Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Sierra Nevada, Cascades
My experience with the Contour 60 has been very good. Among many of the "4 pound" packs in the 60L range, this is as good as you'll find, likely along with the Deuter 50+10.
The Contour will appeal to people who really... REALLY like to organize their stuff. It has 13 pockets and seemingly as many straps, creating (in my opinion) a somewhat busy appearance. That's all personal preference, I just like something a bit simpler.
The Contour hip and side pockets are well thought out for how most people might use them. The suspension is VERY capable and comfortable, and likely is the best feature of the pack, in line with Gregory's reputation for competently carrying heavy loads. Gregory claims this pack can carry up to about 40-43 pounds, I would agree.
While the pack is made with quality materials, it also suffers from less durable materials, as is the case with most lighter weight gear. That means you have to treat it with more respect than backpacks of the past; blindly crashing through tree limbs, tossing the pack on the ground and dragging it around, you'll get punished for that. Good or bad, that seems to be trend with a lot of outdoor products now, and this pack follows suit.
Overall though, if your load is in that 40-45 pound range, this is as comfortable as you're likely to carry it. Not really for me, but a five star product nonetheless.
I've had this for about a year now. For the weight, I don't know that there's a warmer jacket out there. This is one of the real flagships of the MH line, I like it as much as my WM Vapor.
I've tested it in the Tetons in winter, wearing only an Arc'Teryx Phase AR half-zip underneath, at night in 15 degrees with 25 mph winds. Even when I wasn't moving or being active, I was as toasty as could be. The Airshield shell fabric performs as advertised; blocks the wind, is durable, though it's a smidge crinkley. I also wore the Nilas in the Sierras on a shoulder season trip, and though the conditions were warmer, it proved its breathability and versatility.
Two years or so ago, MH made some claims that they were going to put their name back on the map with some real advancements/innovations in their technical gear. I feel this jacket is a testament to their statements. It stuffs nice and small, the detail on the fleece cuffs and hood are first rate, and unless you're headed to Everest or Denali, this jacket should keep you warm . If I have a hesitation, it's the oft-heard complaint about MH zippers (usually with their bags). I say, treat 'em with a little respect, and you'll be fine.
I'm 6'2", 200 pounds, a Large fits me perfectly. And I love the Shark color.
The pack itself is made of high quality materials, and the pack body is very well done. The usual from Arc'teryx.
Conversely and unfortunately, the suspension isn't worthy of a pack that can be extended to 58L in the Large. The hipbelt supports no weight, so expect to carry all of your load on the shoulders.
An upgrade to the suspension and this pack would be a real winner for lightweight packers on weeklong trips.
I suspect many people will be like myself: comparing this jacket to the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, the Patagonia Ultra-Light, and perhaps even a specialty brand such as the Feathered Friends Daybreak or WM Flash. Maximum warmth for minimum weight, right?
I think the Cerium is a tremendous product, in the vein of most of the Arc'teryx product line. Even for their first effort at a lightweight down jacket, they've come into the fight swinging. High quality materials and craftsmanship. It has a snug fit to do away with those dead air spaces in too many lightweight down jackets, but that may not be as forgiving to all body types. Let's face it, there are times when Arc thinks everyone is a slender 5'10" 150 pound climber.
The Cerium has almost 20% more 850 down than a Ghost Whisperer, and you can feel that extra warmth combined with the Coreloft insulation in key spots. That being said, the Cerium has a lot of that extra down in its hood, handy for sure, but I personally would rather have that extra down in the main body. As expected, with less down, the Ghost weighs almost 2 ounces less.
The Feathered Friends Daybreak has 900 fill and almost as much down as the 850 fill Cerium, making them just about even in the warmth department. My scale says they weigh within an ounce of each other. The Daybreak has more of its down in the main body, less in the hood.
One note: I will be interested to see if the Cerium's tiny tooth main zipper stands the test of time, as such zippers are often easy to break.
Based on specs and my outdoor comparisons, I would rank the Cerium and Daybreak as near equals in warmth, the Ghost and Guch slightly less warm but lighter, for you gram counters. At full retail of $350, the Arc is overpriced in my opinion, but what else is new. 20% off coupons put it where it belongs, and assuming it fits your body type, I feel the Cerium is an exceptional jacket.
