This December we’re going to go all out on our popular staff picks feature and have articles on what we’d pick from Facewest if we were to kit ourselves out from scratch for various activities. We’ll focus mainly on the clothing but equipment and hardware will still feature. The idea isn’t to get you to shell out for a full set up (though we’d love it if you did!) but to give you a starting point of what to look at first when you come to replace an old bit of kit.
I’ll be starting off with Ski Touring. From the top down:
Hat: My pick would be the Arcteryx Bird Head beanie. Lightweight and low volume. Not so warm that I have to take it off as soon as I start skinning but enough to keep the wind at bay when going downhill.
Neck: I always take a ‘buff’ when skiing – keeps the neck warm when going downhill and folds into a thin hat to keep the sun and wind off if it’s warm when skinning. I’d take the Rab Tube.
Torso: This is where it gets interesting – hard shell or soft shell outer layer? I like knowing I have the protection of a hardshell should the weather turn so my selection on this would be the Mountain Equipment Havoc Jacket. It’s lightweight, skiing specific (powder skirt!) and has a funky colour scheme. For a bit more of an all rounder then the Mountain Equipment Changabang fits the bill.
Underneath that I would go with a Patagonia Nano Air Light Hybrid Jacket. This would usually be an outer layer when skinning – the knitted back will breathe well while the insulated front keeps you warm. I run warm but if you run cold the Rab Paradox or Rab Alpha Flux might be better.
For a baselayer I’d choose the Rab Merino Plus 120. I prefer merino to synthetic when it’s cold as it provides a little more insulation. If I was planning on spending a bit more time on the lifts or it was particularly cold then I’d add something like the Rab AL Pull On between the base layer and insulation layer.
My belay jacket (for lunch stops) is an Arcteryx Atom AR and if someone offered me any jacket to fulfill that role I’d still pick it. If you’re really into your down clothing then my choice would be the Mountain Equipment Skyline Hooded Jacket.
Hands: For an outer pair I think the Hestra Army Leather Heli Ski Ergo Grip look great. Tough, warm and waterproof and with some thought given to dexterity. For skinning or skiing when full on ski gloves are too warm then the Rab Vapour Rise gloves are brilliant. I’ll be replacing mine like for like when they succumb. For liner gloves when skinning hard or additional warmth under another pair I’d have the Rab Merino Plus 160 Gloves.
Legs: I don’t get on with bibs/braces and much prefer trousers. The Mountain Equipment Tour Pants are made (and named) for the job so that’s what I’d opt for. Double weave for protection from the wind and the Exolite fabric is really stretchy.
I’d also take the Mountain Equipment Zeno Pants as a waterproof over trouser, mainly for additional protection on cold, windy days but also useful if you get caught by some rain.
Feet. You can’t go far wrong with the Smartwool Phd Ski Medium. They compress in all the right places for good support are hard wearing and don’t even smell too bad thanks to the merino wool. Considering that they’re not super thick they are also pretty warm.
Pack: For purely ski touring I think the Ortovox Ascent pack is a great choice and is also available as an Avabag Airbag pack. Personally I prefer a more all round pack which I can use for alpine and mountaineering throughout the year as well as on skis. For this I think the Mammut Trion Light 38+ is the best option for hut to hutting, and for day tours they make the smaller Trion Light 28+. Both these packs are super light at considerably under a kilo and offer plenty of space, pockets and carry options.
Poles: Black Diamond Expedition 3 would be my choice. I’ve got the Expedition 2 and they’re great except I find myself wishing they packed up smaller! If you’re OK with 2 part poles then the G3 Via poles have a real quality feel to them.
I won’t go into bindings, skins avalanche safety etc – that’s a blog post all by itself.