Monday, April 30, 2012

Ogden Climbing Festival 5 Recap

Here are some pictures from the 5th Annual Ogden Climbing Festival held over the weekend.  Other pictures of the event can be found at

GEAR:30 was at the Gear Demo for their public debut.

Many vendors showed up with gear to demo, including Mad Rock, Scarpa, Black Diamond, Red Chili, and Revv NRG.  It was a fun time.

At the Boulder Comp the next morning.  

We had a strong female showing.  There weren't necessarily a lot of females that climbed, but they were all strong.

Curt and Denver helped organize and judge the comp.  Curt is a huge help every year, marking all the routes on each of the boulders with chalk.  This year it rained over night, so he had to remark each of the routes early Saturday morning.

Eric Zschiesche cruising routes that few others seemed to get up

Sawyer Wylie, a friend of mine and blogger at

Shane Bryson.  This traverse is rated at a V8 or so.  Shane went on to take first place in the comp for the open category.

Eric Zsciesche came in 2nd place in the open category.  He always brings a lot of positive energy to these events.

Staff from The Front Ogden climbing gym taught a children's bouldering clinic.

Peter Croft taught a climbing clinic/Q&A session.

It was super fun to have Peter out.  Later that night he gave a slideshow presentation and told some great stories.  It was a really good time.

Peter signing posters before his presentation.

For more (and better) pictures of the Festival, check out the OgdenOutdoorAdventure Facebook page here and the GEAR:30 Facebook page here

Sunday, April 29, 2012

5th Annual Ogden Climbing Festival update

The 5th Annual Ogden Climbing Festival is winding down, with just one more event tomorrow morning. Tomorrow morning there will be a boulder field clean up and trail maintenance.

There was a good turnout to yesterday's gear demo and today's boulder comp, bbq, climbing clinic, Peter Croft presentation, and after party at The Front climbing gym.  I took a lot of pictures, but I left my SD card in a camera that currently isn't in my possession, so I can't download any of the pictures.  They will be coming, probably on Monday.

We had a pretty good turnout at the Redpoint Boulder Comp, but not as many as in years past, unfortunately.  I guess some people don't love bouldering on our Quartzite.  We did have a few really strong climbers show up, however, with Shane Bryson taking first place in the Open category.  Eric Zschiesche came in second place.

I don't remember the results for the other categories, unfortunately, but I hope to get them in the next day or two so I can post them.

The climbing clinic with Peter Croft was a lot of fun.  We were able to ask questions and pick his brain about all things climbing.  I was lucky enough to talk to him for about 15 or 20 minutes after we had cleaned everything up and got some beta on the Evolution Traverse in the Sierras, a climb that has been on my "to do" list for quite a while now.  Peter was a super friendly guy and it was a real pleasure getting to know him a little bit.

Peter's presentation tonight was great.  He shared some amazing pictures and funny stories with us.  He told a story of climbing the Nose with Eric Zschiesche, and Ogden local.  A lot of people in Ogden know Eric for his eccentric, happy-go-lucky personality and friendliness, but I think it was a bit of an eye opener to learn that Ogden has a climbing legend in our midst (other than Jeff Lowe).  I often see Eric while out climbing and he is cranking as hard as ever.  He's climbed multiple 5.13s here in Ogden in recent months.  Super cool guy.  Anyway, it was a really fun night hearing all those stories

I hope to have some pictures of the events posted within the next day or two.

Friday, April 27, 2012


This is a public service announcement for everybody that is interested in the outdoors.  Myself and a few other outdoor athletes from Ogden have joined forces and have a new website to offer how-to information; gear reviews; outdoor news; local trail, climbing, skiing, and whitewater conditions; etc. for everybody interested.  This website is in conjunction with a new GEAR:30 Facebook page and, eventually (September 2012), a new brick-n-mortar specialty retail shop in Ogden, Utah, also called GEAR:30.

Though the website is up and running, we are still working on transferring content over from other sites that we have been running for the past couple years.  Come visit the website, .  We hope to be a great resource for everybody that loves the mountains, whether you are an Ogden local or live on the other side of the world.  We will be working hard to keep content fresh and up-to-date.

