Arc’Teryx – New for Men Fall ’14

I recently went to the winter Outdoor Retailer (OR) Show for the first time ever and had very little clues as to what I was doing. This is what I knew:

  1. I was excited to see all the #OmniTen that were back in town. I mean, it had been 2 weeks. That’s a long time, ok?!
  2. I was excited to be staying with Josh and his couch dweller, Gina.
  3. I had one scheduled appointment with Columbia. Which was basically so I could get some alone time with Daniel.
  4. I had one scheduled appointment with Arc’Teryx so that I could finally meet one of my two favorite Arc’Employees.
  5. I was going to spend the rest of the time walking around and talking to people. Basically because meeting new people and talking are my two favorite things. After smiling.

I accomplished all of these things and more. But this post is not about my OR experience. This post is about my interview with Arc’Teryx and their Fall 2014 lineup.

Arc'Teryx Lithic Comp Jacket and PantsLithic Comp Jacket and Pants

Being winter and my current obsession, the first thing I asked about was their new backcountry ski gear. I was brought to the Lithic Comp jacket and Lithic Comp pant.

Lithic JacketGranted, I’ve been snowboarding less than a year so I’m not up on what every manufacturer is doing for every sport they represent, but what I saw was incredibly cool. I’d say innovative, but like I said, maybe someone else is already doing it, and I just don’t know it.

Arc’Teryx took into consideration that during your uphill charge, you’re likely going to sweat. A lot. But on your way down, you’re going to have that sweet sweet powder splashing against your legs and torso. What they came up with is Gore® Fabric Technology hardshell bonded to their proprietary Trusaro™ softshell material. Your sweaty bits are covered with the Trusaro™, but your chilly bits (when being hammered by pow) are covered by Gore-Pro.

Trusaro SofthshellThe Trusaro™ is under your arms and sides as well your entire back. The Gore® Fabric Technology covers your hood, shoulders, and the front of your torso. But don’t worry, the chest zippered pockets open up and there’s a mesh liner that allows air to flow through the front of your jacket too.

On top of all of this, they also used their 3D ergonomic molding to give you the best freedom of motion wherever you need it. When skinning up the side of a mountain, you want to be able to use your poles and extend your arms in front of you. In the pants, you want to be able to bend your knees without causing that awkward junior high “high water pants” issue. They used this common sense notion to give you more room in the shoulders, thoracic spine, elbows, hips, and knees (long live the Oxford comma!!) to give you the freedom you want while moving, but still fit perfectly in all the right places when you need it.

The jacket comes in at $45o, and I forgot to ask what the pants were going for. Both are available in September of 2014.

Stikine Jacket and PantsStikine Jacket

Sorry, kids, there’s not much to add about the Stikine jacket. It’s the “dumbed down”, insulated version of the Lithic. There’s no Trusaro™ softshell areas or Gore® Fabric Technology. It’s just bombproof Gore-Tex® that’s guaranteed to keep you warm and dry in the harshest conditions. But the cool thing about this jacket is that the Thermatek™ insulation is bonded to the shell. This will alleviate cold spots created by settling insulation. I hate those things. Just like gnats.

Macai Ski Jacket (On Sale Now)

The Macai Ski Jacket is the Stikine Jacket on D-bol. You’ll only get the d-bol reference if you’ve ever dabbled in the fitness world. It’s steroids, ok?! It’s a freakin insulated, waterproof, breathable shell on steroids! It doesn’t have the softshell bonded to hardshell technology like the Lithic, but it still sports all the same 3D ergonomic molding and fit and full-fledged Gore-Tex® technology.

What sets this apart from anything that I’ve ever heard of (again, not saying it doesn’t already exist somewhere else), and the Stikine, is that it’s down insulation baffled with synthetic coreloft insulation bonded to the Gore-Tex®. This bad boy is for those extremely cold days above the treeline, and retails for…wait for it…are you sitting down?…. $850.

But if I can say anything about Arc’Teryx, it’s that you get what you pay for. Also, no pictures of this bad boy. Click on the link above to go to the website, mkay?

