Welcome to Gear We’re Testing, a new series from FREESKIER in which our editorial staff provides in-depth, honest reviews about the gear we’re testing on a weekly basis. Our goal? To point you towards the best brands and products on Earth so you can have as much fun in the mountains as possible and trust your equipment whole-heartedly. Check out four different product reviews from this week, below, then tune back in next Friday for more because this party’s just getting started.
Oakley Line Miner Goggle
You know how some people have obsessions with certain material objects? Like, people that have 100 pairs of shoes, or 100 different hats? My obsession is goggles. I have a lot of ’em and am therefore pretty darn picky about what I choose to take out on the hill. Oakley’s Line Miner goggle, without a doubt, is one of the best I’ve ever owned.
What I like most about the Line Miner is its wide, close-to-face fit. While most goggles with great peripheral vision often sit far away from your eyes and stick out of your helmet, these tuck in closely and let the width of the lens do all the work; it expands an inch or two to the sides of my eyes, so the frame is totally out of sight. (Side note: I pair these goggles with the Pret Cynic helmet—a solid match.)
Speaking of that wide and wonderful lens, it also boasts PRIZM technology, which enhances color and contrast dramatically and is ideal for all light conditions. On day one of testing, I experienced really flat light on pretty crusty snow, meaning I had to see the ground extra clearly in order to stay on my feet. It was no problem with the Line Miner’s PRIZM lens. On day two of testing, the sun was out in full force, and the lens fought off Colorado’s beaming rays like a total champ.
All in all, I love the look, feel and technology of the Liner Miner and highly recommend the goggle to absolutely any skier. — Connor W. Davis, Online Editor
Backcountry Access BC Link Radio
Backcountry Access (BCA) released the BC Link Radio in 2014, and it’s grown tremendously in popularity since. Communication is one of, if not the, most important aspect of successful days in the backcountry and the BC Link Radio is a very effective tool in aiding group conversation.
Your pack houses the base unit, while the microphone clips onto your shoulder strap (it’s compatible with all backcountry packs, but works particularly well with the BCA Stash Packs). The base unit utilizes a rechargeable lithium ion battery, is waterproof and compatible with all standard FRS/GMRS radios. The microphone unit features glove-friendly controls including a push-to-talk button, power switch, volume control and channel selection.
On a recent overnight trip in the Colorado backcountry—specifically the Holy Cross Wilderness—I found the BC Link to be particularly useful. A spring storm was hovering above us as we traversed a mountainside in an attempt to find a route to our final objective. Visibility was low, but our team of four was able to communicate back and forth, relaying to each other information about whether certain routes into the East Cross Creek drainage were safe and skiable. Ultimately, we were forced to turn around on that trip, but the BC Links were vital in helping our team come to the safe conclusion to high-tail it home. — Donny O’Neill, Senior Editor
Outdoor Tech Kodiak Mini 2.0
If you have ever used your phone while spending time in the snow, you’ve likely experienced this problem first hand: batteries do not like the cold and die very quickly. And, as someone who’s job entails using a phone in the snow all the time, this can be problematic for me.
Photo: Rachel Bock
I’ve tried different solutions—from a charging phone case to putting hand warmers in pockets with my phone—and so far the Outdoor Tech Kodiak Mini 2.0 has stood apart from the pack. This this portable charger is waterproof, shockproof, super durable and carries enough charge to fire up both my phone and other electronics. To top it off, it has a 5-LED flashlight built in with 100-lumen high, 65-lumen low and emergency strobe modes.
I’ve taken one of these on a number of trips, from our Ski Test at Snowbird to our Park Test at Aspen Snowmass, and have used it to charge phones, GoPros, gimbals and more. Because of its reliability, the charger is now something I put in my pack anytime I hit the slopes. If you’re looking for a product that can save your phone in the cold, be used as a light in emergencies and give some juice to other USB-charging devices, this energy pack is one to consider. —Sarah Sherman, Social Media Coordinator
The North Face Thermoball Versa Boot
I just put these suckers to use for the first time in Whistler, BC, where in our two days of on- and off-hill testing our crew experienced everything from heavy snowfall to pissing rain. Down in Whistler Village, it was more of the latter (not surprising, given spring has arrived).
The waterproof and insulated Versa Boots were a life-saver, keeping my feet warm and dry as we made our away around town, trudging through wet snow. PrimaLoft ThermoBall synthetic insulation in the collar and 100g PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Eco in the vamp provided just the right amount of warmth. That is to say, it’s not the type of insulation that might yield sweaty-hot feet, but it sure was noticeably pleasant compared to a standard, non-insulted boot. Style and comfort are on-point, too. — Henrik Lampert, Editor-in-Chief