Living the Dream!

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Whipperj Gear Review
Rab Neutrino 800

If you’ve ever spent a night shivering in the mountains, unable to sleep because your teeth are chattering so loud and hard it kept waking you up. And, the part that was pissing you off about that was your teeth were the only part of your body that still had feeling left in it! Then you’ll fully understand the importance of a quality sleeping bag.

Your sleeping bag is one of the most important pieces of gear that you bring on any over night trip into the mountains. It’s critical for warmth, comfort, safety, and helping your body get the rest it needs. Your sleeping bag will also be one of the the heaviest items in your pack. So it’s a good place to shave weight, which will make you move faster.

Hardest part of picking a sleeping bag is that one sleeping bag can not do it all no matter what price tag they throw on it. You need to chose the right bag for the job at hand. The down side to this is you will end up with at least two or more likely three sleeping bags in your quiver.

I for one spend a lot of cold night (-30c and colder) high in the mountains so a sleeping bag that is that warm would weigh more than I'm willing to carry. Comprises have to be made. For me that has always meant being cold and traveling light.

This is a thing of the past for me now that I've found a sleeping bag for those cold alpine nights that keeps me warm and yet doesn't slow me down. It’s not perfect it still weighs more that I wish to carry but not so much it slows me down. It’s not going to keep me warm up high night after night in the Karakoram. But, for most of my cold weather climbs it keeps me nice and toasty. The Rab Neutrino 800 has become my cold weather climbing bag for the past two seasons and will be so for years to come.

The Rab Neutrino 800 is the not a sleeping bag for everyone but for those that are looking for a lite cold weather alpine sleeping bag this maybe the one for you. Everyone is different in their needs for a sleeping bag so I will just let you know the good and bad of this bag and let you see if it fits your needs.

The Rab Neutrino 800 makes use of super warm hydroponic down. Which the latest invention to keep down dry and dry down keeps its warm well wet down just makes you feel like your sleeping in a wet Fig Newton. It’s nowhere as good as synthetic insulation but the weight to warmth can not be bet. Rab filled this bag with super warm 800FP R.D.S certified European goose down.

The Pertex Quantum® fabric both inner and outer in supper lite weigh and yet durable. One important feature of the Pertex Quantum® fabric I love is that Rab coated the fabric with Polygiene® STAY FRESH so even after many nights in the bag it doesn’t start smelling like a dead yak! The fabric also has a great feel that adds to the comfort and quality of sleep that this bag provides.

The Neutrino 800 shape is that of a standard mummy bag. The shoulder width is generous but still sharply fit. The foot box is of good size and well insulated to handle the coldest of nights. The Neutrino 800 fits me great and leaves no cold spots that would disturb my beauty sleep!

So I have no hesitations recommending the Rab Neutrino 800 for people looking for a lite weight cold weather bag. It may not be the lightest bag out there and not the warmest but maybe the best compromise cold weather alpine bag out there. I will be using this bag for years to come!

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Whipperj Gear Review
TASC Elevation SS T

One thing that I always pride myself of when a company asks me to test their gear I put it into the most real world testing I can endure. So this review is one of those tests that did not go the way I planned, but the test results speak for themselves.

This past month I have been romping all over northern Pakistan. Cold, windy, perfect climbing weather. TASC 1/4 zip base didn't have to work hard at wicking this trip. Cold, snow, wind and, high altitude I am in my element. Testing some new products from TASC performance was just part of the trip. Until I came down with a flu bug that had me running a 102 degree fever.

For four days I ran a fever that would roast me out of my sleeping bag in a second and the next would have me freezing cold. So stuck in my sleeping bag and stuck in a tent my fate was sealed. Stuffer fest had begun. Now one thing I seemed to excel at in life is suffering. I can take what would be a pleasant holiday for most and turn it into an epic saga. It's just a God given gift I have. So if I have to suffer I should test gear to past the time while I'm not hallucinating.

I used TASC Base Layers for the past couple of years. The bamboo and merino wool blend is amazing. But when you're sweating to death in a sleeping bag it isn’t the layer you want. So I grabbed an Elevation SS T. It is a Bamboo Merino wool blend but much lighter than Base Layer.

