The Self-Gifting Guide

Didn’t get the presents what you wanted over the holidays? Or, wasn’t sure what to get that special someone (aka you)? Or, do you just want to make sure you’ve got all the latest goodies and don’t trust your loved ones to equip you properly mid-way through the season? (I mean, who put this gift-giving holiday in the middle of ice climbing season — why don’t these festivities take place in a timely fashion, say, early-to-mid-October?)  Well, here are some ideas for gifts, either self-gifted or otherwise. Some have been around a while, some are relatively new, but all of these are functional bits of kit that any winter or alpine climber should find useful.

NOTE: you can’t really see it, but each header/subtitle is a link to the manufacturer’s store/website. Click to open the link in a new tab.

Cassin Foldable Crampon Bag

Crampon pouches are a dime a dozen but it’s really hard to find a great one — especially if, like me, you have several different pairs of crampons that don’t all fold up or compact the same way. I’ve tried everything from the ultra-light US Postal Service shipping envelope (as recommended by Conrad Anker) to various iterations from nearly every brand out there, but the Foldable Crampon Bag from Camp/Cassin is by far the most versatile I’ve found.

It’s hard to call it a bag, or pouch, really, as it is merely a flat piece of material with reinforcements on the ‘inside’ and large swaths of Velcro on the ‘outside.’ To use, just place your crampons in the middle, strap them into place, and fold up to form a pouch, of sorts. It’s genius in its simplicity.

And, amazingly, it will even work for comp/drytooling boots! Check out the photo sequence for how I manage to pack my Scarpa Rebel Ice with Petzl D-Lynx into the Cassin bag. I have a custom Krukonogi bag for my comp boots, but before that I used a mix of toques and t-shirts to cover up my comp crampons — I’m astounded that the Cassin pouch can be used for this as well!

It could also be fashioned into a splint were the need to arise, and can be used to package any number of other items should you desire, and also makes a great lunch bag. Combine several together for a larger version of any of the previously mentioned applications. And it’s only $20 or so, which means you can afford to buy more than one!

There’s even a hidden Velcro-secured compartment (that I found after almost one year of use!) for all your crampon accessories, or energy bars, or keys, or other small items. It’s ingenious.

I’ve replaced all my most often used crampon pouches with this foldable Cassin; I’ve accumulated six of them by last count. It’s relatively light: 142 grams (HMG Prism 112g, Mammut 138g, TNF 148g). It’s cheap (did I mention that?): $18 USD. And it will accommodate any shape/style/form of crampon I’ve found — it goes over comp boots!! (I am still so stoked by this!!)


DMM Vault Wire Gate

Ice screws are seemingly getting ever more expensive: 10 years ago my first rack of a dozen BD Express screws cost around $600 Canadian, now the same dozen BD’s would cost you over $900. And a rack of lightweight aluminums will set you back almost $1300! Add in that many modern ice tools cost well over $400 apiece, and you’re potentially looking at having over two thousand dollars’-worth of gear sitting on a couple of plastic ice clippers — rated for 5kg each.

The DMM Vault racking biner has been around for a few years but it wasn’t until this past season that I finally made the switch after breaking a couple of the plastic ice clippers: one got entangled in pack straps, while the other snapped when I got wedged between a rock and a tree. Thankfully, I didn’t lose any screws or other gear but it sure made me think about it — searching for screws in knee-deep snow is not my idea of a good time at the end of a long climbing day.

The Vault is not inexpensive ($55 Canadian) or light (65 grams) or easy to remove from a harness (given that it’s literally screwed into place) but it does create peace of mind and eliminates one more potential point of failure — and that to me is worth the downsides. It’s also a rather large device, and accommodates one or two more screws than its more common BD or Petzl counterparts. By my count, the Vault will fit 6 Petzl Laser Speeds, 7 BD Ultralights and 7 of the new Camp screws (that’s consistently one more than a plastic Petzl Caritool).

I recommend a drop or two of blue locktite to ensure the screw won’t back out.

I don’t know how I’ve managed to live so long without two of these on my harness (or four, for that matter — depending on the harness, that is). Absolutely indispensable for the modern ice climber.


HMG Prism Ice Screw Case

As noted above, ice screws are bloody expensive. And the aluminum models are additionally more fragile, due to the softer nature of aluminum. So it makes sense to not only keep them secure on your harness, but also well protected during transport. I’ve used everything out there: roll-ups, buckets, custom pouches, the rubber condoms that the screws ship in, but the closest ideal solution I’ve come across is the Prism Ice Screw case.

Yes, it’s expensive, but this is one of the best ice screw carriers I’ve used (so far, anyway, and as long as you’re only bringing 10-ish screws). It not only keeps screws organized and prevents them from banging into each other, but the zippered closure ensures none of them fall out when tossed into a pack. When closed up, it’s a sleek, snag-free package that easily slides into tight, overstuffed, packs.

