Highlights: Winter 2015 Outdoor Retailer Trade Show
The Outdoor Retailer Trade Show happens twice a year in Salt Lake City, Utah. This winter show features new gear that will appear in retail stores in fall 2015, so expect a heavier proportion of warm clothing and winter equipment. We also like to cover emerging new technologies that will make their way into new products in the next year or two.
The Outdoor gear and apparel industry is very big, very competitive, and mature. It would seem that most everything has been thought of, and there is no room for new players to come into the market, but each Show proves that to be wrong. Innovation drives the industry – new materials and designs – that make things better, meaning lighter weight, more durability, and more functionality. And that's what is so exciting about OR – the innovation, energy, and passion behind the latest and great products.
Following are highlights from the Winter OR Show, in no particular order. There is a lot of variety here, so something for everyone, with a little blogging thrown in here and there. Featured items will be available fall 2015 unless stated otherwise. Shoe weights are for a men's size 9. To obtain more information and where to pruchase products from an unfamiliar manufacturer, simply Google the name.
Disclaimer: The gear featured, opinions, and recommendations contained in this article are entirely those of the authors and does not constitute any endorsement by Gossamer Gear.
My Package designs essential products to keep your jewels from jingling. Their boxers and long john bottoms basically have a built-in jock, and are designed to maximize a (male) athlete's comfort. As shown, they have lots of colorful prints that blur the line between exposing your underwear and flaunting your physique. Styles include an Everday Series, Action Series, and Weekend Series. MSRPs range from $25 to $40 for the boxers, and $50 to $60 for long john bottoms. Most products are available now.
Compete Energy Bites
Remember Jolt gum? It was a good alternative delivery device for morning caffeine and many backpackers used it to get their morning fix. Compete Energy Bites delivers 135 milligrams of caffeine in each chew, which is equivalent to a cup of coffee, plus about 45 calories. They are available in several flavors, including chocolate and mocha. The Bites are individually wrapped and come six to a box.
Berghaus VapourLight HyperSmock 2.0
Berhaus is a large British gear manufacturer that is now entering the US market. I visited with them for the first time a year ago and found several impressive pieces, including the VapourLite HyperSmock. The original version of this hooded rain jacket was impressive at 100 grams for size Large. In version 2.0, due out in spring 2015, the weight goes down to 75 grams! You read that right, a hooded rain jacket that weighs a mere 2.65 ounces, which is lighter than a breathable Cuben Fiber rain jacket. The jacket has one good-sized chest pocket (below the half zip). Breathability is about 10,000 MVTR (which is minimal) and waterproofness is about 15,000 mm (which is adequate). The smock style (pullover) is a bit inconvenient to put on, and the garment runs small so size up if you intend to layer it over more than a thin insulation layer. MSRP is $150; that's $56.60 per ounce in case you were wondering.
Berghaus VapourLight HydroLoft Race Smock
Unlike other outdoor gear companies who design apparel that incorporates new technologies from fabric and insulation manufacturers, Berghaus has their own Mountain House Center that does their own innovation. This Smock (with the hard to remember name) is a good example; if combines the functions of a windshirt and light insulation layer in one reversible garment weighing just 5.5 ounces, and it's available with or without a hood. With the "warm side" out a tightly woven fabric sheds wind and holds heat inside; with the "cool side" out a loosely woven fabric allows wind to penetrate the insulation to remove excess heat by convection. MSRPs are $200 for the jacket version and $220 for the hoody.
Adidas Ultimate Boost Boot
Each year I choose my favorite lightweight insulated boot, and this one is a top contender because it has everything I like. Adidas' Boost Technology is a spongy midsole layer (foreground) that provides energy return, so it gives you a boost. The above-ankle height boot is all synthetic and constructed entirely with adhesives, so no leather to absorb water and crack and no stitched seams to unravel. It's insulated with 200 gram Primaloft, waterproof, snowshoe friendly, and has a Continental (the tire company) rubber traction tread. Heel rise is 6mm. Weight is 17 ounces/boot and MSRP is $200.
Adidas Terrex Boost Shoe
This shoe features the new Boost Technology in a low-cut trail runner; 11.4 ounces/shoe and $150. Heel rise is 6mm.
