Every winter the entire outdoor industry decamps en masse to a cavernous exhibition centre in Munich. The idea, if you were wondering, is to swap ideas, sausages, viruses from all over the world and, most importantly, to show off the newest, bestest kit destined to hit the shelves in winter 2019.
That’s from around September this year onwards, so please try to contain your excitement. Or at least be mildly patient, while Gearhead takes you gently by the virtual hand and guides you on a virtual tour of what’s new in the outdoors worlds for next winter.
Exhibit A, fwiw, was snow. We landed in about three feet of the stuff and it hung around for the duration. A shame we were mostly indoors, though it made the outdoor tent displays look kind of quietly magical and added some bracing crispness to occasional open air forays between halls. So stop one on the Gearhead magical mystery tour of ISPO was into the high security innards of the Arc’teryx stand. Traditionally a closely guarded repository of innovation, closed away to ward off the attentions of marauding designers from rival brands.
Arc’reryx does ShakeDry with insulation
What’s new from the Canadians? The main event is something called the Norvan SL Insulated Hoodie. It’s a jacket designed for use by runners in proper, sub-zero, Baltic conditions and it combines Gore’s super-lightweight, black-surfaced ShakeDry outer shell fabric with the brand’s own CoreLoft synthetic insulation. The clever bit, said the man from Arc’teryx, is that it called from some (in)genius construction techniques because you can’t just laminate to the fabric in the usual Arc’teryx way.
They never quite explained how they got round that – mostly by making inside out apparently – but they did and the lightweight insulation is zoned too, so the mid-back area and crook of the elbow, for example, aren’t covered. There’s a hood, a small chest pocket and minimal exposed seams. End result is a lightly insulated, waterproof jacket that weighs a claimed 270g in the men’s version and 235g in the women’s, which is faintly bonkers and the lightest ever Arc’teryx Gore-Tex jacket it says here. Doesn’t need a DWR either as the insulation is on the outside. It’ll cost you though, around €400.
Also up for journo love was the new Proton LT lightly insulation climbing jacket (above). It has an outer fabric claimed to be 60 times more durable than comparable materials plus a helmet hood and lightweight insulation. had the feel of one of those understated staples that you’d stick on at the start of winter and take off again in the spring. Price will be 250 euros come next winter.
Scarpa revives an old favourite or two
Next stop was the Scarpa stand where it was all about the tweaking of a couple of classic technical mountain boots. First off was the popular Mont Blanc Pro in both men’s and women’s versions. It’s all change here. The boot’s still a classic all-mountain B3, but it gets a complete new sole unit, the ankle cuff area has been redesigned too and looks slicker and more contemporary. The Sock Fit upper remains, but along with the integral bootee cuff gaiter thing, has been lightened up. It’s still visibly a Mont Blanc with the characteristic high ankle cuff, but just more. It’ll retail for £450 when it replaces the current model later this year.
Also tweaked is the Phantom Tech. Most significantly it gets a more durable sole unit, a bit like the old Phantom Guide. The behind the scenes story is that the lightweight sole on the current boot had a tendency to get trashed when used for long rocky walk-ins in, for example, Scotland. Other changes are the the OutDry waterproofing has been replaced with something called ‘HDry’ which apparently works in a very similar way. Overall the boot is still lighter than the old Phantom Guide despite the new chunkier sole. So Cinderella, you shall go to the Scottish winter ball. Or something like that.
Grivel’s Dark Machine
Ice specialist Grivel’s show highlight is a new super lightweight technical axe with carbon fibre shaft called the Dark Machine. It uses a carbon composite shaft – carbon fibre layered over aluminium – and full carbon handle and weighs a claimed 480g. That’s 25g lighter than the North Machine all-rounder and a whopping 165g less than a Tech Machine. There’s also the Dark Machine X which is 10g lighter again and also specced for dry-tooling use.
Meanwhile at the PrimaLoft stand there were do-nuts. Apparently the icing was something to do with the sugar added to their revolutionary new fabric so it rots fast in land-fill. Yum.
