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Reviews by maculated (34)

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Primrose AL Harness (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 3.92/5 Average Rating : 3.92/5

In: Gear: Essential Equipment: Harnesses: Women's Harnesses

Review 3 out of 5 stars

Review by: maculated, 2006-04-10

[size=12][b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to and then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on -- 4/06.[/b]

I'm a woman. This harness is for me, right?
I have what I consider to be the most average of average body types for a woman. I'm the average height. The average size. I have fat deposits where the average woman climber has them. And I have long enjoyed woman-specific harnesses designed for the average woman.
I am not so sure that Black Diamond had that in mind when they crafted the ultra-cute and sparkly Primrose but then labelled it a trad climbing harness. This was designed not for your middle-of-the-road, average trad climbing woman, but for the kind of average woman sport climber with a tiny waist, tiny legs, tiny hands, and tiny caribiners. And wants to look hot at the gym.
Really, this harness is chock full of good features for the beginner woman climber who intends to use it mainly for the gym or sport forays - instructions on tie-in points are built into the harness, which, remembering my first self-taught days at the crag, could have come in handy. The adjustable leg loops are great, as some of us have massive, thunderously muscled thighs, and others enjoy lean, compact haunches. It's got a little velcro strip that one can use to secure the desired tightness of the waist loop. The belt itself is well designed if it fits you correctly - I have a long waist and it rode too high to be very comfortable.
Have I mentioned how much I love the color, though? Petzl has historically been the leader in cute colored harnesses, but the attention to detail on the Primrose makes it the ultimate in cute harnesses. The reflective blue color functions not only in drawing headlight attention during the inevitable night rescue, but in the attention of all men in the area. Men love shiny things.[/size] <img src="">
[i]T-dog says, "Mmmmm, shiny."[/i]
[size=12]The silver webbing highlights match the plastic trim, and it's overall a cute, cute harness. And that's why I think it would suit a cute, cute girl who thinks about what she looks like at the crag or gym. No other harness out there has the sheer attractibility factor.
But the drawbacks are myriad. If you are not the woman designed to fit this harness, as I am not, it can be rather uncomfortable through the waist and legs on rappells or hanging belays. The gear loops are very small and few. They have interesting serrated insides, but in practical use, they don't do much to keep biners secure and moving. Their size and limited number really makes me wonder why Black Diamond markets this harness for trad climbing. It feels full with a set of nuts and slings.

You see, Black Diamond designed this to be an entry-level women's traditional harness, but the gear loops are so small, and if the fit is not perfect, so misplaced, that it would take the average professional woman climber (ie, tiny hands, waist, size) to make this harness really work for her on her attempts to free the latest aid route. It would also take a lot of Neutrinos and a tiny rack.
Overall, I feel like this harness has gone the way of most woman-specific offerings on the market - sacrificing real world functionality in order to appeal to the style-conscious woman. By the way, it goes really well with T-dog's fuzzy chalk bag monster.

<img src="">
For what it's worth, this harness has been used on single and multipitch trad routes, but the photos are missing. It was much happier in the indoor environment anyway.[/size]

MaxCams™ (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 4.07/5 Average Rating : 4.07/5

In: Gear: Essential Equipment: Protection: Active

Review 5 out of 5 stars

Review by: maculated, 2005-07-10

[b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to and then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on[/b]

When I asked Malcolm Daly of Great Trango Holdings, Inc. what he thought about the Max Cam’s comparison to BD’s touchstone Camalot, he told me to forget it: “Honey, this IS the new benchmark cam.”

Max Cam designer, Max Reed, is all about simplicity. Most of the time, simplicity, efficiency, and gear management lead to the summit in the most painless way.

The goal of the Max Cam was to expand range through simple, non-weighty engineering – and it does. Coming in six sizes very similar to the BD C4 (0.5-4), with similar coloration, length, and appearance, the Max Cam leaves most comparable cams in the dust.

The Max Cam goes through the motions.

Its tri-axle design actually cuts weight from the double axle of the Camalot, and the extended range is impressive.

