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Blundstone Boots Review – 4 Sports, 1 Day, 1 Pair of Blundstones

I’ve reviewed a lot of gear over the years and sometimes it’s hard to think of new ways to test things. This one, however, was a lot of fun: 4 sports, 1 day, 1 pair of Blundstones. This is how the review starts:

Blundstone boots are the de facto footwear for the mountain town I live in. They’re so ubiquitous, the entrance way to house parties resemble a Blundstone factory floor. I remember one New Year’s Eve bash in particular where there were about 20 pairs of the boots by the front door and at the end of the party, CBC Journalist Bob Keating was dismayed to learn a particularly exuberant reveller had taken home his size 12s, and left him her size sevens. Despite their popularity, I had never owned a pair of Blundstones, preferring my Chuck Taylors even in the soppiest of weather. So when I was given a pair of black, leather-lined, round toe #558 boots to review I admit it took me a long time to leave the Chucks behind and start stomping around in them. In fact, my first few goes with the Blundstones were a bit uncomfortable: there was a particular spot that pinched around my ankle but very quickly the leather moulded to my foot and they were good to go.

At that point I looked into the company and learned it was started by John and Eliza Blundstone in Hobart, Australia, way back in 1870. It’s since changed hands a few times and is now owned by the Cuthbertson family who continue to operate the headquarters out of Tasmania, but most of the boots have been made overseas since 2007. (As of this writing the company makes 37 different kinds and colours including steel-toed work boots, kids boots and winter-specific boots with Thinsulate insulation.)

Read the entire review on Mountain Culture Group.

Bouldering in Blundstones. Not recommended.

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 North Face Alpine Project Jacket

“Breathe!” my belayer yells up at me. I’m climbing a 5.12 sport route that’s so overhung the rain can’t reach me…until I get to the top out. Despite his reminders, I’m holding my breath and straining over the roof on soaked rock. I may not be breathing, but my jacket certainly is. I’m wearing the Alpine Project shell, part of The North Face’s Summit Series Collection, which is made from the new, three-layer GORE-TEX Active Shell fabric. The company claims it’s one of the most technical membranes they offer and I can certainly attest to its breathability: despite the humidity and the fact I’m nervous as Hell on this climb, I’m dry. There are some other attributes of the Alpine Project that I’m enjoying, but there are a few things I’d change as well.

Read the entire review on Backcountry Skiing Canada.

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 High Trail Evotec Skins

Nova Sport AG, the Switzerland-based parent company of the High Trai brand, was founded in 2005 by Yvonne Rochat and since then has tried to perfect climbing skin technology. For years it offered the Classic, which is a glue-based, 100 percent mohair skin, but now the company has ventured into the “glueless” market with its Evotec skins, which are 65% mohair and 35% nylon. There are other companies that have been attempting to perfect the “glueless” skin but just like the traditional ski skin market there have been some growing pains along the way. The challenge is coming up with an adhesive formula that works in all kinds of conditions, from -30°C to +5°C and in light and dry snow or soaking wet slush. Not an easy feat but High Trail claims to have created a silicone-based adhesive coating that it says “has remarkable performance characteristics that are ground-breaking when compared to conventional adhesive skins.” In this review, we put to test the company’s claims about the Evotec skins.

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