The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook
If you are interested in making your own backpacking foods using a dehydrator, this is the book to get. A real easy way to make good DIY backpacking meals is to simply dehydrate leftovers at home – any one pot dish will work – or follow the recipes in this book and then dehydrate it. Stackpole Books; ISBN 978-0-8117-1338-2; $24.95; available now.
Thule K-Summit Tire Chains
You won't find these in any backpack, but talk about gee-whiz technology. These chains fit on the outside half of the tire and virtually put themselves on. They are adjustable for a range of tire sizes. Simply lay the chain on the tire, drive forward, and it puts itself in position. Then click the center ratchet to tighten. Only $479 for a passenger car or $519 for a SUV, about the cost of an ultralight down sleeping bag. And you thought you had everything!
Brooks-Range Hybrid Wool Jacket
This jacket is a good pick for high exertion activities in cool weather, and just plain looking good. It features the latest technologies – Polartec PowerWool in the arms and Polartec Alpha insulation in the body front and back. The cuffs have "Monkey Paw Mitts" (right) for keeping hands warm. 15 ounces and $230 (not cheap).
Lost Horizons Hand Knits from Nepal
The company that distributes these beautiful hand knitted items has an interesting story: they provide New Zealand wool and patterns to 800 Nepalese women to hand-knit into beautiful pieces, providing them with a good source of income and utilization of their talents in a fair-trade manner, and then distribute the items to REI and other companies to sell to the end user. Many outdoor types like a knitted hat for cold weather outings and these are the nicest we have seen.
The North Face Modular ABS
Several companies now make specialized air bags for avalanche survival. In fall 2015, TNF will introduce a new version that attaches to most any ski pack to provide the same function. That saves the cost of purchasing a special pack that incorporates an ABS device, but it's still pricey at $999. When you pull the ripcord, the result is shown in the right photo. It's all about staying alive, staying-alive …
Primaloft Silver Insulation Active
PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active is an insulation offering breathability and unmatched warmth that is designed specifically for high-output adventures. The construction of PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active enables excess heat and moisture to escape, keeping the user comfortable and dry, while also allowing product designers to utilize a much wider variety of breathable outer and liner fabrics, resulting in more year-round choices for manufacturers and consumers. Its versatility and thermal efficiency enable consumers to wear PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active all year long without having to repeatedly put on and take off layers during an adventure, so they can remain in their comfort zone sweet spot and stay in the moment. If this sounds like Polartec Alpha you would be right; the competition is catching up.
This is not a new fabric from Gore; rather it's an upgrade to fabric constructions in the Gore-Tex Products category. Specifically, it's a new backing material (left) that by itself looks like a very fine mesh. It resides on the inside of the fabric construction providing a softer, more breathable, and lighter weight lining than the tricot lining (right) previously used. It allows a GTX garment to be worn more comfortably close to skin and has lower resistance to moisture transport.
Rab Continuum Pullon. This 8-ounce pullover is insulated with 3 ounces of 850 fill-power down and has a Pertex Quantum GL shell and lining; MSRP is $275.
Eagles's Nest Outfitters Sub-7 Hammock and Helios Straps
Hammock users take note – here's a new ultralight hammock that will be available in July 2015. The Sub-7 (left) weighs 6.9 ounces, is made of ripstop breathable nylon, and uses Dyneema cord with a 300-pound rating. MSRP is $70. Combined with their new Helios Straps (right, 5.7 ounces/$35), you have a hammock system weighing 12.6 ounces. ENO will also offer it in a bundled Hammock Shelter System consisting of the Sub-7, Helios Straps, silnylon rain fly, Bugnet SL, stakes for the rainfly, and a stuff sack/pillow for $250 and weight under 3 pounds.
Mountain Hardware Micro Thermostatic Jacket
This is a very versatile piece because it can be worn either as an outerlayer or midlayer. It's insulated with 40 gram Thermal.Q Elite synthetic insulation and has two hand pockets. $175 and about 8-10 ounces.
TSL Synbioz Elite Snowshoes
These injection-molded snowshoes look like a zipper in profile. The outer edges are serrated and provide a good deal of flex, as shown. Offhand, it's hard to comment on the benefits of this amount of flex; I would have to try them to find out. Three versions of the Elite are available now (in order of springiness due to the insert): Hyperflex (carbon fiber insert, $299, 2.15 lb each), Expert (fiberglass insert, $269, 2 lb each), and Hiker (plastic insert, $239, 2.2 lb each). The binding is well designed to adjust to boot size and securely/comfortably attach.
