GEAR OF THE YEAR 2015Best climbing gear of 2015.
Scarpa Booster S
scarpa.com | $175 | ★★★★★
[Editor’s Note: This is Dave Pegg’s last review for Rock and Ice, published posthumously in issue No. 223 (January 2015). We are forever grateful for his insightful and entertaining shoe reviews.]
Most companies make zero to three shoes that I actually want to wear for gym, bouldering and sport climbing. Scarpa has five and counting (look for the super-soft Furia next spring). The variety is great, but can pose a conundrum. Which Scarpa shoe should you wear?
The Booster S is a softer version of the Boostic. But unlike the Boostic, where the sole runs continuously from toe to heel, the Booster S has a half sole—there is nothing but slingshot and rand rubber under the arch and heel. This design lets the front of the shoe move independently, allowing you to better twist your foot onto angled footholds and smears.
The Booster S also has a stickier, thinner 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip2 rubber sole, and a minimal midsole—just a small strip of Flexan running under the tips of the toes—rather than covering the whole forefoot (like the Boostic).
The result is a lighter and much more tactile and nimble-feeling shoe.
So what’s the difference between the Booster S and Scarpa’s Stix—a slipper I adore? The Stix knuckles up your forefoot, maximizing big-toe power and focus. The more relaxed toe box of the Booster S allows you to utilize a greater surface area of sole. In terms of climbing performance, think of pawing the rock with your foot (Booster S), rather than skewering it with the tip of your big toe (Stix).
Which shoe should you prefer? That depends partly on your climbing style, but mostly on the terrain you are climbing. The more I climb in Scarpa shoes, the more I realize that each one is a tool designed for a different set of challenges. I care enough about my performance—and need all the help I can get—so I choose not to choose. I want to own them all.
- Synthetic leather upper.
- Nimble, sensitive steep-rock shoe.
- Twin Velcro-strap closure system.
- 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber.
- Tri-Tension active randing.
ABOUT THE RATING: I gave this shoe five stars because it’s a superlative steep-rock, bouldering and gym climbing shoe, with great feel and sensitivity, and with just enough support to allow you to edge when you need to. It’s expensive, but this is justified by its quality construction, durability and performance.
Petzl Sitta Harness
petzl.com | $159.95 | ★★★★★
When fashion designer Rudi Gernreich invented the thong in 1974, it changed the world forever. Who knew so little material could be functional? Similarly, the Petzl Sitta looks barely there, but it is one of the lightest, most comfortable, full-featured harnesses ever made.
The Sitta weighs a feathery 8.5 ounces (size small). To achieve such lightweight, the harnesse’s waistbelt and leg loops (non-adjustable) use Spectra strands for strength—Petzl calls this Wireframe Technology. The Spectra strands spread pressure evenly and eliminate the need for foam padding. If this sounds leg-numbingly painful, think again. The Sitta is as comfy as some padded harnesses and more comfortable than others.
Also unique to the Sitta, the two front gear loops (ridged) each have a sliding cord divider. This keeps critical gear forward, and helps with organization. If you don’t like the feature, you can slide the dividers (with a little force) to the back and out of the way, or opt for a more permanent surgical procedure. Two smaller, soft gear loops—to make climbing with a pack easier—and a haul loop round out the back of the harness.
Ice climbers: The Sitta has a slot for ice clippers (Caritools) on each side. These are positioned inside the first gear loop and cause a jumble and gobble up gear-loop real estate, but function nonetheless.
For the business portion of the harness, the Sitta has a skinny, 100-percent Dyneema belay loop and Dyneema-reinforced tie-in points. These are lighter and can take more of a beating, abrasion-wise, than their nylon counterparts.
Despite the “high end” label, this harness isn’t just for die-hard sport climbers gunning for a redpoint. The Sitta is an ultralight all-arounder— excellent for sport, trad, water ice, mountaineering, and alpine. At $159.95, it’s expensive, but it’ll be the only harness you need until someone takes Gernreich’s lead one step further. Unikini anyone?
Beal Opera 8.5mm
libertymountain.com | $219.95 (60 m) | ★★★★½
With a diameter normally reserved for half ropes, the Opera is the skinniest single-rated rope on the market and the first to break the mythical weight barrier of 50 grams per meter. With a tight-knit sheath and a medium- stiff hand, it was also one of the most durable. Beal’s Golden Dry treatment is applied to every strand of the core and sheath, and kept it from absorbing any water when I dropped the rope into a creek. In both handling and performance, the Opera is much like a slimmed-down version of the Joker, Beal’s 9.1, one of my favorite skinny cords.
The Opera has the most stretch of the three, around five percent more, something to consider when taking big whips with a lot of rope in play. But if trimming the fat is your top concern, the Opera could be the solution.
- WEIGHT: 48 g/m
- SHEATH PRPORTION: 37 percent
- UIAA FALLS (single, half, twin): 5/20/>25
- IMPACT FORCE: 7.4/5.5/8.6 kN
- DYNAMIC ELONGATION: 37/35/29 percent
- DRY TREATMENT: Golden Dry, Dry Cover
Outdoor Research Splitter Gloves
outdoorresearch.com | $39 | ★★★★
Splitter Gloves are synthetic-leather “tape” gloves for hand jamming. As someone who has used real tape gloves on and off, and on and off and on and off, I can attest to the Splitter Gloves’ worthiness and utility. Unlike time-consuming-to-make tape gloves that you throw away after a few days’ use, Splitter Gloves go on and off in seconds and are reusable.
