Kirk W

Kirk W

Prescott, AZ

Kirk W's Passions

Hiking & Camping
Running
Biking
Snowshoeing
Skiing
Climbing

Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on September 9, 2016

4 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it

This pack had a lot going for it - nice suspension without being overly burly, adjustable fit, quality build, and useful layout of the pockets. Unfortunately it has two issues which limit its flexibility: (1) the lid is fixed with no ability to expand for those days when you need to carry a little more, and (2) the sleeping bag compartment divider is not removable (not really needed on a pack this size). Because of these limitations I returned the pack.

If these items aren't issues for you, I think you might really like this pack.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on April 20, 2016

3 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it

I was looking for a versatile extended day pack and was excited when I saw this offering. I’ve always favored Mammut packs due to their fit and performance. As usual for Mammut, the Lithium Guide is well made and has a quality feel to it. Unfortunately, this one didn’t fit my needs for the following reasons:

1. The pack is hydration compatible in that it has a tube exit port, but there is no internal bladder sleeve. Rather, a bladder is supported by an internal horizontal strap. While this might work, I prefer to have my bladder in a sleeve.
2. The lid is fixed rather than floating, limiting volume versatility.
3. I’m surprised this pack has only one tool loop rather than two, counter to Mammut’s alpine roots.

This pack may work great for others, but the above made it too limiting to be a keeper for me – particularly at this price point.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on January 1, 2016

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I use this pack for longer day hikes where I need a little more capacity - it serves this purpose well.

The Good:
• The frame and suspension are very comfortable, supportive, and allow for air flow behind the back.
• Capacity is in line with a large day pack, but I doubt there’s room for the “overnight backpacking trip” mentioned in the description unless you went sans sleeping bag and shelter.
• The side pockets are large enough to carry a Nalgene bottle, and the top pockets open wide to give easy access to all those little things lurking inside.
• The zipper tabs are easy to see and grab when my fingers are cold and becoming lifeless.

Room for Improvement: A few issues keep this pack from being exceptional in my book.
• The lumbar reservoir is a pain to both insert in the back panel and to dry when at home, so much so that I’m using Nalgene bottles rather than the reservoir. Adding a sleeve in the back panel for a traditional reservoir would make it more versatile.
• The pack adjustment straps on the waist and shoulders are very long, leaving me to deal with those pesky trailing ends. These same straps slip rather easily through their buckles and require tightening many times during a long day.
• Changing the buckle male/female arrangement on the compression straps would allow them to be used for strapping something to the back of the pack.
• And finally, the zippers are very light and somewhat difficult to close completely when the pack is anywhere near full. While I haven’t had a zipper fail yet, I am concerned about their longevity.

Bottom Line: I like this pack and would probably buy it again. It’s just that a few tweaks would take it from good to great.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on December 25, 2015

2 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 175 lbs
Size Purchased: Large

With an uncertain purpose and a fit which is likely to be ideal for very few, this shirt is a bit schizophrenic. I returned it.

Fit: I’m 6’2” tall, 175 lbs. The size large is a bit baggy (not really an “active fit” on my frame) and the sleeves are very long (although the body length is spot on). My sleeve size is 34”-35”, and the sleeves on this shirt have an extra 2-3” in length which annoyingly gather at the wrist. They’re more than long enough for thumb holes, but there are none.

Fabric: The material is quite soft and stretchy with a weight along the lines of a light base layer.

Bottom line: This shirt doesn’t fit as a base layer should, and it doesn’t have the fabric weight of an effective mid-layer. Along with the annoyingly long sleeves, this item is in search of a purpose which may not exist. Like an earlier reviewer, I own the previous version of this shirt and love it. The previous model fit is more athletic and the fabric seems slightly more substantial. This new version misses the mark on all counts. I just can’t recommend a schizophrenic garment.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on December 18, 2015

3 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 175 lbs
Size Purchased: Large

Fit: I’m 6’2”, 175 lbs with a 34” waist and the large fits great.

Performance: I purchased a pair of these 4-5 years ago and liked them so much I purchased a second pair. This is the only short I’ve run in since then. What really impressed me with the previous version was the liner – made from a stretchy fabric which is very supportive and comfortable.

