Last week Alan James and Sarah Stirling were at the massive winter gear tradeshow ISPO Munich, checking out new kit in the pipeline for next winter. Elbowing through crowds of climbers, skiers and walkers crammed into the unnatural environment of 103,220 square metres of exhibition hall, we weren't surprised to hear it was the busiest ISPO Munich ever. More than 81,000 outdoor industry personnel from 109 countries (mainly Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France and Great Britain) visiting 2,481 outdoor gear brands, fabric manufacturers and other related exhibitors.
The world's major outdoor gear tradeshows keep getting bigger and busier annually, reflecting that more people keep buying more outdoor equipment each year. The industry has remained resilient even during troubled financial times. There are, of course, many reasons to buy outdoor gear even when you're poor. Spending free-time climbing and hill-walking can be literally free once you've got the kit. There's more awareness that getting outside is good for stress. We live in an enlightened consumer society, so we know that buying cool things can make us feel better about everything... even about not having enough money. And, of course, sometimes we really do need a new jacket or pair of rock shoes.
And outdoor gear does keep getting cooler. As the industry has grown, competition amongst brands has increased. We've become used to seasonal launches of lighter and better kit encouraging us to make more frequent gear replacements. Mountain clothing designs have improved so much they've become fashionable as casual wear, so now they sell even more of it. It's great to see the industry doing well, growing and innovating, but the competition may now be getting out of hand. The market is stuffed, in particular, with mountain clothing. What's more, mega-brands Nike and Adidas, who struggled to get a foothold in the outdoor market for years, have recently begun to break through. This must have significant effects on an industry filled mainly with medium-sized companies. Perhaps reflecting these facts, some brands, including Patagonia, have held or lowered some RRPs for next season. Harald Schreiber from Mammut commented "The romantic era in the outdoor industry has passed; the pressure of competition is increasing. What is needed is clear positioning and a return to core values."
Read on for a selection of next season kit that managed to stand out from the crowds to win ISPO Awards this year.
Edelrid cleaned up in the Climbing Gear category of the ISPO awards, winning all the awards, including the 'Outdoor Product of the Year' for the Snipe rope.
Several interesting new ropes hit the market this year, but the Snipe picked up the ISPO Product of the Year award. What's special about it? It has dual diameters: the first 7m are 10mm diameter, the rest is 9.8mm. Why? When you're working a route the first few metres of the rope generally get the most impact. It also allows intuitive belaying and abseiling. I've heard mixed opinions on this design from climbers so far but the ISPO Jury were clearly impressed, predicting the Snipe will 'revolutionise' the rope market.
- More ISPO products of the year here.
Edelrid Jul and Flycatcher
With a diameter of just 6.9mm the Flycatcher has more obvious appeal: the twin rope is the skinniest and lightest in the world. It has Dryshield dirt/wate resistance, Proshield treatment for optimal performance and Thermoshield treatment to enhance the handling. Meanwhile the Micro Jul is an ultra-light, versatile belay and abseil device designed specifically to use with the rope.
- You can see a video of the Edelrid Jul in this news item from OutDoor last year: OutDoor 2012 Report: Climbing Gear - Hardware.
Edelrid Orion Harness
Finally the Orion Harness, touted as 'the most comfortable harness in the world' picked up an award for its '3D-Vent' technlogy, designed to couple even load distribution with very effective ventilation. How does it compare to Arc'teryx's well-known light and comfy harness technology, 'Warp Strength Technology' (see this UKC Gear News) or Black Diamond's similar but different 'Kinetic Core Construction' (see this UKC Gear News)? We'll have one on review.
Arc'teryx Alpha SV Bib Pants
High performance climbing and mountaineering bib pants with a typical clean cut Arc'teryx design - stripped back to the essentials. This one features Arc'teryx's new 'Leg Wrap' technology. Basically a simple internal strap pulls the trousers towards your leg to help prevent crampon snag. There's also a full crotch zip and 'e3D' patterning - it's designed to allow movement over winter layers without constricting at the bum or knees.
Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody
This hooded down jacket is designed for freedom of movement - it has underarm gussets for better mobility and a three part sleeve construction for better elbow/arm articulation - and can be worn as a warm midlayer. Arc'teryx have used 80g synthetic insulation instead of down in areas that are prone to getting wet or damp from sweat, such as the collar and underarms. Called 'Down Composite Mapping', it's perhaps an alternative answer to the 'hydrophobic' down that will be featured in jackets made by many brands this winter, including Berghaus and Rab. Arc'teryx apparently aren't convinced about the longevity of 'hydrophobic' coatings added to down.
Black Diamond Carbon Compactor Ski Pole
Below Christian Lehhman from BD talks us through the award-winning Carbon Compactor featuring their 'Z-Technology' - it's a ski mountaineering pole that folds away neatly like an avalanche probe.
Marmot Isotherm Jacket
Marmot's Isotherm hoody is made from Polartec's brand new Alpha synthetic insulation. It's designed with heat-regulation and breathability in mind for active use. Unlike conventional synthetic insulation Alpha is a woven material, eliminating the need for scrims or tightly woven fibre proof linings. The woven structure allows for the use of a highly breathable lining, which allows excess heat and moisture vapour to move through the insulation away from the body.
Outdoor Research Lodestar Glove
Outdoor Research did well in the glove arena, picking up two awards. The Lodestar features Polartec Power Shield High Loft fabric on the back of the hand, while the palm is made from goat leather with a grid microfleeec lining. The glove won an award for a 'sophisticated mix of technology and design.' It's ergonomically shaped to give a close fit, and designed to offer windproofing, moisture management, tactility and control when holding a ski pole or ice axe without excessively compressing or damaging the loft of the insulation.
Outdoor Research Alibi II Glove
A top quality climbing glove combining warmth and durability with tactility, flexibility and grip. OR say 'The extraordinary wrapping leather palm and fingers made of the new Pittards Oiltac leather provide superior grip and maximum control in both wet and dry conditions.'
Petzl Tikka RXP
Petzl introduced 'Reactive Lighting Technology' last year in the Nao Headtorch. See this review. This year they have a new headtorch with Reactive Lighting - a compact one - the Tikka RXP. Includes rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries and, I was pleased to see, a regular stretchy headband rather than a drawstring as on the Nao.
A non-priming, instant flame generating liquid stove. The Muka uses unleaded fuel, which makes it economical. Thanks to the 'Dual Groove Drum System (DGDS)', it is apparently faster and cleaner than any of its competitors.
Steripen Ultra Portable UV Water Proofer
Compact, lightweight and easy-to-use, this pen makes water safe to drink using ultraviolet light. It eliminates >99.9% of viruses, bacteria and protozoa and is reusable for up to 8,000 litres, reducing the need for disposable plastic water bottles. Steripen say: "A high-contrast OLED screen provides the user with real-time feedback; USB recharging reduces battery waste. The Steripen allows athletes to carry less and to perform better by treating their drinking water faster, thus staying healthy and hydrated and in the zone."
The North Face Alloy Jacket
'Body mapping' - i.e. using different fabrics in the same piece of clothing to create an optimal blend of breathability, abrasion resistance, weight and so on - has become a popular mountain clothing design feature in recent years. The TNF designers have been studying their physiology. While this jacket (there are matching trousers) looks as though it's made from the same fabric on the outside, it's actually constructed from various nylon outer-faced fabrics, variously offering weather resistance, wind-blocking, breathability, and warmth for major muscle groups where it's needed.
Emilio Previtali describes the award-winning Alloy Jacket below.