Summer OR 2018: Climbing Gear

Note: The products you see and read about here will be available for the Spring/Summer 2019 season — generally hitting stores around March/April of 2019. Exceptions to this are noted in the text.

There wasn’t a lot of new climbing gear at OR this summer (for us winter-centric people, anyway) but a few cool things stood out. BD’s lightened C4’s are probably of most interest but DMM’s tiny new Dragonfly cams are just plain gorgeous. Here’s all the new gear that caught my eye, posted in alphabetical order.

(Click on the photos for bigger images and links to the full-size files if so desired.)

Black Diamond ATC Guide

Redesigned to be 10% lighter than the current version — down to 80 grams for 2019 — the ATC has a new ovalized anchor hole for better rope feeding and pulling. All of the other ATC features remain: variable rope grooves for controllable friction, multiple friction modes for both belay and rappel, and auto-block release hole. $30 USD and $35 CAD.

Black Diamond ATC Alpine Guide

Recognizing the prominence of ever-thinner ropes in alpine and ice climbing, BD shrunk the ATC to create the new ATC-Alpine Guide. This is a version of the regular ATC but tailored for use with ropes from 8.1-8.5mm in diameter, though it will accommodate ropes from 6.9-9.0mm. Weighing 73 grams, the ATC-Alpine has all the same features of the regular ATC but in a more compact package: ovalized anchor hole for improved rope handling, rope grooves for controllable friction, multiple friction modes for both belay and rappel set-up and an auto-block release. $30 USD and $35 CAD.

Black Diamond C4 Cams

The big story is of course the long-awaited update to the venerable C4’s. They’re now 10% lighter and the #4, #5, and #6 have an innovative trigger keeper that keeps the cam lobes compacted for easier racking (though I am curious how well the springs will stand up to being engaged for a long time, as I can foresee the cams being stored in their ‘compacted’ mode for most of the time by most climbers). They retain the same colour-coding but the cam lobes now have better (and nicer, I think) anodization, and the slings, too, have been slightly tweaked for easier identification. Prices remain the same.

Black Diamond Dynex Rabbit Runner

Not really a new or ground-breaking product but a useful tool for trad, alpine and ice climbers, the Dynex Rabbit Runner is a 110cm single-strand sewn sling. Rated to a full 22kN, the Runner has two different-sized loops on either end for easy racking, girth-hitching and identifying the rope-end biner (one is 26mm, the other 72mm). Weighing just 35-grams, the DRR will cost $18 USD and $24 CAD.

Black Diamond Solution Guide Harness – Men’s & Women’s

Basically the same harness as the current Solution, the Solution Guide features Super Fabric construction for extreme durability. Super Fabric is the same stuff that’s used on ice boots to resist crampon holes, so it’s plenty tough (I haven’t managed to put any holes into the Super Fabric sections of my ice boots, anyway). All the features of the regular Solution remain: four gear loops, non-adjustable leg loops, and Fusion Comfort Technology in the waistbelt, plus the Guide adds a fifth gear loop for extra gear. A bit heavier than the non-Guide version (Guide is 394-grams vs non-Guide at 330-grams in a Men’s Medium), and also more expensive: non-Guide $70 USD and $85 CAD while the Guide will be $100 USD and $120 CAD. Men’s and Women’s versions will be available.

Blue Ice Addax Harness

At 150-grams in a size Medium, the heaviest harness Blue Ice makes is still almost half the weight of its closest competitors. (As a frame of reference, a Clif Bar weighs 85-grams — plus a few more for packaging — so this harness weighs less than two Clif Bars. That’s nuts.) Despite this insanely low weight, the Addax is fully-padded and has four gear loops and two ice-clipper slots. The tie-in points are reinforced with UHMW polyethylene (the same stuff as Dyneema, Spectra, etc). All this low-weight and cool tech comes in at just $120 USD — that’s a really good price for the world’s lightest (padded) harness!

Blue Ice Choucas Pro Harness

The Choucas Pro loses the Addax’s padding but gains Blue Ice’s signature separating leg-loops, yes still manages to come in at a 140-grams for a Medium. The leg loops have small aluminum tabs that thread through specially designed loops that allow easy on-off even with skis or crampons. The Choucas Pro also has four gear loops, two ice-clipper slots and UHMW PE reinforced tie-in points. There is no padding as Blue Ice reckon you’re probably wearing a few different layers when ice or alpine climbing anyway, so padding would just be redundant. $100 USD

Blue Ice Hummingbird Ice Axe

Designed for ski alpinism, the Hummingbird is the lightest (I’m pretty sure? EDIT: the Ice Rock Idol is lighter – 188g in 50cm and is a carbon shaft / titanium head construction) ice axe in existence. Weighing all of 212-grams in the 45cm version, the Hummingbird has an aluminum shaft and a titanium head, so it’s actually functionally usable for swinging into ice or chopping steps. The shaft has a textured finish on the lower section that doesn’t add any extra weight yet provides a fairly secure grip (relatively — I mean, it’s still just a plain aluminum shaft so don’t expect to hold onto this thing while hanging one-handed). The ‘spike’ has a clip-in hole, and is plugged with a nylon stopper to prevent snow from plugging up the shaft. The head is comfortable to hold in piolet canne, and I’m still amazed at how stupidly light this thing is. $190 USD. Did I mention the pick is titanium?!

