I am living the dream. After 12 years of weekend warrior-ing, I have left the corporate life behind and chasing a life filled with passion, adventure, and of course, gear!
In between travels, I am a professional snowboard instructor in Lake Tahoe.
A mountain man at heart, I am an obsessed snowboarder. In summers you can find me climbing mountains alpine style, hanging at the local crag, skatepark or point break.
Camelbak Crux Water Reservoir
A good option
Quick and Dirty: This water bladder is a workhorse. I own the 2L version, and I’ve taken it on all my adventures over the past four years. It is particularly nice to have in spring and fall, because in winter the tube freezes without an insulation sleeve and summer the water heats up. All in all, it is a durable piece of equipment that I love More detailed review: How I tested it: I’ve had the Camelbak Crux 2L for about 4 years. I’ve taken in on several day backpacking trips, day hikes, splitboard touring, and freeriding. I’ve probably used it 100+ times. Overall rating: I’d buy again. What I like about it: - Easily connects to most compatible packs - Long tube - Good locking feature to keep water in when not drinking - Durable - Shape fits most packs What I dislike about it: - Hard to clean - Water in tube heats up in summer - Water in tube freezes in winter The nitty gritty: Full disclosure, I don’t think I am a bladder person. I prefer carrying a nalgene or some other water bottle because I am constantly paranoid of the bladder breaking or the tube freezing. Plus, the water that remains in the tube gets hot and tastes like plastic in the summer. If you do like bladders though, this one is hard to beat. It comes in various sizes, but I chose the 2L because I like to drink a lot of water, even on short day hikes. The 2L of water does come at a weight cost though (4.4LBS!!!). The Crux has been pretty sturdy over the past 4 years, I usually toss my packs around quite a bit, and the Crux has never ruptured. About 2 years in the bite tube did break, but Camelbak sent a free replacement within 2 weeks. Like all bladders, the tube is prone to freeze in winter and heatup in summer, without proper insulation. The bladder is also hard to clean, like all bladders are. The reason why I would buy this bladder again is because of it’s durability and its shape. The shape tapers down to follow the shape of your back. At first I thought it would be a small issue keeping more weight on top, but actually it balances quite well. All in all, I do think bladders are useful in certain situations, so if I ever need to replacement my Crux, I would replace with the same model!
Mammut Element Barryvox Avalanche Beacon
Best beacon on the market
Quick and Dirty: This is the go to avalanche beacons of all my friends and guides in Switzerland. It is simple (not too many features), accurate, and has excellent range. There is an updated version, but I will keep with the one I have for years to come! If you are playing in the backcountry, this is a mandatory piece of equipment, and there is nothing better than the Barryvox! More detailed review: How I tested it: I have owned this rescue beacon for 5 years. I use it every time I am snowboarding, whether on piste or in the backcountry. Total uses are probably around 400. I have never had to find someone in a serious avalanche, as the few I have been in have not buried anyone, but have used it in training many times. Overall rating: I’d buy again. I’ve recommended to all my friends. What I like about it: -Simple to use screen -Easy to use in multiple burial situation (easy “marking” function”) -Range of 70m -Very durable -Great battery life What I dislike about it: I struggled to find something to dislike, so the below is really splitting hairs. - The chest holster is a bit lackluster. It doesn’t stay in one place that easily, although, I rarely notice it. When searching “near”, less than 1m, you have to be careful not to move too quickly Suggestions to improve it: Update the chest strap to be more solid. The nitty gritty: I use this device every time that I am in the snow. In the resort or out, it doesn’t matter. Even if you are skiing/boarding in a resort and you are inbounds, avalanches can happen. I saw it this year in France and in Lake Tahoe. Further, I always want to be able to help search in an emergency situation, so I carry it with me. It is light weight and not cumbersome. There is no reason not to be prepared. I’ve used the Barryvox for 5 years now, and before that, I had a Peeps. While the Peeps was not too bad, the Barryvox blows it out of the water. The construction of the Barryvox is very high quality. It is compact, has a solid hand feel, and can take a beating. Turning on the Barryvox is a cinch. You choose between “Search” and “Send”. Immediately after turning the system to send mode, which is the mode you need to transmit your location, you’ll have about 3 seconds to choose whether or not to enter the group check mode. The system is quite simple, and works well for checking devices at the trailhead. When in “search” mode, the onscreen demands are clear for pointing you where to find people who have been buried in an avalanche. I personally think that the flagging system for a multiple burial scenario is one of the best I’ve seen. As you lock onto a signal, a simple click of the one side button flags that person. It’s onscreen visuals also clearly show when you switch back and forth between one signal and another before locking it with a small icon. The beeping system to help indicate whether you are further or closer is an amazing feature that gives you auditory responses so you can keep scanning the avalanche trail for clues. The beeps get faster as you get closer or slower as you move further away. A nice touch on the back of the device is the graphics that remind you of the best practices of search techniques. It’s not a replacement for the classroom, but helps in a pinch. The device is also small enough to fit in your thigh pocket, if you prefer that instead of the harness (which I sometimes do). All in all, this is a great beacon. I highly recommend to all my friends!
Black Diamond ATC Guide
My go to belay device
There are a million reviews on this device already, so I just want to add a short addition. I highly recommend anyone who wants to climb multi pitch to get this belay device. I've used it hundreds of times on everything from gym climbing to multi-pitch sport climbing. I don't really use it for belaying on Alpine climbs, as it's too slow. I use a carabineer instead. This is my go to device for it's simplicity and effectiveness. The double tube allows for single or double rope climbing. The tube is designed for ropes as small as 8.0mm and as large as 11mm. I've personally only used ropes ranging from 8 to 9mm. The guide mode is perfect from belaying off an anchor. I tend to only use this belay device. On multi pitch climbs I also carry a backup, just in case someone drops theirs. I did that once, and my ATC fell 300 feet to the ground. I retrieved it afterwards, and there was no signs of damage. These belay devices are light (80g) and strong. I highly recommend!!
Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Short-Sleeve Shirt - Men's
Good looks, but will they last?
High level view: A shirt doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to look decent, be durable, and dry quickly. This t-shirt hits on all fronts. Detailed review: I am 5’10” and weight about 170lbs, and the Small fits me perfectly. It is not too big and not too tight. It fits quite casually, yet is still cut well enough not to look baggy. I guess you can call it a tailored look. I have multiple of these shirts, and wear them more or less daily. I’ve climbed the Matterhorn in one, I’ve done yard work in one, and I’ve done a lot in between. The shirt is light weight and soft. I really like them because they are just simple t-shirts. Mine do not have any obnoxious logos or anything. My favorite thing about these shirts is that, no matter how much I sweat, and I sweat a lot, the shirts just don’t stink. This is great for multi-day alpine climbs, travelling, or just being lazy with the laundry. I try to make most my clothes be equally useful in town as they are in the mountains, and I think these shirts hit the mark. My biggest concern is durability. They are light weight, and I do a lot of climbing, which is hell on light weight clothes. One shirt already developed some friction holes near my hip, so I imagine that these shirts while amazing, will have some durability issues. Final say: these shirts look and feel good, and that they somehow are able to not retain my funky sweat smell is great. I don’t think I will buy more of these shirts though, due to some suspect durability. My active life style is a bit too abusive on these light weight shirts, which is a pitty, because these shirts are so great in all other aspects.
Black Diamond Crampon Bag
Nothing technical, just does it's job!
