We are just back from another head-spinning encounter with the OutDoor show at Friedrichshafen.
This annual splurge of new kit and networking is a chance for brands to wow the outdoor world with all the shiny stuff heading for the shops next year. We'll be releasing full show reports soon, but to kick things off we've picked our favourite ten products from the scores that we saw. Selecting just these few was no easy task, and our team effort took quite some discussion. Still, it's not meant to be taken too seriously...
Osprey Levity backpack
Genuine paradigm-bending innovation is rare in the outdoor industry, but even incremental advances in gear can be exciting, and on that basis Osprey's Levity pack makes a big impact. Weighing in at only 810g (45 litres) or 850g (60 litres), this ultralight backpacking specialist has one of the lowest weight-to-volume ratios of any pack we've seen. Osprey's big achievement has been to cut out so much weight while still offering a full spec backpacking model with top class levels of comfort, ventilation and load carrying support. The weight - or lack of it- really has to be felt to be believed. At £220 (45 litres) or £240 (60 litres), this highly specialised bit of kit is likely to appeal only to the most hardcore lightweight backpacker, but as an exploration of what's possible with good design and the latest lightweight materials, it's quite some statement. A worthy winner and an Outdoor award, and without question one of our top ten products of the show. We're really looking forward to reviewing one!
Five Ten Anasazi Pro
Finally - an update to the classic Five Ten Anasazi Velcros! For years, avid toe-hookers have been painting stealth rubber onto the toe box of the classic shoe, in an effort to get the desired friction on flatter shoes. Five Ten have been working in conjunction with Ned Feehally and Shauna Coxsey on the finer details of the shoe; a soft Mi6 rubber has been put on top to keep the toes comfortable, which also means less weight should be needed to make the most of the friction from the rubber. The shoe also features a more tensioned heel to give the user slightly more power, and which helps to push the toes further forward. A thinner, more breathable tongue keeps your feet cooler – but the shoe retains the Anasazi last and the same stiff midsole. It comes in men's and a slightly lower volume women's model.
MSR WindBurner stove/pan sets
For a couple of years now, MSR's WindBurner has been one of the best choices out there for solo backpackers and travellers looking for a powerful but compact and packable stove system. If you want to boil the living daylights out of some water, its efficient radiant burner and integrated pot with built-in heat exchanger really deliver the goods; but what if you're in a group, or you fancy doing some actual outdoor cookery rather than simple boiling?
For 2018 MSR have massively expanded the range, adding much larger capacity pots and pans - featuring heat exchanger bases - to create a windproof stove system that offers real group catering and camp cuisine capability. All parts of the system nest together neatly, the stove equivalent of Russian dolls, and in order to fit the burner into the smallest pot MSR have come up with a genuinely original folding leg design that gives you a super-stable burner that still packs down small. This well-executed evolution of the compact stove system idea extends its application into group or family camping, but for solo use you can still go with just the core of the system, the burner and small pot.
Here's something completely new. The Beal Escaper is a 'retrievable anchor point' designed to make abseiling on a long single rope possible without doubling it and halving your abseil distance. It consists of a lattice sling coiled around a length of rope which is attached together with a bungie. To this you tie one end of your abseil rope.
It's probably easier to illustrate than explain, so here's a demo vid from Beal:
To summarise: the Escaper rope is fed through an anchor point, such as a bolt, and then fed through the lattice sling carefully and pulled through to give a long tail. This makes a secure loop to the anchor point. Your abseil rope is then tied to the bottom of the Escaper. When you weight the Escaper, the lattice sling grips the rope (similar to a prussic) which gives you a solid point from which to abseil. When you reach the ground, a series of significant tugs (8-12) allows the Escaper's rope to feed through the sling in a caterpillar effect, eventually detaching the device from the anchor point and releasing the Escaper and your abseil rope. On first acquaintance it looks a little scary, and we've not had a chance to test it in the real world - but needless to say, this clever little gizmo meets the relevant safety standards!
Rab Mythic sleeping bag
Rab's reputation was forged within the feathers, and true to this heritage the Mythic sleeping bag pulls out the stops in delivering a fully featured bag at a remarkable weight. In fact, it's got one of the most impressive warmth-to-weight figures we've ever seen. The Mythic is stuffed with not only the highest quality 900 fill down, it's also Nikwax hydrophobic down no less, making it that bit more suitable for wetter climates, or for prolonged use in the heavy condensation of cold weather camping. The trapezoid baffle construction, proportionally assigned down, internal collar, and slanted foot box all add to a bag that is very much designed for the mountains (not just being light for lightness's sake).
