Sad Alien Climbing Extended Review

I was intrigued by this bold new contender to the climbing training equipment crowd when given the opportunity to put a BETA test unit through its paces and incorporate it into my regular training regime.

First impressions were good; the build quality is a cut above others with professional CNC production methods ensuring every unit is perfect and identical. The chunky plywood unit is the ideal size for installing above doors as would be the case for the majority of board owners without the luxury of a training room. The pre-drilled mounting holes could have been chamfered to add a neat little finishing touch, and give the satisfaction of the screws sitting flush once in, the mass production units may well have this feature. Once installed the unit was solid.

The innovative modules for the unit, crafted from yellow poplar, are incredibly comfortable and versatile; the ease at which modules can be swapped out or rotated in 45deg increments is inspired. The precise cut of each module attachment point gave a very snug fit but I never found myself fighting to get one in or out. Often a good wiggle followed by a good slap to seat it fully was all I needed. After a good few months of use I would assume that modules slide in and out effortlessly whilst remaining bomber. With 5 slots in width to play with it suits every climber size, for other boards you’re limited by hold position and must change your workout accordingly. The production models come with 1×3 slots, 1×5 slots and 2×5 slots giving plenty of room to experiment with, the model I had was 1×5 and allowed for plenty of creativity, the 2×5 offers greater potential for offset hangs and reps to better train one-sided weaknesses. The Alien unit gives you freedom to train all hold types exactly at the width you need. From the short play I had on the Red Spider BETA station’s peg modules I assumed that I would be able to attempt some pegboard style campus, moves but they were too snug and to release one whilst locked off on another was too much of a fight to make it a practical peg board replacement. I have been assured that this has been improved in the production modules.

I love the ability to rotate the modules; this is where the unit truly sets itself apart from the market. Competitor boards only allow for training the same few muscle groups in a particular way. Suddenly having the freedom to turn flat 1-pad crimps into opposing gastons changes everything – you work so much harder to maintain good form, the form needed to climb hard. It gives a more complete upper body workout simply by rotating modules. I found that hanging/repping from the top of the unit itself with all modules removed was also comfortable and would negate the need to replicate a similar extra-deep module – cheeky money saver allowing you to purchase the more ‘advanced’ modules.

The rounded slopers unassumingly sculpted into the bottom side of the juggiest-jug module are a new offering in the training board market instead of the usual flat-angled sloper and present an excellent challenge for those all too common rounded holds outside, ideal for the 2019 Easter trip to Font!

The deep 4 finger pocket with 15deg sloper on the flipside are ideal for the latter stage of a warm up – I did find that my pinky finger had a bunching of skin at the joint in contact with the hold but I put that down to the callouses grown from endlessly tailing ropes whilst instructing. I preferred the sloper side of this hold over the flat as I found a more comfortable position for reps.

Around a year later I’ve now got a full production 1×5 Base Station with Jug ‘n’ Sloper and Slot 20 modules installed in the house. It’s above a door so very easy to get into a routine of a few quick reps as I pass from kitchen to living room.

The modules slide even better with the production variant, no need to slap and wiggle them – pop it in and it’s solid! The ability to rotate the modules is still unmatched by anything on the market and makes exercises such as typewriters or frenchies one hell of a lot more challenging by demanding more from the triceps and lats. They’ve even recently been working with external coaches and climbers including Steve McClure to produce some innovative module shapes.

In all an impressive piece of kit that will instantly lead the industry as a training tool accessible to both new climbers keen to push their grades and learn about training, and elite climbers wanting the best tool to complement their training regime. Price-wise it can be seen as a little steep but it’s well worth the quality of training one can get from this kit, I would recommend buying a base station and then picking your own modules to get the most out of it.

Creator Rob has been touring up and down the UK, including demo-ing at the IFSC event at RATHO! Be sure to check out their instagram @sadalienclimbing for updates on where he’ll be so you can go and have a good play on it and pick his brain. Rob is the perfect champion for the kit’s results because he’s just become ripped over the last year mainly from endless demonstrations!

