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Michael Nies

Michael Nies

Sierras, Rockies, JTree, Idyllwild

Michael Nies's Passions

Hiking & Camping
Climbing

Michael Nies's Bio

I rock climb and backpack. I'm a fair to middling sport climber and hope to be a budding trad climber soon.

Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 27, 2013

5 5

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

I got this for Christmas last year, and it has become my favorite outdoor shirt. It's tough (survived multiple rock climbing trips), it's incredibly lightweight, and it packs down to next to nothing. I'm 6'1", 185 lbs., and the medium fits surprisingly well. It's also long enough that I can tuck it in without difficulty, which is usually what puts me into a large in t-shirts.

(7)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 27, 2013

4 5

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

Last year I got the short sleeved version of this for Christmas, and it rapidly became my favorite t-shirt. This year I got the long-sleeved version. I received the large, since my arms are somewhat long (I'm 6'1" with an Ape Index of +3.5), but it almost seems too long. When I use the hand pockets, however, it seems about right. I hope to find a medium soon to try and compare.

(7)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 25, 2013

3 5

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

I got these to replace my ten year old Vasques that were cracked and leaky. These lasted about five years of moderate use; the soles are worn nearly flat, the lace eyes are pulling out in a couple places, and the toe rubber has fallen off of both boots. On the up-side, there was minimal break-in, and they stayed laced tight through stiff downhills with heavy loads. I won't be replacing these with another pair; partly because I expected better life-span from a boot in this price range, but mostly because they just weren't quite right for my feet.

(5)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 25, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
Fit: Runs large

I tried a pair of these in my search for more aggresive shoes. The fit is very similar to the Sportiva Testarossa in terms of downturn and toebox. The heel is a bit tighter, however, and the fit is less able to be personalized since they are Velcro rather than laceup. For reference, I wear a 14B in street shoes, and a 44 in Solutions.

(5)

 

Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 25, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

When I went looking for a chalk bag to fit my off-width hands, I wanted something bigger than average but not bouldering bucket big. The Metolius Chalk Pod is deep enough for my large hands, while not being hilariously large and heavy hanging off my back while I go up a chimney. The drawstring closure keeps the chalk in the chalk bag, and the included strap keeps it around your waist. The only downside I've found is that a ton of people at my gym have these, so when I leave it somewhere it's not always easy to find mine. But that's what happens when someone makes a great bag!

(5)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 25, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

My gym strongly recommends a chalk sock, and I wound up with the re-fillable version here. I get best results with the sock fairly full, but as others have noted, you still get way less chalk than just having it loose in your bag. It's enough for my needs, but I also don't sweat a ton. The chalk also doesn't go all over everywhere when you drop or forget to close your bag, too, so that's a plus.

(8)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 25, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This is BD's basic, all-around harness. For reference, I have a 33" waist, and a medium is almost too big. Next time I'll try a few different sizes and brands; this was just too good a deal to pass up.
The Good:
--Very affordable; I've never seen it go for more than $50
--Well padded, far more so than their alpine harnesses
--Reasonably sized gear loops and a haul loop in the back

The Bad:
--Leg loops (at least on mine) are a bit finicky to resize. It appears that newer models have addressed that.

This was the first harness I ever bought (in 2011) and it's still going strong. It's comfy, the gear loops are big enough for long sport routes, and it catches me when I fall. What more could I ask for?

(5)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 25, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This is Black Diamond's tube-style belay device.
The Good:
--Utterly simple to setup and use
--Works with any and all ropes on the market (single, double, twin, fat, skinny, etc.)
--Works as a rappel device, too
--Lightweight AND cheap
--No moving parts to service

The Bad:
--No XP grooves, which are handy for skinny ropes holding heavy climbers
--No Guide mode ring; for that you need an ATC-Guide

Every climber should have some sort of tube-style device. There's a reason that such things are almost universally known as "ATCs." It's cheap, it's reliable, and it does more for you than a Grigri. There's no excuse not to have one of these!

(5)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 25, 2013

3 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

This is Petzl's offering to the auto-locking belay market.
The Good:
--Autolock will stop a fall with little to no intervention from your belayer; especially nice for big lead falls, or as extra insurance with a new belayer.
--Belay device and ascender all in one; makes self-rescue techniques significantly easier.
--Easy to control the the lowering speed.
--As with all belay devices, always have a hand firmly around the brake strand. But that brake arm doesn't have to expend any energy to keep the rope from slipping if your partner is hang-dogging a route.
--Works with almost any single rope on the market.

