After doing mountain sports for the last 25 years, 300+ days a year, my philosophy about gear is to find the perfect system, then forget about it. I live and work in the mountains, the Swiss Alps, and I have dedicated my life to mountain sports, both as a photographer and athlete. I am more concerned about “doing” than I am about fussing over things. I’m also an uphill kind of guy. That said, I wanted to share some recent discoveries, about gear and ideas. And remember, it’s the little things that can matter the most.
Lose the Hip Belt
A couple of things I learned from training and traveling with Ueli Steck have become part of my own program. I noticed Ueli almost never uses a hip belt on a backpack. Unless it is heavier than the pack will allow, he has moved to designs where the shoulder and sternum straps create a kind of harness, allowing the belly to be free for breathing while keeping the hips more mobile. Try it – you’ll see…. of course this only works if you are carrying relatively light loads and/or have a pack with the system.
Vertical + Speed = Fit
Interested to know what Ueli Steck does to get so strong? It’s pretty simple. In addition to a lot of technical climbing are big vertical days combined with speed workouts. Put in your vertical days, either running uphill or power hiking steep stuff at high intensity, then match them with well rested for speed work. The vert days are of the 1000-3000 meter variety – big! You get tough, strong, and fast.
Ok, admittedly, this is blatant brand promo – but it’s because I am in love with the line of gear they have developed. We have worked with a lot of brands throughout the years, as photographers, product testers and for providing design input. This year we became part of the Outdoor Research family, as European Brand Ambassadors and photographers. After getting to know their line – we found some pieces we now live and work in.
The Ferrosi Line : When we first got involved with OR, everyone said, “Get all the Ferrosi stuff”. They were right. It’s super light, stretchy, bomber, highly wind and rain resistant and the go to piece for most every mild climate endeavor. The pants and jacket go everywhere with us.
The Acetylene Jacket : My choice for layering in cold conditions, with Primaloft torso, and light microfleece sleeves. For climbing and ski touring.
The Halogen Hoody : Janine and I’s “what goes in the backpack for every trip” piece. Outside Magazine called this the 2014 Gear of the Year. Primaloft insulation with Schoeller side panels – a match made in heaven combo. Packs down to nothing, weighs nothing. Keeps you warm. Perfect. Put a Ferrosi over it, you’re ready for battle, put an Acetylene under it – you aren’t going to get cold.
F-Stop Navin Camera Bag
In 2013, I finally found a camera bag that I can use in most all of our mountain work situations. The F-Stop Navin. It’s a streamline camera bag that is the exact shape of a Pro DSLR with lens. It can be mounted on the chest or as a modular piece of their Dakota line. I use it on the chest by clipping small carabiners to my backpack’s shoulder straps – easy on/easy off, but it may also be used with an optional harness system. Another thing I appreciate is that when it’s in my pack it takes up no extra room as their is no bulk to it, no extra pockets, just a fitted bag for my Canon 5d and up to a 24-105 lens. And when you pull it out of the pack, it doesn’t catch on anything. The molded side pockets are perfect for a film card case and one battery. It’s bomber, minimalist and simple – perfect.
The Soft Bottle
How could a squishy little water bottle be a significant piece of gear in someone’s life? Well, ask a thirsty athlete how good a sip of water feels. If you move quickly running, climbing, or skiing, and like to stay light, consider the soft bottle. Why? They are small, just enough to make a difference, mold to where you pack it, and when empty, basically disappear. Perfect for in the climbing pack or on the harness, in the runner’s pack of choice, or in a ski mountaineer’s shirt pockets. You’re more likely to take water when it’s no big deal to find a place for it.
I found Hydrapak’s Flask the ideal design, tough against puncture and with zero plastic taste.
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