Gasherbrum2 - how to compare gear


I need to choose between a 229 EUR down hoody that weights 319g and one that is 269 EUR and 420g… which one will you go for?

Now, what if I tell you that the first option is 700 CUIN and second one is 800 CUIN? Wait…wait… what? What the heck is CUIN?


Enter triangulation shopping where you simplify everything and only play around with 3 main filters:

1. Price

I would argue that price is the first and the most important filter for most people unless you are a double-digit crypto millionaire, only buy Arc'teryx products and don't care about the price at all.

2. Weight

Weight is the second, especially in high-altitude mountaineering where every 100grams matters a lot. You want to enjoy the mountain right? be a wild goat, not a Sherpa.

3. Characteristic

CUIN is what I call the main characteristic of a product or product type (down suits, rain jackets, etc) and is needed to be able to compare apples to apples across multiple brands.

A few examples of characteristics:

  • CUbic INches (CUIN) - global - a ratio between weight and volume and is used to measure down products (down jackets, sleeping bags), the bigger the better
  • Resistance Value (R-value) - global - used to measure ground insulation products (air mattress, foam pads), same, the bigger the better
  • Hydro-static Head (HH) - global - waterproof rating to measure water-proof and water-repellent products (tents, jackets, pants)
  • base layer fabric - local (Icebreaker) - the measure of lightweight vs. mid-weight fabric type is different between Icebreaker and Ortovox
  • backpacks - none - that comes in a lot of shapes (aka capacity) for different activities (hiking, alpinism) you need to do the dirty work and find out what works best for your needs
  • etc

Unfortunately not all products/types have a main characteristic that is used by all gear makers, that's why I came up with 3 categories:

  • global: globally available and implemented by most brands (e.g. CUIN for down products) and you can compare apples to apples
  • local: specific to each brand, you can't compare products across different makers but you can compare within same brand (e.g. Icebreaker)
  • none: there is no common characteristic to compare two different products of the same maker (e.g. backpacks), you need to look at multiple features to figure out what is what.


With the above in mind we first need to identify the main characteristic (if any) for the products that we want to compare and mentally do calculate:

  • the bang for the buck - how much value you get for each buck spent (characteristic / price), the bigger the better which means you get more value for the same money
  • weighted bang - multiply the ratio above by the weight (weight * ratio), the smaller the better - which means you get less weight for the same ratio

Let's apply the triangulation to the above example and find out what to buy:

  c1 = 700
  p1 = 229
  w1 = 318
  h1 = c1 / p1 * w1

  c2 = 800
  p2 = 269
  w2 = 420
  h2 = c2 / p2 * w2

  if h1 < h2:
    print("WINNER: #1")
    print("WINNER: #2")

The result is #1 option but keep in mind that:

  • we are missing one piece of information, down quality between 700 and 800 CUIN which translates in more warmth through trapped air
  • this method is far from perfect but it is a easy way to figure out a better option

Happy shopping!