Arc'Teryx Ceres JacketCeres Jacket

Now that I’ve got all ski and snowboard nonsense out of my system, let’s talk about climbing. Please?

Internally, they (Arc’Teryx) call the Ceres Jacket the “do-everything workhorse”. It combines synthetic coreloft insulation in the high moisture areas like the shoulders, neck, armpits, and wrist cuffs with 850-down fill everywhere else. Oh, and did I mention it has a wind-stopper shell? It does. Can anyone say “belay jacket from Zeus himself”? I’m sure there’s more than a couple people stuck in the Polar Vortex that wish they had this jacket.

Arc'Teryx Alpha Comp HoodyAlpha Comp Hoody

I’m really excited to tell you about this jacket. Why? Because I knows a sekret about it. But you have to wait for the end of this section to find out. No skipping ahead!!

This jacket is the Lithic Jacket of the climbing world. It combines the softshell and hardshell technology but in different areas. Whereas the Lithic has Gore® Fabric Technology on the front of the torso, the Alpha Comp utilizes the Trusaro™ softshell material there as well as the back. The Gore® Fabric Technology is only on the hood, shoulders, top of arms, and waist. Why? Think about it…

As a climber, you’re not getting sprayed with snow. You may get snow/ice/water dripping from above (hence, “GFT” on the hood and shoulders and arms), but it’s not coming at you horizontally. There’s no need for “GFT” in those areas.

And just like the Lithic is articulated for forward movement of the arms, the Alpha Comp is articulated for overhead reaching. Because climbing. Get it?

So now you want to know my sekret???

Full production of this jacket isn’t scheduled until later this year, making it available for September 2014. HOWEVER, there will be a limited amount available to purchase online from the Arc’teryx website on February 15! As in, 16 days from right now! And that’s enough exclamation points for one paragraph.

As usual, Arc’Teryx is on the cutting edge of extreme mountain wear. Their products are top-notch. And while the price tag may be hard to swallow, I guarantee…GUARANTEE…there will be a moment when you realize it’s worth every penny.

And just because I’m obsessed with packs, I wanted to take ALL of these home with me. All of them!

Arc’Teryx Ascent Product Line: An Impenetrable Fortress against the Elements – Part III

Editor’s Note: This was going to be one, all-encompassing post of the entire line, but after I got done writing Part I about the Alpha SV and Atom SV and Part II about the Beta AR pants and Stryka hoody, I was already over 1,000 words each. If you’ve not yet had an Arc’Teryx imposed lobotomy, you’re almost there. This is the last post of the series. You’re welcome.

**********

As with all the products I’ve received from Arc’Teryx, I am exceptionally grateful to have been able to try out all the majorly important elements of their “Ascent” product line. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive them until later in the winter season so I haven’t yet been able to test them in a truly extreme environment. But there’s some good news to that: I’ll get to test them out this summer and next winter, when I have a better grasp on some of the more “extreme” hobbies Colorado has to offer. I’ll update this post and add others as needed.

For now, here are my initial impressions of the Ascent line based on a couple of days at the resort, honing my skill as a noob snowboarder in whiteout and bluebird conditions.

The items I tried:

Zenta AR Gloves

Finally! The gloves! Seemingly, it would make sense that these wouldn’t be my favorite piece of gear. I mean, I can wear the Alpha SV jacket, Beta AR pants, Delta LT zip, and Stryka hoodie all four season probably. But gloves? Probably just winter. I know; it doesn’t make sense to me either. But I have an infatuation with gloves, and I have never ever owned a pair of gloves that I looked forward to putting on. Sure, I’ve had really warm gloves. I’ve had indestructible mittens. Work gloves. Driving gloves. Football gloves. All sorts of types of gloves, but none of them left me wanting to wear them with ever reasonable chance I could. Until now.

