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Climbing Ropes: How do you choose?

In the world of climbing, the rope is the most important piece of gear. It is a literal lifeline connecting you to your climbing partner, and the rock face you are scaling. It is a sacred piece of kit, yet when it comes time to choose a new rope, there is a tremendous amount of choice out there. Half Ropes, single ropes, fall factors, static elongation, dry treatments. What do these all mean and how do you choose?

There are three types of climbing ropes out there: Single Ropes, Half Ropes, and Twin Ropes. All of these are dynamic ropes, meaning they are designed to stretch when loaded, resulting in a bungee like ‘soft catch’ which is far safer than falling on a static rope.

“A single rope designation means the rope is safe to use on its own as the sole source of protection on a climb.”

The single rope is the most commonly used rope, makes up most of the ropes seen on shop walls, and can be applied to most climbing scenarios. These ropes are generally 9.5mm-11mm in diameter, but can be found as small as 8.6mm. A single rope designation means the rope is safe to use on its own as the sole source of protection on a climb. Single ropes 10mm and greater in diameter are great for frequent top-roping or gym scenarios that are generally harder on the ropes. The thicker diameter sheath offers a bit more protection, at the expense of weight. Ropes below 10mm diameter are the flavour of choice for most lead and multi pitch climbers who wish to have a lighter rope which will feed better through a belay device, and offer less resistance when clipping. A skinnier rope is a little less durable, but it means a lighter pack for the approach!

“When climbing with half ropes, the ropes are clipped into alternating pieces, greatly reducing rope drag.”

Half Ropes are thinner (7.5-8.5mm), lighter ropes that are used in tandem, common on alpine and wandering trad routes. When climbing with half ropes, the ropes are clipped into alternating pieces, greatly reducing rope drag. They are less common as their complexity demands much more skill from the climber to use them effectively, and rope management becomes more of a concern as you are essentially doubling the amount of rope you are dealing with at the belay. However, the benefits are big in some scenarios. The ropes can be knotted together for descent, essentially doubling the length of each rappel. You also have a backup rope at all times, so if a rope is damaged by rock fall or lead fall, you still have a rope. These are more of a concern in the alpine and on big multi pitch routes, but can be of note at the crag as well.

“Twin Ropes, generally thinner and lighter than most half ropes, must both be clipped into each piece, just like a single rope.”

Twin Ropes are generally thinner and lighter than most half ropes, but instead of being clipped into alternating pieces of protection, they must both be clipped into each piece, just like a single rope. This eliminates the advantage of reduced rope drag that you achieve from single ropes, but retains the benefits of longer rappels and a redundant rope in the event of damage. Twin ropes are most commonly used in ice climbing scenarios.

Among these three types of ropes, you will see a lot of diversity in specs, styles, rating, dry treatments, weave and more. Some ropes have a weave pattern that changes at the center mark (see example). This makes it very easy to discover the mid point of the rope, which is very useful when encountering a multi-pitch rappel or running out long pitches. These bi-pattern ropes tend to come at a slightly higher price, but can be worth it for the time savings and the simplicity they offer. Dry treatments (see example) are applied to some ropes to ensure the nylon fibers do not absorb water. This is done to ensure they perform normally in wetter conditions. A wet rope will see up to a 70% reduction in dynamic performance, meaning it may not stretch as much in the event of a fall. This becomes a significant safety concern. If planning to climb alpine, ice, or any conditions where a wet rope may be a concern, it is important to have a dry treated rope.

A note on fall ratings. All of these ropes come with a specification on the number of UIAA-falls before breakage. These tests are designed to simulate the most extreme fall a climber can take, being repeated at 5 minute intervals. The UIAA-falls for the rope is determined by the lowest number of falls achieved before breakage in these tests. This level of fall is rare, and your rope can probably handle more average lead falls than the UIAA standard. Having said that, it is extremely important that climbers frequently inspect their ropes for damage and retire when necessary.

“Rock fall, climber falls, care and storage, environment, rope drag, sharp edges, and that buddy of yours who always seems to step on your rope can all have an impact on the longevity of your rope.”

So when do you retire a climbing rope? This is a difficult question for many, it is hard to let go of a piece of gear, but the reality is that it may be time to retire sooner than you may think, depending on how much you climb. A rope used a couple times a year can last 5-7 years.  Constant weekend warrior use will generally get you 3 years, and frequent 2-3 days a week use will demand a new rope every 1-2 years. Of course, all of this depends on the many situations a rope encounters during its life. Rock fall, climber falls, care and storage, environment, rope drag, sharp edges, and that buddy of yours who always seems to step on your rope can all have an impact on the longevity of your rope. Sometimes they will last longer, sometimes a little less. The big take-away is that the rope is your lifeline, treat it as such and inspect it frequently, and replace when necessary.

As always, the right rope comes down to finding the correct tool for the job. There are as many types of climbing as there are climbers, and every climber has a different idea on what is the perfect rope. Think about what type of climbing you are hoping to achieve over the lifetime of the rope, and know that you will likely be making this decision again in a couple years or less. Many climbers have an array of ropes in the gear closet for a vast variety of applications. Perhaps you have an epic alpine objective that requires a fast and light approach, or perhaps you just want to do some after work cragging with your pals on a few summer evenings. The two scenarios have different needs, but the perfect rope is out there for both of them.

