Best In Show: Outdoor Retailer Winter 2016
We spent the last week at Outdoor Retailer, the biggest trade show in the outdoor industry. Between whirlwind appointments to check out the latest gear innovations, getting some on snow testing done, and enjoying some excellent cocktails after, we pored over our notes, compared new gear, and got our hands on every conceivable innovation. After a few days of complete gear overload, we’ve picked ten stand out items at Outdoor Retailer that will define the market this fall when they hit shelves. Read on for our Best In Show Awards.
Arc’teryx is a titan in the ski and climbing communities. Whether you’re looking for the best GORE outerwear or bombproof climbing harnesses, they are the go-to brand for serious adventurers around the globe. With such a share of the ski soft goods market, and a newly hired footwear director, they tried their hand at a ski boot. The results are superb. We skied the Procline at Solitude Ski Resort during the on-snow demo, and were floored at how well a lightweight, uphill travel focused ski boot performed. If your goals next season include serious human powered ascents on skis, accept nothing less than the Procline.
Montane’s alpine apparel line is carefully curated with design input from famed big wall climber Andy Kirkpatrick. The all new Featherlite Down Pro Pull On (we know, it’s a mouthfull) carries the brand’s climbing DNA in every stitch. Using a new fabric from Pertex called CS10, it is highly abrasion resistant. Hydrophobic down from Allied Feather and Down keeps it ultralight, and it packs into a kangaroo pocket to double as a travel pillow for when you’re tucked into your sleeping bag at night. This is the insulation layer we’ve been dreaming of.
Conrad Anker needs no introduction in the outdoor world. Having led serious expeditions on every continent, his credentials for gear design and review are beyond what most of us can imagine. When he came to Smartwool earlier this year asking for an extremely abrasion resistant mountaineering sock, they built a revolutionary wool-nylon hybrid knit that hits all the right notes. Not only will it be in the Outdoor Mountaineer sock, but in every pair of their top level PhD sock line moving forward. We expect to be wearing our pair for years to come.
Weighing in at 5.2 ounces, the Pieps Micro is the lightest avalanche beacon ever built. With three separate antennas, bluetooth connectivity to a phone, and a foolproof switch from passive to search mode when removed from its protective holster, the Micro redefines ease-of-use in the beacon category. This is the beacon we want to carry every morning as we check the avalanche forecast for the mountains around Salt Lake City.
Expanding on their 3-layer, air permeable Hellytech membrane, Helly Hansen launched the Elevation Jacket with big mountain free skiers in mind. Featuring their award winning H2Flow liner, the Elevation combines serious weather protection with inner micro-climate regulation. Design touches like integrated Recco Advanced Rescue reflectors, a jacket to pants connection system, and a multitude of pockets ensure this shell will be the choice of skiers when the snow gets deep.
Keeping with the fast and light trend, Mammut’s latest avalanche safety pack is the lightest avalanche airbag we’ve seen hit the market (and also one of the cheapest, coming in under $500 retail for a full airbag pack). At less than four and half pounds, it is significantly less weight than competing packs. This twenty liter version is perfect for short ski tours out of resort bounds, or helicopter or snow cat skiing where you won’t be needing to pack an entire day’s worth of gear.
Using a specially designed paper liner called Vapour Mesh in their gas canisters, Primus’ Winter Gas achieves a level of efficiency in extreme cold that regular propane-butane mixes never could. The paper helps provide extra surface area for the compressed gas to evaporate, allowing campers to use it down to -7°. What does this mean? Faster boiling with less gas, so you can bring fewer cans of fuel on your next winter camping trip.
NuDown’s innovative air chamber insulation is simply remarkable. Depending on how much it is inflated, you can tune your jacket’s warmth. The all new Tahoe Mid Layer features new fabrics for the air chambers that are thirty percent lighter than previous efforts. Combined with Polartec fleece in the sleeves and back, this mighty jacket is an excellent option for high aerobic activities in the cold.
Icy sidewalks and trails are treacherous. No matter what shoes or boots you wear, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before you are going to get dumped on the ground, that is, until now. In a partnership with Wolverine Worldwide, Vibram launched a new rubber compound called Arctic Grip at Outdoor Retailer. Using a process they will only detail as the “Advanced Fill System”, Vibram is able to provide grip on wet ice that far surpasses any other sole technology on the market. We had a chance to test a pair of Arctic Grip shoes at the launch event, and can testify to their marketing claims. On wet ice it felt like we were wearing crampons with every step.
The current version of the NAO features an adaptable lighting system that adjusts beam brightness and distance calibration. To build on that capability, Petzl built in bluetooth connectivity, so your headlamp can be a smart device. Depending on your needs, you can select different lighting profiles and even program in morse code messages to flash from the headlamp from your phone. At 750 lumens, the NAO+ is a veritable spotlight.