This year UKClimbing and UKHillwalking sent four reporters to Europe's biggest gear event, OutDoor. In the first report, I introduced the show and announced this year's Outdoor Industry Award Winners - REPORT: OutDoor 2011. In the second installment, Alan James covered rock shoes and captured some of the big players on video. Next Dan Bailey pitched in with some news on camping gear. In the fourth instalment, Alan James handled developments in ropes. In the fifth article I investigated innovations in technical clothing and packs (with videos) ... and this final report is all about the gleaming hard stuff. Coming this winter and next spring: several new/updated, multi-function guide's style belay devices amongst other innovations...
"What magnets can do that springs cannot..."
You can't reinvent the wheel, as the saying goes, but Black Diamond have no problems cyclically revolutionising the carabiner. The company designed the world's first ever wiregate - the HotWire - in the 90s, brought us the GridLock (pic right) and HoodWire last year, and in July 2012 they will unleash the 'Magnetron' on the climbing world.
No, this isn't a Tranformers character (you're perhaps thinking of Megatron, the similarly-named leader of the Decepticons) - 'Magnetron' is clever magnet-based, carabiner locking technology, which Black Diamond describe as their 'biggest breakthrough so far' in carabiner redesign. It completely breaks away from the standard locking carabiner technology, which is based on springs, and apparently results in a carabiner that is both super secure and easy to use. We'll have one on test. The technology is available in a RockLock carabiner, and also in a combined GridLock/Magnetron carabiner style.
We don't know what the weight will be yet, but the guesstimate is 78g. For an in-depth look at the concept behind and development of Magnetron Technology, watch the video below:
The Magnetron hits shops in July 2012. Prices will be:
Another new carabiner from Edelrid, the Strike FG is a compact HMS with a keylock gate mechanism, weighing in at 70g and costing £16. The attached wire gate allows it to be held in place while belaying, preventing cross-loading.
While we're on the subject of 'belay lock' style carabiners, Climbing Technology's Concept HMS Spring Bar (77g/£14) is very similar to Edelrid's in design but bigger, and CAMP have a similar HMS Belay Lock coming next year (75g). Meanwhile the Mammut Element Smart HMS (£18 / 96g) is more like DMM's original Belay Master 2 (93g). And Petzl's Universo offers a different 'all in one' solution: a belay device attached to a carabiner (120g).
It's DMM's 30th birthday this year, and we enjoyed celebrating it with them, while sporting fake handlebar moustaches like those worn by the original four entrepreneurs back in the day. Aside from partying with the DMM founders we got a chance to look at the new products.
The Limited Edition Retro Alphas are brand new sports draws with an old school flavour. How many of you remember this iconic DMM colourway? They'll be in the shops in time for Christmas. The Alphas will also be available in Classic DMM colours on a vari-width sports draw.
The rest of the Alpha range is forging through the factory now. Both the wiregates are designed to be ergonomic, easy clipping and feature a cleannose design. The 'Trad' is a full size model on 11mm Dyneema, while its little brother the 'Light' on 8mm Dyneema will appeal to the Phantom fans. Keep an eye out for the 60cm slingdraw.
The Dragon family is growing with two new additions, the 0 and 00 for those smaller placements. (See here for the review: Cam Wars! DMM Dragons V Black Diamond Camalot C4s).
The intriguing new Chicane belay device is still underway (article explaining the evolution of the Chicane in this news item: OutDoor Show 2010 - CLIMBING HARDWARE), and going through some minor changes. We'll have one out on long term test, and will give you a full run down as soon as we've put it through its paces.
And there were loads more belay device innovations at OutDoor... read on...
Alan James became a fan of Climbing Technology's Click Up when reviewing Assisted Braking Belay Devices and now has their new Alpine Up version on test. The small brand (perhaps the Italian equivalent of DMM) are very proud of this new assisted-braking belay device: it can be used to belay a leader on twin or double ropes, to independently belay one or two seconds, and for abseiling. The RRP of the Click Up is £45; the Alpine Up hasn't hit the shops yet. The video below reveals its many talents ... Italian style:
Stefano Codazzi of Climbing Technology
Mammut are a step ahead of Climbing Technology: their Smart Alpine assisted-braking belay device launched last spring. The alpine version of the original award-winning Smart (a similar yet different beast to the Climbing Technology Click Up, and reviewed against it here) can be used with double and twin ropes as well as with thin single ropes (it's for use with rope diameters between 7.5 and 9.5mm). It can also be used to independently belay one or two seconds in an autolocking mode.
Next spring, Mammut's two new hardware launches will also both be belay devices: the Bionic Alpine Belay (£19) and the Element Light Belay (£14). The Element Light is suitable for double, twin and single ropes from 7.5 to 10.5 mm in diameter. The 'Labyrinth' V-shaped grooves are designed to offer both good control and precise rope feeding.