6'2" 200 pounds, I also have a Large. I have noticed the same thing, though I have not personally found it an annoyance. I do not think it will give over time (hasn't on mine). I would offer that the Arc's very athletic cut makes it more difficult for some folks to find a good fit with this jacket, body-type dependent of course.
The pole design, and the poles themselves on the Skyledge 2 are significantly stronger than on a Hubba Hubba. I have owned both tents and used them both in unsavory but exciting conditions.
I wouldn't hesitate to take a Skyledge2 for a winter trip, with the caveats that an appropriate sleeping pad, bag, and winter camping knowledge are needed.
hegaveitall is correct; in no way is Arc'teryx more experienced with down garments, the Thorium and Cerium are Arc's first efforts. That being said, both jackets are superb.
Feathered Friends has a near-impeccable reputation for their quality and warmth. I would like to see exactly where "people are reporting" they use 850 instead in the Daybreak, that sounds like hooey to me.
The Cerium has 97g of down vs. 89.5 for the Feathered Friends. Given the $75 price difference, the choice is yours.
A bit late for when the question was asked, but I'll chime in...
I disagree with Terran. I have owned both the Cerium and the Ghost Whisperer and the Cerium is significantly warmer. It has almost 20% more 850 down than the Ghost; and therefore, the Cerium weighs a couple ounces more.
The Ghost has a small windflap behind the zipper and a drawcord at the waist, the Cerium has neither. However, the Cerium has a hood draw cord, the Ghost does not. The Cerium is a much more athletic fit (less dead space, so again, more warmth), while the Ghost is much more loose.
In my opinion, the Cerium has superior material and warmth, the Ghost is lighter and a better value for the money. And for those wondering, I rank the Guch Ultralight Down about the same as the Mountain Hardwear.
I very much liked the two person version of this tent, but as I wrote in that review, in my opinion the Skyledge2 is too short for taller folk. Well, this Skyledge3 addresses those concerns.
A few extra inches of length make all the difference, and the constant width is a welcome change from the Skyledge2's tapered foot area. The Skyledge3 is just eight inches wider than many two person tents, which apparently motivated Mountain Hardwear to call it a three person (I personally don't know many people only eight inches wide, even sleeping head-toe, but okay).
MH naming philosophies aside, I think this is a superb two person tent, ideal for two taller guys (6'1"+) or even wider guys and you won't feel cramped. The no-drip over the doors really works, the structure is incredibly strong, and the materials are top quality. I believe the Sky3 will work just fine as a four season tent (with suitable pad and bag). No, it's not for winter assault climbers or extreme wind conditions on the side of cliffs, but for snowcampers, snowshoers, cross country skiers, this is an exceptional choice.
I don't like MH forcing me to buy their overpriced footprint. In my opinion, $550 is too much for this product, but I won't knock off any stars for that. It's frequently on sale for 20-30% off, making it much more reasonable.
No, it's not as light as some Big Agnes tents or the 2014 Hubba line from MSR, but those tents are nowhere near as strong as this one. If your trips demand more than just lightweight, this is a superb product.
I used this tent extensively and in a wide variety of conditions. Overall, I think this is a very good product, with a few exceptions.
The good: Absolutely bomb proof. Recently experienced 50+ MPH winds and snow and rain all night long, the tent didn't flinch. Properly guyed out and you will have zero problems, no flapping of fabric, nothing. Just a perfect weather proof shelter. The materials are top notch, the pole layout creates a very strong frame (much more so than hub designs) and not a drip of moisture made its way from the rain and snow that I experienced. The no-drip over each vestibule door works extremely well. The vestibules are ample for stuffing a 60L pack or so underneath and still have room for ingress/egress.
Guying out the loops at the head and foot, and leaving 4 inches of opening at the top of each vestibule door, should handle all of your condensation issues.
The problems I have with this tent are mostly derived from my stature. I'm 6'2" 195 lbs and my head and feet brush the mesh (and strains it) at both ends of the tent, even before I get into my bag. Ignore that 85" length, that's an external measurement. The mesh slope at the head and foot are so severe that you lose some space at either end, as I discovered. Also, this tent tapers from an interior width of 48 inches at the head to just less than 40 inches at the foot. Two side by side Neo Air All Seasons squeeeeeze into the foot space.
