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New Petzl Head Torches

We’ve been a bit slow on this, but Petzl have updated some of their headtorches this season, here’s a quick roundup of what’s new…

Petzl Myo

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The Petzl Myo is a powerful single LED head torch that is ideal for endurance activity such as distance running or adventure racing. A light diffuser allows the beam to flood the ground in a wider path, this is really good when moving fast. However the diffuser can be opened to make the beam a lot more focused, better for looking into the distance. The Myo is a programmable torch using the power button to cycle through 3 power levels and a flashing mode. However the Myo actually has 10 power levels and 3 flashing modes and you choose which modes the power button will cycle through during use. That sounds a bit of a gimmick but the main advantage is that the lamp can be programmed to come on in whichever power level you use most and then offer you any other 2 levels.

 

Petzl Tikka XP

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The Petzl Tikka XP is a great multi function head torch designed to be your go-to torch for almost any of your outdoor activities. It features 8 different lighting modes with a maximum constant output of 120 lumens, a single push button for operation, a mixed fabric and elastic headband for comfort and a red LED.

 

Petzl Zipka

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The Petzl Zipka is a superb multi use torch that has a retractable ‘cord’ strap that allows for greater flexibility, allowing you to attach it to handlebars, tent poles or even tree branches. It has a light output of 100 lumens at maximum power and can be switched to a lower power mode to save batteries.

 

Petzl Tikkina

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A simple and effective head torch with two different light modes: Ambient mode which gives a wide beam with reduced brightness for use in group situations and power saving, and proximity lighting mode which gives a strong wide beam for excellent close-range vision. It features a single push button for all operations, an elastic washable headband and an easy to use battery case.

The Petzl Tikkina is the base model in the Petzl Classic range and offers a good proximity light for those who want a small torch for general usage when out and about. It has a single high output LED capable of a maximum 80 lumens making the Tikkina ideal around the campsite, mountain hut or kept in the car.

 

Save 10% on any of these head torches now – click here

Transceiver Review 2015-16

We’ve updated our transceiver review to include all the latest models and new software update. If you’re looking for a transceiver this a great resource which describes and shows the operational differences between all the transceivers we sell. Click to go to the Transceiver Review page.

If you’re just starting out or thinking about getting your first transceiver then our FAQs is a good starting point. Click to go to the Transceiver FAQs page.

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Pro Review – Patagonia Untracked Pants

Pro Reviewer:

kevavery
Following on from his review of the Patagonia Untracked Jacket, Kev tests out the Untracked Pants.

Patagonia say: “With a highly articulated fit and a soft brushed tricot backer, the Untracked Pants offer freedom of movement and low-bulk warmth while freeriding or hiking. Built with 3-layer GORE-TEX fabric for durably waterproof/breathable and windproof protection.”

The Untracked Pants compliment the Untracked Jacket perfectly, they are designed to be worn as a system and under most circumstances I’ve worn them together. However there have been some days when I’ve been ski touring in warmer weather and opted for a soft-shell jacket instead.

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Good knee articulation and a great cut all round. Note the large thigh cargo pockets.

In terms of fabric and lining, the Untracked Pants use the same 3 layer Gore-Tex fabric with brushed tricot backer that is used on the jacket. I love the fit of these trousers. The cut is once again relaxed and feels perfect for skiing. The legs are articulated with a flexed pattern at the knees giving great freedom of movement whether skiing aggressively downhill or skinning/booting up. The cuffs are wide and sit easily over the cuffs of your ski boots. The internal snow gaiters are elasticated and provide a secure seal over the top of your ski or snowboard boots although this would be too loose to work over a mountaineering boot I think. That said, they are ski trousers.

The lower legs have huge burly scuff guards to help protect them from getting sliced by ski edges and crampon points and this has done a brilliant job of protecting them so far.

The waist belt adjusts with an in internal tab system which is simple and effective but you need to set it up when you put them on as it is a bit harder to adjust once you are on the hill. That said, there are also standard belt loops should you wish to add a belt yourself.

The Untracked Pants have lots of pocket options (5 in total) meaning you can keep things like snacks, map, compass etc close to hand. They all close securely with zippers so things don’t disappear mysteriously!

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Zippered vents for those uphill efforts.

I really liked the Untracked Pants for touring in and skinning up hill. The zippered vents meant I never got too warm and on warmer days I could wear them without long johns underneath as the brushed liner made them comfortable next to the skin. As the vents are meshed I never got too much snow in there even if they were open.