I will continue to do just what I've been doing with this blog, but the content of this blog will also be found at along with a lot of other content from other great sources.  I will continue to do gear reviews on as much good gear as I can get a hold of, whether it will be carried in the GEAR:30 store or not.  Our Facebook page will also be an easy way to stay current on what is happening in the outdoor world.  Visit us at Gear:30 Facebook

With all that said, I'm heading off to work at the 5th Annual Ogden Climbing Festival.  Come visit GEAR:30 tonight from 5-9pm at the Gear Demo at Weber State University's Weber Rocks climbing wall.  Petzl, Black Diamond, La Sportiva, Red Chili, Evolv, and many others will be there.  We will be giving shirts, hats, stickers, and climbing rope, and many other prizes and giveaways have been donated by all different vendors, including Arc'teryx backpacks, shoes, harnesses, etc. Should be a super fun weekend!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ogden Climbing Festival this weekend

The 5th Annual Ogden Climbing Festival will be going on this weekend, April 25-29.  Some of the activities that will be going on during the festival are as follows:

April 25-27 - AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course
April 27 - Free Gear Demo from 5-9pm at the Weber State Weber Rocks Climbing Gym
April 28 - 10am-12:30pm Red Point Boulder Comp outside (weather permitting) at the Ogden boulder    field 
                 12-1pm Free Red Bull BBQ
                 1-3:30pm Free Climbing Clinics, including a clinic from Peter Croft
                 6:30 Peter Croft Keynote Presentation
                 8:30-11 Event After Party at the Front Ogden Climbing Club with free food and beverage provided by Roosters
April 29 - Boulder Field Cleanup and Trail Maintenance

Come Join us.  It is always a good time!

Here are some pictures of the 2010 and 2011 OCF.  2010 Pics are outside, 2011 are inside due to snow.  These photos are courtesy of Ogden Outdoor Adventure.

Maggie pulling the crux move

Will Gadd came out to boulder with us for the day and then gave a presentation that evening.  What an awesome guy! 
The Gear Demo at Weber State.  Black Diamond, Petzl, Evolv, The Front Ogden, and a bunch of other sponsors showed up with their gear for people to try out.
Ogden Outdoor Adventure proprietor and radio host Brandon Long with Beth Rodden.  Beth came and taught us how to make salsa.  The baby is a little star struck.  She gave a great presentation the next night.
2011 climbing comp was inside at The Front Ogden due to snowy weather.  There was a good turnout.  Hannah here was one of the many hard women to compete.
Jed Lowe showing the rest how steep climbing is done.  Don't remember if he won or not.  He usually does.

Here's a video of last year's climbing festival:

For more detailed info on the climbing festival check out this website:

Daniel, Tim, and the rest of the Weber State Outdoor Program always organize a great festival and with help from a lot of sponsors, this year should be better than ever.

Feathered Friends Spoonbill. Not a review, just a heads up.

This is not a review.  I have not yet used this bag.  These are just observations.  Consider it me thinking out loud.

I was browsing some web sites this morning and came across the Feathered Friends Spoonbill two-person sleeping bag.  It was unveiled in 2007.  Not sure why I didn't notice it until now.  I have been toying with the idea of building a two person quilt for backpacking with my wife and for alpine climbing with a partner.  Though I don't enjoy sleeping in the same bag or quilt with another man, it is a lot more efficient to share body heat than to have two separate sleeping bags.

There was a line in the Spoonbill description that I found really intriguing:

"This bag has been tested extensively on Denali for the past five years and the feedback has been that it is plenty warm on that mountain for the athletes who were using it."

The bag weighs 2lb 11oz in a regular length.  That's the same weight as their Snowbunting 0 degree, 1-person sleeping bag, which is not warm enough for Denali for a single person, at least not without wearing other insulating layers as well.

The Spoonbill has approximately 5" of loft, about the same as FF's 20 degree sleeping bags.  But, then you add a heater sleeping next to you and the warmth and efficiency of the bag goes way up.  I've read a couple reviews of it being closer to a 10 degree bag and Feathered Friends says that their testers show it to be closer to a 0 degree bag.

I'm sure Feathered Friends' Denali claim totally depends on who the people are inside the bag.

Here are some stats:

  • Fill Weight: 23oz
  • Average Total Weight: 2lb 11oz
  • 850 or 900 fill power goose down
  • Width: 104" of girth at the shoulders, 90" at the hips, 68" at the feet
  • Two, fully-adjustable hoods (adjusting one hood shouldn't affect the other person)
  • Comes with either a NanoSphere shell or an Ultralight Pertex Endurance Shell
  • There is no down on the bottom; one must rely on their pads for warmth.  Compressed down on the bottom doesn't do much anyway.
  • $700-$850, depending on length and shell material.  Ouch!

