Author Archives: Pemba Serves

Holiday Wishes from Pemba Serves


From the staff at Pemba Serves,
Adventure Medical Kits, Atlas Snowshoes, LEKI and PETZL.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah,
Matunda Ya Kwanza and Laeta Saturnalia!

May all of you receive and share in the peace, love and joy
of this and every season.

Photo: Christmas #19 – The Timberland Santa | Creative Commons

Why I Buy? The Shiny and The Solid.

Photo: Paul-Baptiste Baca

I am a confessed gear whore.

gear whore n. someone who has to have the best, most expensive, coolest gear, useful or not.

Yes, I like the shiny and the new. And there are times when I look over my rack and I realise I am just one or two colour-coordinated draws away from being one of those sport climbers.

But really, why do I buy what I buy? Such a simple question does not have a simple answer.

I have worked in marketing and advertising for the past 20 years and have a pretty good grasp on how the artifice and casuistry of product pimping works. But that doesn’t mean I am immune. In fact, I have a high appreciation for a well-crafted advertisement and am more likely to invest at least my time into researching a product that is packaged well and peddled in just the right way to highlight its particular je ne sais quoi. Black and white sketches or flat product photos might be enough to pique some consumers’ interest, but many people really do prefer the glossy, full-colour splash of gear-in-action (me included). It’s a world of embodying the brand.

Companies like Black Diamond Equipment and Petzl know this. They don’t casually spend their advertising dollars. And retailers know what they are doing when they put those pretty products in the hands and on the backs of pretty people.

But as much as the beautiful people and shiny colours get my attention, it is not the reason I buy. Getting the customer into the store or to your website might be half the battle, but half does not make a sale.

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211 Reasons to Wear a Climbing Helmet

This past month we invited a few rock climbing friends of ours to help spread the word about wearing helmets while climbing. Each of these climbers has a unique story about how they came to realize that wearing a helmet was important to them, their friends and their families. Reading the over 200 comments on these posts we hope that their followers; and you, decide to wear a helmet too.

Venturesome Krysia

I never used to wear a helmet rock climbing. I usually climb at the Red River Gorge, and many people that climb there don’t. My thought was if there was if there was a lot of overhang on the route, or when I start leading trad, then I would. But then something happened that changed my mind. // Continue Reading…



Ever since Cragbaby came along however, I’ve discovered a new reason to show my hard hat some love – and that is setting a good example for my son. When he’s ready to start climbing, I’m going to require him to wear a helmet. I can’t very well expect him to be happy about wearing one if he’s never seen me or my husband wear one. The funny thing is that at this point C thinks helmets are uber cool – at least once per climbing trip I turn around to find him wearing my helmet – usually accompanied by hysterical toddler giggles. // Continue Reading…


Splitter Choss

As Tracy and I spent more time climbing together, I started using my helmet more often, and now it’s a rare day you’ll see me without it. Often it feels like we are the only two people in Rifle wearing them, but a friend almost got killed there when a loose rock fell on his head as he walked under a popular cliff, so we don’t let the odd stares bother us. // Continue Reading…

So what about you?
Why do you, or don’t you, wear a helmet?


Need a helmet? Buy a PETZL Helmet online now
or visit your local PETZL retailer to check them out.

Don’t Play Climbing Helmet Roulette

Chicago area climber Justin Berry being littered out after a block of quartzite dislodged, smashing into his forehead and knee

I’ve written 3 different versions of a post for Pemba Serves about helmets and the outdoors.  Each one prior was full of stories that I had of how a helmet saved my life, or that of someone else that I know – like the time my long-time climbing partner Jay knocked loose a fist-sized chunk of granite from 70’ that knocked me flat, or Justin’s aid-climbing accident that had him littered out, or tales of my various bike wrecks that had me in stitches – not the funny kind of stitches.

But really, pictures and videos speak more than words. Let’s face it, if you participate in sports that carry an inherent risk – like biking, skiing, climbing…not wearing a helmet is playing Russian Roulette. The riskier the sport, the more bullets in the gun. I was going to put the end scene from The Deer Hunter in here, but you get the idea without Christopher Walken explaining it to you.

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Mount Rainer Climb – BCM Summit For Someone

Photo - Patrick Gensel

I stepped off the paved trail, my boot plunged into the sun ripened snow of the Muir Snowfield. Standing majestically, miles above me the glaciated slopes of Mount Rainier called to me. After months of training, fundraising, and traveling to smaller mountains to test my mettle, I had arrived, It all came down to this climb.

If I said I wasn’t a bit nervous, maybe even reluctant, I’d be lying, but climbing a mountain of this magnitude is not anything to be taken lightly. After all, many use Rainier as their training grounds for far off peaks in the Himalaya and Alaska Range. “Was I ready?”, “Did I train hard enough”, “Would we be caught in a bad rock or icefall?”  These were the thoughts that filled my head in the weeks leading up to my Arrival in Ashford, Washington.

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Why I Buy – The Three F’s

Photo: David Morlock Photography | OWL Trip 2010

I came across The Three F’s when I first started working in the Outdoor Industry about 20 years ago. I had only been on the job for a short time and like any new staffer hungry for knowledge I was browsing through old catalogs in the break room.

In the front of an old backpack catalog some guy named “Wayne” used the concept of Fit, Fabrics and Features to walk through his product line. It was a concept that not only clarified the differences between the products in the line but also between other companies.

