Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Hilleberg Keron tents

What is it? Hilleberg the Tentmaker Keron 3, Keron 3 GT and Keron  4. If someone were to ask me today what kind of tent I want, it wouldn’t take half a second to reply the Keron series tents from Hilleberg. After testing in the Colorado Rockies, then trusting them on Expedition to the Summit of Denali, I would conclude simply that these tents are the best in the business. We were dry during rains on the lower mountain, and protected from raging winds and sub-zero temperatures on the high mountain plateaus. The double door design made living in close quarters easy to manage, and the added vestibule on the GT allowed for the versatility of storage or protected working space. The design was thought out, down to the yellow mesh and internal fabric increasing the amount of light inside the tent during daylight hours.

Camp 3 on Denali. We built it up to handle the storms. We were very comfortable in our Hilleberg tents and Millet sleeping bags.
Camp 3 on Denali. We built it up to handle the storms. We were very comfortable in our Hilleberg tents.
Camp 3, 14,000 ft. camp. We didn't know it then, but we would wait out several storms here.
Camp 3, 14,000 ft. camp on Denali. We didn’t know it then, but we would wait out several storms here.

Who are these Tents for? I can easily see this tent excelling in any climate or conditions. As an explorer and climber, I can’t think of a season or location I wouldn’t trust a Hilleberg tent to keep the elements at bay. As with any 4-season capable tent, the total weight is more than what you would want for a strictly back-packing tent, but the durability and protection make the weight worth the effort.

Pros: Very impressive durability in extreme conditions, with an attention to minute design features that make a world of difference. Easy to set up, and solid once they are. The removable internal tent with yellow fabric brightened days where being outside was not an option. More than a handful of climbing teams used the external tent as a cover for the kitchen, and the GT option made for a great design to ensure cooking in a sunken kitchen was safe.

Cons: The entire 8 For 22 Denali Team could not think of any cons. On our 27 days on Denali and many training trips, these tents stood up to all we through at them. We didn’t break any part of any of the tents and they came off the mountain in as good of shape as we started with. We can’t say the same for most of our gear.

Overall gear rating: 4.8/5.

Denali weather tents

Gear Review: The Thermarest NEOAIR® XTherm™


WHAT IS IT? The Thermarest NEOAIR®  XTherm™ is a light weight 4 season air mattress. It has the greatest warmth-to-weight ratio of all air mattresses on the market. With an R-Value of 5.7 and a total weight of 15oz / 430g in the regular and 1lbs 4oz / 570g in the Long.

WHO IS IT FOR? Anyone going on single night trip to a longer expedition in any season will be happy with this mattress. The ultralight mountaineer will be happy with the warmth-to-weight ratio. Continue reading Gear Review: The Thermarest NEOAIR® XTherm™

Gear Review: Meal Kit Supply Meals Ready To Eat


What is it? Meal Kit Supply makes meals that are ready to eat upon opening the package. These meals are as convenient as it gets when it comes to having minimal time to prep and minimal resources available. Our “8 For 22” team used these meals on Denali during our summit push due to how time consuming it was to melt snow for water at 17,000 feet in elevation. Continue reading Gear Review: Meal Kit Supply Meals Ready To Eat

Mountaineering can offer vets a chance to get out of their ‘own head’

The Denali 7: Dan Wiwczar, John Krueger, Nathan Perrault, AJ Hunter, Nick Watson, Daniel Pond, Demond Mullins.
The Denali 7: Dan Wiwczar, John Krueger, Nathan Perrault, AJ Hunter, Nick Watson, Daniel Pond, Demond Mullins.

There’s something about veterans and the call of the mountains.

Sure, the adventure and the adrenaline and everything that comes with being outdoors is a big part of it.

But perhaps nowhere else in the civilian world is that single-minded sense of mission and clarity of focus — so much a part of military life — more evident than when a team of climbers makes a bid for a high-country summit.

