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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza

Cali and anywhere else...

Brandon Riza's Passions

Biking
Climbing

Brandon Riza's Bio

www.brandonriza.com

Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on December 27, 2014

This puff seems to fragile to survive.

But survive it has. This and many rocky/icy excursions similar to this one. Here's the (older, i guess) Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer at 14,500 feet at the top of the last couloir on the Mountaineers Route on Mount Whitney. Sometimes when I'm climbing on stuff like that, I armjam. Sometimes when I'm armjamming on stuff like that, I either get sort of bloody, or I worry the whatever layer I have on will take a beating. I worry about the Ghost Whisperer especially, but it always seems to come out unscathed. At least so far.

For the extremely visually astute, yes, I should have put the Ghost Whisperer UNDERNEATH the Marmot SuperMica, but I put the SuperMica on at 12K feet as a windshirt where it started getting cold, then we rounded a corner and started ascending a North-facing gully at 14k feet and it got even colder, so I dug out and threw on the Ghost Whisperer. There are a few reasons why that order should have been reversed, but I don't like to be bothered with that stuff most of the time. I just expect my gear to work with me in whatever situation we find ourselves together in.

That's why I love this jacket. Because it does.
It gets scroonched down into a tiny ball in my pack, it gets scraped over sharp granite, sometimes I even pull in out/put it on when it's drizzling (and that just breaks ALL the rules) because it just happens to be in the very top of my pack and is thus the most convenient layer.
I've found that I use thing layer way more than I thought I would. It's become ever-present in my pack. It's so light that sometimes I carry it as padding for my camera gear and never end up wearing it. It' not an exaggeration to say that it's my most-used/worn puffy layer, and I have a few.
(Copy-paste this link...you'll see what I mean...)

http://www.brandonriza.com/Tour/PuffComparisons/Tour.html

Great jacket. 5 Stars. But man...I'm way diggin on that black/red one now. Don't make me buy another one, Mountain Hardwear!

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on December 25, 2014

Inside the ping-pong ball in SoCal?

Sort of looks like I'm in (negative) space, what with the spaceman puffy and all. Here's the summit of Mount Baldy during the first snow storm of the year. Really fun day and one more adventure for the Fenix 2. I am still absolutely in love this thing. Every now and then some caveats arise, and here's two:
It seems like it's takes forever sometimes for this thing to acquire satellites. Other times, it takes mere seconds. A few days ago I milled around for an entire song and was passed twice by the same dude who was already running. WEAK.
The other caveat is the white-on-black face.
I like it, but I don't ALWAYS like it, and i'd really like to...you know...hit a button and invert the display. Sounds impossible.
But the Ambit 3 can do it.
To do it with the Fenix 2 you have to buy the "special edition." version.
That falls into the "not cool" category.
But...minor details.
I mean...it is a GPS WAAATTCHH.

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on December 17, 2014

Interactive Puffy Comparison...

Again, I'd like to thank backcountry.com and Mountain Equipment for giving me the opportunity to use and review this jacket, but I feel a little guilty, as I haven't yet been able to use it the way I plan on using it in the near future. (High above the treeline on a snow-draped granite Sierra knife-edged ridge...)
In an effort to provide some useful information and feedback, i made this thing:



http://www.brandonriza.com/Tour/PuffComparisons/Tour.html


(Sorry...Can't figure out how to hyperlink that...you gotta copy-paste...takes a few seconds to load and start...)

Basically, it's an interactive photo comparing the various insulation layers I use. It works on anything (iOS device, droid, desktop) but it looks coolest on a desktop/laptop, IMHO.
Try clicking on the "Projections" menu (upper left) and choosing "Stereographic"€. Or any of the other options.
You can zoom in and out to read the text, you can click the "Home" button to reset the view. You can fullscreen it, and you can view a map of where I was, if you care.

I've tried to explain where this jacket lies in the scheme of things in the link, but I'm really loving this thing so far.
It's warmth-to-weight ratio is impressive and it's just a very well thought out piece.

