A Few First Impressions (Gear Post)

A few first impressions of some new gear I’ve been using over the past couple of months. More detailed reviews coming once I have some more time with these pieces!

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BD X4 cams – In a word, awesome! Just like the C4 but narrower, and more flexible. Their narrower head width is immediately apparent, and on a recent climb, I could place the X4 into spots where the C4 just wouldn’t fit. A great addition to any rack, and (as expected from BD) conveniently colour-coordinated to match the C4’s. Highly recommended.

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BD Speed 22 pack – Light, comfortable, low profile and surprisingly capacious, this pack is great to climb in, as well as schlep gear on the approach with. With dual compression straps, ice tool holders compatible with modern tools, a floating lid and a rope strap, this pack can take everything needed for a day in the alpine, and then some. My only gripe: after just one alpine route, the pack is full of holes!

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Scarpa Vapor V rock shoes – I loved my La Sportiva Miuras, and if possible, I love the Vapors even more. It fits exactly the same, with a slight downturn, a wide footbox and nicely cupped heel. The Vapor’s toe profile is a touch more aggressive – it feels more ‘toe hooky’ if that makes any kind of sense. They are a solid edging platform, while retaining enough flexibility to smear effectively. I can’t even fault the two-strap closure, which is comfortable and cinches down tightly. My new favourite rock shoes!

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Scarpa Boostic rock shoes – My first impression of these was actually quite positive: despite being so aggressive, they weren’t unduly uncomfortable. They are very aggressively downturned, with a rubber patch over the toes and a close-fitting heel. They’re also quite stiff, which makes them a bit less sensitive than I’d like. After a few weeks of climbing in them, however, I now find them rather painful and can’t wear them for anything other than really short, bouldery routes. These shoes really surprised me as they aren’t as sensitive as I’d like, and they seem to be getting more uncomfortable the more I use them.

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Petzl Sirocco helmet – Arguably the ugliest helmet in existence. But, also the lightest and one of the most comfortable. The magnetic buckle is a bit of a gimmick, as I’ve had it ‘buckle’ itself without properly clicking into the buckle ends, but other than this one gripe (well, that and the colour) I just can’t fault it. The headlamp attachment is simple and functional. The straps adjust easily and errant rocks bounce off harmlessly as expected.

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Petzl Sama harness – I don’t say this lightly, but this is by far the most comfortable harness I’ve ever fallen in. Whatever Petzl did in the redesign process, it works, as the Sama is extremely comfortable whether walking, climbing, falling or just hanging out in at a belay. It is even comfortable to wear under a backpack due to the low-profile waistbelt. I do have two issues with it, though: the forward gear loops are angled forward, resulting in a mess of quickdraws spilling over my thighs, and the rear gear loops are a bit too low-profile, making clipping gear a conscious move instead of an automatic reaction. But, it is very, very comfortable and has become my sport harness of choice.

Scarpa Instinct VS rock shoes – Whereas I had great hope for the Boostic, I had absolutely zero expectations of the Instinct VS and figured they’d just be my gym training shoes. Was I ever wrong! These things are amazing! Despite being pretty aggressive, they are supple and comfortable, without giving up support. And with a thin sole, they are incredibly sensitive and tactile – I can feel holds with these better than any other shoes I’ve ever tried. The velcro closure is ingenious and keeps the foot and heel locked into the shoe for precise toe and heel placements. I use these over the Vapors on almost any overhanging route where the holds are more ‘grabby’ than ‘edgy.’

BD ReVolt headlamp – There’s not much to say about headlamps. This one is relatively light – 100g – and pretty bright – max 110 lumens. The cool part is that it comes with custom rechargeable batteries, so all you have to do is plug it into a USB port to top up the charge. But fret not, it can also run on regular AAA alkalines – the internal computer recognizes what type of battery is inside the headlamp and adjusts the circuits accordingly (for a simple graph explanation of why this is important, go here: http://www.boat-project.com/tutorials/bdc.gif) It has all the typical headlamp features – spot, flood, flash – and is water resistant enough to withstand as much rain as I like to climb in.

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