Mid-July saw the huge OutDoor Tradeshow descend upon the town of Friedrichshafen in Germany. This is the event of the year for European climbing and outdoor companies, and there are literally hundreds of brands showing off their shiny new stuff.
This is the camping gear report and featuring heavily this year are sleeping bags. It's also worth checking out the trekking poles, headlamps and the new Hydrogen Technology - will this catch on, or is it just a gimmick? Time will tell.
The biggest news to us was the Joule stove - this neat looking Jetboil inverts the gas can and also pre heats the fuel... is this the ultimate Alpine stove?!
Haglofs have an impressive range of new sleeping bags with both down and synthetic models. They start at versatile comfort level set of bags coming in at a comfort level of around 5C, extending to the awesomely impressive Perseus down bag rated to a mind-numbing -50C - now that's cold! Both ranges have three bags spanning the temperature range. The prices also cover a wide range from around £80 to £800 for the Perseus. These should be in the shops in Spring 2014.
The nano sleeping bags from Force 10 (Vango) are a new synthetic bag with a few interesting new features. The filling is their '4T' insulation which is a new take on the old 'qualofil' filling. The 4T variation is said to give excellent insulation with improved compressibility. It comes in four weights and will be well-priced from £90 to £120. You also get a drybag stuff sack and it should be in the shops by Spring/Summer 2014. We also quite liked the penguin bag from Vango.
By popular demand Rab will launch the Ignition range of synthetic sleeping bags for Spring 2014, for use in damp climates or for those on a budget. These use a new 'Pyrotec' hollow fibre/microfibre fill for high loft and low weight, in a shingle construction method. They're on a par with rival synthetic sleeping bag market leaders for price, pack-ability and weight, say Rab, and come in three weights with a ball park average of about 1.2kg. The price range is a very fair £110-140.
NB. Look out for changes in Rab's down sleeping bag range too. The names remain the same, but from spring 2014 all down bags will feature hydrophobic down that's treated with something developed with Nikwax, for improved performance wherever moisture management is an issue. Baffle sizes and fills have been tweaked too, to maximise their efficiency. Also worth noting: Rab tell us that recent changes to the EN testing system for sleeping bags will mean that bags appear to be rated less warm than they were before. But they assure us that nothing has changed; they're as snug as ever (or possibly more so, given the baffle improvements?).
Thermarest have introduced 3 new sleeping bags designed specifically for women. The Capella Women's -7°C, the Mira Women's -9°C and the Adara Women's -18°C.
The sleeping bags feature a unique, women-specific Efficient Comfort Fit with extra room in the torso and hips to allow greater freedom of movement—particularly when side sleeping. The bags are cut slightly closer in the shoulders, head, and feet to maximize warmth. A trapezoidal foot box with Toe-Asis foot warmer pocket allows women to rapidly warm cold feet while an overfilled hood, draft collar with drawcord, full-length zipper draft tube, and box-baffled down and shingled EraLoft synthetic insulation options maximize the warmth provided by ThermaCapture technology.
Sheila Klein talks you through the Capella sleeping bag below.
Fans of lightweight summer backpacking will love Sea to Summit's new ultralight down bag which weighs an impressively minimalist 380g-odd without sacrificing functionality. Outside it's a 10D Pertex Quantum shell that's practically transparent; inside is 180g fill weight of ultra-dry-treated 90/10 European goose down with 850+ loft. There's a 1/3 length side zip and a perfectly usable-looking hood. According to the manufacturers the comfort limit is 12C with a lower threshold of 8C, and while they claim an 'extreme' bottom rating of -5C we'd say this is a bag for warmer weather only.
The new Hubba Hubba NX won an Industry Award at the show for innovation and functionality. Weighing just 1.54 kg, the freestanding, two-person Hubba Hubba NX tent is now over 10% lighter than the previous version and takes advantage of a unified pole system for easy set-up and increased head and shoulder room for two people to sit comfortably. A new color scheme of classic MSR red at the bottom and light grey in the body and rainfly maximizes natural light within the tent, making the shelter a pleasant space to stay regardless of weather conditions. Additional tent features include convenient, color-coded stakeout loops and clip-webbing for easing set-up, two doors and two large, adjustable vestibules for easy access and plenty of gear storage. Mesh canopy windows allow for stargazing and excellent ventilation, and the included side-loading compression stuff sack allows the tent to pack up impressively small.
Dale Karacostas talks you through the features below.
