First Look: Mountain Hardwear Koa 55 pack

In an odd stroke of timing I was talking about wanting to try the Mountain Hardwear Koa 55 early last week. It really seems like a good mix of light (though not ultralight by any stretch) and feature filled. Fast forward to Friday and I discovered MH was doing their semi-annual warehouse sale, which also allows mere mortals such as myself to shop their employee store. As I’m a dedicated blogger I decided I should sacrifice some of my hard earned money to buy some new gear to review (read as: it was blowing 35+ at the coast so surfing/kayaking didn’t sound like much fun) for everyone.

So, as I’m in the process of packing/moving and won’t be able to take the pack out for at least two weeks I wanted to post some pics up for anyone else considering the pack. Seems like there was a bit of hype surrounding this pack in all the buyer’s guides this year, but I haven’t been able to find much in the way of real-world images or reviews.

Mountain Hardwear Koa 55

Mountain Hardwear Koa 55

Main pocket on Koa 55, with rolltop (think: drybag) closure

Main pocket on Koa 55, with rolltop (think: drybag) closure

Small external pocket with key loop

Small external pocket with key loop

Side access (on both sides) to main pocket

Side access (on both sides) to main pocket

Stowaway mesh helmet carrier

Stowaway mesh helmet carrier

Bottom access to pack.  Yes, there are a lot of zippers on the pack.

Bottom access to pack. Yes, there are a lot of zippers on the pack.

Mesh backpanel.  Most stoked for this as my old Gregory is WARM

Mesh backpanel. Most stoked for this as my old Gregory is WARM

A friendly little LNT reminder

A friendly little LNT reminder

That’s all for now. As always, if there’s a question about the product, or an angle you want photographed, lemme know. I apologize for the pics being a bit blown out, don’t have the time to edit the levels/curves on ’em.

If you can’t find it locally, the Mountain Hardwear Koa 55 is available online at all the usual suspects. The widget below should enable you to quickly see who has it and at what price. As always I recommend you try and shop at your local outdoor equipment retailer. If you don’t support them first you’ll have nobody to blame but yourself if there comes a time where you can’t go look/feel equipment locally before buying.

Reviews and first looks coming ‘soon’:
Mountain Hardwear Koa 55 pack (duh)
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 bag – complete, click to read
Perception Search 15 (sit-on-top kayak)

Review: Westcomb Mirage jacket

It’s been awhile since I’ve fired up a review, and I’ve been sleeping on this one for awhile. Took the pics a few weeks back and just haven’t set aside the time to fire up some thoughts on the jacket.

Marketing speak
The Westcomb Mirage jacket is part of the Hardshell AX line of outerwear from (ex-Arcteryxers) the Canunckistani company Westcomb. Their marketing speak is brief and to the point on their site, stating merely

Stylish eVent® shell is a superb all-mountain piece engineered for any on-or-off mountain activities requiring protection from the harshest conditions.

Fit
I purchased the jacket in an XL, which according to their size chart should fit someone with a 17″ neck, 47″ chest, 41″ waist and an ‘overall length’ of 35″. Not sure what the overall length measurement is, but possibly the sleeve length?

My biggest issue with the jacket is the fit. Given the intended use of the jacket (note that the Hardshell AX line is promoted by an image of a guy rappelling) I’d assume it to have a relatively slender, efficient cut, with some added sleeve length for when you’re reaching above your head. Instead you get a very boxy, short bodied jacket with sleeves longer than you’d expect for the body, yet still not long enough. I feel like the body length and sleeve length are non-complimentary, and both could stand to be longer (c’mon Canada, I know you’re a bunch of overgrown milk drinkers like myself!). The body could also be a bit narrower in my opinion – I feel like rather than catering to the athletic it’s built to cater to the McDonalds eaters out there.

Westcomb Mirage body shot

Westcomb Mirage body shot

Build
One place that I feel Westcomb really nails it is build quality. There are very few garments I’ve come in contact with that give off the same feeling of quality as the Westcombs that I’ve dealt with.

For the Mirage jacket Westcomb kept it simple, including only what you need to get up and down the mountain and leaving out the extras you don’t. A few mini toggles on the hood/collar, velcro on the wrists, internal and external pockets, and waterproof zips all around. No pit zips on this eVent jacket, and in my experience their unnecessary (and I am one of the heaviest sweaters around). I know everyone says that about eVent, and I had my initial doubts given my sweaty nature, but I’ve yet to get anything more then slightly damp in this jacket – and this is coming from someone that used to drip sweat and be soaked to the bone. I’m a believer.