Splitter Gloves aren’t the first purpose-built tape-glove replacements, but they are the best I’ve used. Other gloves are rubber, and I’ve never liked their stiffness and bulky feel. Splitter Gloves are softer, feel like tape and are so innocuous I often forget I’m wearing them. In terms of friction, they also grip similarly to tape, and they take chalk. Coverage is also about what you’d get from a standard tape job: Protection is good for thin-hands- to cupped-hands-sized cracks. For fist cracks, you need a few wraps of tape to cover your thumb knuckles.
Durability is fair to good, depending on how you take care of the gloves. The fabric itself shows only minimal scuffing after approximately 800 feet of crack climbing, but one glove did slightly delaminate at a seam and the other one started to peel apart at the Velcro wrist strap. A daub of SuperGlue or Barge Cement made quick repairs.
About the rating: The gloves would get five stars if they cost 10 bucks less and they held up better.
Mountain Equipment Lattice
mountain-equipment.co.uk | $200 | ★★★★
My Wife is having my head examined.
“It isn’t normal,” she said, “to shower in a raincoat.”
She doesn’t get that a shower is the acid test for determining whether a shell jacket is waterproof.
I can say with authority that the Mountain Equipment Lattice jacket doesn’t leak.
Big deal, you’re thinking, dozens of shells will keep you dry. What’s special about the Lattice?
Tipping the scales at just over eight ounces, the superlight Lattice doesn’t skimp on features, packs to the size of a breadfruit and is surprisingly tough. I wore it on oak-infested approaches, belaying and ice climbing, and the only injury it sustained after a year was a nick from an ice tool.
A “monolithic polyurethane membrane,” a poreless sheet 13 microns thick—a strand of spiderweb silk is 3 to 8 microns—keeps rainout and breathes well enough. The jacket is seam taped and has a waterproof zipper with a flap and a garage. The flap provides a second water barrier, but snaps in the zipper slider. I’d welcome a touch of fabric stiffening there.
Two zippered waterproof pockets are treasure chests awaiting gloves, cap, GU, map and my favorite: those fingery things on the end of my arms. The jacket wrists close with Velcro and convert into thumb loops to hold the sleeves in place when your hands are overhead.
Another deft tough is the hood, which fits well with or without a helmet. A wire in the visor makes a nice overhang to hide your face under, while three-way adjustments pull the hood off your gill and grip like a firm hand letting the hood swivel with you. I may find that especially useful when my noggin gets checked.
ABOUT THE RATING: Excellent and versatile performer, but one star deducted for the fussy zipper flap.
Edelrid Fraggle II
edelrid.de | $64.95 | ★★★★½
Which is more difficult, building a time machine that works, or unraveling and fitting a typical kid’s full-body harness? If you’re a parent, you know that getting a 4-year-old into a full-body harness is more vexing.
I have two young boys who love to climb, but taking them out is a drag. First I have to catch them, hold them down, calm them like frightened birds, then try to get them into one of those harnesses. It takes a lot of sweat and patience.
Edeldrid’s new Fraggle kid’s full-body harness is a godsend for me and any parents who wish to take their kneebiters to the crags. The Fraggle is padded and doesn’t tangle up when you shove it in a backpack. Young kids can easily get into it by themselves and, with only three adjustment buckles, the harness is quick to adjust, allowing it to be shared among children of different sizes/ages. Two tie-in points remain above the body’s center of gravity, ensuring that the child hangs vertically and won’t flip. An additional weight- bearing clip-in point in back works well when your child just wants to swing. I clip a biner to this point and use it to grab and help my younger kid up steep hikes.
The ease of use makes the Fraggle a standout among the other harnesses I’ve used, but I did wish that it was sized a little smaller. Edelrid claims that the XS Fraggle will work for kids that weigh up to 90 pounds. According to the CDC, that would equate to the size of an average 12-year-old. Most 12 year olds will have long since moved away from the full-body Fraggle and into a standard harness. My boys started climbing when they were 3 (30 pounds). However, the XS Fraggle didn’t really fit until they were 4, about 40 pounds. Parents, if your kid is under 40 pounds, consider buying the XXS (not tested). This is a great harness that allows impatient parents like you more time for inventing time machines and your own rock climbing.
ABOUT THE RATING: I gave the Fraggle 4.5 stars because it is competitively priced and so dang easy to use. I docked it half a star because the XS version doesn’t fit kids who weigh under 40 pounds but fits a 12-year-old.
Ratings range from one to five stars. 5 stars The best in its class, with no major shortcomings and competitive pricing. 4 stars Product is among the best and innovative, but can have one or two minor flaws. An overly high price can count as a flaw. 3 stars Good but average, with no standout or innovative feature. Might have more than two minor flaws. 2 stars Has a serious flaw or shortcoming that compromises performance. 1 star Gear has serious issues and isn’t recommended.
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