Top view of the tri-axle.
The #1 Max Cam has a range of 25-51mm and a weight of 132 g with a rating of 12kn. The comparable #2 Link Cam’s range is larger at 25.4-64 mm and 14kn rating, but its weight comes in at 207 g. Supercam’s range starts at 39.5-70.5 mm for a small with a weight of 198 g and a 13.3kn. Black Diamond's C4 comes in at 30-52mm, weighs 134 g, and 14kn.
Both the OP Link Cam and Metolious Super Cam have specialized applications and limited sizing, so only the Max and C4 cams stand up to primary rack function – but side-by-side, BD has nothing on Trango. The Max Cam shaves off weight, adds range, and while the rating is 2kn less for the Max cam, 12kn should be as strong as you need a cam to be.

Last spring at Red Rocks, Daly handed me a #2 Max cam – just in time for a trip to Indian Creek. My partner spent the drive from Red Rocks to IC playing with it – loving its weight, aesthetics, pretty colors, and when it came time to jump on a crack, Dan got to make its first placement. As he sank it into the splitter he let out a great sigh . . . “Now THAT I would drop a truck off.”
But it's not just splitters that make happy Max Cams. Flaring placements suddenly become a lot easier to deal with – it’s like my hybrid aliens grew up! In a what used to be less-than-optimal BD Camalot placement, the Max Cam fit perfectly.
The Max Cam sits happily in a flaring crack.
The ads boast that the Max Cam can replace two or three cams on your rack. This is hard to believe, but the proof is in the photos.


Both cams retracted . . . but just wait . . .

Check that out. The #2 Max Cam is about the same size as a #1 Camalot at full retraction.
While this doesn’t mean you should be carrying fewer cams on your rack, the versatility is remarkable. In the months I’ve had with my little #2 Max Cam, I’ve found myself wondering why it is that I ALWAYS find a placement for it when I need it. It became more clear recently when I was rapping down to an anchor that required a long unprotected traverse that had my heart rate up. I happened to have only the Max Cam on me, and as I placed it – perfect!
You'll have probably noticed that protrusion that occurs when the cam gets more fully retracted. I’ll show it to you again next to the #2 Camalot:


Many of us imagined problems with that but I invite you to compare the length of the lobes from that protraction to tip with the #2 Camalot’s lobe length. You can relax. It just looks funny because the lobe’s not as big – it appears to be the same depth as a Camalot. In interview, Daly also expressed a concern for this protrusion, citing problematic shallow horizontal placements, but reports that another field tester, Julie Seyfert, from the Gunks (famously home to such placements), has yet to find a problem.

With its increased mobility (thanks to 3 axles and the asymmetrical design), some have reported a tendency for the pieces to walk more than standard cams. This may be a problem with those of you out there who are stingy on your sling usage – even with the extendable sling equipped on the Max Cam, I usually add runners to my pieces and walking has not been a problem.

This new, unfamiliar design can create lopsided placements (which is going to be a universal in the Big Three New Cams for 2005). Those of you used to firing in cams blind may find this a problem. But, as Daly says, “If I have to stick something in where I can't see it, I clip it then pull to look. If you look at one of these when placed, the cams may look unbalanced but the contacts point on the rock should be fairly symmetrically opposed.”

Those of you with bad placement habits be warned: if you place a cam shallow and then push it in further to make it more secure, you will have a problem with the Max Cam. Because of the off-center stem, it is easier to tip the lobes than with other cams. A cam should always be repositioned by retraction and repositioning, not pushing.

When I asked Daly what the biggest complaint about the cam was, he said short trigger bars. “But long, comfortable trigger bars are the prime culprit in trigger-wire failure. They get snagged on everything and torque the wires every which way while you're trying to un-tangle them from your rack.”

In conclusion – I love this cam. As someone who climbs conservatively (ie, not blindly plugging in cams), Max Cam does it all. It takes all the qualities we like in the Camalot C4 and then adds to them. Certainly on some levels the changes aren’t dramatic – but when you look at every other cam on the market, including the comparable price, it makes sense to check these guys out.
Reed is quoted on Trango’s site as saying: “This cam will feel at home in your hands from the first trigger pull.” And there's no place like home.