I understand that in the search for lighter weights, tent manufacturers are making their tents not just out of lighter materials but the interior space is shrinking as well. I can't recommend this tent for anyone over 6"1" and maybe even 6'0" unless you're planning to use it as a solo tent. Two guys under 5'10" would be fine, or a guy and a girl would really enjoy it.
Knowing its size limitations, I still feel this is a great product.
According to the MSR website, the one on the far left (shorter, wider) is the 2.5L, the middle one is the 2L, and the far right is 3 L.
It might be worth a gentle reminder to others that it really pays to research any piece of outdoor equipment to make sure it's designed to do what you want it to do.
This is a reasonably light and very well made jacket. My wife absolutely loves her Gamma. With one baselayer under it, she stayed very comfortable in 25 degree temps as we sedately hiked and snowshoed over 7-8 miles. And light snow just falls right off it.
Overall, she's very happy with the jacket, but then, she uses it for what it's intended for, when she's outside in the elements being active.
Size: she's 5'5", busty, about 128 lbs, and the Small fits her perfectly.
Price paid: $140 on SAC.
Five months later, but perhaps warrants a response for others with the same question: No, there have not been upgrades to the Altra line since its debut. The only thing that changed was the price, as much of the Arc'teryx pack line received a $25 per pack increase; I'd say roughly a year ago.
This is just my opinion based off my experiences, of course. I think that most people will be very happy with this Deuter. It has the accessibility that so many people seem to treasure, in the form of the sleeping bag compartment zipper access. The "+10" extension isn't a particularly unique feature, but its sturdy material is welcome and allows you to stuff lots of extra crap into the pack. The sternum strap is wonderfully adjustable. In this 50-55L category, there aren't many with an adjustment for torso length; most brands have a fixed position, so the Deuter gets big props for that feature. And the waistbelt is wonderfully beefy, much more so than the similarly sized offerings from Arcteryx, Gregory and Osprey. I've tried all of these packs, and only the Deuter seems to comfortably handle the load once the weight creeps into the high 30s or even up to 45 pounds (and the ACT Lite soaks up any load lighter than that). It's a very competent suspension system, and I've not found any better in this size range. It's pretty hard to argue that personal fit and how a pack carries its load should be the dominant criteria when shopping for a pack.
So... let me contradict that and say, the Deuter is not my pack of choice in the 50-55L range. It should be, based on the wonderful suspension, but it has a few features that don't fit my personal style. Mainly, that sleeping bag compartment zipper (that I don't need) minimizes the size potential of the exterior mesh pocket. The lid compartment is very small compared to the competition; much of the Deuter's lid is just flap material. And no matter how much I fiddled, the shoulder straps rubbed a wee bit against the sides of my neck. These are quibbles that when added together, convinced me to go in a different direction.
For most people, I would recommend this pack wholeheartedly. It just wasn't for me.
As ever, this is just my opinion. But for my money (and in this case, a mind-numbing $300), these are the best alpine pants I've ever worn. These aren't pants to be worn if the temp is above 50 F, but below that in anything but a torrential downpour or a wet snow, the Gamma MX are unbeatable. I've worn them in the high mountains of New Zealand, backpacking a 50 pound load in a light snow. I use them to patrol my property in winter, temps in the 10-40 degree range. I've worn them skiing. I always think they're going to be too hot for sweaty activities in cold temps, but they're not. They flawlessly modulate my temp, whether I'm just walking or working hard. They shed snow without issue, and only strong winds below 20 degrees will get through the durable fabric.
I had a pair I purchased in 2006, and I just got another pair now that Arc'teryx offers a "Long". I'm 6'3", 202 lbs, and the Large/Tall fit me perfectly. It should be noted, my original pair show little sign of wearing out, just one small rip around the button. Pristine otherwise.
IMO, it's tough to buy Arc'Teryx at full retail. The quality is certainly outstanding, and as much as I love these pants, I think they're a bit over-priced, like a lot of the Arc line. I waited two years to catch them on a rare 20% off sale.
Between the wife and myself, we each own one Mountain Hardwear bag and one Western Mountaineering bag.
