Gear Review - Mammut Parinaco Jacket

I love jackets. I am a jacket connoiseur and whether it is a light wind shirt or a heavy duty down parka I love trying on jackets, feeling the fabrics fit and cut and seeing all the features. I really can't get enough of them and now that every outdoor company is throwing in outrageous colors it is even better!

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Gear Review - Black Diamond Mission 50 Backpack

This is the mother of all technical backpacks. I would describe this pack as comfortable, versatile and feature rich. Heavy loads are no problem, stripping weight is no problem, carrying a rope, ice tools, crampons and all the usual alpine/ice gear is no problem and even skis can be carried by the Black Diamond Mission 50.

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Tallahassee Rock Gym Expansion

Every climber has a similar story of their early days...driving home late after climbing with forearms burning thinking of the problem or route that shut you down go after go. I remember it like yesterday. Working at the Tallahassee Rock Gym was a privilege and climbing there was a blast.

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Gear Review - Outdoor Research Stormsensor Glove

Gloves. I don't think there is a more important piece of gear for winter activities than gloves. Your gloves need to be warm and dexterous but they also need to be comfortable and dry. The perfect glove, I have found, does not exist, but there are many good options for all around use and only a few suitable for specific activities like ice climbing or skiing.

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Longs Peak Cirque Ice Climbing - 11.5.12

Alpine climbing at its finest. High elevation, wind, little sun, cold temperatures, it all combines to make an epic day on the mountain. My first day out this season was up to the high alpine of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Longs Peak Cirque. We started at the Longs Peak Trailhead parking lot at 6:20 am and didn't return until about 4:30 that afternoon.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011

I am a Merchandise Buyer for Sierra Trading Post and I love my job.  I get to work with great companies including La Sportiva, Asolo, Black Diamond, K2, Burton and many more spanning the categories I buy.  Those categories include, climbing, ski/snowboard hardgoods, camping cookware and accessories, technical footwear, skate/surf/wake/dive, and sporting goods (golf, tennis, team sports).  Being responsible for all of these categories keeps me incredibly busy.  One day I am working with Callaway Golf, the next I am buying climbing gear from's never a dull day.  One of the great things about my position with STP is the travel I get to do.  About 5-7 times a year I travel for tradeshows related to my categories.  I attend Summer and Winter Outdoor Retailer Markets (Salt Lake City, UT), SIA (Denver, CO), golf shows and Surf Expo (Orlando, FL).  These shows are always important for STP and the relationships we have with our vendors.  We make sure that we get the best product at a discount so we can pass the savings onto our customers.  STP has been doing this for 25 years and we have key partnerships with brands like Asolo, Marmot, Black Diamond, Haglofs of Sweden, Columbia Sportswear, Smith Optics, Smartwool, Vasque, Teva and so many more to ensure we have great deals on great product for our customers.  August 4-7 were the dates for Outdoor Retailer Summer Market this year and I attended the show to purchase product and meet with as many vendors as possible over the 4 day show.