Tap Brian Challenge!

www.sadalienclimbing.com
Launch kit from £135
Modules from £48

Review: Osprey Mutant 38

As a fan of the Osprey range and in need of a comprehensive, yet relatively simple, mountaineering pack I opted for the Mutant 38 2nd edition. The main change for the 2nd edition was the gear loop change on the hip belt – instead of a karabiner loop for every letter of the word OSPREY on each side it was reduced to 3 karabiner loops and a general gear loop each side. This is presumably because if a climber/mountaineer has that much excess gear on the outside of their pack then they’re doing something wrong!

This pack has seen me through the last 2 years involving numerous climbing trips up and down the country, hiking in the highlands and Snowdonia, general kit haulage and my first ever ice climb – practically everything that the pack was designed for!

As with shoes and boots it is crucial to get a well fitted pack. It needs to keep you comfortable when carrying load by effectively distributing load between your shoulders and hips in an approximately 30/70 split respectively. Your pelvis is the key load bearing part of the body that distributes all the weight of the upper body down to the legs so getting as much of the pack weight on your hips is vital. The great thing about Osprey packs is that most of them come in small, medium and long back lengths, any pack will fit any body! Unfortunately I did the rookie error of selecting the medium back length which gives the full 38L, whereas I should have selected the small back length and sacrificed a couple of litres. The result is that the shoulder straps hover ever so slightly above my shoulders and creates extra movement in the pack when loaded up and moving over uneven terrain. This problem can be rectified using the adjustment straps but I’ll come to that in a bit. It is also strongly recommended to be skilled in the art of packing a rucksack and knowing where the heaviest items go. For example if a climbing rope is bunged on the top between the pack and lid then it creates an uncomfortable bow in the backpiece as the top section juts away from the back, whereas when stowed in the bottom of the pack then there’s no problem and it’s nice and comfy.

The Mutant is a very capable rucksack with plenty of useful features  to keep even the most accomplished mountain guide happy. Please bear in mind that my pack is the 2012 variation, the 2014 pack has some slight feature and material changes:

  • Chest strap with integrated whistle (whistle is upside down – annoying)
  • Ice axe retainer each side with scratch resistant pad on front
  • Floating and removable lid for expansion
  • Security pocket
  • Bladder pouch
  • Trekking/Ski pole attachments
  • Compression straps
  • Hip Belt stowable by wrapping it around pack
  • 4 Haul loops – 2 main front and back, 2 small on either side
  • Removable back ‘bivi pad’

    Strap Overlap

    Strap Overlap

Time to discuss a sticking point I have with Osprey packs – adjustment straps. Osprey love them, all over their packs! They’re just too long, and in the case of the floating lid of the mutant just plain badly thought through. The lid is set up a bit like a simple pulley system with the strap starting on the lid, through a loop on the main pack and then back up to the buckle on the lid – a great system that really lets you tighten the lid down to compress excess space. The main downside is that it directly overlaps the shoulder adjustment straps and constantly traps the buckle loosening off the shoulders. As it’s all stitched in place there is nothing that can be done about it except fish out the buckle from the tangle and yank the straps tight again after opening up the lid during a snack break or whipping out the waterproofs. With the strap length I’m still considering chopping a good amount of excess off; too many times I’ve picked up the bag whilst stood on a loose strap and tightened it right up as I chuck the bag over my shoulders

With the comfort and practicality of the pack it holds up very well. It does a good job of not trying to bunch up whatever jacket/top you’re wearing and although it doesn’t provide much airflow for a sweaty-backed person such as myself, when paired with a suitable wicking layer or good jacket such as the Paramo Velez Adventure Smock the experience becomes quite comfortable. It holds load very well and the hip belt does an excellent job of keep weight exactly where it needs to be without sliding all over the place or buckles slipping open as can happen on some brands. Bear in mind the pack offers no form of waterproof protection and so drybags are key not only keeping essentials like your sleeping bag dry but also for organising the contents of your pack.

Overall the Osprey Mutant is a great all round mountain pack that will see you through just about any adventure you can throw at it. The new model Mutant appears to have trimmed the excess and added a few extra features like a helmet retainer, ski straps and reduced weight. Well worth trying one on and be sure to ask staff about putting weight in the pack to really get a feel for it and get the sizing right.

RRP: £100
Weight: 1.6kg (Medium)

Mutant 38 on Sgurr Dearg

Mutant 38 on Sgurr Dearg