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A Love Letter to My Patagonia Micro Puff

Kitty Calhoun out testing Patagonia's new Micro Puff Jacket on a recent ski tour in Colorado's San Juan Mountains.

Kitty Calhoun out testing Patagonia’s new Micro Puff Jacket on a recent ski tour in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

I never thought when I was learning to ski at age 6 where my skis would take me.

How many memories my gear and clothes would hold?

I remember my Dad helping me into a garage-sale jacket and putting mittens on my tiny, frozen hands.

There’s the short, tailored sweater with yellow and blue stripes that I wore as a teenager—a tool to attract boys.

When I started winter climbing, I gave up fashion for the function of baggy wool: a brown, plaid button-down, army trousers, and Dachstein mitts.

Back then we all wore wool because it kept us insulated from the cold even when it was wet.

Kitty Calhoun skiing the East Face of Teewinot , Grand Teton National Park, 1982, in her fashion backwards Army Surplus wool knickers and sweater.

Kitty Calhoun skiing the East Face of Teewinot , Grand Teton National Park, 1982, in her fashion backwards Army Surplus wool knickers and sweater.

The problem was the smell of sweaty, wet wool is distinctive. And, inevitably, before the end of a long day, an ice storm would blow in and I’d be caked—further insulated with a thick layer of snow and ice!

After college new fabrics became available. To save money, I made my own waterproof anorak but splurged on a Patagonia fleece.

Living out of my Subaru, I didn’t have many clothes. I wore this fleece day and night for eight years. I loved it because it didn’t stink when it got wet. It was also softer, and dried faster than wool.

Kitty Calhoun at 14, 158 feet on the Summit of Mt Sneffles, Co, 1982, wearing her homemade anorak and wool gloves.

Kitty Calhoun at 14, 158 feet on the Summit of Mt Sneffles, Co, 1982, wearing her homemade anorak and wool gloves.

Over the years I have tested many different insulating jackets.

Always, the challenge is to find a material that insulates by trapping heat but also breathes. A material that “breathes” means that it allows moisture vapor to move away from your body and your next-to-skin, wicking, base layer.

REJOICE

For a decade, Patagonia worked to answer the problem that when down gets wet it looses its heat-trapping loft, but synthetics are never as warm and compressible.

The Micro Puff is the answer. It’s a synthetic jacket made with a unique patterning construction that works to prevent down-like filaments from shifting.

The result is the best warmth to weight ration of any jacket Patagonia has ever created. That is saying a lot!

BEWARE

The Micro Puff is not a belay jacket.

The Micro Puff is designed to be part of a layering system, which Patagonia developed in the 1970’s:

  1. Next-to-skin wicking layer
  2. Insulating layer
  3. Wind, water resistant/proof shell

COMPANY BACKGROUND

 We couldn’t be more proud to have Patagonia as the title sponsor for Chicks Climbing and Skiing.

We look forward to new adventures in jackets of higher performing materials partnered with a company whose mission includes “using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Try out Patagonia’s revolutionary layering system at our clinics.

Patagonia DAS Parka Review

Let me tell you about one of my favorite pieces of outdoor clothing: The DAS parka made by Patagonia. There is no better jacket made for cold winter days! It keeps you warm, whether you’re hanging at the belay on a climb or tagging a summit on a big ski day. I got my first version of this garment when I started guiding on Denali some ten years ago. Before that, I had for years insisted on flimsy down jackets to see me through the Colorado winters, although usually with quite a few shivers and cold hands and feet to go with it. That barely worked, and it wasn’t always comfortable. 

