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.


Buster Mountain, Buster Spring, Montrose Canyon

by Charles Monday, November 28th 2011

I don't think I would have picked Buster Mountain out of the Santa Catalina skyline as a hiking destination without the help of "The Santa Catalina Mountains: A Guide to the Trails and Routes" by Pete Cowgill and Eber Glendening (this guide has been out of print for years, but it is a great resource and we try to keep a copy on our map table!). The summit of Buster Mountain has great views of Alamo Canyon, Table Mountain and other formations including Leviathan Dome. There are no maintained trails to the Buster Mountain summit, but the Cowgill and Glendening guide (in the description for Buster Spring) gives a brief description of an old horse trail that can be used to get to the Buster Mountain/Buster Spring area. For this trip I used the Cowgill and Glendening description - but I decided to loop back to the parking area via Montrose Canyon (rather than the Alamo Canyon route described in the guide).

Getting Started

The parking area for this hike is the last parking area on the main road in Catalina State Park (this is the parking for several trails including the Romero Canyon Trail) - entry into Catalina State Park currently costs $7 per vehicle with 1-4 adults (check the website for the current cost). From the parking lot cross the road to a well signed trail head and take the trail across the Sutherland Wash. Just after crossing the wash there is a signed junction - take a right onto the Birding Trail. After a few minutes bear left at the Birding Trail loop and cross Montrose Canyon. Just after passing Montrose canyon a faint trail starts on the left - take this trail.

The Trail Up

pic 1
The route to Buster Mountain with the summit in the background.

The trail just beyond Montrose Canyon is - I believe - the horse trail mentioned in the Cowgill and Glendening guide. From here I lost and found the trail MANY times. But losing the trail is not too much of a concern - Buster Mountain is easy to locate on the skyline, navigation is reasonably easy and the terrain is somewhat forgiving - getting off trail might slow you down, but it should not be a major obstacle to getting to the summit!

pic 2
An old National Forest Boundary sign - I think it means I was on the trail at this point...

At just under 3 miles I reached the summit - from the summit there are great views of Leviathan Dome and the upper reaches of Alamo Canyon. This is a nice spot to relax - and perhaps to find a camp site for a night...

pic 3
Leviathan Dome and Alamo Canyon from the summit of Buster Mountain

After leaving Buster Mountain I headed downhill and contoured over to Buster Spring. The tank was still holding water, but it was low and the canyon near the spring was quite dry.

pic 4
Buster Spring Tank

The Canyon Down

After visiting the spring I headed down canyon towards Montrose Canyon. Travel in the canyon alternates between working thru thick brush, easy walking on exposed rock and scrambling down cliffs and falls. The canyon bottom was fairly dry on this trip and that made the scrambling easier - with some water flow I can imagine having to bypass the canyon bottom (or rappel) in a couple of spots. Just a bit before mile 5 I entered Montrose canyon. Montrose is a beautiful and rugged canyon - this section is sometimes accessed by hiking up the Romero Canyon Trail and then going off-trail and dropping into Montrose Canyon when the trail/terrain allow. It is possible to travel down this section of Montrose by scrambling and finding paths up, out and around the obstacles - but for this trip I brought 100' of rope so I could stay in the canyon bottom.

pic 5
Obstacle 1 - At just past mile 5 a large boulder blocks the canyon.

pic 6
Obstacle 2: A rappel or scramble above several pools. The last pool is pictured above - even with the canyon fairly dry these pools were quite deep!

The last obstacle in this section of canyon is a small cliff band overlooking a pool. There are a number of ways to continue past the obstacle - on this trip I chose a short rappel. Below this point Montrose Canyon has many more visitors and you will begin to see fire rings and small side trails.

pic 7
The pool below the last obstacle.

From here continue down canyon - my favorite exit is to hike up to a park bench on the right side of the canyon (the bench is both an easy marker of where to exit and a welcome excuse to sit for a minute). This bench is on the on the Montrose Pools trail and from here it is an easy walk back to the parking area. Your mileage at the end of this hike will be approximately 7.6 miles!

pic 8
Shoes after a few miles of canyon hiking.

This hike is a great journey up to a great summit, over to an interesting spring and down a beautiful canyon! As always, be very careful when hiking off-trail in the Santa Catalina mountains.

Buster Mountain - Buster Spring - Montrose Canyon Loop Map


Fall 2011 - Jackets with Synthetic Insulation!

by Charles Friday, November 18th 2011

This season we have the best selection of jackets with synthetic insulation that we have had in years! To help you understand why we are excited this blog post will give you some information about synthetic insulation and some insight into why we picked these jackets.

The most important advantage that synthetic insulation offers is better performance in wet conditions: synthetic insulation will provide some warmth even when wet! This is a great feature and a nice advantage over down insulation (which quickly loses its ability to insulate as it gets wet). Synthetic insulation also tends to dry faster (often much faster!) than down. Better insulation and drying more quickly can be important advantages in sustained wet weather and damp/humid conditions.

Some other minor advantages that synthetic insulation has when compared with down: holes/rips in the outer shell will generally not leak insulation, washing and drying synthetic insulation is often simple and synthetic insulation is usually hypoallergenic.

It is useful to also consider the advantages that down offers: higher warmth to weight ratio, better compressibility and - properly cared for - longer useful life. These differences are important to consider, but today's synthetic insulations are quite good and at this point these are minor details.

Our selection for Fall 2011:

Arc'teryx Atom LT - Men's Jacket, Men's Hoody, Women's Jacket, Women's Hoody Luminara™ nylon weave fabric with wind and water repellant coating and Coreloft™ insulation, Polartec® Power Stretch® with Hardface® Technology on the sides and, in the hoody version, a close fitting hood.


Why we picked it:

-Full zip: Easiest/best way to vent a jacket and control your temperature - practical for both outside adventures and everyday use.
-Outer shell: Enough weather protection to easily shed mild wind/rain/snow.
-'Sweater' weight: Practical as your only piece of insulation in mild weather - but also useful as a layer (perhaps under a shell) in colder conditions.
-Great Colors!

Montane Fireball Smock - Men's PERTEX® Quantum Core and Ripstop outer with PRIMALOFT® ECO insulation and a deep 2 way chest zipper.


Why we picked it:

-Lightweight! This jacket is worthy of an ultra-light backpacker's consideration.
-Great details: Reflective hits/trim, chin guard and double chest zipper (for venting and pocket access). To keep this piece as light as possible pockets and a full zip have been eliminated, but all the features you really need are included.

Marmot Variant Jacket - Men's, Women's Thermal R™ Eco insulation in the front, Polartec® Power Stretch® in the sides, back, and sleeves and thumbholes.


Why we picked it:

-Smart! The synthetic insulation is in the front of the jacket where you need the warmth the most and where it won't be compressed by your pack.
-Great for active use: The Polartec® Power Stretch® is stretchy and breathes quite well - a great choice when you are on the move.
-Unique Look!

The North Face Super Zephyrus Jacket - Men's, Women's Water resistant nylon ripstop shell, Polartec® Power Stretch® panels, PrimaLoft® One insulation, thumb holes and hood.


Why we picked it:

-Hood: Sometimes the warmth and protection that a hood offers is just what you need.
-Smart Combination: Like the Variant this jacket combines different materials to get a great combination of insulation, protection, movement and breathability.


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!