Why I think this is a good idea

Let's consider the possibility that this bag is warm enough for Denali.  That means with two people it's warmth is comparable to a 0 degree bag, approximately.  A 0 degree bag from Feathered Friends will cost you about $550-$600 and will weigh about 2lb 11oz.  A comparable Western Mountaineering bag will cost about $580 and weigh around 2lb 11oz.  If you multiply this by two bags, then the weight is hovering between five and six pounds.  Just one Spoonbill weighs 2lb 11oz and is big enough for two people.  That's a weight savings of almost three pounds.  And for the unlucky person that gets to carry the bag, they're still only carrying the same weight as they would be with a 1-person 0 degree bag and would be saving a pound of weight, compared to carrying their own -20 bag.

Now let's consider that this bag is not warm enough for Denali by itself, but it is if you wear an insulated jacket and pants as part of your sleep system.  You may still sleep more comfortably because the bag is roomier than a normal sleeping bag.  I'm not sure about you, but when I sleep in my down jacket, I can't zip up my sleeping bag or it's simply too snug for comfort.  I struggle in a mummy bag without extra layers.  Having a two person bag, though still snug, I would guess would be more comfortable with those extra layers.

Finally, one of these bags is a lot cheaper than two of the others.  $750 for this bag is a lot better than about $1200 for two of the others.

The Potential Downsides

I can see a few potential downsides to this bag.  First of all, as a backpacking bag for use with my wife, I don't think it could get any better.  As an alpine climbing bag with a buddy, I'm not so sure.  Just the thought of cuddling with another guy all night is enough to make me consider carrying the extra 3 pounds we'd be saving.

Here is one of the funniest things I've read on the subject, by Kelly Cordes:

The other downside is that it may not be as versatile on a solo trip.  I guess you could unzip one side and fold the extra sleeping bag over like a burrito, but probably not as light or as efficient as a single person bag for a solo trip.

Either way, I'm still strongly considering this option for my wife and I and am debating its use as a 2-man  alpine climbing bag when going really light is necessary.

These pictures were taken from Feathered Friends' Facebook Page.  Hope they don't mind:

Notice there's no insulation on the bottom of the bag.  When you sleep on down, the down is compressed and loses its insulating value.  Therefore, it's pointless weight.  Sleeping pads are the key to insulating from the ground.

3-D Hoods

2lb 10.5oz according to this scale.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Two Ogdenites on Everest

Two guys from Ogden are on Everest this spring.  My buddy at will be posting their dispatches on his website.  Check it out here:

Transitioning to Forefoot and/or Minimalist Running Shoes Part 2

Let me say, at the outset, that I am not a running coach.  Any knowledge that I have on this subject come from personal experience, not from any formal training.  Therefore, please take these comments as my own suggestions, not as expert advice.

Here is a brief summary of my history with running:

Throughout my life I have enjoyed being active.  I played various team sports until I was 12, at which point I started mountain bike racing, rock climbing, and running.  I ran long distance races competitively until I was 19 and then moved to Europe for a couple years.  For the last four years I have run off and on; mostly off because running was too painful and I enjoyed biking and climbing more.

Two years ago, while working at a local shop, the desire to run came back.  I was talking to some friends of mine and my boss, who is an ultra-marathoning nut, overheard me complaining about running injuries and how I wish I could still run.  He invited me to go running with him and told me he'd coach me on how to run with a forefoot strike.  I took him up on it and within a few weeks running became enjoyable again.

My Transition

My transition to a forefoot strike started about two months before my first run with my boss.  I have always worn "supportive" shoes with "good arch support".  When I wasn't wearing shoes I was wearing Chacos with "good arch support."  Over the years my feet had become very weak.  About two months before this run, I bought a pair of Sanuk shoes (oh wait, they're not shoes, they're sandals).  They were some of the most comfortable shoes I'd ever worn and they were on sale.  Sanuks, however, do not have "good arch support."  Man were my feet sore.  For the first three weeks or so, every time I would wear these Sanuks my feet would get sore.  The soreness came because the muscles in my foot were getting a workout and weren't used to it.  It's no different than sore arms after lifting weight.

I wore these shoes more and more and wore other shoes less and less.  As my feet strengthened, I noticed that I enjoyed shoes and sandals that had little support.