Like the Jacket, the Untracked Pants are highly fit for purpose! I love the fit and cut, the venting and the pocket options as well as the superb weather protection. Not a pant to be technical climbing in but definitely can handle the up as well as the down.

Overall rating: ★★★★★

Climbing Gear Reviews are an independent reviewer of climbing, skiing and mountaineering equipment. Fronted by Kevin Avery, a trainee IFMGA mountain guide and former Gear Editor at UKClimbing.com, alongside Yorkshire based MIA Dave Sarkar, they provide completely honest and 100% impartial reviews. Click here to see their page.

Patagonia Untracked Pants Features:

  • 3 layer Gore-Tex
  • Soft fabric lined waist with 2 snap closure
  • Articulated patterning
  • Mesh lined thigh vents
  • Scuff guards and in built gaiters
  • 2 hand warmer pockets, 2 thigh pockets and a rear pocket, all zippered
  • Concealed Recco reflector

Colour: Navy Blue
Weight: 680g

Full Patagonia Untracked Pants description here.

Patagonia Untracked Pants

Pro Review – Patagonia Untracked Jacket

Pro Reviewer:

kevavery
The Patagonia Untracked Jacket and Pants are a dedicated full weather protection combo aimed at skiers (and snowboarders) heading into the backcountry/offpiste terrain where freedom of movement and protection from the elements are paramount.

Patagonia say: “With a highly articulated fit, the Untracked Jacket is a warm low-bulk freeride jacket for hiking or powdery descent. Built with 3-layer GORE-TEX® fabric for durably waterproof/ breathable and windproof protection and a soft brushed tricot backer for extra warmth.”

I’ve skied a lot in the Untracked Jacket (and Pants) this winter, both on piste, off piste in places like La Grave and also on some day tours. It’s a great combo, which is well featured with everything the dedicated backcountry/offpiste skier could want.

It is designed with a roomy, relaxed cut for freedom of movement (and looking “rad”!). The 3-layer 100% nylon GORE-TEX® fabric with DWR finish is waterproof, windproof and breathable. It stops you getting wet from snow and rain, as well as stopping you getting chilled by the wind. When you’re skinning or bootpacking uphill however, the fabric breathes well and if you need extra venting there are pit zips and a main front zipper too. All external zippers are watertight. The cuffs are close by simple velcro clinchers and these fasten over the top of, or sit neatly underneath your chosen glove system.

Brilliant collar and superb hood! Dave Sharpe and I looking cheery on the La Grave lift.

In really bad weather the Untracked Jacket benefits from a high collar and awesome hood that fits brilliantly over a skiing or a climbing helmet and is very easy to adjust even with gloves on. The Untracked Jacket features an integrated powder skirt to stop the jacket filling up with snow on those deep days and this attaches to the Untracked Pants providing a secure, integrated system to seal out the snow.

The Untracked Jacket provides a number of storage options in the form of inner and outer pockets, a lift pass pocket on the left cuff holds your magnetic lift pass securely and means you can pass through the lift barriers without having to worry about where your pass is and ferret around in your other pockets for it. Just put it in there and leave it there. There are two zippered hand warmer pockets and one zippered chest pocket which has a nice touch of secure internal phone or iPod pocket with internal cable routing and the hand warmer pockets have a nice brushed lining. The only minor gripe is that the hand warmer pockets do interfere with a climbing harness a bit and access is restricted if you are wearing one.

Inside the Untracked Jacket you get two pockets for storing goggles, gloves etc. The inner fabric is a brushed tricot backer which does add a little extra warmth and is nice to wear, but I don’t think the jacket can be described as insulated as such. But this gives the flexibility for you to layer as is necessary and dictated by the weather and conditions.
Going back to the fit and cut of the the Untracked Jacket. It is relaxed without being too baggy and able to accommodate enough layers to stay warm on some bitter days like those we found skiing in La Grave over the New Year period. It is not a cut you’d want for technical climbing but as I said, it is an out and out ski jacket, albeit with all the attention to detail you’d expect from a company like Patagonia.

All in all the Untracked Jacket from Patagonia is a brilliant ski jacket, perfect for those heading into the backcountry and requiring the highest levels of weather protection and functionality. It is perhaps a bit heavy (for my liking) for multi day hut to hut tours and better suited to day tours and hits off things like the La Grave lift or Aiguille Du Midi, than taking on the Haute Route, where I’d probably opt for a lighter soft-shell system.

