcountry, that could spell disaster.

Last year I snapped one of the pins on one of the toe pieces of my Plum binding, rendering it useless. I was just coming off a slackcountry run near Whitewater Ski Resort, and had entered inbounds on a groomer when it happened. I chalked it up to the fact maybe I was turning with too much force on the groomer. I asked about a warranty but the company just said I’d have to buy a replacement. I was offered a discount of 153 Euros (close to $300 Cdn) for two toe pieces, which I thought expensive because I only needed the one and so I purchased a toe piece on the SkiMo website for just over $100.

This is the second toe piece to have snapped in as many years.

It needs to be said Plum bindings now come with a three-year warranty – but in my opinion that doesn’t mean much if, in the fourth year, your binding breaks and you’re left stranded somewhere.

Sure enough, this year while skiing near Crusader Cabin in the Kootenays, the exact same thing happened on the other toe piece. The pin broke while I was skiing light powder and it was definitely not a forceful turn. This last experience had me trudging up a logging road in ski boots to get back to the cabin. Thankfully a snowmobiler picked me up after about a kilometre and saved me the majority of the distance. However, what if this had happened on a steep run on nearby Arlington Peak? I could’ve been seriously hurt or at the very least would’ve had to posthole many kilometres back to the cabin.

I’m now questioning the quality of the alloy used in the production. According to the company it has been greatly improved in recent years but too little too late in my opinion. Some of my friends have Dynafit bindings that are a decade old and they haven’t snapped in the middle of any of their backcountry runs.

I cannot stress enough that, for safety issues, I cannot recommended Plum bindings and would seriously stress that you avoid them and chose a more reliable tech binding manufacturer such as Dynafit.

Review of the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 50 OutDry Pack

Review of the Julbo Classic Vermont Sunglasses

I had never even seen a glacier when I first donned a pair of Julbos in the 1980s. Sunglasses have come a long way since then but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that, for its 125th anniversary, the France-based company relaunched its classic Vermont mountaineering glasses. Founded by Jules Baud, who originally made goggles for masons, Julbo is now a brand name synonymous with adventure eyewear and they’ve outfitted such legendary mountaineers as Yannick Lord and Eric Escoffier. Today, the company makes over 50 different styles of sunglasses, mostly using plastic and various polymers, and they all have a styling that I would consider distinctly “Euro.”

To read more about the Julbo Classic Vermont sunglasses, including their highlights and shortcomings, check out my review on the Mountain Culture Group website.

Review of the Black Diamond Nitro 22 Backpack

Utah-based Black Diamond has no shortage of backpack offerings. In fact, the company makes about 70 different kinds of packs and that doesn’t include the Gregory line of backpacks, which parent company Black Diamond Inc. owns. The new Nitro line (which comes in a 22L and 26L versions) is one of the smallest they make (the only smaller ones are the Bullet, Magnum and BBEE) and their intended use is day hiking, although I took mine on a few cragging excursions as well as one multi-pitch rock climbing trip.

To read my thoughts about this pack, including its highlights and shortcomings, check out my review on the Backcountry Skiing Canada website.

Review of the Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15 Sleeping Bag & Q-Core Sleeping Pad

Recently I was asked to review the Big Agnes Lost Ranger sleeping bag and Q-Core insulated pad – a sleep system that subscribes to the theory that down is useless crushed under your body weight and instead you should utilize the sleeping pad’s insulating qualities. The Lost Ranger bag only has down in two-thirds of its structure and the pad slides into an integrated sleeve on the bottom of the bag. In other words, you can’t really have one without the other so if you already have a sleeping pad that you love, this product probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a interesting sleep system that has various pros (and cons), then check out this review.

To read my entire review of the Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15 sleeping bag and Q-Core sleeping pad, log on to the Backcountry Skiing Canada website.

Review of the Sea to Summit Talus TS3 Sleeping Bag

When I was asked to review a Sea to Summit product, specifically the Talus TS3 sleeping bag, I jumped at the chance to check out something made by a company I respect so much. The Talus series of sleeping bags isn’t made from eVent fabric (unlike my favourite compression dry sacks made by Sea to Summit) but instead features a 2D NanoShell outer shell that the company says offers excellent breathability and water repellency. There are the 1, 2 and 3 series which correspond to weight and temperature rating – I was sent the TS3, which is one of the company’s warmest bags out of the 16 it manufactures. Unfortunately, given the mild winter we had, I didn’t have the opportunity to really test the claim is was comfortable in -17°C conditions, but I did get a chance to check out the other features.