There are several new/updated, multi-function, guide's style belay devices hitting the market this winter/next spring. As well as Mammut's Bionic Alpine Belay (pictured below) there is Petzl's new Reverso 4, Wild Country's new VC Pro Guide and Grivel's new Master Pro. We've got these out on review already, and will be reporting back.
As well as belaying a leader on single, twin or double ropes and abseiling with these devices, you can also belay one or two second climbers independently in an autolocking mode. The V-shaped grooves on the Mammut Bionic are designed to allow controlled holding of lead falls, even at low levels of force. It's suitable for ropes from 7.5 to 10.5 mm in diameter.
The Grivel Master Pro belay device, which we dubbed 'the snail', hits the shops this autumn. It differs from the other new guide style devices in that you can wrap ropes around the ... snail's eyestalks ... as it were, to get more friction and more control, whether you're belaying or abseiling. It weighs just 89g and will set you back just £18.
In the video below, Stevie Haston runs through the functions of the new Grivel Master Pro belay device:
Arriving in shops January 2012: the 4th incarnation of Petzl's popular lightweight and multipurpose device, the Reverso. A bit more shaping and a few added holes (which have the added benefit of reducing the build up of ice and snow) has shaved quite a few grams and given it a new look: the Reverso 4 is 59g compared to 77g for its predecessor, the Reverso 3. It will retail at £27.
Petzl's revolutionary new Lynx crampon will hit the shops this month, retailing at £190. You get a lot for your money: competitors the Grivel G14 are £20 less in shops (at the moment) but for the extra £20 you get a very adjustable package: it comes with two different toe bindings, you can change them from mono-point to dual front point easily (using a single bolt and spacer) and also change the angle and length of the points; they have investment-cast front points and, should you somehow manage to damage a front point, you can replace it.
Paul Petzl was named the Entrepreneur of the Year at OutDoor. See this news report: REPORT: OutDoor 2011 - Europe's Biggest Gear Event.
There's lots of new hardware coming soon from Wild Country: the Helium Friends have landed (see our comp, here) and, after a slight delay, the Ropeman 3 should be in shops in a month (£44.95). It's the first Ropeman that can be used with both dyneema and nylon slings as well as ropes, and it's designed with the next generation of super skinny alpine ropes in mind. Also coming this month: a simple, classic, value for money Via Ferrata Set (£69.95). Oh, and Friends 5 (£99) and 6 (£99) will be in store in less than a month, too. Nice and early for once...
And there's plenty to look forward to in 2012...
The Ropeman 1 and 2 have both been redesigned with hot forged sideplates that optimise the fit and function on a broader range of carabiners: they're now smoother in the hand, a touch lighter and loads more stylish. Both will be available to buy solo or in a set with a Synergy Keylock HMS. Ropeman 1: £34.95, set £42.95; Ropeman 2: £39.95, set £47.95.
New Helios (£14) and Helix (£13) screwgates are also due next spring. The Helios is lightweight with a distinctive new shape (see below). It's built with Wild Country's I beam back to shave weight but maintain rigidity. With a Keylock nose for smooth clipping and a rounded internal radius this is an all rounder. The Helix will be Wild Country's most fully featured workhorse full-size, all round HMS: a super strong belay biner with plenty of internal space for rigging. It's light, has a Keylock nose, I beam back and rounded shape.
The Pro Guide 'do it all' belay device will be priced at £22.50 and in the shops next spring (£32 as a set with a Synergy Lite Keylock Karabiner). It adds a 'guide' function to the popular VC Pro 2. It's designed to be ergonomic and simple to operate, smooth in use and its guide mode allows safe rigging to bring up twin followers. It works on ultra-modern ropes of 7.7mm and upwards.
New products from Camp due next year include the Photon carabiners (solid gates and wire gates available - images and specs below), which are colour-coded to match the tape colours on CAMP Tricams (review of these 'cult' products by Toby Archer here) and other CAMP rock protection (see the range on their website here) for easy identification. The Photons will also be available in 'Rack Packs' of 8, each in a different colour, allowing you to colour co-ordinate your rack.
The CAMP Tour Nanotech Crampon won an Outdoor Industry Award. At 569g, this is the lightest 10 point steel crampon in the world. CAMP say it's incredibly strong and durable, too. It's made from 'Sandvik Nanoflex Steel', an innovative corrosion resistant alloy, which has the lightness of titanium, aluminium alloys, and even of carbon fibre, along with the hardness and durability that only steel can guarantee.
There will be only one new product in Metolius' hardware section next year. Yes it's only a nut tool but it's quite a sexy one. The stealthy black Feather Nut Tool (RRP £17, available 1st March 2012) is made from 7075 T6 aluminium and weighs just 21g; around a third of the weight of your average nut key (Metolius' standard Torque Nut Tool weighs 64g for example). It features the same useful built-in wiregate karabiner and unique hooked nose as the Torque. This tapered nose fits into the smallest cracks to allow removal of the tiniest nuts.