Although certainly not cheap, I’d recommend this jacket to anybody who skis on piste or regularly heads into off piste terrain. It is high quality, fully featured, bombproof and well cut for skiing. Not the best if you are wearing a climbing harness e.g, when skiing steep couloirs or on glaciated terrain but does work fine. The hood is particularly good, fitting over a big ski helmet without restrictions.
Overall rating: ★★★★★

Climbing Gear Reviews are an independent reviewer of climbing, skiing and mountaineering equipment. Fronted by Kevin Avery, a trainee IFMGA mountain guide and former Gear Editor at UKClimbing.com, alongside Yorkshire based MIA Dave Sarkar, they provide completely honest and 100% impartial reviews. Click here to see their page.

Patagonia Untracked Jacket Features:

  • 3 layer Gore-Tex
  • Helmet compatible 2-way adjustable hood
  • Pit zips
  • Low profile cuffs go over or under gloves
  • Low profile powder skirt
  • 5 zipped outer pockets and 2 internal pockets
  • Concealed Recco reflector

Colour: Underwater Blue
Weight: 710g
Full Patagonia Untracked Jacket description here.
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Pro Review – Vapour Rise Lite Alpine Jacket

British Mountain Guide Al Powell reviews the Rab Vapour Rise Lite Alpine Jacket.

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I’ve been using the Vapour Rise Lite Alpine Jacket all summer for guiding in the Alps and through the autumn in the UK for running, biking and climbing – so plenty of use in a wide range of conditions.

First off, I need to declare some history here: I was actually involved in the development and testing of the very first Vapour Rise jackets back in the late 90′s – my job was to test Rab garments to destruction in as many and varied conditions as possible – so the original vapour rise jacket I had was abused for over 1000 days on the hill before anything broke – and that was just a zipper! I took it on several trips to the Alps in winter, Scotland every weekend, I went fell running and rock climbing in it and took it on several expeditions – it just seemed to work well for everything. By the end, that first jacket was totally UVed and faded, but it simply wouldn’t die…

Things moved on and our company became testing and brand ambassadors for another well-known company for several years (think broken fossils..) – so I got to wear and test a lot of other top quality kit.

Currently I’m not tied to a single brand however, so having used the very best softshell jackets on the market, I chose to buy a Rab Vapour Rise Lite Alpine Jacket – because I wanted something very lightweight, windproof and breathable, offering light insulation, that also worked well as a layering piece.Additionally, it needed to give good protection against the weather, have a decent (preferably stowable) hood and a good sized chest pocket – oh, and also it needed to look good for work and be available in a nice bright colour for photos – so not too much to ask!

There simply isn’t anything else available on the market that weighs under 350g and covers all of these bases well – and fundamentally, I still think Vapour Rise beats all of the other fabric technologies that I’ve tried in terms of comfort, versatility and performance on the hill. Along the way I dabbled with a lightweight Marmot ether driclime jacket – which looked good, but wasn’t durable or breathable enough and the hood was too basic, so now I just use it for running.

Ok – so why did I choose the Lite Alpine jacket in particular? Well, firstly it’s fairly light and not too hot, so good for summer alpinism and a wide range of activities (I’m planning to get the slightly lighter Vapour Rise Flex Jacket too, for hotter weather and higher output activities, where it would be ideal). Secondly, it’s extremely well designed – ie it’s got a great climbing cut, an excellent wired hood (this really protects you well when the weather closes in), two good sized chest pockets and adjustable cuffs that deal with different glove combinations. Thirdly, vapour rise is highly windproof, but also wicks and breaths incredibly well (most softshell fabrics do one at the expense of the other…) – so it’s more comfortable over a wide range of conditions and continues to transport moisture well when you add layers on top.

The only thing I can think of that you have to be aware of with Vapour Rise is what you wear underneath. Most people just wear a t shirt, which is fine (Vapour Rise next-to-the-skin also works really well) – but if you wear something long sleeved underneath, then you’ve got to make sure it has a smooth outer face, or the two garments will cling together and become difficult to adjust. This is a small and avoidable point however and beyond this the jacket cannot really be faulted.

Dakine Winter 2015 20% OFF

The title says it all really. Get a Heli Pro or a Heli Pack at 20% off RRP. Or maybe that piece of ski / board luggage that you need for your next trip.

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Pro Review – Grivel Haute Route and Camp Race 290 Crampons

Pro Reviewer

BenBradford

The camp race 290 crampons really are ridiculously light. The Dynafit rear buckle attachment is a genius design, and makes getting the crampons on and off very, very fast, which is obviously the entire point of these crampons. I bought these crampons specifically for racing, for which they excel. Super quick and so light that you forget they are in your rucksack.