High Level Review: The black diamond crampon bag is a classic. I’ve used it for 5 years now, and it is still in great shape. The bag is mesh on top and heavy duty nylon, and in my 5 years, I have not managed to puncture it, even after stepping on it a million times in the crampons that it normally carries. More detailed review: This is the only crampon bag that I own. Not that I think it is much better than others, it just happens to be what I bought on a whim. A crampon bag is a must, it keeps your pack neat and organized, and more importantly, keeps your crampons from stabbing things that it shouldn’t. There is nothing technical about the bag, just works well. One note though, the material does have a funny texture, so if you are sensitive to weird texture, this might be a bit much to handle. I have a thing with texture, and thinking about it makes me wince a bit. Obviously, it is not bad enough to make me want to give up it :)
Patagonia Fjord Flannel Shirt - Men's
Great shirt for the winter
A shirt for me is simple, it has to fit well/look good, be durable, and be soft. This Patagonia flannel hits all the requirements. My wife jokes around that it is my city to mountain shirt, because it is so at home in both places. This flannel is definitely something I only wear in colder weather. It is thick and warm. In the spring or fall, it is perfect because I can wear it by itself (I run hot), so no need to bring a jacket with. In the winter, I just need a light jacket over it, if I am not outside too long. The flannel does seem to run small though, so keep that in mind when buying it online. I've had 2 versions of this shirt, and I will keep them both for a long time. They are definitely durable, so they are perfect to buy used when you see them on Patagonia's used gear website.
Sea to Summit XL-Bowl
Perfect do-it-all bowl for the trail
I have owned a version of this bowl for almost 10 years now, and it has accompanied me on too many trips around the world to count. I love this bowl for its simplicity. Although it is not the lightest of the bowls out there on the market, it weighs less than 4oz and can be used as a bowl, a plate, measuring cup, and a chopping board. The bowl is big enough to fit in an entire meal for a very hungry backpacker. My wife and I often just share the one bowl. I love that the bowl is collapsable and packs flat, which has come in handy when overloading my bag. The sides of the bowl are made out of food grade silicon, which are quite durable. My original X bowl (same design, but a tad bit smaller), finally got its first tear after almost 10 years of use. I can still use the bowl for non liquid items (pasta, rice, etc). The ridges of the silicon size act as a measuring cup, which is a nifty feature, although I don’t really use it for that. The base is pretty solid and designed to be used as a cutting board, which is probably my favorite feature of the entire bowl. Prior to having this bowl, I always struggled to cut/chop on the trail. It is dishwasher safe, so when you get home from the trail, you can just pop it in, which makes clean up way easier. Overall, I love this bowl/plate for its multi functionality, durability, and price point ($18 MSRP). If you are looking for a light weight yet durable plate, this is a great option!
Deeluxe Spark XV Speedlace Splitboard Boot - Men's
Best splitboard specific boots on the market
Quick and Dirty: These boots are not for everyone. These boots are for the experienced splitboarder, that knows what they are doing. They are very stiff, high volume, beefy boys for splitboarding and/or big mountain boarding. These boots are not ideal for cruising the resort. When you have something designed by Xavier De La Rue, you know you have a serious boot on your hands. I love these boots, and am so thrilled I bought them. They are rugged, durable, comfortable, and perform incredibly well while splitting up the mountain and while descending. More detailed review: How I tested it: I have used these boots 175 times. Although they are designed for splitboarding and backcountry boarding, I have used them a bunch in the ski resort as well. I have used them in -25 degree F, howling storms, and bluebird days. I have used them in everything from crusty traverses to deep powder. To climbing ridge lines in crampons to bootpacking up. I have thrown a lot at these boots, and they have lived up to the hype. Overall rating: I'd buy again!! Green friendliness: I have worn almost 200x, and I think they have another 200x at least left in them. Because of that, I give these a gold star. What I like about it: - Very stiff (7/10) - Speed laces make adjustments very easy - semi-automatic crampon compatible - great grip on the soles (Vibram) - Amazing board feel What I dislike about it: - very bulky (high volume) - C3 speed laces are impossible to repair in the backcountry - expensive The nitty gritty: The boots were developed with the help of one of the most gnarly snowboarders of our time, and they actually live up to the hype. The boot was designed for splitboarding, and has a pre-shaped collar and added strap that allows you to get a little bit more range of motion while splitting up the mountain. The lacing system is called C3 speed lacing, and while to took me a while to get used too (I used to be a traditional lace snob), I do see where there are some advantages. I still like the old school lacing system best though, because if you break a lace while in the backcountry on these boots, it is impossible to repair. I use this boot every day now, mainly because I was too cheap to buy another pair of boots for riding the resort or deeper powder, where having flex is generally a good thing. So I will keep this review only on their intended use (splitboarding and backcountry). I love splitboarding in these boots. The boot is quite still (7/10) and there is an option to get stiffer by buying the TPS shield (I did not). Going up in these boots is a breeze. While you don't get the same range of motion as the Jeremy Jones boots made by 32, I find you have enough movement not to hinder you at all. That being said, my friends swear by the JJ boots. The DEELUXE boots win major points on traverses. They are very steep, and you don't get much ankle flex, allowing you to keep powering through the traverses, and more or less keep up with the skiers in their hard boots. When things get super steep, and you need to take off the planks on your feet, the DEELUXE boots will keep you safe and sound. I have boot packed up some pretty steep stuff, and the waterproof membrane kept my feet dry, while the vibram kept me from sliding. One of the cool features with this boot is that their is a heel lock for semi-automatic crampons, which is great for when things get serious. My semi-auto crampons don't fit this boot properly, which is a shame. I use some universal crampons, and while they work ok, I would rather have the security and ease of attachment of the semi-automatics. So if this is a "must have" feature for you, you better test your crampons before buying. Descending in these boots is great. There is not much flex, but enough to allow you to transfer a lot of lower to the board. You have to be a strong snowboarder to ride these boots properly. If you are a newbie, I would hold off until you have a few years experience under your belt. For me, these boots offer the right amount of flex / power transfer / board feel. I can feel the board really well when riding, despite the high volume. The soul of the shoe is a bit thinner than you would expect, which helps minimize the toe/heel drag. There is enough cushion for stomping jumps onto hard pack snow, while not being too cushiony. I prefer these boots for descending steep couloirs (40 to 50+ degrees) because of their stiffness and power transfer. If you are riding deep powder in 30 to 40 degree slopes, you honestly don't need anything this still. Overall: I love these boots and recommend them to all my friends. They are not the cheapest on the market, but these things were built to last. The stiffness and power transfer is exactly what you need for splitboarding, split-mountaineering, and riding steep couloirs. I happen to ride these everyday, but that is definitely not what they are designed for. So if you are looking for something splitboard specific, I would go with these. It is probably also worth checking out the Jeremy Jones 32 boots as well, as the DEELUXE boots are a little high volume.
Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
One helmet to rule them all
Quick and Dirty: This was my first climbing helmet, so I don't have too much experience with others, but I would buy this helmet again. This is a classic helmet that you will see at most Crags around the globe, and for good reasons. Adjustable helmet (boa style system), low profile, and light weight, this helmet has everything I want. It hasn't had any serious direct hits to it (thankfully!), but offers good protection from small stones or in one case, my climbing partner's nail clippers. More detailed review: How I tested it: I have used this helmet for 3 years of outdoor climbing, which probably totals 60x or more. I have used it on single pitch routes, multi-pitch sport climbs of up to 400m, and alpine climbing. Overall rating: I'd buy again Green friendliness: I am not sure about this. It seems to be durable and will last a while, but I would not buy a helmet used. What I like about it: - low profile for a climbing helmet - easy to adjust suspension system allows to quickly put on or take off beanies, hats, etc - headlamp clips - weight (s/m = 11.6oz!!), while not the lightest, definitely doesn't feel like much on your head. - great air vents! What I dislike about it: - not the most comfortable when wearing a hat underneath - scratches and dents quite easily - expensive The nitty gritty: Prior to this helmet, I was one of those guys who didn't wear head protection on outdoor climbs. It's not that I was too cool, although I am cool, it was more that I thought I could mitigate the need through careful climbing and observation. That is false. I bought this helmet after a climbing partner got hit with a natural rock fall, luckily for him, he was wearing a helmet. I tried on quite a few helmets before settling in on this Half Dome helmet. I ended up buying this helmet for a few reasons, the main one being that it was quite comfortable to wear in the store. There is a dial on the back of the helmet (like a BOA system on snowboard shoes), that allows you to easily crank the helmet tighter or loosen it up. I often have difficulties regulating my heat, so I am always putting on/taking off head gear, so having this system that allows the helmet to quickly adjust to multiple sizes was crucial. I can also loan it out to friends of various head sizes, which is a nice bonus. The helmet also has a cool system for allowing your headlamp to be attached. It is extremely complicated to describe, I spent 10 minutes trying multiple ways to describe it clearly, but it is impossible. So trust me, the system is cool. Black Diamond describes it as "streamlined, lightweight headlamp clips", and although I did have a few issues with the light popping off, it was rare and more user error than helmet design flaw. The helmet does seem to scratch and dent easily, although I don't think it impacts its safety impact. After a couple weeks, my helmet already looked well loved, which is good for me, because I get slightly embarrassed when I walk around with new gear. I use the helmet most frequently for sport climbing, and it is light weight and non-obtrusive enough that I hardly ever notice it is there. On multi-pitch climbs, I can wear it for 3 or 4 hours before I start to notice it, but I notice it mainly because in alpine and / or multi-pitch climbing, I usually where a baseball cap underneath to shield my eyes. It is a bad habit that I developed, and need to cut out immediately. So if you wear a baseball hat while you climb, you might feel some discomfort after a few hours. But you should be fine with a Buff or a beanie. The helmet is pretty light, and I do not really feel it when I throw it in my pack for the approach. Sometimes, if I am out of space in the pack, I just wear it on my head. There are plenty of air vents on the helmet to keep your head cool, even in the heat. Overall: Climbing helmets should be replaced every 7 to 10 years (more frequently if you climb often), and after every significant impact. If you are in the market to replace your helmet to do age or impact, go for this helmet. It is a great do-it-aller, and while expensive, is one of the most popular helmets on the Crag for a reason. Please think of the environment when upgrading gear, you don't need a new helmet every two years. Scratches are cool, and the longer you can safely use your gear, the better!
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
All arounder that keeps me seeing in the dark
Quick and Dirty: This is my go to headlamp. While it is not really bright enough for mountain biking or snowboarding at night, it does the job for everything else! The Storm is light weight (4oz), waterproof up to 1m and submersible for 30m. There are red, blue, and green lights for hunters, or those wishing not to light up the whole forest. Coming in at 350 lumens, it casts a beam of about 85m, and is pretty much the torch bearer for headlights on the market (at this lumen category). More detailed review: How I tested it: I have used this headlamp for a bit of everything. Over the past 3 years, I have probably used it 150 times. I have used it for taking leisurely walks at night on unlit trails, finding things in dark spaces, rock climbing as the sun goes down, general camping, and splitboarding. I have used it in the rain, but never tested the 1m deep waterproof claims. Overall rating: I'd buy again Green friendliness: It is a durable lamp, so it will last a long time, and they are common, so it is easy to find used. What I like about it: - Light weight - Water proof - enough lumens to light up the road - Easy to use dimming feature - comfortable on the head (great headband) What I dislike about it: - Hard to switch between the colors - Complicated system of tapping, holding buttons, multi pressing buttons to change the settings. The nitty gritty: I really like this headlight. I have used it for so many different things in the past 3 years, that I really do not have much to complain about. The headlight is light weight, feels good on the head, and has a cool bevel feature that allows me to tilt the lamp up and down, depending on whether I need light directly in front of me or a bit further out. I have never really made use of all the colored lights, partly because I don't really know what they are used for (I don't hunt), and partly because I find the system to change between light colors a bit complex. You have to double tap the power button, or is it one short and one long tap?, either way, I find it confusing and hard to remember for whatever reason. One feature that I do find nifty is that you can tap the side of the lamp with a finger to dim or brighten the light. I found this quite useful while climbing at night, so I did not have to hold down the power button to change the brightness, which is the other way to do it. There is enough light to go for a hike, a run, or climbing. Essentially there is enough light to do sports that don't fly you down a mountain at fast speeds. I have used this light for splitboard touring under a full moon, and while there was enough light for skinning up, I would have liked more for the going down. I have used this also on new moons, and the descents have been terrifying. I have even resorted to putting an additional lamp on a ski pole, so that I have two light beams. Long story short, this light is not meant to turn night to day, but rather to provide you a beam that can shoot out about 85m and provide reasonable lighting for most activities. Coming in at 4oz, it is quite light for the lumens (350). If you are looking for a new headlight, I can fully recommend this for most situations. Honestly, I have used some of the ultra lightweight headlamps, like the Petzl e+LITE, but the light is just so meek, it is not worth it. This headlamp is a bit heavier, but doesn't take up much more space. It has so far proven to be very durable. If you are clumsy like me, don't worry, this thing can be dropped about 1,001 times, and keep on pumping out the light. The durability also means that this is a great used gear buy!
Black Diamond Moji Lantern
A do it all lantern that does the job
High Level Review: This lamp is small and bright. I’ve used it in my camper van, car camping, as a light in my house, and also used it in place of my porch lighting at home. I like how small and portable it is. Device: Coming in at a whopping $20, you can’t go wrong if you are looking for a do-it-all lantern. I’ve used this lantern in a ton of different situations, and it always delivers. The lantern is LED, so energy efficient, and has a dimmer, so you can adjust the brightness, which was great for the times that I was stealth camping in my van. Max brightness is a 100 lumens, so bright enough to light the space around you, but is not going to shine light on an entire campsite. My favorite feature is the double hooks at the bottom of the lantern allowing you to attach it to a lashing inside your tent, a wire run by your campsite, or just about anything. I’ve attached it to a thin tree branch before and that worked great. I’ve heard some people have quality issues with them (not working out of the box), but I’ve never had any issues, and despite a lot of hard use and little upkeep, this thing keeps on working like new. Black Diamond posts that in the max setting batteries last about 70hours. I’ve been running mine probably about 100 hours so far on a mix of settings, but mostly low. My recommendation is that if you need a lantern that is portable, durable, and flexible, this fits the bill. But if you already have a head lamp, just use that. By slipping a plastic bottle over it, you’ll make a lantern that is just as good as the Moji while saving money and the environment.