The Bad:
--Can be held open on a lead fall, should your belayer get pulled up to the first clip (I speak from personal experience here).
--Only works with single ropes, not with doubles or twins.
--While it's possible to rig a rappel with a Grigri, it's not easy or fast, making an ATC still necessary if you want to get down.
--Significantly heavier than an ATC
--Can be difficult to feed slack on fat ropes, especially with a very lightweight climber.
--Easier to move into a cross-load position on your belay biner, though a Gridlock-style device minimizes that risk.

I like a Grigri for toprope, especially when my climber is working a tough route and may be hanging for a while. The added safety of the autolock is handy if you're in a situation where your belayer may not be able to stop a fall right away, for example if they're out of sight of the climber, but the climber and belayer should be aware of the risk of the device being held open. It's a useful device to have, but overall I prefer an ATC for my own use.

(9)

 

Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 23, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

These are Black Diamond's offering in the snag-free wiregate race.

The Good:
--Super light weight
--The wiregate's nose is hooded, so the hook is protected against snagging hangers or the rope.
--Great clipping feel, as usual from Black Diamond.
--Cheaper than Petzl's alternatives.
--Slightly cheaper than buying six individual draws.

The Bad:
--Much more expensive than other (heavier) draws.

These provide all the goodness of a wiregate with the snag-free clipping of a Positron. I plan to replace the carabiners in my current draws with Oz 'biners as the old ones wear out, and any new draws I buy will likely be these. These are an excellent place to lighten your load without compromising safety!

(6)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 23, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

These are one of Black Diamond's offerings in the snag-free wiregate race. The carabiners on Hoodwire draws are slightly larger than those on Oz draws, and are thus slightly heavier. Otherwise, they are very comparable.

The Good:
--Very light weight
--The wiregate's nose is hooded, so the hook is protected against snagging hangers or the rope.
--Great clipping feel, as usual from Black Diamond.
--Cheaper than Petzl's alternatives.
--Slightly larger 'biners than on Oz draws (2mm bigger gate, according to BD's website).
--A few dollars cheaper than buying all six separately.

The Bad:
--Much more expensive than other (heavier) draws.
--Same price as Oz draws but slightly heavier. It's only 0.7 ounces, but that adds up over 12-18 draws when you're hauling them up an approach or a stiff climb.

These provide all the goodness of a wiregate with the snag-free clipping of a Positron. I plan to replace the carabiners in my current draws with either these or Oz 'biners as the old ones wear out, and any new draws I buy will likely be either Hoodwires or Oz draws. If you're looking to lighten your load, but need a bigger 'biner than an Oz, these are a great choice!

(5)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 23, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

The carabiners on Hoodwire draws are slightly larger than those on Oz draws, and are thus slightly heavier. Otherwise, they are very comparable.

These are Black Diamond's offering in the snag-free wiregate race.

The Good:
--Very light weight
--The wiregate's nose is hooded, so the hook is protected against snagging hangers or the rope.
--Great clipping feel, as usual from Black Diamond.
--Cheaper than Petzl's alternatives.
--Slightly larger 'biners than on Oz draws (2mm bigger gate, according to BD's website).

The Bad:
--Much more expensive than other (heavier) draws.
--Same price as Oz draws but slightly heavier. It's only 0.7 ounces, but that adds up over 12-18 draws when you're hauling them up an approach or a stiff climb.

These provide all the goodness of a wiregate with the snag-free clipping of a Positron. I plan to replace the carabiners in my current draws with either these or Oz 'biners as the old ones wear out, and any new draws I buy will likely be either Hoodwires or Oz draws. If you're looking to lighten your load, but need a bigger 'biner than an Oz, these are a great choice!

(6)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 23, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

These are Black Diamond's offering in the snag-free wiregate race.

The Good:
--Super light weight
--The wiregate's nose is hooded, so the hook is protected against snagging hangers or the rope.
--Great clipping feel, as usual from Black Diamond.
--Cheaper than Petzl's alternatives.

The Bad:
--Much more expensive than other (heavier) draws.

These provide all the goodness of a wiregate with the snag-free clipping of a Positron. I plan to replace the carabiners in my current draws with Oz 'biners as the old ones wear out, and any new draws I buy will likely be these. These are an excellent place to lighten your load without compromising safety!

(7)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 22, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

I don't always need a light that can be seen from space, but when I do it's usually in a situation where there's no alternative. This fits the bill well.

