OR Summer 2016: Hardware

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2016 wrapped up a couple weeks ago (I know, apologies for the delayed posts this year) and we’re kicking off the coverage with climbing hardware.

By far and away the coolest and most impressive product is Maxim’s Platinum rope. The design interweaves the sheath with the core, and unique patterns mark either end, as well as the middle. The interwoven sheath and core should ensure greater durability and virtually no sheath slippage. We’re looking forward to getting some samples to abuse, and attempt to destroy!

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The hardware trend at the show seemed to be various assisted-braking or similar impact-reduction devices. The focus seems to be making belaying safer, and dare I say, more dumbed-down?!

Wild Country’s Revo is the most radical design departure from the usual ATC and GriGri styles. Dubbed the “first Bi-Directional assisted locking belay device” it locks up thanks to an inertia-driven cam that moves away from the center of the ‘wheel’ and engages with a locking lug whenever the ‘wheel’ reaches a high enough velocity for centrifugal force to move the cam from it’s position. It’s neat to see, and it works as advertised — any high-speed pull on the rope immediately locked up the Revo, regardless of rope orientation. When belaying, it functions much as any other ATC-style device, with the usual teeth for extra friction. It’s also really cool to see that it cannot be loaded improperly, it works just as well from either end, and the carabiner won’t fit through unless the Revo is closed  and loaded properly (it’s pretty much fool-proof — see comment above). Our only gripe? The device unlocks as soon as any rope is fed through, meaning that if you try to ‘boink’ up the Revo unlocks and is immediately transformed into an assist-less ATC-style device. We can see a lot of gyms loving these.

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Petzl’s new GriGri+ will not be a replacement for the GriGri2, but rather an addition to the lineup. It has a steel plate where the rope runs for reduced wear, is compatible with ropes from 8.9mm to 10.5mm, has an anti-panic feature and two ‘braking’ modes for easier top-rope belay. It works, feels, and functions like a GriGri. Due to lacking an actual climb on which to test the anti-panic handle mode, and the ‘lead’ and ‘top-rope’ belay modes, we cannot actually comment on their performance, though we did feel some differences when playing with the device at the Petzl booth. This won’t replace your current GriGri2, but is probably the one to buy when you need a new one.

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Edelrid’s Ohm is not a belay device, but rather an ‘assisted braking resistor’ that increases rope friction at the first bolt. Apparently, the Ohm really comes into its own when the lead climber is much heavier than the belayer, and significantly reduces the risk of a ground fall. It all makes sense in theory, but as with everything else, we’ll reserve judgement until we get to play with and test one for ourselves.

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Black Diamond has evolved the single-slot ATC into the ATC Pilot, an ‘enhanced braking’ device that provides some additional friction but doesn’t auto-lock in any manner. It’s new, it’s steel for durability, and the rope does pay out quite gradually but we remain skeptical, though as always reserve full judgement until we’ve put a few pitches of rope through it.

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Some cool news in carabiners, with two absolute stand-outs: the Camp Dyon and the Edelrid Bulletproof.

Camp’s Dyon takes the proven Photon shape, refines it along the lines of the new Nano 22, and adds a keylock, snag-free nose. The design is ingenious, in that the nose retains the narrow-profile of the Photon, and instead moves the locking part to the wire gate. Camp calls this design the KeyWire, and the locking bit is called the SphereLock. It apparently took over three years to refine the design! Gate action is beautifully smooth and even, the opening is large, and the slightly-curved spine a pleasure to hold. Weight is a scant 33 grams and it will come in the usual assortment of colours for racking your cams. Of course, they’ll also come in various iterations of quickdraws. Phenomenal, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a full rack of these!

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Edelrid’s Bulletproof carabiners attempt to minimize the wear-and-tear on both biners and gear by adding a steel insert into the rope-bearing or bolt-clipping end. It’s not the lightest biner in the world at 55 grams, but the steel insert barely shows any wear after the same load cycles as compared to a regular aluminum carabiner. They’ll come in both straight-gate and curved-gate versions, and of course as a quickdraw set.

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DMM are going to update their full range of locking carabiners with new… locking knobs. The design and development of the new Dragon cam teeth lead the team to think about applying the same ideas and technology to the knobs of their lockers. The new pattern debuts across the whole locking carabiner line and it feels awesome. The screwlocks have additionally received refinements to the thread and now turn smoother than any other locker I’ve ever tried.

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Petzl adds the Sm’D to its locking carabiner line-up. Small, light, with the same action and feel as Petzl’s other lockers. Screw-lock and auto-lock versions will be offered. I like it.

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Grivel adds to its TwinGate locking system with the new Roller S and Roller L carabiners. Basically, a locking biner with a pulley, these types of biners are commonly seen in glacier-travel kits, on wandering multi-pitch routes, and anywhere else where a light, low-profile pulley might come in handy. The S weighs in at 73 grams, while the larger L is 123 grams. Both have the same strength rating.

