We're just back from the annual summer gear-fest that is the OutDoor trade show. As Europe sweltered in the heat the world's outdoor industry gathered in Munich to network, drink beer and showcase their shiny new stuff. For us it's a great opportunity to catch up with brands both big and small, and check out some of the products that'll be hitting the shops in the near future.
Over three long days we saw a lot (and we mean a lot) of gear - and as ever, among the many new products shown to us by attending brands a number caught our eye in particular.
From lighting to hardwear, safety advances to space age sleeping bags, here are some items of interest as chosen, and argued over, by members of our six-strong trade show team.
There's loads more where this came from of course, and we'll be publishing our usual round of trade show videos over the next few days.
Micro cams - DMM Dragonflys, Black Diamond Z4s & WC Zeros
Micro cams are a bit like buses; for several years there seemed to be a complete absence on the market, and now it's suddenly looking as if there'll be several strong contenders.
But which to choose? The ideal might be a set of each, but back in the real world we'll be conducting a group test of all the options as soon as they're available to us, to help you make a considered purchase... Watch this space for more.
The Dragonflys - which were included in last year's OutDoor Top 10 - have just hit the shops, but will soon be joined by the Black Diamond Z4s and the Wild Country Zeros. Sadly Wild Country weren't exhibiting at the show, so we haven't yet actually seen these. We include them here because it would be daft not to! But at Munich it was the Black Diamond Z4s that caused us to raise a collective eyebrow.
Anyone who has used micro cams will be familiar with the problem of how abundantly flexible their stem tends to be, to the point that pulling the trigger can often result in the whole cam bending back on itself, making it quite awkward to place. Black Diamond resolve this problem courtesy of a new trigger system, which maintains rigidity whilst placing but stays flexible when placed. Magic, or just a good design? We'll let you be the judge...
- BD Z4s available spring/summer 2020
- DMM Dragonfly available now £64
- WC Zeros available - to be confirmed
New poles from Leki and Komperdell
What can you do with a simple walking pole to make it that bit different? Turns out, quite a lot...
Leki's Cross Trail poles piqued our interest on a couple of counts.
With models for both men and women (who get the benefit of shorter lengths), these feature Leki's neat button-free CLD locking mechanism, where all the workings are neatly concealed inside - think along the lines of a ballpoint pen's button. Instead of the usal webbing loop you get a light and breathable-looking 'Frame Mesh' strap. As with a nordic pole, the strap fits your hand like a glove. The coolest feature is the so-called 'Cross Shark system', a hook into which the strap is fitted for use, but from which you can easily detach when you want to uncouple yourself in a hurry, or for walking downhill when you might want to rest your palms over the top. They come in either aluminium or carbon shafts - the latter are super narrow while the former will obviously have the edge in terms of durability. All feature nicely sculpted cork handles, and look to have Leki's usual build quality.
- Leki Cross Trail available spring/summer 2020 £164 - £184
Komperdell's FXP poles won a Gold Outstanding Outdoors award at the show, and if that accolade seemed rather undervalued by the sheer number of them being handed out, we think in this case it was deserved.
This new range of poles overcomes some disadvantages of a classic folding pole design by using a mechanical 'FXP' connection rather than a connecting cord that's constantly under tension. With a conventional design, if the cord inside managed to snap then the pole would simply fall apart. In contrast the mechanical connection of these poles will go on working securely even in this event, so if you're miles from an outdoor shop then you can go on using the poles as normal until you're back in civilisation. The connecting buttons are reassuringly solid, and the general build quality feels high. Most eye catching feature is its instant deployment - simply hold the handle, give it a flick, and the pole sections all snap neatly into place. Several models and sizes are available: our pick of the bunch is the Carbon Expedition, with a carbon upper combined with a high grade aluminium bottom section, where the pole typically gets most abuse.
- Komperdell FXP range available spring/summer 2020 £120 - £150
Rab Mythic Ultra 180
It looks a bit bling, but the space-age lining of this down bag has real world benefits too, Rab tell us.
Featuring 'TILT' (thermo-ionic lining technology), a kind of titanium thread-based fabric, the lining acts a bit like a space blanket to reflect heat and reduce conduction. This of course reduces heat loss from the bag, the result being that this addition to the already top-end Mythic range of sleeping bags has a warmer "Rab sleep limit" for its weight. Conventional sleeping bag tests can't really capture its effect, but in the real world Rab assure us it's very noticeable, and thermal imaging shows a warmth boost in use of up to 8C. The Mythic line features a reduced zip to save weight but a full neck baffle because, let's face it, if you are that weight and warmth conscious, you're not going to be opening your sleeping bag as a blanket. The Mythic Ultra won a gold award at OutDoor and we can definitely see why Rab are so excited about it. Our only question now is who gets to review it.
- Available spring/summer 2020, £ to be confirmed
Edelrid edge test
Over the past five years Edelrid have been developing a new test for a rope's performance over a sharp edge, something that standard tests to date haven't fully addressed.
Loading thin ropes over sharp edges tends to give us the collywobbles, so this is a development we're backing 100%! The whole process has involved a lot of research and development, they tell us, not just in the product, or even the test, but in the production of a standardised and relatable machine through which to replicate real world conditions. They hope this will be adopted as an industry standard, and have made the schematics known. The result from a product perspective is their new Swift Dry 8.9mm PROTECT. Due to its lightweight / triple rated nature this rope should be an ideal choice for guides and instructors looking to not just save weight, but also increase their safety margin. It achieves this status courtesy of the aramid fibres (the same as those used in their range of slings) blended into its sheath. For a full run-down of the techy stuff, you'll need to wait for our trade show vid...