Nu Down Mount Whitney Vest
This company purchased the inflatable insulation technology from Klymit and is selling redesigned garments based on air or Argon gas inflation. The garment has an inflation bulb in a pocket that is used to inflate or deflate chambers around the torso area to the desired warmth. Fully inflated, warmth equivalent to a puffy 900 fill-power down vest is claimed. Although the garment is more conveniently inflated with air, using Argon gas is three times more insulative. Weight is 22.15 ounces for the men's Large vest and MSRP is $450. Not lightweight nor inexpensive, so this is mainly a technology story. The same inflatable insulation technology is available in two jackets from Nu Down.
Crux Pertex Endurance Shelled Down Jackets
Crux/Lightwave is a UK company that produces some of the lightest, cutting-edge down products to be found anywhere, and is available in the US at www.crux.us.com. The down in their jackets has a US rating of 970 fill-power. Left to right, their lightest jacket is the Turbo Top (blue, 7.6 ounces, $295), Turbo Jacket (orange, 8.6 ounces, $320), Halo Jacket (black, women's version shown, 9.5 ounces, $375, Pyro Jacket (red, 17.5 ounces, $450), and Rimo Jacket (purple, 21 ounces, $499). Each jacket has an ultralight Pertex Endurance shell (Turbo is 10 denier and the others are 15 denier), and the Pyro and Rimo are baffled. The Pertex Endurance shell is very water resistant and has a 7000 MVTR breathability rating. Men's and Women's versions are available in all of the jackets, except the Turbo Top.
Crux eVent Shelled Down Jackets
These jackets feature Crux's ultra high loft down, 3-layer eVent shell fabric that weighs just 75 grams per square meter and has a breathability rating of 30,000 MVTR, and welded baffles. Left to right: the Plasma (blue, 19.5 ounces, $695), Magma (grey, 23 ounces, $$795), and Lava (red, 28 ounces, $$895). Men's and Women's versions are available in all of the jackets. Crux down jackets is some of the finest to be found anywhere, based on cutting edge technology and light weight.
Some Thoughts on Water-Resistant Down
While at the Crux booth I had the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of water-resistant down treatments with Crux founder Carol McDermott, who I greatly respect. Crux doesn't use any water-repellent treatments on their down. Carol's philosophy goes like this: Regardless of any water-repellency treatments, as has always been the case, you want to minimize any moisture from residing in your down. The reason is very simple: water is a great conductor and draws heat away from your body, negating the value of insulation. A simple analogy is this: after hiking all day, your feet get cold in the evening because of a very small amount of water absorbed in your socks, so you need to change into dry socks to keep your feet warm. A very small amount of moisture in the socks is responsible for cold feet. The same is true for moisture inside a sleeping bag or jacket; it's best to air it out every day to eliminate moisture and retain its full insulative value. So, does water-repellent down keep you warm even if there is water inside the garment? Well, yes, if you generate enough heat to warm the water, like hiking with damp socks.
New Goal Zero Rechargers
The Split 10 battery pack (left) weighs 2.55 ounces, is rated at 2600 mah, has a 1 amp output and costs $29; available February 2015. The Split 20 (center) @ 4.6 ounces and $50 provides two charges, and the Venture 30 Recharger (right) @ 8.9 ounces and $99 provides 3 charges, has an integrated flashlight, and is waterproof.
Montane Prism Bootie
This lightweight bootie has a Pertex Microlight shell, 160 gram Primaloft Gold insulation, and a hypalon outsole. Weight is 5.8 ounces/pair and MSRP is $55.
Big Agnes Meaden Jacket and Zoro Vest
The redesigned Meaden Jacket (right) has vertical baffles filled with 4.2 ounces of 850 FP down and a lightweight 10 denier nylon shell. It has two hand pockets. Weight is 11 ounces and MSRP is $400. The Zoro vest (left) is 7.6 ounces and $250. These are both very attractive top shelf garments, and illustrate the current high cost of premium down. Women's versions are available for both garments.