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Also new at the Grivel booth is the Wire Lock Tau biner. It uses a small wire-gate on the inside of the biner to ‘lock’ the main gate in place. Neat and effective, but it felt a bit too fiddly in use. 55 grams is pretty respectable, though, and I suspect it’ll eventually find its place as a specialist biner.

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Rounding out carabiner news are two more items from Camp. First up, the Cable Express and Gym Safe Cable Express are the new steel-core perma-draws. A plastic coating makes it easy to grab the draw on those desperate clips, and the clear centre makes the core visible for inspection. Not light or revolutionary, but very nicely finished in typical Camp fashion. They’ll be available in two colours and two lengths, 18 and 23 cm, and as just the ‘dogbone’ or as a complete draw with a quicklink on one end and a steel Gym Safe biner on the other.

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Finally, the Photon gets a redesign with an updated body for increased strength, and a refined gate and nose profile to minimize snagging. Still an absolutely beautiful biner, the full-size Photon weighs a mere 30 grams and comes in 8 colours to colour-match your cams.

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While everybody else seems to be trying to make the lightest, smallest harness out there, it’s refreshing to see a company seemingly say ‘sod it’ and just design a simple, comfortable harness. The DMM Eon (men’s adjustable legs), Creda (women’s adjustable legs), Asenna (men’s fixed legs) and Dala (women’s fixed legs) are not only very comfortable (and confusingly named) but are also the only harnesses out there with a ‘floating’ waistbelt. Basically, the ‘padded’ waistbelt is independent of the ‘load-bearing’ waistbelt, so you can center the harness over your hips, and ‘lock’ it in place by pulling it snug. The ‘padded’ waistbelt has 3D-bonded composite pads that are anatomically shaped for optimal weight distribution. The harnesses also have four ice-clipper slots (two on the side, two towards the back), the typical four gear loops, and a fifth central/haul loop. Weight is around 400 grams, depending on male/female and adjustable/fixed leg loops. But who cares when it’s this awesome?! Absolutely amazing, and all three of us can’t wait to get these.

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At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Edelrid Loopo Lite, a minimalist harness for ski-touring, glacier travel or ultra-light alpine. Weighing in at all of 80 grams (that’s slightly more than a Clif Bar, and slightly less than a Pro Bar) the Loopo sports detachable leg loops for putting on without taking your skis or crampons off and four ‘soft’ gear loops. The whole harness is constructed of HDPE (High-Density PolyEthylene) — basically the same stuff Dyneema is made of. Pretty cool.

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Edelrid also has a couple new super-light harnesses, the Ace (fixed leg loops) and the Gambit (adjustable leg loops). Both feature 3D-Vent Lite technology for minimal weight, four gear loops and two ice-clipped slots. The Ace comes in at 240 grams, while the Gambit is 280 grams. Uniquely, both harnesses are available in various combinations of waist-belt and leg-loop sized (S, SM, MS, M, ML, L for the Ace; S, SM, M, ML, L for the Gambit). Pretty cool to see customized fit options available, though I can only imagine having six possible sizes of a harness being available to be a bit of a headache for gear shops…

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Camp’s Alpine Flash is another lightweight alpine- and ice- focused harness. At 300 grams it is on the lighter end of the spectrum for full-featured harnesses, and has four gear loops, a fifth haul/gear loop in center back, and four ice-clipper slots. It looks like a solid, packable harness but I have one gripe, which may or may not impact you depending on your ice-clipper location preference: two of the slots are on the side, and the other two are towards the front, ahead of the gear loops. In my experience, this puts the screws in a thigh-gouging and pant-shredding position… hopefully it will size in such a way that the forward-most ice clipper slots are actually more on the side.

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Black Diamond also gets into the whole light-weight semi-alpine harness fray with the Zone, which will be available in both Men’s and Women’s versions. Lightweight materials and construction — the straps are tiny! — add up to 307 grams for the Men’s and 290 grams for the Women’s. Each has four gear loops and two side-placed ice-clipper slots.

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There’s also a new Corax from Petzl, with the typical dual-buckle adjustment, but as soon as I noticed it doesn’t have ice-clipper slots anymore, I lost interest… (Though I suspect there’s a reason for the lack of ice-clipper slots… see further below.)

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Part of the reason I suspect the new Corax doesn’t have any ice-clipper slots is this new thingy from Petzl. Called the Caritool Evo, it is the larger of Petzl’s ice clippers but now has a wire clip across the back meaning it can be attached to virtually any harness out there. Not a huge innovation, but a great way to fix ice-clippers to any harness out there. (Now, the question is, do I trust a metal wire and clip thingy to stay put and not drop a few hundred dollars of ice screws down a mountain? Hmm… time will tell.)