Ortovox Traverse 30L Backpack
A pack to do it all
High Level Review: I put this backpack through the ringer, and the Ortovox Traverse 30 is a solid backpack that is great for climbing, ski touring, mountaineering, and hiking. If you only have one pack for most sports (outside of backpacking), then this is a great option. The pack is lightweight and bomber proof. After 2 years of hard use, this backpack is still going strong and taking everything I can throw at it. I love the pack entry system, it is top loading as well as a zip down, making it easy to grab the stuff you threw at the bottom. The one area for improvement is the ice axe lash that secures the head of the axe. It is a small loop that is hard to tie securely against the pack resulting in a bit of bounce. I've corrected that with an additional lash, but it is a bit annoying. How I tested this: I've lost count of how many days I've used this, but it is probably around 50 Splitboard Tours, 20 days climbing (alpine and multi pitch), 100 days hiking. About the Pack: The pack is built as a do it all pack. At 30L it is best suited for single day trips, but if you plan on bivvying, then it can be used as a multi day, depending on the sport you do and the equipment you need. The pack has a top load design and a circumferential zipper, which I found super nifty when I needed to grab things from the bottom. I usually store everything inside the pack, and with my heavy crampons at the bottom, it was nice not having to take everything out of the pack to access them (especially on steep sections). The inside of the pack has a few pouches to store specific items, as well as the helmet net that it comes with. The top of the pack has an external pouch, perfect for storing frequently used items like maps, snacks, and your phone. There is also a leash to secure your keys, so they won’t be falling out. The pack sinches closed quite easily and can be accessed from the top or the outside. Also to note, this pack is hydration system compatible with an opening in the center allowing for the hose to go either the left or right strap. The shoulder straps are padded, but still light weight. The shoulder straps also have an integrated sunglass carrier, which seems to be standard these days. The belt is quite broad, with a pocket big enough for my pixel 2, but not very thick, which I like. It gives you the sense that it is well secured, but not overly bulky. I’ve worn it with my climbing harness many times, and while there is some overlap, it is overall quite comfortable. The back of the pack has an integrated rain cover pouch, which is quite handy. There are two elastic side pouches for carrying water bottles as well as a center elastic pouch where I store my shell when not being used. There is a clever system for carrying hiking poles, which has come in handy on my Splitboard tours. There is also an ice axe attachment, but it does not hold the ice axe securely against the pack, the head of the ice axe is a bit loose, as it is only a small cord that holds it in place with no strap to securely lash the pick to the bag. I do quite a lot of glacier and splitboard tours that require the ice axe, so this is quite annoying, but I’ve managed to add another strap that makes it somewhat better. Final Say: I would buy this pack again in a heartbeat. The size is perfect for me. I like to travel light, and when I bring a 40L pack, I usually can’t help but add a bunch of other gear that goes unused, so having a 30L limits what I can bring. I want to call out this bag by sport, as I use it across my winter and summer playgrounds. Hiking: This pack is a great day pack. It is lightweight, compresses down to a small size, and has the ability to integrate a hydration system. It comes with a rain protector, so if it starts raining, your pack is protected. I’ve taken this on at least 100 day hikes over the past 3 years, and it satisfies all the requirements. The back ventilation system is not the best, but I’ve never found a pack that keeps my back dry. I love this pack and will keep it for many more years because of its robust design. Ski/Splitboard Tours: I’ve taken this guy out on at least 50 tours over the past couple years. I’ve also taken it on multi day tours in the Swiss alps, but we were staying in the huts, so only a silk mummy bag liner was needed for the overnight portion. The bag is just big enough for a splitboarder to pack splitboard crampons, normal crampons, shovel, probe, food, first aid kit, extra layers, food, ice axe, and poles. I’m not gonna lie, it is a tight fit, but can be done. The negative is that there is not a dedicated rescue kit pocket for the shovel and probe. It is a minor annoyance, but since the bag also opens from the circumferential zipper, it has never been an issue. One disadvantage is when also carrying the rope, I find the rope adds a bit too much weight to the bag to be comfortable. I have personally moved to the Patagonia Decensionst 40L for splitboarding, but this was a great bag when I was more focused on having a 1 bag solution. Climbing: I think this pack excels on alpine climbing. I’ve worn it on multi-pitch routes as well where you descend a different way, and it functions well there, but it shines in the alpine country. Fast and light is it’s preferred way to travel. I’ve worn it on ridge traverses as well as long slogs (up the Matterhorn, for example). The bag has room for everything you need to carry, and then some. Because it’s so light, once you rope in and move all the protection to your harness, you hardly notice it is there. So all in all, this bag is great if you need something to do a bit of everything. There are specialists in each category that might be better, but if you ascribe to a minimalist mantra like I do, you can rest assured this bag has your back!
Teva Terra Fi 5 Sport Hiking Sandals - Men's
Good bones, bad fit
The Quick & Dirty: I wanted to like these sandals so badly, but at the end of the day, they just didn't fit right. Getting them on your feet was a hassle because of the self tightening straps, and once they were on, they were just incredible uncomfortable for me. I have another pair of Teva's that I prefer which are the Teva F5 Universal. How I tested: I wore these nearly every day for over a month. I would walk anywhere from 3 to 8 miles in them per day. Mostly on streets, but also I took them on several challenging hikes. I also used them as water shoes on a couple occasions. My size: US size 9 - these shoes are more or less true to size. I vary between a US9 and 10, so I was happy with the overall size. The feeling: When I tried these sandals on in the store, the first thing I noticed was how secure my foot felt in them. The second thing I noticed was how hard they were to put on. The third thing I noticed was how comfortable the foot bed was and how the straps felt a bit uncomfortable but would probably break in. Putting these sandals on was tricky from the get go, and I never did learn the trick to putting these sandals on. I continually tried to figure out how to open the straps in the right manner to slide my foot in easily. Because this strap is one piece, you have to kind of shimmy it up and down, giving one section more space at a time. Just like when trying to loosen or tighten the your shoelaces on the lowest eyes of the shoe (nearest the toes). My wife would slide her Keen's on in about 5 seconds, where I would take about a minute to put on my sandals as we were leaving for a walk. Once I started walking the straps would tighten and and shift throughout the walk, resulting in me stopping every 15 minutes or so to adjust. The footbed was pre-molded, so was comfy from the start. It really came down to the straps for me. Perhaps my feet are a bit too high volume (i.e., fat) for these sandals, so they kept pinching me. The worst was after about 3 weeks of wearing them, I took them on a 4hr hike with 3,000ft elevation gain, and got a couple of nasty blisters (right before I was meant to go climb the Matterhorn!!!) Grip: I have no complaints with the grip. The sandal's sole is well designed and felt secure on steep terrain as well as on wet surfaces. Using these as water shoes was also pretty great. Final Conclusion: I really wanted to like these sandals, but the fit wasn't there. The performance was quite solid. The soles were robust and grippy. I personally thought the design was cool, but I did get several comments on them that were the opposite of positive. I eventually had to donate these shoes to Goodwill because of the fit. I was impressed enough by the sole to go out and by a different style of Teva's, which I am currently testing out. All in all, if these fit your feet, you'll love them. If they are a bit uncomfortable when trying on, they won't "break in" and it is better to go with something else.