I'll post a better a better review with cooler photos as soon as I can get back out there and hit some objectives.
My life has been uncharacteristically climb-free for the last month and that is NOT cool, man!
Not cool.

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza wrote a review of on December 13, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
Fit: True to size

First off, thanks to Backcountry.com and Mountain Equipment for hand-selecting me to review the Lightline Down Jacket for the benefit of the backcountry.com community...this is the first of a couple of reviews of this, I'm sure.

Because I live in SoCal, there has not been a ton of need for a down jacket of this magnitude up until...well just yesterday. Finally nuked in the Sierra and got cold. (stupid global warming...).

When I received the jacket, my first thought was, "Whoa, this thing is full-on." Like most of us, I've had and still have a collection of outdoor clothing, including various insulation layers.
This jacket falls right in between my Mountain Hardwear Compressor and my First Ascent Peak XV. (Which fell just south of my Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero.)

The Peak XV is just way overkill for Winter in the Sierra (I bought it for a Denali climb) but the MH Compressor isn't enough, alone, for that purpose. For the last two years, I've developed a puff/insulation layering system that includes a few other pieces of gear. I've used it in lots of places and in lots of conditions, but every now and then, as I'm settling into a campsite at 12K or a bivy on a glacier, the dreaded "Dude...I'm cold." echoes through my mind somewhere. Plus, while multi-use items are valuable in the mountains, so is simplicity. Sometimes the orchestra of interacting gear becomes a pain. SO...I'm stoked to be able to use this for those purposes, and it even spurred me into buying some OR puff pants for this winters Sierra excursions.

Anyway, the fit of this jacket is definitely "parka". I'm 5'6" and the small fits me exactly like I want a parka to fit me. Comes down a little past my waist, sort of to my pant pockets. The hood is awesome, articulated, removable and has a cool little adjustable brim. Hand pockets are super plush and you just wanna use em.
It seems to strike a good weight/bulk/wearabilty balance.
It's beefy, but not TOO beefy.

More later...

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on December 1, 2014

OK...REALLY in the field this time...

Earlier, I posted an image that said something like "the Garmin Fenix 2 charging in the field...something something..." but the photo was on my desk in front of my laptop. Weak!
Here it is ACTUALLY charging in the field.
(Basecamp on the North side of Mount Shasta in summer...)

I've found Garmin's claims concerning battery life at various settings to be fairly accurate. The good news is that 550ish mAh cell charges pretty quickly and you don't need a lot to do it.
This little USB cell was a cheap-o one I got at Ralphs when I grabbed the Folgers can I used to store my cremated friend's ashes. (Kidding, that's a movie reference...but I did get it at Ralphs...)

Still loving this watch and as I use it more and become more familiar with it, it's becoming more fluid to interact with, and Garmin is great about fixing glitches with firmware updates.

Great watch.

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on November 24, 2014

Burly ice-biting vicegrip beartraps.

I always feel like a rampaging cyborg when I have crampons on. Especially the kind that clamps onto mountaineering boots like these do. The little adjustment wheel on the rear lever makes it easy to adjust tension and is sort of analogous to the way vice grips work in that you can simply roll a dial, test, roll, and zero in on the amount of pressure beyond which you cannot further increase pressure. I have them dialed-in for my La Sportiva Nepal GTX mountaineering boots to a very tight tolerance and that feeling of the clamp gripping down on the welts of that boot is very gratifying indeed. For as burly as these are, they are acceptably lightweight, not in the way that aluminium crampons are, but that's not what these are for. I've crunched through miles of mixed terrain in these crampons, ice, snow, slop, scree, low fifth class rock climbs. To call them bomber is an understatement. Mine have no rust and they still manage to look shiny still.

Five big stars for these things.
Like...red hypergiant-sized stars...
We're talkin' VY Canis Majoris, here, people!!

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on November 12, 2014

A few more photos of the Tango...

