From February 6th to 9th 2011, ispo opened its doors for the 71st time. Alan James and Sarah Stirling nipped over to Munich to check out the latest innovations in outdoor gear at this massive winter tradeshow. Over 2,000 exhibitors from 49 countries were there, and amongst them all the big brands in the outdoor world, with companies such as the North Face, Arc'teryx, Black Diamond, Marmot and Patagonia on the most impressive stands. It was good to see a strong British presence too, with brands such as Montane, DMM, Inov-8 and Rab showcasing some great products.
ispo gets bigger and better each year - apparently the show had 25% more visitors than last year - and offers a brilliant overview of all the latest innovations in outdoor gear bundled under one roof. This year 'Outdoor ispo' had its own area separate from the ski and snowboard communities, which was a relief, as it took about 20 minutes to walk the length of the entire tradeshow - not including time to admire, disparage or stare in disbelief at eye-catching products!
Unsurprisingly, year on year the ispo jury seem to find it harder to choose the six or so winners of the Outdoor Awards 2011. This jury consists of international representatives of the media, retail and independent industry experts, who must decide on the year's most innovative products, focussing on safety, user-friendliness, design and the technical aspect of the product.
Last year the jury couldn't decide between the Klättermusen Bilskiner Jacket and the North Face Kishtwar Jacket, so awarded two awards in the 'Textile' category. This year the decision-making was apparently even more difficult, so it was decided to award two winners in each category. The categories have also been simplified from Footwear, Textiles, Electronics, Hardware, Backcountry and Other to Hardgoods, Softgoods and Accessories.
The Cable Comfort Via Ferrata Set by Edelrid is an excellent innovation in safety and comfort for fixed rope route climbers. Convincing "detail solutions" and high quality craftsmanship convinced the jury to praise the Cable Comfort as a "well-made product in every respect".
Featuring the patented Edelrid OneTouch karabiner, the via ferrata climbing set offers "never before seen" comfort. The patented release mechanism with automatic safety gate can quickly be opened by simply applying pressure on the palm latch. The laser-formed, extremely flat shape provides maximum safety and flexibility, and prevents the karabiner from breaking in a side-load situation.
The Diablo 10.2 Unicore is the first outdoor rope by Beal manufactured with the Unicore System. This manufacturing process makes it possible to join rope core and sheath without impacting the characteristic rope flexibility. This eliminates sheath slippage even under the worst conditions. If the sheath is cut or ripped, the core and sheath will remain conjoined. The small rope diameter improves flexibility, while the thick, wear-resistant, finely woven rope sheath minimises wear.
"Beal has launched a ground-breaking manufacturing process for mountaineering ropes with its Diablo 10.2 Unicore. The new technology offers increased safety and optimized handling, as well as maximum comfort for many indoor and outdoor applications," praised the jury.
When selecting the appropriate gear for a long and challenging climbing tour, weight and breathability are the most important criteria. The Mammut Felsturm Jacket was developed accordingly. The brand-new Active Shell material by Gore-Tex and the exclusive spiral zipper by YKK show that the design clearly focuses on minimizing weight and packing volume, while maximizing breathability and performance.
"The extraordinary feature of the Mammut Felsturm Jacket is the impeccable tailoring of Gore Active-Shell combined with innovative zippers and a well-though-out design. Thanks to a minimum of packing volume and low weight the Felsturm jacket becomes the indispensable companion for active outdoor athletes," critiqued the jury.
The Snæfell Jacket by 66° North made of bi-elastic, lightweight Polartec Neo Shell is a jacket for even the most demanding customers. The extremely ergonomic cut of the ladies' as well as men's version impressed the jury. Additional highlights include preformed elbows as well as seamless shoulders, ensuring optimum range of motion. Thanks to the Polartec Neo Shell the jacket is waterproof and breathable.
The jury said: “Due to the high-tech Polartec Neo Shell material the Snaefall Jacket offers extraordinary function for many different applications. Perfect finish and clever detail solutions round out the high-quality overall concept, suitable for a broad target group of outdoor athletes.”
Apparently, “Unconditional practical function” was the motto of the designers at Pieps during the development of the new avalanche beacon Pieps Vector. The judges found the result of their work "nothing short of extraordinary". "The Vector by Pieps represents a quantum leap in avalanche detection equipment," said the jury, and continued: “A number of perfectly implemented technical innovations combine a considerably increase in safety features with intuitive operation and well-thought-out product design, targeting the ever growing group of off-piste snow sports enthusiasts.”
The Pieps Vector is the first ever maintenance-free, battery-powered, 4-antenna avalanche beacon with GPS support. The unit is extremely easy to use and offers the highest level of technological support in emergencies. The circular range triangulation process simplifies location of the victim and always shows the fastest way to the burial site. An accurate GPS map shows all searched areas to ensure that previously located transmitters are never lost.
Meanwhile Jetboil has expanded its product selection with another all-in-one cooking system, the Sol Titanium. Compared to the latest model, Jetboil Flash, the Jetboil Sol Titanium is even lighter and weighs just 255g. The Sol Titanium is powered by Jetboil's new Thermo-Regulate Technology, ensuring constant and dependable heat in temperatures down to -10°C.
"The Jetboil Sol Titanium Advanced Cooking System offers ambitious outdoor athletes a maximum level of function even in extreme situations and cold temperatures at a minimum of weight. A high quality of finish and compelling performance data perfectly complete the overall concept," commented the jury.