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3 Star

The author can be seen as a tiny dot in middle of the prow, halfway up the Tower of Babel in Arches National Park during his solo ascent of Zenyatta Entrada (5.8 C3-, 450') in February (Anasazi, Hopi, Navajo, Ouray, Paiute, Uintah, Ute, Zuni land). [Photo] Mikenna Clokey

Metolius Ultralight Offset Master Cams: A good choice for desert aid climbing

Mountain Standards Gear Review: Alpinist Digital Editor considers the merits of the oft-overlooked Metolius Offset Master Cams during a solo aid-climbing trip to Arches National Park (Ancestral Puebloan, Hopi, Navajo, Ouray, Paiute, Uintah, Ute, Zuni land). While he generally prefers the other brands, Franz notes that the Metolius design has its place on the rack. He writes: “Each design lends itself to being more suited for different situations. That’s why I think it’s important to ‘diversify your portfolio,’ as investment bankers say, and carry a variety of brands and styles. This is especially important when aid climbing because small variances can make all the difference between a solid placement and a sketchy one…. The Metolius Ultralight Offset Master Cams turned out to be the MVP (most valuable piece) during a solo ascent of the Tower of Babel (5.6 C3-, 450′).” Three stars.

Corey Buhay leads East Vail Falls (WI 3/4) with the Grivel Dark Machine ice tools. [Photo] Erica Givans

Grivel Dark Machines: A specialist’s tool for steep ice

US Ice Climbing Team Member and Ouray Ice Festival gold medalist Corey Buhay has been using the Grivel Dark Machines all season, from Colorado to Cody, Wyoming. In this report, she tells us where the Dark Machines shone, and where they left her swinging for something better. “What a pity that the glorious ease of use existed only for Cody’s steeper pitches. For many of the area’s ice climbs, the crux sections are stitched together with lower-angle WI2-3 gullies and slabs. On those portions of climbs…the arched profile of the Dark Machines proved to be more of a liability than an asset….” 3.5 stars.

Chris Kalman placing a #6 (purple) DMM Dragonfly on a steep new route in Arizona. [Photo] Nelson Klein

DMM Dragonfly: A pretty good cam, especially for small sizes

The DMM Dragonfly Micro Cams are among the smallest and strongest cams ever made. Chris Kalman tested them on the thin cracks near his home in northern Arizona. He reports that there are some aspects of the design that he absolutely loves, but ultimately he was disappointed with the narrow size range of the cams compared to other brands. The narrow range required much more careful selection for placements. Three stars

The author linking moves on Magnetar (5.13d) at Rifle Mountain Park, Colorado, last May. [Photo] Karissa Frye

Lowa Rocket: climbing shoes made for heel/toe hooking

After extensive testing, Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz reports that the Lowa Rockets are best suited for toe- and heel-hooking, with a secure fit that ensures they won’t slide off the heel. Franz had trouble finding a size to fit his foot comfortably, however, and there is some bagginess over the top of the big toe. Three stars.

Derek Franz discovering just how much effort it can take to activate the Beal Escaper after a short rappel from the top of Elephant Rock. [Photo] Mandi Franz

Beal Escaper: A scary but handy tool for when you need to rappel with one rope

Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz tested the Beal Escaper, which the company describes as a “detachable abseil system” that enables climbers to rappel on a single strand of rope and then still be able to retrieve the rope from below. Franz reports that if used properly the Escaper can be a handy tool to facilitate a fast retreat, but he also found that the device has some limitations. Three stars.

Derek Franz gets his bearings using the SPOT X 2-Way Satellite Messenger in Colorado's Flat Tops Wilderness in late October 2018. [Photo] Mandi Franz

SPOT X 2-Way Satellite Messenger: A worthy tool for explorers and risk-takers

Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz took the SPOT X 2-Way Satellite Messenger into the mountains and desert to test its capabilities. He appreciated the device’s unlimited two-way messaging and navigational tools, not to mention the potential to send an SOS signal if he needed a rescue, but he reports that there is room for improvement. Three stars.

The Merino Air Hoody: A Most-in-One Base Layer

Recently I added Patagonia’s Merino Air Hoody base layer to my collection. Unlike my other merino wool items, The Air Hoody, with its fluffy appearance, resembles a thin, non-itchy sweater more than a typical next-to-skin layer.