Friedrichshafen, on the shores of Lake Constance in Germany, is the annual setting for the biggest outdoor gear show in Europe. The UKC/UKH Team of Alan James, Mick Ryan, Dan Bailey and myself flew over for the 18th edition of the four-day outdoor industry extravaganza. (Jack Geldard, meanwhile, was gearing up to attend the Climbing World Championships in Italy). In this news item I'll announce the winners of the prestigious OutDoor Industry Awards; over the coming weeks we'll reveal previews of 2012 gear in categories from climbing hardware to mountain clothing.
As well as sneak previews of products in the pipeline for 2012, OutDoor showcases ranges of Winter 2011 gear coming soon, and is an opportunity to catch up with the faces behind the brands over a few Weissbiers. Essentially a hectic schedule of meetings, drinks, sausages and German-style communal showers (not as fun as it sounds) builds momentum through the week, culminating with a rock party on the Sunday evening.
It was DMM's 30th birthday and we enjoyed celebrating it with them, while sporting fake handlebar moustaches like those worn by the original four entrepreneurs back in the day. A photo report will follow... Retro Mambas (actually their new Alphas in the old Mamba colours) will be available in time for Christmas, so you know what to buy climbers of a certain age.
David Udberg, President of the European Outdoor Group (EOG) speaking at the close of the show.
There were record numbers across the board at this year's event, proving that the outdoor industry is still going strong:
21,520 visitors (a 5% increase on last year) and
1012 journalists from 32 countries (a 10% increase)
Came together with 890 exhibitors (+3%)
From 91 countries and
200 world premiers of products were revealed.
The weather on our arrival was as stimulating as these figures: after showing-off our tent-pitching skills during thunder, lightning, torrential rain and semi-darkness, we went to bed worried that the event camp ground - which rivals Glastonbury for tents per m/2 - would also rival that event for mud. Luckily the sun returned the next day and the outdoor industry was generally in a positive mood to make the most of their gathering by Lake Constance.
French entrepreneur Paul Petzl, the president of Petzl was named this year's 'OutDoor Celebrity of the Year'. Paul's father, Fernand, was a keen caver who developed caving equipment to aid his explorations. Paul followed in his father's footsteps and Petzl's breakthrough products were a rope clamp and a headtorch. Today, Paul Petzl heads an internationally successful business for mountaineering and climbing equipment and work safety gear with sales amounting to more than €80 million, 450 employees and a distribution network spanning 51 countries. He lives with his family at the base of the Chartreuse.
We all had favourite products. Black Diamond's new 'Magnetron' carabiner was interesting (the clue's in the name), although not as compelling as their beautifully simple Gridlock, which debuted last year (the Magnetron does come in a Gridlock version). The revolutionary DMM Chicane belay device was pocketed for testing (due date: September). Rather than compressing the rope in a linear V-groove, the Chicane takes this further by putting a bend in the V-groove, allowing you to apply a lot more friction to the rope and making holding falls easier. The groove is subtled tapered so that it can apply the friction to ropes from 7.5mm to 11mm.
Alan James became a fan of Climbing Technology's Click Up when reviewing Assisted Braking Belay Devices. The small brand (perhaps the Italian equivalent of DMM) have been working on a new 'Alpine Up', which takes twin and double ropes. Dan Bailey, our man in Scotland, was highly excited by Nemo's Bugout, a giant net with a waterproof roof, ensuring rain and midge-free summer camping evenings - something never seen in Scotland before.
I really rate British brand Rab's Vapour-rise products (see this review). Previously exceptionally breathable and with functional designs, the revamped range has what the marketing team call a 'sexy' new look. I was also keen to see products made from the new fabrics at war: Gore-tex Active Shell, Mountain Hardwear's Dry Q and Polartec's NeoShell. Mick was impressed by two rope innovations: Mammut's Transformer which reduces waste through 'pre-consumer recycling': it is made from 'transfer yarns' (essentially off-cuts). Each rope is a unique mix of colours. Beal's new dynamic Diablo Unicore ropes also caught his eye (last year Beal introduced static Unicore ropes). Unicore is a process that binds the core to the sheath eliminating rope slippage, increasing rope life and they say handling is improved, too. Mick will report back.