Patagonia Descensionist 40L Backpack
Minimal design has it all
High Level Review: This bag is amazing. Patagonia lives up to all expectations by creating a bomb proof backpack that I have used for freeriding the trees in Japan as well as the big lines in the alps, splitboard touring with a heavy kit, and a bit of winter mountaineering. I love this bag because it is comfortable, secure, bombproof, and swallows everything you can throw in it and more. The top loading backpack also has a separate pouch for your avalanche kit, which is now a must for me. The top pouch stores frequently used items and snacks. The shoulder straps have a daisy chain feature for the chest strap, which I also use to attach the personal anchor from my harness when on glaciers. The bag can carry your splitboard A in the A frame style (there is also a diagonal carry strap for skies, but slightly too small for my split), and you can also attach the split board to the back of the bag (vertically for longer carries). This high level review is already detailed enough, go buy this bag if you need a new winter pack. How I tested: I have about 50 days during the 2018/2019 season using this bag. I used it skiing the trees in Japan, freeriding in resorts in Switzerland, splitboard touring in Switzerland, France, and Austria, and a bit of mountaineering. I always ride with a pack at resorts, sometimes I brought it with me to cruise groomers too (probably 5 to 8 times). I am hard on my gear, so this pack had its work cut out for it. Notes on me: I am using the S/M bag. I am 5'9"ish and weigh 160lbs (solid muscle, obviously). In depth Review: I was skeptical at first, as I haven't really used any Patagonia ski/board items, but I loved it from the first ride! I used this bag about 50x in the 2018/2019 Ski season for free riding, splitboarding, and a bit of mountaineering. The bag is lightweight, yet it supports a large load. It is a large 40L and I can pack everything I need and more in it. I love the 2 ways to close the bag, one way when you are carrying a lot of stuff, and another way (stuff the lid inside the top loading pack) when you are looking to smash down the size a bit. Even when I packed the bag full with 2L of water, crampons for my feet, crampons for splitboard, food, avalanche kit, extra layers, first aid kit, etc, the pack still felt supported. The pack: The pack is no frills and minimalist, but built to last. All stitching and webbing is reinforced, and is definitely not coming loose. The 40L is on the high end of a 40L size chart, and I am convinced it is more like a 43 or 45L pack. Sometimes this is a problem, I like to travel light, and with so much room I loose the dedication and throw in everything and the kitchen sink. On other packs (I am thinking the Mammut Airride 3.0), this would be an issue, too much weight and the support system breaks down. With the Patagonia Descensionist, the pack provided the support needed to carry my oversized loads. The pack itself is a top loader, but there is a side zipper, so you can reach in and grab stuff from the bottom of the pack without dumping everything on the side of the mountain. This is a very important feature, as it makes life sooooo much easier, and is a must have feature on any pack I buy. There are no mesh pockets, which is a good thing on a winter bag, so the side zipper also comes in handy to retrieve your water bottle.. There is also a separate avalanche pocket, where I also throw my splitboard crampons. The pack compresses great when you carry less stuff due to two compression straps on each side, and a clever lid that can stash within the cinch of the top loader. The buckle to close the lid can be moved to accommodate either method, but practice in advance, as it is a bit complicated to do out in the wild for the first time. The pack is also water system compatible, so you can throw in a bladder, with no issue. There are two daisy chains running down the back of the pack, so attaching things is possible. I only keep an ice axe and/or poles on the outside of my pack. The ice axe carrier is quite good and can be removed if not in use. The ice axe loop is large (also removable), but there is a secure pocket to put the pick, so it doesn't jiggle while you walk. There is also a velcro loop up top to secure the handle, which is infinitely better than the elastic cord some companies give you. I splitboard, so cannot comment on carrying skis, but if it carries skies half as well as the splitboard, then it is doing its job well. I love to carry my skies in the A Frame style when I need to boot pack long distances. I have tried to use the diagonal method a few times, but on the splitboard the tail/nose was just too wide to fit it within the loop provided. I might try to make some mods, as this would be so convenient. Setting up the A Frame does take a bit longer. The hip belt is comfortable without being bulky. The pocket can fit my pixel 2, but I generally just put in a energy bar, chapstick, and some candy. One side has a gear loop, which I don’t really use, but some people seem to think its great. As mentioned above, I’ve given this thing as thorough of a testing as I could in one season. It has excelled in every condition. I am sold on this pack and have persuaded a few friends to get it. They are just as stoked as I am. I love the pack for touring and mountaineering the best. I try to use an airbag while freeriding, but sometimes the terrain just doesn’t make since to have an airbag, or I don’t want to that day, so I’ll take this guy with me. Suggestions to improve the pack: Without adding too much weight, a helmet carrier could be included in the price. Also, I would like to see Patagonia partner with an airbag manufacturer and make this airbag compatible (the new ultra lightweight Jet Force technology would be ideal). Also, if I am splitting hairs, I would like a microfiber lined google pocket. Final words: If you are looking for a winter specific bag, this is amazing. It can also work as a 40L mountaineering bag too, but I tend to like 30L for mountaineering. The bag is built to last and is super useful for any winter playing. I love Patagonia for the environmental ethics, so I echo their sentiment, if you have a bag already, don’t buy this bag. If your bag is destroyed, try fixing it, and if you can’t, then this is the bag I would suggest, hands down, as your next winter bag.
The North Face Cat's Meow Sleeping Bag
Best bang for the buck on the market
High level review: I have had this sleeping bag going on 12 years. The bag is a great three season bag that has stood the test of time, conditions, and everything else that I threw at it. I bought the bag because it was on sale, but the bag now retails at $170, and for the price/quality, you cannot beat it! DETAILED REVIEW: How I tested: I have owned this bag for 12 years, and use it so often, I wouldn’t be able to count. It is safe to say I have slept in the bag at least 300 times, more likely it is in the 400x range, but I want to be conservative. I have slept at the ocean, at 8,000ft, in storms, in warm weather and down to 15 degrees F. One time, I slept in a massive snowstorm. I usually sleep in tents and in colder weather, I use a bag liner, so please keep that in mind. The Bag: The bag itself is a nice mummy shape. I am 5’10” and weigh around 170lbs, and the Regular size fits me perfectly. There is still enough room to move around a bit at night (I am like goldie locks, I need a bit of wiggle room, but not too tight or loose) and to keep some items to dry out in the foot box. The newest version of this bag weighs around 2lbs 5oz, and compresses quite nicely down to a smaller size stuff sack. I think the packability is about average for high end sleeping bags. The sleeping bag is rated down to 20 degrees, which means that it is a three season. At 20 degrees, you’ll obviously need to layer quite a bit, but I have done it numerous times, and I do think the bag is accurately rated. Those who sleep cold, might find they need to throw in a hot water bottle to help keep their feet warm. The mummy design tapers well into the foot box, and there is a draft collar that runs the whole way down. I do get snags every now and then, but I have never used a sleeping bag that is snag free, and this is not worse than any others. The zipper can zip from the top or bottom, which I love because I often just unzip the feet bit and kick a leg out if I am feeling too warm but do not want all the heat to escape. There is also a handy pocket at around chest / collar bone level. I like the pocket and usually store my headphones in there or my phone. In terms of heat retention, even my 12 year old bag is still keeping the heat in, which surprises the heck out of me. These bags are built with attention to detail and high quality parts. That means that after 12 years of abuse, my bag is still chugging along. I think the bag will keep going strong for at least another couple years. The bag has lost some of its loft over time, but it is still keeping me warm at night. Final say: The bag is great. If you are looking for something that will last you a long time and not break the bank, I think this is the sleeping bag for you. It is light, durable, and will keep you warm at night. What else can you ask for? One final note, often people are too quick to change their sleeping bags for one reason or another. Sleeping bags can lost quite a long time with proper care, so after your trips, air out your bag and hang them up, or at least keep them in the mesh sack they come with. Bags are not meant to be compressed for long periods of time.
