Best Of Show: Outdoor Retailer 2017
Every January, hundreds of brands and thousands of outdoors addicts descend on Salt Lake. During four days of gear testing, powder turns, and product presentations, we saw the very best new outdoors gear that will be hitting stores later this year. Start making your wish lists now and join in waiting impatiently for all the best from Outdoor Retailer.
Montane built the Icarus with Primaloft’s new Thermo Plume insulation. Rather than sewn in, batted panels like most synthetic puffys, Thermo Plume is short fibers that have individual loft – much like natural goose down. This allows manufacturers to blow insulating material into a jacket’s baffles, making it more simple to construct, but also traps more air than a typical synthetic, increasing warmth to weight. Expect to see this hoody on a lot of big wall and alpine climbers in the coming months.
We know what you’re thinking. A couch. Camping. We must be crazy right? At first we thought this was a little bit of a gimmick, but after seeing the couch split up into a cot, chairs and table, and shelving unit, we are sold. It benefits from Snow Peak’s Japanese heritage. The clean design lends itself to a smart looking basecamp, and each piece if functional and easy to stow in your truck or roof box. It’s time to take campfire lounging to the next level.
One of the scary things about traditional alpine touring tech bindings is that many toe pieces don’t have set release values. What does this mean? If you crash, your ski boot may remain stuck to your ski – not a great prospect for keeping your knees intact. The Tecton toe piece has an adjustable release value (the only tech binding on the market with that feature). What’s more, the heel piece locks down like a traditional alpine binding, giving you serious stability and power transfer. Backcountry powder hounds rejoice.
This European sailing outfitter is known for high-end gear meant to stand the test of nautical adventures all over the world. Their entire line is functional and expertly tailored (due to Italian design work), but we were blown away by their Marine Hydrowool Jacket – a double breasted pea coat with a built in “dry seat” that unzips out of the rear flank.
We saw the first iteration of Mountain Hardwear’s StretchDown last year, and were very impressed with the welded baffles and stretch fabric. The new DS jacket takes both of those technologies a step further. By creating discontinuous baffles with the welds, the DS can stretch further, breathe better, and transfer warm air faster than the average down jacket. A nice side effect is that it can pack incredibly small -perfect for skiers and climbers on the go.
Some of the finest American-made footwear comes out this small operation in Missouri. We were impressed with the craftsmanship and versatility in their “1901” line, which celebrates their rich culture of more than 100 years in the boot business.
Many snow goggles on the market can swap lenses, albeit somewhat clumsily sometimes. The biggest problem is getting your fingerprints all over your lens as you switch them out. On front, you can just wipe them off. However, many modern goggles have inner anti-fog coatings that can be damaged by constantly getting fingerprints on them and wiping them down. Zeal’s Portal solves that by sliding up and out – allowing you to only touch the edges, and saving your vision.
We almost missed this Japanese company tucked away in a corner of the “Venture Out” area, but we’re glad we didn’t. They’re importing a line of high-end ski and backcountry jackets and our favorite is built using an exclusive, breathable version of the popular Polartec fabric. The two companies spent eight years developing the material, resulting in an exceptional offering that should be a big hit with serious backcountry skiers.
Helle handcrafts their knives and handles at the forge in Norway. They are known for their functional, gorgeous fixed blades. The Bleja features a refined locking system, and curly birch scales on the handle. The blade is 3.4 inches long, and made from a triple laminated stainless steel. This mighty little knife will handle any campground task, and is a work of art.
When we saw the EVA snowshoes at the On-Snow Demo, we were a little skeptical. After all, every major brand is making snow shoes with a metal frame and crampon. Once we had them on our feet though, everything changed. The entire body of the snowshoe is EVA foam, letting it contour to the snow better than a framed snowshoe. It has a serious rocker, giving your extra grip when walking quickly (or even running if you like to really punish your legs). Directly underfoot is a deep crampon, which grabs even the steepest, hardest snow for extra traction.
What more can we say about the Quantum than that it is our favorite ski helmet ever? It is lighter than anything else out there. The Koroyd material in the body can suck up harder impacts than other industry standard materials, and are lighter and better ventilated on top of that. You can order a Quantum directly from Smith now.
These Texans brought a sweet Airstream camper as their showroom for a line of handsome watches and wallets. We really liked their four divisions of timepieces, individualized based on types of adventuring. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better looking chronographs under $500 anywhere.
Rhone sent us a t-shirt with their new GoldFusion treatment late last year. We wore it for over a week without washing it to test the anti-odor claims, and it passed the smell test with ease. After gym sessions, trail runs, and ski tours, the GoldFusion kept us stink free. They’ll be available in Rhone tops this spring, and in their shorts in the fall.
Eureka! had a really fun mini campsite set up at OR. Among a fake campfire and a bevy of sleeping bags was the Gonzo Grill. It’s a super portable 10,000 BTU burner base unit with a double-sided grate – one for grilling and a flat surface as a griddle. It connects to a variety of Jetboil products (its sister company) and gets us thinking about new levels of cooking at the tailgate and campground.
The Bergtagen Line is Fjällräven’s first foray into a unified technical line of apparel. With baselayers, a puffy coat, and two sets of outerwear (both a waxed canvas and technical shell), each Bergtagen piece reflects its brand DNA, while also setting themselves apart. The baselayers have strategically placed mesh panels for wicking. The Jackets and Pants have reinforced kevlar patches at high wear areas. Each piece is undeniably Fjällräven.
Additional Reporting by Geoff Nudelman