In the argument of the Phantom 0 versus a WM Antelope, she and I agree that when splitting hairs and cost independent, the WM is the better product by a very slim margin. However, WM products are near-impossible to find on sale, even Backcountry.com's 15%-20% coupons exclude WM. On the flip side, Mountain Hardwear stuff is frequently on sale, and as a result this bag can often be purchased for $405-$415. For 90% of the population, we'd offer that the Phantom is certainly the better value and gives away almost nothing to the WM.
Of the four bags we own, the Phantom 0 fluffs up and has the best loft of all of them. It's absolutely my wife's favorite piece of gear. She is a notoriously cold sleeper, but has never been anything other than toasty and happy in this bag. She definitely appreciates the extra insulation in these female-specific Phantom bags.
If you're shopping at full retail prices, then the price difference between the two bags is marginal, and sure, get the WM. Otherwise, shop off-season and get the Phantom 0 for a steal.
I'll respond to myself here, from questions I asked at this product's debut (see waaaay below). The rep never answered, and other answers were just speculation, which frankly, don't cut it so well in the backcountry. I bought the pad, here are my experiences after 10 months and 40 nights of use in summer, fall, and winter conditions:
- I'm as warm a sleeper as I've ever encountered in the backcountry, yet I don't recommend using the All-Season directly on the snow/frozen ground, or with just a tent floor between you and the white stuff. R values can be hooey when you easily feel the bite of the cold snow through your pad and through your 5 degree Western Mountaineering bag, which is what happened to me. As much as I hate the redundancy, I personally recommend something like a RidgeRest pad underneath your All-Season to create a true barrier/insulation from the cold. Other people may have different experiences, of course.
- Durability: definitely better than the original Neo Air, but my All Season punctured on Night 2 of an 8 day Sierra trip. Still a mystery how it got punctured within the tent. I have carried a repair kit for 20 years, first time I've had to use it.
- Definitely not as loud as the potato chips crinkle bag sound of the original Neo Air.
- The All Season is the most comfortable backpacking pad I've ever slept on. Perfect by itself for three season use.
Since there seems to be a CD rep lurking around here (Jason Livingston)...
Does the All-Season make the same "potato chip bag" rustling sound as the standard Neo Air?
And, off your quote, "but the benefit is that it will take you into January where as the standard NeoAir will most likely need an additional barrier (Ridgerest or Z-Lite) to allow it's use in winter."
Are you saying, that the All Season is good to go on top of snow? I would assume not, and that an additional barrier is needed for the All-Season even when snow camping. I'll be happy to be wrong.
Thanks for any answers you can provide.
This is not just an overnight pack. I'm surprised to find no reviews talking about the Axios' excellent multi-day credentials. So, I'm adding mine.
Not sure what catagory I'm in: somewhat light packer, light packer, probably not ultra-light or mega-superduper light. I can tell you this, I carry a lot less than I used to. This pack was my move away from using a Bora 80 on summer trips.
I've been on a pair of five day/four night summer trips into the high Sierra with the Axios 50, and I was mightily impressed. At the start of each trip, total pack weight was around 32-33 pounds, which I would offer is the most I could carry with this pack before the waistbelt starts to lose the battle against the shoulder straps. It's the only thing I would have loved to see: just a slightly beefier waistbelt. It's a very minor quibble.
By morning of Day 2 and a pair of big meals later, this pack came into its own. It shines at around 30 pounds or less, in my humble opinion.
In my Axios (I have the Tall), I can easily fit my MH Phantom 32, ProLite 4, half of a Hubba Hubba, cookset/stove/fuel, Crazy Creek chair (guilty pleasure), 2 liter bladder, clothing and food.
For shorter shoulder season trips, 2-3 nights, I can still take this pack. Warmer clothing and bag are the only changes I make.
Hey, let's be honest. Everyone's foot is different, and finding a manufacturer whose product fits your foot is bested only by finding a woman who loves the outdoors as much as you. In my case, the woman has been found, and three years ago, I found Montrails. After a lifelong search for hiking and trail shoes/boots that fit my foot shape (wide front, narrow heel), the Montrails are it. I owned the previous version of this shoe (no gore tex liner) and it was perfect out of the box, I wore them into the ground. I bought the GTX next for more heavy duty backpacking, loved them as well. I got this goretex pair more recently, and it is every good as its predecessors. I have zero complaints. No hot spots from day 1, bottom is grippy enough, heel locks work as designed, I wish I could clone this shoe.
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