Mixed Reviews

Arc'Teryx Zenta AR GlovesI really wanted to get a pair of gloves from Arc’Teryx. Back when I won their monthly subscriber lottery, I almost got a pair of gloves instead of the Altra 75 pack. I wanted a pair of gloves for the reasons I stated above, and I was confident Arc’Teryx would fill that void. But I also wanted them because of all the mixed reviews on their website. I thought, there is no way that they don’t have a single pair of gloves that don’t have overwhelming positive reviews. They were all very mixed. I wanted to get a firsthand experience.

One thing that kept popping up was that the gloves weren’t keeping people’s hands warm. I’m not sure if I’m just very warm-blooded, which could be, or if some of these people had too high of expectations. Yes, if you’re going to pay upwards of $200 for a pair of gloves, you expect certain things. But they are just gloves. Of all my years of sitting in a tree stand while hunting, riding snowmobile without grip warmers, ice fishing, what have you, NONE of my gloves have kept my hands warm for an overly extended period of time without the aid of some external heating source, like hand warmers. So maybe these people were just sitting idle at base camp, but I cannot fathom these gloves not keeping my hands warm while being active.

Performance

Besides the obvious task of keeping my hands warm and dry, there are a few other things that I was demanding of these gloves, and they did not disappoint.

Turning cold, wet hands to dry, warm hands. I once had a pair of mittens that were so good that I could shove my bare hands down an ice fishing hole; barely, kind of, sort of wipe them off on a hard shell jacket; and then stick them back in the mittens where not only would my hands be warm and dry, but the insulation would dry as well. I was very young when I had those mittens, and very sad on the day that I couldn’t find them. I’ve not had  a pair of gloves or mittens that could do that since. I think I might have found their emotional replacement. There were a couple of times that I had to take my hands out of my gloves to adjust this thing or that thing before going down a run, and they would become cold and wet. By the end of the run, everything seemed fine and dandy. My hands were not too cold or too wet when doing this so I still have some apprehension. I’ll likely find out next year.

Dexterity. The mittens I just mentioned were warmest piece of handwear I’ve owned. But mittens are mittens and anything requiring fine motor skills or finger dexterity can just be forgot. I’ve had some driving gloves with great dexterity, but they were either uninsulated leather or some kind of liner. Neither of which provided any warmth or weather-proofing. If I did try to get a pair of gloves that would keep my hands as warm as mittens, they were almost as useful as mittens as well. The leather palm of the Zenta AR gloves allow for quite a bit of precision. You won’t be doing any needle point with them, but I could at least tie my boots, clip a carabiner, strap my bindings, and use a screwdriver with them on.

Features

This is my favorite part.

They have a clip-in loop on the middle finger of each hand. This is becoming very common with any gloves that could be used for climbing, but it’s my first pair. And I am in awe.

In a moment, you will see how great the cuffs are, allowing them to be worn over any type of jacket. I still got some snow inside the cuffs on a couple of falls, but thankfully they dried right out.

And now, the moment I’ve been dying to show you, the supremely easy cuff synch system. Putting your gloves on for the first time over jacket is no big deal. But what about when you’ve already put them on, synched them down, and now you need to take them off again? Off is fine, actually, but what about putting them back on? The opening of the cuff is synched down and may not go over your jacket. Arc’Teryx has fixed this problem, and made it extremely easy to use even with a gloved hand.

Simply grab the nylon webbing with your gloved, and as you pull the glove on, the cinch will become loosened, allowing you to pull the cuff over any thickness of jacket you may be wearing. Then, once your hand is back in, grab the cinch chord and tighten. Here, I’ll demonstrate!

And that, is really what makes me happy about these gloves. Not that this system probably unique to Arc’Teryx, but the fact that they have put that much thought into the design, espcially to make it incredibly easy to use with a gloved hand. Bravo, Arc’Teryx.

an Deireadh

For my last bit of criticism, I offer this:

Why not add a zip pocket for a hand warmer on the top of the hand? I don’t think you’d lose much functionality. You could use the same taped seams that you use on your other products. It wouldn’t add substantial weight, if that’s even a concern. People don’t have to use it, and it would give those that need extra warmth that ability. Other than that, I plan to have these glove for a looooong time.

