Variant Jacket

by Dana Davis Tuesday, December 13th 2011

The Variant Jacket has been one of our most popular jackets of the season. With synthetic insulation sewn into the front panels and Power Stretch fleece on the back, sides and arms, it falls into the Synthetic Insulation category that Charles discussed a couple weeks ago. It’s available for both men and women.

We asked Summit Hut owner, Dana Davis, and our Speedway Store Manager, Traci, to give us their impressions of the jacket thus far.


Variant Jacket
My family and I went horseback riding for a couple hours Thanksgiving Day weekend and it was the perfect piece to wear!

At a first glance this jacket might look a little funky (it is a hybrid of Power Stretch fleece and a lightly insulated vest) but I like the look and I like the performance and versatility even better.

The Variant is a great weight and warmth for many parts of the country but seems to be ideal for the slightly chilly winter days (and evenings) in Tucson. The black Power Stretch sleeves truly conform to a body in motion in addition to accommodating many different body types. I have broad shoulders, long arms, and a narrower waist; it is hard for me to get a slimmer fit without feeling confined and uncomfortable- the Variant is perfect. There is also enough stretch in the sleeves to wear it comfortably over another long sleeve item. The vest portion is great for adding extra warmth over your core but without adding bulk. I think this will be a great layering piece for under a shell for skiing and other snowy activities and yet also a great standalone jacket to take to the movie theater.

I recently took this jacket with me when I traveled to the Osprey Packs facilities in Vietnam. It turned out to be a great travel jacket (lightweight, compact and versatile) even though I never actually wore it when I was outdoors. It was warm and rainy in Vietnam and I never wore more than short sleeves with my Effusion jacket. When did I actually wear it? For more than 20 hours straight when traveling (each way) on the sufficiently cooled airplanes and airports! It was comfy, stretchy, a good weight and I was “out like a light” on all flights!

Variant Jacket

I was disappointed to have not used it hiking and biking in Vietnam so I have been anxious to put it to the test back here in Arizona. Unfortunately up until recently the weather has been fairly warm the last couple months and while the nights have been chilly, I have not used it for more than a brisk walk during the day. I did take it out a short night run and while it was perfect for the first 10 minutes it felt too warm shortly after. For me this will be my “go to” jacket on warmer fall and winter days and a good layering piece for cold weather sports. I love that in addition to being a outerwear jacket that I can also wear it indoors in lieu of a sweater as well.


I have accumulated a few jackets over the years, which seems to be a common occurrence in Tucson. Is it hot, hotter, rainy or cold? And then when you add hiking, running, biking, running errands around town, or overall outdoor activities to the mix the decisions become a little tougher on a jacket. I want something can cover the spectrum of all my needs.

Variant Jacket

I took the Variant Jacket up Mount Wrightson. I wanted something insulated but that was light and packable. I started at the trailhead at 6 am and had a brisk breeze coming off the mountain. The insulation in the front of the piece is outstanding. It gives you the option of having some insulation without adding a ton of bulk to the jacket. As we continued to hike steadily uphill, the stretch in the Polartec sleeves was great because the Variant jacket moves with you during your activity. The thumb holes are a nice addition for the piece. Especially since I opted to not bring gloves, they gave a bit more protection on my hands. After some hiking I did shed the layer, and packed it down into my pack.  When we hit the saddle, we stopped for a snack and I pulled my jacket out so I didn’t get a chill while resting. I could feel a slight breeze coming through the Polartec, but the extra insulation in the front made the difference. I truly appreciated how the jacket was able to be packed down and I didn’t have to worry about it.

I find myself grabbing this piece because of the technical and fashion aspect of the jacket.


Rosewood Point and North Rosewood Point

by Charles Friday, December 9th 2011

pic 1 
Driving to the trailhead.

Rain and clouds... The perfect day for a hike! To enjoy the somewhat rare grey skies I decided to hike up to Rosewood Point. My reward for braving the weather was getting to watch clouds swirling around Table Mountain and The Cleaver - different from the usual views in Pima Canyon!

Rosewood Point is a highpoint above the eastern cliffs of Pima canyon. Rosewood Point, and nearby North Rosewood Point, offer great views of Pima Canyon and surrounding locations including Pusch Peak, Table Mountain and The Cleaver.

Parking for this hike is the Iris O. Dewhirst Pima Canyon Trailhead located at the end of Magee Road.

This hike is in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness area – two restrictions to be aware of: travel more than 400 feet off trail is forbidden January thru April (this hike is partially off-trail - Rosewood Point is 'closed' during that time period) and dogs are not permitted on the trail (except seeing-eye dogs or handi-dogs).

