The Trek & Mountain team has just arrived back from the ISPO trade fair in Munich where, along with sub-zero temperatures, we discovered a whole raft of exciting new launches and announcements of trekking and mountaineering gear that we’ll all get to see later in the year. Over three days we visited over 40 different companies’ stands and checked out literally hundreds of new products in order to bring you the lowdown on their forthcoming ranges. So best begin, then..!
Undoubtedly one of the talking points of the show was Petzl‘s new Nao headtorch, which is the first of their products to use the company’s innovative new reactive lighting technology. Using a light sensor set above two LED beams, the Nao can adjust the focus and power of the light it throws out to suit the situation. So for close up lighting (if you are looking at a map or tying a knot, for example) it will reduce power and provide a wide beam, then when you look up to see further into the distance the beam will become more focused and provide more power. It does this automatically and instantly, as we found out when we had a quick go of the Nao ourselves. One big advantage of reactive lighting technology is that because full power is only used when it’s really needed, the battery life is increased considerably. An idea that makes you wonder why it’s never been done before, we think the Nao could be one of 2012’s biggest products.
The North Face had an eye-catching stand dominated by a massive screen playing videos of their sponsored athletes in action but which they also used to conduct a live interview with Simone Moro and Dennis Urubko at Nanga Parbat Base Camp. The duo were waiting for the right weather conditions before launching their attempt to make the first winter ascent of the ninth highest peak in the world, and took time out to talk about the expedition so far and explain a little about the kit they are using. A fascinating insight into life on a high altitude expedition, the pair’s hopes and concerns – as well as humour – came across loud and clear on a surprisingly good satellite connection. In terms of TNF products, there was plenty on display but we particularly liked the look of the Meru range, which was developed with Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk for their second attempt on the previously unclimbed Shark’s Fin of Meru, in the Garhwal Himalaya of India. Consisting of the Shaffle insulated jacket, the Pinnacle jacket and bib, and the Rad-ish midlayer, the Meru range was developed for the particular demands of climbing this route, and includes shaped baffle construction on the Shaffle for warmth and ease-of-movement where it’s needed, and grippy shoulders on the Pinnacle Active Shell jacket which prevents sacs from slipping around. An exciting range we’re keen to get our hands on, the design work was clearly worthwhile as Anker, Chin and Ozturk returned to Meru in 2011 and reached the summit on October 2nd.
Jack Wolfskin are a big player in their native Germany, as well as an increasingly prominent name in the UK market, and they offer a huge range of outdoor products ranging from lifestyle footwear and children’s clothing to full-on mountain products. Their Trek, Hike and Mountain ranges are of particular interest to T&M readers, and we were impressed with some of their high end garments which can compare with some of the more technical brands in the market. A clever idea that caught our eye was their Fibercloud technology that aims to combine the best characteristics of down and synthetic insulation. The concept is that synthetic fibres are used to fill baffles like on a down jacket, and these loft to provide more warmth and less weight than a standard synthetic jacket, which basically uses a layer of synthetic insulation. The jacket will also pack down more than a normal synthetic insulated jacket, though not as much as real down jacket. Add this superior warmth and packability to the water-resistance and affordability of synthetics and we think JW might have a winner on their hands here.
Nikwax are well-known for their waterproofing and cleaning products, and they took the opportunity at ISPO to add a new product to their range, their Tent & Gear Solarproof Concentrate. The concentrate is diluted with water then applied to tents and other synthetic weatherproof textiles to protect against damage from UV and to increase waterproofing. Nikwax claim that just one application of Solarproof could double the effective life of fabrics by reducing the deterioration caused by UV rays. Increasing the life of your tent, rucksack and so on for just a few pounds sounds like a no-brainer to us, and we will be making use of the sample we picked up at the show in the very near future!
Trekmates aren’t a brand that you’d normally associate with technical mountain products, but that could be about to change with the launch of their new Mountain XT sub-brand. Taking advantage of an association with the British Association of International Mountain Leaders (BAIML), Trekmates have used input and feedback from BAIML to produce a range of products that, to our eyes at least, won’t look out of place being worn by their members. We recently took delivery of the first Mountain XT product we’ve seen – a high-spec softshell jacket – and at ISPO we also had the chance to check out their baselayers, Gore-Tex gaiters, and headwear. Although the Mountain XT products certainly aren’t budget products, we reckon they’re likely to be priced slightly lower than competitor products. Whether this will be enough to tempt customers away from the brands that inhabit this end of the market, only time will tell…
As we sign off this first installment of our ISPO report, we thought we’d leave you with an image from The North Face’s Indian-themed party (to tie in with their Meru range), in which Penny and Helen from The North Face give the cast of Slumdog Millionaire a run for their money in the Bollywood fashion stakes! Until Part 2…