Friday, my last day at OR Winter 2014, was mostly my wander-around day, so there’s some random stuff I came across, and a few cool things I knew were coming but only got to meet with the companies today.
Patagonia was one of the principal companies behind the development of Polartec Alpha, however they left the project and pursued it in their own direction. The result is FullRange, a Patagonia-exclusive insulation that breathes exceptionally well, dries stupid-fast and is very warm for it’s weight. This stuff is super-stretchy as well, though it is not very wind-resistant. Excellent as a mid-layer for high exertion, or an outer-layer in calm conditions. Obviously, not ideal as an outer layer on windy days, though. FullRange is a 60g/m and will be used in the Fall 2014 Men’s and Women’s NanoAir Hoody and NanoAir Jacket. (I have a pre-production NanoAir jacket on loan for review: it is awesome. Look for a full review coming soon.)
Taking what they learned from the limited-edition Encapsil parka, Patagonia have redesigned the Fitz Roy belay parka for Fall 2014. I particularly love the extra down tube around the collar, creating an awesome ring of warmth all around your neck, hood up or hood down. The cut has been slimmed down a bit, and the jacket also features a dual-slider zipper and glove-friendly cuffs. And since it’s down, it feels like you’re not wearing much more than some air.
Expanding their Houdini line of windshirts, Patagonia is adding the Pullover (which looks awesome – practically good enough to wear to a nice dinner! ed. my wife has pointed out that my style sense may have been skewed a bit by ‘Bow-Valley-wear’ in which clean jeans and a non-smelly jacket are considered dressed up. The Houdini Pullover will work in those kind of ‘dressed-up’ occasions, but not so much for professional city folk with ‘real’ jobs!) and the Alpine Houdini, with reinforced shoulders and arms. Both are still super-light, well-priced windshells. And less crinkly than before, too.
Falling into the totally-skeptical-but-it-seems-to-work category are Skins Compression baselayers. The idea behind these is that body-mapped tightly-fitting baselayers exert pressure on muscles to promote better blood flow, reduce fatigue and increase muscle performance. I am looking forward to trying a pair, but based on my brief trial at the booth, the tech works: barely a minute after pulling on the Skins Compression shirt, my muscles felt ‘warmed up,’ as if I had just done a few pull-ups. The tech intrigues me: stay tuned for a full report once I can get my hands on a set of these.
Over at the Mammut booth, my favourite boot that I’ve never actually climbed in (it fits great, is very light, has some great features and otherwise looks super-cool but is rather hard to get a hold of), the Nordwand TL, gets an update with a slightly higher, full Gore-Tex gaiter. These are in contention for the lightest boot in their category, with exceptional fit, even for my above-average-width feet, a three-zone lacing/velcro strap system and fully waterproof gaiter and zip. Updated boot coming Fall 2014. I cannot wait!
Mammut also updated the Nordwand pack with Dyneema fabric throughout. Lighter and tougher, with the same great features: technical tool attachments, dual compression straps, a flexible suspension, removable hipbelt, haul loops, etc. Basically everything you could want in an alpine pack.
Also in the Mammut booth was their new 6mm rap-line, which comes in 40m and 60m lengths (for now) and includes both a stuff/throw sack for the rope, as well as a mini fig-8 rap device. This thing packs into nothing! (60m version shown here: compare the size of the sack to the full-size oval biner it’s hanging from).
And for all those backcountry ski guides who now have to wear a helmet even while skinning up, Mammut has a revamped Rock Rider helmet with two inserts: an insulated winter version and a lighter one for summer use. And to make life even easier, the helmet is also refreshingly light.
Somewhat less winter oriented are Chaco’s new cross-over sandal shoes (yes, I’ve forgotten the name) with a siped sole. This is a first as far as I know, for anyone. I’m curious how well the siping will work over wet rocks and other slippery surfaces, and if it could be applied to other footwear categories.
This is kind of old news for me, as I first saw these tools back at the Bozeman Ice Fest, but BD’s new Fuel was drawing a fair bit of attention. Basically a revamped, modified Fusion2, the Fuel is intended primarily for ice climbing (whereas the Fusion2 is meant more for mixed terrain). It features a 2-degree lesser angle in comparison to the Fusion2 (i.e. more open), which should make for a more natural wrist-based flick-swing. The shaft is also 1cm shorter off the top, the hammer has been shaved down for less head weight and the pommel spike is rounded off for better rotation through the palm. There are rumours of a $124.95 MSRP but this is NOT TRUE. In fact, I was unable to confirm the retail price of the Fuel, however expect it to be similar to the Fusion2 ($279.99). There is apparently a pair in Canada that is supposed to be made available for press reviews: I’ll try to get a hold of these as soon as I can.
Osprey is also wading into the avy-pack market with a version of the Kode, utilizing the ABS system. I think the Kode packs are among the best designed ski packs out there and the ABS version is no exception.
Other than checking out all the upcoming gear, OR is a great place to see any given manufacturers’ full line-up. I’ve long admired Westcomb’s design so it was a pleasure to stop by their booth and confirm that not only do their products look great, they also fit amazingly well. Literally every single piece I put on fit like it was designed for my body (I was trying Men’s Mediums, and the fit felt very consistent throughout the whole line). Amazing, amazing clothing.
You may have noticed I am a bit of a pack geek, so this next entry should come as no surprise: the Zen 40 from Grivel. Exceptionally light, stripped-down alpine pack in a very bright red colour: you won’t lose this one when you leave it at the base of a climb!