Outdoor Retailer’s move to Denver last year divided the outdoor industry and pretty much everyone we talked with at the show is not happy with the three-shows-per-year format: brands and retailers don’t know which shows to attend, and several veteran brands have dropped the show altogether (Arc’teryx and Petzl being the most notable ones for us climbers). Luckily, however, we got an exclusive look at the Petzl lineup while in Ouray and, as always, Arc’teryx have sent along their Press Kits and Workbooks so we are still able to report on what’s new for Fall/Winter 2019 with those two major brands. Here then, are out Standout Products for the FW19 season (most will be available around September 2019).
Grivel The Dark Machine and The Dark Machine X
These tools blew way everyone who stopped by Grivel: they are unbelievably light!! Grivel have basically taken the upper shaft from The Tech Machine Carbon and affixed hollow, full-carbon, handles.
The Dark Machine is ice climbing oriented, with angles that look similar to other current generation technical ice tools. The stock tool doesn’t have pick weights or head accessories but the balance is far up the shaft towards the head, and the tool feels like it wants to swing into ice all by itself. Overall weight is a scarcely believable 470-grams (by comparison the crazy-looking and insanely-light EliteClimb Raptor tools are 430-grams!). The Dark Machine has a small spike integrated into the bottom of the carbon handle (looks to be same size as the current Tech Machine tools), however neither the handle nor the spike are adjustable or removable. Grivel are still working on a final handle wrap so what you see is not necessarily what you’ll get. $420 USD
The Dark Machine X shares all the same design features as The Dark Machine, however it has a more aggressive handle angle designed with drytooling in mind. With a similar head-forward balance I think they’ll swing quite well, as long as the ice is very steep or featured. The full-carbon handle has small ‘grip’ spikes on the bottom pommel, however there is no clip-in point to be found. Weight is a mere 480-grams and they’ll go for $450 USD.
Scarpa Phantom Tech
The current Phantom Tech is already one of the lightest single-gaitered boots on the market but for Fall/Winter 2019 it will somehow manage to lose another 100-grams! There are so many changes within the boot that it’s hard to even call it a Phantom Tech: everything from the sole up seems to have changed so let’s look at it all from the ground up.
The outsole is an evolution of the current Vibram Zero Gravity in terms of tread design but it loses the ultra-light insert in favour of a more typical highly-durable all-rubber Precision Tech Roll sole in Vibram’s proven Mont compound (this is the same rubber compound as found on the Mont Blanc Pro, which seems to last forever in my experience). Tread depth doesn’t look to be quite as deep as on the Mont Blanc Pro, but I would expect these gaitered boots to see much less scree and mud use than their all-mountain leather cousins.
Further up the boot there’s a carbon fiber insole, with Aerogel inserts for added warmth (Aerogel is an extremely insulating material that is composed of 99.8% air). The upper boot now has more insulating layers, as well: there’s some Primaloft Silver in the lining, Primaloft 100 and Micropile in the shell and there’s a new HDry waterproof membrane that is direct-laminated to the outer boot.
There’s also a new zipper which is very supple, thanks mostly to the much smaller teeth as compared to other boot zippers. When I first saw it I was afraid it might signal the return of the split-zipper syndrome we saw with the Phantom Guides but after putting the boot on I don’t think this new, much smaller, zipper is anything to worry about.
The new boot feels like it fits a bit wider than the current Phantom Tech: I am in favour of this as the boot feels incredibly comfortable on my feet (even though the sample-size EU 42 is much smaller than my typical 43.5 sizing) however Veronica’s narrower feet weren’t as happy with the added room (she’s typically a 41 so was a bit loose in the 42’s we got to try on).
As mentioned before, weight drops an incredible 100-grams per boot to a claimed 730-grams for a size 42. In other good news, the MSRP is also lower: $699 USD (vs $750 for the current model) and $799 CAD (vs $880 for the current model). Solid, Scarpa.
RAB Verglas Jacket
The big news is that RAB will be partnering with Gore for FW19, which means a lot of cool new jackets. The coolest of them all has to be the Verglas, which uses Gore’s Infinium Persistent Beading Technology (look up Gore Shakedry on YouTube — all this stuff keeps getting re-branded, but it’s more or less the same idea just without the taped seams). With Infinium PBT the outer face fabric is removed so what you see on the outer of the garment is actually the membrane.