I have used them getting down the Aiguille du Midi arete a couple of times, but I certainly wouldn’t want to use them in a “climbing situation” or on hard ice. For that, I would definitely want a beefier crampon.

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Ideal time to carry the Race 290 Crampons

Grivel Haute Route Crampon

The Grivel Haute route crampons are a fantastic compromise between lightness and strength. The steel front section fits a ski boot extremely well and are tough enough to climb hard neve or short icy sections. For me, this added strength is worth sacrificing some weight for. Some full alloy crampons are obviously lighter, but feel less secure when on hard snow or ice. Grivels design of combing a steel front section with a alloy rear section is perfect for most ski tours, and the anti-balling plates work well in all but the most soggy of snow (when all anti-balling plates would fail anyway). Light enough to always be in your rucksack, but tough enough to keep you secure when it matters.

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You can find out more about Ben on his Mountain Guides page.

Getting into Ski Touring

Last season I did my first ski tours. As someone who has done a lot of resort skiing, both on and off the piste I was been keen to explore further afield than just the ski resort and head out into the quieter areas of the mountains. So if you fancy giving touring a go or perhaps you’ve got a bit bored of piste bashing then hopefully this will answer the obvious questions about how to go about getting into a different way to enjoy the mountains on skis.

Are you a good enough skier? You don’t have to be able to huck massive cliffs or make those massive sweeping high speed turns over a huge powder field to go to touring.  If you can get down the hill off piste in most conditions then you’ll be fine.  If you’ve never really strayed off piste before then I would recommend getting some practice in before you head away from the resort.  If you’re confident on black runs then it shouldn’t take too much time to adjust your technique a bit. Just be wary of where it is safe to head off piste and where it isn’t.  There are courses and/or lessons available for off piste skiing which are great to get you started or give your technique a bit more polish.
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Do you know enough?  If you haven’t been on a course or haven’t been out with someone who does know their stuff, then probably not yet.    The good news is, there’s not that much to learn and there are all sorts of courses designed to give you the knowledge needed to get out by yourself.  I have been on a number of different courses including an avalanche talk, an avalanche training course and an introduction to touring course.  That might sound like a lot of time and expense, but it’s not as much as it seems.  There are usually a few avalanche talks and training days running round the country as winter starts to kick in.   The BMC website is usually a good place to look and many courses tend to run in the evening and usually don’t cost much more than twenty pounds.

The introduction to touring course I did was a 3 day course in Chamonix with Mountain Tracks.  It was a great course and 3 days is the perfect amount of time for any competent skier to learn enough to get out touring by themselves, though if you feel you would benefit from doing a bit more then there are longer courses available.

The big danger when touring is avalanches and I would highly recommend doing a course which goes through rescue techniques and the chance to practice using a transceiver.  There are also plenty of books and guides for all things touring and having some of these for reference and to refresh your memory is always worth it, though this should be backed up with real world experience.

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Are you fit enough?  You don’t need to be mega fit to do shorter day tours, if you’re comfortable with a day hill walking in the Lakes, Dales or Wales without too many stops and with a mid size pack then there’s no reason you can’t have day out touring.  If you go on a course then they will usually suggest how fit you should be, or if you’re out with mates then just make sure you’re all of a similar level and you know what you’re all capable of.

Do you have the kit?  Read our Ski Touring Equipment Guide for a list of what you need to get out touring.  If you’re a keen skier then you’ll probably find that some of your current kit is perfectly adequate.  Although it is quite a big expense to start off with most of the kit you need you only really need to buy once, so once you’ve made that initial outlay it will last years if you look after it.

Is it worth it?  I guess this is really a question of how much are you going to enjoy it.  I was pretty confident I was going to love touring as I am already a keen skier, mountaineer, hillwalker and general outdoors enthusiast; there was nothing involved that I wasn’t going to like.   Touring can appeal to several different mindsets and there’s something under the pretty large bracket of ‘touring’ for most who are prepared to venture outside of the resort. Touring can really encompass anything, from sneaking in a run off the back of the resort and skinning back up, to a full multi day tour across the Alps.  So, if you love fresh powder and the quieter parts of the mountain, but can’t imagine the horror of dragging your skis to a 4000m summit or slogging it out for a week across the Alps from Chamonix to Zermatt via the Haute Route, that’s fine, they’ll still be some tours you’ll enjoy.   A touring lift pass is possible at most resorts, this will give you a lift to the top and from there you can head out of the resort and away from the crowds in search of some fresh snow (plus it’s cheaper than a standard day ticket).  Of course if you have dreams of spending day after day in the mountains then a short day tour is just a starting point.