Nite Ize Inova STS Headlamp, Bike, and Helmet Light
The currently available Nite Ize STS Headlamp will be available as either a bike light or helmet light, all with a MSRP of $35. All put out 142 lumens of light, turn on with the swipe of a finger, and have multiple settings.
LL Bean MicroLite FS-1 and FS-2 Tents
Although these are not new products, they represent the quality materials and value in LL Bean products. The FS-1 is a roomy double wall tent for one person, with a hubbed pole assembly, lightweight fabrics, and side entry; 2 pounds 13 ounces, $199. The FS-2 accommodates two people @ 3 pounds 14 ounces and $239.
Columbia Decompression Jacket
This new ultralight jacket features 1000 fill-power down sandwiched between a thin shell fabric and Columbia's Omni-Heat Reflective lining, a full-height front zipper, two hand pockets, and a hem drawcord; $400 and 9 ounces.
Columbia Ventralia and Vent Freak
These hiking shoes feature lightweight synthetic materials and venting in the bottom of the shoe for 360 degree breathability. The Ventralia (front) is a low and weighs 10 ounces/shoe, 12 ounces/shoe with OutDry; $115. The Vent Freak Mid OutDry (back) weighs 13 ounces/shoe, the low OutDry weighs 12.2 ounces/shoe and costs $110.
Jetboil Sol stoves will be replaced by the new unregulated Jetboil FlashLite, which has a 0.8-liter cup, weight of 11 ounces, and MSRP of $99. It will be Jetboil's lightest stove; I couldn't get an explanation for why the Sol stoves were discontinued. The FlashLite has a piezo igniter and wire bail, and other components have been lightened.
Sierra Designs Hybrid Rain Pant
These pants feature a breathable stretch fabric upper and waterproof seat and legs for hiking comfortably in wet conditions. The legs have zippered openings to fit over boots and provide ventilation. Weight is 9 ounces and MSRP is $99; available for both men and women.
Sierra Designs DriDown Hoody
This is the quintessential down jacket reinvented. Its insulated with 800 FP DriDown, has a full front zipper that also secures the hat compatible hood, two zippered hand pockets, 20 denier shell fabric, and cut to fit over a midlayer. 12 ounces and $199; women's version is 11 ounces.
Duck Down All Around…
Is your jacket or bag insulated with duck down or goose down? In some cases they don't say, or it's not in big print. For example the Sierra Designs jacket just mentioned is insulated with duck DriDown (they leave off the duck part). Why?–because there is some perception that duck down is inferior. So, is duck down equivalent or inferior to goose down? I asked that question when I visited the DownLite booth and received some really helpful answers from down experts Chad Altbaier and Kevin Borgquist. First, there is no difference in insulating value – 850 fill-power duck down is equivalent to 850 fill-power goose down; 850 fill power is 850 fill-power. Second, there is no difference in weight, so no weight penalty. Goose down is whiter while duck down is a little darker and can show through thin fabrics, causing discoloration. Duck down can have a faint odor, especially when damp, but Chad and Kevin emphasized that there is no odor if the down is cleaned properly when it is processed, and a microbial agent can be added for extra confidence. Because of the current scarcity and high cost of goose down, use by manufacturers has shifted from a previous 70% goose to 30% duck down to current 70% duck to 30% goose. Down is a by-product of the meat industry and birds are typically45 days old when processed. Most duck down comes from China while most goose down comes from northern Europe. So, add it all up, and the message is that properly processed duck down is equivalent to goose down. And here's the kicker: duck down costs 30 to 40% less than goose down. "The older I get, the lighter my pack gets." Kevin Borgquist, Downlite
Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiter
Hillsound has some really nice slip-on traction devices, which I have reported on before. They also have some nice gaiters. The Armadillo LT Gaiter has a side-release buckle at the top and a replaceable underfoot strap at the bottom. Sizes are XS to XL. It will be their lightest tall gaiter, but note that gaiters need to be a balance of light weight and durability, and these achieve that balance. MSRP is $49.
Rossignol BC 90, 110, and 125 Skis and Boots
There is a myriad of cross-country track and backcountry skis out there, too numerous to mention. What I prefer to focus on is backcountry Nordic skis, which are designed for climbing, turning, and touring in lightweight fashion. This type of setup is significantly lighter weight and less expensive than a Telemark or AT Nordic setup, and more versatile.
