SCOTT PATROL E1 40 BACKPACK (Avalanche Airbag Pack)

Scott Patrol E1 40 pack in the Alta backcountry

I was an early adopter of avalanche airbag packs. I’ve been using them for over a decade, and have owned and used models by Snowpulse/Mammut ABS, and Dakine. My packs have all used compressed gas (either oxygen or nitrogen) to inflate the airbags. My first airbag pack was an ABS model, which uses nitrogen charged canisters. Nitrogen canisters are relatively compact and lightweight, but not approved for air travel, however. In anticipation of a heli-skiing trip to Alaska, I purchased a couple of Snowpulse/Mammut packs, which use compressed air canisters that can be refilled at dive shops or ski shops with compressed air tanks.

Airbag pack technology has improved in the past few years, with perhaps the biggest change being the introduction of electric fans as a replacement for compressed gas canisters. Electric fans have the advantages of not requiring canister refills if you deploy the airbag, either for testing or in response to an avalanche. Unlike compressed gas (air especially) they are not as affected by cold temperatures. (Compressed gases become less pressurized the colder they get.)

I held off buying a fan airbag pack for several years. They were too heavy, and the lithium/ion rechargeable batteries are considered hazardous, which makes taking them on airplanes problematic.

Recently, a new generation of electric fan powered airbag packs have become available. These use a supercapacitor instead of a battery to charge the fan. I don’t know much about supercapacitors other than that they are good at very quick energy discharge, they are lighter than comparable batteries; they are not as affected by temperature fluctuations as batteries, and they are not considered hazardous for airplane travel. Currently, the leader in supercapacitor airbag systems is a company called Alpride, a Swiss company that has licensed their “E1” supercapacitor airbag technology to a number of different outdoor companies.

The Alpride E1 system charges with a USB cable. In addition to the on-board supercapacitor charge, it has 2 auxiliary AA size batteries (either alkaline or lithium) that keep the supercapacitor at full charge and also allow for an additional charge while in the field (takes up to 1.5 hours) if the airbag is deployed.

When you turn on the system, it runs a self-diagnostic, and an LED blinks (visible from outside the pack) to show you that it is turned on and working. I typically turn the system on when I am packing for my trip, and turn it off when I unpack. (It’s hard to turn it on and off when you’re at the trailhead because the on/off switch is deep in the main compartment of the pack.) With two fresh AA batteries installed, the system is good for 2-3 months. Generally, I just plug the pack in to a USB port for a couple of hours every time I return from a tour to keep the batteries from being used to charge the capacitor.

There are a few different options on the market today that incorporate Alpride’s E1 supercapacitor system. I considered the Osprey Soelden Pro 32 liter pack; the Ferrino Full Safe 30+5 pack; the Black Diamond Jetforce Tour 26L; and the Scott Patrol E1 40.

In choosing between these options, one of my main considerations was load capacity. I tend to carry quite a bit of gear, even or short day trips, and I wanted a pack that could accommodate this gear, and also have room for longer, multi-day hut trips. Of the Alpride E1 packs I looked at, the Scott Patrol has a 40 liter capacity, with the Ferrino at 35 liters and the Soelden Pro at 32 liters. At 26 liters, the Black Diamond Jetforce Tour was just too small for my needs.

My typical touring load out.

The Ferrino Full Safe has a unique feature in that it also incorporates an “avalung” type device that allows a buried person to breathe under the snow, provided you have the mouthpiece in your mouth when you are buried. Years ago, I had a custom pack made that incorporated an avalung and airbag (description HERE,) however, I found that I didn’t really use the avalung feature that much. It interfered with my skiing and added weight and complexity to the pack. The Ferrino Full Safe is the heaviest of the packs I considered, (over 7 pounds) and I figured I would seldom use the avalung feature.

Ultimately, my choice came down to the Osprey Soelden Pro 32 and the Scott Patrol 40. They are very similar in weight and capacity, and what reviews I could find online all seemed pretty positive. Ultimately, I found the Scott on sale with a 15% discount, so that proved to be the deciding factor. I purchased the Scott.

After having used the Scott for about 10 touring days, I am very happy with it.

Scott’s website claims the pack weighs approximately 2830 grams or 6.24 pounds. On my scales, my pack weighs 6.3 pounds, which is pretty close to the claimed weight. The pack is constructed with thinner straps, lighter zippers and doesn’t have a lot of useless features, which is a good design direction for a piece of gear that most folks will use going uphill more than down.

