Winter OR 2018: Apparel

The Winter show always brings out a few innovative pieces of apparel, and Winter 2018 was no exception. There are a few new fabric and fill technologies, and some interesting new combinations of existing materials. I’ve listed the few most interesting ones first, while the rest are in alphabetical order.

The phenomenal Mammut Nordwand HS Flex Hooded Jacket and Nordwand HS Flex Pants, covered here under the New Gear Awards, definitely take the top spot as the coolest pieces of apparel at the show.

Mountain Equipment Kinesis Jacket and Pants

Not happy with the existing active-breathable insulation options available, ME sought out a custom solution which resulted in the Octoyarn Warp knit lining at 45g/m. This is about half the weight of any other such insulation and should make these pieces ideal for all-around use, and absolutely exceptional for intensive approaches. The outer shell is a lightweight 30D with some mechanical stretch built in, and the smooth outer face will slide easily under layers.

The Jacket has two zippered hand pockets and a zippered chest pocket, a helmet-friendly hood and weighs in at 320-grams. Given the 45g/m weight of the insulation, the Pants should make an ideal base layer under un-insulated waterproof-breathables, and will probably be one of those pieces that you end up wearing all time. They have a soft, stretchy, waistband, two hand pockets and twin, zippered, thigh vents, and weigh 220-grams. Both pieces stow into their own pockets for packability.

USD price for the Kinetic Jacket will be $180 while the Pants will go for $130. Those are bargains at that price! (And, unfortunately for those of us in Canada, not available locally as ME doesn’t have any retailers in Canada — but I think you’ll want to go get these pieces in the US!)

Patagonia Micro Puff Storm Jacket

Not a revolutionary piece, but one I’m excited about because of the fit, features and price-point, the Micro Puff Storm Jacket combines Patagonia’s 65-g PlumaFill insulation with their proprietary H2No 2-layer shell fabric for a warm, breathable, waterproof climbing/belay/all-around layer. The fit is loose enough to fit over climbing layers, but not so baggy as to obstruct your feet or harness when climbing. The hood is big enough to comfortably fit a helmet, and there are two large interior drop-pockets, as well as two extra-large hand pockets. MSRP is $499 USD. And yes, it will come in colours other than black — a deep red and an ocean-blue. Stoked!

Direct Alpine Alpha Jacket

There are a lot of Polartec Alpha Direct pieces out there by now, but I’m always searching for the one with that ideal combination of Alpha Direct and super-breathable side panels, combined with a close-cut athletic fit. Direct Alpine is a Czech company that has newly landed in North America, and their Alpha Jacket might just be that ideal layer. It still uses 90g/m Alpha Direct — which is a warmer weight than I’d like to see, how about you release some 60g/m or 45g/m, huh Polartec? — but has a very close fit and the side-panels and hood are made from very-thin SwingCool fabric. The outer is ultra-light 43g/m Pertex Quantum Air, and yes it comes in some cool Euro-colours, not just flat black. Total weight is 316 grams.

Outdoor Research Mixalot Gloves

OR’s Mixalot glove is making a comeback and I couldn’t be more excited! I wore my last pair until it had more holes than fabric left, and even then I still kept them for indoor training use. Now it looks like we’re going to get a new one, with the same tacky Pittards Gripster sheep leather palm and Windstopper outer that made the first one such a great glove. The fit feels the same as before, although sample size at the show is a Large and I’m typically a Medium in OR gloves. Price will be $69 USD and $89 CAD. At that price, I can’t wait to get my hands into a pair — or four! — of these!

Outdoor Research Bitterblaze and Ouray Ice Gloves

Aerogel is, according to Wikipedia, “a synthetic porous ultralight material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. The result is a solid with extremely low density and low thermal conductivity.” Yep, I had to look that up, as a solid that is 98% air doesn’t really make much sense in my brain. But, this is the stuff that’s used in OR’s new ice climbing gloves, in the form of Primaloft Gold Aerogel. A 1.5mm thick layer of this stuff is embedded in the fingers and palm of the gloves, preventing the glove from conducting heat . OR had a piece of dry ice that we could pick up with the glove, and you couldn’t feel the cold at all — and dry ice has a surface temperature of -78.5C.