Winner of an Industry Award at the show for innovation and functionality, the Joule is a powerful dual fuel stove with a 10,000 BTU output that can boil 1litre of water in a respectable 2mins40seconds. With its inverted canister design gravity helps the fuel to flow, while a warming tube in the burner head means the fuel is vapourised before ignition. 'Thermo-regulated heat' gives it a consistent output down to -12C, so there should be none of the cold weather wheezing that afflicts your average gas stove. Plus, it'll use about two thirds the fuel of a typical rival, Jetboil claim. The Joule comes with a push-button igniter and 2.5litre pan with fold-away locking handle, and weighs a manageable 715g all-in.
Sometimes it's the little things that impress (apparently) - and here's a case in point. Winner of an Industry Award, the Field Repair Buckle does exactly what it says, giving you a simple way to replace a broken backpack buckle out in the wilds using just a small Phillips screwdriver. Moulded from durable plastic, they come as either ladderlock style or side-release 2-pin buckles in 20mm and 25mm sizes, and will cost only around £3 - 3.50.
From something so simple we'll go to the opposite extreme now, with a piece of miniaturised fuel cell technology for powering your gadgets and gizmos out in the field. The Hydrogen Reactor won a gold award for innovation at the show, and it's certainly impressively high tech. This is a portable hydrogen fuel cell, a compact unit that uses plug-in rechargeable canisters. These contain pure hydrogen, which then reacts with oxygen from the ambient air to produce electricity. Weighing 216g including a canister and measuring only 11.4 x 7.1 x 3.2cm, it charges electronic devices like cameras, smartphones and tablet computers via USB, delivering a maximum of 2.1 A and emitting nowt but water vapour and a gentle fizzling sound. When the capacity of 8500 mAh (or about six smartphone charges) is exceeded the 'hydrogen core' can be replaced or re-charged at home. The canister is effectively a rechargeable battery then, for which you need a separate charging station which uses water and mains electricity and looks a bit like a small coffee maker. The Reactor unit is £130 and canisters cost £12 each, while the recharging station is a further £300. It's all very clever, but is it likely to catch on?
New for 2014 from Swedish firm Primus is this nifty all-in-one LPG stove. Integral-pot designs tend to be a bit top heavy and unstable, but by fiddling with the burner arrangement Primus have managed to cut the total height by 20% (20% of what, we're not sure - but it is certainly lower than your average stove). With up to 50% greater efficiency versus a conventional canister-top stove and a decent 1500 watt output it has plenty of performance. We like the new twist-and-click mechanism for easy pan/stove separation. Its flexibility of use is great too. Traditionally, all-in-one stoves can be a little annoying in that you can only cook - and really that means just boil stuff - with the integral pot; but remove the pot from the Eta Lite and add three little metal pan supports (supplied) and you can cook with any pan as per an old fashioned canister stove. Great for camping fry-ups. It's 355g including the .5litre anodized aluminium pot and wrap-around insulation pot cover, and costs £115. A coffee press is available too. We like.
These two popular torches from Black Diamond get an upgrade for 2014. The Spot gains a fair bit of lighting power, up from 90 lumens in the old model to a shiny new 130 lumens; meanwhile the Storm gets a boost from 100 lumens to a more impressive 160 lumens. The plastic housing on both has improved durability (a good thing, in our experience) and while the Spot is rain resistant the Storm lives up to its name, remaining fully waterproof for 30 minutes at .5m. The main addition to both models though is Black Diamond's new 'PowerTap Technology', which lets you scroll through the various lighting modes with a simple finger tap on the touch-sensitive housing.
Clive Allen talks you through the ranges of headtorches on offer from Petzl in 2014.
Italian company Fizan have been making poles for over 60 years. Their latest range of poles this year have introduced a new system in pole locking called the Concept System. This consists of a single locking ring which appears similar to other pole locking systems but comprises of only two pieces and claims to perform better in all weather. We saw three poles with the Concept system - the Aria3, Glacier3 and Alps. All these are supplied with a full range of baskets and should be available this autumn/winter.
With more models than you can shake a stick at Black Diamond's range of trekking poles has something for everyone. The new Mountain Series caught our eye, a selection of several versatile 4-season poles that'd be equally at home on a UK hillwalk, a multi-day backpacking trip or an Alpine approach. Fundamentally these are fairly conventional three-section aluminium poles, but with the addition of some nice touches such as interchangeable rubber or carbide tips and replaceable trekking or snow baskets. The handles are dual density foam, rubber or cork (take your pick), most of which extend down the shaft for various grip positions; and it's good to see that the women's-specific models have a reduced grip diameter. All the models in the series feature Black Diamond's new improved Flicklock closure mechanism which has been reduced in size by 20% and now needs 10% less force to operate, but still has the same holding power.