Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Marmot Nabu Jacket Review/Preview

Women's Marmot Nabu Jacket

One of the most searched Marmot products in the past year has been the Zion jacket, according to the local Marmot sales rep.  That doesn't surprise me.  In a short time after posting Phil's review of the Zion jacket on this blog, it moved up to the second most read review and is still there.  We have been quite impressed with the Zion Jacket over the last year or so, but as was stated in the review, it isn't perfect.  The best part of the jacket is the Neoshell in a softshell application.  It breathes very well without the cool feeling that tends to accompany Neoshell hardshells.  The downside of the jacket is that it's on the heavy side and it is quite warm, making it a little less versatile during the warmer months.

When I saw the Marmot Nabu jacket at summer OR in July, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.  It seemed to me like they took mine and Phil's complaints about the Zion jacket , fixed them, and called it the Nabu.  I am happy to say that the Nabu jacket showed up at GEAR:30 last week, one of the few placed around that have them this early.

*I haven't been able to use it yet, but from trying it on and checking it out in the store, I have not been disappointed.  I think this could be the ideal foul weather active piece for the whole year.

The rest of this Preview/Review/Article can be found here:

Updates on the performance of this jacket will come as I get to use this jacket a bit.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Arc'teryx Quintic 28 Backpack Review

My backcountry backpack for the last few years has been a 40 liter winter pack that could carry anything from skis to ice tools to snowshoes to the kitchen sink.  Unfortunately, to do so necessitated lots and lots of straps.  It was a fine pack as a do-everything winter pack, but I really only used it as a ski pack, so it was a little too complicated.  I wanted something a little simpler, sleeker, and smaller.

When the Quintic was first released, I impulsively ordered one.  I ordered it for a few reasons.  First of all, it is a unique design.  The shape of the pack and the unique pockets piqued my interest.  The second reason was, unfortunately, the brand.  I have had good experiences with most of the Arc'teryx pieces I have tried.  They are generally clean, sleek, and functional.  The third reason was that I had access to a discount on that pack.  I pulled the trigger and this is what I have found, so far.

Stats and Features

From Arc'teryx's Website:
Designed for everyday use, this 28 litre pack is a steadfast partner for backcountry and close-to-area tours and features a lowered, wide, flat body of the pack that is shaped to the contours of the lumbar vertebrae and that holds and transfers the pack’s load through the body’s centre of gravity. Stable support and with easy access to items in the main compartment while in transit, this is a skier’s/snowboarder’s tool kit. Separate compartments keep shovel, safety gear, food and extras balanced and organized, and a reinforced, external wrap system is robust enough to carry skis and boards (A-frame, split and diagonal carry of skis; horizontal and vertical carry for snowboard). This pack is large enough to accommodate all your necessities for day tours.

            Top grab handle
            Supportive framesheet
Zippers & Fly Configuration
            Webbing zipper pulls
Pack Pocket Configuration
            Front pocket with internal organizational pocket and key clip
            Secondary storage compartment with external side zipper access, and alternative access from inside the main compartment
            Panel loading main compartment with front U-zip access and organizational slots
            Internal zippered pocket inside side-access secondary storage compartment
            Top pocket with internal security pocket stores skins or goggles
            Water bottle pocket

Pack Hydration
            Hose clip
            Internal hydration pocket with zip
Pack Suspension Configuration
            Webbing hipbelt
            Adjustable, removable sternum strap
            Laminated shoulder straps
            Breathable backpanel
            Removable framesheet contained inside an anatomically patterned sleeve that conforms to the curve of the back when fully loaded
Pack Loading & Closure Configuration
            Panel loading
            Side access to main compartment during transit

Weight: 35oz (short torso 26L); 42oz (Reg Torso 28L); 49oz (Tall torso 30L) 

Pictures and Explanations

Hiking the last 100 yards back to the truck at the end of a good day

The Arc'teryx Quintic 28

The left lower pocket of the pack is designed to carry a water bottle.  It is large enough, albeit tight, for two 1-liter nalgenes.  This pocket is located on the left hip so that it's easy to reach on the go.  I find that it's much easier to pull the bottle out than to get it back in.  I carry a 1-liter nalgene with a warm drink and all my energy gels/chomps/etc so they don't freeze. 