When Alaska called, however, I needed something warm for North America’s highest mountain.  Still, in the days of overstuffed 8,000’ down parkas, which fit the Michelin Man and his wallet a lot better than me, I was looking for more reasonable options that could withstand the rigors of the arctic environment. Enter the DAS Parka.  It was the required piece of equipment on the summit ridge of Denali at 20,000’ and kept me warm on 25 days of expedition life, but the super alpine is not it’s the only playground.  Since my DAS parka was red, it matched my ski patrol uniform, and on extra cold mornings I’d cozy up in it, riding the ski lift to work.  Often, the clear mornings after a snowstorm would reach record low temperatures, and we would be standing on a ridge high above treeline, throwing bombs to make avalanches before the runs would open.  It was so cold that your skis wouldn’t even slide on the snow.  I’d have my DAS parka on and my hood synched tight around my goggles – my only chance to stay warm. 

Nowadays, I have a new version, it’s blue (my favorite color), and I don’t leave home without it, come November.  Call me soft in my old age, but I like being warm! It stays in the car during the day when only the early mornings and late evenings are cold in early winter, but it’s there when I need it.  It travels with me when I cross over Togwotee Pass on the way to climbing ice in Cody – it hasn’t happened to me yet, but what if my car stalled out at the bottom of Togwotee Pass where cool air sinks into the valley and commonly creates Temperatures of -25F. 

Insulation technology is so great these days: this jacket features 120g/m2 Primaloft insulation (think more warmth, less bulk).  For long multi-pitch ice routes, I can easily fit the DAS in my climbing pack to pull out during cold belays, or when descending in icy wind at the end of the day. 

The cut is generous, fitting over a harness full of gear or extra layers.  The pockets are big, allowing for insulated storage of crucial items such as your spare gloves for the next pitch.  I have even stuck my thermos into the inside jacket pocket to keep a hot drink handy.  The hood fits over my helmet and keeps the wind and spindrift off my neck.

The DAS also works great for skiing, fitting over my lighter jackets that I wear on the ascent.  It’s lightweight, water-resistant and windproof nylon shell keeps the elements out. I have used the DAS on the ski area as well as in the backcountry.  I pull it out of my pack when taking a break and revel in its coziness.  It has me covered getting off the Jackson Hole tram in blizzard conditions.  Don’t think that it’s only appropriate for epic days, though – it works great for walking to the post office, too.  And all the mail fits in its pockets.

Petzl Sirocco Helmet

petzl sirocco helmetThe Petzl Sirocco Helmet has been updated and is better than ever. It features top, side and rear impact zone protection which makes it the go to helmet for rock, alpine and general mountaineering.

It covers more of your head, has a lower profile than it’s predecessor and weighs 170 grams, which is slightly more than the weight of your smartphone. In fact it’s so light you may forget that you are wearing a helmet at all.

Read more about why this is going to be your new go to helmet for all your mountain adventures.

 

Chicks Gear Review: Asolo 6B+ GV

Written by: Karen Bockel

The Asolo Women's 6B+ GV - Karen's go-to alpine boot.

The Asolo Women’s 6B+ GV – Karen’s go-to alpine boot.

If ice climbing in the Alpine is your thing, then look no further! The Asolo Women’s 6B+ GV is a rare boot that can do it all on a long adventure in the mountains.

With just enough rocker in the sole, as well as specific shock absorbing materials in the midsole, approaching the climb feels comfortable and easy on the feet. The boot soles grip well on rocky slopes, giving you a secure stance.  Most importantly, the Asolo 6B weighs in at a less then a kilo, these boots don’t slow you down, keeping you fresh and ready for the challenge.

When you arrive at the snow, fear not. These boots keep your feet warm and dry with Gore-Tex insulation.  The comfortable yet secure fit allows enough ankle flex to use perfect French Technique on steep snow and ice.  And then for the highlight, climbing pitch after pitch of vertical blue ice:  This is where the 6B+ really shines.  The rigid sole holds the crampons on securely, delivering great power when you are kicking your feet into the ice.  Snug lacing below the ankle and a women-specific last provide precision and efficiency, making every kick a score.  Bliss!  These are my boots of choice when I am walking to the dance.

Karen Bockel is an AMGA Certifies Rock and Ski Guide and a new proud owner of Chicks.

Karen enjoying ice in her Asolos!

Karen enjoying ice in her Asolos!