New for fall 2015 are Rossignol's wider backcountry skis with tip widths of 90, 110, and 125 millimeters, lots of sidecut for turning, and a wide tail. They have metal edges and a positive fishscale center section. MSRPs are $345, $395, and $440. To simplify things, Rossignol will go to Small, Medium, and Large lengths, rather than the traditional 5 cm increments.
The boots in the photo are matched to the skis; the two buckle BC12 ($290) is best for the BC 125 ski as shown, the single buckle BC10 boot ($210) can be matched to either the 90 or 110 ski, and the single buckle BC6 boot ($165) matches up with the 90 mm ski. The BC12 and BC10 are 75 mm and the BC6 is available in either NNN-BC or 75mm.
Hoka Tor Ultra H2 WP Boot
Hoka, the running shoe brand, is coming out with a hiking boot that incorporates their soft midsole cushioning and outsole rocker. It has a Vibram outsole with flex grooves, and an eVent membrane for waterproofness and breathability. The upper is a soft neoprene that grips the ankle and provides full range of motion uphill and downhill. Weight is 17 ounces/boot and MSRP is $230.
Yukon Charlie Elite Series Snowshoes
We normally pass by the Yukon Charlie booth because their snowshoes are heavy. This time we spied a distinctly lightweight snowshoe and stopped to check it out. Their new 8 in x 25 in Elite weighs just 27.7 ounces/shoe and is a great value at $170. They also have a 9 in x 30 in Elite snowshoe. Both are available in men's and women's versions.
Yukon Charlie Slip-Not Hike Traction Device
Looking around further we spied this nice slip-on traction device that weighs 17.9 ounces/pair and costs just $30. They are made of forged steel and available in sizes M, L, and XL.
Yukon Charlie Flip-Out Trekking Poles
Looking further, we found these collapsible and adjustable aluminum trekking poles @ 8 ounces/pole and $60. They also will have a 3-piece non-collapsible Carbon Lite Trekker version @ about 6.5 ounces/pole and $90. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, to find out where to purchase items from unfamiliar manufacturers, just Google the manufacturer's name to find their website for more information.
Ecco Biom Trail FL Shoe
A unique feature of Ecco shoes is their direct injected polyurethane midsole, which adds a lot of stiffness and stability for the weight. The non-waterproof Biom Trail is available now; a GTX version will be available in fall 2015 for $170; weight is 12.2 ounces/shoe. They have an aggressive rubber outsole and a silicone print on the insole to reduce slippage, both good features.
Darn Tough Vermont's New Tall Socks
The Mountaineering Sock (left, $27) is very cushy and warm, and requires a bit more boot volume to accommodate them. The RFL Sock (right, $24) is Really F-ing Light. And the Fast Track ThermaLite Sock (not shown) has hollow fibers for extra warmth.
These laces, made of shock cord and a cordlock, convert any shoe into slip-ons; $5.95.
High protein/low sugar bars in a variety of flavors; $2.35 to $3 a bar. They also have protein chips made from dairy whey and other ingredients.
Veriga Slip-On Traction Devices
These are made in Slovenia and are being introduced into the US. The reps at the booth emphasized that these traction devices are made of very high quality metals and rubber, a claim that needs to be tested in use. They have five models: 2 for hiking (left), 2 for walking (upper right), and 1 for walking (bottom right). The ones with the orange and blue rubber are for serious traction and hiking; the ones with the grey rubber are for walking and running. The lightest ones (bottom right) weigh 1.5 ounces and 1.1 ounce/foot. The MSRPs will range between $30 and $45, which is a great value.
HydraPak Collapsible Water Bottle
These bottles are made of TPU and collapse down to wafer size. A 750 ml small mouth version is available now @ 65 grams and $18; in May a 1-liter wide mouth version will come out @ 89 grams and $23. TPU (Thermo Plastic Urethane) is soft and extremely durable; you can stand on these bottles and they won't burst.