From the parking area take the Pima Canyon Trail. At 1 mile the trail enters Pima Canyon and at 1.8 miles the trail turns southeast and begins to parallel a small canyon (you will hike up this canyon to get close to the saddle below Rosewood Point). Stay on the Pima Canyon Trail and cross the canyon - after a few minutes look for a faint off-trail route on the right (approximately mile 2) - there are a number of faint trails in this area but you should be able to use any of them. Hike (roughly) south towards the bottom of the small canyon via the path of least resistance.

pic 2
A view of the clouds moving over and around The Cleaver - taken from near where I left the Pima Canyon Trail.

Once in the canyon bottom cairns begin to appear that may help you find the easiest path up the canyon. As you get higher in the canyon the cairns become less frequent and the drainage will begin to turn to the east. Make your best guess about the location of the trail and work south up the hillside to the saddle.

pic 3
Table Mountain thru the rusted barbed wire fence at the saddle.

The saddle is a great spot to take a break and enjoy the views. Several faint trails leave the saddle and take you up thru the cliffs. Above the cliffs it is an easy hike to Rosewood Point. Enjoy the views from Rosewood Point - but leave time to hike to North Rosewood Point.

pic 4
Looking up Pima Canyon - a few minutes before reaching Rosewood Point.

pic 5
Rosewood Point with Table Mountain in the background.

North Rosewood Point is another high point to the northwest that is just a few minutes of hiking from Rosewood Point. The views from North Rosewood Point include an interesting look at the cliffs on the east side of the Pima Canyon.

pic 6
Looking down Pima Canyon from North Rosewood Point.

There are a number of possible ways back to the parking area from Rosewood Point. Following the ridgeline to the west is suggested as an interesting route in "The Santa Catalina Mountains: A Guide to the Trails and Routes" by Pete Cowgill and Eber Glendening (see the Rosewood Point description for details). But watching the rain roll across Tucson convinced me to take the easiest route down - back the same way I came up! This hike totals  just over 7 miles.

Rosewood Point Map


Top 10 Holiday Gift Ideas

by frank Monday, December 5th 2011

Here at Summit Hut, we are known for our amazing selection of gear, a wall filled with shoes and a staff that offers tremendous service. But something you might not know about us – we have one of the most unique selections of toys, games, ornaments and treats in Tucson around the holidays!

If you’ve ever stopped by either of our Tucson stores around the holidays, you were sure to notice the amazing job that our merchandiser, Carolyn, does with our displays. This year both stores feature two Christmas trees filled with amazing ornaments. One tree is all locally inspired products.

Our second tree features some great outdoor-related ornaments, including skiing Santa and glittery tents, and more!

Through all of this, and our regular stock of incredible outdoor gear, I have compiled my top-10 list of gifts for the holidays. No guarantees, but I can’t imagine anyone on my list that wouldn’t love something from this list!

10. Strider Bikes – Shopping for the little ones? These bikes are built for 18 month olds to 5 year olds and teach children balance and coordination. Plus they come in really awesome colors!

Strider Bikes

9. Bacon Flavored Candy Canes – Need I say more?

Bacon Flavored Candy Canes 

8. Life Is Good Gear – We just started carrying Life Is Good again, and we’ve got shirts, mugs, pajamas, hats, stickers and other amazingly optimistic goods!

Life Is Good Shirts 

7. Acorn Slippers – Who couldn’t use a new pair of slippers for the holidays?

Acorn Slippers

6.Divide 55 pack I just really wanted an excuse to post this hilarious video again – here’s a few Summit Hutters showing off the awesome pivoting hip belt of this pack – and they’re 20% off through December 31st!

5. Synergy Clothing – This is a great brand that makes really fun and unique clothing – for the “fashionista” on your list!

Synergy Clothing

4. Be Kind To the Earth Ornament – This ornament, from Tucson's Ben's Bells Project, reminds us to be kind to everything and everyone around us – and it looks pretty awesome too!

Ben's Bells Project: Be Kind to the Earth Ornament

3. Inov-8 F-lite 195/230 – ok really, just about any Inov-8 shoe would make a great gift.

F-Lite 230

2. Party Rats – As the packaging says they’re “ideal for night blogging”…well, I write most of my blog posts during the day, but I’m sure I’ll find some other entertaining stuff to do with these little guys!


1. Contour Camera – Because what’s cooler than having 1080p HD video of all the awesome stuff you do with your new gear!?

Contour GPS Camera 

For other great holiday gift ideas, be sure to check out our 2011 Holiday Gift Guide! There are over 100 of
our favorite gifts for the season as well as 18 special Holiday Deals valid through December 31st.

Did my list not cover your favorites? Share your wish list with us.


Airmen Peak

by Charles Friday, December 2nd 2011

Molino Basin is a gateway to a number of truly fantastic areas in the Santa Catalina Mountains. One great off-trail destination is Airmen Peak. Although no official trails exist to the peak there are several ways to the top - this blog post describes hiking to Airmen Peak by of way Molino Canyon to the east and the West Fork of Molino Canyon to the West. While certainly not the fastest or easiest route it is interesting because it takes you thru two wonderful canyons on the way to and from Airmen Peak.

