Fiona and I are often asked what are we going to do, now that Everest is behind us? Well, Fiona has been working hard on a new web site called WOMO – www.womo.com.au. It’s an Australian site where customers leave reviews about their experience with a business and then other people can use this information to help them make better purchasing decisions. This doesn’t just apply to big things; in fact restaurants is the most popular category. (If you are wondering what the name means, it’s an acronym for Word Of Mouth Online.)
I have an Eider Articheski down suit. I think it’s one of the warmest suits available – definitely warmer than Mountain Hardwear and North Face, however it is a bit bulky. Based on my experience with it, here’s what I believe is good and bad about it.
It has a great hood that you can pull a long way forward and really shield your face from a cross wind. But it’s got a couple of nifty features. I like the lycra flap attached to the end of the sleeve; this has a big hole for your fingers and a single hole for your thumb. When you put your arm into the sleeve, you push your fingers and thumb through the right holes and it ends up looking a bit like you are wearing a fingerless mitten. This stops the suit from riding up your arms and makes it impossible for snow to blow in. Why would the suit ride up your arms? Well, every time you take your gloves off and then try to put them back on (quite regularly), this action will want to push your suit up your arms. It also has a polar fleece vest, into which braces are sewn that help hold up the rest of the suit. This is a good way of managing the braces and adding warmth at the same time. I like the big internal chest pockets, and the large external pocket on the right thigh. Lastly, it has Kevlar lining on the inside of the leg, which helps protect against a wayward crampon.
What I don’t like is that there are no pockets at all for your hands. This doesn’t make much difference when you are climbing, but it would be nice to have when you are sitting around at camp. It’s also a little on the weighty side.
Which is better: a one piece down suit or separate parka and pants? I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think more people are starting to use separate parka and pants. As far as I can see, the only advantage for a suit is that it’s not going to let any cold in around your waist. It also might be a little lighter than pants and parka combined, given that there is no need for overlapping down around your waist. But I think that the extra versatility afforded by pants and parka outweighs this. It’s easy to get very hot on Everest and if I had the option, I would have just worn a parka all the way up to the South Col and some lightweight windproof pants on my legs. One good thing about a down suit, is that you can keep lots of things down the front of it without worrying about them falling out at the waist. If you look at any pictures of me wearing a suit, I often look like I have a big beer gut, because I usually keep a still camera and video camera, plus water bottle down there, no to mention snacks that I am trying to keep somewhat warm and edible. If you tied the waist draw string on your parka you could achieve the same effect, but not the same level of security.
So on balance I think I am in the separate pants and parka camp, rather than a one piece down suit. You would want to make sure that any pants you buy come up over your lower back to keep your kidneys warm.
Apart from the usual suspects, I recommend checking out Feathered Friends for good product and value.
I forgot to add that a good idea for boots is to bring some down booties with you up to camps 1 and 2 on Everest South. You can then put your down booties on and then slip them easily inside your outer boots. This is still warm and a lot easier to get on and off than if you use the inner boot. It also means that you have nice warm booties to wear inside your tent and sleeping bag when you go to bed at night. I bought some booties with a closed cell foam sole in Kathmandu for 900Rs, which is about US$16.
Up next I’ll write what I experienced with radios, as per Craig’s request. (I carried both common types of radios and one was definitely better than the other.)