What’s in Your Pack is a series where we speak with some of climbing’s leading athletes to learn about the gear that fuels their success. In this interview I met with Ethan Pringle in Joshua Tree, shortly after his quick ascent of Asteroid Crack.
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ethan excels in all climbing disciplines, having bouldered V15, completed North America’s hardest sport climb, Jumbo Love (5.15b), and also participated in expeditions to China, Greenland, and Yemen.
Tenaya Iati climbing shoes
At the time of meeting, Ethan was climbing with Tenaya’s Iatis. Gaining a reputation for their unparalleled comfort, Ethan expressed that these hold up to those sentiments:
You shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfort for performance.
Further, unlike many shoes which perform better at painfully small sizes, Ethan doesn’t size down his Iatis quite as far. Wearing a 9.5-10 street shoe, he wears a size 8 Iati (he sizes similarly in Tenaya’s Tarifas and Oasis, as well).
“These are good for all different types of climbing … a great all-around shoe. I’ve used them bouldering, at tons of different sport climbing areas, and I climbed the crack here in them yesterday.”
Julbo Vermont Classic sunglasses
Providing maximum protection for extreme conditions, the Julbo Vermont Classics are built for time spent in the mountains. Julbo explains, “Rock stars, mountaineers, and Julbo fans from all walks of life have sung their praise … a traditional mountaineering frame with round lens, a leather nose piece, and leather side shields.”
Trango Vergo belay device
Set to launch later this year, the Vergo is Trango’s new assisted-braking belay device that select climbers have been testing. Ethan expressed that a large focus has been placed on the ergonomics of the device, providing a more natural motion and belaying experience. Further, unlike other assisted-braking devices, there’s never a need to override the Vergo, even when quickly feeding slack for a clip.
“I’ve been exclusively using the Vergo for the past year … It has been a really awesome belay device”
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry Backpack
Mountain Hardwear describes the Scrambler as a pack that, “keeps contents dry in any conditions, easily carrying everything from rock shoes and a rack of cams, to extra layers and avalanche tools.” Further, the OutDry® technology provides a waterproof construction and carefully placed straps even provide a spot for your rope. Ethan explains:
“The Scrambler is like a day crag pack. You could fit enough to do a few pitches, but if you want to bring the kitchen sink it’s probably not big enough.”
Previously mentioned as one of our top recovery tools for climbers, Ethan uses a lacrosse ball to help relax tight muscles.
“If you have a vertical wall, you can lean up against it with your butt, back, pecs, arms, shoulders … I have pretty much every bodywork tool you could possibly imagine in my car right now but the lacrosse ball is the most portable; it weighs next to nothing and you can work on almost any body part.”
Trango Diamond 9.4mm rope
Well suited for hard sport climbs and adventures in the alpine, Trango’s Diamond is a lightweight—yet impressively durable—dynamic and dry-treated climbing rope. Supplementing the performance and durability is a very reasonable $195 price point, making the Diamond a top option for those looking to go skinny.
Trango Phase Alpine Draws
Ethan climbs with a lot of slings, saying, “you can never have too many.” On long multi-pitches he’ll often take at least four shoulder-length (60cm) slings and also four double-shoulder length (120cm) slings. Typically, he’s using his shoulder-length slings for extending gear (to reduce rope drag) and his doubles are often used in anchors.
“I hate rope drag. I’ll do whatever I can to avoid it. Even if it means putting a double-length runner on one piece of gear before a 30-foot runout. I would almost rather climb Freerider with only runners instead of only cams … Some pitches would be really scary.”
When asked about climbing with accessory cord, Ethan explained that he doesn’t, as a means for keeping bulk low and he instead just brings more slings/alpine draws.
On his racking strategy
Ethan explained that he’ll typically clip a shoulder-length alpine draw to one side of his harness, then clip all other similar alpine draws to the top carabiner already on his harness. This keeps them all in one spot and easily accessible. He does the same tactic with his double-lengths. Similarly, if doubling up on cams, he’ll attach one cam to his harness, then attach his second cam onto the first cam’s carabiner. This strategy keeps gear organized and also limits the bulkiness of having too many pieces directly attached to his harness.
While many climbers choose to balance their cams on both sides of their harness, Ethan’s method is to put all cams on one side and all slings and nuts on the other side. This may sound off-balance, but he’s rarely taking more than about eight cams up a pitch.
Mountain Hardwear AP Pants
A 2016 Backpacker Magazine Editor’s Choice, the AP (All-Purpose) Pant is designed with versatility for any environment. Stretch fabric makes them ideal for climbing and you can even roll up the pant legs—securing them with a snap closure—for a reflective element, ideal for bike commutes.
Ethan explained, “They’re slimmer cut; not super baggy and dorky like some climber pants. In Maui I went to this super weird café; it was $20 for a plate of vegan hippy food and Woody Harrelson showed up. Then this one lady was standing right next to me and grabbed my pants and was like “Oooh, these are nice pants. They fit you really well!” I’ve never had a compliment like that before while wearing climbing pants …”
Ethan recently made the switch from Metolius to Trango, and has now been using Trango’s FlexCams for his trad ascents. On switching to FlexCams, Ethan explained:
They’re pretty comparable and they’re extremely light; you can bring a lot up with you.
Acupressure massage ring
These odd looking rings are sworn by many climbers to have helped save their fingers. Ethan keeps a ring in his pocket to promote blood flow and break down scar tissue.
These things go everywhere with me.
Mountain Hardwear Stretch Down Jacket
Set to release in fall 2016, Mountain Hardwear’s Stretch Down Jacket provides comfort and flexibility for active movement, while also offering a thick insulation layer to stay warm in cold-weather conditions.
On bringing tons of water
“One thing I didn’t talk about is that I bring a shit load of water. If I’m going to go out for a full day of climbing I’ll always bring my 4-liter Platypus. Normally I drink about 1/2 a liter of water per hour, so I plan for that depending on how many hours I expect to be climbing.
When I was a kid my mom was like, “Water is the cure-all.” Maybe for some kids it was Robitussin, but for me it was always water.
I probably drink more water than any climber on earth, but I think it helps. I would literally be like a fish out of water if I didn’t drink so much.”
On toilet paper and trash
“You get a whole roll of these bags with the [Trango] Crag Pack. I always carry a role of toilet paper and a bag to pack up the toilet paper—in addition to any other trash I find. My hobby is finding pieces of micro-trash in climbing areas. Or just beer bottles, broken glass, tape, cigarettes. If I see a piece of trash on the ground I don’t pass it up.”
What’s the best gear you’ve bootied?
“I didn’t actually booty it in on purpose, but the best piece of booty gear was from Tommy Caldwell. I went and tried this 5.14- trad pitch in Eldorado Canyon eight years ago. Tommy accidentally left his green .75 Black Diamond Camalot and I just never gave it back. I offered to give it back some time later and he said, “Nah dude, just keep it!” I still have it—it’s the only Camalot I own.”
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