Shop here for climbing ropes on VPO.ca.

Sleeping bags feature 2

Sleeping Bags: ratings, insulation and design

There is nothing more satisfying than a good night sleep. Whether out on a quick overnighter, five days into a long backpacking trip, or bunking into a hostel or alpine hut, sleep will play a huge role in how enjoyable the rest of your trip is. There are many factors at play, including sleeping bag, mat, food, hydration and clothing. The sleeping bag is what we will focus on in this post.

Sleeping bags come in all shapes, sizes, fill types, and prices. They are also labeled with these ambiguous and sometimes confusing ratings.. How do we choose the perfect bag? Like most gear, it comes down to your own personal needs for the unique trips you plan to do.

“Hoods, snorkels, zipper baffles, chest baffles, security pockets, stretch draw cords, reversible zippers, stretch baffles, channel blocks,uber light high-tenacity textiles and so on… Do any make it onto your list?”

Ratings
For a long time, sleeping bag ratings were decided by the manufacturer, with no method of standardized, third party testing to verify these claims. This led to “warm -7” bags and “cold -7 bags”, and a lot of skepticism and ambiguity. In recent years, the industry has moved to EN rating. Essentially this is a European testing standard that brings the industry a standardized method (involving a high tech mannequin equipped with temperature sensors in a lab) for testing bags. This is a little more complex than the old, single number system, but makes a lot of sense when you wrap your head around it.

EN standards give the user three numbers: the first is the comfort limit for the average woman, the second for the average man, and the third number is the bottom limit of survivability for the average male. What I like about the EN standard is the fact that the bags are tested by a third party, give precise information, and hold manufacturers accountable. Rating is not everything however- keep in mind these are based on a human wearing one layer of long underwear as well as a hat.  What  you wear to bed goes a long way to determining your warmth and comfort.

Insulation
Sleeping bags are made with either down or synthetic insulation- both options present their own unique pros and cons with the better choice being dependent on the journey for which it is required. I am of the opinion that absolutely nothing beats the buttery soft comfort level of down. It is amazing that we can put humans on the moon but we have yet to invent an insulation fiber that can match the durability, loftiness, and warmth-to-weight ratio of down.

Down:
Generally, down bags will always be lighter and more compressible than its synthetically insulated equal. So given all this, why would someone choose synthetics? It all comes down to moisture. The one major “downer of down” is what happens when it gets wet. Damp down loses its loftiness, and with that the ability to insulate; if you get a down bag wet, you are going to have a cold night sleep. In recent years we have seen the appearance of treated down in the sleeping bag world. In treated bags, durable water repellency is added to the down filaments, with the goal of mitigating the moisture concerns of down bags. This has been met with great success, and most down manufacturers are using this technique, but it doesn’t replace the need to avoid moisture when using a down bag.

A note on sourcing down: As we discussed in our previous blog post about layering, birds are never killed specifically for their down and none of the suppliers we work with use live-plucked down or force feeding. Down is a by-product of the food industry – generally the down is plucked from birds farmed for their meat. Many of our suppliers offer supply chain transparency- birds are farmed humanely, free from animal cruelty.

Synthetic:
Synthetic insulation- bulkier and heavier than down, is a fantastic choice for wet, humid climates. I’ve been in stormy conditions where even the best prepared and careful camper risks getting their down bag wet, these are situations where synthetics offer peace of mind despite their modest weight and space penalty. Mountain Hardwear uses a minimalist bag design with a unique zipper, along with their compact Thermal-Q insulation, to make a synthetic bag that packs nearly as small as down for the same weight.

Features
Hoods, snorkels, zipper baffles, chest baffles, security pockets, stretch draw cords, reversible zippers that can open from both ends or zip to another, stretch baffles, channel blocks, overstuffed foot boxes, waterproof shells, hydrophobic liners, hourglass versus mummy shapes, zipper opening gills for wide, versatile temperature ratings, uber light high-tenacity textiles that still remain down-proof and durable, warm or comfortable colours for extended stays in a tent, compression stuff bags that reduce size to a small loaf of bread – these are the tools in the quiver of an accomplished sleeping bag designer. Do any make it onto your list?

Bag shape
Most bags found on the market today are what have come to be known as mummy bags. These bags are tapered to be narrower at the feet, thus reducing the amount of dead space within the bag, resulting in a lighter and more thermally efficient piece of gear. Rectangular bags are making a comeback though, especially for hut, cabin, hostel and car camping.  They are roomier, zip together, open to act as a quilt or blanket, and still weigh in pretty lightly… What’s not to like! Nemo Equipment for example has a good line of rectangular bags.

Sleeping bags Nemo

Ultimately choosing  the right bag  will come down to using the right tool for the job. Think about what conditions you will encounter: what month, what season, how high, how wet, how long?  Nothing is more critical to the enjoyment of your trip than getting a restful night of sleep.

Reminder: hydration and being well fed have a large role in regulating body temperatures. So make sure to match that sleeping bag up to a hearty meal plan and lots of water and ensure you include an appropriate sleeping mat!