Arc'teryx Theta AR Jacket - Men's
Good looks, not backed up with good quality
Overall: This jacket was a disaster for me, and made me lose faith in the brand and their mission. I bought the jacket for full retail price (Around $600), which is the most I have ever paid for a jacket. The Arc’teryx quality is legendary though, and although I am in the mountains 150+days per year, I thought this is a jacket that will last several years. I couldn’t have been more wrong, within 5 uses, a horizontal tear formed on the lower right side, just below the pocket. The jacket has since been torn, taped, torn some more in the 3 seasons I owned it, and it is on the verge of falling apart. The only reason it’s lasted this long, is I have two of them due to customer service issues. More detailed review: How I tested this jacket: I have used the jacket well over 400x in situations ranging from rain protection in the city, to snowboarding in sunny weather, storms, and negative 30 degree F. I have used this jacket in splitboard touring and mountaineering. The Jacket: Overall, I think the jacket looks and fits amazingly. The jacket is made from GORETEX Pro membrane paired with a combination of 80 denier and 40 denier fabrics, which in theory should make it a pretty durable jacket. There are not too many bells and whistles on this shell. The hood, which accommodates a helmet, has several draw cords to help keep your head covered during bad weather. The draw cords help keep the hood from falling into your eyes when you don’t have a helmet on. The jacket has a sleeve pocket for holding your RFID ski pass, and two chest pockets, which are more or less out of the way when you have a backpack on. There is also a pretty large interior pocket, where I would store my cell phone and or map. There are pit zippers as well, and they work quite nicely. The jacket itself, like a lot of GORTEX, makes you feel like you are in a sauna, if you are not layered appropriately. It is a bit noisy of a jacket and the mobility is somewhat restricted, but I didn’t have too much of an issue with this. I don’t mind a noisy jacket, or at least I don’t as of today, since I always seem to end up with noisy ones. Overall, the jacket functions like most, with velcro at the sleeves to keep your hands (and snow) from sliding in the jacket. There are elastic pulls at the bottom, that you can cinch up on powder days to protect yourself from snow pants syndrome. Durability: All the reviews I read, said this jacket seemed durable, but they were based on one or two day reviews. On day 5 of riding this jacket, I developed a tear. It was exactly where my snowboard lays as I walk from the car to the lift, so I know what caused it. I was just incredibly surprised that this “bomber” jacket developed a rip doing something so simple as carrying a board (my board edges are well tuned, not crazy sharp!). There was much back and forth with the customer service team, and the outcome was that I now have 2 of the same jackets. They both have since developed other tears, defects, etc. Some of them have been justified, like when a skier plowed into me, tearing my jacket and my arm enough to require stitches. Other issues just appear in seemingly random spots. A tear on my shoulder, a broken draw string, a stuck pit zip. I have now used the jackets a combined 400x or so, which is probably more than most use them. I think if I only had one, it would be in the dumpster by now. That I have two jackets at leasts spreads out the wear and tear. Overall: I think I am done with Arc’teryx for now. They used to have high quality goods, but now they are a high priced brand with questionable quality. I have a pair of snowboard pants made by them, and I find the same quality issues exist. The design is great in terms of looks, but I think they need to dig a little deeper if they want to keep actual mountain men and women as customers.
MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 Tent
Lightweight tent - some durability questions
Quick and dirty: This is a light, all arounder. Coming in at a svelte 3lbs 8oz, this tent is big enough for 2, but gear and packs is a tight squeeze. The vestibule is sizeable and can accommodate a pack or two on each side of the tent. 2 doors makes entry/exit easy. At about 39 inches high, you can sit up comfortably. I've used it backpacking and car camping, and it is much better for backpacking. The tent is single walled and very thin. The rain fly has already developed several tears that have been repaired with duct tape, but I worry about long term longevity, although it is a good tent and if you are looking for a 2 person, light weight, tent that can function for car camping as well (all under $500), then this is a good option. MORE DETAILED: What is it meant for: it is a Backcountry tent, light weight and big enough for two. How I tested: I have used it about 70 nights in the past 3 year.I've tested the tent mainly in the Swiss and French alps. I've used it above 8,200ft in nearly freezing temperatures (ca. 35 degrees F) and winds of 45+ mph. I've also used it in family car camping campgrounds. Tent Size and Weight: The tent is marketed as a light weight backpacking tent, and I agree. Coming in at in impressive 3lbs 13 oz (without footprint), the tent is definitely light weight. My wife and I even have opted at carrying a sleeping pad that is heavier than that (happy wife, happy life). I have to say, I am truly impressed with the weight and packability. The tent/fly combo can compress down to a size that is only a bit larger than a softball. The poles are light and take up not a lot of space. The tent itself is 84 x 50 inches, which makes pitching it in tight spots a breeze. BUT, the rain fly gives it quite a bit more ground area due to the two large vestibules. It is nice if you have tons of space, but I've run into issues in the high alpine environments when I was trying to set up camp under uncertain weather on small boulders... So it depends how you will use it, but the rain fly is good and bad. Is it roomy? hmmm, not all that spacious. When I take it on solo journeys, I carry a tiny sleeping pad, and I have tons of space to bring in all my gear. Backpacking with another person means it can be tough. We do like the height of the tent. It's not the tallest, but coming in at 39", there is plenty of space to sit up in. Tent Storage, fly, features, and material: The rain fly: this is what I have most of my issues with. After about 5x of using the tent, a small hole formed at the bottom corner of the fly where the zipper is. I repaired this with duct tape. The rainfly itself is made from 20D ripstop nylon, which means that it is not designed to be the strongest, but is designed to be very light. The rainfly is easy enough to put on, although I sometimes struggle with putting it on inside out. Storage: the vestibules are quite ok in size, and I can fit my 80L pack under one with out any issues. Inside the tent, there are storage pockets at the head and foot, which make it great for toiletries, head lamps, etc. Features: The two doors are a game changer. I've had a tent with a single door prior to this Hubba Hubba, and I won't go back. No more crawling all over someone just to get outside to pee in the middle of the night. There is also a thoughtful hook on the ceiling to hang a lantern. Material: The tent itself is also made of a light weight 30D ripstop nylon (on the floor) which means that it is a bit stronger than the rainfly, but still light. The footprint is also quite lightweight, but does add some ounces to the overall weight, but will keep your tent from tearing on the floor. One of my favorite things about the Hubba Hubba is the mesh top. On clear nights, I leave the fly off and the mesh provides a great view into the stars above. the lightweight mesh also drives down the weight. FINAL OPINION: The Hubba Hubba is a good backpacking tent, hands down. I am glad I bought it. I am concerned about the longevity, but after about 70 times out, I can see I will need to baby the tent a bit more than I am used to. I like the tent mainly for backpacking. So if you don't do backpacking much, I would save the money and go with a slightly heavier tent like the REI Half Dome 2. If you exclusively car camp or camp with minimal walking to the site, save your money. But if you are looking to upgrade your tent, focused on light weight gear, and don't mind babying your equipment, then this is a good option.