The trail run I went on with my boss was six miles long and in the snow.  He taught me that I was overstriding which was causing me to land on my heels.  He also explained that it would be very difficult to run properly in shoes with a big, built-up heel.  Because most shoes have a 12mm drop (the heel is 12mm higher than the forefoot), he'd cut a 12mm wedge out of the heels of his shoes to help him run properly.  So, I shortened my stride and quickened my cadence.

Next he taught me that I should have good posture when I'm running properly.  Because of the big heels of my shoes (and laziness), it was difficult to always have good posture.  But, I rolled my shoulders back, stuck my chest out, and focused on having good posture.  This became much easier once I got shoes that have a zero drop.  

He also taught me that my arms should be pretty compact by my side, swinging forward from the shoulder, not across my body.  I was already doing this much.

Finally, he told me it would take a little time to get used to the new technique and to stick with it.  I did, and after a couple weeks, my knee pain was gone.  As the weather warmed up, I started running on the grass at a park without shoes on.  I did this to help make sure my technique was proper (when I run without shoes, I naturally use proper technique; my posture is good, I forefoot strike, etc) and to help strengthen my feet.

One other thing that was helpful was that I read the book Born to Run  while I was making the transition, which helped me stay motivated to run.  After reading that book, I was convinced that I could eat some chia seeds, lose the shoes, and run 200 miles.  Now I'm convinced that snickers taste better than chia seeds, that marathons are plenty long (though I will do 100 miles at some point), and that, with proper running technique, I can at least run pain free.

Transition Pains

As I transitioned to a forefoot strike, my knee pain went away, but other pains came.  First of all, the day after my first run, I could barely walk.  My calves were so sore!  I hadn't given my calves that good of a workout in a very long time.  This, however, was just muscle pain from a good workout, not joint pain.  I stuck with the running and, after about three weeks, my calves were used to the running

My boss mentioned that it's best to transition slowly, starting with a short run and getting progressively longer as your body gets used to it.  I would suggest this, otherwise you do risk injury by straining weak muscles that have not yet adapted to the new strain.

Another transition pain was from plantar fascitis in the ball of my foot.  I think this was caused by older, poor-fitting shoes.  With the additional pressure on the ball of my foot and a shoe that was too narrow in the forefoot to allow my toes to splay properly, the tendons in my foot started acting up and I soon had pain shooting up my foot every time I would long on a rock or tree root (or even a slight mound) with the ball of my foot.

The more I wore these running shoes, the worse it got.  Eventually I threw the shoes out and got a pair of Altra Instinct running shoes (of which I have already written a fair amount) and the pain slowly went away.  It took about a month for the pain to totally subside.

Now I am super picky about the shoes I run in and wear.  These Altras are so comfortable they have turned me into a snob.  There are few things I am pickier about now than my running and hiking shoes.

Transitioning Tips from Altra

Considering my running "coach" is one of the founders at Altra, I often look to them for information about technique and transitioning.  This is what their website has to say about it:

Transition to Zero Drop Footwear

Most Running Shoes are built on a 2-to-1 heel-to-toe ratio (Twice as thick in the heel as the forefoot). Zero Drop footwear by ALTRA has been built on a 1-to-1 ratio (The heel and forefoot are the same heights off the ground).
A lifetime of wearing an elevated heel has neutralized your Achilles and lower calf and THEY NEED TIME TO REDEVELOP!
Depending on your foot and calf strength, many runners will experience some lower calf tightness due to the natural loading effect of running with Zero Drop. Getting into Zero Drop Shoes will be an adjustment for many. Please read the appropriate directions depending on your shoe.