Alas, with a few thousand miles on those shorts it is time to replace them. The liner in the new pair is a bit disappointing – lighter but less stretchy and supportive. The seams are also more pronounced and less comfortable, and while I haven’t experienced any chafing yet the potential is certainly there. They’re still good but a step back from the previous version.

Bottom line: Unfortunately TNF has taken a step backward with this version. They’re still good, but at this price point I’ll look elsewhere next time.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on April 14, 2015

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
Fit: True to size
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 170 lbs
Size Purchased: Large

I don't see many reviews out there on this jacket, so I thought I'd offer my initial thoughts. I've only worn it a few times, but so far so good. I purchased it to take on longer summer treks (think the Alps, not Nepal), and I don't believe it will disappoint. First, THE GOOD: The Essens is more akin to a down sweater than a jacket. The jacket is very form fitting, the Pertex shell is very wind resistant, and the manufacturing is impeccable. I've seen no down leakage, hanging threads, etc. The hood fits snugly, which is great for warmth but don't even think of trying to get a helmet inside. The elastic hem does a great job of keeping out the wind. Now, where there is ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: my size large weighs in at 12.0 oz, lightweight but not as light as some of it's competitors. Perhaps the weather resistance of the Pertex fabric comes at a price. The external bungee cord hoody adjustment works well but looks a bit funky. And then there's that left-handed zipper ...
All in all I'd recommend this jacket - just keep in mind its intended purpose.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on April 14, 2015

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 170 lbs
Size Purchased: Large

I purchased this as a running vest to break the wind on blustery days.

First, THE GOOD: It is very light (size L is 3.5 oz on my scale), the green color is great for visibility, the mesh back breathes very well, and the side pocket is great for stashing small items. Contrary to Backcountry's description, there is only one side (zip) pocket and no hand pockets (but it doesn't need any).

Now, the ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The nylon fabric is very light but not as wind resistant as my previous running vests - a weight trade-off I assume (note I've never had it in the rain and cannot comment on water resistance). Arc'Teryx items usually have a very athletic fit, but this item is a bit baggy. And then there's the price ...

All in all, I'd buy this again - on sale!

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on April 13, 2015

3 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it
Fit: Runs large
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 170 lbs
Size Purchased: Large

I'm not sure what MH has done with their sizing lately. I purchased this jacket to replace the same model previously purchased about 5 years ago. The jacket is nice - the cuffs are updated, the weight is spot-on at about 17 oz (on my scale, size L), and I think it would be great - if it fit. The new jacket is about the right length, but I could fit me plus a small gorilla inside the body. My old one was a very athletic fit. Come on, MH, who are you marketing to? Apparently not the slim, athletic type.

For reference, I'm 6'2", 170 lbs, and the old size large fit great. The new one - you'll like it if your substantially more robust than me.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on December 8, 2014

3 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it
Fit: Runs large

This is a great lightweight jacket – if it fits you. Everything about it is light and I’m sure it’s very packable – ideal for a trekking jacket or climbing mid-layer. I’m just not sure who they had in mind when they made the patterns. I’m 6’2”, 175 lbs and the large is about the right length in the body and arms. Unfortunately there is enough room in the body for both me and a small gorilla , which would make it very thermally inefficient as you waste body heat warming up all that space. The medium is just too short overall and small in the shoulders.

If you like a very loose fit and are looking for a light layering piece, you’ll probably be happy with this. As for me, I'm looking elsewhere.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on December 5, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

What more can be said? This thing is versatile – I’ve worn it as a balaclava, neck gaiter, hat, and even a sling. It’s kept my face warm on alpine climbs, and protected my neck from sunburn on desert outings and glacier crossings. Light, comfortable, and versatile – what more could you ask for? I'd suggest you pick a light color if you plan to use it in seasons other than winter. My only gripe – 20 bucks for a tube of stretchable fabric? Yes, I wish I’d thought of it…

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on November 6, 2014

3 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times
Fit: Runs large

The performance characteristics of this jacket are spot-on. The warmth factor is high for its weight, the hood is very functional, and it seems quite durable. It’s also quite wind-resistant and water-repellant, and withstood light precipitation (rain and snow) in the Alps.