To read my entire review of the Sea to Summit Talus TS3 sleeping bag, log on to the Backcountry Skiing Canada website.

Review of the Mountain Hardware Scrambler 30 Backpack

Recently I was asked to review the Mountain Hardware Scrambler 30 Backpack with the new proprietary “Outdry” technology. According the company this new laminate is added to the inside of the pack and forms a “waterproof” membrane – perfect for alpine climbing situations that may get a bit damp. What I learned, though, is that it’s definitely not perfect for total submersion. Here’s a quote from the article:

“Evidently there are two kinds of ‘waterproof’ in the world. There’s the ‘waterproof’ that describes scuba diving dry suits, Ziploc bags and the feathers on a duck’s back. And then there’s the ‘waterproof’ that Mountain Hardware uses when referring to its new Scrambler Outdry Pack.”

Read more about this pack’s highlights and shortcomings in my review on the Backcountry Skiing Canada website.

Review of the Black Diamond Element 60 Backpack

Backpacks are a tricky thing – you don’t want too many bells and whistles because they’ll just increase the weight, but you don’t want a garbage bag either. I tend to prefer those packs that fall into the middle of the road: just enough straps to keep everything in place but without dozens of pockets, external cords and an espresso machine. Utah-based Black Diamond offers about 70 different packs so most likely there’s something for everyone in its quiver. (And that doesn’t include the Gregory line of backpacks, which parent company Black Diamond Inc. owns.) In the case of the newly launched Black Diamond Element line, the company is looking to appeal to the “minimalist-minded weekend backpacker” who is looking for a “streamlined and lightweight top-loader.” The Element comes in a 45-litre and a 60-litre option and the equivalent line in the female-specific category is called “Elixir.” Both models feature Black Diamond’s proprietary “reACTIV” suspension system and “SwingArm” shoulder straps that the company says articulate and move with you while you’re hiking over uneven terrain, thus reducing fatigue. When I looked more closely into this system, I learned that what the company is trying to do is have certain parts of the pack move with your body rather than remaining static so that when you bounce and swivel over rocks and roots, the entire load of the pack isn’t forced to move with you. The SwingArm straps have a stainless steel cable running through them that ensures they remain relatively friction free while allowing for greater movement and the waist belt isn’t affixed to any part of the frame, which means it too can move freely without bringing the entire weight of the pack along for the ride.

To read the full review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.

Review of the RAB Neutrino 200 Down Sleeping Bag

I’m a hot guy in bed. That is, my body is like a 6-foot furnace when I’m horizontal for the night. And when I sleep outside, that furnace seems to kick into overdrive. I’ve spent more than one evening lying in a tent wishing I could just tear a hole in the fabric to increase airflow. Suffice to say, I’m really picky when it comes to sleeping bags – I don’t want a quiver of them so I’ve spent 25 years searching for the perfect one. It has to be comfortable but streamlined; breathable but not drafty; light and small when rolled up; and (here’s the kicker) it needs to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. That last point is a big ask but I have faith. When I was asked to review Rab’s Neutrino 200 down sleeping bag recently, I knew it wasn’t going to fulfill all those qualities (it’s meant for lightweight use such as cycle touring in moderate climates) but I respect the company and I kept an open mind. The Rab brand was started in 1981 by its namesake, British alpinist Rab Carrington and, four years ago, the business expanded into the North American market after opening an office in Boulder, Colorado. Today, Rab offers everything from clothing and packs to tents and, of course, sleeping bags.

To read this entire review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.

Review of the Exped Ultralite 500 Down Sleeping Bag

In 2009 Exped completely changed my backcountry sleeping experience. Until that time I had endured innumerable nights on a well-known brand name sleeping pad, which was like sleeping on a slice of tissue paper. No matter how tiny the rock, root or rodent underneath me, I could feel every poke and prod the second I lay on my back. Then along came Exped’s Downmat 7 and suddenly I was sleeping on what felt like a warm, queen-size mattress. And I didn’t have to sacrifice that much weight! So when I received the Exped Ultralight 500 sleeping bag to review, I was curious to see if the company would further transform my backcountry snooze experience – and I wasn’t disappointed. The Ultralight 500 is comfortable, cozy and, above all, light. In fact, this bag is all about gram savings: by incorporating a super light-weight fabric, a 3/4 length zipper and 840 fill Down, Exped has ensured the Ultralight is indeed well named.

To read the full review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.