Editor’s Note: Panel member Jon Walsh took a number of OR equipment to the Karakoram range this summer to test it out. This is the first in a series of four reviews, in which all of the gear received the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. All tests were conducted in the heart of the range, on an expedition to the Ogre (7,285 meters) on which he made it to 6,800 meters before being stormed off, and then made various other ascents in the vicinity.
I have to give kudos to OR for the fine attention they’re paying to detail and design, and all four of these products deserve top marks. Despite the abuse they all went through, I’m surprised to see them still in excellent condition, as much of the “lightweight” clothing I take to the alpine these days seems to get destroyed in record time. Also impressive is the fact that all products are guaranteed forever.
It was obvious as soon as I removed the OR Exos from their packaging and took one look at all the crucial features that I had never seen on gaiters before, that these were by far the most bomber gaiters imaginable. In the past, the instep strap on other gaiters has always been the first thing to go for me, rendering the gaiter useless, so I was particularly happy to see how reinforced these ones were. With all kinds of extra bartacking on the sides to keep them in place, and urethane-coated for waterproofness and durability, I had no doubt that they would stand up to some serious abuse. Other notable features included a double riveted bootlace hook. Plus, the Velcro closure that runs the length of the boot was backed up at the bottom by a small Velcro tab to prevent accidental opening. The main fabric was contoured, waterproof, breathable, four-way stretch Schoeller, and was reinforced around the ankles with high-stretch “elastanium.” At 11.5 ounces for a size large, they were on the same “light is right” diet as the rest of my kit. That’s right, light and durable!.
I put the Exos to some serious testing while slogging around the Choktoi Glacier. It was 12 kilometers and 600 meters difference in elevation from base camp to the start of both routes we were on and with many loads to ferry, there were at least eight trips made in each direction. Conditions were quite variable and I was often post-holing up to my knees in new or isothermal snow. Sure enough, these gaiters were magic in every way. The Schoeller was amazing and I never had the icy build-up inside or around the top edges that was all too common with the Gore-Tex gaiters I’ve used in the past. I even stayed dry when I slipped into a tarn while filling my water bottle. Although I climbed many vertical miles in crampons, I had surprisingly few tears in fabric despite my often-clumsy footwork. Fit and comfort were also good, and the buckles at the ankles and at the tops were quick and easy to use. What else can I say, these were twice as good as any other gaiter I’ve ever seen or used.