At ISPO 2018, which took place in Munich 28th-30th January, the world's leading brands showed their new gear to the outdoor world. We'll be bringing you updates on the latest clothing and equipment over the next few weeks. But from the mountain of shiny stuff on display, which items particularly grabbed our eye here at UKC/UKH? Here's a top 10 from the show, as chosen by our team...
New axes from Petzl and Black Diamond
The two biggest brands in techy axes both had some intriguing new offerings at this year's show.
Covering you for everything from mountaineering through to the hardest ice and mixed routes, Petzl's QUARKS, NOMICS and ERGOS have been a hugely successful family, with something for climbers of every stripe. For this year, the whole shebang has undergone an evolution.
Firstly a completely new axe, the ERGONOMIC, replaces the old ERGO; and while both the QUARK and NOMIC are still recognisable, the changes here are far more than cosmetic too. With all-new hydroformed shafts that are nicer to grip when daggering, new more refined handles and, in the case of the NOMIC, a proper spike with a hole that's big enough to clip (no more ad hoc lanyards required), there are improvements across the board. The infamous head wobble has, say Petzl, been cured with the addition of a plastic insert (and by making the head piece inside the shaft longer). Time will tell how they climb, and how well they withstand the abuse of winter climbers, but first impressions are really promising.
- £205, £230, £280, available autumn 2018
Meanwhile over at Black Diamond, we were excited by the new Reactor.
Comprehensively updated for 2018 - it really only seems to share a name with the previous Reactor - this sleek looking tool is billed as a versatile and durable workhorse that can comfortably handle both ice and mixed routes. Instead of a hydroformed shaft, as with the Fuel, the aluminium shaft here has a simpler profile, and comes with a dual density handle with a funky new size adjustment system. Compatible with existing BD picks, hammer and adze, the Reactor looks a bit more modular and versatile for all-round mountain use than, say, the Fuel or Fuel Hammer.
- £220, available autumn 2018
You'd expect brands to claim exciting new developments at trade shows, that's part of the game - but Berghaus' announcement of something called "ThinDown " looks to be something genuinely different in insulation.
By a process we are none the wiser about, duck down (52%) has somehow been combined with polyester (48%) and formed into a sheet so that it can be worked more like a 100% synthetic insulating fill. Stitched-through baffles aren't needed, which has obvious benefits in terms of weight and consistency of insulation. There's no need for a down-proof fabric either, thus giving you something that apparently offers up to 50 times more air flow than an equivalent traditional down jacket; as such, it's more practical to wear all day on the go. As used here in the Aonach AX midlayer/jacket, the result feels very like a soft shell, only warmer for its weight. First we had synthetic fills that behave like down... and now it's down that looks in some respects very like something synthetic. Where will it all end?
- £200, available autumn 2018
Osprey's Mutant pack range has long been a favourite among climbers and mountaineers, but for 2018 this classic pack has undergone a transformation.
With new tough fabrics and a less-is-more ethos (gone are the marmite-like fiddly zigzag side compression straps for instance) the Mutant has gone back to basics. Vented back systems have obvious attractions in warmer climes but for mountaineering they're of debatable merit, filling with snow and snagging on axes etc, so it's good to see Osprey have gone for something simpler here! Coming in 22 litre, 38 litre and 52 litre sizes, this is a strong-looking pack range well suited to a variety of settings, from mountain trad, mountaineering and winter climbing to more serious hillwalking, scrambling, and even demanding trekking and hut-to-hut tours.
- £80 - £150, available August 2018
Paramo Velez Evolution
Winner of a Gold award at this year's show, the Velez Evolution puts a funky twist on an existing range, combining elements of the popular Velez Jacket and Velez Adventure Smock to create something really quite different.
Ventilation is the watchword here. With (count 'em) two full length zips, the whole front of the jacket can be dropped to any level you like to dump heat quickly. You can even remove the front panel altogether (though we'd probably lose it straight away). Useful features include a big kangaroo-style front zipped pocket and a tunnel handwarmer pocket, plus a helmet-compatible hood and a collar that can be zipped up extra-high for ultimate weather protection. It's quirky, it sure is colourful, but it also looks really practical.
- £330, available autumn 2018
The Mago has been something of a hidden gem in the Scarpa range, so much so that when it was previously released it wasn't a great commercial success; however, what it did do was generate quite a following within a select sphere of interest. Ahead of its time maybe? Thankfully Scarpa have decided to bring it back and this - we think - is a shoe to look out for, with an incredible blend of sensitivity in the midsole then power through the forefoot/toe. It's a rare occurrence that these two aspects of performance can be combined so effectively.
- £125, available now
Mountain Equipment Tupilak packs
OK, it's another pack, but this one really turned our heads...
It's been a decade or more since ME last made rucksacks, and we've been eagerly awaiting their new pack range ever since we were given a teasing glimpse (but not allowed to get hands on) at a previous trade show. Well it was worth the wait. Several years in development, the Tupilak is every inch the alpine and winter specialist, and a worthy partner to the top notch shell jacket that shares its name.