I think that the claimed 40 liter volume includes the space taken up by the capacitor, so the actual usable volume is probably closer to 38 liters.

Main Compartment with capacitor in the zippered compartment

Even with the capacitor taking up some space, there is plenty of room for my typical day trip or hut tour kit, and I don’t have to spend a lot of energy cramming stuff into a space that’s too small.

Packed and ready to ski

As with most avy packs, the Scott Patrol has two compartments; a smaller top compartment and the main compartment. Both of these are accessed with clamshell zippers. The top compartment has dividers to organize your snow safety equipment, with places to put your probe, shovel blade, and shovel handle. I can also easily fit my snow saw and ECT cord into this compartment. This top compartment also has a zippered pouch which is handy for keeping quick access items like snacks, a spare Buff, and sunglasses.

The main compartment houses the supercapacitor and has room for spare clothing, an emergency shelter, first aid kit, thermos, and all the rest of the gear I take with me. It has a zippered pocket that is handy for storing easy to lose items like my multi-tool.

Hip belt pocket

There is also a small hip belt pocket. It’s not very big, but it fits smaller items like sun screen, lip balm, a lens wipe for my goggles, and my reading glasses. I wish that this hip pocket were a little bit bigger. It’s not quite big enough to hold my inclinometer or a soft flask. I would also welcome a matching pocket on the other side. I find easily accessible pockets to be very useful when I’m on the move, as I can access things without having to stop.

A common feature that this pack does not have is a dedicated goggle pocket. I like the soft goggle pocket on my Dakine ABS pack, and I miss it on this pack.

The helmet holder works well, and has stowed my helmet securely without issues. I was originally worried that the clips that hold it on would come off (the upper clips fit to the daisy chain and are held there by tension) but so far, that has not been an issue, either when holding the helmet or when empty.

Skis can be carried either diagonally or in A-Frame mode. The diagonal carry set up has a very fast dedicated system of a top buckled strap and a bottom cut-resistant plastic wrapped wire. For A-Frame, you just use the dual compression straps on either side of the pack. I’ve mounted skis up for carry testing, but have not carried my skis more than a few yards in either configuration. Both configurations seemed to work well enough.

Lightly padded foam frame

Fit and comfort of the pack is excellent. I have a pretty long back, and I was worried that the pack would not fit me well. In use, it fits very well, and I am able to transfer the load to my hips without having to crank the hipbelt down too much. The airbag activation trigger is adjustable in height, so I was able to move it down lower on the shoulder strap to accommodate my longer torso. Apparently, it’s possible to transfer the trigger to the opposite (right) side as well, but I am right handed, so I haven’t done that. I’ve heard it’s possible to run a hydration tube through the shoulder strap sleeve, but I haven’t done that either(water tubes always seem to freeze.)

The pack has a lightly padded frame that is comfortable and keeps objects in the pack from poking your back.

In use, I have found that I don’t think about the pack very much, either on the uphill or when skiing downhill. This is the best indicator of a comfortable pack. It doesn’t throw me off balance, and stays snugged down without having to over-tighten the straps.

I’ve only used this pack for less than one season, but I really really like it. A lot of thought has gone into the design of this pack and it serves its intended function very well. I’m certain that supercapacitor airbag systems will continue to improve, getting smaller and lighter as the technology advances. However, until that happens, I think that this is one of the best airbag pack options there is, and likely the best choice for my needs.

Ski Pulk sled

Ski Pulk sled, heavily loaded
Ski Pulk sled, heavily loaded


I’ve used sleds on occasion to carry large winter loads.  However, the sleds I’ve used have always been home made jobs.  I’ve bought kiddie sleds and modified them in various ways to make them serve as ski sleds.  My modifications began relatively simply, just drilling holes in the front of the sled and attaching cords to pull with.  These simple sleds performed poorly, being next to impossible to control on anything other than level terrain, so I tried more elaborate modifications, using ski pole sections to make solid poles to help control the sled and make it more easy to turn and stop.  However, in spite of my best efforts at do-it-yourself modifications, my sleds pretty much sucked.

When I needed a sled for a yurt trip this past spring, I decided to buy a commercially built sled specifically designed for use by a skier.

After doing a bit of internet research, I decided on a sled by the Ski Pulk company.

The sled I bought was the Paris Backcountry Sled with Split Poles.

