Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow

Next trip: A weekend on the Ozark Highland Trail

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Eric's Passions

Backpacking
Camping
Paddling
Mountaineering

Eric's Bio

Romping around in Utah mostly: backpacking, mountaineering, canyoneering, occasional sport climbing...its amazing what's available when you graduate from college and finally have weekends! More about me at my website: https://sites.google.com/site/darsowclass/contact-mr-darsow/about-eric-darsow

Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote an answer about on December 21, 2011

Consider this, Austin: Economically speaking, the reason we have decent tents for $50 and decent sleeping bags for $100 today is because innovation in the outdoor industry (like any other industry) is driven by the continually evolving high-end brands and gear lines that, once accepted as valuable, become mass produced and their cost slowly inches down to a range accessible by mid-level consumers. Any mainstream technology product is an example of this: LCD screens, touch screens, laptops, etc. We can drop our jaws at the thought that somebody would pay $500 for an iPhone and write them off as "materialistic elitists" but Apple innovates because they want to grab the rents they get from selling new products to die hards for some time. That technology then seeps into the gear that you and me buy at less exorbitant prices. So, consider letting the die-hards and the rich outdoorsy folks pay $500 for this sleeping bag so perhaps in 4 years you and I can buy fancy polyester shell linings on our bags for $100. It's how innovation works in a modern-day economy! We all benefit!

So while I disagree with the sentiment of your "Backcountry, have you lost it?" comment for the reasons stated in previous answers, as a teacher into mountaineering, I can sympathize with you, Austin, since I don't always have the financial wiggle room to deck the pack out with the top-of-the-line quality gear. The challenge in any sport culture is to stem the natural tide to becoming elitist in attitude. For instance, I did shell out good money for a mountaineering course last year and thought I had paid to be a third-rate participant in a name-brand outdoor clothing fashion show. Conversation incessantly drifted back to commenting on the various pieces of gear that the course members had bought, usually at top-notch prices.

But the good news is that while some people do engage in outdoor activities partly for the sake of showing off $300 Arc'Teryx pants, their doing so doesn't mean I have to do so.

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on November 24, 2011

4 5

As somebody who suffers chronically with finding a good fit for a boot due to a distended rear ankle bone, I just about fainted when I put on these Scarpa boots. As you can see by the photos, the back of the boot bugles out slightly on the back of the ankle, leading to less grinding with each step. For those of you lucky souls out there with relatively flat heels, you have a lot of boots to choose from. For us poor folk with oddly shaped feet, Scarpa makes boots that are kinder on the ankles. Previous to this boot, I hiked in Trangos and Lowa Mntn Expert boots, both of which shredded the backs of my ankles in minutes.

I spent 12 consecutive days on Baker during a mountaineering course with these suckers and can say that in somewhat wet, summer snow on baker, these boots keep you as dry as you'll get without a plastic boot. (Remember, GTX will let moisture through eventually, so don't expect perfectly dry feet after a day in the snow)

The construction of the boot is dramatically sturdier than the Trangos, and for any snowy mountaineering expeditions, I would feel much more comfortable paying the extra $20 to get a lot more boot than the $299 Trangos. The leather uppers are well-stitched and the lacing system works well. With well-fitted gaitors, these are winners.

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on November 13, 2011

3 5

I have used this lamp climbing, mountaineering in white-outs, rain storms, camping, running, biking, etc. for about 2 years.

Pros:
*Top-of-head strap is excellent for mounting on helmets while climbing and rappelling where you simply cannot worry about the lamp sliding down around your neck at the wrong time.

*The blast feature is surprisingly useful when you're scouting out trails, checking for obstacles far ahead, etc. I would imagine that the blast is twice as bright as the bean on "High." I never really needed it longer than 20 seconds, so that limit was never an issue.

*The sliding lens to switch between flood and beam is extremely convenient since when hiking and climbing, you often want to switch between the two modes and you can do so instantly without needing to cycle through all of the modes to toggle the modes.

*The construction is sturdy, and the battery cover has a nice rubber gasket that makes me think it was super weather-resistant.

Cons:
*Changing the colored filters between a white flood and a red night vision lens is a PAIN, meaning that the features are basically mutually exclusive: you either have a white flood or a red lens. Changing the lenses requires prying off the plastic lens retainer and swapping out the lenses by carefully positioning the new lens in its "track" and replacing the plastic retainer. I rarely ever did this because 1) it took several minutes,  2) the lenses are so small and the pieces are loose while swapping them out that I never really wanted to do it at night or in harsh conditions since I'd lose a piece, and 3) whenever I removed the retainer, I thought I would crack something since it's very tight. I say all this because these characteristics effectively mean that you either have a white flood or a night vision, but never both on the same expedition. And since I rarely used the night vision and always wanted the flood, I just kept the red lens in the little holder attached to the head strap. The other colors are a silly add-on.

*Price is too high: I backpacked with somebody for a week who was using the Energizer Trail 7-LED model you can buy for $15. The brightness of the two models is identical and both models have beam, flood, and night vision features. Thus, you're paying $50 for a head strap and the convenience of the sliding bean/spot toggle and the brand name. Surely the design is sturdier and it has electronics inside, but those features are not worth the price. I'm going with the PT Remix for $30 on sale.

