OR Jan 2019: Apparel

Our ‘Highlights’ article has already covered the coolest piece of apparel we found: RAB’s Verglas Jacket. Check out the full write-up here. For all the other stuff, read on. In alphabetial order:

adidas Outdoor

The Primeknit Climaproof Jacket is a warp knit polyester elastic blend jacket with built-in 4-way stretch. The fabric is a 2.5-layer construction that is waterproof (10,000mm water column) and breathable (10,000 g/m2/24h) . The elasticity is remarkable — check out the photo!

If the fabric proves as waterproof as claimed, then this will be a remarkable addition to any alpine apparel collection. Men’s listed weight for medium is 413g and women’s at 407g. MSRP will be $225 USD (yes, really). The colours for both Men’s and Women’s are a bit reminiscent of another major brand’s experiment into ‘shades of grey’ colouring, so we’ll see how that goes, but I’m sure it’ll be popular with the city crowd regardless.

There is also a Primeknit Midlayer Jacket (this is the actual name) which is designed to maximize breathability by mixing up the different weave patterns through the jacket. It is also very stretchy, and quite comfortable, but feels a bit heavy for a mid-layer. A whopping 695-grams for a Men’s Medium or 584-grams for the Women’s Medium. $185 USD for what is sure to become your new favourite apres hoody.

Arc’teryx

Note: Arc’teryx were not at OR so other than the Proton LT which was shown at the Ouray Ice Fest, we haven’t seen these pieces in person but think it worthwhile to highlight them.

The Proton LT is getting a complete redesign for FW19. Not being 100% satisfied with the current Fortius Air 40 face fabric, the design team partnered with Arc’teryx Materials Research and Development to create a new, more durable, outer shell fabric in the form of Fortius Air 20. The new shell is supposed to be 60x more durable than the industry standard (though we have no idea what that actually is). Inside, there’s new Coreloft Compact 80 and 60 insulation, replacing the current Coreloft Continuous 65. The upgrade to both the face fabric and insulation promises for a more breathable version of the jacket with better insulation and everyday-durability. Is it warmer than the current Proton LT? I have no clue. The total weight of 400g for men’s medium and 350g for women’s small is the same weight as the current version for men and 10g less for the women’s which is currently 360g.

There’s a whole new Proton Pant coming, though bizarrely it comes in a Men’s version but not a Women’s — we’ve yet to see a case where Men require more insulation than Women! Regardless, the new Proton Pant will use Fortius Air 40 for the outer face and will be filled with Octa Loft insulation; this is the same stuff as used in the Proton FL Hoody, so we know it’ll be very breathable but also quite warm for its weight. The Pant will come in Short, Regular and Tall inseam versions to fit pretty much everyone. Size Medium Regular-leg will weigh in at 225-grams, which is barely more than a mid-weight merino tight. This might be a game changer! 

Also new is the Sigma AR Pant. Sigma seems to be the new climbing-focused pant line from Arc’teryx, and I’m excited. The Sigma FL (review coming soon) is the best new softshell pant I’ve used for climbing, and the Sigma AR basically looks to be its tougher and burlier big brother. Whereas the Sigma FL uses mostly highly-breathable Fortius 1.5 (great for those very aerobic activities) and Wee Burly Double Weave for reinforcements, the Sigma AR uses the same Wee Burly Double Weave in the body and even more durable Burly Double Weave for reinforcements. These will an an awesome climbing pant, plus they’ll come in an awesome dark-red (ahem, Infrared) colour. Cannot wait to get into these pants!

Black Diamond

Veronica is very excited that this parka comes in a fully-featured Women’s version!

Mid-way through checking out BD’s new gear, this jacket caught my eye. The Vision is a super burly parka and BD’s warmest insulating jacket that uses 800FP goose down insulation. This jacket also impressively checks not one but every checkbox I’d want in a belay jacket: big insulated helmet compatible hood, two way zipper, and large double inner drop pockets. The shell is a nylon ripstop with Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) and a DWR finish. LCP tech is way too technical for a quick summary but is meant to create a nearly indestructible fabric.

The jacket fits great — big and oversized, like a belay parka should be! The Men’s Medium is listed at 580g and Women’s Medium at 505g. Impressively, the Women’s version also has all the features of the Men’s jacket: double drop pockets, chest pocket, regular zippered outer pockets, two-way zip. Good job BD, I’m excited for this! $500 CAD MSRP. We want this now!