A typical show day starts at 7:00am with breakfast in the hotel with all the buyers and managers that come with STP.  All 12 or so of us sit down, have breakfast and talk about the meetings and product priorities for the day.  It's kind of a rundown of what we are working on and what needs to get done.  The show then starts at 9:00am everyday, but if you know your vendors well, and of course we do, you can schedule meetings for 8:00am and have them bring you into the show.  It's kind of like being a VIP, but not really.  Vacuums are still running and the coffee is flowing thick, but these are some of the best meetings because there aren't 1,000's of people roaming the halls quite yet.  These types of meetings, as you can see from my schedule below, are usually reserved for some of our key vendors and important partnerships.  After 9:00am hits the floodgates open and 1,000's of people run into the massive Salt Palace.  Brand employees, retailers buying for their stores, and sponsored athletes looking to promote their brand consume the hallway between massive booths, some two stories with meeting and conference rooms!  I have run into Daniel Woods at La Sportiva, Dave Graham at Five Ten and many other sponsored athletes that I look up to in different outdoor endeavors.  We also tend to meet with high up sales reps, national sales managers and VP's/CEO's of companies.  Actually from a recent article in Ascent it listed influential people from the climbing culture.  Dale Bard from Ortovox and Jack Tackle from Black Diamond are just two people I work with daily that top the list in that article, but also represent prestigious brands such as Vasque, Black Diamond and Ortovox.
My schedule for OR
From 9:00am to about 6:00pm the showroom is a mess.  People are running around, meeting vendors and stopping in the middle of walkways (super annoying).  Everyone is wanting to get the newest stuff for their shop and check out all the sick new technologies and product.  There are numerous brands that fit this category, but Black Diamond is always a great place to start for new gear and innovative product.  One of the best products at the show was the BD Magnetron locking carabiner.  I have already talked about this new piece of gear once, but it was all speculation as I wasn't able to touch it or try out the strength of the locker.  This was definitely the best new gear of the show and blew away everyone who tried it out.  I talked to a couple guys we work with at BD, Heath Christensen and Bill Kubilius, about dirt and ice affecting the steel and magnet connection and they assured me they have put it through the paces of adverse conditions and use.  It doesn't release until next summer, so they let me know there would plenty of time to perfect the product.  Take a look at the video and see for yourself how good the action is on the carabiner.
Some other brands that came to the show with great new product included Adidas Outdoor, a newcomer to the high performance outerwear and trail running category, Salomon, new colors and technology, and Mammut, great new color palette and innovative apparel.  Every brand has something to offer and no one disappointed.  It was great to walk the show and see all the familiar faces and talk about the brands and what they are bringing to the outdoor market.  Even new vendors like Yeti Coolers, Hurley and O'Neill felt right at home with the outdoor scene.  On top of that, Billabong showed up for the first time ever because of the cancellation of another show, Action Sports Retailer.  They took up the entire upstairs ballroom with there brand portfolio including Sector 9 and Element skateboards, RVCA, Von Zipper, Excel Wetsuits and more.  One of my categories includes these new skate and surf brands and having them in SLC for Outdoor Retailer was great.
New lightweight trail runner.  Not out quite yet...
New colors from Salomon
This guy shows up wherever Mammut goes!
One of the best out there, the Hubba Hubba!
After a long day walking the show we usually meet with a vendor for drinks and dinner.  At STP we have and always will be focused on our relationships with our vendors.  The partnerships we build help both STP, our customers and the brands we service.  We like to remind our vendors that we are not so big we have forgotten about them, so we meet for a nice dinner to talk about business, have a few laughs, and share in a great meal.  I had dinner with Edelrid the first night at a great local place called The Bayou and Saturday met Teva for dinner at Bambara.  Both dinners were fantastic and the company was great.  After any night life we usually retreat to our rooms for a quick 30 minutes of finishing orders or responding to emails and get ready for the next day.  I met with too many vendors to name them all, but here a few things to keep your eye on in the seasons to come.
  • Edelrid - Great German climbing company making their move on the US market.
  • Adidas Outdoor - Great outdoor apparel and trail runners that rival Salomon and La Sportiva.
  • Contour Helmet Cameras - Everyone knows I use a Contour HD and love it.  Look out for some sick new product.
  • Kayland - Amazing hiking boots and approach shoes.
  • Salewa - Second best gear of the show in my book.  New ice boot that flexes for the hike and locks rigid for vertical ice.  What?!?!
Overall tradeshows are a blast and even though they consist of long days the work we put in goes to benefit our customers and helps us get product that would otherwise get lost at some other retailer.  We sell only off price product so we don't have to focus on promoting full price vs. off price.  We simply offer the best product at the best price from the best brands.  That's it!  Pretty easy when you think about it that way.  I will be attending the PGA Expo soon in Las Vegas, NV as well at the Surf Expo in Orlando, FL.  Look for more tradeshow reports and more great photos.

New Black Diamond helmet.  The Half Dome
redesign has been delayed.
New monopoint crampon from BD.  It uses the same Cyborg
front point so you can replace it easily.
La Sportiva Crosslite 2.0 trail runners and Speedster climbing shoes

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gear Review - Black Diamond Chaos Harness

Going trad climbing in the Black Diamond Chaos
First order of business; I used to hate single buckle waist harnesses and harnesses with non adjustable leg loops.  This mainly stemmed from the fact that I've always had a Petzl Corax harness and thought it was perfectly adjustable and extremely comfortable.  Well, that way of thinking, for me, has been shattered.  The Black Diamond Chaos harness is simple yet extremely usable.  The comfort of the Kinetic Core construction is surprising and extremely light weight as well.  Black Diamond hit the nail on the head again with a superb product that functions well, exudes confidence and takes climbing softgoods technology and construction a step further.  Yes the Dead Bird company came out with a super lightweight low profile harnesses first, and yes, they are very nice and extremely well made, however the Arc'Teryx "luxury" tax is always a point of contention with me.  Their products always have an inflated price tag for minimal benefits, if any.  Simply put, Black Diamond has come back with an affordable harness that weighs about the same as other super lightweight harnesses and it even has better gear loops.  The flatlock seam, elastic leg loops and super smooth speed buckle are all additional features that improve the harness.  The attention to detail is easily recognized.
If you look at the harness it doesn't seem like anything special, but when you pick it up and climb in it you will easily recognize why so many people are using it.  The waist belt is wide enough to provide ample comfort and durability, but with the Kinetic Core construction the harness stays lightweight and flexible.  The gear loops are spaced quite nicely and keep your gear hanging at your sides, not too far forward or back and when you have the harness on pulling a quickdraw from the gear loop has never been easier.  It still boasts a haul loop for tag lines and uses speed buckles to make adjusting the harness a cinch.  Going back to my Petzl Corax I have noticed that the gear loops are toward the back of the harness and pulling gear doesn't seem as fluid.  The double waist buckle also throws off the overlap of padding in the front and actually creates an uncomfortable gap.  The Chaos does not do this.  The aesthetic of Black Diamond's harnesses is also better than most other climbing companies.  They have started using vibrant colors and different combinations to make them appealing to all climbers.  They used to be on sale at Sierra Trading Post, but recently sold out.  STP does have the two gear loop brother and sister Ozone (3485C) and Aura (3484Y).  Take a look and check out Black Diamond's Kinetic Core construction.

Final Say: Whether your plugging gear in the Utah desert or hitting enduro sport routes in some foreign country, this harness does it all, keeps you comfortable and keeps you confident.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Instant Blog

Just a quick ride after work. Maxwell Trail above CSU's football stadium. Fort Collins in the background.