Blue Ice Hydra Leash

Most ice tool leashes have one of two issues: 1) they’re lightweight but prone to tangling or 2) they’re tangle-free but weigh a lot. The Hydra Leash sets out to solve both of these issues with a miniscule 54-gram total system weight and a tangle-free ball-and-socket design that rotates freely in any direction around the attachment point. The Hydra has small sewn-in carabiners for clipping to your tools, though they look a bit bulky and I am curious to see if they will freely clip into most tools’ attachment points. As well, because I hate having non-rated gear on my harness when climbing, I’d much rather see these little biners replaced with full-strength units. The sling girth-hitches to your harness, and will cost $55 USD.

Camp Armour Helmet

Camp have redesigned the Armour helmet for an even more comfortable fit, with a redesigned size-adjustment wheel at the back. Camp helmets have never really fit my head shape before but this new Armor fits and feels great on my head, and the adjuster is quick and easy to dial in a comfortable fit. The durable ABS shell shrugs off repeated falling ice or rock, and price remains an affordable $60 USD.

Camp Energy CR Harness

Quite possibly the most inexpensive yet fully-featured harness available anywhere, the redesigned Energy CR features thermo-formed padding for all-day comfort, adjustable leg loops, four large gear loops, a haul loop and an incredible $50 USD price-point. Weighing in at 355-grams for a size Medium, it is not the lightest harness in the world but it’s hard to find a better bang-for-your-buck harness anywhere. The new colour looks great, too.

Camp Swing Dynamic Belay Lanyard

Camp’s take on the PAS (Personal Anchor System), the Swing uses a 9.7mm dynamic rope as its main connector and separates the adjustment device from the anchoring biner. (If you’ve used a rope-based PAS before, you’ll know that the adjuster often binds up if you’re not using exactly the right type of biner.) Extending from 20-100cm, the Swing easily adjusts under load and girth-hitches to your tie-in points for a secure, rated, connection. 145-grams and $50 USD.

DMM Dragonfly Micro Cams

DMM make beautiful things: from biners to cams to ice tools, their products are exceptionally finished and solidly put together — and the new Dragonfly cams are no exception. Competitively light among modern cams, the Dragonflys are single-axle cams with a 13.7-degree camming angle, a ‘raw alu’ surface for improved grip and a narrow head so they’ll easily slot into small pockets. Like other DMM cams the slings are extendable and, thanks to a new stitch pattern, either strand can be easily grabbed and extended, making clipping easier and reducing fumbling. The three largest sizes complement and overlap with the three smallest Dragon cams, and the colour-coding matches the rest of the DMM range, as well as aligning favourably with that of the most popular cams on the market — BD’s cam colour coding (which cannot be said for many other cams). Check out the table below for a comparison of the Dragonfly vs other micro cams.

DMM Phantom HMS Locker

The D-shaped Phantom is one of the lightest screwlocking biners on the market, and at 42-grams is my go-to locker for use in rescue kits, backup prussiks or any other application where I want an utralight locker. The new Phantom HMS follows in the Phantom’s lightweight footsteps, weighing a mere 56-grams but boasting one of the largest-diameter rope surfaces I’ve seen on any biner, let alone such a tiny and lightweight one. The large rope area promises a smoother belay and better rope handling, while the 25kN major axis strength surpasses that of other belay biners. There will be DMM’s usual Screwlock, Kwiklock (two-action autolock) and Locksafe (triple-action autolock) gate options, as well as Blue, Green and Red colour options in the Screwlock version (because who doesn’t want more coloured biners?!).

DMM PerfectO Rack Pack

I love oval biners for racking nuts and pins but don’t like that all my racking biners are silver — enter DMM with their coloured PerfectO rack pack. The rack pack includes a green, blue, red and orange PerfectO biner, each weighing 50-grams and rated to 24kN closed strength. Perfect for quickly sorting and finding gear.