The right side lower pocket is the zipper to access the main compartment.  The compartment is large enough for gloves, a jacket or two, and whatever else you may want in the backcountry.  It's also large enough for a lightweight skimo race helmet, but not large enough for a normal ski helmet.   The zipper is a little on the small side, making it a slightly more difficult to get to the contents of the pack.  It's not a big deal unless you're trying to get a large item out of a full pack.  Where the two side zippers are located, it would be pretty difficult to get into the pack through most any pocket if the skis are being carried A-frame.  For this reason, I like packs with access through the backpanel. 

Within the inside of the main compartment is a zippered pocket.  This pocket is easily big enough for a pair of gloves and a water bottle.  I rarely use this pocket, except maybe to keep a wallet and car keys so they don't accidentally fall out.  

There are three zipper pockets on the top of the pack.  The pocket closest to the face of the pack is large enough for goggles and has a key clip and a small internal pocket.

Within the goggle pocket is a smaller pocket, not zippered.  I'm not sure what the pocket is for, but why not.  There are so many pockets within other pockets in this pack that most of them go unused.

The second zipper accessed from the top is for avy tools.  It's large enough for a shovel, probe, saw, and skins.  It folds wide open for easy access to tools.

As with most backcountry packs, the tool pocket has storage slots.  It is pretty easy to rip open this pocket to get to tools, but the zipper pulls blend in with all the others.  I haven't done it yet, but when every second counts, a little colored shrink wrap over the zipper pulls may help identify the tool pocket.

The third zipper accessed from the top is for whatever else you need.  It is large enough for gloves or whatever else of similar size.

The zippered pocket within the zippered pocket on this one is made of soft mesh.  It is a good pocket for a smartphone or anything else you don't want scratched.  Within this pocket is another zippered pocket.  Just kidding.

In this same third top pocket the bottom of the pocket can be detached so that you can access the main pocket from this top pocket or from the right side zipper.
The bottom fabric of the pocket detached where my pointer finger is.   It attaches/detaches with velcro.

The pack is shaped like a teardrop.  The wider, lower part of the pack fits in the small of the back and wraps around the body comfortably.  When snugged up tight with the hipbelt, it rides real nicely.  Whenever I ski, the pack doesn't move.  It doesn't even feel like I'm wearing a pack.

The webbing straps can be configured to carry skis A-frame or as a diagonal carry.  It will also carry a snowboard in both an up and down and a wide configuration.

When carrying skis A-frame, the lower webbing strap can be attached to the hipbelt

Just above the shoulder straps is a port for a hydration tube or headphones.  This port is accessed from the top pocket.

I retrofitted an avalung to the shoulder strap of the pack.  I don't like wearing a beacon, an avalung, and a backpack.  It gets a little congested.  The avalung on the shoulder strap cleans it up a little, but it's still not as clean as a BD avalung pack.

The avalung is held on with zip ties.  I hope that's enough in an avalanche.  I've never been in an avalanche before, so I don't know how well the avalung or the zip ties would handle it, but I like the arrangement so far.

The pack carrying skis diagonally.  The pack carries the skis pretty well, bit it feels like the skis pull away from the pack a little.  I think if there was an attachment from the shoulder strap to the skis it would carry better.  The skis wouldn't pull away as much from the pack.

The Verdict

I am a huge fan of this backpack for many reasons.  First of all, it is well made, just like all Arc'teryx pieces.  The materials used in the pack are superb.  Second, the features, pockets, and strap configurations are innovative and work well.  Finally, I love the shape of the pack.  It rides better than any other pack I have ever worn skiing.  It really is an incredible fit for skiing.

As far as a backcountry skiing pack, I think the Quintic is a great pack with a great design.  As far as a ski mountaineering pack goes, it wasn't designed as such.  It's not designed to carry an ice axe, for example.  

I am very happy with this pack for most of the skiing I do.  For spring ski mountaineering in the Tetons, for example, it may not be my go-to pack.  But for 90% of the skiing I'll do in the Wasatch, I'll be wearing it.