Minimalist Zero Drop Shoe Transition Guide

How to transition from traditional running shoes to Altra's Zero Drop and minimalist shoes… Running Minimalist or Barefoot Transition Program for Average Feet (i.e. Occasionally walk around barefoot; doesn’t wear supportive insoles)
This program is built for runners & walkers who have average foot strength in order to help them transition to barefoot, minimal (i.e. Adam/Eve), or cushion Zero Drop (e.i. Instinct/Intuition) footwear. Candidates are people who use their feet a fair amount, exercise regularly, don’t wear overly supportive shoes or insoles, and those who may occasionally walk around or run barefoot. I suggest doing the following program as part of regular exercise routine. Simply take some time during your workout in your minimalist footwear or bare feet.
For your first outing, go 1 mile wearing your minimalist shoes or barefoot. The following day, evaluate your level of comfort*. If you have no soreness, then add a ½ mile to your routine the following day. Continue running one day, evaluating the next until you get a bit sore. Once you get sore, you’ve found your base line and foundation to build from. Once you find your baseline, simply add a few minutes every couple of days to your routine and continue to evaluate on a regular basis. Within a few short weeks, you should be able to run long distances with no problems.
*The key to being successful in phasing in a minimalist routine is to evaluate your level of comfort and to find a base line to build from. If you get to the point during your workout where you feel uncomfortable, you have probably gone too long and will most likely be a little sore the next day. This is the premise for the whole program.

Closing Thoughts
This is me again, not Altra:
Listen to your body.  If there is pain, that's your body's way of saying that something is wrong.  In my experience, it is much easier to stay motivated to make the transition if you start slowly to help minimize the pain.  If you transition too quickly and you feel a lot of calf soreness, you are less likely to go out the next day for another run.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Transitioning to a Forefoot Strike and/or Minimalist Running Shoes Part 1

I read an interesting post on Cold Thistle this morning about barefoot running and minimalist shoes.  It was an article by G.S. Seltzer at  It's an interesting article.  The link is  Or you can read it at one of my favorite blogs,

  Then, with that on my mind, I went climbing for a few hours.  While I was sitting at a belay, I got a text from my wife.  One of the girls she works with is a runner.   The text said, "(Her friend's name) disagrees with you on your running style.  She says the ball of the foot is bad.  Heel-toe is better for long distances."

This friend of my wife has taken up running and her husband ran track for a local university.  He was a sprinter, not a long-distance runner.  He told his wife that his track coaches said that landing on the ball of the foot is good for sprinting, but a heel-to-toe strike is better for long distances (a widely believed idea that has been challenged more recently during the barefoot/minimalist running movement).  This friend also said she tried the midfoot strike thing and got injured.

The fact is, even if midfoot striking is better than heel striking (which I believe it is), it can still lead to injury if your body is not used to it and the transition isn't done carefully.  Therefore, I'm writing this two-part post to explain how I transitioned to forefoot striking and more minimal shoes.

Why Running Shoes Have Thick Heels

In 1967, William J. Bowerman (a successful track coach at University of Oregon) and W. E. Harris wrote a book called Jogging: A Physical Fitness Program for all Ages.  In the book, Bowerman and Harris claimed that the most efficient way to run was to land on the heel of the foot and that a person would jog faster if they lengthened their stride.  A longer stride meant that a runner must land on their heels.  There was no scientific evidence for these claims, but it sounded good.

A few years later, Bowerman, now one of the founders of Nike, was involved in creating a new running shoe with a thicker heel, called the Nike Cortez.  Later, with some more ingenuity and his wife's waffle iron, he created the Waffle Trainer.

The thicker heel look caught on and other companies adopted the design.  The thicker sole also forced the user to adopt a heel strike (because it's really difficult not to with such a thick heel).  It's interesting to note, that running-related injuries have gone up since the invention of thick-heeled running shoes and a heel strike.

Why I think a Mid/Forefoot Strike is better

A few years ago a study came out by Daniel Lieberman and colleagues from Harvard University.  The study, Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually versus shod runners, showed a few interesting points.  The study compared shod runners and barefoot runners and measured their impact forces.  

According to the study, "At similar speeds, magnitudes of peak vertical force during the impact period are approximately three times lower in habitual barefoot runners who forefoot strike than in habitually shod runners who rearfoot strike either barefoot or shod."

If you run without shoes on, your body is naturally going to find a form or technique that is most comfortable and does the least amount of damage for the body.  Try heel striking without shoes on.  It just hurts.  If one runs without shoes, their body will naturally transition to a technique that is less damaging and painful to their body, which will be a forefoot strike.  (For clarification, I often use the terms midfoot strike and forefoot strike synonymously, even though a mid foot strike means landing with the forefoot and heel landing simultaneously.  A forefoot strike means the ball of the foot lands first.  A forefoot strike is actually the more natural gait and is what I mean when I say midfoot strike)

This is the same lady, running without shoes on the left and with shoes on the right.  Look how much smoother she looks without shoes.  Her posture is better, her arms are tighter to her body, she lands softer and her body is smoother.  Without shoes, notice that her knee is bent when she lands so the impact force is absorbed by her muscles.  With shoes, she lands with her leg mostly straight so the impact force (that is 3x the amount as without shoes) is absorbed less by her muscles and much more by her knees and hips/lower back.  There are no shock absorbers in the knees or lower back.  It's no wonder that a different friend of my wife, who is an avid runner, just had hip surgery to repair some damage they think was caused by running (she heel strikes, by the way).