Fjallraven 

We were able to view a few items for the new Fjallraven fall collection, and the Bergtagen Insulated Jacket really stood out. After a bit of a mix up with agencies and regions, do to the silly fact that we’re based in Canada, we haven’t received much follow-up information or press releases regarding this jacket. But I did have the chance to try it on, and even without the fine details I was rather impressed and wanted to include it in this write up. I always thought of Fjallraven as a more casual city wear brand with bulky heavy fabrics but the Bergtagen Insulated Jacket felt unbelievably warm and practical.

The jacket is fully synthetic filled with G-Loft Supreme, a proprietary Fjallraven insulation. The oversized zippers give easy access into the huge hand/side pockets. A large hood, high collar, seemingly durable face fabric, and dual zipper give this jacket good potential for a warm belay jacket. A bit heavier than some of the other belay jackets, this jacket weights 670g for a women’s small and 770g for a men’s large. MSRP is 340 Euros.

Jack Wolfskin

Though not exactly associated with ‘proper’ climbing apparel and often seen as more of a lifestyle brand, we were nevertheless very impressed with two key pieces from Jack Wolfskin. The Argon Hoody utilizes a 100%-recycled insulation that’s taken JW around a decade to develop — we met with one of the designers, who had some insulation samples on hand to show the development and changes to the fill over the years. The latest iteration is fully in-house recycled and is called Microguard Superloft and aims to replicate down’s insulative properties while retaining the benefits of synthetic insulation. Coming in with 100g/m fill, the Argon looks to be on the upper-end of mid-weight jackets and claims to breathe well enough to fall into the active-insulation category. We’re very curious to try this stuff out. The Argon Hoody will come in both Men’s and Women’s styles, weighs in at 400-grams for a Men’s Medium and 350-grams for a Women’s Medium. MSRP will be $200 USD.

Not quite as innovative as the Argon, the Hydro Hoody has another trick up, or rather, on, its sleeve — Super DWR. Not content to claim its DWR is superior, we received a hands-on demonstration: a water bottle emptied onto the Hydro Hoody. The only other fabric or DWR-treatment that I’ve ever seen bead up and shed water this well usually involves the words Gore, Shake and Dry. I’m quite sure “Holy Shit!!” escaped my lips as I watched the water literally pour off the jacket without leaving a spot. JW’s party trick involves treating each fiber in the tightly-knitted fleece with Super DWR, a process that not only enhances the water-repellency but also increases durability as the DWR is integrated into the fibres instead of just being coated on the fabric surface. Weight is claimed at 510-grams and 402-grams for Men’s and Women’s versions, respectively. MSRP will be $150 USD which sounds like a steal for a near-waterproof mid-layer fleece jacket.

La Sportiva

My best creepy stalker look…

Sportiva is introducing a new plant-based insulation for FW19. The new Flocus insulation is derived from seeds of the Kapok tree, which grows in tropical climates. The ‘insulation’ is a naturally-occurring fibre which surrounds the tree’s seeds: the fibre is manually harvested but doesn’t require additional processing to harness its insulating properties. It’s mixed half-half with a more typical synthetic insulation to maximize performance and longevity (the mix is called Flocus; the pure-Kapok stuff is called Kapok). The  Kapok fibres are naturally anti-bacterial, as well as resisting moths and mites.

The Men’s version is called the Kopak jacket (yes, they just switched the A and O around). The Women’s version is called the Kobik (I want whatever the Sportiva designers are smoking…). The outer shell is wind-resistant Stormfleece and there’s a polyamide insert over the chest/torso area for increased wind-resistance. The Men’s Medium has a listed weight of 520g, while the Women’s version comes in at 420g for a size medium. $200 USD and $260 CAD.

Patagonia

The biggest news at Patagonia continues to be their push into recycled materials and responsible manufacturing. For FW19 all of Patagonia’s shells are going to be made with 100% recycled materials.

The new Ascensionist Jacket is no exception and stays true to its name. The jacket is pared down to just the essential components that you might need for light and fast ascents. The shell is fully-recycled Gore-Tex Active with Gore C-Knit backer technology for next-to-skin comfort. There are two high side pockets, an outer chest pocket, inside drop pocket and a helmet compatible hood. Remarkably, the Ascensionist shares those design features across both the Men’s and Women’s versions. $499 USD retail.