Where it missed the mark for me is the fit. I’m 6’2”, 175 lbs and purchased the large. The body and sleeve lengths are about right, but there is enough room in the body of the jacket to fit a pot belly or a LOT of layers. Backcountry’s description lists the fit as “active”, which in this case means "very loose." The extra room results in a lot of dead space your body has to heat up.

In the end I sold this jacket on-line. I just can’t buy into an “active” fit jacket that is this loose-fitting. But if the fit meets your expectations I think you'll be very satisfied.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on November 6, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I have two of these in the stainless finish and they perform as expected. The pros: no metallic taste, fit well in my pack side mesh pockets, seal well, and easy to clean. They’re the best metal bottle I’ve tried. Just be aware they’re metal, a great heat conductor. I don’t use them in winter, and they warm up a bit when exposed to the sun on a hot summer day. In winter I stick with a Nalgene or go to metal insulated bottle if I want something hot.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on November 6, 2014

3 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I own three of these, the medium, large, and xlarge. They are great gear haulers and the features of the bags are very useful, but their durability is over-stated. The XL bag didn’t survive one climbing trip through Ecuador – when I arrived home the bag had actually worn through in four places. It was only loaded with 45lbs and all sharps (crampons, ice axes, etc.) had protectors on the points.

Airlines can be hard on luggage, but I was disappointed this bag was basically unusable after one 2-week trip. Wear is not covered under TNF warranty, but they did offer to sell me a new one at half price. Note I have a Patagonia Black Hole Duffel of slightly smaller size and it’s survived multiple trips.

One suggestion – be sure to purchase a light color (mine are red or yellow). Light colors make it easier to find your stuff in the bag.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on October 11, 2014

2 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it

I really wanted to like this pack. The pack bag is streamlined (not too little nor too much), the size is about right for most alpine adventures, and the light weight is a real advantage. But after loading it up with some weight at home the thing was just too unstable given the swing arm mechanism.

I owned a previous version of the Speed 40 (with no swing arms) and it was great. Come on, Black Diamond, get rid of the swing arm gimmick and give us the updated packbag on this recent version with a stable suspension. Until then, I'll look elsewhere.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on October 1, 2014

My New Day Pack of Choice
5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I purchased this as a day hiking pack and it hasn't disappointed.

Size: It seems a bit larger than its 11 liter rating and has more usable space than the Osprey Raptor 14 in my opinion. I can fit my lunch, rain jacket, first aid kit, sunscreen, and other miscellaneous items with a little room to spare. It's just about the right size for a day pack.

Frame: As a light daypack, it really doesn't have a frame and doesn't need one. The back panel gives just about the right amount of support, but doesn't breathe all that well (resulting in a sweaty back on a long, warm day). The shoulder straps and waist belt are comfortable yet minimal.

Pockets: A 1-liter Nalgene doesn't quite fit in the side pockets (although you can cram one in), but a 27 oz. metal bottle fits just fine.

Fit: I'm 6'2" tall, 175 lbs and the M/L fits great.

Weight: The M/L weighs 1 lb 6 oz on my scale, very much in line with Backcountry's listed weight.

Summary: The Talon 11 is now the pack I grab as I'm headed out the door on a day hike.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on September 8, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size

This is a great lightweight rain jacket that offers good performance for its weight. Just be aware that it might not perform in a sustained deluge.

Performance: I live in a dry western state where we aren't generally subject to heavy sustained rains. In this situation, what is required is a light jacket capable of protecting you from light rain or an occasional heavy downpour of limited duration. The Helium II fits this description almost perfectly. I've worn it in light rain, short duration cloudbursts, and surprise summer snowstorms and have stayed dry with no problems. Where I did encounter a problem was during a multi-day trek in the Alps where we had rain all day. In that application the jacket wetted out. Fortunately the two days this happened were followed by nights in a hut where I could dry the jacket out.

Fit: The size large fits my 6'2" 175 lb frame just about right with enough room to layer a t-shirt and light fleece underneath. The size large weights 6.3 oz on my scale.

Application: This jacket offers a lot of performance for its weight and is great in light rainfall, short cloudbursts, and even light snowstorms. It'll be in my pack whenever I feel I might encounter these conditions, but I'll pack something more substantial the next time I trek to an area with the potential for substantial or sustained rainfall.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on September 8, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size

What do you want in a rain pant? Hopefully they stay in your pack since you only get them out in bad weather, so you need them to be light yet perform when needed. The Helium fits that description very well.