After dragging this sled uphill for miles, and skiing with it on downhill for more miles, I have to say that I’ve been very happy with it.  It’s worlds better than my home made jobs.  The first thing I noticed are the poles.  I bought poles that break down into two pieces, which makes the poles more compact when disassembled.  The poles screw together neatly and securely, and there is no slop in the threads.  The attachment points from the poles to the sled are also very secure.  The poles flex a bit, which adds to the comfort, but are rigid enough to provide for good steerability.

The hip belt is much like a padded hipbelt for a back pack.  It’s comfortable, and allows for differing attachment points for the poles, allowing you to vary the level of control and response over the sled.  (Moving the attachment points outward tends to increase control, but also makes the sled react a bit more to the natural movement of your hips as you stride.)

Pulling the pulk up a steep, narrow track
Pulling the pulk up a steep, narrow track

The sled also comes with a set of fins that provides better tracking on steep terrain.  They are easily removable, and can be screwed inverted in the bowl of the sled when not in use.  If you decide you need them, it takes less than 5 minutes to unfasten them, move them under the sled, and screw them in deployed mode.

An optional duffel bag is available, but I just used one of my own.  The sled comes with straps and buckles so you can strap your stuff down securely in the sled.

In use, the sled pulls well, with excellent control.  I used the Ski Pulk on an approach to a backcountry yurt followed a steep, narrow, winding path.  Going up in fresh snow was not a problem, even when loaded with 50-60 pounds.  Much more surprising and impressive was the sled’s downhill performance.  On hard snow, going down a path that resembled a bobsled run lined with trees was surprisingly easy.  The sled handles very well.  The slight flex in the poles helps to cushion dramatic turns, aiding balance, but the poles have enough stiffness to allow for radical changes of direction when needed.    On easy, open slopes, I could ski fun turns, and the sled just followed obediently behind me, hardly interfering at all.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the Ski Pulk sled.  After using this thoughfully designed and well built sled, there’s no way I will ever consider using a home built sled again.


2014 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market Highlights


Like the gates to the Emerald City, the OR Show entrance is designed to dazzle.

The 2014 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market presents an overwhelming array of products to assess and be dazzled by.   After a couple of days wandering the halls of the  outdoor retailer show, here are some of my impressions:

Backcountry Ski Touring:

As the winter oriented show, it’s not surprising that there were tons of backcountry skiing items to lust and drool over.  By far the coolest of them all (and my favorite thing I saw at the show in any category) was the new Jet Force airbag back from Black Diamond.

The coolest thing at the entire show: The new Jetforce airbag packs from Black Diamond.

The Jetforce pack differs from conventional airbag packs in that it uses a battery driven fan to inflate the airbag rather than releasing compressed gas from a canister.  This allows the pack to be taken on an airplane, which is problematic for compressed gas systems.  When trying to figure out the logistics of getting my airbag packs to Alaska for a heli-skiing trip, it was very difficult to work out how to do it, as I couldn’t bring the gas canisters on the plane, so they had to be shipped separately ahead of time.  The Jet Force pack can simply be brought on the plane as checked luggage.

Performance wise, there are a number of other benefits of the fan driven system.  First of all, the pack can be deployed and then easily be readied for another deployment in minutes.  At first, I didn’t really see how this was a big leap forward, as getting caught in multiple avalanches on one tour shouldn’t be on anyone’s agenda.  However, the ease of redeployment makes it easier to pull the ripcord if you’re unsure of whether you’re in a serious slide or not.  The hassle and expense and finality of traditional canister systems makes me reluctant to activate the airbag in marginal situations.  I’m unlikely to pull the ripcord unless I’m certain I’m going for a big ride.  Having the Jetforce pack makes me more likely to activate the pack just in case.

Jetforce Deployed
Jetforce pack with airbag deployed

Once activated, the Jetforce keeps reinflating for several minutes, allowing for full inflation even in the event of a small puncture in the bag.  After several minutes, the fan reverses, and sucks all the air out of the bags, leaving a big airspace that facilitates breathing or even self rescue.

Readying the pack for use again after it has deployed is simple.  The fan forcefully deflates the airbag, so it’s ready to stuff back in the pack.  The airbag doesn’t need to be folded in any particular manner, you just stuff it back into the airbag pocket, fasten it all up, and it’s good to go.

The non-airbag features of the Black Diamond Jetforce Packs are also very nice.  The packs are clean, with well thought out compartments, accessories, and suspensions.  The packs are available in 11, 28, and 40 liter versions, with the two larger sizes available in two different back lengths.  Weight is a bit over 7 pounds for all three models, which places them in the middle of category when compared with other airbag packs.  They aren’t the lightest, but they aren’t the heaviest either, and given the functionality and features, it’s a pretty impressive design effort.  Retail price is about $1,100.