Spending a lot of time in the snow and cold temps and need a warm lightweight bag – a down bag with a waterproof shell is the best choice. Hiking the West Coast Trail , or paddling maybe in the rain? It is safest to go with a synthetically insulated choice.  Sleeping in hostels in SE Asia or Southern Europe? Go for comfort and ease of use, with a washable liner. The big takeaway here: the perfect bag is different for every user and every trip. A sleeping bag is a personal decision, and one person’s favorite may not be the best for everyone else. But one thing that remains constant is that absolutely nothing beats a good night sleep!

 

Valhalla Pure Outfitters layering

Layering: Stay warm and make winter about fun, not survival!

The greatest enemy to keeping warm in frigid temperatures is us – we sweat when we exert.
Staying warm is half moisture management, and half exterior barrier. But even the barrier has to exhaust moisture while still trapping heat inside. That’s tricky. For someone playing chess outside in the arctic, it’s pretty straightforward. For someone walking, hiking, running, working, skiing, sledding, hunting – it’s more complicated than putting on a big down parka.

“Materials that don’t absorb moisture are key. That excludes cotton! Sorry guys..”

Base layer is the critical first step – your skin should not stay moist when you slow or stop. This layer is all about moisture management.  Merino, polypro and plated synthetics all work really well. This is the cheapest layer, so buy good stuff. Don’t use thick and fuzzy base layers, since they hold moisture. See our Women’s and Men’s baselayers.

Your next layer is insulation – it’s a bit different. You should still be concerned about moisture but also heat retention. There are 3 ways to layer insulation and you can add as much as you need.

  1. DOWN: hands ‘down’ the favourite – the most value per ounce. Nothing else comes close. Treated Down postpones wetting out, but doesn’t eliminate it. This is Down’s big drawback – moisture. With Down, you’ve got to keep it dry. Down packs down to über-tiny volume in your pack. To avoid Down leakage, ensure the outer fabric has a very high thread count and the Down has a rated fill-power of minimum 650 (cubic inches per ounce) to eliminate quill poke-thru.
    [No birds are killed for their Down, and none of the Down we sell involves live plucking or force fed. Down is repurposed waste from the food industry. Down requires a lot of water to wash repeatedly for maximum loft and generally recycled water is used for this. Quality Down is ethically produced, compostable, recyclable, non-allergenic repurposed waste – and will last a lifetime if cared for properly. See more at: http://www.alliedfeather.com]
  1. PRIMALOFT: the best man-made insulation by far. Intensely hydrophobic, almost impossible to get wet, super light, and long lasting – and even if you manage to get it wet, Primaloft still insulates close to original capacity. Better than Down for wet weather or high aerobic situations. Packs pretty small. (Applies to both blown Primaloft and batted Primaloft). Unbranded polyester synthetics typically don’t last long, and go flat due to poor memory after compression.
  1. FLEECE: merino or polyester, Fleece insulates wet or dry, it won’t let you down.  A modern-day ultra-light sweater that doesn’t absorb moisture. If the yarn is high-tenacity, fleece will last for years without matting up. Avoid cheap versions that are spun instead of filament yarns, since spun fleece traps moisture.

If it’s really cold, mix it up. Try a light weight fleece over your base layer, with a Down vest or sweater on top.

Finally the exterior barrier. If the layers underneath do their job well, the barrier can both exhaust moisture and keep the weather out. Gore-Tex is the premiere barrier solution, but there are several other good options out there. Ask for 20k rating or better to avoid either sweating or leaking – the two usual fails of poor barriers. This rating measures what volume of water over a 24 hour period the fabric can withstand without the wearer getting wet. See our women’s and men’s hard shells.

“avoid buying all layers with hoods and being able to open your layers helps a lot”

Layering Valhalla Pure Outfitters

Besides avoiding buying all layers with hoods, being able to open your layers helps a lot when you are spooling up or going inside into the heat. Pit zips, side-zip pants, extra zipper sliders, flow-thru pockets when open, zip-off sleeves – all these features cost money to install but they improve the extreme temperature rating, the aerobic range and comfort of your gear while active outdoors. (Unless you’re playing chess in the arctic, in which case just buy a big Down parka and a toque!)

Enjoy our spectacular winters!

Mummut Barryvox Element

Avalanche Transceivers: Three brands highlighted

It is that time of year again, when those who have long suffered through the endless days of terrible warmth and sunshine have begun to rejoice and celebrate the return of the winter snows, and the blissful joys of backcountry skiing. The start of the season is a good time of year to talk about the all important avalanche transceivers, and the skills and tools necessary to keep us safe in these special mountain realms.

There is a tremendous amount of choice on the market when it comes to transceivers. Each one of these devices come from a reputable companies who have been perfecting this art for decades, all do the job, with some minor differences that may cater to some users more than others. Add to this a pretty significant gap in the retail prices and it can get difficult to make a decision. At VPO, we chose to carry devices from Pieps (Black Diamond), Mammut, and Backcountry Access. There are others on the market, but this post will focus on these three brands.

There are many things to consider when choosing a transceiver; these include range, number of antennae, and the ability to handle multiple burials, and digital vs analog technology. It is important to that all avalanche transceivers operate on the same frequency. This means that any transceiver on the market will be able to search for – or be found by – any other device, be it analog or digital.