Aside from the Aerogel, the gloves feature a Gore-Tex Xtrafit insert, which is laminated to the outer to ensure there’s no slippage while retaining full waterproofness. The palm is made of Pittards Oiltac leather, with extra goat leather overlays in areas of high abrasion. The men’s version is the Bitterblaze, and uses 133g/m PrimaLoft Gold insulation on the back of the hand and thumb, while the women’s Ouray Ice glove has 333g/m of insulation. MSRP is $135 USD and $175 CAD.

adidas Terrex Agravic Shield Hoodie

The Agravic Shield Hoodie is another Alpha Direct piece, albeit this jacket uses the insulation only in the front panels — the rest of the piece is made of ultra-light, stretchy nylon weave. Pertex Quantum GL keeps the Alpha Direct protected, while the fit is typical adidas: the Men’s Medium fits me perfect. Weight is 180-grams with a $159 USD.

adidas Terrex Long Sleeve

Another Alpha Direct piece, the Long Sleeve keeps Alpha across the front but adds Polartec Power Grid everywhere else. A close, technical fit and deep venting zipper should make for a great all-around base layer. $129 USD.

Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Parka – Women’s

I really respect a company that doesn’t update and redesign products with every season, and Big Agnes is one such brand. Their Dunkley Belay Parka uses 120-gram Pinneco Core insulation in the torso, 80-gram in the arms, and has been in the line for years — it’s a solid jacket at a good price. $320 USD and $425 CAD.

Black Yak Hybrid Jacket

Black Yak is a South Koren family-owned company that has been around since 1973, and is now setting its sights on the North American market. Incredible attention to details, innovative construction and some crazy design features make the Hybrid Jacket stand out. There’s 750-fill-power down throughout the jacket, with Primaloft Gold at the hem, and Polartec Alpha across the back and shoulders. Fit is athletically trim, maybe even a little tight, though given the construction I am not quite sure what use the designers had in mind when putting this piece together. Among the Hybrid’s more interesting features are exterior mesh drop pockets, and a four-loop daisy chain along each of those pockets. Curious.

Direct Alpine Spirit Jacket

Though not quite a new piece, the Spirit is here because of Direct Alpine’s interesting take on the zipper — most of their pieces utilize an offset, asymmetrical zip that ends to the side of the chin, minimizing rubbing. It seems to work well, and instead of a zipper there’s a nice, soft bit of fleece along your lip. The Spirit uses 100g/m Primaloft Gold ActivePlus in the body, and Polartec Alpha along the sides and hem. It weighs 322-grams and stuffs into it’s own chest pocket.

Helly Hansen Lifaloft Collection

Helly Hansen have taken their proprietary base layer Lifa fibres and woven them together with Primaloft insulation in a 75% Lifa/25% Primaloft mix to create Lifaloft insulation, which is claimed to be less bulky and 20% lighter than comparable alternatives. It’ll be featured in a variety of styles, from jackets to vests. I’m particularly impressed that even the insulated/breathable jacket has drop pockets on the inside!

Mammut Aenergy IN Hooded Jacket & Vest

Yet another take on the whole Alpha Direct with stretchy side panels layer, Mammut’s piece have their typically-Euro athletic fit, which fits me superbly. The Aenergy use 95g/m Alpha Direct coupled with Pertex Quantum Air for wind resistance and weather protection. The Jacket weighs in at 415-grams and will retail for $229 USD or $279 CAD. The vest is 280-grams with MSRPs of $179 USD and $199 CAD.

Mammut Eigerjoch Pro IN Hooded Jacket

Part of Mammut’s Eiger Extreme line, the Eigerjoch is packed with technical features. The outer is Pertex Quantum Pro with Diamond Fuse Technology, a fabric that uses unique diamond-shaped filaments that lock together to create a more durable fabric with twice the abrasion resistance as compared to typical round filament fabrics. The jacket is filled with 850-fill-power down, with Primaloft Gold Luxe synthetic fill at the cuffs, shoulders, back and key areas of the hood and collar. There are two internal drop-pockets, dual hand pockets and a zippered chest pocket. The cuffs also have really cool, extended, stretchy fabric sleeves to keep your wrists warm, and the hem has silicone webbing to keep it from riding up. Weight is 825-grams and MSRP is $600 USD.

