Camp USA Winter Gear Review

I’ve found ice, and it was right there in front of me.

Last winter, I fled the mountains of southwest Colorado during the winter in search of warm rock. I had never been very drawn to alpine and ice climbing. I would do a few routes early season and be done with it – in search of warm weather. Winter 2013-2014, I now live in Telluride, Colorado and have decided to give winter climbing another shot. This place is absolutely stunning and I must explore. But first – I must GET THE GEAR!

Ok, I’ve got some new gear to help take my alpine climbing to a new level. I’ve been putting it to the test around southwest Colorado and have been very pleased with the results. And with ice season winding down, I’ll be out there as often as possible making the best of it! I’ll be doing short reviews of each piece of gear, focusing on the versatility of each piece. Here’s what’s new:

CAMP Speed Helmet, Orange

Mountain Hardwear Principia Softshell Jacket, Meduim in Shiraz

CAMP Geko Hot Gloves, Extra Large in Gray/Green

CAMP X-Dream Technical Ice Tool

CAMP Blade Runner Crampons

CAMP Speed Helmet:

Holy cow this thing is light! It weighs only 7.4 ounces. A few years ago, I bought the lightest helmet on the market at the time. It did not last me very long and I ended up not liking it much. This is not the case for the Speed helmet. I’ve been using it for ice and skiing. I’ve got great coverage with adequate airflow – 22 vents. If it’s a cold day, I’ll wear the helmet with a beanie underneath. On warmer days, I’ll switch to a Buff or nothing. This helmet feels great and adjusts to fit my head very securely. I’ve been taking lots of enemy fire to the dome ice climbing. This helmet does a fine job deflecting debris and reducing impact. I have only noticed one drawback so far: I don’t particularly care for the headlamp attachment clips. I prefer the Black Diamond Vector Helmet when I know I’ll be using a headlamp. Bottom line – This helmet will be in my pack 90% of the time. The other 10% is for when I know I’ll be wearing a headlamp for an extended amount of time.

Gary looking sharp in his Mountain Hardwear Principia soft-shell, Camp Speed helmet.

Mountain Hardwear Principia Softshell Jacket:

My new favorite middle layer and light outer layer. I first put this jacket to the test in Red Rock, NV. I was there for an AMGA Rock Instructor Course in the fall. Cooler temps meant I needed a warm layer but I didn’t want to sweat when I needed to climb or do a long descent. I used the Principia as an outer layer and was as happy as could be. I only brought this layer so was able to save weight and have a versatile jacket. This jacket is incredibly warm and breathes well. Now, it is my go-to mid-layer for ice climbing and skiing. I’ll wear this with a thin vest like the MHW Nitrous vest for a little extra warmth. Or I’ll put another softshell jacket or thin hardshell for ultimate warmth and protection. This is also my jacket of choice when I’m around downtown Telluride. It looks super sharp in addition to being functional. There’s a great chest pocket and cozy hood which fits over my new helmet incredibly well. I’ve gotten many compliments from both climbers and random tourists. A problem I have with this jacket and most jackets is having it ride up when I really stretch my arms reaching for that next hold. I have a fairly long torso and reach. Bottom line – Because of the versatility of this jacket, it’ll be with me 3 out of 4 seasons a year. So far, it seems nice and durable. Excited about this piece.

The best guides are always practicing. Here Gary is working on his AMGA Rock Rescue Drill in Red Rocks, NV. The full AMGA Rock Rescue Drill is outlined here in a previous blog post.

CAMP Geko Hot Gloves:

My next addition to my alpine arsenal is CAMP’s Geko Hot gloves. I’m usually a multi-purpose kind of guy. As you read above, I love having versatile items in my inventory. If I can make gear work for other applications to save on cash, weight, etc., I will. I’ve been using these gloves for skiing and ice climbing and they seem to do well in both these sports. For how thin and dexterous these are, they sure are warm. The gloves are insulated with Primaloft all around. The glove is tight to put on but the Durastretch material is so stretchy and cozy that I get a nice comfortable fit. Also of value are the keeper straps for when I really need to work out knots or to take a quick pic on the iPhone. Rope and gear management are made easy with the goatskin leather on the palm and fingers, it’s super grippy. There is a generous snot-wipe that feels great on the skin. As the weather gets warmer, these gloves will be too hot! CAMP has a Geko Light glove, which will work nice for these warmer spring temps. Bottom line – The Geko Hot glove is one of my all time favs and I’m sure the Geko Light will be an excellent choice for warmer weather.

CAMP X-Dream Ice Tools:

As I look to further my ice and mixed climbing abilities, I realized I needed a more technical tool. I got my hands on a set of CAMP X-Dream tools and have been using them exclusively. These things are advanced. The handle is adjustable between two modes: ice and dry. Depending on which setting you choose, you can adjust the angle of the handle in relation to the angle of the pick. The tools also come with two picks: ice and mixed. The picks seem thinner than my last set of tools. They stick in ice easily and penetrate hard ice nicely. I can be delicate and make precise placements with these tools. Lastly, you can adjust the trigger to get the most comfortable and secure fit. Having a tool this versatile could mean it’s the only technical tool I’ll need to have in the gear closet. I’ve climbed ice slabs, steep ice, overhanging bulges, and hooked my way up some mixed routes all with one tool. Bottom line – I have nothing bad to say about these tools. They allow me to climb anything I’m looking to do.

CAMP Blade Runner Crampons:

For the past several years, I’ve been using a non-ice specific crampon and this had hindered my progression. I was using crampons suited for glacier travel and low-angled ice on a semi-automatic boot. A few months ago, I saw an ad in a climbing magazine for CAMP’s Blade Runner crampons. They looked out of this world cool! I had to try these out. I finally acquired a pair and they are just as advanced as the X-Dreams. This is another do-all tool. I’m able to switch between mono and dual points in a variety of positions. I’m also able to switch between semi-automatic and automatic binding systems. The front points can be entirely switched out for snow points to be used on hard and steep snow. So I finally took them out and I can’t believe the difference I can feel with these crampons! I find that I’m using my feet way more now. These offer a solid stance for me to keep weight on my feet and off my arms. It just goes to show that the right gear does in fact make a difference. Bottom line – Just like the X-Dreams, the Blade Runner crampons are extremely versatile. This may be my favorite piece of gear for the season.

The Camp X Dream tools and Blade Runner crampons are just that, an absolute dream. The Blade Runner crampons are by far the most versatile spikes on the marker. They are solid on every type of terrain from overhanging ice to general glacier travel.


Super excited for all the new gear this season. All of it is essential gear that is a part of my complete ice and alpine kit, as well as a few items that can be used in other seasons. See the respective links for more information, stop by Backcountry Experience (800-648-8519) or Kling Mountain Guides (888-981-SNOW) in Durango for more information or a demo, or give us a shout!

Here Gary demonstrates a top managed ice climb. Many principles found in the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor program are seen throughout all types of guiding. Here, Gary is demonstrating an extending master point in order to maintain great visual contact with his client. Learn more about the AMGA SPI program here.

Climb on,


American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Certified Single Pitch Instructor

AMGA Apprentice Rock Guide

AMGA Apprentice Alpine Guide


CAMP Helmet –

MHW Jacket –

CAMP Gloves –

X-Dream –

Blade Runner –

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