Several of our Gearheads jumped at the opportunity when Jansport
offered to send one of them to Mt. Rainier for a serious gear-testing session and summit attempt. An essay contest trimmed the field to five hopefuls, and Joe Freeman came out on top. Joe moved to Salt Lake City for a short stay to check out the skiing and climbing. After 13 years, he finally decided to admit he’ll be around for a while. Following a short stint at Alta Ski Area, Joe came back to SLC and “started banging on the door at Backcountry.com and moved into the Customer Solutions Department in spring of 2005, trading in my wingtips and button-down shirts for flip flops and T-shirts.” He now manages Training and Quality Assurance for our Customer Solutions Department. We all wish him luck on Washington’s tallest peak. Here are his six favorite pieces of gear accompanying him on the journey:
Since my big switch to merino wool last winter, this has become one of my favorite pieces of gear because of its ability to be used in a wide variety of temperature conditions, whether as a mid-layer piece while riding the chairlifts at Alta or as an outer layer piece on a chilly morning in Joshua Tree. Its EXP construction with external tight weave gives it the ability to shed some wind while the inner terry loop style knit provides for great warmth and breathability. After either a day of hiking for turns or putting in several rock pitches, it doesn’t turn smelly because of the magic of the merino fabric. Even though it’s not an “against the skin” piece, I’ve worn it as one while sleeping in a cold tent without overheating inside my down bag. Also, its form fit, thumb loops, and high-zip collar give it detailed function above and beyond any of the fleece jackets I used to wear.
Form fit, attention to detail, bomber construction, and great fabric selection make these pants ideal for telemark skiing on the chairs at Alta or while hiking for turns in the backcountry. These pants are also great for ice climbing and will be great for wind protection on Rainier. The “almost” full side zips allow them to be put on or taken off while wearing telemark boots or mountaineering boots with crampons attached. The way the waist and belt are constructed means they will not fall down and do not need suspenders when I have the side zips fully opened during backcountry tours. I also like the availability of the medium size with a long inseam so that I’m not sporting a “high-water” look.
I’ve had these for years. Originally bought them for a mountaineering crampon, but found out quickly they are great for vertical ice and mixed climbing. They’re fairly light for a steel crampon and super durable because “steel is for real.” Plus, they attach and detach from my boots very quickly and become fairly compact when I need to stash them in my pack. And they fit perfectly on my telemark ski boots for the rare event that I am ascending an icy or rocky section before shredding the pow!
I had a pair of these years ago and they mysteriously disappeared! I’ve been a big fan of the FlickLock mechanism since its introduction years ago as it allows a quick length change during ski tours or a quick collapse when the poles need to be stowed away. If any field adjustment is necessary, the single screw can easily be turned with one’s thumbnail—very simple and effective design. The three-section construction means that I can pack them for a flight in a standard backpack. It is also a great design for snowboarders who backcountry tour as they can stash their poles in a very short length so as not to cause any interference while riding. These will be essential in alleviating strain on my tired joints for the 9000-feet of descending with a heavy pack.
The Regulator series absolutely rocks. I own several pair of them for different ski conditions. Whether I’m riding chairs at Alta and am wearing them over my Leedom helmet, or am hiking in the backcountry, these goggles give me a great fit and ventilate super well, so they do not fog. I don’t get any side slot powder splash due to their great fit with or without a helmet. The clarity of the Smith lenses makes me feel like I have the vision of a super hero. The added protection they provide, especially around the nose area, keeps me from getting scorched from the Utah sun and also gives me a little more confidence when I’m trying to poach a bonus pow turn next to a tree. They are like a shield for my face!
Part of the reason I upgraded to the Half Dome was due to its correct surface modeling which created smooth transitions on the helmet’s exterior shell. Functionally, the quick turn adjustment makes this helmet great for hot days, and will quickly adjust if I layer my Ibex merino beanie under it for extra warmth on cold climbing days. Also, its recessed headlamp strap keepers do not cause any interference while climbing and keep my Black Diamond Spot Headlamp in perfect position for dawn patrol ice outings or late night descents after climbing.
Update: Joe’s gear performed fabulously, and he made the summit under bluebird skies on August 28th. Congratulations Joe! Jansport outfitted all the climbers and guides with their new Whittaker Backpack before the trip. Upon returning, Joe had this to say about the pack:
Everyone on the trip used the Whittaker pack, designed with input from Peter Whittaker of RMI Guides. It held all of the items for our trip very securely with plenty of room for more. On summit day, it compressed very well to hold a minimal amount of gear. It traveled well, held crampons and ice tools well and provided me with easy access to the interior when I needed to grab my down jacket or shell. One thing I really liked about it was that when I placed it on the snow with the back-pad facing upward, it provided me a great place to sit and did so with the top lid zipper access facing upward very well, allowing me to grab my sunscreen and food with ease. My only disappointment was that I could not keep it!