Another downside to heel striking is that it is less efficient than forefoot striking.  It's a little more visible in this video.  As a person lands on their heel with their leg out in front of them, it's like they are putting on the brakes.  Proper forefoot-striking technique is that the runner lands on the forefoot directly under the body, not out in front, so it shouldn't act as a brake.

After Deciding to Make the Transition

Chances are, if you've been running in standard running shoes for a long time your feet have weakened a bit.  We often hear about needing arch support in a shoe or some sort of pronation/supination control.  All this "technology" in shoes should lead to less injuries, right?  Well, according to some studies, approximately 70-80% of runners in America will get a running-related injury this year.  In contrast, about 3% of runners in third world countries (who usually run barefoot and with a mid/forefoot strike) will get a running-related injury this year.  It's possible that those numbers are so much lower because some of the injuries may go unreported, but probably not 67-77% of injuries go unreported.  That's a staggering difference.  I should note, these statistics are from memory (I think from the book Born to Run, which I read about two years ago or from one or the other studies I've read over the last few years) and could be off a bit.  If anybody knows what the statistics accurately are, I'd appreciate a comment on them.

Anyway, the body adapts to what it's subject to.  So, when a foot is "protected" by a shoe with lots of arch support, the arch gets weak.  It's like putting a cast on your foot.  If you did that to your arm, it too would get weaker.  Weak muscles being subject to a hard workout are a recipe for injuries.  Therefore, don't go on a long run barefoot or in minimal shoes when your feet are weak.

Anyway, it is important to strengthen one's feet before really committing to a full-time forefoot strike.  This can be done by wearing shoes less, occasionally running barefoot on grass or other soft, safe surfaces, by running with minimal shoes part-time, etc.  Going from a heel strike to minimal shoes and forefoot strike SHOULD NOT be an abrupt change.  It should be a gradual transition.  If somebody that is not used to a forefoot strike suddenly runs 10 miles with a forefoot strike, they will most likely not be able to walk for a few days (because their calves are so sore) and could potentially injure themselves in other ways.  It's like taking on a technical ski run with weak legs.  The risk of injury is so much higher than if the skier has strong legs, even if the technical skill is equal.

Part 2 of this post will be about how I transitioned to a forefoot strike and some other suggestions from experts in the field.

Saw this on Rock and Ice. Absolutely Nuts!

He does some incredible stuff, but . . . .

Saturday, April 21, 2012

OR Helium vs Marmot Super Mica--Ultralight Rain Jacket Review

There are many lightweight rain jackets on the market, but few that are lighter than the OR Helium and the Marmot Super Mica.  I have been using the Helium for about two years, and Phil has been using the Super Mica for about a year.  Mostly out of curiosity, I am going to compare the two jackets to see which, in my opinion, is the better jacket.

The Stats and Facts

                        OR Helium                                                      Marmot Super Mica
          6.7oz  (Med) according to my scale                            8.4oz (Med)  my scale
                Pertex Shield WPB Membrane                          Marmot Membrain Strata 
                    No Reinforcements                                      Reinforced Shoulders & Hips
                   One Zipper Chest Pocket                                    Two high hand pockets
               One internal stuff pocket with loop                         No internal pockets
                   No adjustable cuffs                                                Adjustable cuffs
                    Full hem drawcord                                             Partial hem drawcord
            Two-way adjustable hood                                    Two-way adjustable hood
                       No Pit Zips                                                              Pit zips
               Helmet Compatible(?) Hood                               Helmet Compatible Hood


Marmot Super Mica on the left, OR Helium on the right.  Super Mica has two front pockets that are mesh-lined (could work as vents for better breathability) and out of the way of a harness or hip belt.  OR, to save a few ounces, opted for one fairly small chest pocket.  The Super Mica's two chest pockets are each significantly larger than the Helium's chest pocket.

Super Mica has pitzips, Helium doesn't.

OR Helium has an internal stuff pocket with a loop for clipping to a carabiner.  The pocket is a good size for a wallet or cell phone, but is under a harness or hip belt if wearing a backpack.