KEEN on Sherpas
There’s a women’s version of the chunky three-season Karraig in the pipeline, but the big news was the lightweight Innate, which is due out this spring, 2019 and a collaboration with Sherpa based around a special edition of the boot. The Innate is a lightweight leather travel shoe / boot, which uses the mid-sole unit from the lightweight Aphlex boot. It’s made in Europe using direct PU injection and is aimed at travellers and lightweight hikers and trekkers.
The most interesting bit is that come this winter 2019, there’s a special Sherpa version of the Innate (above) complete with subtle embossed Sherpa ‘endless knot’ branding called the Innate x Sherpa. Same price as the original Innate, but £15 for each pair sold will go to a charity called Room To Read which teaches Nepalese kids to read and right. The aim is to raise enough money to give 1,000 children basic education. The funds raised by the sale on three pairs of the shoes will pay for one child’s education for a full year through the Room to Read literacy programme. Great idea, we’ll prod you later in the year once the Innate x Sherpa model is available. The price for it – and the standard Innate – will be £140.
Also new this spring, the slick looking lightweight Venture shoe / mid, which it says here is ‘faster and lighter’. Brighter too in the orange colour they showed us.
One thing most show reports never explain is the delicate nutritional tightrope walked by journalists intent on balancing caffeine intake, sugar highs and late afternoon beer. Get it right and you appear alert, interested and almost human. Screw things up and you risk becoming either a gibbering, over-caffeinated human word-storm tornado or a comatose, shambling wreck. On this basis, Italian boot brands are to be treated with caution. They will, without fail, have brought with them an espresso machine of unique and deadly capabilities. AKU is no exception…
As a result the next ten minutes was something of a blur. I can remember being shown a boot which looked identical to the excellent Tengu Lite – see the next magazine for a review – but was apparently the new Trekker Pro. Except that it actually was the Tengu Lite we were looking at. The boot next to it is the Trekker Lite III, the latest version of the boot which in 2013 received German government recognition as the ‘best and safest’ trekking boot on the market. It says here. The shape was apparently inspired by the Tengu Lite, so there you go.
The Trekker Pro GTX is aimed at ‘more demanding trekking routes’, so a littler beefier underfoot despite the suede and fabric upper and using AKU Elica Natural Stride System technology, which is an anatomic structural system that, in a nutshell, is claimed to make for a more natural walking action along with reduced impact and ‘strain on the feet’. It’s actually out this spring, which is right about now, rather than next winter. Seriously, AKU is really good at lightweight hiking, trekking and walking footwear and well worth checking out if you’re in the market for new boots.
Mammut’s Laser Fuse technology
The big news at Swiss alpine specialist Mammut is something called Laser Fuse Technology. It’s a way of eliminating stitched seams by fusing fabrics together using a laser beam, which in turn eliminates stitch-holes and improves wind and water resistance in the process. No adhesives, no stitching, just a laser beam. The result of all this is the Photics HS Thermo Hooded Jacket, a 750 goose down-filled jacket that’s also completely waterproof, so ideal for places which are very wet and very cold at the same time. It’s the world’s first laser-fused jacket and will be quite expensive.
Aside from some gorgeous, pink-anodised snow shovels, the other main event at Mammut was the new Trion Spine Pack, an interesting looking 50-litre alpine pack with a swivelling hip-belt, along with movable shoulder straps. The idea is that the movement is more damped than some previous ‘active’ packs, pretty much all of which have disappeared without trace. Just saying. The knitted back panel does look quite cool though. There’s also a women’s version and different sizes.
Meindl’s range of trekking, hiking and climbing footwear is massive, though the chance are that a lot of UK users have only ever heard of the classic, solid, brown leather boots. Cut to the more contemporary looking Litepeak Pro (above) with suede uppers, which is based on a current boot called the Litepeak GTX and uses the same Variofix heel anchoring system, which links a wire retainer to the instep lace hook. The Pro’s main differences is that the sole unit has been beefed up to give more support underfoot and allow the use of a C1-rated, flexible crampon. Looks very cool in yellow.