Mammut Meron IN Hooded Jacket

The Meron is Mammut’s entry into the ultra-lightweight high-loft down category, and from my brief experience with it at OR, it’ll be one of the best available. Filled with 110-grams of 900-fill-power down encased in an ultralight ripstop nylon outer, the Meron weighs a scant 330-grams. The inner lining is particularly soft and comfortable even next-t0-skin, while the hood is helmet compatible and a two-way zip facilitates belaying. There are two hand pockets and an internal zippered pocket.  MSRP is $450 USD and $600 CAD — a great price for an ultra-high-loft down jacket.

Mammut Rime IN Hybrid Flex Jacket

Another layering piece, the Rime Hybrid Flex is a close-fitting mid-layer with a Pertex Quantum Air outer and a stretchy 60-gram Toray insulation. (No, I have never heard of Toray before, either, so I’m curious to try this piece out and learn more!). The Jacket weighs 415-grams and will retail for $250 USD and $300 CAD.

Outdoor Research Alpine Down Jacket

This is the big boy down jacket in the OR lineup — 182-grams of 800-fill down stuffed into a Pertex Quantum outer shell. The hood, shoulders and upper arms use Quantum Pro 30D for durability and abrasion resistance, while a lighter Quantum Y Fuse 15D is used elsewhere for weight savings and packability. The roomy fit easily goes over layers, and the Halo Hood swallows helmets. Dual interior drop pockets keep gloves warm, and there are also two hand pockets and a chest pocket. All of this weighs in at 538-grams (for presumably OR’s sample-size Men’s Large) and there’s also a women’s version. USD is $350, or $450 CAD.

Outdoor Research Refuge Hooded Jacket

With the Refuge jacket, OR introduces a new, proprietary, insulation in the form of VerticalX. It’s a synthetic constructed of overlapping layers of material, allowing for more stretch, warmth and durability. Additionally, the lack of a backer means there’s one less layer for moisture to move through, improving breathability. OR claims VerticalX in 60-gram is comparable to 700-fill down. The outer material is a ripstop nylon with built-in stretch, and the whole jacket weighs 518-grams. Price will be $200 USD and $270 CAD.

Outdoor Research Iceline Versa Pant

OR’s ice climbing specific pant, the Iceline, gets an update for FW18 with the addition of their own Ventia 3L waterproof-breathable fabric.  The pant looks to have the same great cut as the current Iceline, which have awesome thigh vents, but unfortunately also looks like it inherits the awkward back-of-thigh pocket. Weight is 606-grams, MSRP will be $250 USD and $300 CAD.

RAB Alpha Freak Pull-On

Clearly, Alpha Direct mid-layers are a trend for FW18 — RAB’s Alpha Freak Pull-On however does without outer face fabrics and uses the insulation ‘naked’ as it were. Alpha is used here in 187 g/m form, with Polartec Power Grid on the waist, sides, underarms and cuffs. The under-hood is also Power Grid but has a Pertex Quantum outer for better wind resistance and increased warmth. Weight is 425-grams, and USD price will be $175, while Canadians will pay $250.

RAB Ascendor Pants

A dedicated climbing pant, the Ascendor is a stretchy softshell made of RAB’s own Matrix fabric. It has all the typical climber-friendly features like gusseted croch, articulated knees and reinforced crampon patches. Additionally, there are zippered and mesh-backed thigh vents, as well as internal boot gaiters. Price will be $225 USD or $295 CAD.

RAB Cirrus Flex Hoody

The Cirrus Flex is a versatile mid-layer / outer piece that utilizes 3M’s Cirrus insulation in the core, with Thermic stretchy fleece on the side panels, underarms and on the hood. There are two zippered hand pockets, as well as two inside drop pockets. The hood is an under-helmet design (unfortunately, I am not a fan of these at all!). Weight is 404-grams and USD will be $200, while MSRP in Canada will be $250.

RAB Microlight Summit Jacket

Thanks to a brand new Pertex Quantum Infinity Weave that eliminates the need for stitching, the Microlight Summit is a windproof, lightweight down piece that is also warmer for its weight thanks to the lack of seams through the outside fabric. The fill is 750-fill-power down: the size Large is stuffed with 143-grams of it. Total jacket weight comes in at 455-grams, and retail price will be $325 USD and $400 CAD.

RAB Xenon Mitt

More of an emergency item than an everyday belay mitt, the Xenon uses 40g/m Primaloft Gold encased in a Pertex Quantum outer shell. The mitts weigh a scant 65-grams, including the stuff sack, and compress into a tiny package that you can throw into your pack for those unexpectedly cold days. $50 USD or $70 CAD.

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