The best description I can come up with is that water beads on the outside of the Verglas as if it were glass: yes, it is that amazing and as far as I know the membrane/fabric is 100% waterproof and windprood and extremely breathable. This particular jacket uses stitched construction without taped seams so it is not waterproof but it is very, very, weather-resistant. Additionally, the upper torso and arms have stitch-free overlays for added weather-proofing.
Inside, the Verglas is filled with 750-fp hydrophobic down — 130-grams in a Men’s Large and 120-grams in a Women’s 12 (so, Large?) — while the hood uses synthetic Stratus insulation. The zipper is a YKK AquaGuard with a synthetic-insulated baffle, though unfortunately it is not a dual-slider. There are two zippered hand-pockets and a zippered internal chest pocket, however.
Weight for a Men’s Large is claimed to be 470-grams, while the Women’s 12 (aka Large) comes in at 430-grams. Retail price for either will be $375 USD.
Though I have been climbing on Petzl’s Lynx for years, I never got along with the Dart — while I love the low weight and precise front-point, I don’t like the underfoot point distribution and lack of anti-balling plates. Enter the new Dart.
The new Dart uses the same replaceable front-points as the Lynx and D-Lynx crampons, so it effectively replaces both the previous Dart and Dartwin crampons. The new Dart adds some much-needed ‘security’ points between the third and fourth points, as well as smaller points underfoot for added security when standing on mushrooms or other ice features. The anti-balling plates are Petzl’s semi-rigid design and can be easily removed for additional weight reduction.
For me the biggest and most important change, however, is the somewhat splayed-out inside tertiary point — I climb on another brand’s mono-point crampon solely because it has this aggressive point — but it looks like Petzl have taken a cue from their own D-Lynx’s ultra-aggressive design and adapted it for all-around ice and mixed climbing use. I’m stoked!
Weight is not yet finalized but as we’re hoping to receive early samples, I’ll post a detailed preview as soon as possible. Retail prices for the US and Canada are also not set yet, but the new Dart will go for 220-Euros.
Cassin Alpinist Tech
In a complete turn-around from the above crampon, Cassin have taken their modular Blade Runner platform and turned it into the fixed-point, lightweight, Alpinist Tech.
These things look purposeful: there’s the hooked front point, the secondary helper point, and the very aggressive secondary and tertiary points, all hooked up to a plain black heel section with properly large winglets to ensure proper boot fit. The linking bar is micro-adjustable to ensure proper fit of the heel-riser into the heel section of your boots: I know this sounds complicated but if you haven’t used Cassin crampons before it all starts to make sense once you start fiddling with the thing.
There’s also what looks like a new front bail, with a more pronounced ‘basket’ that looks like it will fit better onto the low-profile toe-bails found on modern ice boots. The heel section also gets a redesign and now has three distinct height options as opposed to the previous screw-adjustable height positioning.
The Alpinist Tech ships stock with anti-balling plates but these, of course, can be removed for additional weight savings. Weight is 405-grams per crampon, though this is without the anti-ball plates installed. Price is set to be $250 USD.
Arc’teryx Alpha AR 55 Pack
Though the Alpha AR 20 and 35 packs have just been released (look for a review coming in the next week or two) it’ll take until Fall of 2019 for the 55 to arrive. The Alpha AR packs use a brand-new fabric that is interwoven with a liquid crystal polymer grid (I wish I understood this well enough to explain it, but all I know at this time is that the fabric is ultra-durable and after months of use I haven’t put a scratch onto it).
The 55 will have all the usual features you’d expect of a modern Arc’teryx pack: removable top lid with two zippered pockets, removable framesheet and back panel, secure ice tool carry, dual side-lash straps and low-profile hipbelt. The coolest feature of this pack is the WaterTight side-zipper for easy access.
Weight is claimed to be 1334-grams in a size Regular, with a stripped weight of 960-grams. Pricing isn’t set yet but I’d expect around $300 USD and $350 CAD. Unfortunately it won’t show up (initially, anyway) in the light green colour shown above but rather in the grey-ish ‘Robotica’ of the current 20 and 35 packs.