- Available spring/summer 2020
Montane X BMC range
Montane have been the BMCs recommended clothing and pack partner for a couple of years, and now this association has resulted in a new range of clothing.
This is fashion-conscious casual wear, but it also promises to be climbing-capable, with stretchy fabrics and active cuts that make them ideal for the wall or the crag, say Montane, as well as looking good for day-to-day wear. We've seen climbing-oriented casual clothing ranges before of course, but good gear doesn't always have to break the mould. This selection of tops, hoodies, trousers and shorts for men and women just looks really nicely done. The range also includes chalk bags, caps and a small day pack. We're loving the understated colours. And the best bit? Montane donate 5% of UK sales of the collection to the BMC's conservation work such as the ACT and the Mend Our Mountains campaign.
- Available: to be confirmed, £ various
Primus Firestick stove
Packability is one of the main requirements for camping stove users, and to meet that need Primus have come up with a novel solution - the Firestick, a neat folding design that's so logical that we're wondering why we've never seen anything quite like it before.
The pot supports fold up around the burner to create a compact and durable metal "stick" that's easily packed away. These three supports also double as an effective wind shield, Primus tell us, so you shouldn't need to carry a separate shield - thus saving a bit of weight. The Firestick features a regulated burner and packs down into a woolen bag that can also be used as a heat proof pan grab. We like the sound of the titanium version, which comes in at only 87g.
- Available spring/summer 2020 £80
MIPS helmets come to mountaineering
The Multi Directional Impact Protection system (MIPS for short) has been used for years in sports such as mountain biking and skiing, but not until recently had it reached the world of climbing.
In essence it's a system that seeks to reduce brain injury through rotational forces in the event of a fall. An internal cradle fits the head, joined to the helmet but free to move separately from it under impact. In a rotating impact situation the helmet can twist independent of the internal crade (and your head), thus in theory reducing the potential damage to your brain.
We think this is a welcome recognition of the fact that climbers can bang their head in a fall as well as being hit by falling objects - and that we don't always fall in a straightforward way. If it's proven to work in a climbing situation then MIPS could well offer a genuine safety advance. Two big climbing brands are already clearly convinced, so if the added peace of mind appeals to you then check out the Mammut Crag Sender and Black Diamond's Vision MIPS.
- Mammut Crag Sender available spring/summer 2020, £ to be confirmed
- BD Vision MIPS, availability and price to be confirmed
Lowe Alpine rock range
The three packs in Lowe's new rock range combine a well-thought-out feature set for the crag, with burly fabric and a back system that looks genuinely supportive enough for the weight of ropes and rack (often a failing of crag sacks).
With summer trad in mind, the 48 litre Rogue looks particularly good. As with the rest of the range, this wide-mouthed top-loader has a front panel of 840D ballistic nylon, which looks to be able to take plenty of rough treatment: dump the pack on its front and the well-padded back panel can be unzipped to double as a duffel bag style entry. With traditional pack features such as a big zipped top pocket and an internal aluminium frame, plus the convenience of that zipped entry, it looks like being a winner. The boss has already called shotgun on an early review sample.
- Available spring/summer 2020 £75-£110
Requiring nothing but sunshine, US company MPowerd's Luci range of solar powered inflatable lanterns pack down small, weigh relatively little, and put out a lot of light. We reviewed a selection last spring, and were really taken with the idea:
New to the range shown at OutDoor is the Base, the firm's most powerful lantern to date. With 31 soft white LEDs kicking out a maximum 300 lumens this is a seriously bright lamp that could illuminate your whole camp area rather than just a single tent. It can also be used as a power pack for your phone. While the base can be charged via USB, its chief attraction for us is the solar panel, which effectively gives you sustainable, free, zero-carbon lighting for the lifespan of the product; in our experience it even works (if a bit less so) in the cloudy UK.
These aren't the only solar powered inflatable lanterns on the market, but the positive social and environmental angle is a big plus for us. MPowerd is something called a B-Corp, a for-profit company that also has a responsible ethos. Sales of their products in rich countries fund donations of Luci lights to less well-off communities elsewhere, helping to offset a lack of access to reliable and affordable electricity. Switching to solar powered lanterns also helps reduce the use of dirty kerosene lamps, so that's a win all round.
- Available now £50
Softer beginners' rock shoes
This years' show upped the ante on a rising trend from rock shoe manufacturers, with both La Sportiva and Scarpa boosting their collection of shoes made specifically for indoor and competition use.
Thanks to the large number of people starting their climbing indoors and on steeper ground, these brands have noticed that beginners no longer want stiff, imprecise and supportive shoes, but rather soft and moderately downturned ones. To that end Scarpa have made a new model called the Veloce, which focuses on precision and comfort. It's a soft and slightly downturned shoe which aims to function well on volumes and indoor climbing generally. Meanwhile La Sportiva have created the Theory and Solution Comp, the common theme being the soft rubber, downturned nature and a different heel for the latter. La Sportiva also have a shoe specifically for speed climbing: the 4.99 - a reference to the race to break the 5 second barrier. It has a sole that only runs to the mid section and a slick upper section to minimise friction when speed climbers are running up the wall. Expect this trend of soft, downturned shoes for indoor use to rise in the future as more people start climbing at the wall.
- Scarpa Veloce available spring/summer 2020 £115
- La Sportiva Theory available spring/summer 2020 £145