As always, be very cautious about off-trail travel in the Santa Catalina mountains - the route below is only on official trails for about the first five minutes. If you are not comfortable scrambling off trail, on steep terrain and near sheer cliffs this hike should be avoided.

Mile 0 - The starting spot for this hike is the Molino Basin parking area. This area is on the left side of the Catalina Highway between mile markers 5 and 6 as you head up the mountain (well signed). There is a campground at Molino Basin that is open during the winter. After starting just off the parking area the trail crosses the road. You will pass a large Arizona Trail sign and just a few minutes after that leave the trail to begin travelling up Molino canyon. To work up canyon to the top of the first falls you have two choices - an obvious, but unofficial, trail that starts just before the Arizona Trail crosses the canyon - or simply walk up the canyon bottom. While the trail may be faster the canyon bottom is more beautiful and often has small pools of water and plenty to see - Canyon Treefrogs, Ferocious Water Bugs and Black-necked Garter Snakes were some of the animals I saw this trip.

Start of the path to the top of the first falls in Molino Canyon 

As you approach the first falls (pictured below) the trail will take you up the left side (looking up canyon) of the canyon and eventually deposit you in the canyon bottom. If you followed the canyon simply work up the hillside to your left and catch the trail to get to the top. Once you are above the falls the rest of the hike will be off-trail.

First falls in Molino Canyon 

About 10 minutes past the falls a drainage comes in from the west - this is the drainage mentioned in the Mountain Project description of the approach to the Stonewall climbing area.

Drainage to Stonewall

Mile 1 - The canyon continues to steepen - occasional sections of slippery water polished rock and large boulders present some challenges to scramble up and/or work around.

Molino Canyon

Eventually the scrambling ends and the canyon levels out into a sand and rock walkway. This section of the canyon is a great destination - perhaps camp for the night and explore the surrounding area! Just a few minutes after the canyon levels out look for a smaller drainage coming in from the left (easy to spot and often marked with a cairn). This drainage will take you to west towards Airmen Peak.

Mile 2 - As the small drainage bends to the north you get a good view of the rocky cliffs of Airmen Peak and a view of the small saddle you will be hiking to.

Airmen Peak and Saddle

Leave the drainage and take the path of least resistance towards the saddle. As you near the saddle look to your left for the overgrown slope (to the south) that can be used to gain the peak - head up this slope anywhere that seems feasible. Progress is slow as you work up the steep slope and, finally, onto the rocky summit. The summit area offers views in every direction - plan on spending some time exploring - this is a great area!

Summit of Airmen Peak

Mile 3 - I wandered around the summit area and nearby ridge enjoying the views for quite a while. But eventually it was time to head down. There are a number of ways back to Molino Basin - but I love taking the West Fork of Molino Canyon down. Work back down the steep hillside, to the saddle and then continue down into the West Fork of Molino!

Beautiful rock in the West Fork

Mile 4 - The West Fork is steeper, more rugged and has more obstacles than Molino Canyon. There are several sections where you will need to exit the canyon to work around falls/steep sections - if you are short on time or Molino Canyon was at the limit of (or beyond) what you are comfortable with I strongly recommend going back down Molino Canyon rather than going down the West Fork! After some beautiful sections of carved rock you will come to the first of several cliffs/falls that you will need to work around - picture below - I have found leaving the canyon and working around the left side (looking down canyon) to be a good approach (be sure to explore your options cautiously and carefully!).

Dave Baker above the First Waterfall Down from Airmen Peak

The second set of falls is not too far down canyon and are bigger than the first set! Exit to the right (looking down canyon) and find a small, but obvious, drainage that angles back into the canyon - it will take you far enough down canyon to bypass both the falls pictured below and another smaller/steep below.

Second Falls

The hillside/drainage here can be very bushy, with some care it is possible to find a reasonable path down (although there is no escaping the brush) - you may pick up some friends along the way... 

Overly friendly brush

Mile 5 - More great canyon bottom and then one more set of falls to work around. Exit to the right (looking down canyon) and look for a faint path that contours along the cliffs, past a tree, and over some rocky sections to a chute or hillside that leads back to the bottom of the canyon. Take care working around these falls - while there is not any difficult scrambling along this path there are a few minutes of walking along the edge of a rather steep/tall cliff!

Last Falls

Once back in the canyon bottom there is a joyful section of rock hopping thru beautiful canyon and all too soon you are at the highway - continue under the highway and down the canyon - you will pass behind several camp sites and then eventually hit the Molino Basin campground road a minute or two from your car, just as your mileage hits 6!

This trip may not be the fastest way to get up to Airmen Peak and back - but it is an amazing chance to travel some beautiful terrain if you are up for an off-trail adventure.


The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!