I had seen pictures of this airbag pack previously, and had read descriptions of how it functioned.  However, watching demonstrations of its capabilities and looking at the thoughtful design and construction of the packs I came away very very impressed.  I want one (or two) of these packs very badly, and will likely get at least one of them (likely the 28 liter version) as soon as they become available next fall.

Salomon Backcountry
Backcountry is big business and the big players are all in it.

Everybody is getting into the backcountry ski market. Some alpine touring boots from Fisher.

Snow Shovels:  

One backcountry ski trend that I found very encouraging was the proliferation of avalanche shovels that can be used in “hoe mode” with the blade angled at 90 degrees like a hoe.  Previously, Ortovox seemed to be the only company that recognized the benefits of being able to set up your shovel like a hoe (which makes moving snow much easier in some situations.)  At the OR show, lots of companies, including Black Diamond, BCA, and Mammut were showing off snow shovel models whose blades could be used in hoe mode.  Nice to see some more options here:

BD shovel with “hoe mode”

BCA Shovel with hoe mode

Ski Touring Bindings:

I was impressed with the new G3 tech binding, the Ion.  Having been pretty underwhelmed by their first tech binding, the Onyx, I wasn’t expecting too much here.  Happily, I was very pleasantly surprised.  The Ion has a number of innovative features that make it stand out when compared with the standard Dynafit offerings.  First off, it clamps the boot with steady forward pressure, eliminating the gap at the heel of the boot as with the Dynafit and Plum bindings, and supposedly providing more consistent performance throughout the full range of ski flex.  They have a DIN range of 5-12, which is plenty for the backcountry, even for a big guy like me.

They have a number of thoughtful improvements, including little guides at the toe, that position your boot in the right spot to engage the toe clamps. The rep told me a bunch of stuff about how the specific radius of the wings helps with consistent engagement of the boot.  I only understood about half of what he was saying and have no idea if it really makes a difference or not.  I can say that the clamping wings have a nice positive engagement on the boot.

G3 Ion
The new G3 Ion Binding. The toe guides are the vertical black pieces sticking up just in front of the toe wings.

The heel piece has easy to engage climbing plugs, and burly brakes.

G3 Ion Heel
G3 Ion Heel Piece

Overall, I was really impressed with this binding.  I have no idea how it will function in the real world, as I haven’t had a chance to ski it, but it certainly looks promising.

 Ice climbing gear:

The ice climbing gear I was most excited over are the new Petzl Laser Speed Light ice screws.  They are aluminum body screws with steel teeth.  This concept is not new.  I climbed on Lowe R.A.T.S. (ratcheting aluminum tube screws) back in the old days, and they had a similar combination of aluminum body and steel teeth.  Currently, the e-climb Klau screw is also made with an aluminum body and steel teeth.  I’ve never seen one in real life however, and I don’t think they are sold here in the U.S.

The Petzl screw looks like it incorporates the sharp, fast-placing tooth design of their Laser screws, but with significant weight savings due to their aluminum tube body.  Seems like just the ticket for alpine routes where I’m trying to save weight.

Sadly, they won’t be for sale until June or July.

Aluminum tube body. Steel teeth and hangers. Looks perfect for alpine climbing.

New, but not necessarily improved.

Cassin is updating their X Gyro umbilical leash with special purpose carabiner clips to replace the Nano 23 full strength biners on the older version.  I’m not convinced that this is a positive thing, as I think the Nano 23’s do a fine job in this role and are full strength.  They have kept the thin cord attachment that you can use to larks-foot your umbilical directly to the tool if you don’t want to use a biner.

The “big” news that wasn’t really all that exciting was the new Nomic clone from Black Diamond, the new “Fuel” ice tool.  No idea if it is as good as or better than the Nomic, but it looked very similar.  It might make high grade mixed climbers excited.  It didn’t do much for me.  (Probably because I’m not a high grade mixed climber.)

The new (yawn) Fuel from Black Diamond.

Mountain Boots:  

Everybody who makes mountain boots now has a version of the Scarpa Phantom Guide/Sportiva Batura.   This is a good thing, as these insulated integral gaiter single boots tend to be light, well-performing, and versatile.  With more companies offering these types of boots, everyone should be able to find a fit for their foot.  (I saw them from Scarpa, Sportiva, Lowa, Mammut, Salewa, and there are no doubt others I missed)

Salewa mountain boots

Lowa Mountain Boots

The big news is that Scarpa’s terrific Rebel Ultra boot is being discontinued from their U.S. lineup.  (but will still be available in Europe.)  Too bad, as I think it’s a terrific boot.  The Scarpa rep said that the Ultra just wasn’t beefy and durable enough to justify its price tag for the majority of consumers, who expect a $500+ mountain boot to have tank-like durability.