Been wearing this jacket as much as possible lately.
That top pic is weird...10k feet in an awesome snow-fog. I thought my autotimer fired and i was leaning in to check...a half second before my dog jumped all over me.
Bottom left is an example of the hood drawn up tight.
Bottom right is me being a dork.
I can't help it...

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza wrote a review of on November 12, 2014

Great softshell/light-puff combo...
5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times
Fit: True to size

Thank you to Backcountry.com and Westcomb for hand-selecting me to review this piece of gear for the benefit of the backcountry.com community!

First, this jacket is EXTREMELY well put-together.
From the stitching/seams to the zippers. All very smooth.
The fit is fantastic. In-between athletic and relaxed€, leaning towards athletic.
The material and feel on this jacket is a bit hard to describe.
If you have a lightweight puffy and a light windshirt, put the puff on first, then the windshirt, and subtract 25% of the puff bulk.
That's what it's like. Very similar to the Arc T Atom I used to have.

I have a few jackets that put pressure on my trachea when fully-zipped. Not dangerously of course, but annoyingly. In a layering setup, it gets worse. The Tango zips fully very comfortably. Enough room to be cozy while not being too baggy.
The hood can be pulled up over your head when the jacket is fully-zipped. That's not true with some jackets and I love being able to do that. Speaking of the hood; look, hoods are important. You can't just sew a blob of cloth onto jacket and then say, "SEE? HOOD!"
IMHO, Arc T perfected the hood in every way. I judge all other hoods by Arc T hoods, and the hood on the Tango passes that test.
It's well-sized, fits functionally either drawn-up or not and doesn't take up too much bulk when down.
It's articulated by two front pull-coords which are accessed from the inside, not the outside.
The two hand pockets are bare-bones, which is fine in a jacket like this.

All-in-all, the jacket is just a downright pleasure to wear.
I've trailrun in it, been snowed on, rained on (DWR is amazing so far, I'll post a video) and just kicked around town in it.
I absolutely love it and can't wait to keep experimenting with it for various environments/activities.
I was gonna go climb in last weekend, but I woke up with a migraine. I'll post a pic of me sulking and looking at mountains like a total poser looser.

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on October 8, 2014

17 Camp is cold.

And aptly named...

A favorite quote comes to mind.

"It was cold as hell...mitts and everything was all ice."
-Billy Taylor from the Sourdough Expedition...Denali, April 3rd, 1910...

The watch, of course, survived. This and many other similar experiences. I lost it somewhere on Mont Blanc a short time later.
Bummer.
But I like the watch so much, one of the first things I did when I got back to Chamonix was to buy another one.
After drinking a beer, of course...

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on October 4, 2014

Don't forget the pot has a base 'lid'...

OK.
One night (or should I say "morning") after having worked 14 straight 18 hour days, i got home at 3ish AM and decided that NOW would be a good time to race my JetBoil Sol Ti against my Optimus Vega, in my kitchen, to .5L boiled and measure fuel consumption in grams.
(Yes. I know you're not supposed to use isobutane stoves indoors...)
This, however, like many decisions made at 3am on a gargantuan historical sleep deficit, turned out to be...not the the best I've made.
I forgot the JetBoil Fluxring pot (what i chose to pair with my Optimus Vega) has a base and, well...

Fire melts stuff.
Especially Dacron/high-density polyethylene terephthalate.

I had a quiet little chuckle when I went back to JetBoil's site for a replacement and noticed they have a page dedicated to the
"GCS 1.5L POT BOTTOM COVER | C20010"
Guess I'm not the only one...

That said. This pot is awesome.
BOTH lids (top and bottom) fit very tightly and have yet to come off of their own accord inside my pack. The fluxring contraption MIGHT decrease boil times, but it definitely does seat nicely into the arms of the Optimus Vega and increases stability. It's just the right size for that unintended purpose. (that stove, a 230g JetBoil isobutane canister, the windscreen, a reflector base, and an MSR piezo ignitor fit snuggly inside this pot, which rules beyond quantification...)
The little handles are nice and they retract down and lay flat against the pot, and STAY there due to some leveraging friction in the mechanism that attaches them to the pot.
All that adds up to a nice, solid package that doesn't get all cattywompus in your pack or while you're handling it.

