Here’s our report from the fourth and final day of winter OR. Things have really quieted down and attendees leave for home. Everyone is getting a little weary, but the enthusiasm of people in the outdoor industry is always amazing. Despite the fact it was a shorter day, we still found a full complement of things to report on.
Hillsound is a Canadian company exhibiting at OR for the first time. Their only product is trail crampons and they showed us three models. The Trail Crampon (left two photos, 16.2 oz/460 g per pair, US$59, available now) are slip-on crampons available in four sizes. They have a TPU (thermo-plastic-urethane) harness that will withstand very cold temperatures and underfoot toe and heel hardened steel plates with some serious crampons (far left). They are fairly similar to the Kahtoola MicroSpikes, weigh about 3.5 oz (99 g) more, and cost the same. The Cypress 6 (third photo from left, 19.4 oz/550 g, US$55, available now), are an adjustable instep crampon with a midfoot plate, six crampons, and a polycarbonate binding with two ratchet buckles. Their Trail Crampon Pro (far right, 24 oz/680 g, US$79) for fall 2011 is an adjustable 10-point crampon for serious glacier and snow travel. They have a more substantial polycarbonate harness with one ratchet adjustment. This one is comparable to the Kahtoola KTS Steel crampon; it weighs a smidgeon more and costs half as much.
The VestPac is a bit hard to describe. It combines a back hydration pouch with front-mounted panels designed for different applications. For example, the GrandPac (left two photos, about 10 oz/283 g, US$68, available now), has a 3D Airmesh backpanel (far right photo) and neoprene hydration sleeve and reservoir on the back, and a zippered pocket and vinyl pockets on the front. The DriftPac version (third photo from the left, about 10 oz/283 g, US$130) is the same on the backside, but the frontside opens up to provide access to multiple attachments and pockets for fly fishing gear. There are seven basic models in all, each with a different combination of hydration and frontpanel design to make them useful for a multitude of applications like day hiking, trail running, fishing, photography, hunting, XC skiing, travel, and field trips. Also, the frontpanel is interchangeable, so a person can purchase a separate frontpanel for each intended use.
Over at The North Face booth we found the Diaz Jacket (left, sorry, we don’t have complete specs on these items, will update when we get the information) for fall 2011. This pullover jacket has a Pertex Quantum shell (original Quantum) and Primaloft Eco insulation. The Animagi Cap (right) also caught our eye. It has the same face fabric and insulation, plus a Power Stretch fleece ear warmer that extends down over the ears.
At the CAMP USA booth we found a number of lightweight items. They mainly make climbing gear, but their apparel items and other outdoor gear are among the lightest to be found. We previously reported on their Windmit’n (orange shells only), which are wind mitts weighing just 0.4 ounce (12 g) per pair and MSRP of US$25. For fall 2011 a Waterproof Windmit’n will be offered that weighs about 0.9 to 1.1 ounces (25-30 g). They will be made of a silicone coated nylon, so they will not be breathable. Another version available is the G Comp Wind (above) which is a Power Stretch glove with attached Windmit’n in a small pocket so it can be worn over the glove when needed. Sorry, no weight available; the MSRP is US$75.
The CAMP rep also showed us their aluminum Xenon 4 Collapsible Trekking Pole (9.9 oz/281 g, per pair US$70) which employs avalanche pole technology to hold the four sections together (see video). CAMP claims they are the lightest collapsible trekking poles in the world, but in fact the carbon fiber Black Diamond Speed Distance poles weigh 0.2 ounce (5.7 g) less; however, they cost over twice as much. In spring 2011 the CAMP aluminum Xenon Trek Pole (not shown) will be available; this collapsible four-section pole will be stiffer and therefore a bit heavier and will sell for US$80. Both of these poles are a great value, but they are not quite as elegant as the Black Diamond Z-Poles.
CAMP also claims that their Crest Snow Shovel (8.9 oz/253 g, US$38), new for 2011, is the lightest in the world, and I have no reason to dispute that. The 13.8-inch (35-cm) aluminum alloy shaft slides into the blade for packability, and the polypropylene blade measures 7.9 x 7.9 inches (20 x 20 cm). A carry bag is included for lashing to a pack.
CAMP also has lots of lightweight packs. Two that caught our eye are the Phantom (left, US$40), a minuscule weight 15 L stuff sack/summit pack. It is constructed of thin coated nylon, has a large mesh pocket on the front, and mesh shoulder straps and hipbelt for ventilation. The 30 L X3 600 Pack (17 oz/490 g, US$100) is designed for randonee racing and backcountry touring. It’s a top loader with one fiberglass stay, zippered top pocket, two large mesh side pockets, and two large removable hipbelt pockets.
