Tuesday, November 20, 2012

First look at MSR Lightning Ascent 25

After a fairly long research and field testing I have finally purchased new snowshoes. Yes, they are the most expansive on the market, but it really wasn´t the reason to buy them.

I wanted:

- high quality and durability
- lifetime warranty
- made in Europe / USA / Canada
- low weight
- "all terrain" type

All above mentioned demands were fulfilled by them. I am really impressed with the quality of used materials and with the awesome MSR craftsmanship. Two thumbs up!

I measured 883 grams for one snowshoe, so it should be 1766 grams for pair, it´s better than the official 1785 grams =).

The only other competitor was the famous Elite model made by Northern Lites, another great American company. Elites are truly UL snowshoes, but they don´t offer the same traction as the MSR and adding the fact I have to pay taxes and shipping, which would make them even more expansive then MSR, make me to stay with Lightning Ascent (but I definitely want to try Northern Lites in future).

I really want to try them ASAP, so I am keeping my eye on the weather forecast for nearby mountains here in central Europe =).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

UL climbing part 1 - Intro

I am gonna try to explain my thoughts and ideas considering ultra light approach in climbing (mountaineering). All of this is based on my personal experience and of course on reading a great book from a great alpinist Mark Twight (Extreme Alpinism, climbing light, fast and high).

Is it worth it to save weight in climbing gear? Of course it is, but just for some people.

You definitely don´t need the lightest rack, quickdraws and rope, when you are more a "rock climber" than a "mountaineer" - you won´t be able to appreciate the weight difference and mainly the price difference so much while walking few hundred metres or at max 1 - 2 miles from your car or train to rocks in your favorite climbing area. On the other hand, when you must walk 5 or more miles up to the mountains and you carry not only the whole climbing gear, but also your sleeping bag, cooking and appropriate clothing, the rules of game changes rapidly and every saved gram is a plus.

Part of my gear during preparation for mountain climbing trip. 

It´s logical that people tend to be more suspicious about light climbing gear than about light packs or clothing. Rope, racks, biners...all of that is supposed to partly save your life in case of some accident. When a shoulder strap of your pack tears off, it´s not very good, but you´re alive and you can repair it, carry it in your hands or whatever you come up with. When a sharp edge or stones cut your rope or your biner breaks - you are in serious trouble. Even though these thoughts aren´t mostly justified and all gear from solid manufactures is tested and has all the necessary norms, people still worry when you unpack a 7.8 mm thin twin rope in front of them. "Seriously? It´s not just a long reep cord?".

I think anyone who´s tried climbing at least once can confirm that the mental aspect is even more important than your physical condition. When you don´t trust your gear you start to project bad end scenarios, forget to concentrate and become very likely to make some foolish mistake or just stop, unable to continue. That´s not what you want to face in the middle of a steep and tall north face.

I understand it. For example - I am trying to avoid any climbing stuff that is made in Asia, it´s getting more and more complicated, but there are still plenty of companies making their great stuff at home, or at least near their home in trustworthy factories. Of course, even the best and most reliable company can make a mistake (remember some Petzl product recalls...).

UL means not only weight but also number - in other words how much gear you pack. "Do we need pitons or not?" "Is 8 quickdraws enough?" etc. It´s also a big issue sometimes and picking up the right gear (by right I mean appropriate for our target and just as much as we will need) can be tricky. You know that old bastard Murphy, who always shows up when you don´t expect him? Well he will show up you bet! The best defence against him is to start loving him. "Hey old buddy, nice try but we are prepared, next time maybe..." You smile and....improvise.

Being able to make a proper and safe belay station with any amount of gear and in any conditions is crucial.

Ability to improvise is very important in the mountains, even more when you carry less gear than usual, because the the need to solve problems by unusual ways is growing by the number of gear you are leaving at home. I am talking about protection placing, preparing of belay station etc. "Don´t have any cams or nuts but need to protect that crack? Use your reverso! It´s working."

