Bring Efficiency to your Skinning Game: Spark LT Pin System

Introduction Spark R & D has made a name for themselves coming out with multiple innovative binding systems, so it came to no surprise that they invested time and energy on there own touring bracket and pin system. Attempting to make a lighter more efficient setup for skinning and changeovers.
Testing Grounds The  LT pin system was tested nonstop for a full month in a vast array of conditions and scenarios, from side-hilling on 30 degree slopes to skinning 4000 feet up a steep mountain on 4 inches of snow on top of ice. Here are my thoughts on the touring bracket and why I feel it is superior to the original Voile system. Initial Impressions From the get go, I could tell that it was incredibly light, smooth and stylish looking. I wondered how much of a difference they would make on the uphill. Ten minutes and six screws later the brackets were in place and I was ready to test them out. In The Field I immediately noticed how stable and sturdy the system felt compared to the wobble that is notorious with standard touring brackets. Both sliding the pin system in and out of touring mode was smooth and the board was easy converted while my hands stayed dry in my gloves. Multiple times throughout the day I would find myself traversing across steep icy slopes with ease, instead of focusing on absorbing the flex on my ankles the brackets held strong. On flats and small downhill stretches the strides felt both smooth and natural. What makes these brackets such a vast improvement. By shaving off excess material they were able to create a strong, lightweight and durable system, thick in contact zones but almost nonexistent in others. There is more then 3 times as much surface interaction between the pins and bracket/bindings compared to Voiles brackets/plates making the bindings feel solid and secure. There are bushings in the bracket (and the Blazes) which dramatically reduce wear and tear on the new aluminum pins (also included with the package). Why would I use the Brackets? For years we have waited for a product that would make skinning easier and more efficient, this product delivers. If you are planning on long distance tours, expeditions or just getting out a few days this season I highly recommend this product. Mt RuthPros
  • It gets rid of excessive material and only keeps what you need
  • Super light weight
  • Much more surface interaction compared to the slider plates
  • Much less lateral flex
  • Bright colored pin easy to spot in snowy conditions
  • aluminum pins
  • Self-lubricating plastic bushings within the touring bracket drastically reduce wear
WHO: Spark R& D WHAT: LT Pin System WHEN: Anytime you are skinning WHERE: Traverses, expeditions and everything in between WHY: Its lightweight, strong and sturdy Retail: 78.00 Is it worth it?: Well worth every penny and once you try them out you will understand why.

Putting the Bite into Firm Conditions: Mr. Chomps Splitboard Crampons

The Breakdown The Mr. Chomps bindings were used in a array of conditions from early morning frozen corn snow to wind firm ridges. They took 4 months of being walked on, being smashed in my backpack and used as a platform for my stove. This is a breakdown of how they preformed and if they are worth your hard earned dollars. Initial Impression Damn these things are bright! Arriving at my doorstep I noticed the bright blue color scheme as I took them out of the padded box in which they arrived in. They seem simple yet sturdy with thick metal teeth and a single riser mounted at the front. A quick drag of my finger along the teeth provides the conformation of my thoughts "These babies are sharp" but would they grip in the firmest of conditions?. In the field Early morning approaches in corn season mean undesired firm surfaces that will not only test your edge holding ability, they will also test your patients. My first true interaction with the Mr. Chomps came when I was out doing a Traverse of a remote Range in the Cascades called the Chiwaukums. With a 2 A.M. start time I found myself skinning on less then ideal conditions with my good friend Scott McAlister. Once arriving on a steep firm slope we found that we could no longer efficiently skin and that we would have to resort to other measures to keep heading for our destination. With a quick heel rise I was able to slip the Mr. Chomps under my feet which I found to be both fast and convenient. Before long I was climbing an almost vertical skin track with no hesitation and unwarranted kick stepping, this was of course while Scott boot-packed up to his knees in rotten snow. It literally took two minutes to make a believer in me  and later on I would joke that "this product was like a insurance policy" and would grip in the firmest of conditions. 100_2105 Well, is it worth it? Without a doubt in my mind this small piece of gear has saved me from countless sketchy situations. While somewhat bulky and heavy I was more then willing to take them with me when my backpack was filled to the brim with gear and I was trying to get rid of excess weight. They are easy to insert under your Spark bindings and even easier to adjust when you need extra heel rise for steep climbs. When it comes to step traverses, firm snow and exposed skin tracks the Mr. Chomps are simply indispensable and well worth the price. Who: Spark R & D. What: Mr Chomp Splitboard crampons. When: Anytime you are dealing with firm or Icy snow. Where:In steep, exposed or simply slippery conditions Why: To save both stress and energy so you can go the distance MSRP: 100.00 Mr Chomps