Arc’Teryx Ascent Product Line: An Impenetrable Fortress against the Elements – Part II

Editor’s Note: This was going to be one, all-encompassing post of the entire line, but after I got done writing Part I about the Alpha SV and Atom SV, I was already over 900 words. So, I will be spreading this out over as many posts as needed so as not to give you an Arc’Teryx imposed lobotomy. You’re welcome.

**********

As with all the products I’ve received from Arc’Teryx, I am exceptionally grateful to have been able to try out all the majorly important elements of their “Ascent” product line. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive them until later in the winter season so I haven’t yet been able to test them in a truly extreme environment. But there’s some good news to that: I’ll get to test them out this summer and next winter, when I have a better grasp on some of the more “extreme” hobbies Colorado has to offer. I’ll update this post and add others as needed.

For now, here are my initial impressions of the Ascent line based on a couple of days at the resort, honing my skill as a noob snowboarder in whiteout and bluebird conditions.

The items I tried:

Beta AR Pants and Stryka Hoodie

These two are a bit odd to pair together, but that’s because

  1. The first two made sense
  2. I’ve used them the same amount of times under varying conditions together
  3. Spoiler alert: I’m saving my favorite for last, all by itself

Stryka Hoodie

Beta and StrykaWhat can I say? It’s a base layer. The things that really stand out to me is how soft and comfortable the Torrent™ material is, its ability to dry quickly, the hood, and the length.

I’ll let you read the full specifications on the Arc’Teryx website about the Torrent™ material, but part of that is about the quick drying ability. Before I had the Alpha SV jacket, I was using my Marmot Fulcrum. It too is a wonderful jacket, but even with the cinch chords…cinched…and the powder skirt buttoned, I still got snow up my jacket when I fell. The two times I wore the Stryka/Fulcrum combination was also the 2nd and 3rd time I’d ever gone riding. I fell a lot. The Stryka would get soaked around my waist, but on the rare occasion I went in for lunch or put together a couple of runs without falling, the Stryka would be nearly dry in that short amount of time. I can only imagine the same would be true if I were using it on a sweaty alpine climb.

The downside of the Fulcrum allowed me to appreciate the long length of the Stryka. It has the ability to fall below my butt when tucked into my Beta AR pants and that at least prevents the snow from getting against my skin.

I like the hood because it’s balaclava style and fits tight against my head. Perfect for wearing a helmet or a warmer hat over the top. And when I don’t wear the hood, it works quite well as a neck gaiter. As I mentioned in Part I, I had two or three different things around my neck so I didn’t really need it, but someday I may. That’s important to me because the back of my neck is my hot/cold zone. In cold temps, my neck better be warm, or the rest of me is screwed. In hot temps, my neck better be cool, or I turn into a bitching and moaning little baby.

Marmot Fulcrum and Arc'Teryx Stryka
This is a powder day at Loveland Ski Area with the Marmot Fulcrum and Arc’Teryx Stryka. Notice the balaclava style hood that fits nicely under the helmet and still keeps my face warm.

Beta AR Pants

Once again, there’s not much to say about these pants. They are waterproof and windproof, and I tend to like that a lot. Once again, I need to turn to my amazing skills as a snowboarder and point out that I was still falling a decent amount when I first got these pants.

Side Note: 1) This is my 1st season snowboarding. I’ve gone a total of 8 times, and I can now do any ‘ol run without falling and have some semblance of style and grace. I fall now, when attempting tree runs, moguls, and jumps and drops. 2) I once heard if you’re not falling, you’re not trying. :-p

Even when a company claims to have “waterproof, breathable” material, I’m still hesitant to sit directly in the snow or water. The material is breathable because there are microscopic holes in the teflon that allow water vapor molecules out, but do not let liquid molecules in. Supposed you’re sitting on a snow/ice covered lift chair for 10 minutes, and the potential to turn some of that frozen liquid to unfrozen vapor becomes something real. So, I’m very hesitant to do something like that on my own free will. Luckily, I didn’t have free will. I either had to sit on the snowy, icy lift or call it a day. Luckily, the Beta AR pants held up, and no soggy bottom for me!