Most modern devices are digital. Digital transceivers have a smaller range than analog units, but they are far easier to use and have been proved to cut search times despite the decreased range. In a situation where life literally hinges on each passing second, search times matter. Some digital transceivers, like the Mammut Pulse Barryvox, actually have an option to be used in analog mode, thus increasing range for those more experienced users.

“Digital transceivers have a smaller range than analog units, but they are far easier to use and have been proved to cut search times despite the decreased range.”

Nearly all devices on the market today contain three antennas, sending out a multi-directional signal. Generally the strongest will be on the longitudinal x axis. The best devices will have a maximum 3-way range of around 50m. This is always limited by terrain and the varying situations you may find yourself in, so it is best to find a device with the highest range possible. The devices from Pieps, Mammut, and Backcountry Access all have comparable, industry leading antennas and ranges. (The one exception here is the very cool, tiny and lightweight Pieps micro, which has  a slightly smaller 40m range).

In the event of a multiple burial scenario, it is incredibly helpful to have a device with marking capabilities. This lets you mark a located burial, and move on to finding the next one, reducing confusion in those critical moments.  The Mammut Pulse and Element beacons, the Pieps DSP Sport and Pro, as well as the Tracker3 all have this ability. Notable is the fact that the ever-popular and budget friendly Tracker2 from backcountry access lacks this feature. Multiple burials are rare, and the device can still manage this with practice, but any additional tools help, and it is good to know what options are out there when making a purchasing decision.

All of these devices are so close in terms of specs ultimately it comes down to the small details and extra features. The Pulse Barryvox from Mammut is the only transceiver on the market that can detect vital signs from the victim. This means that if both the victim and the searcher have the Pulse, the searcher can detect if the victim is still breathing, and if not how long ago the breathing stopped. This can be useful in multiple burial situations, and help direct search priorities. It is important to note that this is only a useful feature if all or most members of the group have the Pulse transceiver. As mentioned earlier, the Pulse is also one of the few digital devices that can also be used in analog, providing up to 80m of range to those experienced with analog search techniques. This is a feature for the advanced and well-practiced user, but one that can prove vital when the time comes. The Pieps DSP Pro comes with a built in digital Inclinometer. Slope angle is a key consideration in snow study and travel decisions, so it is a handy, though perhaps redundant addition to the toolbox. Along with the inclinometer, the DSP Pro has a frequency measurement tool, allowing it to measure the frequency of another device. These are all additional features that add to the basic functions of your transceivers, not super critical to have, but potentially enough to warrant the extra dollars for the right person.

Ski_touring_Reco_VPO

As has already been said, there is a tremendous amount of choice in a transceiver. Ultimately we strongly encourage doing a bit of research and determining what kind of backcountry travel and activities you foresee yourself engaging in, and choosing the product that best suits you. There are countless articles on line, friends to borrow a device from, and of course we always welcome you into our retail or online stores to talk to us about them in person. I know I am always happy to have an excuse to talk about skiing! Nothing really beats getting your hands on a device and seeing first hand what works best for you.

Even more importantly, remember that technology does not replace knowledge. Take an avalanche safety course, and practice frequently. Always seek guidance from the pros and use the forecasts available from the Avalanche Canada website (avalanche.ca) when making decisions about if and where you wish to ski. Remember that safe decision means we get so ski again another day. Now all we need is a long winter and deep powder!

Find the Avalanche Transceivers of Mammut, Black Diamond and Backcountry Access on VPO Online.

Montane Featherlite Down Jacket

Montane Featherlite Down Jacket reviewed

Steve Bereska, working at Valhalla Pure Vernon, and Petra Hekkenberg from Valhalla Pure New Denver have been testing the Montane Featherlite Down Jacket. This is their review!

Montane Featherlite Down Jacket Men's and Women's

Montane Featherlite Down Jacket – Men’s                          Montane Featherlite Down Jacket -Women’s

Steve Bereska tested: Men’s, size Large, colour Antarctic Blue

I got a men’s large and found the fit to be bang on with Montane’s size chart. I have a 42″ chest, 34″ waist, 34″ sleeve length and 16.5″ neck. Lots of length in the arms, without being overkill. It fits great over a base layer and just as fine over a soft shell or heavy weight fleece. It slides easily under my hard-shells.

The hood fits nicely over a ball cap and has a great little foam piece at the brim to keep the sun out of your eyes if you forget your cap at home. It zips up nice and high and covers the bottom half of the face, which comes in handy in these colder months. 3 point adjustments for the hood, which allows it to get nice and snug to block out the cold winds, and keep the heat in. Also, unlike any other down hoody I have seen, it has a handy little hook on the back cinch cord which allows you to roll up the hood and keep it from flapping around when it is not needed. A very nice feature that I use often on this jacket, it hooks onto the stretch loop at the inside collar to keep the hood rolled up and out of the way. Best down hood I have used on a jacket.