Scarpa’s 2014 mountain boot lineup. (Note the unfortunate absence of the Scarpa Rebel Ultra.)


By far, my biggest disappointment of the show was the Jetboil Joule.  I’m a serious stove geek, and the idea of a high output liquid feed tower stove with an alpine hanging kit and pressure regulator really had me excited.  The MSR Reactor is my current favorite alpine stove, but I figured that the Jetboil Joule would dethrone it due to the Jetboil’s inverted canister liquid feed design, which is great for very cold temps when butane loses pressure.

However, when I saw the Jetboil Joule in person, I was amazed at how big and bulky it is.  My first thought when I saw it was, “That thing’s the size of a soccer ball.  It would take up half the volume in my back pack.”  It’s maybe not quite as big as a soccer ball (probably more like a volley ball,) but it’s way too big to be of use to me as a stove for climbing or backpacking.

A great concept, but way too large for climbing or backpacking.

The Jetboil rep said that the stove was optimized for groups of 4 to 6 people and would be a great basecamp stove.  He’s probably right about that, and I was impressed at its simmering capabilities and the ease at which it roasted marshmallows and melted chocolate without burning it.  However, I really have very little use for a stove that large.  I was hoping for a compact, cold weather snow melting mega blowtorch that I could take on cold alpine climbs.  What Jetboil delivered was a bloated comfort-camping and basecamp stove.  I’m hoping they can come out with a smaller, more streamlined version of the Joule, sized like the smaller Jetboil Sol or Sumo stoves.  Until they do, I’m sticking with my MSR Reactor.


Rab’s Strata, with Polartec Alpha Insulation

Not too much new as far as clothing goes.  The only stand-out stuff that piqued my interest were the lightweight insulated pieces using new ultra breathable synthetic insulation.   Polartec Alpha is the best known of this new breed of insulation, which is touted as being more breathable and having a much broader comfortable temperature range than traditional insulated pieces.  The Rab Strata and the Patagonia Nano-Air were two of these new clothing pieces, with the Patagonia piece having the benefit of additional stretch in the outer fabric, and the Rab piece having the benefit that it is on sale right now.  (The Patagonia Nano-Air is not yet available.)  The Patagonia offering doesn’t use Polartech Alpha, but rather a proprietary insulation that seems to share Alpha’s highly breathable characteristics.  Not quite sure if I “need” one of these Polartec Alpha garments, but Patagonia’s “Put it on, Leave it on” sales pitch did sound pretty good.  I’m trying to figure out just where one of these garments would fit in my alpine clothing arsenal.

Patagonia’s Super Stretchy Nano-Air hoody, with extra breathable Insulation.


Powder Cord Pouch

This season I’ve been using Powder Cord Pouches on my skis.  These are powder cords, coupled with a pouch that buckles around your boot.  This is much better than trying to stuff the powder cords up your pants legs.  Even with built in gaiters, I’ve found that the cords tend to not stay in place when stuffed up pant legs.  These Powder Cord Pouches keep the cords secured in the pouch.  The pouch closes with velcro.

On skis with brakes on the bindings, I use these powder cords as regular cords.  On skis/bindings without brakes, I use them as leashes.  To use them in leash mode, I just knot the end and slide the knotted loop through the buckled strap before I buckle them on.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with these pouches.  They’ve solved the problem of what to do with the cords/leashes when I tour.


Backcountry ski gear update

My backcountry ski gear has changed substantially in the past couple of seasons.

I’ve changed over to new boots, new skis, and new bindings for most of my backcountry skiing.

First off, the skis:

Dynafit Manaslu (187 cm)

For all-around, lightweight touring, I bought a pair of Dynafit Manaslus (187cm length.)  These were the replacements for my Goode skis that failed on me.   I’ve been touring on these (with Dynafit bindings) for the past several seasons.   Overall, I’ve been pretty impressed by their light weight and versatility.  They can hold a reasonable edge on hard snow, and they do well in soft snow too.  They feel very responsive underfoot, and turn initiation is very quick and easy.   My only complaint about how they handle is that their edgehold on ice isn’t great, and they get bounced around a bit in thick, choppy, gloppy snow.  This isn’t surprising I guess considering their lack of mass.  I’m not a “hard charging” backcountry skier, but for my relatively conservative backcountry skiing style, these are great skis for long tours.

