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Patagonia Ascentionist ski-hook carry mod Posted on 03.07.2016 by greg.kuchyt

After getting into ski mountaineering races this year and sampling some of the specialized gear I found one of the things that I’d really like to have available in more pedestrian touring is a ski-hook carry system. For those unfamiliar with the concept, skimo race packs have a circular ring made of a stiff material on one side at the back of hip belt. On the other side of the pack on the shoulder strap there is a hook on an elastic cord. The tails of a ski are put in the ring until the heel posts catch on the ring, then the skis are swung across the back to the other side with the hook. The hook is pulled back over the shoulder and clipped to the skis. This is a quick, easy, and secure way to carry skis used in skimo races when skis need to be shouldered for a boot pack. So I wanted to put a similar system on the pack I usually use for skiing.

Building off the guide at SkinTrack, I made a few modifications to make things modular. Starting with the ski loop, I took an 18″ Voilé ski trap and zip-tied the working end of the strap so that it wouldn’t unbuckle. Next I zip-tied that to the hip belt in the area where the shoulder straps are stitched in because there is a small gap behind the buckle (see picture).

For the hook, I followed the directions at SkinTrack but made things a little easier by building a small bending jig with a 1/4″ spacer and used that to create the tie-off loops and the initial bend radius for the “claw” of the hook. After that I used a vise to do the other bends. I used 1/8″ shock cord and a cord toggle to attach the hook to the pack. I tied the shock cord around the hook’s eyes with a bowline with an overhand stopper then passed the other end of shock cord through the cord toggle. I then passed the end of the shock cord through the top most daisy chain loop on the shoulder straps used for the sternum strap and then back through the toggle. This allows you to adjust the total length of the ski hook and  more importantly the tension of the hook which makes it more versatile for a range of skis.

I’m going to try to find some slightly beefier shock cord, maybe 3/16″ because the 1/8″ is a little weak for this usage. If I decide on a specific length being adequate I’ll run the cord through some 9/16″ webbing and then put some shrink tubing over the hook eyes to help minimize the possibility the knot will come undone.

La Sportiva Storm Fighter GTX Pant Posted on 01.02.2015 by greg.kuchyt

The La Sportiva Storm Fighter GTX pant is a lightweight shell pant with active fit (i.e. not a baggy ski pant), Gore Tex Active fabric, and nearly-full side zips. I’ve been impressed with the Gore Tex Active material since I started using an Arc’teryx Beta FL a couple seasons ago (before Arc’teryx stopped using Gore Tex Active in their FL series). The thought of using a pant in the material is intriguing to me; perhaps even the solution to a layering problem I’ve been trying to solve. I was interested to get my hands on these pants and see if they would meet my needs and pass my picky standards for gear design.

The pants come in small/medium/large,etc sizing and are adjustable at the waist using two velcro tabs at the rear of the pant. The down size of this is that down-sizing the pants creates a pocket of material that could allow any snow to breach the waist hem of your upper layers to enter your pant more easily. The inseam in the smalls was approximately 32″ (I’m a 30×32 pant size). You can see in the photos how the pants fit over a pair of La Sportiva Nepal Primes. Additional minor details include some reflective highlights that won’t hurt if you spend some mornings skinning up groomers before the lifts start running.

The Storm Fighter pant is cut to fit over large boots (double mountain/ski) but not baggy like a contemporary ski pant. This is one of the selling points for me and for climbers looking for a hard shell pant. The pants feature an “almost” full zip, meaning that the zipper stops just below the waist so they can easily be put on over boots but not with skis or crampons still on. Each side’s zipper has two zips; one at the top and one at the bottom to adjust the pant as necessary. La Sportiva made an interesting and kind of cool design choice with the full zippers by sewing in a pocket at the top. So the first 4″ of unzipping the upper zip opens the hand pockets on either side of the pant. Combined with a rear zippered pocket this shell pant doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice pocket accessibility. Admittedly I’m not super literate on shell pant offerings, so perhaps this isn’t as novel as I may think, but I like it none-the-less.

The pants feature a snow gaiter that is separable allowing the pants to be put on over boots that are already on your feet. The closure on the snow gaiter has a top and bottom snap closure with velcro. A desired feature would be to make this snow gaiter removable if desired. While the bottom of the snow gaiter has a grippy rubber lining I personally would have liked to see the pants feature grommets or tie downs inside of the outer shell’s pant cuff as when approaching in deep snow I find I love this feature of my Patagonia soft shells (that are fitted with bungee cord stirrups). When climbing or skiing I remove the stirrup to allow pant mobility and access to my boots (re-lacing or switching from tour/ski). The pant cuffs also feature a large instep patch to protect the less durable Gore Tex Active from your crampon points or ski edges.

The major let down and the reason these pants won’t end up in my wardrobe is the zipper design. Near the pocket the zipper easily catches the fabric that is used to stitch the pocket in place. This is a frustrating problem that I seem to encounter in many outdoor products (this was the major design flaw in my opinion in the Mountain Hardwear Mountain Speed sleeping bag). All the more frustrating is a relatively simple solution of stitching in some nylon webbing in this area would prevent this from happening (look at the draft collar on Patagonia down jackets and Western Mountaineering sleeping bags). I don’t want to be trying to do my touring transition while dealing with stuck zippers, nor do I want to shred a $300 pair of shells because I’m ruefully trying to get my zippers opened/closed.

At $300 retail, one of the biggest selling points of this shell (in my opinion) is the material and the more form fitting cut followed by the full-zips. Since the zips don’t really function as I need them to, these pants fall short in what they were designed for. If the zippers were fixed, I think this would be a good piece for anyone looking to have bombproof protection from conditions yet still retain some layering flexibility. In short, a good first draft that needs some refining before I would put it in my closet. Your mileage may vary.