Another thing that stood out to me is the abrasion resistance. One of my favorite falls came on one of my first ever black diamond runs. It was a sunny, bluebird day and there was no fresh powder to be found. The run was steep and icy. I caught an edge turning from toe side to heel side and ended up sliding on my butt for a good 35 yards down the hill, backwards. I was smart enough to keep my head and board up and just enjoy the ride. I was somewhat expecting to feel a rip or tear in the material. None. I was somewhat expecting to feel a wet butt. Dry. This made me happy.

Arc'Teryx Beta AR PantsTwo other features that I really think I’ll get a lot of use out of are the reinforced Keprotec™ ankle insteps and lace hooks to attach to your boots. The powder skirts worked amazingly well, but these are 4-season pants, and I wonder how I will like powder skirts in the summer when I wear these pants in the rain.

Another nice thing, though common in other waterproof pants as well, is the near full length leg zipper, allowing for easy in’s and out’s when you don’t feel like taking your boots or shoes off.

Koniec

As with everything else I own Arc’Teryx, I don’t have much constructive criticism. It feels like they hit the nail on the head once again. The only time I think something could be better is when they update it on their own, and I say to myself, “oh yeah, this is better.”

If I had to nitpick anything, it would be the lack of pockets on the pants once again. With the Alpha SV, there are at least five pockets. How useful they are is up for debate, but on the pants, there is only one. I know, I know, pockets may not be useful at 13,000 ft. on the side of a cliff, but there are times I’m not at 13,000 ft. on the side of a cliff.

For the Stryka, I’d like to see the little thumb holes that hold your sleeves down. I never had any issues with the sleeves coming up, but there is potential, especially if you’re actively doing something with your hands other than just pushing yourself off the ground after you fall. 😉

Arc’Teryx Ascent Product Line: An Impenetrable Fortress against the Elements – Part I

Editor’s Note: This was going to be one, all-encompassing post of the entire line, but after I got done writing just about the Alpha SV and Atom SV, I was already over 900 words. So, I will be spreading this out over as many posts as needed so as not to give you an Arc’Teryx imposed lobotomy. You’re welcome.

**********

As with all the products I’ve received from Arc’Teryx, I am exceptionally grateful to have been able to try out all the majorly important elements of their “Ascent” product line. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive them until later in the winter season so I haven’t yet been able to test them in truly extreme environments. But there’s some good news to that: I’ll get to test them out this summer and next winter, when I have a better grasp on some of the more “extreme” hobbies Colorado has to offer. I’ll update this post and add others as needed.

For now, here are my initial impressions of the Ascent line based on a couple of days at the resort, honing my skill as a noob snowboarder in whiteout and bluebird conditions.

The items I tried:

Alpha SV Jacket and Atom SV Hoody

Alpha SV

I’m putting these two together to save some space as I’ve already written of my love of the Atom SV, and I admittedly didn’t take the Alpha SV through anything resembling “extreme” so I’ve not much to say…yet.

Four years later, the Atom SV still has more insulating power (per weight) than any other jacket I’ve owned. The zipper is starting to fail (coming unzipped on its own), and it is losing some of its loft, but hey, it’s been my primary insulating layer and standalone jacket for four years. 4!! So with the addition of the Alpha SV, it’s a bombproof combination. Please review the previous post for detailed Pros and Cons of the Atom SV.

Alpha SV Jacket

Arc'Teryx, Smith Optics, and Airhole FacemaskI really wish I had more time and horrendous conditions to write about, but instead, I have to tell you about the time I wore it on a bluebird day at Copper Mountain. Why? Breathability.

It was a balmy 28 degrees (maybe less) the day I was riding at Copper, but it was awesomely sunny. I was wearing the three top layers I mentioned above which should have made me sweat my brains out. Instead, I was comfortable. There was a time during the day, albeit brief, when it was cloudy, windy, colder, and threatening to snow. I was just as content with those conditions as when it turned sunny and warmed up. I’m a novice at tree runs and went down my first moguls (horribly). The added mental stress of blasting a tree or face planting a mogul, on top of the additional physical strain those runs require, definitely raised my body temp. This leads me to believe the updated Gore-Tex Alpha SV shell is doing a superb job of venting unwanted body heat. And that’s why I wanted to mention it now, with little time for thorough testing.

Sizing

Arc'Teryx Alpha SV JacketAs for the fit, the Arc’Teryx website is spot on. It’s cut perfectly to include extra room for base layers without having to guess which size you need or being too loose and floppy if you don’t have base layers. I have a medium Stryka Hoody, a medium Atom SV, and a medium Alpha SV. The only bunching and scrunching I encountered was around my neck. And that’s because I was wearing THREE different types of hoods, a facemask that Velcros behind the neck, and a helmet.

There is no powder skirt (you’d need one of Arc’Teryx’s ski specific jackets for that), but the waist goes past my butt while the front drops just below my waist. The adjustable cinch chords, along with the proper length, keep the powder from getting underneath jacket just as well, provided you don’t experience a truly epic digger. And that includes numerous moderate falls practicing jumps, drops, ollies, and running into trees.

Features

I’m used to jackets having limited Velcro lengths around the cuffs, but the Alpha SV has enough Velcro to completely close the opening or still be connected at full expansion. That’s a huge plus for my tiny, little wrists. To aid in this miracle, they’ve also included a section of elastic. A nice touch.

Alpha SV Cuffs

Arc'Teryx Alpha SV with hood over helmetI didn’t wear my hood over my helmet the entire day at copper, but I did the following week at Loveland Ski Area. It was great.  It fit perfectly over the helmet and didn’t restrict movement whatsoever. I barely had to use the hood adjustment to keep it out of my peripherals as well.

The pocket system is a bit different from anything I’ve ever encountered. There are two outer chest pockets, one outer arm pocket, and two inner chest pockets. All include zippers. They are not really big enough to carry items much bigger than a cell phone, compass, wallet, etc. etc., but when wearing this for its intended use, high alpine excursions, I’m not sure you’d have too many items you’d need to get at it with high frequency.

Pit zips. It has them.

Fin

All in all, I’m supremely happy to have this jacket and can’t wait to really put it to the test. I have no doubt it will stand up to anything I, and Mother Nature, throw at it. But mostly, I’m sad that I have to wait an entire season to get this thing into some backcountry powder.

Arc’Teryx Delta LT Zip Sweater: An All-Season Layer

The long layoff of writing has given me ample time to try out the Delta LT Zip I received from Arc’Teryx in a myriad of conditions. Obviously, in the warmer months, it will be used as a standalone piece of clothing when temperatures dip below “comfortable” at night. However, this sweater should be an integral piece of your base layering system come late fall, winter, and early spring.

The concept of “layering” has been hammered in my psyche for as long as I can remember. It comes from starting my outdoor endeavors since the time I could walk. A lot has changed since then. I no longer use various layers of heavy cotton. I prefer very few, lightweight layers of synthetic materials that achieve the same outcome.

This is where the Delta LT comes in…

October in the Midwest is quite fascinating. You can wake up to temperatures in the 20’s and be enjoying 60 degrees by 3:00pm. It makes clothing decisions complicated, especially if you’re already hauling a full rack of climbing gear.

Luckily, the weekend we went to Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin was quite mild. It was in the upper 30’s by mid-morning and 60’s by the afternoon. My body is always running hot (interpret that as you will) so I decided to leave the campsite with nothing but a t-shirt and the Delta LT (and stuff covering the bottom, sicko). By the time I got to the top of our climbs (this was mostly a top-roping affair), I was already sweating. I stripped off the sweater to dry out while setting anchors, and by the time I rapp’d down to the base of the climbs, I was chilled. I put the sweater back on, and BOOM! Instant warmth. Polartec® really knows what they’re doing.

I match the fall colors!

 

Fast forward to some colder temps, and it’s still great as a standalone sweater. We were hiking around 10,000ft. in 30-degree weather and this was all I needed. I had a shell with me in case we hit some exposure, but due to my supreme flat-lander conditioning, I was starting to get sore and tired and decided to turn around. 10,000 ft. above sea level is a lot higher than 300 ft. above sea level, ok?!
And finally, this past weekend we were back at it again. This time, we were hiking in 0-degrees around 9,000 ft. I opted for the cereal killer look.
It’s temps like this where you really need to have your layering system down. Sweating should be avoided as much as humanly possible; this we all know. But when it’s this cold, you also need to be warm. Again, because I’m so hot, I decided to dress light, but carry an extra layer just in case. I chose to wear this stuff on my person:

Lower Half:

Synthetic underpants (love that word)
Uninsulated, moisture wicking skin layer
Full-length ventable (did I just make that word up?), semi-insulated Mountain Hardware softshell pants
Mid-level insulating socks
Keen Summit County boots

Upper Half:

I’ll murder your cereal while avoiding frostbite

Moisture wicking, Nike Cold Gear turtle neck skin layer
Nike Dri Fit t-shirt
Arc’Teryx Delta LT Zip
GoLite Shell
Creeper mask
Fashionable headband
Deerskin insulated middens
(Arc’Teryx Atom SV Hoodie in my pack just in case)

 

Although it was 0-degrees, I was supremely comfortably warm. If we hit a long stretch of sun, I started venting everything. If we ducked back into the shade, just zip it up again. By the end of the hike, I think it warmed up to the mid-single digits. It was hot! So I unzipped my shell and let the Delta LT cover all the insulating work. I did not sweat a single drop, nor was I ever near being cold.

Not only will I have this sweater with me anytime the temperatures fall below “comfortable”, but it looks extremely fashionable, and the athletic cut fits me perfectly. Honestly, I don’t know why you don’t all have one already.
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Gear Review: Arc’Teryx Atom SV Hoody

Here’s some unneeded background info: I was motivated (and unable) to write this review a week and a half ago when the Arc’Teryx social media rep replied to one of my tweets and asked to see this review when I was done. Then life got in the way, and it never happened. That made me sad. Fast forward to last night, and I’ve been notified that I won their monthly gear giveaway contest! Woot woot (as my fellow nerds used to say, or do they still say that?)!! So, once again, Arc’Teryx is on my mind. Let’s get to it…

Continue reading

Winter Camping on New Year’s Eve at the North Shore of Minnesota

Howdy, howdy! It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? I can assure you, it’s not because I haven’t been doing anything outdoors. There’s been plenty of that, mostly deer hunting stuff. (Which reminds me, I need to post about that on here…) I figured I should write about this outting because it was the most awesomest New Year’s Eve celebration I’ve ever had.

The chick with the tent (Anh) and I aren’t too huge on monsterous NYE parties in the city, and none of our friends invited us to an NYE party at their place (that I know of). So we decided to take matters into our own hands. We planned our New Year’s Eve party up on Minnesota’s North Shore at a campsite wearing warm clothing next to a fire and celebrated outside. Don’t worry, there was extravegant food and champagne. We weren’t exactly “roughing it”.

Fun Stuff

I took off the Friday of New Year’s Eve, and Monday following New Year’s Day was also a vacation day. So, that meant we got to spend 4 days and 3 nights on the North Shore.

We were pretty lazy getting ready on Friday morning, but we eventually left the cities and made it to Temperance River State Park just in time to gather some (wet) firewood and get our tent set up before it was pitch black….at 5:30pm. I cooked some dinner, we fought the fire, and went to bed. For the end of December, mid-20’s at night was a welcomed surprise.

We slept in until 8:30 or 9:00 on Saturday. I hardly ever am able to do that, much less when I’m in a sleeping bag. We cooked some breakfast and headed up to Grand Portage right on the Canadian border to look at a frozen waterfall. We were excited that there was more snow up there than down in Mineapolis, though not nearly as much as there should have been. On our way back, I checked the weather on my phone and there was a winter weather advisory for 2″-5″ of snow that night (New Year’s Eve). This caused us some concern, having wet wood and not tying down our tent, so we stopped at a gas station to grab a tarp and a portable shovel. Whilst there, the cashier told us it was probably more likely that we’d get 8″ overnight (!). Rather than making another stop at George Crosby Manitou State Park, we decided to get back, gather some dry wood, and batten down the hatches for the ensuing storm. We even made sure the car was accessible in the middle of the night, should our 3-season tent collapse under the weight of 8″ of snow!