Women's Anasazi Velcro (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 5.00/5 Average Rating : 5.00/5

In: Gear: Shoes: Climbing Shoes: Women's Climbing Shoes

Review 5 out of 5 stars

Review by: maculated, 2005-06-19

All shoes are the same. You have a piece of leather, or maybe some nice synthetic thing, and it’s encased around the bottom and sides with some kind of sticky rubber. Maybe that rubber is harder, maybe it is softer, but really, when you think about it, your climbing shoes are like big condoms protecting your soft, pathetic feet from the abrasive, dangerous, and painful world of rock out there. And, just like a condom, the footwear of the intrepid climber is getting smaller, smoother, lighter – it even comes in prettier colors or more exciting shapes and forms. Remember those days? Those ones back there? Back in the day? No, I don’t either, but they were there. You know the days I’m talking about. The days of sheepskin condoms and <a href=>hobnail boots. Hobnails, people. I want you to shudder. I’ll tell you once more for feeling. HOBNAILS! Yes, those were the good old days of goldline and actual machine nuts slung with wires, and those dudes were sending better than many of us with our fancy-shmancy foot pods.

Why am I telling you this? To preface the fact that no matter what kind of camber the sole’s got, whether it be stiff or soft or lace up or slipper, these days, shoes really don’t make the average climber. Or, if they do, you shouldn’t be quite as proud of that thin 5.11 send you had last week in those pointy-toed shoes. Shoes can certainly help, but it’s my opinion that if you have that luxurious sticky rubber down there and you can’t get up the route, it’s you that you should blame, not the shoes.

Of course, this is for the average person. I am sure that when you get into the elite levels, even changing shoes up like the poster of Chris Sharma with a Moccasym and an Anasazi on that’s hanging in my bouldering co-op suggests, shoes can matter. But for little ol’ 5.10 climbing me? Naaaaaaaaaaaah. So that must explain why I feel a little guilty about effortlessly floating up my favorite local climb (Camel, 5.10b) this weekend in a pair of 5.10 Girlasazis (Well, techinically they’re called Women’s Anasazis, but that is so boring!).
So pretty, so blue.

Yes, I’d previously steered clear of the 5.10 aggressive models of shoes because, like many women, my heel is just so darn thin and petite. Possibly the only part of my body that I can claim that about, but in my beloved Ascents and Newtons, the dreaded “squirt” of moist flesh against ill-fitting rubber heel cups has long been an annoyance to me. Heel hooking in even the tightest of shoes has always left me wishing for a bit of cord to put around my ankle. I’ve actually slipped out of my shoes on hot, sweaty days.

So, when the Girlasazis reached my doorstep, I wasn’t expecting much. I’m fairly disappointed in the offerings of women’s specific apparel in the climbing industry, so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of shoe alterations either. My heels slid happily out of the regular Anasazis on the infamous “Paul’s Penis” bouldering problem in Tuolumne Meadows. (And you know how much you hate it when your protection slides off?) And, if this review were truly worth the miles of postholing and digging it would require for me at this point in the season to prove my confidence in the fit of the Girlasazi, I would hop right back on that problem and prove it to you tomorrow.

So those are the “heel fart” Ascents, but trust me, I’ve done it in Anasazis.

My local area features many edgy sandstone routes (Santa Barbara) and pockety, and steep volcanic rock (San Luis Obispo) and that’s where I found these shoes the most useful on these types of routes – by leaps and bounds above more mellow styled shoes. It was painful trying to smear with them (their more aggressive downward camber worked against me), or trying to stand on rounded edges, and they are murder on the feet for any more than a pitch for easier face or crack climbing – but if you’re thinking about harder face routes with sharp edges and shallow pockets, man or woman alike, these shoes are for you.
Maculated checks out the new hotness of the Girlasazi against the blue of a lazy Santa Barbara sky.

Anasazi velcros have long been the favorite of aggressive climbers on steep or edgy terrain, and they are now my choice for rock of the same caliber. I wasn’t sure just how spectacular they were until I nosed the pointy little tip in the shallow bubble-pocket of <a href="">Camel and stood on it with confidence that I can safely say – thank goodness for footwear technology and my being born fifty years too late for the hobnail boots. My hat is off to those of you who do remember “those days.”Maculated would like to thank the creative J_Ung for the nickname “Girlasazi.” So beautiful. Not to be confused with Feminazi.

