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Trial Run - November 2002

Outfitter
posted: 08/05/2003

SKI RACKS
by Ben Hewitt

Platinum $159
Most ski racks force you to clamber up onto hood, tire, or rocker panel to load skis inboard. Not the Thule Pull Top 6, which, unlike the other racks here, actually slides out from the car to facilitate loading. It's an ingenious design you'll appreciate every time you use it. (locks, $20) 800-238-2388, thule.com

Gold $120
The Yakima Lift Ticket 6 wins the race to first tracks: It's the easiest and quickest of the bunch from box to roof. A hidden installation system makes for a clean look, and the fat lever release is easy to use, even with half-frozen, gloved hands. (locks, $20) 888-925-4621, yakima.com

Silver $105
Functionally, the Barrecrafters AB-6 closely resembles Yakima's Lift Ticket. But by including locks in the asking price, Barrecrafters adds value. The trade-off? The Yak's installation system is sleeker and simpler. Still, the AB-6 gets the job done and leaves you $35 richer. 800-451-3240, barrecrafters.com

ULTRALIGHT SHELLS
by Steve Casimiro

Platinum $225
With the Marmot Minima, you're paying for the complete waterproof-breathable protection of PacLite 3 fabric-the newest, lightest version of Gore-Tex, which is softer, quieter, and more compressible than its predecessors. You also get a full-visibility hood, nifty welded construction, and Gore's downpour guarantee-all in a tidy 14-ounce package. 707-544-4590, marmot.com

Gold $120
If you're a soft-shell convert and only plan to use a shell 20 percent of the time, the Mountain Hardwear Epic strikes the perfect balance of price and features. Fully decked with a hood, vent pockets, and soft waterproof-breathable fabric (though not quite up to PacLite's waterproof standard), it weighs only 11 ounces. 800-953-8375, mountainhardwear.com

Silver $89
Pacific Trail's Pilchuk is heavier than the Epic or Minima (20 ounces), but 90 bucks is a screamin' deal for a jacket this well made. It has a helmet-friendly hood and huge vented front pockets. For year-round weather protection, the extra weight seems a small price to pay. 800-877-8878, pacifictrail.com

ADJUSTABLE POLES
by Brian Litz

Platinum $140
From grip to tip, Life-Link's Variant Carbon Fiber is the premium adjustable pole. Carbon lowers, aluminum uppers, tenacious ovalized adjustment cams, grippy friction zones for more purchase when twisting, low swing-weight, avy-probe convertibility, and optional self-arrest grip add up to exceptional performance. 800-443-8620, life-link.com

Gold $99
Unlike the other poles tested, the new carbon Indigo Epic uses collapse-proof push buttons instead of cams. To prevent the wind-induced whistle common to this type of adjustment system, the upper shaft is wrapped in weather stripping. Otherwise, it's similar to the Life-Link, but without the probe-pole convertibility. 970-704-0229, indigoequipment.com

Silver $60
This all-aluminum baton is the fat relative of the whippet-thin carbon-fiber family, and its rubber grip is pretty basic. But the workaday Swix Horizon gives you inexpensive admission into the backcountry. The others come in a variety of sizes, but with 28 inches of length adjustability, this pole is one-size-fits-all. 800-343-8335, swixsport.com

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