Powfinder 157 SURFR
Powfinder SURFR - a sneaky multi purpose powder board
Why do I love this board? First, the board is a small production snowboard, designed after 5 years of testing in the European Alps. The owner is seen on the weekends testing his board, with a team of dedicated boarders, working to make micro adjustments to improve the board quality and abilities. He has a strong concern for the environment and has taken a lot of steps to ensure this makes it to his boards.Second, the board will rock your socks off, if you can handle it. Product: Powfinder's SURDR Snowboard (157 cm) What is it made for: the product is specifically designed for deep powder days Testing Process: I rode the board 37 times this winter in Switzerland, France, Austria, and Japan. I rode the board on 3ft of new powder down to a 2inches new snow. I also rode the groomers and one day on hard pack. I am not easy on my gear, so it has taken a beating :) I rode the board with Bent Metal Solutions (size M), although I would have been much better off with a less stiff binding. I would even suggest riding the deeper powder with the highbacks taken off (was fun the few times I tried this year). Hight Level Thoughts: Despite being designed for the Pow, I found the SURFR to be a functional board for intermediate to advanced boarders in every condition. Detailed review: Board design: a thoughtful swallow tail with enough V-cut to be able to dig into a turn and load with power makes it a perfect tool for tree skiing as well as playful cut backs in a more surf style. With a huge nose, there was no issues in getting the board to float, coupled with a very back set camber, this board put no additional strain on your back foot, keeping you on the hill and out of the resort. Flex: Stiff in the middle, allowing for powerful transfers into the turns. A floppy/softish nose keeps your tip from being buried, but does cause a lot of chatter at higher speeds on hard ground. There are 8 bamboo runners in this board nose to tail, adding to a uniform flex transition. Durability: After almost 40 times out, the top sheet developed a few nicks and scratches, mainly from the tree riding in Japan. The top sheet does seem solid, but you could loose pieces of it, as it seems to peel a bit after a big scratch. Nothing too much to worry about there. The base sheet seems to be quite strong (although a bit boring in all black). Bottom line: If you have one board in your quiver, go for something more versatile with a twin tip. If you have that already and want to add a powder board, take this. It will deliver on a pow day and a groomer day. I was worried that I was buying too specialized of a gun, yet I discovered a new favorite board. I took this puppy to Japan, and was flying through the trees, playfully launching off of pillows, and dropping smallish "cliffs" with no issues. That was no surprise. I was shocked with I started to take it to bigger mountain objectives with sketchy traverses. The board held up well, despite its big nose. On the groomers, this board was a champ at laying it down low.
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag 120L
A big bag for trips with bulky items
120L Specific: I bought the 120L for a world wide trip that was to last about three months, covering activities such as surfing (wetsuit), skateboarding, hiking, biking, climbing, and camping. I needed a bag that was going to be able to carry all of my gear, remain it’s structural integrity, and make transportation easy. This bag 100% fit the bill, although I did end up needing to buy the 90L bag as well (see seperate review) in order to carry all my wife’s stuff too :) The 120L bag is probably not useful for most people. It is cavernous. You can fit a small person in there, with room to spare. I have carried a tent, a double wide foam mattress (sea to summit), skateboard, camping kitchen, snorkel gear, wetsuit, 85L backpackers packpack, a yoga mat, and a million little odds and ends for my travels, and the main issue was getting it within 50lbs to ensure no extra fees on the airlines. If you are travelling by car, your main issue will be carrying the bag, because I think this thing can carry 100lbs, without issue. The bag loaded to 50lbs is heavy, but because there are the removable backpackers straps, I found carrying the thing short distances around the airport to be manageable. A lack of a hip belt or solid frame mean that this is not meant to be loaded to the max and carried for miles, but short distances between locations is fine. I’ve carried this through European train stations, on and off trains, and although you can feel the weight, it is not as awkward as I had thought it might be. This bag is meant for trips with a lot of bulky gear. If I was driving, I wouldn’t get this bag, but when flying with bulk, this thing is perfect. Patagonia Black Hole - General Qualities shared by All bags: Note, the bags that I tested are predating the change to the recycled material. The bags are built out of 15-oz 900 100% polyester ripstop which means that these bags were built to take a beating and keep going. I have had my bags from 1 year to 3 months, and the oldest of the bags still looks more or less brand new after multiple international and national trips. The bags are designed to be able to carry massive loads with no real bells and whistles. Before purchasing the bag, I read multiple reviews saying the biggest challenge with the bag when used for airline travels is to keep it within weight limit, and I agree. The large rectangle shape of the bag makes it perfect to “Tetris Load” your bag so heavy, it becomes overloaded. When driving, that is no issue due to the heavy duty material and reinforced stitching. Creating something simple and useful takes a lot of work, and I have to hand it to Patagonia. These bags are essentially one large cavernous hole, containing two straps to help keep everything in place. I use the straps only if there is some extra space, in order to keep everything from roaming around. On the side is one pocket, which a lot of users have complained isn’t lockable. The issue with this pocket is that it is also it’s carrying case for storage, so there is also an internal zipper which gives you access to the main cavity, so if it is not lockable, thieves can enter. I don’t really mind, as my thought is that if someone wants to steal something, they will, whether there is a lock or not. The lid also has two mesh pockets where you can store small things like power cords, kindle e-reader, etc. I love these pockets and use them to carry my passport, wallet, headphones, etc on all my flights (60L pack). In the bigger bags, I use it to carry my first aid kit, repair kit, etc. One of the best features of these bags is the removable backpack straps. The top part of the strap is fed through a locking D Loop, and the bottom uses a plastic buckle. The plastic buckle is my only durability concern on the whole bag, but I haven’t seen any issues yet, nor did I read about any while researching. These straps make transporting the bag super easy. I’ve loaded the 120 and 90L bags up to 50lbs and was able to carry it on my back with no issues. Even my wife was able to do so. The straps are padded, but not overly bulky, so they can slip in the side pocket when travelling. The bag also has normal handles on the top to carry like a traditional duffel bag, but it is missing a over the shoulder carry strap, but I don’t really miss that. In a pinch, the backpack strap could be used as such. Another clever design was handles on the bag on each side, so you can pick up and throw the bag around much easier. These straps have proven infinitely useful! The bag is also a bit water resistant (DWR), and I have carried it in some mild rain with nothing inside getting wet. I feel that the insides would stay dry even in a fairly decent downpour, but remember it is only DWR and ripstop polyester. Over all: I am 100% by the construction and design of this bag. It is heavy duty and built to last. I have three sizes (60L, 90L, & 120L) and use them all the time. If you are looking for a new travel duffel built to last decades of use, pick one of these up. Bonus points to Patagonia for switching to recycled material in their new line up. I am 100% confident that the bags will be just as burly. As Patagonia is an ambassador of environmental stewardship, I want to note two things 1) if you don’t need a new bag, don’t buy one. 2) these often come up for sale as used bags on Patagonia’s used gear website, Craigslist, or Ebay. I would go for a used one. Most people only use them for a trip or two, and these things can really take a beating with no side effect.