Also, a good way to get melted plastic out of the burner jet of a stove is to...BURN it out. But, I do not recommend trying this and waive all responsibility if you do...

For photos of the pot on my Vega, check out my vega review.

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on October 4, 2014

<Thiissssss> much fail...

At first glance, it might look like I'm overlooking my domain, imagining the valley floor packed sheild-to-shoulder with my rapacious armies, ala Sauron, but in fact, I'm attempting to quantify the amount of climbfail we were to experience later that day (and the next).

Turns out my arms weren't long enough...

The shirt, on the other hand, is awesome!
I love it.

Getchoo one...

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on October 4, 2014

Mountain Camo.

It only took one trip out for the North Face GTD shirt to become an integral part of my mountain wardrobe jam!
I love this shirt. I love the way it fits;
Not too tight, not too loose, not to long, not too short.
Goldilocks would approve...
I love the way it looks;
It's not rainbow neon purple, (at least the one I chose) you can turn it inside out and still looks cool! (white front/grey back), the red trim breaks up the typical greys that have become ubiquitous in mountain pants these days, and it's camo.
Plus it's a ringer!
And that's sorta cool.

Here's a shot of me drinking 250ml of water and simultaneously consuming 150kcal of pure maltodextrin solute on the edge of a cliff.
Cause...i mean why not?

Great shirt!!

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on October 3, 2014

Jetboil Fluxring pot with my Vega...

Great combo.
Everything fits in the pot, even a 230g isobutane canister.
Note the heat reflector base.
I grabbed that from my Optimus Nova liquid fuel stove.
The Vega comes with a windscreen, but not the reflector base.
I've found the combo of windscreen and base to be very efficient, especially when using it on snow.
Fantastic stove. (sweet pot, too...)

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza wrote a review of on October 3, 2014

Remote-canister isobutane = robust...
5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I love stoves. In fact i totally nerd-down on them.
I have hexamethylenetetramine 1-3-5 trioxane stoves, multi-liquid-fuel stoves, alcohol stoves, isobutane stoves, remote-canister isobutane stoves...
I love them all for different reasons.
The top of the food chain when it comes to portable stoves is the remote-canister isobutane variety. That's not to say they are the best choice for every occasion, but they are the only stoves that hit all the bullet points of usability/efficiency in inclement conditions and at elevation. Without getting too sciency, canister-top n-butane and isobutane stoves perform poorly below freezing due to the boiling points of those specific liquified petroleum gases. Isobutane canisters these days also contain small amounts of propane, which has a much lower boiling point, but requires much more pressure to contain. (thus the small percentages of propane in the mixes). In very cold weather and at moderate elevations, this causes performance lag, and burning will totally stop if you're low enough and it's cold enough. (unless your canister does indeed contain propane in the mix, and will cease when you burn through that propane.) (Boiling points decrease as you gain elevation, making isobutane stoves more efficient, so you can actually climb your way out of this problem, like many others...)
A remote canister solves this issue, because when you tip it over, it's not relying on vaporization for fuel to leave the canister, it's relying on gravity. The vaporization takes place in the preheat coil.
Here's a photo of mine on Mount Rainier at 10k feet in what was probably 20ish degrees. Technically, i didn't need to invert it, but the canister was emptying and the pressure was dropping. With a canister-top model, I wouldn't have been able to melt snow (efficiently or for very long)for drinking-water. And that would have sucked. So I flipped it, and in doing so, turned it into a 12000BTU liquid fuel stove.

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Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza posted an image about on October 2, 2014

Scratch-B-Gone...

I mentioned before that Garmin kindly replaced (for free) my watch because of the scratch I laid down with reckless abandon on the face. Here's cool pic of the new one.
Clean-n-pristine.
(The smears are just smears...I was getting snowed on...)

I loves me some round numbers...

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