Out of 301 entries submitted from 23 countries, 46 new products received OutDoor Industry Awards at Friedrichshafen, and 11 were honoured with a GOLD award for outstanding innovation and design achievement.
If you haven't seen any Mountain Equipment products for a while, take a look. One of Britain's oldest outdoor gear companies, the team have moved away from their traditional designs and colours over the past few decades and have continued successfully moving up the brand ladder in terms of innovation, style and 'colourways'. The Mountain Equipment Titan 450 sleeping bag won a GOLD award in the category 'products of high ecological and sustainable value'.
The trend towards ultra-lightweight products continues. The use of material has been optimised, the design reduced and anything unnecessary is being eliminated more and more frequently. This also leads to ultra-functional design. There were exciting new products in all the categories.
Juror Mark Held, MD of the European Outdoor Group.
The outdoor industry stands for a special kind of awareness of life, for a completely different social outlook - and, perhaps most importantly, for the spirit of innovation.
Stefan Reisinger, OutDoor project head and member of the Messe Friedrichshafen board of directors.
Products of high ecological and sustainable value:
Titan 450 - Sleeping bag by Mountain Equipment (Great Britain)
A down-filled sleeping bag for fast and light adventures, manufactured according to the guidelines of the new 'Down Codex Projects'. This codex was developed together with the International Down and Feather Testing Laboratory (IDFL) to regulate down production eg. live plucking is strictly prohibited and down can only be a by-product of food production after the animals have been killed humanely. This makes Mountain Equipment the only manufacturer who can guarantee the ethically correct origin of its down all along the supply chain.
Jury's opinion: "The first down sleeping bag to be produced according to the clear-cut guidelines of the "Down Codex Project", placing a strong focus on such aspects as environmental protection, animal protection and ethical responsibility. An outstanding product!"
Spinoza Jacket - Outdoor jacket by Mountain Hardwear (USA)
A lightweight waterproof jacket that exhibits excellent breathability - perfect for rock and mountain climbing in different types of weather. What really makes the Spinoza jacket special is its revolutionary DryQ membrane technology for optimum air passage through the fabric shell. The unique 'false twist' weaving technique enlarges the fabric surface so it transports moisture really effectively.
Jury's opinion: "All the best ideas have been included in one jacket: the innovative material, perfect workmanship, optimum climate comfort. Revolutionary membrane technology combined with the ultimate in waterproof protection."
Primus OmniLite Ti - Expedition stove by Primus (Sweden)
An extremely lightweight (239g), very hardwearing, reliable and versatile expedition stove. Thanks to its small jets, it uses a minimum of fuel and it burns virtually anything: gas, gasoline, petroleum, kerosene and even diesel. As a new feature, the top of the burner can be completely screwed off to allow for easier cleaning or a quick change of the jets.
Jury's opinion: "The world's smallest multi-fuel stove: it can burn gas as well as all kinds of liquid fuels from gasoline to diesel. What an ingenious invention!"
Fraggle - Full body harness for children by Edelrid (Germany)
A padded complete harness for children weighing up to 40kg. Thanks to its padding, the harness retains its shape and is easy to put on or take off. Besides being a full-fledged climbing harness, the additional ring on the back also makes the Fraggle an ideal safety harness for steep passes and rough terrain.
Jury's opinion: "The Fraggle makes it much easier to secure children while climbing or on a fixed-rope route and provides for added safety. And besides all that, it looks really good, too!"
Ergo Hammock Combi - Hammock by Exped (Switzerland)
This backpacking hammock is probably the first one you can really sleep in. Everything is included: the hammock, rain protection, a mosquito net and a cleverly devised suspension system. It makes sleeping in a hammock a viable alternative to sleeping in a tent. The hammock's pocket in the double bottom, with zipper access from both sides, provides for additional warmth and storage space. The mosquito net can be zipped on and off all the way round. Strong Dyneema rope suspension with anti-snarl tubes and a generously sized rain or shade roof for versatile mounting round out the product.
