By David Lottman


Ragged Mountain – $149 

The Mountain Stretch Jacket is popular with folks who spend serious time working or playing outside in the winter. Warm Polartec® Power Stretch® fabric has four-way-stretch to move with you. It’s the perfect fabric: wicked soft and fuzzy inside, and still featuring a tough-but-supple, no-pill outside. There’s a reinforced wind-flap behind the full-length zipper, which is fleece-backed where it comes up high to cover your chin. The fitted hood means you can leave your neck gaiter behind, and the hood fits well under a helmet or hard-hat. Essential items are kept handy in the zippered slash chest pocket.

The removable elastic crotch-strap keeps it tucked under your harness when you’re climbing or working at height, and the thumb loops seal that gap you get above your glove’s gauntlet. Seems like the Mountain Stretch Jacket would cram into your pack without hogging much space–but we don’t really know for sure, as we’re always wearing it! This one’s a favorite among the climbing guides in the White Mountains, as it performs mightily on the crags, but still looks sharp in the pub. Sleek and form-fitting, the Mountain Stretch Jacket is all warm and comfy; perfect for when the conditions outside are neither.

I have always had a Power Stretch hoody in my gear closet, and Ragged Mountain Equipment has upped the game here by using the new Power Stretch Pro fabric. This fabric feels a lot like the original Power Stretch, super soft and warm on the inside, but has better longevity, durability, and original shape recovery.

The description of “jacket” might seem a little misleading as this is a great next-to-skin piece, or best worn over a thin synthetic or Merino wool t-shirt as a base/ mid-layer. The fit is actively snug with the arms just being a bit too long for my frame. This is an excellent piece to add to any cooler weather outdoor wardrobe! mountain-stretch-jacket

Made in USA by Ragged Mountain 279 Route 16 & 302, Intervale, NH 


Rocky Talkies – $90.00 

Communication is crucial to safe backcountry travel, and nothing helps improve communication than a quality set of radios. The Rocky Talkie is designed for athletes to push their limits in the outdoors. Unlike the fragile plastic belt clips of other radios, Rocky Talkies are easily secured to backpacks and harnesses, using an ultra-light carabiner. Right out of the box, I could feel how durable these radios are.

First, there is the shatterproof front screen that is transparent for the LED display. Then there is the removable rubberized case for all-around drop protection. The case fits so snugly I didn’t even realize it was removable until I really started to dig into the radio after months of use. There isn’t much reason to remove the case unless you’re carrying spare batteries (more on battery life later).

For water resistance, the radios carry an IP56 rating, meaning they are splash-proof and snow-proof–but should not be fully submerged. The audio quality of these little hand-held radios far exceeds any of the other radios I have tested. It almost doesn’t sound like a radio, and sounds more like a five-bar, LTE connection with a modern smartphone.

There are only five buttons, which makes this radio incredibly easy to use right out of the box. Range was one of the hardest features for me to truly test, as I am almost never that far from my clients or partners. When alpine rock climbing in Huntington Ravine, we are always within 60 meters of each other. This winter, back-country skiing that distance can increase to a maximum of a half-mile … still way within the suggested range. This is a twowatt radio … the strongest watt option available that doesn’t require a license to transmit on. I found the battery life to be substantial, especially for such a small radio. My informal testing showed the battery would last for over 12 days of use while guiding both waterfall rappelling and rock-climbing trips.

For under 5 ounces, this might be one of the best things you could add to your outdoor kit when it comes to overall team communication and safety.

Use promo code “AlpineStart10” to get 10% off! 


Deuter Guide Lite 24 Backpack – $130

The pinnacle series from Deuter has been completely redesigned and overhauled—resulting in a new, minimalistic Guide Lite 24. Balanced load distribution and stability are results of a flexible, tensioned Delrin U-frame. Its ultra-lightweight, uncluttered design includes quick, one-handed access via a draw-cord closure.

The manufacturer’s website lists its weight as 1.43 pounds. I did find some weight discrepancies when using my digital cooking scale at home. Normally, packs are an ounce or two off, but in this case, the complete pack was a half-pound heavier than claimed. I took the removable components off the pack and weighed everything separately and together to get a better idea of the true weight based on each configuration.

The complete pack weighed 2 pounds, 1 ounce (938 grams). The top lid weighed 3.5 ounces (94 grams). The waist belt weighs 5.5 ounces (160 grams). So, the claimed pack weight looks to match the completely stripped-down version of the pack at 1 pound, 8 ounces (684 grams).

For a pack of this volume, I do feel this is slightly on the heavier side when compared to similar packs in the class. This extra weight probably comes from the more robust internal frame and thicker closed-cell foam shoulder and back pads than similar models.

This pack only comes in one size (though there is a woman’s version and a larger capacity version). Measuring from the top of the shoulder straps to the middle of the waist belt is about 17 inches.

I have a 19-inch torso (5’9” tall, but torso length is more accurate when fitting packs). That means this pack rides a bit high on me when it comes to the waist belt. This worked fine for me, as I often have worn this pack over my harness, and I preferred to leave the waist belt on and clip it above my harness. Combined with the sternum strap, this helped the back hug my back closely while climbing.

With 24 liters (1,465 cubic inches), I could easily carry my full rock guiding kit or my 4,000-footer packing list while I work on the 48’s with my son last season. The expandable collar adds another 600 or so cubic inches. An external helmet carry system frees up even more pack space, and a climbing rope can easily be secured over the top of the pack, thanks to long enough top-side compression straps with fast release buckles.

This pack definitely carries well. The internal frame feels like a thin plastic sheet reinforced with two stiffer stays running down the sides. This made awkward loads (like a full trad-rack) carry with no pressure points. The waist belt is quite wide (4.5 inches at its widest) and wraps perfectly around the body. In my case, this was a bit over the hip bone, but a shorter user would find it quite comfy. The height-adjustable sternum strap (with whistle) did a great job of keeping the pack centered. Overall, this was a very comfy pack for day-hiking and rock-climbing multi-pitch routes.

There are quite a few features on this pack that some may really like, while others may find a bit excessive for an alpine pack. Features I really like are the well-sized removable top pocket with both external and internal compartments. It also has a great “alpine emergency” infographic under the lid that lists emergency numbers for different countries, universal SOS signals, and more. The pack is hydration-system-compatible, though I did not use a system with the pack. I also didn’t test this pack in winter, so I have not used the ice axe carry system; but playing with it at home, it’s pretty slick. While seemingly cosmetic, I’m a huge fan of the high-visibility orange color that this pack is available in.

The new Deuter Guide Lite 30+ Backpack is a solid choice for a technical backpack that also has the carrying comfort and features one might look for in a more general day-hiking backpack. Dual ice axe and rope-carrying capability let it cross over to both winter mountaineering and ice climbing applications. This is a pack worth looking at if you’d like a well-made pack that can serve you well, whether hiking 4,000-footers or getting in some multi-pitch climbing. 

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David Lottman has devoted his entire adult life to climbing—pushing his grade on recreational objectives and working as a professional mountain guide. David is an aspirant “rock guide” through the American Mountain Guide Association [AMGA], an Ortovox Team Athlete, an expert gear tester at the Gear Institute, an American Institute for Avalanche Awareness and Education [AIARE] course leader, holds a Wilderness First Responder [WFR] and is a volunteer member of Mountain Rescue Service [MRS] and Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue [AVSAR].