Other features:

  • Two zippered hand warmer pockets and a napoleon chest pocket behind the down and one interior drop pocket which had plenty of room for the iPhone.
  • Nice and easy to grab zipper pulls on all the zippers and a insulated flap behind the main zipper to keep out chill.
  • Two waist cinches help keep drafts out, with a snap at the bottom of the main zip as well
  • Elastic wrists that fit snug even on my skinny wrists, a nice bonus.  No issues fitting over lightweight gloves

The jacket has 140 g of RDS, fluorocarbon-free water resistant duck down with 750+ fill power, so it provides loads of warmth, while still maintaining easy packability and being environmentally responsible. My men’s large weighs in at under 1lb, and packs nicely into the provided stuff sack to a little bigger than a 1L nalgene bottle. Easily fit in one side of my dog’s pack, and can get even smaller in a compression sack. Light enough to always have with you, and the Pertex Quantum outer fabric is tough enough to make this a daily wear jacket as well. It does not look too techie and fits in nicely in town or up the mountain. Not overly glossy like some of my older down sweaters. I am a big fan of Pertex, and found the Quantum to block out the chilly winds at the top of Silver Star Mountain and on the cool morning/evening walks with the dog near Lake Okanagan. No concerns taking this through some single track with branches everywhere and it holds up to the dog jumping up to say good morning.

The inner liner is nice and soft against bare arms, and slides nicely over any base or mid layer I tried underneath. It manages moisture very well, I gave this jacket a good test up and down mountains, sweating more than I care to admit. In the shade there was snow and a thin layer of ice on the ponds and ditches and I was toasty warm and not uncomfortably hot in the Featherlite. No clammy, damp feeling after my morning hikes up the mountains earlier this fall. Just to note, I do run hot and sweaty when I am moving, but I get cold VERY fast when not active. I found the featherlite to perform great both on the uphill and downhill, venting as needed with the main zip, and a perfect piece for stopping to snack or just take in the beautiful views of the Vernon area. Granted, while this jacket performs even better in the Winter, it was not overkill in early Autumn temps. I have this jacket with me now during the colder months for snowshoeing and winter camping.

This late September I was also able to get out camping for a night at Spanish Lake near Falkland, just a little ways outside of Vernon. Temps in the evening were around +5 C, with high humidity and the jacket performed great around camp and as a booster for my summer weight sleeping bag.

I can not comment on the long term durability of the jacket yet, but knowing Pertex like I do, no concerns at all from me on this jacket. I am sure it will be a part of my kit for many many moons.  I have abused older versions of Pertex for years now on other pieces and they still look fantastic after a good cleaning.

Now, no piece of gear is perfect, so if I had to nitpick, I would prefer the inner pocket to be fastened without the velcro. I am a fan of merino wool , and it can snag on velcro. Having said that, no issues as of yet, with wool or synthetics, so I have been pleasantly surprised on that, and the way the flap works, I don’t really see it being a problem.  I would like to see it with a double separating zipper, but again, just me finding something to nitpick about.

To summarize, the Montane Featherlite down hoody is a well made, functional and good looking piece.  Not arctic parka warm, great for our winter months here in Vernon and not too warm for Autumn nights and cool mornings.  And you do not look like the Michelin man while wearing it. I do like the light blue colour option I have,  it is sharp and easy on the eyes.  Great fit, handy features and comes in at an affordable price, which is always a bonus.

Montane Featherlite Down Jacket Mens

Find the Montane Featherlite Down Jacket in more colours and other styles on VPO Online.

Petra Hekkenberg tested: Women’s, size 8, colour Montbretia Orange

The fit of this Featherlight Down Jacket is true to size. I am pretty tall with my 6′ and the length of the back and sleeves is just enough for me, it will be perfect for the average person. The hood fits nice and snug around your head and the collar comes up high too, so it keeps the wind out really well. Nothing is worse then cold air sneaking in at your neck, so this is a big plus for me. Also nice: it has a small hook with which the hood can be rolled down and stowed away when you don’t need it. I experienced that this comes in quite handy. Not only when it is windy, but also when it is snowing! An unused hood tempts to collect quite a bit of snow that turns into a small pool of water when you walk inside, which you might only realise when you bent down to undo your boots. You can imagine the result…!

The name already tells you; the jacket really is feather light plus it packs small in the provided stuff sack. This makes the jacket ideal to bring along as an extra layer on hikes, camp trips in the backcountry, ski touring or downhill skiing. Which all of it I have done with the jacket by now.

Mid-September I took the jacket with me on a two day hike in Monkman Provincial Park, North-East of Prince George. We hiked 54 kilometres in two days, a park that offers a variety of rolling hills, snowy mountain peaks, waterfalls and a hiking trail of no less than 63 km one way! We camped at Monkman Lake, 3600 ft. altitude. We had pouring rain most of the day. I wore a shell on top of the Montane jacket, but everything we had on us was moist or wet by the time we had the fire going. I was afraid the down jacket would get moist too and loose it’s warming function, but nothing like that happened. It kept me perfectly warm and did not absorb the moist. The PERTEX® Quantum Rip-stop outer with a DWR has proven itself. It also turned out to be serving great as a foot warmer in my sleeping bag. I am the typical woman that gets feet like ice at night…

The last two weeks here have been around -10 celsius during daytime. I have been wearing it around town on windy days without a shell on top and it kept me perfectly warm. When ski-touring. I bring it up in my backpack and during a longer break or when we start to go downhill I will wear it. It fits smoothly under my Gore-tex shell. I have not overheated in it yet but, like always, this also has to do with wise decision-making. There is no need to wear it when you skin up a sunny mountain, but very much appreciated once you are on top!