Let´s end with this statement today:

"Being lighter, faster and thus safer during mountain climbing asks for wisely chosen light gear in smaller amount, ability to make maximum use of it and to improvise in different conditions."

Next part is coming soon...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Berghaus Asgard Hybrid JKT review

Asgard Hybrid is not quite UL piece of clothing, but neither it´s heavy nor bulky. It has a great warm to weight ratio with 430 grams of weight in size L - I think it´s a great weight for a winter insulation jacket with adjustable hood and full zip. This jacket is specific not only by the use of hydrophobic down (700 fill power) but also in its hybrid concept - the hood, shoulders, arms and down part of the jacket (areas with high possibility to become wet first) are filled with synthetic insulation Primaloft One. Outer material is light and windproof Pertex Quantum.

You can see the longer back cut, two way full central zip, inner mesh pocket, elastic wrist bands and adjustable hood.

I really appreciate the innovation spirit in Berghaus and this jacket caught my attention very quickly. 

From UL point of view it´s ideal choice for winter trips, because a piece of clothing weighting more than 400 grams in other then winter season is way too much heavy in my opinion.


Different examples of pack size - 4l STS Ultra Sil Dry Sack, Rolled in its hood and in slightly smaller mesh sack

How does the jacket perform in field? I worn it in different conditions and during different activities - snowshoeing, winter climbing in High Tatras and fast hiking / running as a back up. I am pretty sure I didn´t have to face some really demanding and mainly very wet / damp conditions, because the jacket always performed great and never soaked even a little. Hope to face these conditions in future to see how the jacket performs.

Great belay jacket (High Tatras, photo by Lukas A.)

I never felt cold in the jacket, it´s really warm enough for me (for temperatures up to -15C while not moving, wearing Devold Active LS and Berghaus Velum Anorak) and I think I am gonna buy warmer and bulkier down jacket only for polar or high altitudes trips. On the other side - Asgard Hybrid is too much for most spring - summer - autumn trips and I am going to purchase something lighter and smaller (probably just an anorak).

Overall rating
Weight: Normal, but light for a winter insulation jacket
Volume: Normal
Performance: Perfect yet (9 month, various trips and conditions)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Inov8 Roclite 295

Bought and tried them out today. Fit is good, others Inov8 shoes (Talon, Oroc) are too narrow for my feet so I went with the Roclite (I wanted the 6mm differential, but 9 is also good for the beginning).

Looking forward to both run and hike in them and I also want to use them for my expected but not yet completely planned winter trip.

The weight for size 12 is 699 grams, which is much better than my 2 years old Mizuno Wave Ascend size 12 (750 grams excl. insoles).

All I can say after some first trail and off trail runs is that their traction is very good and I like them.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

First days with Five Fingers KSO!

"This is what I need!"

That´s my impression after first two days walking with my new Five Fingers KSO (size 47). I am trying to control myself and be cautious, but it´s so great to walk and run in these simple but awesome "shoes".

I have flat feet and the thing what doctors called "supinus", plus my last two toes are very short (and my shoe size varies from 12 - 13,5 UK). I really wasn´t sure, if the FF would fit me, but I was very surprised and now it´s like wearing second skin.


The biggest change for me is in walking - running in FF seems ok so far, because I am used to run and I don´t have problems landing ball of the foot first. The walking is different - I can see how much I am used to walk in classic shoes and so landing my heel first, but that´s not very comfy in FF with no heel cushioning. It´s really like learning to walk all over again from the very begging. And it´s fun!

I am exercising at home and I really take care about my feet now - I believe it´s gonna help me a lot.

More info to come.

edit - weight for a pair of size 12 is 425 grams.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Some news before weekend

Just in short - I am very happy today, because Hendrik has mentioned my Berghaus Velum Smock review in his "Week in review" - it´s quite surprising for me and it definitely support my effort to write more.

I also tried Five-Fingers for the first time and I am supposed to buy a pair tomorrow - really need to start increasing the endurance and strength of my feet slowly and these "shoes" should help.