The Manaslus are pretty light weight.  With bindings, they weigh about 8 pounds, 11 ounces for the pair.  Dynafit makes skins specifically tailored to these skis.  These skins are also light weight (about 20 ounces) and grip well, but I’ve had the attachment hardware break on two different skins.   Dynafit/Salewa replaced the broken skins under warranty, and hopefully they’ve got this issue figured out by now.

My only real concern about these skis is their durability.  They seem a bit fragile.  I skied over a rock with them on an early season tour, and it bent the edge and kind of caved in the sidewall.  Honestly, I really didn’t hit the rock all that hard, and didn’t expect this sort of damage from a relatively small impact.  Given their light weight construction, I guess that I can’t really expect them to hold up to abuse.

Base damage on my Manaslus

Overall, however, I’m pretty happy with these skis.  They are a versatile, lightweight option for long tours in variable snow conditions.

DPS Wailer 112 RP (Pure Carbon Construction, 190 cm)

I bought my first pair of 112RPs for resort and side country use.   I wanted a ski that would be good for resort powder days, where I was skiing fresh powder in the mornings and tracked out snow in the afternoons.  My other powder-oriented skis, the DPS Lotus 138s, are great in powder, but not so good on hard snow, so when I used them in-bounds, I tended to want to change out my skis by the end of the day.  Invariably, just as I changed out of my Lotus skis, the resort would drop the rope and open up some closed area with acres of untracked powder goodness.    I wanted a powder ski that I could ski on all day at the resort.

The DPS Wailer 112 RP pretty much fulfills that need.  It’s a fantastic powder ski, and its rocker, large surface area, and broad shovel tip are a lot of fun in the deep stuff.   However, its traditional sidecut geometry and reasonable width make it turnable on harder snow as well.   I’ve read reviews of the 112 RP where its hard snow performance is likened to that of a GS ski.  I think that the folks who write these reviews either haven’t skied a GS ski, or they are just getting carried away with their enthusiasm.  The 112RP is decent on hard snow.  On hard snow, it’s nowhere near as good as my Volkl Mantras, much less a GS ski.  However, that said, the 112RP has enough hard snow performance that I can be comfortable and have fun on hard snow, while searching out the soft powder stashes for which the 112RP is designed for.  The 112RP also crushes through crud and heavy chop.

Originally, I intended to ski my 112RPs primarily at the resort, with occasional “slackcountry” use.   I mounted them with the new Marker  FT12 bindings, which are pretty much a lighter weight version of the Marker Duke.  As expected, this combo was great for the resort and sidecountry excursions, but I also found myself taking them touring as well.  After a while, I realized that in almost all situations, I preferred skiing on my 112RPs in the backcountry.  I live in Utah, and most of my touring  is on soft snow, with the occasional crust, wind scoured ice, or beaten-out trail.  The 112RPs are sublime in soft snow, with enough versatility to handle the nasty stuff too.  The rocker and broad tip make breaking trail easier as well.  So, even though I had a dedicated backcountry touring rig (my Manaslus with Dynafit bindings), I ended up most of the time on my heavier 112RPs when I headed into the backcountry.  I’d heard about breakage issues with the Marker FT12 bindings, but I never experienced any problems with them.  I think that the breakages were mostly due to people falling forward when in touring mode, which never really happened to me that I can remember.   I never really had any bad issues with my bindings, either in touring or downhill modes.

Eventually, I realized that the 112RP is probably my ideal touring ski, and I decided to get another pair of 112RPs dedicated for backcountry use.

I bought another pair of 112RP’s and mounted them with the new La Sportiva RT bindings.  Combined with my Dynafit TLT 5 Performance boots (reviewed below) this really seems to me to be the ultimate backcountry rig for Utah (and Colorado too, for that matter.)   Weight of the carbon fiber 112RP skis with the RT bindings is 9 pounds, 9 ounces for the pair.  That’s really light, especially for a fat powder ski, and they’re great on the uphill and for long tours.  They have held up well to the normal abuse I put on my equipment, and have slid over rocks and logs etc. with no damage.