The Petzl MYO XP: Leading the Way in a World of Darkness

This headlamp was tested in a vast array of conditions and scenarios, from riding down a slope in the pitch black to finding the topographical map in the darkness of my tent. I skinned, boarded, climbed, ran and even fell asleep with the headlamp on. So here are my thoughts on the Petzl MYO XP: Initial Impressions From the get go, I liked the sleek design of the MYO with the battery placement behind the lamp instead of in a separate battery pack. The controls seemed simple, too, with two separate buttons for light levels and a wide angle lens for optimal light efficiency. Best of all it was compact and lightweight . In The Field I immediately noticed how comfortable the MYO XP is and how strongly the light illuminated the path in front of me as I skinned up my local resort in the dark. It was New Year's Eve and I wanted to watch the annual fireworks show from atop the mountain, but I was concerned about the ride back down. After a spectacular firework show, it was time to ride back down so I set the brightness to the highest level and went on my way. I found that the headlamp was stable and bright as I rode down the freshly groomed slopes and illuminated the path more than 30 feet ahead of me, while my companions' headlamps didn't cut the bill. MYO XP Is NOT your Standard Headlamp! After months of use, I still stand behind this headlamp and I found a lot of things to like. I dropped it, stomped on it and inadvertently smashed it many times, and it never had a single issue. A great feature about this headlamp is the option to have either a wide angle view, or a spotlight, just by flipping the toggle located above the bulb. The controls are simple-- 3 separate levels of brightness (maximum, optimum, economic) all within the click of a button. Its power source is 3 AA batteries, which can burn for up to 180 hrs (in economy mode) and has a warning light that indicates the need for a new energy source.  There are so many factors that make this a great headlamp, so whether it's a predawn tour or a week long expedition, you can depend on the MYO XP to help you  lead the way. Jetboil

Suunto X10 Wrist Computer

Suunto X10Kyle relies exclusively on Suunto technology for his GPS needs. Specifically, the X10 Wrist Computer (that's mountaineering speak for, "Fancy GPS Watch,") is what allows him to accurately record his speed, distance, and altitude, as well as later producing those cool Google Earth maps you see in his trip reports. But that's not all this watch/computer/GPS unit can do! Lost in a whiteout and can't tell what's up and down anymore? Luckily you have the to help you navigate back to basecamp! Feeling like recording massive amounts of data? The X10 can plot your speed and altitude. Want to see if it really is -10 outside or if it just feels that way? The X10 will let you know. You can use the X10 for nearly any of your technical needs. To some it's a toy, to others, a lifesaver. Record your daily vert or use it to find your way home in a storm. Brag about your max speed when you ripped up the corduroy, check your trip odometer four days into a hike, or even just take a look at the time. Yes, the X10 also maintains the basic functions of a typical wristwatch. The only thing it doesn't have is a heart rate monitor and wifi connection. But who needs to check email from the skin track, anyway? Added bonus: the Suunto website keeps drivers and downloads for the X10's software as well as an up-to-date manual online, in case you ever happen to have questions about it use. Kyle loves gear items that multitask, and for combining features, this watch is the master.
  • Best for: All-in-one GPS/watch/computer needs while touring.
  • SpecsFeatures: Altimeter (to 9K m), Barometer, Chronograph, Digital Compass. Waterproofness: To 100m, Weight: 76 g. Construction: Rubber band, plastic housing.
  • More Reviews: from Gear.comBackcountry.com
  • Awards: Best of 2009 Adventure Gear Award from National Geographic Adventure