The Mythic runs to three models:
- Mythic 200: Comfort: 6°C / Limit of Comfort: 1°C / Extreme: -13°C / Rab Sleep Limit: 1°C / 475g / RRP £360
- Mythic 400: Comfort: -1°C / Limit of Comfort: -6°C / Extreme: -24°C / Rab Sleep Limit: -7°C / 660g / RRP £430
- Mythic 600: Comfort: -5°C / Limit of Comfort: -23°C / Extreme: -32°C / Rab Sleep Limit: -16°C / 885g / RRP £500
DMM's new big Dragon Cams
Nobody in their right mind likes climbing wide cracks (we're not even sure the Wide Boys do), but there's one thing worse than climbing wide cracks - and that's climbing a wide crack without cams big enough to fit in it. As such, the work DMM have put into the Dragon 7 and 8 will be greatly appreciated by those individuals unfortunate enough to find themselves in the position of using them. Whilst they may not be the most revolutionary product out there, they definitely turned a lot of heads at the show because of their sheer size and shininess; and let's face it - we're all about the shininess…
Aku Tengu Light GTX boot
Good gear doesn't have to be revolutionary; sometimes just doing the standard thing, but really well, is all you need. These beautifully made summer boots from AKU are a perfect example. Lightweight but supportive, the Tengu Light GTX boots feature a sock-like fit, a Gore-Tex lining, a chunky-tread sole for maximum traction on soggy British hillsides, and AKU's signature Elika Natural Stride System, which complements the foot's natural roll from heel to toe. We love the gently supportive stretchy cuff, and the overall quality feel. Coming soon to a fell near you...
Blue Ice Squirrel packs
Although most of us prefer not to rock climb with a pack on our backs, sometimes it is unavoidable on those long routes where we are climbing for a full day, or need to take precautions for changes in the weather and long descents. The Blue Ice Squirrel Range are a series of three packs aimed at rock climbers with specific features to minimise interferance while climbing, but that offer the features you need on approach and on the route. They range in size from the very small 12L, which is basically for shoes, lunch, water and a warm layer; up to the 32L which can pack considerably more including your rack and maybe even light bivvy gear. What sets the Squirrel apart form the crowd is the well thought-out features like a rope carrier that holds the rope close to your neck, back and top access points and a helmet carrier. The packs are also cut to hold them clear of a harness, allowing chalk bag access, and not too high to get in the way of your helmet as you stare up the pitch.
The Maestro is a brand new family of shoes from Scarpa which runs to four models - two each for men and women. What we really like about it is its flatter last, which features the workmanship and technology of Scarpa's more aggressive shoes, but in a more comfort-oriented, yet still technically capable, model. Inside the Maestro is a plastic insert which makes the shoe stiff and gives firm support. It also ensures that the shoe keeps it shape - and therefore its intended technical properties - over time. The inside of the shoe features 'S' stitching, a technique Scarpa have developed on their more aggressive shoes, that helps keep the toes together for good edging whilst still allowing flex for smearing.
We think that this will be a great shoe for anyone who values comfort as well as technical performance. For trad, indoor and all-day use the Maestro looks like a shoe which will enable technical edging and smearing without turning your foot into a claw.
Arc'teryx V80/V110 rolling duffle bag
For lugging tons of kit around an airport, or experimenting with how much expedition luggage it takes to break a yak's back, you can't beat a massive duffle bag. However, the catch is when you try picking it up. What's needed, obvs, is a duffle on wheels. Having examined the basic requirements of a duffle from every angle, that's certainly what the design team from Arc'teryx concluded.
Two different sizes are available, a compact 80 litres and a vast 110 litres. To maximise internal capacity this kit-eating monster hangs within an external frame. Boasting a suitcase-like extendable handle, and wheels that are probably better built than you'll find on some cars, this frame doubles as protection, and as a bombproof lashing point for skis and such. Its highly durable fabrics, taped seams and a 'cold PU' treatment (who knew?) that gives the fabric longevity at the very low temperatures of an aircraft hold, make the V80/V110 effectively weather proof. With pleasing details such as a luggage tag in a retracting sleeve, and clean snag-free outside lines, it's clear that every feature has been painstakingly considered. This is without doubt the most highly engineered duffle bag ever made. It's also likely to be among the toughest, tested by being dragged behind cars and dropped from a height when full of steel weights.
The only thing more impressive than all this is the price - an eye watering £350-£380. We're making no apologies for that. After all, this is a list of the products we found most exciting, the ones we lusted after the most... no one said anything about budgets!