Luci MPowered Inflatable Solar Lanterns
These inflatable lanterns have an integrated solar panel that powers several LED lights. They are waterproof and shatterproof. The Energ model (not shown, clear, 4 LEDs, 50 lumens, 2.6 ounces, $10) is a lantern and flashlight; the Original model (left, clear, 10 LEDs, 65 lumens, 4 ounces, $15) is a lantern; and the Lux model (right, same specs, $20) is translucent with a softer glow. The latter models will light up a 15-foot circle.
Pertex Shield AP
The AP stands for Air Permeable. When we visited the Pertex booth we noticed this new technology on the list and inquired about it. The situation was a bit unusual; here is this new air-permeable membrane from Pertex and no big launch or hoopla. Rather they are low-key about it and provide only a limited amount of information.
Information embedded in the Pertex website describes it as follows: "Pertex Shield AP is an ultra high performance waterproof breathable fabric, which features an advanced air- porous membrane to offer the highest levels of durability and performance for professional and extreme applications. The Shield AP membrane contains a high concentration of uniformly spaced microporous holes that have highly hydrophobic properties. This membrane plays a dual role, giving the fabric both its waterproofness and a high degree of moisture permeability. This fabric offers enhanced comfort across a wide range of weather conditions and environments and its durable construction ensures reliable protection throughout the garment's lifetime, even for extended periods in extreme conditions." So far, we are not aware of any new products using Pertex Shield AP fabrics.
Stretch fabrics made with the patented eVent membrane technology are coming to the active sportswear market, thanks to a collaboration between Italian textile house ITTTAI¬-Bel Punto S.r.l. and the team at eVent fabrics. eVent created a new membrane to achieve the stretch characteristics needed. DVstretch is capable of 85% stretch and recovery, and will eventually see its way into close-fitting stretch garments for cycling, Nordic skiing, and running. DVstretch fabrics are fully windproof with 0.1 cfm permeability and they have 18,000 MVTR breathability. In the pipeline are lightweight DVwind fabric constructions for use in windshirts where high air permeability and moisture vapor transport are required.
As I reported earlier, General Electric sold eVent to Clarcor, a company that manufactures filters of all kinds. According to Chad Kelly, eVent Global Product and Brand Manager, the change in ownership has resulted in a big boost in company investment in technology and innovation, and the product plant has doubled in size. That's great news because our following loves eVent and looks forward to more great technologies and products coming to market.
Tiger Tail Tiger Ball and Happy Muscles Book
Tiger Tail makes rollers to eliminate knotted muscles. The new Tiger Ball ($28) enables a person, by herself, to work out knots in shoulder and back muscles against a wall. And Happy Muscles (about $20) is an easy to read book to identify common muscle knots and their trigger points and how to eliminate them.
New Cubic Tech Waterproof Breathable Laminate
At the remote Cubic Tech booth we found a prototype rain jacket made of a new laminate that is claimed to have a MVTR of 50,000 JIS (yes, I verified that number). We measured the jacket weight at 4 ounces. To be honest, we were so awestruck that we forgot to take a photo of the jacket, so the one above is one from 2013 that looks like the one we saw. At this point we know very little about the new laminate and its future; stay tuned.
Lunatec Trekr Self-Cleaning Wash Cloth
This ultralight wash cloth has an abrasive surface which should be effective for washing off sunscreen and insect repellant. However, it's not clear how absorbent it is for mopping up condensation inside a tent, and what do they mean by "you never need to wash it"?. We will test it and find out. $8 for a 2-pack.
OR is a Recycling Failure One thing that is obvious, and annoying, at OR is the lack of a serious and effective recycling program. On the one hand the outdoor industry is deeply focused on its green image, i.e., products made with recycled materials and the use of non-polluting chemicals in the manufacturing process. But on the other hand it's twice a year Outdoor Retailer Trade Show is very weak on ordinary recycling. The protocol to attain effective recycling compliance is a recycling barrel next to a trash barrel (see image above) and proper signage to get people to do the right thing. However, throughout the Show, we typically see trash barrels by themselves and occasional recycling barrels by themselves, with minimal signage. The result is all containers are filled with both trash and recyclables. The beer starts flowing around 4pm each day of the Show, resulting in thousands of beer bottles and plastic glasses hitting the trash, and few of them being recycled. Outdoor Retailer needs to do better, much better.
You can also check out highlights from Summer Outdoor Retailer 2015