The Sportiva RT bindings are pretty minimalistic.  They function pretty much like a Dynafit binding.  They have an adjustable toe release, but the adjustable toe release only comes into play when the binding is locked down in touring mode.   Changing levels of heel lift with a ski pole is not easy, and is much more difficult than with a Dynafit binding.  There is a little plastic post attached to the heel piece, with an opening that you can insert your pole tip into, but I’ve found that the plastic post tends to just rotate by itself when you crank on it, without rotating the heel.   It’s not a huge issue, as I can usually just bend down and twist the heel piece.    One thing I have noticed about the RT binding is that the heel piece doesn’t seem as prone to rotating on its own as the heel piece on my Dynafit bindings.  Often, (particularly when traversing steep slopes) the Dynafit heel will self-rotate from touring mode into locked downhill orientation.  This has not yet occurred with the RT binding, which is great.

Retention with the RT bindings has been good.  They have not pre-released, and there is no discernible slop or wiggle when touring or skiing downhill.

2 pair of 112RP, My Wife's touring Rig, and Dynafit Manaslus

DPS Wailer 99 (Pure Carbon Construction, 184cm)

I purchased these skis as an upgrade to my Dynafit Manaslus.  Although I like the Manaslus, I wanted something with better performance on ice and hard-packed snow.  I also wanted skis that could handle difficult crust,  chop, etc.  My concerns about the Manaslu’s durability also made me decide that a more robust ski would probably be a good idea for longer tours in remote locations.

The Wailer 99’s are very light weight.  When mounted with Plum Guide bindings, they weigh only 9 pounds, 2 ounces for the pair.  They don’t really perform like a lightweight ski, however.  Unlike the Manaslus, which feel a bit skittish in nasty snow and on ice, the Wailer 99’s carve much better on ice, and pound through ugly snow better too.

I haven’t used them enough to have a real long-term view, but after some time in-bounds, and a 4 day ski tour, I think that the Wailer 99’s are going to be my go-to ski for spring time, early season, and long tours where I am likely to encounter difficult snow conditions.  (The 112RP’s will remain my choice for powder.)

DPS Wailer 99's in the Teton Backcountry




Dynafit Titan Boots

I got the Titans as a replacement for my Garmon Axons.  The Axons were pretty good boots, but I never seemed to be able to get a completely satisfactory fit with the Axons.  For whatever reason, the Axon last just didn’t fit my foot all that well.  The Titans seemed like a good boot for downhill oriented touring, slackcountry days, etc.

Overall, I’ve been mostly pleased with the performance of the Titans.  I like the downhill performance of the Titans better than my Axons.  They fit my feet really well, with a very close but comfortable fit that really locks in my foot position.  I’ve been using the Titans as my primary downhill resort boot, coupled with my DPS 112RP’s with the Marker bindings.  The Titans are good enough that I haven’t really missed my heavy resort boots at all.  They aren’t race boots, but they’re plenty stiff to power my  112RPs.  They’re comfortable enough that I can ski in them all day long.

The touring mode of the Titans is a bit of a disappointment.  They have pretty decent articulation and have plenty of flexibility for touring.  However, when I tour with the buckles loosened, the tongue piece catches on the cuff.  This means that every stride, the plastic hangs up for a moment, providing resistance, then it pops loose.  I’ve not met anyone else who has had this issue with Titans, and I wonder if it’s an issue with how they fit my lower legs (I have really thick calves.)  I have found that if I keep the buckles a little bit tighter that it doesn’t catch, but this restricts the flexibility somewhat.  I mostly use the Titans for resort and slackcountry anyway, and so it’s not too big of an issue, but it is somewhat of a limiting factor for touring in these boots.

Dynafit TLT 5 Performance Boots

These boots are light.  They weigh 5 pounds, 11 ounces for the pair.  That’s about the weight of a typical alpine climbing boot.   They have crazy articulation for touring as well, and touring comfort in them is great.

The liner is kind of thin, but so far, I’ve not had cold toes, even in temperatures down in the single digits.

Downhill performance is surprisingly good.  They are very stiff, and the addition of the optional stiffener tongue makes them even stiffer.  I have no problem driving my 190cm DPS Wailer 112RP skis with these boots.

A word on fit:  The TLT-5 boots fit differently than the Titans.  the TLT-5 is a much lower volume than the titan, especially in the fore-foot.  I had to get the boots stretched a bit by my boot fitter to allow them to fit comfortably.

One issue that they do have, however, is that they only work with tech bindings.  They don’t have the toe or heel blocks to be compatible with DIN bindings.  Also, they are a lot shorter in length than other boots, so tech bindings that are mounted to fit the TLT 5’s are unlikely to have enough adjustment range to fit other boots.