Inside, there are four screw slots on either side of the pouch, and two in the middle section. All the slots will fit even the longest screws, but I do wish they were a little longer overall so I could fit two 13cm end-to-end inside one slot. The middle slots also seem purpose-designed for stubbies as they aren’t quite as deep as the others.

I’d also like to see extra slots added in-between the four primary slots as this is the Prism case’s only downside: not enough capacity. I already put loose screws in between the sewn slots and I can’t imagine a few extra bits of fabric and some sewing time would be that costly — and who cares on an $80 ice screw case anyway?! — but the extra capacity would be greatly appreciated.

There are two low-profile handles for easy carrying, though honestly these seem superfluous — when would you ever need to carry an ice screw pouch as if it were a handbag?

Regardless of these couple small downsides, the Prism Ice Screw Case is easily worth the price (and weight) of another ice screw — it retails for $80 USD, and weighs in at 152 grams — as it offers superior protection for your whole rack, and allows for much easier and more secure transport than the typical, awkward, ice screw roll-ups. My favourite screw pouch for those less gear-intensive days.

And for those wanting to carry more screws — a lot more! — plus some other stuff, check out the Screw Cannon review below.


Petzl Multihook

The V-thread hooker has been the nemesis of down jackets everywhere since the invention of the Abalakov anchor sometime in the mid-1900’s. By its very nature, the V-thread hooker has a sharp hook on one end, often protected by nothing more than a flimsy rubber sleeve. There have been a few different iterations over the years in an effort to create a snagless design, but I have yet to come across one as well designed as Petzl’s Multihook. Small and compact, the Multihook’s combined blade and hook fold away into the plastic body for protection and snag-free transport.

The diameter of the plastic body is small enough to fit into even the smallest-diameter ice screws that I have (that’d be the Camp ones) but is rigid and durable enough to repeatedly use as an ice screw cleaner — I’ve bashed more frozen screws clean with it than any of its other uses.

My most common usage of the Multihook — cleaning frozen screw cores.

The blade is small but sharp, and easily cuts through 8mm cord. The hook is rigid and long enough to reach into the back of even the deepest V-thread: I measure it at 24-cm, while my longest ice screw comes in at 21 cm. I also really appreciate the rigid design as I’ve often found the typical wire-construction of other v-threaders to flex too much when digging around for a cord that’s not ideally centred in the bore.

Thanks to the integrated plastic loop, the Multihook is also easy to stash — mine has found its home on a small biner alongside a length of 8mm cord — but it can also be stowed away inside an ice screw. Overall length is a scant 16 cm so you could even keep it in a pant or pack pocket, or other small compartment. And because it has that small blade, it saves bringing a knife to cut cord with. But I still use it most often to clean ice out of screws. Utterly indispensable.


Krukonogi Front Points

Here’s a quick reminder that nothing in life is eternal: front points wear out. If you mixed climb or drytool, this reminder probably comes along more often than you’d like. Thankfully, there is a solution for this — the dull front point thing, not the life ending bit — and that is Krukonogi front points.

I bought my first and, seemingly, last, pairs of Krukonogi front points back in 2013. One pair was for my BD Stingers, the other two pairs for Petzl Lynx crampons that I ran in dual-point mode. Eight years later and all six front points are still going strong, though the Petzl models have been repurposed to a pair of D-Lynx crampons on my Rebel Ice and the second pair on my (new) Darts in mono setup. I’ve sharpened them maybe three or fours times over all these years (and, yes, it looks like they need some touch-ups but I’ve been in drytooling and mixed mode lately so just haven’t bothered!).

These are eight years old and have seen a lot of rock!

The Krukonogi replacements are typically more expensive than on-brand front points. But you get a lot more than what you pay for: I swear that I could chip out new holds in our shitty Rockies rock with Kruk front points and they’d still outlast anything else out there.

This is one of those “is the aftermarket option really better than OEM spec” questions and the answer, for me, is, undeniably, yes. This is by far the best upgrade you can make to your crampons, and Krukonogi make so many variants that there should be a model out there to fit your crampons no matter the make or model.

And, yes, I know that manufacturers are starting to come out with their own ‘armor-steel’ version of front points and picks (Grivel with the Katana line being first to market, though I seem to recall hearing about Camp working on similar products as well) but I have yet to test them — and the Krukonogi stuff has been around for a decade by now. Highly recommended.


Glerups Boot Rubber Outsole

Do you love warm weather? Do you like beaches? If you answered an enthusiastic ‘yes’ to either of these two questions, then you are probably reading the wrong website (or you’re fed up with this second week in a row of sub-20-C temperatures here in the Rockies). However, if you have ever wondered what the winter version of a flip-flop would feel like, keep reading.