A stripped back design, well considered feature set and highly durable materials add up to one seriously functional mountain pack. Coming in a compact 30, a versatile 37 or a spacious 45, the Tupilak looks the absolute business for Scottish winter or alpine climbers. We're really excited to have got our hands on one before the official launch later this spring, and our full review will follow once we've given it some Scottish winter use and abuse... watch this space!
- £185-£220, available March 2018
Climbing Technology Click-Up Plus
The Click-Up has undergone another development from the version we announced after the summer OutDoor Trade show in June. In testing the interim device didn't perform as wanted, it seems, so CT have gone back to the drawing board and come up with something which looks to be even better while adding a few extra safety features too.
The device has been slightly elongated and tapered at the end, fitting better in the hand and making it easier to lower with more control, since you have slightly better leverage. The one moving part - a small spring loaded lever - has been replaced with a new double spring loaded system in a slightly different position. The result is a device with an incredibly smooth and easy rope feed. We compared the new and previous verisons on the stand, and it really was quite striking how smooth the rope feed was from a device which, it has to be said, was always amongst the smoothest feeding devices on the market anyway. Climbing Technology have also added the V-Proof system. This consists of a small plate that flips between the two ropes where they exit the device, which acts to keep the ropes apart in the event of the bad belaying practice of holding both ropes upwards when trying to hold a fall. If you do this with the original device there is some slippage although the device does lock eventually. With the V-proof system the device locks straight away as normal, even when used incorrectly. Overall this looks to be a significant improvement to the already impressive original device that won the Best in Test award in our Assisted Braking Belay Devices comparison review of May 2017.
- £75, available summer 2018
Among the hundreds of insulated jackets on display at the show, two in particular caught our attention.
Featuring 750fp ethically sourced hydrophobic down and a longer climber-friendly cut, Rab's new Microlight Summit is a really refined example of a modern lightweight technical down duvet.
Marmot's Avant jacket, meanwhile, has one of the next generation synthetic down-like fills. Now made from 75% recycled material, Featherless boasts a warmth-to-weight equivalent to 700fp down, but behaves better in the wet.
One jacket stuffed with natural down, the other a lab-grown substitute - so what unites them? Well the common thread (sorry) is their use of woven baffles. By a very clever process that we won't go into here (because we don't understand it!), boffins have made it possible to weave baffles into the fabric during its manufacture. There's no stitching or gluing involved, and thus the jackets are neater and more durable than conventional alternatives with the more familiar stitched-through baffles. On Rab's Microlight Summit, the fabric is Pertex Infinity Weave, clever stuff which combines a tough yet lightweight feel with those woven baffles to give you a jacket that feels, well, just a little more cutting edge than your average duvet.
- Rab Mirolight Summit, £230, available autumn 2018
- Marmot Avant, price and availability to be confirmed
Bitter Blaze Men's Glove and Ouray Women's Glove, from OR
The Outdoor Research stand had one outstanding item this year, and a new take on the stand demonstration unit too, which always adds a bit of interest - a perspex box which contained a set of dry ice blocks at a worryingly cold temperature of -78C and covered in warnings about not touching it with your bare skin. This was all to show off a technology first developed by NASA to insulate space suits - gloves using super-insulating PrimaLoft® Gold Aerogel.
This remarkable substance is a malleable solid consisting mostly of air but with very low density and almost zero conductivity. It provides a complete heat block rather than actually trapping air, we're told. The Bitter Blaze Men's Glove and Ouray Women's Glove feature thin layers of Aerogel in the palms and fingers. As a result these gloves feel normal in use (albeit with dexterity better suited to walkers and skiers than technical winter climbing) but provide very impressive insulation for their thickness. In testing on the dry ice we compared a top-of-the-range OR glove with conventional Thinsulate insulation against a new Bitter Blaze. Within seconds the cold from the dry ice could be felt in the normal gloves, but there wasn't even a flicker of cold on the hand with the Bitter Blaze glove. A very effective demonstration of the technology.
- Bitter Blaze £155, Ouray £90, available autumn 2018
Edelrid Bulletproof HMS
Back in the mists of time, OurDoor Friedrichshafen 2016 to be precise, we were very taken with Edelrid's bulletproof carabiner. This clever product addresses the potentially serious, but often overlooked, problem of long term wear and tear on carabiners. The solution is obvious, if only in hindsight: a hybrid construction that combines a conventional aluminium body with a protective steel plate at the point of highest abrasion. Repeatedly clipping bolts is an obvious source of concern, and that's where the original Bulletproof came in. But even the action of a rope running at the same point on a carabiner can wear grooves in the metal over time, particularly if it's carrying dust and grit. In theory, any sharp edges or burrs thus created might then damage the rope in the event of a fall. With this in mind, Edelrid have now applied the Bulletproof principle to an HMS belay krab. In a further nod to good sense, the Bulletproof HMS is available with an internal wiregate option that ensures the krab is always correctly aligned on your belay loop. Is there such a thing as being too safe? Not when it comes to hardwear.
- £22 - £27