Sea To Summit continues to crank out well-designed useful camping accessories. This time we found their UltraSil Dry Day Pack (left, 3.2 oz/91 g, US$55, available August 2011). It’s a different design and a little larger compared to their UltraSil Day Pack we reported on before which weighs 2.6 oz (74 g). This one has a drybag closure with Hypalon straps and packs down to a very small size (center). The UltraSil Duffle Bag (right, 2.8 oz/79 g, US$40, available March 2011) has a zippered top opening and 40 liters of capacity and looks to be a very useful piece. Sea To Summit’s new sleeping bags, which we reported on from the summer 2010 OR, will arrive in March 2011. The lightest one is the Micro II (36F/2C EN rated, 19 oz/539 g, US$350) which has 850 down fill and a YKK #3 full-length zipper.
Another new exhibitor at OR is ToughStakes, which makes flat aluminum alloy stakes designed specifically for sand and snow. According to owner Eric Simonson, sand/snow stakes currently on the market fail due to repeated tugging on the stakes on a windy day, followed by a good gust that pulls them out. As shown in the video, ToughStakes have a guyline attached to the bottom and require ten times more pulling power to pull them out compared to conventional stakes. ToughStakes will come in three sizes: Small (1.5 oz each/42.5 g, sold in a pack of four for US$20), Medium (5.1 oz each/ 145g, sold individually for US$25), and Large (8 oz each/227 g, US$35); all come with a wire guyline and tie loop. Besides staking tents and canopies, the large stake can be used to tie down a canoe.
A new product from Adventure Medical Kits is their SOL Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy (3.8 oz/108 g, US$16, available now). It’s made of a metallicized plastic, which is quieter than Mylar, and the coating does not rub off on clothing. Dimensions are 36 inches wide x 84 inches long (91 x 213 cm). AMK claims that the coating reflects 90% of body heat. Although it’s not breathable at all, it’s enough for many thru-hikers in warmer temperatures.
A really cool midlayer piece from SmartWool for fall 2011 is the TML Mid Full-Zip Hoody (10.9 oz/370 g, US$190). It will also be available as a hoodless half-zip and a vest, each with one zippered chest pocket and two hand pockets. It’s made of a 64% merino wool/34% nylon blend and looks like a softshell, but there is no surface treatment to repel water. It can be worn as an outer layer and its fabric will provide some natural wind and water resistance. It’s mainly intended as a substitute for a fleece midlayer. Men’s and women’s versions will be available in several colors.
Teva Footwear will be introducing additional versions of its popular Forge Pro shoe this August. They will be the Forge Pro Mid eVENT (right, 15.4 oz/437 g per shoe, US$140) and Forge Pro Mid Winter (left, 16.2 oz/459 g per shoe, US$160). Teva shoes are wider in the toebox, which suits hikers with wider feet. The Winter version will use Thinsulate insulation. Both shoes will be waterproof and feature Teva’s HyperGrrip outsole, which has embedded fiberglass fibers for extra traction on ice.
A very lightweight rain jacket is the Montane Minimus Jacket (8 oz/215 g, US$219) made of 2.5-layer Pertex Shield. Using 15 denier face fabric, it’s one of the lightest constructions yet with Pertex Shield. With 20,000 mm of waterproofness and MVTR of about 25,000, Pertex Shield is “on top of the pile of polyurethane laminates” according to a Pertex representative. Pertex is working with GE Energy to develop lightweight laminates using the eVENT ePTFE membrane and Pertex fabrics, which will be branded as Pertex Shield DV (for Direct Venting).
Primaloft introduced a new synthetic insulation called Primaloft Synergy, which is a multi-denier continuous filament insulation engineered for superior warmth, softness, and loft. It’s constructed of fine and ultra fine denier continuous filament fibers, which makes it thicker and warmer without sacrificing compressibility; loft is claimed to be 25% higher than Primaloft Infinity. The intended use is in sleeping bags and outerwear. The current Primaloft insulations are One, Sport, Eco, Infinity, Eco Footwear, and now Synergy.
In other textile news, Outlast announced the application of its technology to a polyester fabric. Originally developed for NASA, Outlast is a phase-change substance that is applied to fabric threads. It absorbs heat and provides heat regulation. So far, Outlast has mostly been used in bedding, especially sheets, but now it is being applied to a polyester fabric to combine the benefits of Outlast’s heat regulation with polyester’s moisture-wicking and durability qualities. The brand sees a lot of potential for applications in technical base layers and socks.
This wraps up our daily coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011. Our final article will address the emerging new revolution in waterproof-breathable technologies. Gore-Tex has dominated the high-end waterproof-breathable category for over 30 years, challenged only by eVENT. Now some major players and new technologies – Polartec’s NeoVent, Mountain Hardwear’s DryQ, and Columbia’s Omni-Dry – seek to raise the bar with marketing campaigns emphasizing the need for air permeability in order to achieve true fabric breathability. Of course Gore is not sitting idly by; they introduced Gore Active Shell, which is their lightest most breathable construction yet. Our upcoming article will describe the technologies and analyze where the trend may be going.