Georgia / Caucasus Expedition Gear Review
Jul 18

I obviously used a tonne of gear on this trip. But most of it was just my manky old gear that I bring on every trip (I think I bought my North Face down sleeping bag in the late nineties).  Other than my skis and clothes, I don’t get freebees. And only a few things really stood out as must-haves. Here is a quick off-the-cuff review, without any pictures showing all the items organized neatly on my floor and Instagramed. You have permission to scream at me if I ever do that.

1) MSR Reactor stove (lent to me by my brother-in-law). I have no affiliation with these guys, and I’m sure the Jetboil equivalent works fine too. Maybe there is a new version as well.

This stove is a must for most winter trips. There were several times when Peter and I would set up camp in the fading light, exhausted and being battered by winds. We’d initially freak-out at how exposed we were and that it would take so much time to boil all our water for tea, dinner, breakfast, and the next days supply. But then you realize with the Reactor, that the whole mountain hydration game has literally changed. Snow is instantaneously turned to water, and is soon boiling. Give away your old whisperlite and buy a reactor.

2) Peter was sponsored by Hilleberg tents. We used the Akto 1-man tent. The thing was uber-light, and could survive the strongest winds, and actually, barely, sorta fit the two of us. If I was in the market for a new tent, I’d buy one of these for sure.

Sponsored stuff:

1) Dynafit Cho Oyu skis, 174cm. (124-88-110mm). An awesome mid-fat (on the thinner side) ski. This ski has Dynafit’s new carbon fiber stringers, which I know very little about. But the only important thing to know, is that these skis are LIGHT!! One of the best surface area-to-weight ratios in the industry. When your legs are destroyed (which is usually the case on expeditions and you’re climbing hard for days in a row), these skis will allow you to survive the up. They also ski well on the down. Certainly not a hauling ass type of ski (although I was on 174’s which are pretty short for a guy my size, I’m sure if I had the longer ski I could shred a lot harder). But these things proved their steep-skiing mettle on the Chatyn couloir. I was totally confident on the 55-60 degree icy hardpack. And that’s all I really care about in an expedition ski. This will probably be my go-to expedition ski for next year. The only improvement for these skis, is slightly less side cut. In breakable crust they do seem to hook up a bit.

2) Dynafit TLT6 boots. Size 27.  If you’re a backcountry skier, you’ll probably hear a lot about these boots in the coming months. I’ve said it before, if the TLT5 was the revolution, than the TLT6 is the total refinement.  It’s a more user-friendly boot than the 5.  Better buckles, stiffer overall, stiffer tongues, wider toe-box, and beefier / warmer liners, all with minimal weight-gain. These boots have performed well all year for me, and exceled on Chatyn’s ultra-steep slopes.

If your TLT5’s are still in good shape, I wouldn’t necessarily feel the need to go out and fork over money for these.  Also, I’ve heard some grumbling that all these boots did was add weight to a perfect boot (TLT5).  But for me, the minor compromise in weight is easily outweighed by increased performance and warmth. If you want a paired down TLT5 for ultra-fast missions, I’d just switch to the DyNA Evo (Which I use) or the PDG (significantly cheaper).

So, if you’re a serious performance-oriented backcountry skier, who likes long days and committing descents (and you’re not sponsored by Scarpa), then you really have no choice but to ski these boots. Seriously. There is nothing out there that compares to these boots.

3) Arc’teryx Nozone 75L pack. Since we were doing all our missions in fast self-supported style (ie.no porters, donkeys, or helicopters). I needed a pack that could haul massive loads, and then strip down for ultra-light summit missions. This pack was near-perfect. It hauled everything I had in total comfort.  We did some rather steep skiing with heavy loads, and this thing sucked to my pack and did not swing at all, making the skiing easy. All the materials used are extra light, making your overall load lighter, which I love. My only issue, was that the ice axe attachments prevent the compression straps from full constricting to carry skis well (A-frame) when the pack is almost empty. But in reality, this thing is a climbing pack, not a ski pack. So I can’t really complain. A truly worthy pack in any serious mountain goers arsenal.

4) Arc’teryx Venta MX Jacket (Hoody), Gamma SV pants, and Atom SV puffy. I’ll just lump them all into one category, because the words outerwear and Arc’teryx sort of speak for themselves.

