Note: The products you see and read about here will be available for the Spring/Summer 2019 season — generally hitting stores around March/April of 2019. Exceptions to this are noted in the text.
I already covered RAB’s waterproof-softshell Kinetic Alpine and Kinetic Pants in the New Gear Awards and other than those two there really wasn’t that much awesome new kit out there in terms of apparel.
Windshells were all the rage at Outdoor Retailer this summer; it seemed like there was a new ‘lightest’ wind jacket in almost every booth. In fact, most gear seems to be getting lighter but thankfully without compromising functionality (though with a few exceptions I would not expect much in terms of durability from this whole ‘lightening’ exercise).
Black Diamond Deploy Wind Shell
Adding a whopping 48-grams to your pack (for a Men’s Medium), BD’s Deploy is the new champ of ultra-light wind shells. Utilizing a super fine 5-denier fabric exclusively sourced from Japan and a world-first YKK Super Lightweight zipper, the Deploy stuffs down into a tiny package (the built-in stuff pocket is integrated into the collar, of all places!) capable of fitting into a chalk bag pocket (you know, those small ones that nothing else seems to fit into, except maybe a couple keys and half a Clif Bar) or into the specially-designed pocket on the new trail-running specific Distance packs. Like everything else Uber-lightweight and high-tech, you pay a lot per gram: $160 USD and $215 CAD. Men’s only.
Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell
Over twice as heavy as the Deploy, the Distance nevertheless weighs just 98-grams (Men’s Medium) — and also features a revolutionary new waterproof-breathable technology, making it arguably the world’s lightest hardshell jacket. Dubbed Breathable Water Protection Technology, the treatment was developed by Green Theme International to be as environmentally-friendly as possible and is both PFC-free and water-free (I’m not sure if the irony is intentional). Unlike most DWR-treatments, the BWPT is fused directly to individual fabric fibres resulting in superior durability and performance, and will never require re-spraying or re-washing to maintain waterproofness. Very cool (assuming it all works as advertised — I’m ever the skeptic!). The Distance stuffs into its own chest pocket, and will retail for $130 USD and $170 CAD. Men’s and Women’s versions will be available.
RAB Windveil Jacket
Not quite breaching the 100-gram barrier — but yet maybe it will? — RAB’s Windveil is listed as weighing 115-grams. However, RAB’s sample sizes are Large so I suspect that a Men’s Medium might squeeze in under the magic century mark. Either way, it’s still very, very light and is perhaps more climber-friendly than the other running-oriented pieces: there’s a noticeable amount of stretch throughout the jacket and the chest-level snap-closure combines with a harness waist belt to mostly-close the jacket for wind protection while maximizing breathability. There are also lasercut under-arm vents and a drop-hem back. It stuffs into its own chest pocket, and of course has a carabiner loop for clipping to a harness. $125 USD and $150 CAD. Men’s and Women’s versions will be available.
Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket
Unfortunately in the chaos of the booth I didn’t snap photos of the Houdini Air but it’s everything you’d expect from Patagonia: great fit, nice attention to details in the tapered cuffs that keep the back of your wrists covered and a single-pull hood adjuster. The new fabric is more breathable than that of the ‘classic’ Houdini and should feel better next-to-skin thanks to a soft texture on the inside. 116-grams, a PFC-free DWR finish and, like pretty much all the others, it stuffs into its own chest pocket.
Adidas Outdoor Agravic Windweave Jacket
Featuring yet another fabric technology, the 144-gram Agravic Windweave utilizes a body mapped weave to create different air permeability zones in the fabric to optimize breathability and warmth as needed. The Windweave has a PFC-free DWR-finish and an adjustable hood and hem for increased weather protection. There’s a bit of stretch to the fabric, too, and the jacket stuff into its own chest pocket. $139 USD in both Men’s and Women’s versions.
RAB Flashpoint Pants
Not a windshell but so light they might as well be mistaken for one, the Flashpoint Pants are designed to complement RAB’s ultralight Flashpoint Jacket and Pull-On waterproof shells. At just 90-grams, the Pants use the same 3-layer Pertex Shield fabric for effective wind- and water-proof protection. No-frills features like an elasticated waistband and minimalist cuff drawcords keep the weight down, and the whole pants pack into a stuff-sack that’s smaller than an American-size beer can (that’s 330ml instead of the standard European 500ml). $200 USD and $240 CAD.