As we woke up around 8:30 or 9:00, again (so weird), there definitely wasn’t 8″ of snow. Or 6″. Or 4″. Or even 3″! My best guesstimate is that there was somewhere between 1″ and 2″ of snow. How weak?! It was now New Year’s Day and our last full day of camping. We went to Cascade River State Park and hiked a mile or so along the river and then came back and hiked around the shore of Lake Superior at our campsite in Temperance. The excitement for this night came in the form of single digit temperatures and below-zero windchills. Again, we somewhat cut our fun activities short in order to get ready for some cold and 25 mph winds!

We tried setting up a wind break with the tarp from the night before…

And by the end of the night, it looked more like this…

So, back to freezing our pants off…

We grabbed extra clothes to put in our sleeping bags, climbed in, and hoped for the best, in that we hoped our gear is as good as the marketing says.

Disaster nearly struck around 2:30am when I started to get a bit of a chill, and I had to go to the bathroom. Luckily, Anh did too. I didn’t feel so bad for waking her up. We did our businesses (separately), I put on some extra clothes, and then back in the bags we went. The next time I poked my eyeball out of my sleeping bag, I could see daylight, and it was 8:00. We made it! I checked my phone for the current temperature (no idea how accurate it was), and it said that it was 9 degrees F with windchills of -15 deg F. Whoa! That’s pretty awesome if you ask me.

It was so cold that we didn’t bother with breakfast or coffee. We just threw everything in the car (literally) and got out of Dodge.

As I said before, it was, by far, the best New Year’s Eve weekend I’ve ever experienced! Thanks, mostly to whom I spent it with.

Food and Booze!

As you saw above, we had some pretty decent food. The first night there, we had polish sausage over the campfire and some dehydrated soup. It tasted pretty good, but it wasn’t fancy enough to waste digital space on a camera. We did, however, take a picture of the beer that accompanied the meal. Ayinger Weizen-Bock. It’s pretty good for a wheat beer. I don’t like wheat beers.

For breakfast the first morning, we had breakfast burritos. Pretty much anything tastes good wrapped in a tortilla shell.

 

 

 

 

 

The appetizer on New Year’s Eve was steamed king crab legs. The main dish was shrimp and green beans in a white wine, garlic sauce (shown above) with crusty bread. The wine you see in the pic is Barefoot Winery’s Chardonnay. I think desert was some croissants and Nutella.

 

It wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without champaign. I went all out and bought some from Cook’s for $6 per bottle. I’m a high roller here, folks. We kept them chilled in our cooler.

On the morning of New Year’s Day, we had some bomb-ass bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches on English muffins. We didn’t take any pics, but dang were they good! (My guess is that it was primarly due to “deep frying” them in the bacon grease. Just a hunch…)

I guess we didn’t take any pictures of supper on the last night either. Jeeze, I’m gonna have to talk to our photographer. I’m paying her waaay too much. It was venison steak with foil potatoes and onions. It was too cold to mess with making two packages of steaks, so instead, we went with an equally classy substitute: family-sized Spaghetti-o’s with meatballs. True story.

We did bring more booze than we actually drank. I was a little saddened by that, but now it’s sitting in my fridge waiting to be consumed. This is what I originally had planned:

I’m really looking forward to the Surly Smoke and LaGunitas Cappuccino Stout.

Gear Junkies

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the gear we used. This will be brief, please stay tuned for the rest of the pics.

All of these products, if interested, can be purchased through my links to REI.com or BackCountry.com

And now, the rest of the pictures!

(P.S. A simple request after the picture gallery. Make sure you scroll down to see it. Pretty please?)

I’ll be really impressed if you made it to the end of this post, and if you did, I want to know what you did. Leave me a comment, eh?!