Performance and fit: They weight only 5.5 ounces (size large) on my scale, yet offer a lot of protection for that weight. I've worn them in everything from light rain storms to all-day deluges and surprise summer snowstorms, and they performed as needed. I've had no wet-out problems with the pants, and the size large fits my 6'2" frame size 34 waist just about right (if not just a tad short).

Suggested Improvements: My only suggestion to OR would be to improve on the ankle zippers. They could be a bit longer to make it easier to pull the pants on over shoes, and they do not slide smoothly.

Best Application: These are a great option if you need a rain pant for hiking and backpacking. They do not have the features (particularly the zipper length) for alpine use, but that's not what they're designed for.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on September 8, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I was looking for a light, comfortable, versatile pack to take on the Tour du Mont Blanc multi-day trek in the Alps. This pack fit the bill perfectly. I was skeptical at first that a pack this light and with a flexible frame could offer the required performance, but the Speed Lite 30 was a very pleasant surprise.

The pack is light (1 lb 15 oz on my scale), yet provided just enough support for loads in the 10-20 lb range. The compression straps cinched the pack down very effectively on small load days yet allowed sufficient expansion for multi-day loads. The mesh side pockets fit a Nalgene and my z-poles just about right, and the top pockets are roomy enough for those essentials you want to get to quickly. My rain gear fit nicely in the rear pocket. Most importantly, the Speed Lite carried very comfortably for a pack of this weight (or any weight). The pack fit my 6'2" frame just right.

This will be my pack of choice for multi-day treks. Be aware it is only 30 l capacity, so if you're looking for a multi-day pack to carry all your gear plus a sleeping bag and tent this might be a bit small unless you're going ultra-light. I will not replace my alpine pack with the Speed Lite because of the lack of effective ice tool attachments. But for spring, summer, and fall outings requiring a 30 l capacity, the Speed Lite is my new favorite.

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on September 5, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size

These are great shorts for day hiking and trekking.

Performance: The fabric is one of the best out there for breathability and comfort. They breathe well on hot days and have good wind resistance. Very comfortable. I've had no durability issues with either pair I own.

Fit: I wear a 34 waist in most pants and the 34 waist in these shorts is a perfect fit. They have a performance, athletic cut, great for active outdoor pursuits. Length is just about perfect - they end about 2 inches above my knees (I have a 34 inch inseam).

Features: Backcountry's description is not quite accurate. The shorts have 2 hand pockets, 2 rear pockets, and 1 size zip pocket. The pockets are my only gripe about these shorts. The side zip pocket is rather small and barely fits my iPhone. In addition, there is no closure on the back pockets and they gape open - not the most secure situation. Come on, OR, make the side pocket a tad bigger and put a zipper on one or both of the back pockets as you do on the Ferrosi pants.

Application: great for hiking or any outdoor activity where you need a short with great stretch and breathability. Just don't put anything you don't want to lose in the back pockets!

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Kirk W

Kirk Wwrote a review of on September 5, 2014

All-time favorite shoe
5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size

This is my go-to shoe for trail runs, hikes, treks, and even moderate scrambling.

Performance: the sole is very grippy, giving excellent traction on almost all surfaces. Cushioning is well balanced and support is typical of a trail running shoe. The mesh upper breathes well. If you're looking for a torsionally-stiff hiking shoe or boot the Raptor may not be your best choice.

Fit: I wear a Brooks Adrenaline 11.5 for running roads and the Raptor 45.5 is a perfect fit. The toe box on the Raptor is wide but rather thin. I have a narrow heel and a wide, flat forefoot, and the Raptor is a great fit for my foot. If you have a particularly "beefy" foot or a high arch requiring substantial support, the Raptor may not work as well for you.

Application: I've run mountain ultras, completed multi-day treks in the Alps, scrambled Class 4, hiked slot canyons, and backpacked in the Ultra Raptor - they are clearly my favorite shoe for these applications. In the Alps we encountered several days of snow, and my only regret is I wasn't wearing the Gore-Tex version. Their traction, cushioning, running shoe "feel", and fit (for my foot anyway) are a hard combination to beat!

Ultra Raptor in Zion Narrows.

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