Ryan Knapp's MWOBS Observer Wish List

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered what items professional athletes and outdoor adventurers put on their wish lists? Because these folks know their stuff, we asked a handful of experts in different fields to tell us what they want for the holidays.

Since 2005, Ryan Knapp has been a weather observer and meteorologist at the home of the world’s worst weather, Mount Washington. At 6,288 feet, Mount Washington’s summit, the highest in the Northeast, sits at the convergence of several different storm tracks, giving it notoriously erratic, extreme, and even deadly conditions. The second-fastest wind speed on Earth—a staggering 231 mph—was recorded on the peak, and it has seen temperatures as low as 47 degrees below zero. And, it’s Ryan’s job to both keep track of it and try to predict what’s coming, which means he needs top-of-the-line gear.

Courtesy of Ryan Knapp
Courtesy of Ryan Knapp

1. Black Diamond Neve Strap Crampons

While the summit has an average snowfall of 281 inches, most of this is scoured off by our high winds, which then leave it as a giant dome of ice with hard-packed snow on the leeward sides. As a result, a solid pair of crampons, like Black Diamond’s Neve Straps, are an essential item for working on the summit, whether it is going to gather the precipitation can, repair an instrument, or go out for the occasional SAR effort. 

2. Kahtoola MICROspikes

In the heart of winter, crampons are essential, but in the shoulder seasons (specifically, spring and fall and even occasionally summer), they might be slightly overkill. However, it can still be slick, and in these situations, MICROspikes® are great for providing added traction between your bare boots and crampons. Once you strap these on, whether you’re on the summit or after work in Boston, you will wonder how you ever got around in icy conditions without them.

3. Princeton Tec Apex Pro Headlamp

The Mount Washington Observatory is a 24/7/365 operation. As a result, one of us works through the night. Since I have been working nights, good lighting is imperative. My go-to is the Princeton Tec Apex Pro. It has great battery life, is lightweight, and has either an energy-efficient mode or a super-bright mode for those times when dense fog and blowing snow limit visibility to just feet.

4. Seirus Combo Scarf and EMS Power Stretch Balaclava

During the winter, we see brutally cold temperatures and high winds. If we’re improperly covered, these factors can lead to frostbite on exposed skin. That is where having good head and face protection is important. When I go out, I usually use a dual-layering system for breathability and warmth. The first layer is a Seirus Combo Scarf followed by an EMS® Power Stretch Balaclava

5. EMS Men’s Feather Pack Jacket

For warmth, I wear the Feather Pack. It is very warm, and for those times I go out hiking, I can pack it within itself, making it easy to transport without taking up significant space in my bag.

6. EMS Helix Jacket

For great rain and wind protection, the EMS® Helix Jacket has deep pockets that allow me to carry some of my essentials. And, while it locks out the rain and wind, it also has the option to unzip the underarm vents, which let air in when the weather is mixed and changing every 10 minutes, like it does in New England.

7. EMS Freescape Insulated Pants

For my lower half, I go with the EMS® Freescape Insulated Pants. They are very warm and protect against the rain and winds, too. However, when I am indoors, they are breathable, so I am comfortable practically anywhere.

8. Darn Tough Socks and Vasque Snowblime Ultradry Boots

For my feet, I typically start with a pair of Darn Tough socks and then put on a pair of Vasque Snowblime Ultradry Boots. With this combo, my toes and feet are warm and toasty, even in spite of how far the mercury plunges.

9. EMS Altitude Mittens

For hands, I go with the EMS® Altitude Mittens. For keeping hands warm, it is scientifically proven that mittens are a better option than gloves. However, because these have an inner liner, you can also take your hands out for a limited time when you need the added dexterity that mittens can sometimes inhibit.

10. Julbo Universe Goggles

The last need is eye protection, and here, I would suggest the Julbo Universe Goggles. They are comfortable, they have a wide viewing area, and their lens adjusts on those days when clouds and fog are passing by, allowing for a bit of sunshine to mix in for uneven light. 

Courtesy of Ryan Knapp
Courtesy of Ryan Knapp