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In other ice-related news are Black Diamond’s new Venom tools. Suitable for lower-angle ice or more traditional mountaineering, the redesigned Venom now has an adjustable, sliding FlickLock pommel and redesigned shaft. The Hammer comes with a Mountain Tech pick (better for climbing), while the Adze will come with the Mountain Classic pick (better for self-arrest duty).

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BD’s other new ice axe is the Swift, also with an adjustable FlickLock pommel. Similar weight at any given length puts it into competition with the Venom?!

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Grivel’s Ghost is their lightest ice axe to date, with a lightweight shaft topped by a steel head with an aluminum adze. 264 grams, more or less, and it’ll come in 48 and 53 cm lengths.

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Continuing on the lightweight trend, Grivel’s Stealth helmet has a full polycarbonate shell over expanded polystirene foam that add up to 190 grams. While not the lightest helmet out there, it’s certainly comfortable and the large and numerous vents should keep your head cool. It will be available in “Grivel” yellow and “Stealth” titanium (aka grey).

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Another lightweight contender is Camp’s Storm, coming in at 230 grams for a size Small-Medium (48-56cm) and 250 grams for a Medium-Large (54-62cm). The Storm looks to be very well ventilated with 22 vents!

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Bucking the trend of more-vents-is-better, Wild Country’s Cirrus helmet instead has an ‘integrated ventilation system’ which uses ‘convection to draw hear away from the wearer.’ This vent system is comprised of channels underneath the solid ABS outer shell, with multiple exit vents in the lower EPP (Expanded PolyPropylene) shell. It sounds cool, plus with the clean outer shell it looks badass (especially in black or red). 280 grams puts it into the midweight helmet category.

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BD expands their helmet line up with the women’s specific Half Dome. Near as we can tell, that means it has a ponytail-friendly design, and less colour options.

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Also new in the BD booth are ropes. Made by Roca, these will come in: 7.8mm 70m FullDry, 9.2mm in 70m and 80m and 70m FullDry, 9.6mm in both 60m and 70m in regular and FullDry treatments, and a 9.9mm in 40m, 60m, and 70m non-treated lengths. The 7.8 is half/twin, the 9.2 is single/half/twin and the 9.6 and 9.9 are single only. They feel pretty good, and the colours look great. Middle clearly marked but no bi-pattern offered at this time.

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Mammut’s Magic Sling utilizes a core of twisted Dyneema fibres surrounded by a highly abrasion-resistant sheath. The result is a sling that offers significantly higher knot strength in comparison to regular webbing. Pretty slick. 60cm and 120cm lengths will be available.

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Camp are seemingly always at work solving the smallest problems, and their newest solution to the gear-racking dilemma of big-wall and aid climbers (and others who pack chest rigs?) is the Gear Up. Basically two single chest slings attached with a couple of straps, the Gear Up is adjustable and, naturally, separates into two slings as needed. Pretty cool but also highly specialized.

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The V-Link from Petzl looks like a well-designed tether, with a swivel at the base and two minimalist firm-gated carabiners on the ends. (Though ironically there is still no way to clip these to Nomics without some cord?!)

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Finally, in cam news, the Fixe Aliens are (again) slightly redesigned but in better news are now distributed in North America by Five Ten so should be available anywhere you buy your Stealth-soled climbing shoes. Sweet!

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6 thoughts on “OR Summer 2016: Hardware

  1. Chris says:

    Fantastic photos and review, Raf. Thank you as always. I love the “no umbilical attachment” for Nomics comment. You would think after all these years, they’d fix that!?!?

  2. HeMa says:

    So, the Sterling rope would be then similar to Beal UNICORE ropes, which have been on the market for a few years already?

    • Monte says:

      Well, yes and no… The Maxim rope weaves the sheath into the core creating a physical bond between the two while Beal’s Unicore technology utilizes a chemical process to bond the two. We have a Beal rope with Unicore out being tested right now and hope to get the chance to test out the new Maxim Platinum soon as well so that we can compare the pro’s and con’s of each system.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Tony T. says:

    I just found your website, but I love it. I worked in the outdoor industry (read: REI and then a smaller local Denver gear shop) for about 7 years total. I left the industry last year (read: had to start earning a livable wage), but this review was exactly everything I want to see from OR without the hassle and sales pitches!

    I love seeing some manufacturers like DMM still thinking about comfort with harnesses instead of some of the dyneema thong harnesses coming out. I still have yet to find a small men’s harness with four gear loops, ice clipper points, reasonable comfort, and adjustable leg loops that actually fits me in the waist and legs! Hoping to check out the new offerings from DMM and Edelrid at some point though!

  4. Tobin Story says:

    Any word from BD on when the 2017 axes are coming out? I’d think they would be part of the winter line, but I guess they’re more for Spring Summer 2017?

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