*For the last few months up until my lamp was stolen, I noticed that the light would dim sporadically during use. One could squeeze the casing just right and it would return to its normal brightness or a few more minutes, but this was disconcerting since I was using it as my primary light on high-stakes climbing expeditions. For a premium light from a premium company, I didn't expect any malfunctions like this.

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on January 16, 2011

4 5

I haven't backpacked extensively with this product yet, but as I am surveying it here in the house, I'm impressed with the overall quality of the product. The leather end-caps for the four metal bars to give the chair rigidity seem extremely sturdy and instill confidence that I can lean back and rock and not worry about puncturing the rods through the fabric. While I find the price a little high for a piece of nylon with 4 aluminum bars sewn in, I can see that this product will probably hold up for the long-haul. The only question will be if the 10.5 oz weight will provide a comparable increase in comfort. I'm betting it will.

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on January 16, 2011

5 5

I've been using the lush 2"-pad for 10 years, even while backpacking on 70+ mile trips since this is the one I was given long ago and never wanted to spend another $100 on a pad to save 3/4-pound. I can confidently say that the pad has held up over easily 200+ nights with only 1 small leak after about 6 years of use. I was about to buy a patch kit for $$$ but the guy at the store said to just use some seam-seal as one would use on a tent and I've had at least another 2 years of leak-free use out of the pad.

Since I have a job now (not a poor college student anymore, just a poor teacher), I will be upgrading to a Prolite Plus (regular length weight 1lb,8 oz) to save the weight and size, but will keep this one around for the short overnighters in the snow and for scout camps, etc.

Even after a decade of use, the self-inflating feature still holds up fine. I attribute this to the fact that I am religious about taking it out of its stuff sack and storing it with the valve open when it's not in use (which should be standard procedure for pads and bags). If you're not worried about the weight, this is the pad!

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on January 12, 2011

5 5

I have been very pleased with the Moabs due to their comfort, waterproofness, and traction. Vibram soles are excellent for ice, rock, and generally not slipping on stuff that normal shoes do. For these reasons, I've been wearing hiking shoes as my normal, around town footwear for years now. I've previously been a fan of Nike hikers but went over to the more serious GTX model in December 2009 when I purchased the Moab GTX. I've worn it literally everyday on all terrains in Utah, across Uganda, and even while teaching.

Clearly the soles need to be replaced with models designed for your intended use, but other than that, the shoe has worn exceptionally little for full-time wearing during normal life and even a few 20-30 mile day-hikes. I have even resorted to wearing the Moabs on light backpacking trips when my BPing boots were shredding my heels (not recommended due to the lack of ankle support)and they performed better than expected for a shoe: comfortable, good grip, and persistently water-resistant.

While I would not buy Merrell's for my primary backcountry footwear due to the increased durability of competing brands, as an approach shoe and general multi-purpose shoe, this one tops my list. I'll be buying a new pair when these wear down (which will probably be in 1-2 more years.)

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on January 12, 2011

5 5

This is a standard draw in its category and I've sport climbed and canyoneered with this device happily for two summers in Utah. Since I don't tackle long lead routes or trad where I'd need really light draws, I have absolutely no complaints. I believe in relying on tried and tested climbing gear, and this is one of those products by BD.

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on January 12, 2011

4 5

Like many others, this package was a starter for me into sport climbing in Provo, Utah. I was attracted to the brand and since BD does not make shoddy gear, I was not put off by the price (I suggest one should not shop only by price with climbing gear). The harness doesn't have an automatic double backing feature so beginners should, of course, know exactly what they're doing before they think they can just slip on the harness and rappel of the roof of the office to try the thing out. I've used the harness canyoneering (since I will buy a higher grade model once I move back out West) and it doesn't hold up well, but then again, no gear holds up well in the Roost.
Pros:
-Good set of standard gear for starters
-Decent acceptable fit and versatility

Cons:
-No auto double-backing

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a question about on December 25, 2010

Greetings. I am looking for a mountaineering boot compatible with my BD Sabretooth Pro Crampons that demand a heel welt to attach properly. I cannot see in any photos or descriptions if this boot actually has a heel welt or not. If not, what does it mean for a boot to be "crampon compatible?" Is this designation simply referring to the steel shank in the sole? Thanks!

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on October 23, 2010

5 5

This classic MSR design has become a kind of industry standard. These shoes have a binding that can be attached and detached quickly and while wearing winter gloves (maybe even mittens). The crampon design facilitates purchase when doing a vertical climb on a variety of snow textures as well as a lateral job across a slope. The ascent bars are a must-have for anybody doing serious "up" with these. The first trip of each season, I forget that the little metal bar is even there until half way up the slope. Once i flip those suckers up, all the muscles in my legs thank me! Amazing. They can be pesky to put back down and you've got to really squeeze the sides, but that just means they're sturdy and won't collapse on you during a tough climb.