Gecko Ski Skins

I was looking for some lightweight skins to put on my 112RP backcountry rig, and I came across the Gecko climbing skins (LINK HERE)  These skins don’t use glue.  The skin base is self-adhesive.  I was intrigued by the concept and bought them.  They seem to work pretty well so far.   They have traction for climbing that is comparable to other skins I’ve used, and they seem to stick well to the bottoms of my skis.  They are easy to fold up, and they don’t stick to themselves like glue skins.  Weight is good, about 5 ounces less than my G3 skins I was using.  Overall, I like them.  Only time will tell how durable they are.

Ski Gear Weights

Garmont “Axon” boots 150.8 oz/pair (9 punds 6.8 oz)
Garmont “Mega Ride” boots 119.4 ounces/pair (7 pounds, 7.4 oz)
Scarpa “Laser” boots 131.6 ounces/pair (8 pounds, 3.6 oz)
Garmont GSM sl boots w/Intuition liner 108 ounces/pair (6 pounds, 12 oz)
Dynafit Titan boots 147.2 ounces/pair (9 pounds, 3.2 oz)
Dalbello Virus Lite boots 125.8 ounces/pair (7 pounds, 13.8 oz)
Dynafit TLT5 Performance boots 91.4 ounces/pair (5 pounds, 11.4 oz) (Includes removable tongues which are 4.6 oz/pair)

Mammut Snow Shovel 22.2
Ortovox Grizzly snow shovel 21.4
Ortovox Snow Shovel 32.9
Voille Snow Shovel 25.1
Snowclaw 6.7
New Snowclaw 6.4

Marker duke ski crampons 8.5

ABS Vario 30 Pack (stock) 125.5 (7 lbs. 13.5 oz.)
ABS Vario 30 Pack with airbag system and avalung 136.8 (8 lbs. 8.8 oz)
Snowpulse ProRider 28L Pack 100 (6 lbs 4 oz)
Snowpulse Lifebag 45L Pack 111.8 (6 lbs, 15.8 oz)

Volkl Mantra skis (184cm) with Marker Duke Bindings 211.3 oz/pair (13 pounds, 3.3 oz)
Salomon Pocket Rocket skis (185cm) w/ Diamer Bindings 212 ounces/pair (13 pounds, 4 oz)
DPS Lotus 138 Skis (202cm) w/Dynafit bindings 174.9 oz/pair (10 pounds, 14.8 oz)
Ramer Grand Tour skis (195cm) with Salewa bindings 163 ounces/pair (10 pounds, 3 oz)
BD “Arc Ascent skis (185cm) w/ Dynafit Bindings 122 ounces/pair (7 pounds, 10 oz)
Goode BC95 skis (182cm) with Dynafit Bindings 118.6 ounces/pair (7 pounds, 6.6 oz)
Goode BC95 skis (no bindings) 88.6 ounces/pair (5 pounds, 8.6 oz)
Hagan Tour Extreme skis (130cm) with ULM bindings 110.2 oz/pair (6 pounds, 14.2 oz)
Hagan Tour Extreme skis (130cm) with Silvretta 500 bindings 130.6 oz/pr (8 pounds, 2.6 oz)
Hagan Nanook skis with Hagan bindings 105.8 ounces/pair (6 pounds, 9.8 oz)

Dynafit Manaslu skis (187cm) with Dynafit bindings 139.4 oz/pair (8 pounds, 11.4 oz)
Dynafit Manaslu skis (178cm) no bindings 102.4 oz/pair (6 pounds, 4 oz)
With Dynafit bindings 125 oz/pair (7 pounds, 13oz)

DPS Wailer 112RP Skis (190cm Carbon Pure, no bindings) 127 oz/pair (7 pounds, 15 oz)
with Marker F12 Bindings 196.8 oz/pair (12 lbs, 4.8 oz)
with Sportiva RT Tech bindings and powder cords 153 oz/pair (9 lbs, 9 oz)

DPS Wailer 99 Skis (184cm Carbon Pure) with Plum Guide bindings 146 oz/pair (9 lbs, 2 oz)


Hagan Skins 11.9 ounces
Ramer Skins 17.4 ounces
G3 skins for DPS Wailer 99 skis:  25.5 ounces
Ascension skins for BD Arc Ascents 18.5 ounces
G3 skins for Lotus 32.2
Gecko skins for DPS Wailer 112RP 22.5 ounces
G3 Guide skins for DPS Wailer 112RP 27.7 ounces
Dynafit skins for 187 Manaslus 20.2 ounces

Tracker Avalanche beacon with batteries 10.8