Voilie Split Decision Tractor Skins

Skins from VoilieImagine having a new car but not having tires. Without skins, a splitboard is in a similar situation. 90% of your time spent backcountry will be on the uphill, so the skins you use for that ascent are crucial. They keep you on the surface in that deep backcountry powder you’ll ideally be seeking, while hikers and snowshoers sink to their waists. Skinning is also the preferred method for skiers. But with splitboards, we snowboarders can take advantage of the skintrack highway as well. Without skins, you might as well be bootpacking. Skinning is a work of art, and there is nothing in this world like a perfect skin track on an untouched slope. The skins connect with your board in two ways. A special steel loop fits snugly against the tip of the board, while skin glue keeps the skins attached to the base. Skins are built specifically for uphill traffic from a single-direction fabric that allows you to slide easily uphill with minimal resistance, but arrests a potential backwards slip. As a splitboarder, your skins should be your very best friend, and Voile owns the market when it comes to skins shaped specifically for a splitboard. The noses of the skins they make are rounded on one side and straight on the other, working with a splitboard’s specific shape. In addition, the split-specific hook at the nose area is shaped especially for snowboard attachment. Great traction from the “Tractor” keeps you from slipping on the steepest of uphills. While one can cut, shape, trim, and otherwise rig skins that are built for skis for their splitboard, why go to all that trouble and potentially screw it up? The Voilie skins fit almost perfectly right out of the box. Especially if you are just beginning to splitboard, I really recommend you use these. Kyle’s preferred Voilie skins are the 140mm wide Tractor Skins. These use hydrophobic nylon that won’t gather snow, and a tenacious glue to cover the running surface of the board. Voilie skins can be ordered to fit most brand lengths of snowboards.
  • Best for: When you want good traction from skins shaped specifically for a splitboard.
  • SpecsWeight: 10 oz., Surface Type: Nylon Mohair, Surface Covered: 140mm X 150cm, Warranty: 1 year.
  • Reviews: User Reviews from product page at Backcountry.com
  • Info. On Use: Notes on Trimming, Care and Use from Prior, Skinning 101 from Splitboard.com.

Corsa Ice Axe, by CAMP USA

CampGreat for the avid ski moutaineer, the CAMP USA Corsa Ice Axe is the weight-efficient solution for self arrest, climbing, and anchoring. This super-lightweight package shines in conditions typically encountered by the backcountry snowboarder tackling technical lines. While useful for climbing, you'll carry the Corsa Ice Axe primarily for self-arrest. Unlike aggressive axes made of steel, the Corsa is entirely aluminum, making it ultra-light without sacrificing utility. When you're ready to upgrade and need added peace of mind, look for CAMP USA's more aggressive prototype, the Camp USA Nanotech, a similar tool which is now available. This new axe is bit more aggressive in that it employs a steel tip and steel shaft end. Bonus features include an ergonomic blade and spacing of teeth, which allow for easy grip when you're using it as an anchoring device during climbs, and a shaft that's plugged so it won't get full of ice or snow. If you want something lightweight, look no further, because this is as good as it gets!
  • Best for: Very weight-conscious moutaineering.
  • Specs: Weight: 7.2 oz., Available Lengths: 50 cm, 60 cm, 70 cm, Construction: aluminum.
  • More Reviews: Summary of major retailer reviews from TrailSpace, review on the older model from Sierra Descents
  • More Info on Use: Lary Goldie's take on appropriate uses from Aplinist.com