The Three F’s have been a great tool me. They’re a yardstick that help me decide whether or not I’m going to buy a piece of equipment or apparel and they’re a great method for comparing and understanding outdoor products.

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Team Scheels PETZL RAGNAR Relay Race Report

The Ragnar Relay is a 196 mile relay race from Winona, MN to Minneapolis, MN.  Much of the course is run through the SW part of Wisconsin which is brutal for a born and raised flatlander like me.  294 teams registered and of those 294 teams there were about 20 ultra teams.  An ultra team consists of only 6 runners instead of 12 runners.  My thought is if you’re going to do it you might as well make it hurt!  The team consisted of Josh Duerr, his cousin Tony Duerr, Tony’s friends Matt Hanson, and Mike Waldera (note: all 3 of those guys work for Scheels and Scheels was nice enough to sponsor us for the race), and Justin Schweitzer, an old high school “rival” of mine that was easy to convince to be on our team.  We also recruited my brother, Jason Miller, Tony’s brother, Brad Duerr, and Tony’s brother-in-law Ryan Sunram to drive and help out in any way they could.  These 3 guys played a huge part in our victory due to the fact that we just had to focus on running and you wouldn’t believe how much there is to do out there other than just run!!!

Our race start time was at 4:00pm but I think Justin said it best when he said, “That race started at 3:00pm as soon as we talked with the MN Running Wild team (our competition throughout the race that I will refer to regularly).  We knew these guys were going to be good considering they won it last year and they had a lot of questions about our team prior to the start too.  You could say we were sizing each other up.

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Splitter Choss: PETZL ANGE S Finesse Quickdraw Review

PETZL ANGE S Quickdraws

I’ve been getting a lot of odd looks recently. It could be due to dressing in drag, or climbing on a fatter rope than normal, but I think these glances are directed at the fancy (and funky?) looking new quickdraws on my harness. “What are those?” seems to be a common question when people first spy the Petzl Ange Finesse draws. It’s not that I blame them, I’m just starting to get self conscious with all the attention.

When wiregate biners came out, they were a game changer. It opened the door to the incredibly light clips we have today, but there was always a piece of the puzzle that was missing. How to give them the no snag functionality of a key lock. A few other companies have put forth some idea, but arguably none are as cutting edge as what Petzl has achieved with the Ange.

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My PETZL GRIGRI 2 Recall Experience

Recalled Devices: serial number between 10326 and 11136

Recently Petzl had to recall the GriGri2 not long after it hit the market.  The new Petzl GriGri2, which was released earlier this year, is a new and improved version of the GriGri.  The new belay device is more compact and lighter than its predecessor, easily fitting into the palm of a hand.  Petzl also changed the design a little to allow for greater controlled descent, especially when a smaller person lowers someone who weighs much more than they do.  Petzl, women everywhere thank you.

A long-time fan of the original GriGri, I was excited when Petzl released this new device, and of course, had grand plans of putting it to the test over the summer.  I had already taken it out once to a local crag and was impressed with how well it handled slim ropes, big weight differentials between climber and belayer and how light and compact it was.  When I received the news of this recall, I went and checked my GriGri2.  My heart sunk.  It held the digits listed in the recall.  That meant the days of playing with my fabulous new belay device were numbered until the replacement arrived.  It was the start of summer and I had many great climbs on the books and fun cragging days coming up in which I had been looking forward to using the new slimmer, lighter GriGri2.  But, it would not be, at least not until the new GriGri2 arrived and I wasn’t sure how long that would take.

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Pemba Reads

I Do Not Want Mercy, I Want You To Join Me | Common Dreams
Tim DeChristopher, who was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison and a $10,000 fine for ‘disrupting’ a Bureau of Land Management auction in 2008, had an opportunity to address the court and the judge immediately before his sentence was announced. This is his statement.

In search of diversity in our national parks | High Country News
In the crowd of tourists on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Griffin family immediately caught my eye. Allen, Hashmareen and their two small boys were surrounded by thousands of other visitors, but the Griffins stood out because they were among only a handful of African-Americans I encountered in my travels.

Why Does U.S. Bike Commuting Lag Dismally Behind Rest of the World? | adventure journal
This spring, curiosity propelled me onto a New York City subway bound for Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, where a new bike path along the edge of Brooklyn’s largest park had angry residents worked up into a lather.

Am I Still a Dirtbag? | adventure journal
I just got a new job. After years of scraping by on a newspaper salary, then a nonprofit salary (I may be one of the only people dumb enough to take a pay cut from an already low-paying journalism job), I have enough money to eat. And purchase a new pair of pants without thinking about it for two weeks beforehand.

TNB: Kai’s First Climb | Rock & Ice
Three weeks ago my wife and I visited the City of Rocks, Idaho, and my son Kai completed his first climb: Lookout Ridge (5.5). He’d just turned four, was on his first road trip, camping and rock scrambling and hanging out with his best friend Hen J. They rallied around the base of the routes with toy trucks, conversing at volume 10, sometimes erupting into hoots and screams until I forcefully explained that screaming is the one vocalization you can not make at a climbing area. I felt bad about subjecting our fellow City of Rocks climbers to Kai, in particular. He projects his voice like an opera star and his lamentations can break eardrums.