“Military people just tend to get it,” says Army veteran Nick Watson, who has guided climbers for more than a decade and founded Veterans Expeditions in 2010. “I hear it over and over again: ‘This brings back everything I loved about being in the military, and none of the crap I hated.’ ”

It’s easy to see why, Watson says. It’s about “being part of a team and doing something exceptionally well, the focus to accomplish the mission and being part of something bigger than themselves. And there’s a certain element of danger. It all comes together on the mountain.” Continue reading Mountaineering can offer vets a chance to get out of their ‘own head’

Gear Review: DeLorme InReach Explorer

WHAT IS IT? The only device you really need in the backcountry. A rugged handheld global satellite communicator that allows you to send and receive text messages, mark waypoints, navigate a route, track and share your journey, and in the event of an emergency, send out an SOS signal.

WHO IS IT FOR? Any outdoor enthusiast – from the casual day hiker to the hard core mountaineer to the long distance thru-hiker – who wants added security and/or a way to stay in touch with family, friends and supporters while exploring in the wild. Continue reading Gear Review: DeLorme InReach Explorer

Gear Review: Millet Everest Summit GTX Mountaineering Boots


Climbing Denali in Millet Everest Summit GTX
Climbing Denali in Millet Everest Summit GTX

Millet Everest Summit GTX boots

1.  What is it? The Millet Everest Summit GTX high altitude (8,000 meter) boot. These boots are triple boots with 3 layers of insulation for the extreme cold with an integrated over-boot that eliminates the need for wearing gaiters. This boot retails for $999.99 US dollars. Continue reading Gear Review: Millet Everest Summit GTX Mountaineering Boots

Gear Reveiw: MSR SURELOCK™ UL-3 Poles

1. What is it?  MSR SURELOCK UL-3.  Ultralight 3-Section Multi-Use Poles.  Retail for $109.95.

2. Who is it for?  Outdoor enthusiast looking for a multi-season trekking pole. The poles come with interchangeable, screw on/off ground guards made for dirt/rock as well as snow.

3. Pros:  The poles used a push button release system for adjusting the length depending on the users preference. This system was extremely easy to use because instead of un-latching the pole catch and trying to clamp them back down at the right setting; the push buttons automatically engaged at the standard lengths that are used on most poles. With the poles completely collapsed they weren’t much longer than the height of my pack. The push button extension system also made it very easy to extend them with gloves on during our 2012 Veterans Day Summit attempt of Mt. Shavano.

These poles were also very, very lite at 14.4 oz. This was also an awesome feature because I was carrying multiple extra layers that day due to the weather conditions. For being so lite, the poles withstood all of the weight I could put on them with no failure of the push button system.

4. Cons:  There was only one area of improvement that I would recommend for these poles. When I took the poles off of my pack and extended them, with great ease, I had trouble getting my hand through the wrist straps with my winter mittens on. I would recommend either, extending the area that the Velcro covers on the strap or, making the wrist strap larger to account for the sometime bulkiness of winter gear.

5. Overall Gear Rating is a 4.8 out of 5.  I love the ease of use, the weight and the structural integrity of the poles. Only setback: The size of the wrist strap.

6. Is it in my pack?  Definitely!

Poles Reviewed by Livio Ciciotti

Photo by Scott Ostrom

Gear Review: Julbo Tensing Sunglasses

Photo by Scott Ostrom

1.  What is it? Julbo Tensing performance eyewear. The color is Green/Gray. The lenses are Spectron 4/Cat. 4. These glasses are from Julbo’s mountain collection and retail for $50.

2. Who are these glasses for? The Julbo Tensing is for the mountain traveler and mountaineer looking for premium high altitude protection at an economical price.

3. Pros: Ultra-wrap profile design offers all day protection. The side vents and flexible frame offer all day comfort. For the money, these glasses cannot be beat on the mountain.

4. Cons: The bright colors may turn some folks from these great value glasses  but don’t worry, they come in black.

Photo by Scott Ostrom

5. Overall gear rating is 5 out of 5. Can’t beat these performance eyewear for the price and performance.

6. The Julbo Tensing performace eyewear are on my face or in my pack as a back-up pair.


             Gear Review by Nick Watson






Gear Review: Marmot Silverton Jacket

 1. What is It? The Marmot Silverton Jacket. The color is Fern/Wintergreen. The jacket retails for $495. It is a hard shell built to withstand big mountain weather without the weight and bulk of most Jacket’s in this category.

