I will admit that testing new gear is amongst my favorite things to do. Just finding activities in which I can put a piece of gear through hell and see what it can withstand is extremely enjoyable to me.
This spring I added a few pieces that deserve a worthy mention. These are not technical reviews. These are just my thoughts about my favorite pieces of gear this season. There are plenty of technical specs in the links provided. Here are my favorite pieces so far.
1. Arc'teryx Cerium SL down jacket.
This is the best piece of clothing I've added to my collection.
Incredibly light and compressible with only two minimal outer pockets and a stuff sack in one the pockets. It's 850 filled with white goose down. Can be worn as a mid layer in extreme cold or a stand alone in spring and summer nights. This is an incredibly warm piece and I've put it through many tests( backpacking the Sierras, Utah, Mt Hood, and many others.) Seems very durable!
The retail price is $349 which is not unheard of for premiun down jackets but certainly more expensive than synthetic filled ones. Limited colors. That being said, I've never liked purple and I was given the choice to pick black but i loved this color once I saw it on. Also, there's no inside pocket which some people prefer.
2. Julbo Vermont Glacier sunglasses:
I've had other Julbo glasses and they are all pretty good but the Vermont Glacier is outstanding.
You'll look a little steampunk or like an old school pilot. That's a pro in my book. Your eyeballs won't get sunburned (this is a real thing) and the leather shielding is very useful for high altitude hiking. Comfortable rubber ear pieces that won't let the glasses move at all even when drenched in sweat. You can remove the leather shields for less intense glare conditions.
Cons: The Steampunk look may not be for everybody.
3 . Arc'teryx brize 32L daypack.
The Brize daypack is water resistant with 2 stretchy side water bottle pockets and a large front zippered pocket. The top flap has a pocket as well that is very handy for maps, flashlights and snacks. The inside has a large pocket and a small zippered pocket useful for keys and little objects. Very durable material and comfortable fit. Somehow it always looks really clean, even the yellow color one.
My biggest issue with this pack is that the waist belt doesn't have pockets. The Arc'teryx larger packs, like the Bora, have the huge padded waist bands with large pockets which are such a great feature. A shame that the smaller packs don't have the same quality of waist straps.
5. Arc'teryx Delaney tights.
Thick, stretchy, flattering with HUGE pockets. I use them to hold camera lenses. That's how big the pockets are! These are not see through. They are thick but breathable. Perfect for running, gym, outdoors and everyday wear. They dry quickly too! These are my favorite leggings for the outdoors as I can wear them as a base layer too.
Cons: Not sure how they hold against porous and rough rocks. I haven't taken them out climbing. I did tear a hole on my first pair from getting stuck on a tree in Bryce Canyon so they might be prone to tearing against really rough surfaces.
6. Katadyn hiker microfilter
Ultralight and compact. Perfect for backpacking. It filters really well and only needs a tiny puddle to pull water out of. This is a life saver for muddy regions or places without large water sources. Pumps at a very fast rate and has an adapter to the Nalgene wide mouth bottles.
It doesn't work against some viruses. Still have to use tablets.
7. Arc'teryx Norvan VT GTX trail runners.
This is my first pair of trail runners that are not La Sportiva. La Sportiva has been such a great brand for my shoes that I never even thought about trying anything else.
This is a hybrid shoe. It's between an ultralight approach shoe and trail runners which work really well for my type of activity. I'm often walking in rugged terrain rather than running. It has two compounds on the sole for extra grip and it is a beast in slippery terrain. The supportive soles come at the cost of flexibility. It's still very flexible and nice to run in but not as flexible as most trail runners. It has a double wall with the interior one being a meshed one. The moisture management of this shoe is outstanding. Now, my favorite part of this shoe is the adjustable volume mechanism (something that every hiking boot should have). They have a mechanism in the front that allows you to reduce the volume after the laces have been tied. So when you are going downhill, you can adjust it so that your toes won't slide forward. With my history of lost nails, this is everything I've ever wanted in a shoe.
No Gore-tex. The fabric around the ankle gets damaged somewhat easily. My soles are still looking really good after 300 miles and this is the only spot where I see tear and wear.
8. Black Diamond Whippet pole.
My new favorite toy that I use in the least conventional ways.
Ultralight and versatile ski pole which I use as a walking stick, a river paddle and everything else but a ski pole. Very comfortable handle with an ice pick and self arrest tool. I use it for everything all the time and it gets me out of a lot of sketchy backcountry situations. I find that ice axes are often such an overkill and trekking poles often fall short in some of the places I go to. This is the perfect in between and great for winter to spring transition mountaineering.
Cons: This cannot be collapsed below 60cm or so. I call it 'my antenna' because that's what it looks like when I have it on the side of my pack. Also, skiing and running around with an ice axe is the equivalent of running with scissors. Please, be careful.
If you are curious, this is my set up for a spring weekend in the Sierras.