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 90L
My favorite travel duffel
Overview: I think this bag is the most versatile of all the sizes in their lineup. Large enough to pack equipment for a week trip, small enough to not take up too much room in the car. Easy to check in while flying, it is probably a little too big to qualify as a carry on. This bag is the same bomber proof construction as all the other bags in the line up, and comes in a variety of colors. We’ve taken this on a number of trips over the past few months, we’ve loaded it with up to 50lbs, and while that was pretty heavy, the shoulder straps still allow it to be carried on the back. The size was not too bulky and the balance was ok for shorter distances on the back. We use this bag as a replacement for suitcases. The size allows you to fit more odd sizes within, and it is much more compact than a large suitcase. I never liked rolling suitcases anyway, so having this as a total replacement makes sense. I also use this bag to store some of my bulky winter items (jacket, pants, gloves, etc), when not in use. Patagonia Black Hole - General Qualities shared by All bags: Note, the bags that I tested are predating the change to the recycled material. The bags are built out of 15-oz 900 100% polyester ripstop which means that these bags were built to take a beating and keep going. I have had my bags from 1 year to 3 months, and the oldest of the bags still looks more or less brand new after multiple international and national trips. The bags are designed to be able to carry massive loads with no real bells and whistles. Before purchasing the bag, I read multiple reviews saying the biggest challenge with the bag when used for airline travels is to keep it within weight limit, and I agree. The large rectangle shape of the bag makes it perfect to “Tetris Load” your bag so heavy, it becomes overloaded. When driving, that is no issue due to the heavy duty material and reinforced stitching. Creating something simple and useful takes a lot of work, and I have to hand it to Patagonia. These bags are essentially one large cavernous hole, containing two straps to help keep everything in place. I use the straps only if there is some extra space, in order to keep everything from roaming around. On the side is one pocket, which a lot of users have complained isn’t lockable. The issue with this pocket is that it is also it’s carrying case for storage, so there is also an internal zipper which gives you access to the main cavity, so if it is not lockable, thieves can enter. I don’t really mind, as my thought is that if someone wants to steal something, they will, whether there is a lock or not. The lid also has two mesh pockets where you can store small things like power cords, kindle e-reader, etc. I love these pockets and use them to carry my passport, wallet, headphones, etc on all my flights (60L pack). In the bigger bags, I use it to carry my first aid kit, repair kit, etc. One of the best features of these bags is the removable backpack straps. The top part of the strap is fed through a locking D Loop, and the bottom uses a plastic buckle. The plastic buckle is my only durability concern on the whole bag, but I haven’t seen any issues yet, nor did I read about any while researching. These straps make transporting the bag super easy. I’ve loaded the 120 and 90L bags up to 50lbs and was able to carry it on my back with no issues. Even my wife was able to do so. The straps are padded, but not overly bulky, so they can slip in the side pocket when travelling. The bag also has normal handles on the top to carry like a traditional duffel bag, but it is missing a over the shoulder carry strap, but I don’t really miss that. In a pinch, the backpack strap could be used as such. Another clever design was handles on the bag on each side, so you can pick up and throw the bag around much easier. These straps have proven infinitely useful! The bag is also a bit water resistant (DWR), and I have carried it in some mild rain with nothing inside getting wet. I feel that the insides would stay dry even in a fairly decent downpour, but remember it is only DWR and ripstop polyester. Over all: I am 100% by the construction and design of this bag. It is heavy duty and built to last. I have three sizes (60L, 90L, & 120L) and use them all the time. If you are looking for a new travel duffel built to last decades of use, pick one of these up. Bonus points to Patagonia for switching to recycled material in their new line up. I am 100% confident that the bags will be just as burly. As Patagonia is an ambassador of environmental stewardship, I want to note two things 1) if you don’t need a new bag, don’t buy one. 2) these often come up for sale as used bags on Patagonia’s used gear website, Craigslist, or Ebay. I would go for a used one. Most people only use them for a trip or two, and these things can really take a beating with no side effect.
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 60L
Best do-it all duffel on the market
Overview: I love this bag. It is definitely the most versatile size of the entire Black Hole line up (see below for general product review). I have used this bag for international trips to Japan, USA, Thailand, Australia, & New Zealand, and this bag is still looking more or less brand new. I also use this bag a couple times a week as a climbing gym bag. The 60L pack is great because I can carry it on most airlines (no issues so far!) or I can load it to the max and throw it in checked luggage. The super burly design means there is no fear of the bag getting damaged under the plane. The bag is big enough to pack a pair of snowboard boots, some shirts, underwear, and socks, along with a book, computer, and the cables needed to power the products. Alternatively, I have used it to pack a couple weeks worth of clothing on summer and non snowboard trips. Currently, there is a 60M (9mm) rope, 15 quick draws, shoes, and a harness inside mine. The removable backpack straps make this thing so easy to carry around. This is my go to travel, gym, catch all bag. I have used it about 1 year now, probably 150x, and it is more or less in “like new” condition. I love this bag, and have bought one for my wife as well. Patagonia Black Hole - General Qualities shared by All bags: Note, the bags that I tested are predating the change to the recycled material. The bags are built out of 15-oz 900 100% polyester ripstop which means that these bags were built to take a beating and keep going. I have had my bags from 1 year to 3 months, and the oldest of the bags still looks more or less brand new after multiple international and national trips. The bags are designed to be able to carry massive loads with no real bells and whistles. Before purchasing the bag, I read multiple reviews saying the biggest challenge with the bag when used for airline travels is to keep it within weight limit, and I agree. The large rectangle shape of the bag makes it perfect to “Tetris Load” your bag so heavy, it becomes overloaded. When driving, that is no issue due to the heavy duty material and reinforced stitching. Creating something simple and useful takes a lot of work, and I have to hand it to Patagonia. These bags are essentially one large cavernous hole, containing two straps to help keep everything in place. I use the straps only if there is some extra space, in order to keep everything from roaming around. On the side is one pocket, which a lot of users have complained isn’t lockable. The issue with this pocket is that it is also it’s carrying case for storage, so there is also an internal zipper which gives you access to the main cavity, so if it is not lockable, thieves can enter. I don’t really mind, as my thought is that if someone wants to steal something, they will, whether there is a lock or not. The lid also has two mesh pockets where you can store small things like power cords, kindle e-reader, etc. I love these pockets and use them to carry my passport, wallet, headphones, etc on all my flights (60L pack). In the bigger bags, I use it to carry my first aid kit, repair kit, etc. One of the best features of these bags is the removable backpack straps. The top part of the strap is fed through a locking D Loop, and the bottom uses a plastic buckle. The plastic buckle is my only durability concern on the whole bag, but I haven’t seen any issues yet, nor did I read about any while researching. These straps make transporting the bag super easy. I’ve loaded the 120 and 90L bags up to 50lbs and was able to carry it on my back with no issues. Even my wife was able to do so. The straps are padded, but not overly bulky, so they can slip in the side pocket when travelling. The bag also has normal handles on the top to carry like a traditional duffel bag, but it is missing a over the shoulder carry strap, but I don’t really miss that. In a pinch, the backpack strap could be used as such. Another clever design was handles on the bag on each side, so you can pick up and throw the bag around much easier. These straps have proven infinitely useful! The bag is also a bit water resistant (DWR), and I have carried it in some mild rain with nothing inside getting wet. I feel that the insides would stay dry even in a fairly decent downpour, but remember it is only DWR and ripstop polyester. Over all: I am 100% by the construction and design of this bag. It is heavy duty and built to last. I have three sizes (60L, 90L, & 120L) and use them all the time. If you are looking for a new travel duffel built to last decades of use, pick one of these up. Bonus points to Patagonia for switching to recycled material in their new line up. I am 100% confident that the bags will be just as burly. As Patagonia is an ambassador of environmental stewardship, I want to note two things 1) if you don’t need a new bag, don’t buy one. 2) these often come up for sale as used bags on Patagonia’s used gear website, Craigslist, or Ebay. I would go for a used one. Most people only use them for a trip or two, and these things can really take a beating with no side effect.