This fall I also used the jacket in New Denver area at my temporary home in an old unheated school bus partway up a mountain. It kept me warm on the cool mornings and evenings and I was comfortable wearing it during my daily activities because it is formfitting. Did you know New Denver is the town where Valhalla Pure Outfitters first started? And it makes sense that this tiny town is where it all began; nothing is more inspiring then the untouched Slocan Lake that brings you into the wild Valhalla’s, the millions of wild flowers and stunning views you find on Idaho Peak, the beautiful people and the endless amount of hiking and biking trails in the direct surrounding!

Montane Featherlite Down Jacket Womens

Find the Montane Featherlite Down Jacket in more colours and other styles on VPO Online.

SPOTvsInReach_photographer

SPOT versus inReach

With the ubiquity of satellite messenger devices, they have become an essential piece of kit for any outdoor adventurer. Their prevalence, affordability, and ease of access remove most excuses to not carry one, and while you may never use the SOS function, they can – and indeed have – saved lives

The two main players on this market are the Spot Gen3 Messenger and the Delorme inReach devices. One of the most common questions we get in the shops is from those customers wondering what the difference is between the two. These both share the same basic functions, but one has many added capabilities to go along with its slightly higher price point. There is a lot to this conversation, and it differs greatly for each individual, but here is the quick nitty-gritty.

If you are solely looking for a device that will enable you to send out SOS and “I’m ok” signals and nothing more, you are looking for a safety device. Both Spot and inReach will do the trick, the Spot will do so at a lesser up-front and a lower recurring hit on your credit card bill. If you are looking for a device that can send out SOS signals, as well as send and receive text messages (2-way communication), then you are looking for a communication device. In this case the inReach is your better choice.

“The big takeaway here is that there really is no reason to go into the backcountry without one of these”

Having had the opportunity to use both devices in many different types of trips and scenarios, I have come to love both, but for varied reasons. The Spot is more affordable. At $170 the device is less than half the price of the inReach, its service plans are cheaper at $149.95/year. It is also half the bulk and weight – a real bonus for the weight conscious climbers or ultralight backpackers out there. The Spot has the ability to send one way messages, but these messages must be programmed through the Spot website. There is no way to change these mid-trip without a smartphone and LTE service, something you will not find in most backcountry locations. This is not necessarily a deal-breaker; it just means you need to tailor it to your needs. For example, when I took off on long, rough, logging roads with my spot device, I would make sure my custom help message (not SOS), was programmed to say “Truck broken down, please come find me at this location”. This is an emergency, but not an appropriate scenario for the SOS button. My check in message would usually say “I’m safe! Here I am”, or something to that effect. So when I drift beyond my designated return time I can send messages saying I am OK to folks who may be concerned, and thereby quell their desire to call for help. In my experience the Spot device proved reliable, lightweight, and convenient… it also provides a healthy peace of mind knowing it is inside my backpack.

The one limiting factor of the Spot is the lack of two-way communication and the inability to customize your messages in the field. This is where the inReach shines. In the above example of the truck breaking down in the middle of nowhere, with the Spot I can only communicate my location and the fact that the truck is broken. With the inReach device, I can send a custom text message to a friend asking them to come help me with the toolbox from my garage, some booster cables, and an alternator for a 2004 Dakota. Two way communication is extremely handy in situations such as this. It can also make an SOS response easier and more effective by providing the opportunity to communicate specific details of the emergency to the responders. With the Spot, Search and Rescue will only get the news that there is an unspecified emergency at this location. With inReach, you could communicate details about the emergency that could help rescuers prepare before they even reach you. Beyond the beauty of two way communications, the inReach also features a more powerful antenna, getting messages out faster in deep canyons and dense forest. The difference in the antennas and messaging times has been noticeable for me deep in the coastal rainforests of Vancouver Island.

The inReach is the more costlier device of the two. The initial cost is $359, plus service plans starting at $19.95 per month after an initial $30 activation fee. This does inspire a few people to reconsider taking the Spot instead, but I feel it is important to think about what the device is going to be used for. Ultimately, both devices can – and have – saved lives. This function remains the same between the two. If you wish to be able to communicate two ways, or if you like the idea of the more powerful antenna, then the inReach is for you. If you are simply looking for a lightweight, safety only device for a cost friendlier to the pocket-book, then the Spot Gen3 is a proven device that will serve you well.

The big takeaway here is that there really is no reason to go into the backcountry without one of these.  Everyone who has seen the film 127 Hours (we highly recommend this movie/book!) can imagine it may have had a far better ending if the protagonist had a Satellite communicator along with the camcorder and the dull knife.

Have a look at the available Satellite Communicators on VPO.ca.

Blog Post Headlamps

Headlamps & Batteries: What does Regulated lighting mean?

There is a massive amount of choice in headlamps these days. A lot of companies like to throw numbers around to get the sale. The race to advertise a higher “lumen” count has led people to focus on this, but there is a whole lot more to be concerned with when purchasing a lamp. One of the biggest things to look at is most often ignored. Is the lamp regulated or traditional lighting?