I would give this pack 4.5 out of 5 stars.  The only complaints I have so far is that the zipper to the main compartment is a little small so it can be a little difficult get to your gear.  Second, the diagonal ski carry system works pretty well, but not perfect.  As I mentioned before, in my opinion, an attachment from the shoulder strap would be better.  Other than those things, I really like the pack.   In my opinion, if you want a good backcountry ski pack that fits well for the downhill, this one is great.  If you want a ski mountaineering pack, there are better options.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cutler Ridge and Ben Lomond

After a nice Christmas storm dropped a couple feet of snow on the local peaks, a little bit of backcountry skiing was in order.  The snow was deep and mostly untouched.  I took some pictures and video, but they don't do it justice.  Here's a little clip.  It's poorly made because it is my first attempt at using iMovie, but it's something.

I was skiing with my father-in-law who is learning to ski powder.  He's never really skied powder before, so he was looking pretty good for a first timer.

I apologize for the poor ski footage.  I was using a digital point-and-shoot held in my hand.  I didn't realize until I got home that most of the footage I got was of the sky and the top of the trees.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Resolution for the New Year

I want to briefly wish everyone a Happy New Year!  This year has been a great one for me.  In addition to starting this blog, I have been fortunate enough to open a climbing/bc skiing/backpacking/trail running/whitewater paddling shop with a few friends; climb, ski, trail run, and backpack all year long with great friends and family without any injuries or major epics; met a lot of new people and gained many new friends; and graduated from college.

I have enjoyed the past year, but I have a good feeling that this next year will be the best yet.  A few things I have to look forward to are a business that will (hopefully) continue to gain traction; great skiing, climbing, running, etc in the mountain ranges of Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah. . . especially Ogden; and most importantly, our first child will be born in March.

Each year at the new year I contemplate whether I wisely took advantage of the time I had in the previous year.  This leads to memories of climbing trips, biking, skiing in incredible locales, beautiful runs in the mountains, etc.  But the greatest memories are about the people that I spent time with while doing these activities.

I also use this time to set goals for personal progress for the coming year (as I know many other people do as well).  In the past, my goals have often been selfish.  Things like training and racing in a particular mountain marathon, training and completing a certain bike race within a certain time, climbing a particular grade of rock climb, or doing a winter ascent of a technical route on a mountain.  These are all goals that push me to better myself in a certain way, but they are all selfish goals.  Though I work hard to complete them and feel satisfaction when I reach the goal, that happiness is fleeting.  Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think these types of goals are bad.  They serve their purpose by helping me achieve a higher level of personal performance than I would have otherwise attained.  But when I look back at the most enjoyable times of the year, the highlights almost always include friends and family and have little to do with the initial goal.

I am writing this post more as a reminder for myself than for anybody else.  I have been contemplating how having a child will change my life and what kind of a father and husband I would like to be.  I have seen how some friends' and acquantances' good goals have gotten in the way of more important goals; how an obsession with mountains and exercise have strained a marriage and family relationships.

I am reminded of something I heard a few years ago.  In a speech about priorities, the speaker said,

"We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best."

The principle is simple to understand, but harder to put into practice, especially when the good things are more fun than the better or best things.  So, with all of this said, here is my resolution:

Do not let personal (selfish) goals compromise quality family time and activities.

A key to setting and achieving goals is to make them measurable and realistic.  I don't think this resolution passes either of these tests.  Without a little more clarification of what "quality family time and activities" and what "personal goals" are, it is hardly measurable.  And to believe that going out and spending time in the mountains away from family will not negatively affect family time and activities is naive at best.  So to achieve this goal to perfection is not likely.  But, what I'm hoping this resolution will do is remind me to err on the side of family time and quality relationships, and not chase personal (selfish) goals that have little or no lasting value at their expense.

This does not mean I will stop playing in the mountains.  This does not mean I will stop setting selfish personal goals that only benefit me.  This hopefully means that I will remember the proper place for these goals: in the "Good" column, under the "Better" and the "Best" columns.