Pillar (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 4.00/5 Average Rating : 4.00/5

In: Gear: Archive

Review 4 out of 5 stars

Review by: maculated, 2005-04-26

When the Mammut Pillar arrived, I thought, "Good Lord, this is [i]yellow[/i]!” There's just something about yellow things. I have a yellow mountain bike and it makes me feel faster. The light and efficient design of the Pillar is just that much more zippy with the yellowness of it all. But you really don't care about the fact that it's yellow, and I accept that.

Let me preface this review with the following: I've tried a lot of packs in my day. My "gear closet" is full of packs, but the one I use most is an Osprey from back when they still made them in Colorado. It's a women's speed hiking pack and it has a lot of stuff going on -- lots of pouches, lots of straps, heavily padded frame. I look very serious about climbing when I've got it on. But it's also huge.

So, when the Mammut rep I met with at the OR showed me the Pillar, I was all eyes. At 40L, this pack is a lot smaller than my behemoth, and it is definitely the product of specialty engineering with a versatile climber in mind.

[size=9]REI models, eat your heart out.[/size]

When I took it out of the box, I clapped gleefully at one of my favorite features: the top helmet securing system. How many of you out there clip your helmets to the outside of your packs when hiking? If you clip it to the top of your pack, you often find yourself beaned in the noggin by the very thing meant to protect it. If you clip it to the back, that swinging motion doesn't do much for your already-weighted balance -- sometimes a confidence breaker on sketchy terrain. Not so with the Pillar.

This pack really isn't meant to packhorse that much gear, but that's okay. Its cylindrical shape and no-frills construction gives way to what amounts to a perfect sport climbing pack.
It took me a while to figure out the purpose of some of the pack’s features. When you open the top, there's a daisy chain and two Velcro straps. While I sat there scratching my head about the Velcro closures, I remembered that [i]this[/i] pack is also a rope bucket. So, I took one end of the rope and Velcroed it with one fastener, flaked my cord into the pack, and Velcroed the other end. Being practical-minded, I tossed my harness, draws, and shoes in for good measure and made the approach to a nearby climbing spot. Upon opening up the pack, both ends were still fastened and waiting, and everything appeared copasetic. The rope flaked out of the bag smoothly, though I was on the ground so it required my securing it upright (something this pack doesn't really like to do on its own). I imagine that if you intend to use this pack for this purpose expressly, it’ll fare better on multi-pitch routes, but truth be told, I am not a big fan of the rope bucket. I did like the "flake into pack" for cragging, however, and it also took the duty of rack carrying off my hands as this time, for once, there wasn't room.

I love the compression system of this pack (again, quite a respite from my usual monster). It came very well compressed -- with four straps on each side and another that loops over the zippered top. This pack can become very small if you want it to. At the same time, there is plenty of storage space in addition to the main compartment.

The Pillar is hydration compatible; just unzip the top, find the elasticized pocket, and slip it in. The pack comes with an opening for the tube to pass through, and there are clips on either shoulder for securing it.

Other awesome features are the handles. One skinny, low-profile handle hides just behind your neck and a large, substantial handle rides prominently on the outside middle. This is a great feature for hauling it around the crag, or grabbing it out from under a pile of gear on an extended road trip.

There are also low profile attachment points for ice tools, which also worked quite well for a stick clip.

[size=9]Rather than blowing it, I’ll let Mammut explain the Butterfly.[/size]

But, as it must always be, nothing can believably approach perfection. Its “Butterfly System” is adaptable many types of bodies. Dan, my 6'1", large-framed climbing partner fit the pack just as well as I did (5'6" medium frame), with minimal adjustments. I was, however, not impressed with the amount of pressure the pack put on my shoulders in its attempt to take weight off the waist (care of the Butterfly System). After the long hike into Pine Creek in Red Rocks, my shoulders were aching, and though the pack comes with many stabilizing and adaptive straps, I was never really able to adjust the weight of my rack to a comfortable level. Again, that's why I think this makes a much better sport pack than trad.

The sternum strap also proved to be pretty much useless. Gear guide editor, J_ung, and I were comparing notes on the Mammut packs we were each reviewing and he mentioned his sternum strap popping off. I told him I hadn't noticed anything, but, following the rules of physics, the next time I put the pack on, the sliding grip popped right off as easily as a stripper's bra.