Most headlamps traditionally run out the battery on a curve. So while your 200 lumen lamp will output the full 200 lumens when initially powered up with fresh batteries, it will quickly decrease to 70-80% of this power level within the first hour or two, and steadily decline in power beyond that. The reason for this is to prolong battery life, and make sure you do not have to use 10 liters of your backpacking pack for those extra AAA’s. This is how you see lamps with quoted battery life well in excess of 50+ hours.

With a regulated lighting system, the lamp will output its maximum power for a defined duration. This is beneficial in performance/aerobic activities, short duration night missions where full power is essential. So when heading out for that two hour, mid-winter, after-work trail run in the dark, you can know that you are getting your full 200 lumens and 100m beam for the entire duration of the run. So what is the downside? When regulated lamps reach the end of their battery life, power drops dramatically to a very minimal reserve level (Near or below 10%), that gives you about 30 minutes of dim light before the lamp goes dark.

“There is more to the quest for en’light’enment than it seems!”

These are two big differences that cater to two different types of user. The backpacker heading out for a weeklong trip will likely value battery life over performance, so as to not carry all those extra heavy (and wasteful) batteries up and down the West Coast Trail ladders. The trail runner or night hiker will likely value the short duration / maximum power scheme of a regulated lamp to ensure they are getting maximum bang for the buck for the short time they are out on the trail.

Petzl takes this one step further with their reactive lighting system, found on the Reactik, Reactik+, and Nao headlamps. These lamps offer a regulated lighting system, as well as what they call ‘reactive lighting’. The lamps contain a sensor that measures both ambient light and reflectivity and automatically adjust the headlamps power accordingly. This means that when looking straight out into the dark, the lamp will shine its full power spot beam at maximum power, but when you glance down at a map, it will instantly dim to low-power proximity lighting without the push of a button, or blinding the wearer. In addition, these lamps can be programmed into different profiles with Petzl OS software (free on the Petzl website). For instance, setting one can be the full power, 2.5 hour setting, while the second setting can be your 20 hour, slightly lower power setting for when you need it to last for the duration of a long weekend camping trip.

Ultimately there is no shortage of choice out there, and the marketing can be really confusing. The “lumen-race” is on, and brands like to highlight the biggest numbers on their marketing and the product packaging. But there is often more to the story than just the maximum output of the lamp. In some situations, the more powerful lamp may not be the best option if it only last for an hour. In other cases, you only need that maximum power for brief moments, and prioritize battery life. As with most things: the decision will ultimately come down to the old “what are you using it for” question. Are you going out for a short duration run on super technical terrain with difficult route finding? You probably want a regulated light with high power. That way you know it will be at x-lumens for a determined time-frame. Are you doing the north coast trail in the winter and looking for a battery to last a week? Then a traditional lamp that prioritizes battery life may be more what you are looking for. In any case, there is more to the quest for en’light’enment than it seems!

Find here all Headlamps on VPO Online.

Montane Alpine Pro Jacket reviewed

Josh Strauss, working at Valhalla Pure Abbotsford, has been testing the Montane Alpine Pro Jacket. He went to Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park for 4 nights, 5 days. This is his review!

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Left in the picture is Josh wearing the Montane Alpine Pro Jacket, size Medium.

I had all sorts of weather just because I camped at 2100 meters and hiked to 2700 meters.
1st & 2nd day: 14 degrees Celsius and sunshine
3rd day: high of 4 degrees and rain with 70 km/h gusts
4th day: 10 degrees and windy
5th day: -1 and snow

I went to Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park for 5 days in hopes of experiencing all the weather with all the views and this trip did not disappoint. The jacket I took along to test out was the Alpine Pro Jacket which I used in all the weather conditions. It is a heavier jacket so it did well with the windy, cool, wet weather. In the cool windy weather the jacket especially came in handy as a windbreaker over my merino wool t-shirt. The pit zips were a great help in not over heating as well as the breathable 3 layered Gore-Tex Pro. I never felt too hot in the 4 hours of hiking with it on. The area where this jacket really shined was in the 4 degree wind and pouring rain on day 3. Three hours of hiking in the wind & rain and I was perfectly dry with a merino t-shirt and a polyester mid-layer on underneath. Once again, the pit zips coming in very handy for not overheating. One big thing I liked was how thick and sturdy the rim of the hood was. It fit around my down jacket nicely and kept the rain out with the snow I got on day 5.

+ Durable
+ Fit is perfect for winter layering
+ Large, stiff, and fully adjustable storm hood
+ Pit zips are easily accessible especially with a pack on
+ Very breathable

– Heavy
– Noisy
– The drawstrings at the bottom of the jacket aren’t easy to adjust with all my gear on.
– I would have like a zippered (waterproof?) pocket on the inside rather than just an open mesh pocket.

This is a perfect jacket for any hiking or climbing trips in the fall/winter months.
My overall rating: 8.5/10

Find the Montane Alpine Pro Jacket in more colours and other styles at VPO Online.

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Montane Alpine Pro Jacket – mens                       Montane Alpine Pro Jacket – womens

Outdoors IS International

The popularity of what we describe as non-competitive “zen” sports exploded in the late sixties and early seventies, driven by the shifting culture. By the time the late 70s rolled around, Outdoors had reached a tipping point. Large populations backpacked, paddled, skied, hiked and camped just for fun. And it’s grown from there!