I’ve already detailed the two most impressive ‘pack’ items in the New Gear Awards post: the CiloGear ‘Squares’ that I think will be the go-to gear hauling / stash bags for the backs of pickup trucks and car trunks everywhere; as well as Alpine Luddites’ phenomenally well-thought out and beautifully put-together custom alpine packs / wall art.
As well, the team over at Blue Ice have redesigned their core Warthog and Dragonfly packs and the new ones look awesome.
Years ago I had the original (green) Warthog 26L and loved it — except for the smallish size. The 3rd generation of the Warthog will come in a larger 30L as well as a proper alpine-sized 45L. Both packs share a design ethos, but the 45L has a few more features and weighs just 820-grams, which is about as light as you can get for a fully-featured 45L pack, so I’ll focus on it here.
The new Warthogs have clean, thermoformed, semi-rigid back panels and a single, removable, aluminum stay for a light but supportive construction. The top lid is of the non-removable fold-over variety and has a small pocket on the inside, as well as functioning as the rope attachment system. There’s a simple tool-carry system consisting of aluminum tabs on stretch cord for the head and velcro loops for the shaft. The compression straps are easily removable, and there’s also an included helmet-mesh for strapping your helmet to the outside.
The Warthog 30L weighs a claimed 720-grams, strips down to 600-grams, and will retail for $140 USD. The 45L weighs 820-grams kitted out and 700-grams stripped down; it will cost $180 USD.
Also fully redesigned are the Dragonfly packs: an 18L that’s ideal as an all-purpose daypack or largish lead pack, a 25L for those who like to pay attention to how they pack things, and the one I want the most is a 45L that weighs just 656-grams despite being built with (relatively) burly 210D ripstop nylon.
All three packs feature tool attachment systems as on the Warthogs, have flappy, non-removable lids and an ultralight Aerolight 3D-air-mesh suspension system. The 18L weighs in at 372-grams (308-grams stripped) and will retail for just $70 USD. The 25L comes in at 481-grams (390-grams stripped) with a $90 USD price tag. Now, back to that 45L…
I’m quite sure that other than some (very expensive) fully-custom (and probably Spectra/Dyneema) packs, the Dragonfly 45L will be the lightest production pack in the world that is an actual 45L-capacity (and, no, the 660-gram Arc’teryx Alpha FL 45 doesn’t count — it’s really a 33 with a max capacity of 45, as you can read here.)
With a stripped weight of 473-grams, I don’t think anything else even comes close to the 45L in terms of a weight-to-capacity ratio. The 45L was designed by athletes on the Blue Ice team specifically for tackling 8000m peaks, so I can only surmise that it’ll be both durable and easy-to-use with big winter gloves. The lid closure is the same as on the other packs, with a simple aluminum buckle serving as both the lid closure and rope-carry system. The side compression is done with a cord instead of straps to save weight, and all the other straps are as minimal as possible while still providing durability and functionality. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these packs as it looks absolutely amazing, plus it’ll retail for just $160 USD when it hits stores in Spring 2019.
The new Mammut Trion Spine packs feature the ‘Mammut Connect’ system which is a semi-floating suspension featuring interconnected pivot points at the shoulders and hips to better follow the body’s movement while walking. Mammut had a handy pack loaded up with some weight and the suspension does make the pack feel lighter than you’d expect and it kinda ‘floats’ on your shoulders and hips. Very cool.
The Trion Spine packs will come in Men’s 35, 50 and 75 liter sizes and Women’s 35 and 50 liter styles and have all the usual features you’d expect from any modern high-end pack: huge zipper access, both technical and mountaineering ice axe holders, removable lids and burly, weather-resistant, fabrics. Prices will be (Canadian) 35L – $400, 50L – $450, 75L – $500 (yes, the 35L is going to be that much — apparently this spine-tech stuff is pricy!)
And finally, not climbing packs but clearly inspired by haul bag design and BD’s current Creek series of packs, the BD Street Creek 24 urban daypack looks (to me) like it’d be pretty ideal for cragging thanks to burly fabrics and cool stow-away rain cover (aka rope and/or helmet carry system, in my mind). There are internal and external pockets for keys and wallet and phone and such, and an externally-accessible 15-in laptop sleeve for keeping your guidebooks bend-free and close to hand. At $90 USD and $120 CAD this looks like a great all-purpose pack.