The sliding sternum strap seems to be gaining popularity -- its round plastic tab moves easily along a cord covered in fabric, giving you maximum control in strap height while cutting weight. I have found the same mechanism on the newer Osprey packs and a few others. The problem is that the strap has a tendency to work its way up on the wearer, and if it reaches the very top of the cord, the narrowing of the fabric that allowed its installation grants it emancipation readily. I sincerely hope that if the industry really does feel this sternum strap style is a great improvement over the webbing slide of older and more conventional packs, they consider adding some kind of stop to the top and placing the attachment point on the bottom instead. Now that I've become accustomed to the poppage, I tend to absent-mindedly push the strap down during approaches and keep it a bit looser than usual; this seems to solve the problem.

This pack's low profile and cylindrical design make it a great way to tote gear on multi-pitch, drag through chimneys, and I really think it shines as a sport pack. The fabric is strong, the color choices are festive, and as with all Mammut's products, the construction is solid.

Grappler (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 3.00/5 Average Rating : 3.00/5

In: Gear: Archive

Review 1 out of 5 stars

Review by: maculated, 2005-04-17

Stick clips . . . normally I would be completely against the idea of them. I mean, if a route is so bold that you don't want to lead to the first bolt, then leave it for someone who will. But, there is a place for stick clips out there, too. A great example of this is Pinnacles National Monument in Calfornia. There is one formation, known as the Monolith that features a starting block at least fifteen feet off the deck. Most of the routes require a start out and away before you get to the first bolt. What does this mean? You take a fall before the first clip, you and your partner are in for an ugly fall into the ditch below. Stick clip? Yes please. Yes, even for the 5.6 route.

So when RockIndustry asked me to review the "Grappler," I was happy to oblige, having made do with a stick and some tape for those routes that I just wasn't bold enough to lead. I guess it comes down to ethics for some - but sometimes you just want to do a route without danger. And personally, the survival instinct in me that I constantly battle just to keep climbing likes the idea of the stick clip.

The concept is simple. This one-piece yellow plastic goody screws onto a painter's pole and easily attaches and removes draws for you. Right?
<img src="">
I should have known when I saw the following tip on their website: "It is recommended that you practice with a quick draw hanging from your finger or a low, easily accessible hanger in order to understand the mechanics of how it works." Low. Start LOW.

Unfortunately, the local sport climbing I enjoy rarely has low bolts for practice. So, I decided to simply go out and do what I could to make the stick clip work on routes I'd have no problem leading and cleaning.
There aren't too many routes in J Tree that qualify as "sport climbs" but in Indian Creek there are a few. The first test? Use without reading the instructions. A good piece of equipment to a climber is one that is easily figured out. I tried a few configurations to load the draw and clip, but was COMPLETELY SHUT DOWN. I handed it to both of my other partners, and neither was successful.Okay, so I toted this clip along a few trips to Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Pinnacles after thoroughly reading the instructions and then watching the videos hosted on Rock Industry's site. The first try was in my town, my partner Carrie holding me steady as I leaned way out to clip the hanger. No problem. Removal? Hmm . . .
We spend about fifteen minutes tittering hysterically at the futility of the removal of the draw. Nearby parties are staring at us with wide eyes. Hee hee hee, "snap!" We go silent, it appears to finally have been loaded properly. I gently pull at it as per instructions, and WOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH, the Grappler hurtles my draw about 30 feet. (In later trials, it finds its way into many locations that are not convienent . . . such as on top of my partner's shoes.) <img src="">Note to self: do not remove draws in hard-to-get-to locations.
I repeat the experiment in Santa Barbara, twice. This time I have my partner Dan give it the college try as well, because by now I am feeling terribly stupid at my inability to make this thing work.<img src="">
Finally I get up close and personal in Pinnacles, sport climbing Mecca for the central coast of California. I'm laughing maniacally as I think I'll finally conquer the Grappler and have a positive review to write, "Oh, you know, I turn out to be an uncoordinated moron."<img src="">
The Grappler will not load or unload when it's a thick Fixe hanger, it does not hold the draw steady and in position for any amount of time, and it makes me feel like a grade A moron. Sometimes you just gotta cut your losses.
I feel really bad for the guy that invented this. It's obviously a start up company, but as his website suggests on the welcome page, I had an ample opportunity to experienc fear, chance, and uncertainty. Thumbs down.

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