In this post, I’ll focus on making some Aconcagua gear related reviews and comments. I will not describe all of my gear in detail. However, I will select a few items that I thought were particularly useful. I’m reviewing these items because I loved the gear. I have no relationship with any of these companies, other than that I am one of their many customers.
If you are considering an Aconcagua trip or something similar and have questions regarding any of these Aconcagua gear related reviews, please get in touch. I’ll be happy to provide as much detail as you need.
Buff: Protect Your Lungs (and Skin)
One of the items I already mentioned in another Aconcagua post was a Buff. If you’re not sure what a Buff is, look here – it is a brand name, but I’m using the name here to refer to their signature product.
I own two Buffs, both received as gifts (thank you, Myra and Sunny), and used both of them on this trip. Although they are versatile, I basically used them to:
- Cover my mouth and nose to avoid breathing dust
- Trap my sun hat to keep it from flying off in the wind
- Provide an extra layer of sun protection for my face (on top of sunscreen)
It worked perfectly, for all three purposes.
As already mentioned in my other post, I got sloppy on the way down the mountain and couldn’t stand breathing through a stinky Buff anymore (after using each one continuously for over a week) and pulled it down to breathe (the dust) more freely… Sure enough, I developed a cough that persisted for some days. Get a Buff (or bandana or something) and keep at least some of that dust out of your lungs!
Magic Pants: Water, Wind and Sun Resistant
After assuming for years that when purchasing Arc’teryx products you were basically paying for an expensive dinosaur logo, I’d recently begun to really appreciate some of the Arc’teryx gear I’d tried out. But on this trip I really fell in love with one of my Arc’teryx softshell pants – specifically, the Gamma LT pants. Holy cow!
- They fit and were extremely comfortable; that alone is rare enough to be cause for celebration!
- They were totally wind and sun resistant; I didn’t have to put on any sunscreen underneath them – yes, even at altitude – and they were very comfortable even in heavy winds (hot and cold). We were caught in a high wind blizzard hiking up to camp 1 and putting up our tents there – and my legs were fine. (The rest of me was cold and miserable but my legs were remarkably comfortable…)
- They were darn near waterproof! They’re sold as “moisture-resistant” with a “water-repellent” finish. We have photo and video proof that I submerged my lower legs in a stream at Casa Piedras, and the stream just pearled right off of them. Being a lover of water, after some minutes I could no longer resist the call of the water and sat down in the stream altogether… the only reason I ended up getting wet in the process was because the water spilled in over my waistband. Amazing. After that, I started calling them my magic pants. Unfortunately, that meant I loved them so much I only wore them the rest of the trip… Yes, they really did smell bad by the end. They are water-repellant but not stink-repellant. Hmmm… can I justify getting a second pair in another color?
Sun Protection: Columbia Sportswear
This shirt may be my first Columbia purchase – and I loved it. It’s sold as a sun protection shirt for fishing. I bought it to go flying in the desert. And at the last minute I packed it for the lower mountain (hot) hiking days on Aconcagua! I’m glad I did, as it worked perfectly.
The fabric was cool and comfortable; it dried quickly, and it was really effective against the sun. Plus, even after looking disgusting from all the dust and sweat, not to mention the brown river water from when I sat in the stream, testing my magic pants, the shirt washed up really well and looks like new again now. I’ll look quite respectable when wearing it to go flying!
I have fair skin and burn relatively easily; yet even with no or minimal sunscreen underneath, there was no discernible impact from the sun.
I bought it in-store, not online, but I’m pretty sure this is the shirt.
Warm Toes: La Sportiva
This review is slightly mixed but on the whole very positive. I bought a new pair of mountaineering boots for this trip. Specifically, I bought the La Sportiva Olympus Mons Evo, an 8,000 m mountaineering boot. Overkill for Aconcagua, which is over 6,000 m but less than 8,000 m? Possibly. They are bulky and a bit heavy and certainly expensive.
Several times on the way up I wondered whether or not I’d spent too much money and was carrying too much weight up the mountain. On summit day, however, it became clear that I’d made a good choice. My toes were warm. The others on my team had toes ranging from cold to “if I don’t warm up my toes now, I’m going to get frostbite.” Warm toes are happy toes! Although this was my first time at 22,000 ft, I’m very familiar with extremely cold temperatures and the dangers of frostbite. Do what you need to do to ensure your toes stay attached to your feet, preferably without even losing any nerve endings or capillaries!
My only complaint about the La Sportivas is their last. The manufacturer seems to think all mountaineers have very narrow feet. I typically wear a size 8 in US women’s sizes. You normally want to size up a full size or so for mountaineering boots. However, in these, in order to fit in the width and depth of the toe box, I had to order a 42.5, which I believe is the equivalent of a women’s US 10.5! That’s a bit much.
Blister Prevention: Ezeefit Sports
As a result of the sizing, my heel slipped around some with each step. I normally get blisters very easily, so I also shopped around for a heel blister protector, which I found in this product by Ezeefit Sports.
Strangely enough, I ended up not being able to use this product on the mountain, because its edges kept peeling up when I put on my (relatively tight) mountaineering socks! Still, two good things came out of this:
- I didn’t need it. Even with heel slippage, I did not get any blisters in my brand new Olympus Mons Evo boots!
- I’d pre-trip tested the heel protectors in my trail running shoes, where I get lots of blisters on ultras, unless I tape everything up prophylactically. They worked great there; so even though I didn’t use them with the boots, I’m happy with the Ezeefits for trail running!
In Memoriam: My Hokas
I’m sorry to say that the mountain ate my Hoka trail running shoes. That may be a strange thing to say in a positive review! And it’s true, the two downhill days (from camp 3 to basecamp and then from basecamp out to the trailhead) were uncomfortable. I slipped a lot and had some near misses, as well as some falls in the scree or on the loose rocks on the trail. And yes, I threw out the shoes when I got back to Mendoza. My quads screamed out loud a few times, after saving me from falls by heroic contractions to restore my balance.
Still, I was very happy on the way up: Compensating for bulky boots, my approach shoes (which was how I used the trail runners) were lightweight, comfortable, and more than adequate. In Hoka’s defense, the tread on the shoes was, although still adequate at the start of the trip, already well worn. It’s not like the mountain ate a brand new pair of shoes! (In good conscience, I have to add that although I love my Hokas, they are not the most long-lasting brand of shoes I’ve ever had, especially for the price.) Unequivocally, however, bringing them on this trip (maybe ideally a slightly newer version of them) was a good choice!
So that’s it for my Aconcagua gear related reviews. Those were my favorite gear items that I brought on this trip. Again, if you have any gear questions about these or other things I brought, please contact me and ask. Feel free to also check out my post on Aconcagua and risk management.
Happy climbing and trekking!