Prior to “zen” sports, most athletic endeavors were organized in local leagues or clubs, with regional, provincial and national advancement for those who excelled. In Canada at least, hockey remains a great example of a sport organized in a competitive hierarchy with the NHL at the top of the pyramid.

The companies that built the early Outdoors supply chain were primarily from Colorado and California – the North Face, Marmot, Sierra Designs, Patagonia (or as they used to known – Great Pacific Ironworks) and Osprey. Canada had a few contributors: Far West in Vernon and much later Arcteryx in Vancouver. For those of you with a really good memory, let’s add Banana Equipment, Synergy Works, and Class 5 to the early incubator list. These three were also From California and Colorado.

Much of the tech materials that have driven the innovation of premium recreational solutions for humans going outdoors was invented in the 1970s: Gore-Tex, Polartec, Primaloft, seam sealing, core-spun stretch yarns, rotomolding for boats, injection molding, high tenacity synthetic yarns in ever diminishing deniers, and powerful permanent gluing. A list of core outdoor innovation since 2000 would include carbon fiber, lithium batteries and LEDs, satellite communicators and digital mapping, photovoltaics, and all the new technology to lessen or eliminate enviro impact.

As new, optimistic and forward looking as “the suburbs” were after WW2, the burbs were basically about moving indoors – outdoors was paved and lawned in rectangular chunks. By the time the 60s arrived, young people desperately wanted to get back outside – away from all the pavement, stop signs and “ticky tacky boxes all in a row”. To the wilderness!

The Great Globalization trend that began in the 1980s that started blending people and cultures, also moved manufacturing offshore. For the past 40 years, the Outdoors supply chain has delivered better and better products every year, at ever lower prices.

Today, humans have become hybrids, mostly human and part digital – completely immersed in connectivity and technology. Connectivity has extended each of our voices to be global, our formative travels and journeys are global, and even our empathy and politics are becoming global. We may relate closely to people in Africa, spiritualists in India, listen to inner city musicians, or sympathize with distant refugees more than our neighbours next door.

Local food supply, music and culture here in Canada are easy to take for granted. But when we return from our travels to exotic distant lands and cultures, what we have grown up with locally comes into focus as being likewise remarkable, unique and valuable. Distant travel gives us context and perspective.

The Outdoor choices Valhalla Pure offers reflect these macro and social trends – this blending of local with distant. We have a mix of Arcteryx and Delta boats from Vancouver, Icebreaker from New Zealand, Norrona, Helle and Kari Traa from Norway, Montane from the U.K., Mammut from Switzerland, DPS skis, Black Diamond and KUHL from Salt Lake City, Petzl and Black Crows from France and LaSportiva, Garmont and Scarpa from northern Italy. And our shop staff include folks from Holland, America, China, UK, and Switzerland.

Those original legacy Outdoor brands from California suddenly have some serious competition. We ARE International! And still the mountain wilderness touches people’s lives as powerfully as ever. Bit by bit, we are doing it better, more safely, and with more awareness each passing season.

Waiting for snow in New Denver,

David Harley

Gore-Tex 101

When Goretex originally launched in the 1975/6, we were there. As one of Goretex’s very first customers in the world, we manufactured 650 Goretex jackets every 8 hours in Vernon BC. And so what have we learned in the past 40+ years?

Firstly, Goretex works WAY better now than it did back then. By changing their PTFE-laminate formula, the scientists at Goretex simplified their chemisty – making it more breathable AND much lighter AND vastly less likely to leak over time. If you haven’t had a Goretex jacket in the past 4 or 5 years, you will be surprised! Waterproofness is much higher, and Breathability is likewise much, much higher than is the old days. No comparison really.

The mega-improvement in breathability is immediately noticeable once you spool up and start to create heat inside your jacket. Heat and moisture moves through the film much easier than earlier generations. You stay drier and more comfortable. You can’t help but notice. This has encouraged companies to start designing insulated Goretex jackets, using treated goose down or Primaloft. This wouldn’t have been possible before because of the moisture trapped inside the jacket.

Imagine two toothbrushes – a soft and a stiff. The only difference is that the bristles vary in flexibility – the stiff toothbrush bristles have higher “tenacity” than the softer one. Likewise the yarns being used in the woven exterior textiles on today’s Goretex jackets are much higher tenacity than before, increasing “tear strength” and ” surface abrasion resistance” and reducing weight. You can still destroy your jacket, but it will be more difficult than it was before.

Waterproof zippers are standard features these days on Goretex jackets. These zippers can be glued into place for pockets, pit zips and centre front openings – they eliminate extra flaps and stitching making all the zips more waterproof, snag less and the overall jacket lighter and more compact in your backpack.

Look inside a new Goretex jacket – because the fabric is stronger, they can use narrower seam allowances and narrower seamseal tape, eliminating weight and expense. Hems and cuffs are now glued instead of sewm, eliminating weight and expense. Everything is optimized to enhance performance and minimize weight.

Overall, there has never been a better time to invest in a Goretex jacket. You’ll get more years of use, carry less weight, and perform closer to your theoretical maximum performance. We’re jazzed to continue to lead the “arms race” boasting Canada’s best Goretex lineup from the world’s best brands – Arcteryx, Montane, Norrona, Patagonia, Mammut, Black Diamond, OR, and Marmot.