The Venta is a badass Gore Windstopper jacket. Breathes incredibly well, and protects you from any wind and snow. It even did ok in the rain. The Venta and the Gamma, are both softshell products, which I love for dryer climates (Although Georgia proved to be a bit rainy this time). The Atom is a synthetic puffy, which I used in all situations. Since it’s synthetic, I don’t care if it’s raining, or if it’s under my shell and I’m sweating like mad. It’ll breathe well and keep me warm no matter what. With this combo, you can climb any of the world’s great medium altitude peaks, and probably some of the high ones too.

Stay tuned for a Georgian photo gallery from my ski partner and award winning photographer, Peter Schon.

6 Responses to “Georgia / Caucasus Expedition Gear Review”

  1. Chris Cawley says:

    So, did you have to size down with the change in volume from TLT5-TLT6? TLT5′s have fit my skinny feet better than anything else, ever; I’ve been able to ski them hard in just a single size down from my street shoes, whereas I’m between 2 and 3 mondo sizes down from my street shoe equivalent…

  2. Trevor Hunt says:

    Hey Chris,

    Firstly, I’m not the greatest person to talk about boot fit, since I’ve always enjoyed the comfort of loose fitting ones. I grew up skiing on boots that were way too big (parents said I’d grow into them :), so my performance isn’t really affected. I often get the recommended size above. If I walked into a ski store, they’d call me a 26.5, but I’ve routinely have bought 27 or 27.5′s.

    It also seems like you have your boot fitting pretty dialled, especially with the TLT5. You’ll only know by heading to your local store when the TLT6 comes out and feel the difference for yourself. The fit of the boot has only been widened slightly across the first metatarsal:

    1mm on the inside of the foot, 2mm on the outside of the foot (and 1mm surrounding the 2mm area overall). So 3mm wider at its widest point. So were talking a very minimal change.

    And with the beefier liner, I’m sure you wouldn’t notice much difference. It’ll pack out and pad the appropriate areas. So you’d end up using the same size for both boots. The slight widening of the boot is meant to allow more people to fit the boot (and make it warmer), without alienating the people that already fit it well. I think they accomplished this. But again, each foot is unique! Another thing to add, is that they took out the gimmicky metatarsal flex zone. So that cleans up the boot’s shape, and shaves off some weight as well.

    cheers,
    trev

    If the above explanation of where the boot is widened, sounds confusing, check out the first drawing on wildsnow that the boot designer Giovanni did: http://www.wildsnow.com/9044/dynafit-new-beast-cho-oyu-2013-2014/

  3. Harpo says:

    Hi t, I am wondering what size cho oyu to get. For comparison, how big r u?

  4. Trevor Hunt says:

    Hey Man,

    I’m 6 foot 1 and about 175 pounds. So for most people my size, the 174cm would be a bit small. But I’m just using these skis for a very specific niche of my overall ski experience. Where I ski usually has too much powder for these skis, so I ski on the Huascarans. The cho oyu ‘s I was given were samples, so I had no choice for the 174cm size. But I’ll be skiing on this same size for next year, since this is purely my expedition ski, or for light and fast traverses. And they perform great for that, since I’m not skiing very fast in these scenarios.

    But if I was going to use this ski as more of an all-rounder for touring days when it hadn’t snowed in awhile (which does happen) I’d get the 182cm. The only other size available is 191cm. So if you ski in an area that doesn’t have wallowing deep snow, then the longer lengths would work. But 191cm seems a bit traditional for me. I’m all about going for shorter lengths to save weight, and adding width underfoot to increase performance. But with the cho oyu, I wouldn’t worry about going bigger as well, since all of the sizes are so insanely light!!

    So I guess some questions you have to ask yourself, is what am I using these skis for? Are they my one and only ski, or are they just part of my overall quiver?

  5. Harpo says:

    Thanks for that info, t. The cho oyus will be for long days in spring/summer snow conditions. I will not be skiing fast on them. I am 5’11″, 185 lbs. I am thinking I could get away with the 174?

  6. Trevor Hunt says:

    Yep, the 174′s would should work fine. They’ll feel a little weird at the start, since they are so light. But you’ll get used to them.

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