2. Who is this Jacket for? The Marmot Silverton Jacket is for the back country skier and snowshoer who wants a premium shell to keep them dry and protected from mountain weather. The jacket performed well on Mt. Rainier this April during many snow storms. The jacket also kept me dry in rainy Seattle. This Jacket shines as an all around versatile piece of gear for the high mountains and the city raincoat.

3. Pros: I like the pockets (2 waist pockets, 1 chest pocket, and 1 left arm pocket). I like the zippers on the jacket, pockets, and pit zips. They have always worked without hassle. I like the protection the jacket offers.

4. Cons: The jacket has few cons. This Jacket has a fitted fit which works in some cases and not others. In my case the jacket fit me great except for the extreme high mountain winter weather type conditions. I would want the next size up for 7,000 meter peaks or higher.

5. Overall Gear Rating is a 4.5 out of 5. This is the perfect 4 season mountain jacket to keep you dry.

6. This jacket is in my pack for anything the Colorado high country can throw at me.

Photo by Chris Kassar

This jacket was reviewed by Nick Watson

Gear Reviews by Veterans Who Know Gear

Photo by Peter Cameron

Gear reviews will be written by military veterans who have been using and testing gear as they train with VetEx for upcoming expeditions, races, and events. The criteria for the reviews has been created with knowledge and experience of both military deployments and wilderness guiding. We bring a very practical approach to our reviews. Please note that the gear being reviewed may have been purchased at retail, pro-dealed, sponsored, etc.

Gear Review Criteria:

1.  What is it?

2.  Who is it for?

3.  Pros

4.  Cons

5.  Overall Gear Rating

6.  Is it in my pack?


VetEx Co-founder Nick Watson is the primary gear tester for VetEx, and we will gladly post gear reviews from any and all military veterans who want to post their reviews here.

Gear Tester Bio, Nick Watson:  

Nick served 5 years as an Army Ranger with 3rd Ranger Battalion from 1991-1995.

Nick graduated from numerous advanced leadership and survival schools to include Airborne School, Ranger School, S.E.R.E. Survival School, Non-Commissioned Officer Primary Leadership Development Course, Combat Lifesaver, and Field Sanitation. He was involved in numerous international and national deployments. Nick has been working as an Outdoor Professional since leaving the army. He is a graduate of the Recreation Management program at the University of Vermont and has held numerous jobs in the outdoor industry to include: National Park Service Park Ranger, NPS Biological Technician, Trail Crew Boss, Wilderness Therapy Instructor, Field Director, Wilderness Guide, etc. That is 20 years of outdoor experience. Nick is an “all-arounder” who enjoys the challenge of the outdoors paddling, mountain biking, road biking, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, climbing ice and rock, and most of all he enjoys those epic long days high in the mountains. His gear reviews focus on practical, real world application and function of each gear item. If Nick carries it in his pack, you want it in yours!


Photo by Scott Ostrom

Gear Tester Bio, Livio Ciciotti:

Livio Ciciotti is a native of Upstate New York where he grew up playing football and working on local farms bailing hay. Since moving to Colorado in early 2012 he has really found his home in the high country. Livio is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology where he studied Graphic Media and Communications. While attending RIT, Livio enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves, in the Infantry. Livio hoped to one day become a Marine Infantry Officer but due to a serious accident he was not able to fulfill that ambition. He served six years with India Co. 3rd Battalion 25th Marines. While serving in the Infantry Livio attended Tactical Small Unit leaders Course as well as Combat Life Saver Course and Combat Hunter Course. In 2010 Livio deployed to Southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan where he served as a Vehicle Commander and Team Leader. Livio was promoted to Sergeant and served as a squad leader before his contracted ended in 2012.

Livio loves getting high in the Colorado Rockies on isolated trails where he can enjoy the outdoors to the fullest.

Photo by Scott Ostrom

He continues to learn and advance his outdoor skills with Veterans Expeditions. His favorite part of the VetEx experience is sharing the trail with the “Brotherhood” as he calls it. “It’s a commitment that we owe each other and ourselves as veterans to stay connected and to support each other.”