Jury's opinion: "A hammock that includes some very interesting features: it's lightweight, offers good insulation because you can insert an extra pad, the mosquito net can be zipped up all the way round and, thanks to the large rain roof, you don't have to worry about getting wet."
Therm-a-Rest Neo Air XTherm Mattress - Mattress by Cascade Designs (USA)
A mattress which, thanks to its patented, multi-layer reflective barrier, offers good insulation for any time of year - at a weight of only 430g and an R-value of 5.7. The user's body warmth is reflected back to reduce convection heat loss to a minimum. The patented triangular core matrix forms internal air chambers that store warm air and create a stable, comfortable underlay. The use of state-of-the-art fabrics and the cone-shaped design provide highest compression, minimum packing dimensions and lightest weight.
Jury's opinion: "This Therm-a-Rest is ultra-effective - not only can it be used year-round, it is also extremely lightweight and beautifully designed at the same time. A product development that is moving in new directions. Absolutely perfect!"
Products of high ecological and sustainable value:
Challenger - Alpine backpack by Vaude (Germany)
The Challenger is a professionally equipped alpine backpack made of sustainable certified materials. The crampon holder is positioned so that it is easily accessible; an ice-tool attachment system is also integrated.
Jury's opinion: "The Challenger gets a GOLD award because it is made of sustainable certified materials. In addition, it satisfies all the criteria that a good standard rucksack should satisfy."
Products of high ecological and sustainable value:
Vingetorix - Outdoor jacket by Vingetorix (Switzerland)
A city jacket that includes functional outdoor properties (good breathability, water-repellent and wind-proof). It combines clean design with top quality and sustainability. Vingetorix is produced under the best-possible ecological aspects: it is made exclusively of organic cotton. In addition, the entire manufacturing process, from spinning the thread, weaving, dyeing and finishing the fabric (EtaProof) and right on up to producing the jacket, takes place in Switzerland. The Vingetorix manufacturing process reduces CO2 emissions to a minimum.
Jury's opinion: "Mountain-climbing apparel is becoming increasingly popular among city people as well. It's quickly turning into a fashion trend. This jacket combines the best of both worlds: on the one hand, it looks good in the city, while on the other hand, it also sports all the important properties of a real outdoor jacket."
Apparel / Helmets / Shoes
Real Custom Made - Customized trekking shoe by Hanwag (Germany)
The first custom-made mountain and trekking shoe. Specially equipped retailers use a 3D laser scanner to measure the customer's feet. This data is used to make the lasts and then the custom-made shoes are manufactured. People with different-sized or shaped feet can now get made-to-order trekking shoes with a perfect fit for the first time.
Jury's opinion: "The first customized trekking shoe. The perfect solution for people with feet of different sizes. And it's incredibly lightweight, too. This shoe has most definitely earned a GOLD award."
Valandre Immelman - Down jacket by Valandre (France)
A newly developed chamber system prevents the down from sliding around in this jacket. It was specially designed for use in the high mountains at low temperatures to allow for an extremely wide range of movement.
Jury's opinion: "The right jacket for cold weather in the high mountains. It has been perfectly crafted; there are as few seams as possible and it provides a great fit. A fantastic product for the coldest regions in the world!"
Apparel / Helmets / Shoes:
Mithril Kevlar Jacket - Softshell jacket by Klättermusen Ab (Sweden)
A very durable, robust softshell jacket made of 'fluorocarbon-free' Kevlar-reinforced material and certified by sustainable standard for the first time. It is windproof and water-repellent, suitable for climbing as well as for trekking and water sports.
Jury's opinion: "Kevlar has been used in this softshell jacket for the first time, making it last a lifetime! A great contribution to sustainability."