Patagonia goes Macro
The big story from Patagonia was the launch of the Macro Puff, a warmer, weightier take on the current Micro Puff. Like little brother, it uses PlumaFill synthetic insulation, which is the loftiest synthetic out there and has comparable warmth to weight properties as high loft down. In this case there’s more of it, so the jacket’s warmer, but heavier – think 420g compared to around 260g for a Micro. It’s aimed at climbers, so the hooded version is helmet compatible. As with the Micro Puff, the main advantage is that the synthetic fill deals better with moisture than untreated down, however, premium pricing means you won’t be saving much, if any, cash by going synthetic in this case.
The other interesting thing at Patagonia was the Ascentionist Jacket, an alpine climbing shell made from Gore-Tex Active, which used to be reserved for runners and bikers. It also gets a C-KNIT backer for soft, quiet, luxury feel plus a helmet hood, but without any stiffening to the peak. Kind of a deluxe, very breathable and quieter alternative to Gore-Tex Pro. We wouldn’t expect it to last as long though.
Osprey goes travelling
The big news at Osprey was the Farpoint (men’s) and Fairview (women’s) travel come trekking packs, which aim to take a classic travel pack design with features like u-zip suitcase-style zip opening and solid, rectangular profile and add in a top-notch carrying system and trek-friendly features like a sleeping bag compartment, compression straps and a rain cover that also doubles as a full ‘air-cover’ for hold protection. The idea is you get all the pluses of a well-spec’d travel pack, but if you do choose to throw in the odd trek or hut-to-hut adventure, the pack will take it in its stride.
The Farpoint will be available in a choice of 55 or 75 litres, while the women’s Fairview is 50 or 70. Prices once available later this year will be £170 and £180 for smaller and larger versions respectively.
Mountain Equipment’s recycled down initiative
We’ll have a separate news story on this shortly, but Mountain Equipment’s big news is a project to promote the recycling of down. In essence, they’re going to be working with outdoor organisations including Germany’s DAV, to encourage the recycling of surplus down clothing and sleeping bags. The down’s extracted, cleaned then re-used. Most of it isn’t high spec, but a small proportion is. To highlight all that, the brand has the Earthrise Hooded Jacket which features 100% recycled down, shell fabric and lining. Only the zip and sundry fasteners are new. Otherwise it’s a micro-baffled down lightweight, similar to the Arete jacket and will have a price tag of £180.
Plenty going on with Outdoor Research next winter including an expanded range of fearsomely expensive heated gloves, but the two interesting points for us were a stripped down glove using the same Primaloft Aerogel palm insulation as the excellent Bitterblaze ice-climbing glove. It’s called the Inception Aerogel and is what the Americans call a winter work glove, so a bit of an all-rounder with excellent grip and non-compressible palm insulation. The fit is apparently based on a tactical glove.
It’s all change on the clothing insulation front too. Outdoor Research is replacing Polartec Alpha in its range with an own-brand equivalent, which it claims works even better. The women’s Vigor Hybrid Hoody in the pic is a hybrid affair with hood and will retail for £155. It’s a direct replacement for the current Deviator Hoody – and it’ll be fascinating to see if it really does work as well, or better than, Alpha.
Black Diamond’s £1000 avalanche airbag
Hot news on the Black Diamond stand was the Jet Force Pro avalanche air-bag, which unlike others is powered by electricity rather than gas and inflates using something called Jet Fan technology when needed. You can check charge level easily, it’s bluetooth enabled – it says here – and comes in packs up to 35L in size. A serious investment at around £1000.
Also on the stand was a new, vegan-friendly version of the Momentum climbing shoe called the Momentum Vegan and a super warm expedition parka called the Vision Down Parka using super lightweight Japanese LCP – liquid polymer crystal – rip-stop fabric and 800 fill power down. The warmest BD jacket for serious expedition use, it says in my notes.
We haven’t seen a lot of Kiwi brand Kathmandu for the past few years, so it was interesting to get reacquainted. In a nut-shell, an interesting mix of eco-awareness and sustainability with quite cool retro vibe. They’re using top-notch components from the likes of Gore, Pertex and Polartec, but with an emphasis on the green. We liked their Earthcolors concept; fabric dyes using colours taken from non-edible nut-shell and leaves applied to partially recycled fabrics mixing cotton with synthetics. They were also one of the first companies to return to the earthquake-ravaged central business district of Christchurch with a new 5-star sustainability rated building. One to watch this year.