The Macro Puff Hoody is Patagonia’s newest synthetic belay parka for 2019. When I say 2019 jacket I actually mean it. With Patagonia’s high standard for sourcing recycled materials they were able to source sufficient amounts for a single release but after that it’s gone. The insulation in question is Plumafill, the same insulation as in the Micro Puff but with a higher weight (130g versus 60g in the Micro). The Plumafill insulation is complemented by a unique quilted construction to minimize stitching in the loft and maximize warmth. The quilted construction is also supposed be more packable for a smaller volume. The outer shell is water resistant nylon ripstop with a DWR treatment. The hood is helmet compatible (a non-hooded version will be available, though). The jacket has two zipped pockets, a chest pocket, and a two-way zip for belaying. There are dual drop pocket on the inside. $349 USD ($299 USD for the non-hooded jacket).

In a similar vein, the Micro Puff Storm belay jacket takes a break for next season — Patagonia were unable to create it to their standard using 100% recycled materials — so if you want one of the best new mid-weight synthetic belay jackets available, get it now (as a bonus it also happens to be on sale!)

The current Nano Air Pants were designed as part of Patagonia’s High Alpine Kit. Meant to be worn by hard-core alpinists, it was difficult to imagine them in everyday climbing use. Despite the full crotch zip on the originals, I’ve adapted them to be one of my favourite layers for cold winter days. I’ve used them as a light breathable layer under my pants when climbing in -20C but also, if not more-so, just as a casual, warm, pant when camping. The FW19 redesign removes the crotch zip and readjusts the ankle cuffs for a more comfortable, boot-friendly, fit. The outside fabric is redesigned to be more durable, although aside from campfire sparks I’ve never ripped anything on the last version. Side square-shaped pockets have been added, and the waist elastic band gets updated for a more comfortable fit. (In case you’re not really following what’s going and are somewhat confused by my love of the Nano Air Pants, it’s Veronica writing this stuff — I nearly died of overheating in these at -35C. -Raf.)

RAB

In case you thought apparel was slow at FW19, along came RAB… wow are there a lot of amazing new pieces of kit coming!!

The Infinity Jacket is RAB’s take on the quintessential water-resistant cold winter mountaineering parka. The Gore-Tex Infinium outer fabric utilizes Windstopper Technology for increased weather resistance. Designed for cold, cold, days, the Infinity is filled with 250g of 800FP goose down in a Men’s Large (that’s a pretty significant amount of down, and should prove to be very warm, especially when combined with the wind-proof outer fabric). The Women’s version is also 800FP but with 230g of down in a size 12. Of note, all the down in RAB’s jackets is Flourocarbon-free Hydrophobic Down developed in conjunction Nikwax for maximum water-resistance while remaining environmentally friendly. The Infinity has a double-slider zipper, zippered chest and hand pockets, as well as two internal drop-in pockets. $525 USD for a true belay parka.

Swinging the other way, the Photon Pro is an update on RAB’s synthetic belay parka. It uses an Atmos Pro Windproof outer fabric paired with Stratus recycled insulation for warmth. Somewhat confusingly the workbook lists the Stratus at 100g/m throughout, 80g/m in the side panels and underarm and a ‘total of 140g/m in the torso for core warmth.’ Our RAB contact wasn’t sure what was going on with the weights either, so for the time being let’s just assume that the Photon Pro has a minimum of 80g/m and a maximum of 180g/m of synthetic insulation. But consider this very much subject to change!

Our good friend Monte of Black Sheep Adventure Sports is very excited about this one!

Regardless, the Photon Pro will be quite warm and with a dual-slider zipper, two zippered chest pockets, two zippered hand pockets and two internal drop-in pockets it sounds like my new favourite belay parka. Add in a $250 USD price tag and I suspect this is the new DAS parka — synthetic, warm, well-featured, durable, and cheap. I think RAB has created a classic with this one.

Quite possibly the biggest news from RAB, all other things considered, is the move to Gore for their lineup of hardshells. Previously the brand had used a mixture of membranes but for FW19 everything is going Gore — with a few special considerations, of course.

The coolest one for climbers will be the Muztag Jacket which, in a first for anywhere, pairs Gore-Tex Pro with Gore-Tex Active for the first hardshell ever to feature two types of Gore-Tex. The Muztag is mostly 40-denier Pro for durability, with 30-denier Active around the neck and under the arms for enhanced breathability. Additionally, the Muztag has a new hood design for even better fit and adjustability — we didn’t have a helmet on hand but I have to say the hood articulation felt among the best I’ve ever tried. There are two large chest pockets, as well as a drop-in pocket and small zippered stash pocket on the inside. $500 USD retail for what appears to be the most innovative climbing-specific hardshell of FW19.