Just to give an idea what I mean by sweat. I was drinking over three litres of water a day and urinating less than 250ml. Yes, all the rest was coming out my pours. Okay again most people will not have to endure this sort of thing but the test showed just how well the Bamboo Merino wool blend really works.

After the first day of fever I realized that I was not wet ever though I was sweating a ton. My Elevation SS T was dry. Now after day two my sleeping bag started to feel cool but my T was still dry. Day three was getting nasty, three days in the same shirt but still dry. Wish I could say the same about my sleeping bag. Which by now was like a wet fig Neuton. Day four the fever broke and so did my will to be in that sleeping bag! My Elevation SS T was dry but laying next to a wet sleeping bag left it feeling cool and clammy.

So after four days of testing, it was a huge pass for the Elevation SS T proving the wicking power of the Bamboo Merino wool blend! But, let's not stop there. To push the test a little farther I continued to wear the same shirt to sleep in for the next three weeks with out washing. Yes, that should be the grossest shirt on the face of the planet after that. But after returning home I asked my wife if she thought my shirt smelled and she said "not really, why?" I answered, which was followed up with her slapping me.

So in conclusion I would say that the Bamboo Merino wool blend that TASC performance is using in the Elevation SS T and Base Layers is by far the best wicking fabric I have ever worn. But, as alway don't take my word for it, try it yourself push it hard and see what you think.

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Whipperj’s Gear Review
TASC Bamboo-Merino Base Layer Level B 1/4 Zip

Activity: Mountain Guide Training Camp
Place: Rupal face Nanga Parbat northern Pakistan
Time of year: Early spring season.
Conditions: Hot alpine sunny days with a day or two of snow and cold alpine nights.
Work load: 16 hours a day of climbing for 14 days.
Question: What would you wear for a base layer?

Okay grated this is a question few people would ever have to answer but I do. Training mountain guides in Pakistan has been my privilege for many years now. And, in doing so I have been at the brunt on the Karakorum, Himalayas, and Hindu Kush weather systems on many a day. So the question is what to wear?

Up until this year like many people I wore a Polyester base layer and anyone who has had to wear a Polyester base layer for a few days in a row, well lets just say the name for my shirt was yak killer! Polyester drys fast but never really wicks well. So when the rep for TASC here in Canada approached me about trying TASC’s Bamboo-Merino 1/4 zip on my next trip to Pakistan, I was up to try something new.

TASC’s hype was the funk-free smell vs Polyester's nostril killing odours. The thing is I can live with the smell but in my job keeping dry & warm equals life.

The TASC Bamboo-Merino Base Layer Level B 1/4 Zip combines 65 percent bamboo, 30 percent Merino Wool, and 5 percent Elastane. The bamboo gave the shirt a soft and more comfortable feel that I ever had from Polyester. The Merino Wool did have a slight itch to it for the first day but after that I have never noticed it again.

As far a warmth goes, dry equals warm and the wicking abilities of the bamboo Merino Wool combo stunned me. Pushing hard day after day on Nanga Parbat the base layer’s face wetted out but I stayed dry. Warm days of up to 20C and cool night at -10C. 14 days in the same base layer. This is where even the best products start to fail. So what failed? Not one aspect of what TASC advertised their product does. Yes, this includes the odder reducing aspect of the Bamboo-Merino wool.

After 14 days in the same base layer in Pakistan, you burn it. For there is not hope that smell will ever come out. But, TASC more than lived up to the hype. I have never had a base layer I could keep or better put I would wanted to keep after an expedition before. My TASC Bamboo-Merino Base Layer Level B 1/4 Zip after only one wash smelled like new and performed like wise.

With all that said the one thing that stood out for me was the SPF 50+. Yes, of all the thing that the TASC Bamboo-Merino Base Layer Level B 1/4 Zip offers this is the one thing that is over looked. One afternoon I was up on the mountain running a anchor building course and I pulled up my sleeves to half forearm just to get a little more freedom well building anchors. 3 hours later at base camp I started to feel the sunburn kick in! This photo sums up the difference between the SPF 50+ and none.

To sum up the TASC Bamboo-Merino Base Layer Level B 1/4 Zip. Well, I've recycled all my old Polyester base layers and don't miss the smell at all. For once a company's product does what it claimed to do. Don't take my word for it try some of TASC's stuff out and see for yourselves.