Imagine the freedom of movement for your toes, with all the space you would ever need for your feet to splay out comfortably, all the while staying warm, insulated, and cozy — even in negative-double-digit temps — and all with the slip-on and slip-off comfort of a flip-flop, and you have the Glerups Boot.

Glerups originated in Denmark, and are simple booties made of felted wool. The wool used to be from local Danish sheep, but the brand has since grown and expanded to also include wool from New Zealand. Regardless of origin, Glerups are 100% felted wool, which is naturally anti-microbial and anti-odour, so you can comfortably wear them without socks and not worry about the shoes starting to smell. Wool is also a superb insulating material — even when wet — and that is what makes these so wonderful to use in winter. Glerups footwear is available in several different versions, low and high, leather or rubber outsole, but my favourite is the high (boot) with a rubber outsole.

So easy to slip on and off!

The combination of an ankle-height cuff and a waterproof rubber outsole provides more than adequate protection when used outside from fall through spring (I find them too warm to use in summer months). The spacious cut lets my feet relax and splay out to their natural width, while the felted wool provides more than adequate warmth even on negative-double-digit days (though I do tend to run warm and generate a lot of body heat). The rubber outsole has some grip — I have had the leather-soled version as well and do not recommend it for any moisture-prone outdoor use unless you like falling on your ass all the time — but more importantly it doesn’t let moisture through so walking on snow doesn’t soak your feet. I absolutely love these pre- and post-climb and would probably use them on approaches if I could figure out how to attach crampons to the soft rubber sole.

The best booties-type-thing I’ve ever had — my partner Veronica got a pair earlier this year and loves them just as much. Just don’t get the leather-soled version if you’re planning to go outside (but those are great as inside-the-house slippers). Very highly recommended.


High Mountain Gear Screw Cannon

Ever carry more than eight screws for a day of ice climbing? Yeah, I thought so — me too. Why then, do most ice screw carriers don’t hold any more than that? (BD – six, Petzl – eight, Kailas – eight, even the Hyperlite case above has just ten slots).

Well the High Mountain Gear Screw Cannon is different: it can take up to fourteen screws, and that’s just in the provided slots. Throw some in loosely, and you can fit up to 30. And yes, I tried and managed to stuff in 9x Petzl Laser Speed Light, 8x Petzl Laser Speed, 7x BD Ultralight, 6x Camp Rocket — I almost (almost) ran out of screws before the Screw Cannon ran out of room! Made in Seattle, Washington, from heavy-duty packcloth with a 1000D Cordura bottom, this is probably the most durable and useful stuff-sack-pouch-things you’ll ever own.

And a stuff-sack slash pouch slash leader-pack (of sorts) this is as the Screw Cannon is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment I’ve seen in a while. In my regular use, I use it for carrying screws (obviously) but given the spacious middle section I also often throw my other climbing-related gear in there: belay device, slings, loose biners, cord, etc. There really is quite a lot of space in there.

Once racked up, you now have a great pouch to bring along all your on-route gear: a lightweight belay jacket will fit, as will a few energy bars, even a 1L Nalgene. A drawcord closure ensures nothing falls out, while a robust hang-loop lets you dangle the Screw Cannon from your harness. An integrated cinch-strap prevents contents from flying about.

Weighing in at 154 grams with a price of $60 USD, the Screw Cannon is, admittedly, quite large and not too cheap, but given the stuff-sack like nature of it, I really don’t mind. It easily fits into all my alpine packs, either sideways or upright, and is easy to pack around so I never feel like I’m wasting space.

On top of all that, High Mountain Gear (& Repair) is run by one dude, who is a climber and skier, which is also really cool. I love supporting people who use their skills to help solve problems that the large brands often overthink or overcomplicate. And the Screw Cannon is a superb example of that. Go order one, now.

(Note: since I received my sample late last season, Kyle has updated the design though he tells me he’ll make you whichever version you prefer. There’s even an Extreme edition made of Dyneema — how cool is that?!)


Edelrid Nineteen G

If there is one thing I will never do is take a non-rated carabiner out climbing. Be it an emergency situation, an I’m-scared-shitless-and-need-to-bail–now-biner or any of a hundred other uses, having extra full-strength carabiners on your harness saves you from taking apart quickdraws or leaving behind expensive lockers.

The Edelrid Nineteen G has been around for a while now but I can’t imagine not having a few of these around. At nineteen grams but fully rated for 22kN, these miniature biners are what I use for carrying around rap cord, my V-threader, a knife, a belay parka in the stuffsack, for clipping my camera (or phone) to my harness, or my pack to the anchor: you name it and I’ve probably used a Nineteen G for it.

I find endless uses for the Edelrid Nineteen G.

They’re not the cheapest biner out there — around $15 USD — but they’re so light I find them indispensable to have around. Buy a few now before Edelrid decide to discontinue them. (Runner up here: Camp Nano 22, though I find I prefer the slightly smaller size and shape of the Nineteen G.)

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