I highly recommend this design for cross-country, climbing, and aggressive climbing terrains! MSR is a reliable brand and these shoes do not disappoint!

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on October 23, 2010

3 5

I have used this device on a 40-mile backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail in northern MN. Having used Iodine, Pur-Hiker filer, and chlorine, i decided to add one more to my list with the Steri-Pen.

Pros: This will kill both crypto and viruses (big and small) with one device. After researching, I understand now that this is the only method that will for sure kill the big stuff and the small stuff in the same pass. Chlorine will kill everything but the cryptosporidium cysts, but most filters will take these out, so previously I had been using both methods in tandem. No need to do so here.

Cons: Be careful! If you are backpacking and are used to dipping your Nalgene right into the river and then purifying, you may need to reconsider your method if you are using a Steri-pen. The danger with this procedure is that the water on the threads of the bottle will not be purified. You should be cautious about pouring into your sterilizing bottle with another contaminated container. Perhaps I am being paranoid but it only takes one drop of bad water to do you in.This being the case, one advantage of the chemical and filter methods in the backcountry is that they can clean threads by holding the bottle upside down during purification and filling the threads.I also found the battery weight issue to be problematic. As you have certainly read, Alkalines are light but don't last long, and NiMH's are heavy.

Thus this device seems better suited for world travel trips in which one has access to spare batteries and weight is not so much of an issue. For the backcountry, I'll stick with my filter and a few drops of bleach. Then I don't have to worry about unclean threads or an electronic device failing.

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on January 9, 2010

BD Does it again -- FlickLock is excellent
5 5

I purchased these after a cheap pair of screw-lock poles died a fast death. While I haven't systematically tested, I would never buy a pole with a screw lock mechanism. I've seen three die. But these are sturdy and the FlickLock mechanism can be tightened with a small screw so they will never slip as long as you have your Gerber on you. Field Serviceable in this respect.

In my opinion, having the foam grip extend under the actual hand grip is nice for going up hill when you need a bit more leverage. Typical of me, I was a little worried about not getting a model with a replaceable tip, but I've hiked at least 250 miles with these
suckers and the carbide tip has shown literally zero wear--the dimple is still as deep as when i bought it. I also haven't regretted not getting a shock version--these work fine. The screwing section for the replaceable baskets seems like it would begin to strip if I swapped baskets often--but who really swaps baskets anyway?

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on January 9, 2010

Decent boot but poor longevity for price
2 5

Having had my feet eaten alive by more aggressive Vasque Zephrys, I decided to try these Merrell's which certainly are a more comfortable fit than others. Surprisingly, they didn't destroy my unusually protruding heels like most boots (even after months of break-in), so I was initially very satisfied. While they are not as stiff as a full-out backpacking boot, I hiked at least 200 miles in them and the waterproofing held up nicely. I could ford small, ankle-high streams no problem for several months. Obviously, since Gore-Tex is a breathable mesh technology, they will slowly allow some water through if you're hiking all day in the rain. This is to be expected, in my experience with GTX. You can't go wrong with Vibram soles.

After a summer of backpacking and one canyoneering trip, though, the shoe began to fall apart. First, the stitching that holds the peices of dura leather together tore open. I took the boot to a cobbler and he re-stitched the 4 or so inches of split fabric. Yet I soon realized the integrity of the boot was gone. Within another 20 or so miles, the top of the boot split from the sole and there's nothing a cobbler can do. Since these are not cheap shoes, I was surprised to see stitching come apart after only one season. I'm not sure if I was just misusing them for backpacking, but I was disappointed.

In short: Comfortable and good for day hiking, but they probably will not hold up for sustained backpacking or very aggressive terrain.

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on July 14, 2009

2 5

Bought this stove b/c i do more than boiling water and wanted a larger burner surface to avoid burning the noodles in the center of the pot. But, like others have experienced, the burner assembly bent about 10-15 degrees when it was boiling 8 cups of water. I haven't tried to bend it back b/c i'm almost always cooking on an uneven surface so i just compensate as I'm leveling with sticks and rocks. This fault would be annoying if I were cooking on a flat surface like a picnic table often.

Also, the stove doesn't compact well and the pot holders only pivot on the center screw so they line up with each other, leaving two nasty points which are sharp and exposed. Since i keep the stove in my pot, I've never had puncture problems, but it sure doesn't pack into the pot well; I have to fidget with it and worry about the points taking off the teflon lining. This being said, it has provided the needed reliability of other canister stoves as I've cooked with it on pretty cold nights down below 10F in the snow. At this price, however, there are probably other better canister stove designs.

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Eric Darsow

Eric Darsow wrote a review of on May 28, 2008

5 5

This is my first higher-end headlamp and especially appreciate the focused beam that can be diffused with a very nicely designed diffuser lens--giving you the best of both worlds: a diffused beam for around camp and the focused beam for searching for that trail "you know is out there somewhere."

I have never had any problems with this component, but I have always been nervous removing the cover to change the color of the diffuser lens because it feels extremely tight and likely to crack if one is not careful.

The strap is comfortable and adjustable. The over-the-head strap is very important to make sure you can get a sturdy fit.

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