Matching the Muztag Jacket are the Muztag Pants. These are full Gore-Tex Pro in 40-denier with 300-denier reinforcement patches around the crampon instep area. These have an elasticated velcro adjustment around the waist but unfortunately no pockets. 460-grams in a Men’s Large and $450 USD retail. There’s a Women’s version, as well.

The Megaflux is a fleecy mid-layer with some cool features. Though RAB has a pretty amazing Polartec Alpha lineup, that type of insulation isn’t for everyone and the Megaflux fits the more traditional pile-based arrangement. Utilizing Thermic stretch fleece with a Matrix double-weave overlay on the chest and elbows for durability, the Megaflux looks to be an all-around mid-layer. It has dual zippered hand-pockets and chest-pockets, and an under-helmet hood. It fits great, and while not a modern active-insulation piece, I am curious to try this one out. $175 USD.

RAB have brought in a new designer to their technical design team, specializing in gloves. This has resulted in some impressive new glove models. Two gloves stood out for alpine and ice use.

The Fulcrum GTX Glove is the warmer of the two with Gore-Tex Grip waterproof technology for a secure, no-slip grip. Insulation comes from Primaloft Gold 80g/m with Primaloft Grip Control 60g/m on the palm. Pittards Armortan leather over the grip surfaces with additional Pittards ‘digital-leather’ reinforcement in high wear areas. A low-profile cuff with a Velcro strap keeps them secure. $115 USD 

The Axis Glove is a dextrous climbing glove utilizing Gore-Tex Infinium for a water-resistant and windproof outer. The Axis also uses Armortan leather for the palm and has the same additional reinforcement in high wear areas. It also adds knuckle protection for those awkward swings in featured ice. They feel very secure, and the bonded materials ensure a no-slip grip. At $85 USD it looks like RAB is taking on the gloves market in a serious way.

The North Face

TNF has been around for decades, and is one of the original brands of core alpine apparel. In recent years they’ve made back ground from being a watered-down casual apparel brand and have worked hard to regain some — any? — respect in the core climbing community. All was going well, I think, as there have been some seriously impressive designs coming out of the California-based company in recent years. But for FW19 TNF takes another step backwards — in my opinion — by announcing a new fabric/membrane but not giving out any details whatsoever. Futurelight is named equally as obnoxiously as TNF is being secretive about what it actually is. It’s supposed to be the be-all and end-all of waterproof-breathable materials tech but what I’m hearing from real-world users is that it’s great stuff for dry-snow skiing/snowboarding but doesn’t do so well in moist and abrasive climbing and alpine environments where durability and absolute waterproofness are primary concerns. So unfortunately with no proper information to go on (as we can’t find anyone at TNF that will talk to us) I have to call bullshit on TNF until some real-world testing proves it otherwise. Much like the whole ‘blend into the environment’ various-shades-of-grey campaign they had a few years ago, I’m calling this marketing-directed instead of actual user feedback on this one.

8 thoughts on “OR Jan 2019: Apparel

  1. Matt says:

    Thanks for the great update. Do you know if Patagonia is updating the entire High Alpine Kit (specifically the Grade VII Parka) or just the Nano-Air Pants?

      • Matt says:

        Just the length of the sleeves. I tried one on in one of their stores, and I seem to remember them being a touch short (I do have a large ape index though).

    • Veronica says:

      The Patagonia Nano-Air pants don’t have side ventilation. Based on the picture and description from Arc’teryx it doesn’t look like the the Proton Pant will have side ventilation either.

  2. Chris says:

    Another question or two for the Nano-Air Pants/Proton Pants:
    Is Patagonia staying with the 40 g/m2 FullRange? Also, how much Octa Loft insulation will be in the Proton Pants; any idea? Does anyone know that the difference between Octa Loft and CoreLoft Continuous and/or CoreLoft Compact? Great reviews, I look forward to them every year, thank you!

    • Veronica says:

      Hi Chris,

      Sorry for the delay Chris! We’ve been working on getting some of these answers for you! We don’t have all the answers yet but here’s what we know so far. The Octa Loft insulation isn’t a “filled” insulation, it’s a next-to-skin insulation. If you’re familiar with Alpha insulation it’s another example of next-to-skin insulation. The Proton pants will have 94 g/m2 but it it will be challenging to compare to other insulation of the same weight since it’s a different style of insulation. The Core Loft Compact and Continuous are both “filled” insulation so they are sandwiched between a face layer and lining. We’re collecting some more information on the differences between the Compact and Continuous and will keep you up to date once we know more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: