2018 Gear of the Year

Things have been quiet around here at SplitterChoss, but only because life has been busy with work, climbing and everything else that takes up our days. With the wet weather that started off October, I was finally able to sit down and go through my favorite pieces of new gear that I’ve been using this season. As has been stated elsewhere, the gear doesn’t make the climber (except for shoes, those can definitely make or break the climber), but it sure can make things more fun and enjoyable! Here’s what I’ve been impressed with this year.

Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody

I’ve searched a long time for a good sun shirt, you’d think this wouldn’t be hard with all the different offerings out there, but it’s surprising how many companies make them in heavy materials, dark colors, etc. If you are truly going to be out in the sun but want protection from the UV rays, you need something light, breathable and comfortable, and preferably in a color that doesn’t heat up quickly. The Alpenglow Hoody checks all those boxes and quickly found a permanent spot in my pack this summer. Whether belaying in the sun or working in the yard, even in higher heat I stayed comfortable and protected from the burning orb by the UPF-50 hoody. $85

Petzl Boreo Helmet

Lightweight helmets are all the rage these days, but sometimes it’s nice to have something a little more beefy. When I’m out bolting, up in the mountains or even on a bigger trad climb with higher-than-average rock fall hazard, the lightweight helmets feel a little inadequate. While there are currently not standards for rating the side or front impact of a helmet, Petzl has created their own standards, which are in line with the UIAA standards for top impact. Any helmet that passes these standards is marked with “top and side” protection. In spite of the Boreo being bulkier and heavier than something like the Meteor, it breathes reasonably well and was quite comfortable for long bolting missions. For hard climbing, I’m always going to reach for something lighter, but as a workhorse helmet with added side and top protection, the Boreo is the bee’s knees. $64.95

La Sportiva Solutions – 2018 version

I’ve probably climbed more pitches in Solutions than any other shoe. For me, they strike a perfect balance between precision and sensitivity. They were updated this year, which made me nervous, but you can rest assured the changes were pretty minor and it’s still the same great shoe. There is a slightly different rubber pattern over the toe box, but the biggest difference is a new strap. It’s not any wider, but it’s supposedly more durable, which was the biggest complaint from Solution aficionados, many of whom have had the strap tear apart on them. $180

Metolius Rope Tarp

I love the simplicity of rope tarps. I don’t love classic rope bags, as i like to carry everything inside my pack, especially on long approaches. To accomplish this, I’ll often coil the rope, and attach it to the top of my pack to leave room for more gear inside. When I get to the cliff, out comes the Metolius rope tarp, which is large enough for an 80m rope, and features a simple roll up design that closes with a carabiner. It’s easy enough to move between climbs and lighter than more robust rope bags. $19.95

Outdoor Research Direct Route Belay Gloves

My first impression of these gloves was that there was no way they would hold up well. They seemed too thin and fragile, especially compared to the Air Brake gloves, which have been my go-to belay gloves for several years. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that several months later they are no worse for the wear, probably due in part to the Kevlar stitching. The polyester/spandex blend breathes well and the goat leather palms offer great dexterity, perfect for summer cragging. Of course you can always go the hardware store glove route, but for me I find that buying actual belay gloves, if they are well designed, is worth the extra $$. $45

Patagonia Cragsmith 45L

I’ve used a lot of cragging packs, and this one has quickly risen to the top of my list of favorites. I took it to Italy for two weeks in the Spring, and since then my poor Black Diamond Pipe Dream has been sitting on the shelf wondering how it went from being the poster child to the back up rig so quickly. The Cragsmith holds a boxy shape, even after months of use, which makes it easy to stuff gear into for a day of cragging. They claim you can put a rope and all your gear in, though I typically find it fills up fast with a rack, layers, food, shoes, etc. For those days when I needed more space, the side pockets were great for stuffing in jackets, food and other such soft items. I’ve also carried a rope on the outside, which I don’t think it was designed for necessarily, but with a smaller diameter, shorter rope, it worked pretty well. $199

Black Diamond 9.4 Rope

I’d used Roca ropes long before Black Diamond started selling their version of them, so I was curious to see how they would perform in this new iteration. The 9.4 80m has been my main rope over most of the last year, and has performed admirably. Like all Roca ropes I’ve seen, it feels thick for the stated diameter. Early on we thrashed one side pretty good over some rough rock, but the other side has held up really well, and others I know who have used these ropes in institutional settings have reported they are holding up well also. We took this rope to Italy, where it was nice to have a rope we could do anything with. If I was just using it for multipitch I’d want something shorter, but for cragging, an 80 meter is great, especially for folks who climb at places like Indian Creek, City of Rocks or Euro mega-crags. $219.95 (80 meters)

Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody

Touted as the lightest puffy they’ve ever made, this is the perfect insulating layer to keep in your pack for much of the year. Light, compact and warm, it’s perfect for crispy mornings or days that stretch into the night. When I first got the Micro Puff, I actually thought it was made of down, and it might be the closest I’ve seen any synthetic layer come to matching the warmth-to-weight ratio of a down jacket. I found it ideal for longer multipitch missions as it takes up little room in a bullet pack. Plus, my dog loves wearing it when she gets cold at the crag, which is often. Nice to know all that technology is going to good use! $299

Black Diamond Fineline Stretch Rain Shell

The Fineline is an excellent, affordable shell with good freedom of movement. With only one pocket, it keeps weight to a minimum. Despite the lack of rain in these parts this summer, October came in super wet and swampy, and I finally got the chance to test it out in actually raininess. For such a light piece, I was impressed with how well I stayed dry. One afternoon I got caught out scouting a local cliff, and the whole hike down had the Fineline on while navigating the steep, slippery trail. While breathability won’t be at the top of features, it performed well enough and I’d recommend it to others as a simple rain shell to keep tucked in the pack. $129

Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX Hiking Shoe

I’m not someone who likes climbing in approach shoes, so I actually need them to perform well on the approach, in a variety of conditions. The Swift R2s are the first shoes I’ve owned with the speed lace closure system and I absolutely love them. For cragging they are quick on/quick off, and for long days in the mountains they were snug and supportive. Rugged yet light, the Gore-Tex was nice for creek crossings, and perfect for the rainy days that greeted us at the start of October. The fit seems a bit on the wide side, but I can still pull it off with my narrow feet. $135

Patagonia R1 TechFace Hoody

The Outdoor Research Ferrosi hoody is one of my all-time favorite jackets. After a long stretch at the top, it finally has some real competition in the R1 TechFace. Made of a lightweight double-weave fabric with a DWR coating, it’s one of those layers you will have with you all the time. It blocks wind, and even sheds light rain well. The cut (size med) is athletic and it stretches nicely when you move. The cuffs are unique and stand out, as they are low profile, stretchy, and designed to stay out of your way whether you are ski touring or high on a wall. $169

Disclaimer: Wait! Before you go handing over your credit card number, ask yourself, do you really need to buy more new stuff? If so, these products are worth a look. In the spirit of full disclosure, they were provided to SplitterChoss.com for the purpose of reviewing. Don’t worry, though, our integrity can’t be bought!

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