DMM Wired Torque Nuts

Responding to requests from dedicated winter climbers, DMM have taken their existing Torque Nuts and replaced the sewn slings with steel wires to create a set of Wired Torque Nuts. The nuts are now easier to place overhead or deep into cracks thanks to the (relatively) stiff wires, plus they offer additional durability and the wire won’t freeze up on you, unlike the slings. Interestingly, the wires reduce the strength of the nuts from 14kN for the regular Torque Nuts to 12kN for the Wired Torque Nuts (not that 2kN really matters at this point). Weight is up a bit, but the sizes and colour-coding remain the same. Wired Torque Nut weights are as follows, slung-Torque Nut weights in brackets: #1 (Green) is 69-grams (54g); #2 (Red) is 86-grams (70g); #3 (Gold) is 114-grams (104g); #4 (Blue) is 161-grams (146g).

Grivel G22 Plus Crampons

Taking design cues from the recently redesigned G20 Plus, the G22 Plus features several improvements over the current model: interchangeable front points, multi-part linking bar for better flexibility and improved boot fit and additional, redesigned, mid-points for better security when standing on featured ice. The front points have also been redesigned with a more refined shape and a more aggressive angle for better penetration. Grivel’s excellent active anti-bot remains for unparalleled anti-balling performance. I can’t wait to try these out — I love how Grivel crampons climb — but I’ve never been a fan of crampons without replaceable front points so it’s great to see Grivel adding this feature across the line.

Grivel The North Machine Tools

The aluminum version of Grivel’s Carbon North Machine tools, the North Machine is a bit heavier (around 30-grams per tool) but has the same geometry, shaft construction and pick-compatibility as the Carbon version. The Carbon North Machine goes for $280 Canadian, so I expect these tools to be around the $250 per tool mark, or less, which is phenomenal value for money.

Grivel Twin Gate Carabiners

The Twin Gate carabiner has been around for a few years now and it finally sees the update I’ve been asking for: more pronounced ‘lips’ for the gates making them easier to open, especially with gloves on. Though the Twin Gate concept hasn’t caught on widely yet, it is a viable alternative to traditional screw-locks as the gates never freeze up (and even if they do are easy to knock apart with an ice tool) and after some practice is just as quick (if not quicker) and easy to use as any other locking carabiner. Looking forward to trying out a few of these improved biners.

Mammut Wall Rider MIPS Helmet

The MIPS system is a special low-friction layer inside the helmet that sits between the wearer’s head and the shell and is designed to reduce the rotational energy when a helmet is subjected to an indirect, off-axis, impact (i.e. most impacts). The MPIS system has been scientifically proven to reduce brain injury and is currently in wide-spread use in biking, snow sports, motorcycle, equestrian and work helmets — Mammut’s Wall Rider MIPS is the first climbing helmet to implement the technology. The liner is not cheap, however, and the cost is reflected in the helmet’s price increase: $230 Canadian vs $125 for the regular Wall Rider.

 

The show is huge, and my tired and still-broken ankles couldn’t take me to see everything but my buddy Monte was also at the show, so check out his gear picks for another take on the new kit and some gear I missed: Black Sheep Adventure Sports Summer OR 2018 Climbing Gear

4 thoughts on “Summer OR 2018: Climbing Gear

  1. Steven says:

    Raf, what’s with the heel lift on the Grivel G22 Plus crampons? Crampons for high heels?

    • Raf says:

      You mean that isn’t what you’ve been wanting all these years?!

      I’m just trying to show that the linking bar flexes/moves through the forefoot — it should follow the profile of more aggressive soles a lot better than the current versions.

  2. Ryan says:

    Really appreciate the blue ice coverage. The Choucas Pro seems like a real winner for skimo and I’ve been almost entirely unable to find any info on it. Just from photos it looks like more of a “real” harness than the others in its weight class; having seen it would you agree? Sewing in the ‘biners on the hydra might be to prevent the illusion of the leash being full strength? The girth hitch cord on it looks like amsteel which is pretty strong (7kN or so?) but not full strength for anchoring.

    The hummingbird looks like a nice little just in case summer alpine or skimo axe but I think it’s the second lightest. Far as I know, the IceRock Equipment Idol is the world’s lightest rated axe at 188g for 50cm; whether they actually exist in the wild outside of Russia is a different story.

    • Raf says:

      You’re right – the Choucas Pro definitely looks more like a ‘real’ harness and like it will be something you can actually use day-to-day, unlike most of the ultralight ‘alpine’ harnesses.

      Hmm, good thought on the Hydra biners. The Camp X-Gyro (my current leash of choice) also comes with two non-rated biners, which I immediately replaced with Edelrid Nineteen-G biners. Guess I’d rather have two more fully rated biners and carry a bit of extra weight than carry non-rated biners, but I also understand that my leashes are not a dynamic (or even static) attachment point.

      The girth-hitch on the Hydra is UHMW PE (basically Dyneema, Spectra, etc.) so it’ll hold a lot of weight, just not dynamically.

      And good call on the Ice Rock — I forgot to weight-check those guys and you’re right, it is lighter! And titanium and carbon! (Makes me want to do ‘easier’ mountaineering routes that don’t require technical ice tools!)

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