The only thing I will have to return is a pair of new Salomon Speedcross 3 CS. I like Salomon running gear a lot, but I found that Speedcross shoes are too tight for my foot after putting them on. I can feel unpleasant pressure in the middle of the inner side inside the boots - not good.

Anyway, I am still considering hot to solve my shoes system both for trail running and hiking - want a pair of trail runners for winter use, which I can combine with overboots for multi days winter hikes and of course run in them during winter and cold autumn. Speedcross is out of the game now so I am looking for alternatives.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ULA Catalyst is home!

It´s just in!

Ordered and payed on Thursday, dispatched on Saturday and arrived to his new home today!

Very excited about my first pack from this brand, even more excited about the "Sewn in Utah, USA" patch, and most excited about the great fit.

Many thanks to guys from ULA and ofcourse to guys from UOG UK for such a quick delivery and the possibility to buy ULA packs in Europe. More info to come...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Berghaus Active Shell Velum Anorak

I finally decided to write a report on my current lightest shell in closet - after 9 month of abuse during running, hiking and alpinism in different environments.

author of picture: Lukas A.

So, what can we say about Velum Anorak for sure? It´s really light (309 grams - size L) half zip jacket made from two types of GTX Active Shell (reinforcement on shoulders). It´s very packable and it has very simple design.

Why I chose the half zip version instead of classic full zip jacket? Well the weight is one of the most important criteria for me, so that´s reason number one. The zip itself is reason number two - based on my experience, the zip is first thing which starts to cause problems and without working zip the jacket is quite useless, mainly during heavy rain and strong wind (in other words - conditions where I put the jacket on).

Pack size is quite small, pics above don´t show the possible compression (which makes the pack even smaller)

I am very warm-blooded person and I don´t like wearing shell jacket during high aerobic activities, because of possible over heating and sweating. So how active-shell performs during running? I would recommend it for really rainy and windy conditions  and temperatures around and under 0° C (32°F). I wore Velum during my last fast hike / run across one Czech mountain range for the whole time (6 hours) and it performed well, the temperature was around 2°C (35°F) and the wind was very strong making the temperature drop under the freezing point. Add to these conditions, the weather was very foggy and damp. In fact during one part of run across very windy ridge I had to wear my insulation jacket over to avoid being cold.

I am really impressed how fast drying the jacket is. It´s a big advantage, because no one likes to wear wet and heavier jacket, but it´s not case of Velum - it dries really quick in the field.

The biggest concern almost everyone has with Active Shell and other light materials is the endurance and abrasion resistance. I don´t observe any abrasion or other kind of damaged on the outer material, nor on the inner material with expection of the micro-tape covering the seam in the bottom of the jacket, however it does not effect the funcionality yet.

I really didn´t try to avoid demanding conditions and I am sure the jacket will serve me well for at least another season or two.

Winter climbing in High Tatras, author: Lukas A.

What about some practical things? The hood works with helmets (old Petzl Elios in my case - my experience is that helmet of this size pulls the jacket up a little bit - you can see it on the picture below) and its peak is reinforced with wire. The adjustment of the hood is simple thanks to Berghaus one hand adjustment system - you can just pull the cord and it´s done. The button for releasing the cord is hidden inside the jacket. It´s the same for the bottom of the jacket.


There is only one mesh pocket accesible from outside with simple zip (not waterproof) - it´s big enough for energy bars, compass and cell phone in wateproof case. 

Is there anything I don´t like about the jacket? I am really sad, that it´s made in Asia, therefore I am looking for some similiar piece of equipment, which is made in Europe / USA / Canada. 

To sum things up, Velum Anorak is perfect for thru-hiking, adventure races, mountain running and alpinism for one simple reason - you don´t know about it while it´s  in your backpack, but you can feel the protection it gives you when you put it on. 

Bad news is, that Berghaus decided to produce only the full zip version (both in Velum and Asgard product range) and Velum was moved from "Extreme" product range to "Mountain" range (so no limited lifetime warranty for it anymore).

Overall rating (see my rating explanation)
Weight: Light
Volume: Small
Performance: Perfect yet (9 month, various trips and conditions)