Kirk W

Kirk W

Kirk W's Passions

Hiking & Camping
Running
Biking
Snowshoeing
Skiing
Climbing

Kirk W

Kirk W wrote 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 W wrote 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 W wrote 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 W wrote 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 W wrote 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 W wrote 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 W wrote 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 W wrote 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 W wrote 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 W wrote 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 W wrote 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 W wrote 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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Kirk W

Kirk W wrote a review of on June 2, 2014

4 5

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

I own two pairs of these and they are as advertised. They're underwear and they work - what else can you say?

The fabric is kind of mesh-like, resulting in chafing a few times on long, hot days. The heather color material in particular seems to be a little more coarse. I personally prefer the Capilene fabric in Patagonia's briefs as Capilene is a bit softer, but the Ex Officio product does work as advertised! They dry very quickly and tend not to retain stink. I've worn them for 3-4 days straight with good results.

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Kirk W

Kirk W wrote a review of on June 2, 2014

3 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I own four of the short sleeve version of this shirt and use them for just about everything, from running to hiking and climbing. The fabric is great, breaths well, and is very soft and comfortable. My only concern about the fabric is that it tends to retain stink a bit more than other fabrics I've worn. It's also somewhat shiny, but that doesn't bother me.

I purchased the long sleeve version of this shirt for cooler temperatures but returned it due to size issues. While the body fits great, the sleeves are just too long in the size large (for reference, I'm 6'2", 170 lbs with a shirt sleeve length of 34-35). The sleeves hung down to my knuckles and were not tailored at all, but rather baggy. I returned the shirt due to poor fit of the sleeves.

I don't know if Marmot is having quality control issues as the short sleeve shirts I own all fit a bit differently. Perhaps a different copy of the shirt would fit differently.

If you don't mind long, baggy sleeves this is a great shirt. Otherwise, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.

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Kirk W

Kirk W wrote a review of on June 2, 2014

3 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I purchased a pair of these in the long length a couple of years ago and think they're great. For reference, I'm 6'2" tall, 170 lbs and the 34 waist long length fits perfectly. Everything about them is top notch from the fabric to the fit. Wanting another pair, I see this year Outdoor Research discontinued making different lengths. The 34 waist (no length options) is just too short, so I returned them. Wake up, OR - everyone on the planet is not 5'10" tall! I hope your rep reads this review. For those of you with shorter legs, these pants are great. They get 5 stars for design and performance, no stars for length options.

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Kirk W

Kirk W wrote a review of on January 25, 2014

5 5

I've owned several ice axes over the years and this is the best yet. A great combination of carrying comfort and performance. It swings well, works great in self-arrest, and can handle moderate technical challenges. It isn't the lightest axe out there, so if you're using it for moderate glacier and snow climbs (the trade routes on mountains such as Rainier and Baker come to mind) I'd suggest something more like the Black Diamond Raven Pro. For an all-around axe that can leave off where your technical ice tools take over, the Petzl Summit is hard to beat.

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Kirk W

Kirk W wrote a review of on November 17, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

I have several of these in various sizes I use for organizing items in a duffel bag or backpack. The white interior makes finding things inside easy, and they are weatherproof (I haven't used them in a deluge). I would not want to use them as a stand-alone drysack in rough duty (such a rafting) as they are fairly lightweight. They're great in the right application.

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Kirk W

Kirk W wrote a review of on February 10, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

This is a very good back country pole with one major improvement over the previous model. The FlickLock Pro system is a significant upgrade from the old FlickLock system. No more having to worry about adjusting the tightening screws - they are fixed with no adjustment, plus the stainless steel grips well and seems a bit lighter than the old plastic. The flip lever seems a little light which raises a concern about durability; however, no problems so far. I bought these after having the previous model stolen and am pleased. Overall, highly recommended for back country skiing and snowshoeing.

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Kirk W

Kirk W wrote a review of on January 21, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Wore these pants hiking and trekking in Ecuador for two weeks. Great fit,the zip pockets are convenient for stashing a variety of items, and the weight of the material is just about right for hiking and knocking around town. I normally wear a size 34 waist, but the 36 waist fit me better in these pants. The only downside - very expensive. I'll watch for them to go on sale and then purchase another pair.

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Kirk W

Kirk W wrote a review of on February 8, 2012

3 5

I have serveral power stretch tops from other manufacturers and purchased this one on sale. I ended up returning it. Like many items from Mountain Hardwear, this one is great if you're less than 6 ft tall. For us taller people their products, including this one, tend to be short in the body and arms. MH has not yet figured this out, and being 6'3" I'll continue to look elsewhere for a better fit.

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