Friday, June 17, 2011

2011 Field Test Results

Many of our favorite brands and products got put to the test in our Blog's first week long field test the first week of June. What was to have been a 50 mile section hike on the John Muir Trail in the Sierras turned into a week of mishaps that included hypothermia (and altitude sickness) on Kearsarge Pass, a whiteout on the summit of Mt. Whitney, a dead engine in the middle of Lake Meade, and the repossession of a car on the way to Zion National Park. Maybe this will turn into a movie...say like Hangover III. What was successful was learning the strengths and weaknesses of a good number of well known products. In a nutshell here's the report:

Julbo Explorer Glacier Glasses Spectron 4: Great eye protection for the intense sun and wind we encountered on Kearsarge Pass on the way into to the John Muir Trail. Because the spectron lens isn't polarized, it helped to see the composition of ice patches on the exposed traverse at the top. Better sunscreen/wind protection for the nose & lips is something this tester needs to work on next. The Explorers were a little toasty in the desert heat on the way up Angel's Landing in Zion.

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 tent: No complaints about the weight here! But a three person tent? No way. This was great for two people, it would have sucked squeezing 3 guys into this, especially because my two friends carried wide 25 inch NeoAir mattresses. Although given the cold weather, I might have been better off in this tent every night to share some body warmth and the benefit of a full fly that helps keep some warmth in. Staked out, the Copper Spur UL3 easily withstood a night of 25-45 mph winds at Trail Camp on Mt. Whitney; but good luck trying to find this orange/brown tent in this rock field in low light and moderate snow. It took us 20 minutes to find her on our way back from Whitney.... Nemo's neon green Losi Alti Storm 3P tent would have been a better tent for our Whitney summit trip.

Thermarest NeoAir Sleeping Pad: At 14 oz. and the size of a 1 L bottle this pad met my criteria for this trip. I was super comfortable each night. But I wasn't expecting windy nights that ranged from 6 degrees to 24 degrees in June! When temps were above 20 I was OK, but the NeoAir is not the right pad when temps drop into the teens and below. Go with a Thermarest Prolite or another pad with an R value higher than 2.5 when going out into frigid nights.

Yes, there was lots of other gear tested. But that's it for today's blog. Tune in for other test results.

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