The Good:
--The quad-power LED is BRIGHT, and throws a decent distance.
--The red LEDs are great for when you don't need to get NASA's attention.
--Has a locking mode for when you don't want to illuminate the inside of your pack.
--The third strap across the top keeps the Icon in place when things get bumpy.

The Bad:
--It's heavier than most others out there, especially since it takes 4 AA batteries. While I don't notice it on my head, I know I can do better in total pack weight without it.
--Tilt range doesn't go as far down as I'd like.
--Only waterproof down to 1m. While that may be sufficient for rain, I like the extra insurance of something that can be submerged further.

If you need a light that doesn't screw around in the lumens department (night rappels, climbing, etc.), this is a good choice. If you only need something to see the trail with, there are better options out there, like the BD Spot or ReVolt.

(9)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 22, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

My first pair of Oakleys were a set of Flak Jackets with the XLJ style lenses. For my face, I prefer these over the plain Flak Jacket lenses, but the frames are identical and will take either lens.

The Good:
--Every color of lens you could ever want.
--More open and naturally vented design than Radars or the other wrap-arounds, but still plenty of face coverage for wind and projectile blocking.

The Bad:
--Expensive, and they never seem to go on sale.
--They sit closer to my eyes than my Radars. This may be a function of the nosepads I'm using, but it feels weird on my eyelashes sometimes.

If you don't want wrap-arounds, or you want something a bit more stylish for everyday wear, these are a solid choice. Now if only I could stop losing them...

(8)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 22, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I've tried a wide variety of sunglasses on the market, for climbing, sport shooting, and road cycling, and the Oakley Radars are still my favorites. I tend to prefer the Pitch lens over the Path, but the Path lenses are still pretty good. The frames are the same, but the lenses cover different amounts of your face.

The Good:
--Excellent wrap-around coverage and wind blocking, important when screaming down a descent while wearing contacts.
--Every color of lens you could ever want in three different profiles, plus vents, polarized, etc, should you need them.
--Vented lenses available; handy given the degree of wrap-around.
--Complete UV blockage, even with clear lenses. I once got a wicked sunglass tan wearing clears all day when it was overcast out.
--Oh-so-comfy for all day wear.

The Bad:
--Expensive, and they never seem to go on sale.

I used to scoff at people who paid Oakley money for sunglasses, until I bought my first set of Oakleys. My only regrets are the pairs I've lost over the years, so try not to do that!

(8)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 22, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

I got a bunch of these to set up some alpine draws, and some extras for anchor building, rock slinging, etc.

The Good:
--Cheap, especially nice if you're in a situation where you might not get your gear back.
--Nylon, so you can throw a knot in them and not lose a ton of strength.
--Several different sizes for all your slinging needs (I got half 60 and half 120cm)
--Year of manufacture printed on the tag; no more screwing around with date codes!
--Nice and durable, even after scraping over granite, sandstone, and even a beach-front crag.
--Super handy for racking gear, too, and way cheaper than an actual gear sling.

The Bad:
--Assorted colors; Backcountry sent me a bunch of different colors of each size. I like color-coding things, so getting each size in one color would have been nice. Next time I'll remember to ask.
--The spot where the webbing is sewn into a loop is pretty chunky, and can make it tricky to get your sling legs equalized depending on how you're setting things up.

When these wear out (or they hit their five year mark) I'll more than likely get another set.

(6)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 20, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

My Boy Scout troop used these on our Philmont expedition, and they kept us fed and happy for the whole trip. They do take a little practice to prime and pre-heat, but once you get a feel for the process there's nothing to it. Routine maintenance on the trail just involves shaking the stove about ten times after you use it; the "shaker jet" will self clean and keep you in hot meals until you run out of fuel. Assessing your fuel store is easy, since you can just unscrew the bottle cap and look in, something not possible with canister stoves. While it is heavier than other options out there, especially my other favorite MSR stove, the Pocket Rocket, it keeps things low to the ground, providing more stability, and can be used with a wind screen and heat reflector (both included!) unlike a canister stove. As others have noted, this model only burns white gas; if you need fuel flexibility, look at the International or Universal models, instead.

(9)

 

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Michael Nies

Michael Nies wrote a review of on December 20, 2013

3 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

If you're on a tight budget but still want some decent handling, the Rubinos are a solid choice. They corner well, though not as well as the Diamantes and Corsas, but they three times as long as Corsas and half again as long as Diamantes. The tread pattern deals with wet conditions reasonably well, too. If you want a training tire and don't care about handling, the Rubino is a solid option. If you want something you can corner on a bit better, but still lasts and won't break the bank, check out the Diamantes.

(7)

 

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