Performance thus far
Outside of the fit issues I love this jacket. As mentioned above it’s far outperformed anything I’ve ever owned for getting sweat out and away, and it crumples down to the size of nothing. Keeps the rain and snow out like nobody’s business to where it’s my go-to rain jacket as well. My only complaint this thus far (and the reason I’ll probably be one of ‘those guys’ and abuse a certain online retailers return policy…) is the fit. The body needs to be a touch longer and a touch narrower, and the sleeves need a bit of length added as well. Yes, I’m a mongoloid, but I feel like usually the techie garments are built for mongoloids.

As always, if you have any questions/comments about the garment drop it in the comments or email me at justin@poormansheli.com and I’ll get back to you.

Westcomb Mirage internal pocket

Westcomb Mirage internal pocket

Hood toggle

Hood toggle

Zipper tucked into its cover

Zipper tucked into it's cover

If not available to you locally you can pick up Westcomb products at a few online vendors, though neither have a terribly deep selection. Backcountry.com and Oregon Mountain Community both carry Westcomb and are good retailers, though like always I suggest trying to give your local shop the biz first.

Jeremy Jones/Deeper Awesomeness

Somewhere on Hood a kid is working on getting another 90 degrees of rotation and stressing out about his style, contest scores and sponsorships. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world Jeremy Jones and crew are progressing the sport in a different manner while stressing about avy hazards, leaving for their line at 10pm!. Same sport, same planet, different worlds.

Nice views

Nice views

Xavier de la Rue smiles for the portrait by Jeremy Jones

Xavier de la Rue smiles for the portrait by Jeremy Jones

First Ascent team reaches Everest summit

Looks like the First Ascent team reached the summit of Everest today. Congrats to them, as that’s a burly achievement and chosen suffering at it’s finest. You can follow their every foostep an rib breaking cough at their blog here. It remains to be seen if First Ascent is an authentic attempt by EB to return to their roots or a just a marketing ploy and attempt to boost the company’s value to any suitors.

I’m always skeptical, but again if the gear goes on super closeout I’ll pick up a few items to test out and report back.

Avalanche beacon review round up

Haven’t been posting much lately due to time/energy commitments. Figured I’d take a moment to throw these two avalanche beacon review sites up to help out anybody who is looking for a beacon, especially as now it’s the offseason and the sales are going to start – and if you’re lucky you’ll find a screaming deal like my Ortovox D3 for $90.

I’m not going to break it out by beacon, partly because I’m lazy lately, but partly because I want people to consider all options when choosing a beacon.

Lou Dawson’s beacon reviews from this year. Also check out beaconreviews.com for a different angle on the reviews. Like all will point out though the best beacon is the one that you know how to use and that you carry with you all the time.

Sharing the bloggity blog blogger love

Bored at work and/or killing time at work? Check out the below blogs, maybe one (or all) will be new to you. Some are snowboard, some ski, all good for a few extra mental vacation minutes.

Jeremy Jones blog
Lou Dawson, first guy to ski all the 14’ers in Colorado
Lots of good cooler photos
Andrew McLean’s ski mountaineering blog
Shay’s general snowboarding blog, reviews, etc.
Southofthenorth snow/skate blog

Know of a good one? Drop me a comment with the address.

Influences v1.0

If a picture is worth a thousand words this post falls somewhere between your average blog post and ‘War and Peace’.

Craig Kelly

Craig Kelly

Jamie Lynn

Jamie Lynn

Nirvana

Nirvana

Greg Galinsky v. Eames

Greg Galinsky v. Eames

Temple Cummins

Temple Cummins

Tropical locales

Tropical locales

Mid-winter warm water roadtrips

Mid-winter warm water roadtrips

Chris Gallardo/Splitboard.com

Chris Gallardo/Splitboard.com crew

Bonfires with friends

Bonfires with friends

To be continued….

A few Avalung vids

Yeah, I know most of you out there have probably seen these vids, but I was thinking about the Avalung and other ‘avalanche safety’ devices this morning (it’s 80 out, you’d think I’d be thinking about surfing or something right?). I actually own a standalone Avalung that was a gift from the lady friend for Christmas, but I’ve honestly yet to wear it in the backcountry (shhh, don’t tell her!). Fortunately it hasn’t been like the first day I got my helmet, forgot it in the car initially, and later parked my dome in a tree (luckily a friend reminded me to grab my helmet at lunch), demolishing helmet #1. Between my beacon, my SLR chest harness, and constantly shedding layers (yes, I’m a fat, sweaty bitch) it’s yet to make it out – though granted most of the days I’ve gone out have been low risk days. For days that I deem a bit sketchier I’ll definitely wear it. Yes, they make the Avalung packs, and damn they’d be convenient, but my issue with them is being married to one pack design and size (Black Diamond please license the technology out to others!). Excuses excuses, I know. On to the vids.

Vid 1: Chris Cardello’s first person view of his burial in AK earlier this year. I know this made the rounds earlier this year, but still pretty amazing.

Vid 2: Non-embeddable, but interesting. Craig Dostie of Couloir Magazine (now Backcountry Magazine) volunteered to be buried for an hour while wearing an Avalung. It’s a longer vid so you may want to fast forward through parts, but definitely makes you think. His first person recount of the burial can be seen here.

Craig Dostie buried while wearing Avalung

Craig Dostie buried while wearing Avalung

The naysayers will continue to say it’s inconvenient, not a guarantee as you’ve got to get it in your mouth and keep it there, and can lead to bad decision making. The opposing view points out that if you are in an avalanche you’ll want every advantage you can think of to extend your life. I’ll continue to fall somewhere inbetween with my thinking – though I have to admit I am fond of living.

Photo sneak preview: Osprey Kode 38 pack

Dying tonight in our heatwave (RIP snow) and melting on the couch figured I’d snap a few pics of the Osprey Kode 38 that recently came into my possession. I’ve only got two days on the pack so want to hold off giving any real review yet as I’m still getting used to the Kode v. my tried and true Dakine and there’s an obvious adjustment period needed. A couple first impressions/early thoughts:

  • The pack feels light. Not UL backpacker light, but feels lighter than my smaller Dakine. I don’t have a scale to verify whether I am/am not crazy.
  • Avy tool pocket needs some sort of shovel/blade pocket to keep items from shifting. There’s a small stretchy part inside the tool pocket but it wouldn’t hold any blade I’m aware of.
  • It’s not the quickest pack to access your non-avy gear as you’ve got to unbuckle two buckles before you can unzip the pack
  • The above being said the pack carries well (in part due to those buckles/load lifter straps), especially with a board on it, and feels compact on your back

If there are any angles/measurements/etc. you’d like to see let me know in the comments section and I’ll get’er done. Also, if you have any questions you’d like me to address in testing I’ll do my best. On to the pics.

Front view. Pack is empty thus it looks a bit flat. Will get better pics when I drop a review.

Osprey Kode 38 front view

Osprey Kode 38 front view

Back view

Osprey Kode back view

Osprey Kode and IKEA chair caught on film in hot steamy embrace

Back panel open. Threw a Downmat 7 in there to give some perspective to interior size.

Open up and say aaaaahhhh

Open up and say aaaaahhhh

Unlike the Kode 30 the avy tool pocket on the Kode 38 isn’t zippered.

Drawcord avy tool pocket closure

Drawcord avy tool pocket closure

Interior shot of avy tool pocket

Osprey Kode chewing with its mouth open (just like my co-workers...)

Osprey Kode chewing with it's mouth open (just like my co-workers...)

Nice zipper pulls

Pull my zipper

Pull my zipper

Buckles and load lifters

Osprey Kode buckles

Osprey Kode buckles

If you can’t find it at your local outdoors shop the Osprey Kode is available at a few online retailers. I’m trying something new by throwing a bunch of retailers in the below banner, hopefully helps you find the best price quickly and save you from clicking from site to site (I used to just have a big list of retailers here). Ping me with any feedback you’ve got on the widget.

(mock) How to: on the hill base grind/structuring

*warning: blurry photos ahead, do not adjust your eyes*

Step 1:
Find east facing slope that has been baking in the sun all week.  Climb said slope.

Step 1:  Hike up east facing/melted out peak

Step 1: Hike up east facing/melted out peak

Step 2: 
Achieve a zen-like state and sit/ponder the conditions you’ll be encountering in the near future to decide how you’d like to structure your base.

Pondering

Pondering

Step 3: 
Crack beer and drink while continuing to ponder.  Throw in occasional curse about POS tripod that broke and how it’s cramping your photo steez.

Drink and ponder

Drink and ponder

Step 4: 
Ride down hill ’til the snow runs out and you’re faced with at least a 30 foot (research shows 30 foot is the minimum to get a quality grind) section of sand and other non-snow surfaces.  Tell buddies that you’d just ollie the gap or ( __insert miscellaneous BS here____ ) if it were light out and you could see, but as it’s not you’ll just ride over it.  Bonus points for snagging nose on a tree or rock and throwing in a sommersault halfway thru the base grind.

Midnight Wintersteiger

Midnight Wintersteiger

Step 5: 
Meet back up with snow, turn back and admire your work, then proceed to ride ’til you hit pavement.  Call it a night knowing you’ve just saved yourself $50 on a basegrind/structuring.

Sand meets snow

Sand meets snow

Step 6: 
Admire handiwork in the daylight the next day, confident that the structure you added will help channel water off your base this spring.

Nice work

Mission: accomplished