The North Face Future Light
We’ve already run a detailed look at TNFs new waterproof wonder fabric – see full article HERE. Just infiltrating their black box stand was a feat in itself, but inside was a brand new, super lightweight, super breathable fabric based on extruded nano-spun PU fibres. The idea is that the fabrics – mostly orange for some reason – mix excellent breathability with lightness and flexibility along with deceptive robustness. All this an excellent sustainable credentials as well – ‘highest performance, lowest footprint’ was the vibe.
You can expect to see it in top-end shell clothing, single-skin tents and more from winter 2019 onwards. We’re seriously looking forward to trying it out in the real world.
Fjällräven’s New Wool
The Swedish company has already done ‘happy geese’, now it’s moved on to happy sheep with new wool insulation using combinations of recovered wool from Italian suit manufacturing and recovered wool produced as a by-product of the Swedish meat industry. Some very cool-looking wool insulated parkas on the stand.
More obviously outdoorsy though, was a new addition to the Vidda range in the shape the Vidda Ventilated Pro Trousers (above). Fjällräven does excellent legwear generally and these have a new, slimmer cut, use G1000 fabric and have some stretch panels for improved fit and mobility and – true to the name – incorporate big venting zips on the outer thigh for those warm climbs (and climes too). There’s a matching jacket also.
Finally… more Singi pack range additions with the unusual wooden frame and a 28L model featuring modish full front opening zip access and lots of pockets. Neat.
Hanwag’s revamped Ferrata boots
I’m a big fan of the original Hanwag Ferrata Combi boot. It’s a lightweight, rock-orientated alpine boot, with a great mix of comfort and crampon-compatible stiffness that’ll do all sorts of stuff as well as via ferratas. For this spring 2019 – like right about now – it gets a major overhaul and becomes the Ferrata 2. The clever stuff happens around the new TubeTec Rock sole unit, which wraps a TPU tube about a PU cushioned core to give an underfoot construction that’s not only significantly lighter, but also more cushioned for rocky walk-ins.
Overall the claim is that an already light boot is now 10% lighter and more cushioned but ‘still durable’ with loads of grip and edging ability on rock in particularly plus ace ankle mobility. It looks pretty cool too. We have a pair on the way, so watch this space for some early first impressions.
VauDe gets greener still
The German brand’s laudable commitment to sustainability continues. There’s always a lot going on there, but the two products that really grabbed out attention were the Miskati Fleece which somewhat improbably is made from 100% recycled wood fibre. You’d never know it from the feel, but its produced from pulped eucalyptus fibres, which means no micro-plastic particles are shed during washing. It looks good too and will retail for £120 later this year.
Also new and sustainable is the Kabru Light Down Jacket, which is filled with 700 fill power recycled down, mostly recovered from bedding. The fabrics are Pertex Quantum Eco and my barely legible notes suggest there’s PrimaLoft Eco in the side panels. The only non-recycled bit is apparently, the zip. Impressive stuff.
Rab gets Gore-Tex
We’ve already run a full story on this but Peak-based Rab have embraced Gore-Tex. All their top-end shell clothing has gone over to the fabric, with lots of detail tweaks to designs along the way, including a new hood with retractable front cords. It also finds a place in the insulation range with some quite funky designs including a ShakeDry-type shelled down jacket, though it’s questionable whether a super warm down jacket also needs that much water resistance. Interesting though and one of those things that takes a little getting used to after years of eVent shell clothing.
Columbia’s stitchless baffles
You can always rely on Columbia for some innovative technology and for next winter, the focus is on the use of HeatSeal seams, where fabrics are bonded together using, yes, heat to create insulated jackets without any heat-seaping stich holes. Lots of examples, but arguably the most interesting one, was the OutDry Extreme Down Jacket which uses the brand’s ‘membrane on the outside’ waterproof technology to create a fully waterproof 399 euro jacket filled with 700+ fill power down. We also kind of liked the retro-style ski and board jackets.
