Line Of The Year?

Candide Thovex just upped the ante with this one.  That line would be hard enough to pull, but to pull it before transitioning back into board mode?  Mental.

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.

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.

Boarder ‘rides’ avy at Tuckerman

Three words: lucky motherf*cker (or is that two words?)

The crowd cheering is an odd touch.

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

Importance of Islands of Safety – tetonAT x-post

Check this post over at Steve Romeo’s site today. That wet slide goes for a bit. Imagine yourself in it. Good vid to watch and keep in mind now that spring is upon us.

Eddie Bauer’s new “First Ascent” line

Just came across this today, Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent.  Interesting stuff as maybe, juuuust maybe, it means that Eddie Bauer is going back to it’s roots (though not going so far as to manufacturing in the USA…) and actually trying to put out quality outdoor gear again.

First thought: Sweet, a potential source of outdoor clothing available in tall sizes for those mongoloids like myself, and I’m always a sucker for a picture of Mt. Rainier so that got my attention.

Second thought: This stuff is pretty expensive.  $349 for the Rainier jacket with it’s ‘WeatherEdge Pro’ generic waterproof/breathable laminate (assuming just another post-Goretex patent expiration knockoff) seems a bit steep for unproven gear – though they have (or at least used to have) their lifetime warranty so you could always ‘rent’ the garment to test it out.  In fact…maybe I’ll do that for a future review.

First Ascent Rainier jacket

First Ascent Rainier jacket

The down sweater, 800 fill, quoted weight of 13.4 oz. puts it in the same weight realm of the Patagonia sweater, not sure how much of the weight of either is down fill v. the shell though.

First Ascent Downlight sweater

First Ascent Downlight sweater

Could be interesting stuff, they’ve certainly got a decent team (including PNW loc Kyle Miller) helping shape the product, assuming they are actually helping shape and not just licensing their name out.  When it goes on the inevitable supercrazywhackfunky clearance I may pick up an item or two and test it out, unless they want to send me something beforehand…