That’s about all there is to it.  If you have further doubts or questions then there’s plenty of material on the internet on forums and blogs, calling a guiding company to discuss what a course involves can also be really useful.  Of course if you have any queries about kit then you can always give us at Facewest a call.

Many thanks to Facewest & Olly Allen at Mountain Tracks for a great few days in Chamonix on my first touring experience.

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Advent Fridays

This year we are going to have 3 ‘Advent Friday’ offers rather than one everyday of advent. This will be emailed to all those signed up for the Facewest Newsletter. If you’re interested then make sure you are on the list. Sign up at the bottom of any page on Facewest

Winter is here!

FINALLY the A9 gets closed due to snow and everyone in the UK has had to scrape ice off their cars on at least one morning.

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As the clearing up from the Kendal Mountain Festival and Black Friday continues, winter 15 finally seems to have arrived. For the second year running we have had a very mild October and November. There was rain but it wasn’t raining the whole time, it’s actually been quite alright. There is plenty of muttering about the season’s being 2 months later than they used to be and the unpredictability of good skiing at Christmas but we do tend to make these judgments based on very short time scales and the unreliable memory of how it used to be. Yes I have skied thigh deep powder on boxing day but that was only once, and I also wrecked my ankle in December on a drainage ditch that wasn’t completely filled in.
Now that winter is here lets get out there and enjoy it. I have already seen good pictures of snowy runs in the lakes, the first little tours of those lucky enough to live in the Alps and Skimo Scotland getting very excited about printing your name on your race number for better personalised cheering on. Walk, run, climb, ski or board it just doesn’t matter.

So what’s new for Winter 15?

Hardware

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Grivel, DMM, Black Diamond and Petzl all have new axes or updated versions for this winter. BD have an updated Viper, Petzl have redesigned their Summit range of general purpose axes and Grivel have the Helix, designed specifically for scottish winter. If you want some more detail pleas read Luke’s blog post New Ice Axes.

kingpin

Ski touring bindings have also had plenty of development for this winter. The Marker Kingpin is out. In my opinion one of the best ski touring developments for many years. It marries a pin toe piece with a standard step in alpine heel. Not that an original idea as Dynafit tried something similar but Marker really seem to have put the binding together well and not tried to be too complicated. As with all alpine kit a couple of seasons use will be the best test but it looks to be my next binding for the ‘one set does everything’ set up. The Vipec from Diamir has also had some tweaks to the toe meaning it should be compatible with just about all boots by using one of the two toe inserts. Previously it struggled with boots with very low profile toes like skimo race boots but most of these are now fine I am told. Please read ‘How to choose your Bindings
Another ski tour specific product is the Julbo Aerospace goggle. A google designed for ski touring with an innovative venting system. The whole of the lens and part of the frame can be pulled forward to make one massive all sides vent. Used to either quickly dump heat and moisture from the inside or actually worn like that for climbs and lift rides. Iit certainly seems like a good idea as long as it can be done with gloves on. Julbo have 20 pairs out on test with the Britsh Mountain Guides and we are looking forward to their reviews of it.

Clothing.

This seasons biggest development comes to synthetic insulation, the on going search for synthetic down. A fibre that lofts, compresses and insulates like a down cluster but one that isn’t degraded by damp and is easier to care for. Both Rab and Montane have baffled jackets for this season using synthetic clusters, the Rab Nebula Jacket, and the Montane Hi-Q Luxe Jacket. With many narrow baffle down jackets being worn everyday about town and often in the rain, this technology if it passes the field tests would be a  great delevlopment. The baffling that these jackets require opposed to sheet synthetic insulation which needs minimal stitching actually improves the look of the jacket, which is no bad thing, and could be as responsible as their performance for their initial popularity. Look out for my own mini review coming soon.

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Baselayer is another area to receive some love for this season. We have the rebirth of Dryflo from Rab. Dryflo was an ever popular 100% synthetic baselayer from Lowe Alpine that made the brand transition over to Rab as Equip own both companies. Dryflo has been loved for years and complements Rab’s other very popular baselayer fabric MeCo (Merino wool / Cocona synthetic blend). Patagonia have also revamped their Capilene range with new fibres and packaging. Capilene could actually be the only baselayer to be older or more loved than Dryflo!

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If you have a favourite piece of kit that you would like to tell us about or something that you just can’t believe we don’t stock then drop me a mail. I love to get customer feedback.