Petzl: New headtorch and crampon rationalisation
Cards on the table, by the time it was Petzl o’clock, I was properly half-dead and metaphorically show-shagged. Fortunately there were a couple of eye-openers to take in. On the headtorch side of things, there’s a new light called the SWIFT RL which is set to replace both the current REAKTIK models and is kind of a cousin of the ace, lightweight BINDI. It’s chucks out 700 lumens, weighs just 105g and has a simple, allegedly intuitive button control. You get Reactive and Standard lighting modes plus a 5-level meter for better battery monitoring. Should also help the colour blind. Price will be £96 once it’s available later in the year.
Meanwhile, hardcore ice climbers will find the DART and the DARTWIN models – mono and dual vertical point, lightweight water-ice tools – have been amalgamated into a single new, modular DART Crampon which give you the easily adjustable choice of single or dual vertical front points and a lot of length options, so you could run asymmetrical dual points for ice, a short front point for mixed, or whatever else you envisage working.
Very much a pure climbing crampon, but compatible with the rear sections of other Petzl crampons for mix and match versatility. Price will be a hefty £205, available in July.
La Sportiva ups Expedition ante
We kind of liked the look of La Sportiva’s TX Top, an approach shoe with a built in waterproof stretch gaiter intended for winter approach work, but if you’re going much higher up the mountain, the brand has updated the high altitude Olympus Mons to create the Olympus Mons Cube, designed for ultra-cold, high altitude conditions. Retailing for a cool £835 – what are you toes worth? – it’s been designed with input from Simone Moro and tested in Siberia of all places. It has a removable double-bootie system with a 4mm EVA shoe nested inside a talled high-cut, 6mm one, which in turn sits inside the outer bot with integrated Cordura gaiter with reflective aluminium stuff .
The insole has a PrimaLoft Gold AeroGel insulation upper on top of a 3mm honeycomb, carbon fibre plate. Lacing uses a double Boa system that’s designed to be easily adjustable and super glove friendly. If you’re off to somewhere very high and very cold, it should be just the ticket. It has front ski attachment points as well.
Sprayway’s TL Torridon is back!
Readers of a certain age will recall the iconic Sprayway TL Torridon (above) waterproof Gore-Tex shell jacket that was everywhere in the British hills until around 2003. Well, along with Sprayway’s original heritage logo, the Torridon is back in an instantly recognisable – for us oldies – retro cool sort of way. It’s not just intended as a retro icon though, it’s a fully-featured, longer-cut, 3-layer Gore-Tex jacket complete with pit-zips and a trim cut. We like the inside-pocket, Torridon range picture badge too. Price will be £300.
Lowe Alpine revamps Ascent packs
Another one we covered comprehensively last week Lowe Alpine has revamped and rationalised its climbing-focussed ascent packs with a choice between two more traditional lidded packs, the Halcyon and a selection of more radical lightweight options aimed at fast and light alpinists. The latter have a bunch of interesting features including roll-top but expandable top-closure, minimalist, lightweight harnesses and a back design that uses the same fabric as the main body of the pack to add toughness along with snow-shedding slick.
They’re impressively light and minimalist, but don’t feel in the least fragile. It’ll be interesting to see how they work, but Lowe Alpine is producing some cracking packs currently.
I actually visited quite new to the UK sock brand Darn Tough not once, but twice. Oddly I encountered one of their US head honchos in a harbour front bar a few years back and have been using a pair he gave me then ever since. They genuinely do what it says on the can. They’re tough and US made from ethically-sourced merino wool. Which seems like a contradiction until you use a pair and realise they’re very densely knitted compared to other merino socks. Maybe not quite as sophisticated in terms of zoned cushioning, but still comfortable and very durable. To back that up they come with an unconditional, lifetime guarantee.
Time travel disclaimer
The bulk of the products featured aren’t due out until winter 2019. In outdoors industry terms, that means August at the earliest, and probably slightly later. And yes, I know that August isn’t winter.