Super Mica's front pockets are mesh-lined on the inside so they can be used for venting.  They don't work very well for venting, however, because the pockets don't let much air in.  Better than nothing, I guess.

Super Mica fabric is reinforced on the shoulders and at the hips to increase wear with a pack.  Also, the hem drawcord on the Super Mica only actually cinches the back half of the hem.  The Helium's hem drawcord cinches the whole hem.

Super Mica has a drawcord around the brim of the hood.

Super Mica has a second drawcord pull from the back of the hood.  This adjustment works pretty well in all conditions.

The Helium has one drawcord pull on the hood that pulls from the back and also tightens a small section of the brim of the hood (the section between my fingers).  It's an easy system, but the hood doesn't stay on very well in high winds.

Elastic cuffs on the Helium

Adjustable cuffs on the Super Mica, though the velcro patches are so small that it doesn't hold extremely well.  When I reach above my head with the cuffs tight, they come undone.

Helium packed into its own pocket with a loop for clipping to carabiner.  The whole package is small enough that it's great for clipping to a harness for use against wind or rain.

OR Helium in a size medium.  I'm 6'2" and 185lbs.  The fit is comfortably trim and will accommodate a thin mid layer, but that's about it.  It does fit over my Arc'teryx Atom LT hoody, but it's snug.

Marmot Super Mica in size medium.  The fit is about the same as the Helium with my arms down and would accommodate a thin mid layer.  When I wear this jacket under a harness, it pulls out of the harness slightly when I put my arms above my head.  The OR Helium feel great under a harness.  It easily stays tucked in and there is full range-of-motion with my arms.

Helium is kinda helmet-compatible.  With the jacket totally zipped up and the hood over a helmet it is really tight across my chin.  When I use it with a helmet I don't keep it zipped up.  The brim, though reinforced, is pretty flimsy and doesn't keep its shape very well.

Super Mica feels better over a helmet.  There is actually room inside the jacket to breathe.  The brim is also reinforced a little better and keeps its shape better.  Neither of the hoods are big enough to allow much head movement laterally with a helmet when the jacket is fully zipped.  Though they technically fit over a helmet (which is nice), neither work well with a helmet.

MY Verdict

First of all, let me say that both of these jackets are good.  Both are extremely light and breathe decently well.  Hiking uphill in either of these jackets will definitely lead to clamminess, but the Marmot handles that slightly better than the OR, thanks mostly to its pit zips.  Though neither of these jackets has seen harsh, prolonged rain storms, both have been through moderate rain and haven't had even the slightest problem dealing with it.  Both have a great DWR and neither have wetted out.

Durability is a toss up between these two jackets.  Though the Super Mica is reinforced, the fabric on the Helium feels slightly more robust.  I mentioned in the previous post that I worried about climbing in my older OR Zealot jacket for fear of tearing it.  I don't worry about that with the Helium.  I've scraped it against Ogden quartzite without any problems.  The other reason I don't hesitate to climb in it is because OR has an unconditional lifetime warranty.  Though I try not to abuse the system, it is nice to know that I'm covered if I ruin the jacket.

Obviously the Super Mica is a full-featured jacket at a super light weight.  That comes at a price.  $200 retail for this jacket, compared to $150 for the Helium II (the updated version of my jacket; it's more waterproof, more breathable, and 0.4oz lighter than my jacket.  Yep, you heard right, 0.4oz lighter!  How do they do it?).

So, if I had to choose one of these two jackets, I would choose the OR.  The main reason for this is because it is better to climb in, in my opinion, and the majority of what I do is climbing.  It stays put under a harness, can pack into its own pocket and clip to a harness, and OR's unbeatable warranty allows me to climb without worrying that I may ruin it.  

The Super Mica is probably the better jacket for hiking and backpacking, however, because it vents better which makes it more versatile when hiking, especially uphill.  The fit is great as well, when you don't have to lift your hands above your head or when you're not wearing a harness, and the hood is more adjustable for using in bad weather.

So, it's kind of a toss up between which of these jackets is better.  If the comparison was between the OR Helium and the Marmot Mica (not the SUPER Mica), I wouldn't hesitate to say that the Helium is better because of its more robust material and OR's warranty, but the Super Mica offers a few extra details for not much added weight that, if you're a backpacker or hiker, may be worth the extra money.