OR Show Gear Highlights – Part One

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 11, 2008      
Colorado backcountry skiing.
This guy was hanging out at the Trail Charge booth looking to get his dead devices running again, he needs their product.

Outdoor gear continues its slow but steady trend to higher tech,with minimalism still a strong influence. Human nature is to carry as many tools as possible (as pictured to right), but those tools continue to downsize.

In my view, electronics are perhaps the most important part of the trend. As our civilization testifies, electricity powers and empowers us. We take that into the backcountry in the form of headlamps; cameras; music players and more. As this evolves, we need more available power.

We get more electrons by carrying batteries with higher power density, such as lithium, as well as using photovoltaics where possible. Beyond that, we’re hoping to eventually see some sort of smaller fuel cells that work for outdoor recreation such as backpacking, and provide power to weight ratios that obsolete everything else.

I’ve been watching what Brunton is doing in this area, as they’ve got a nice line of battery packs and associated solar panels which are quite packable for human powered travel.

A new company at the show, Trail Charge, has also entered the backcountry PV arena with a very durable though heavier system. Their panels, bedded in polyurethane, are practically indestructible. More, they’re in a soft case system that folds out into a rigid unit you can orient at the optimum angle to the sun. Worth a look if you want an efficient and hardened system.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
Trail Charge PV system is modular, the panels are useful for a variety of applications. Too heavy for short backpacking trips, but they’d be perfect for longer expeditions or base camp use.

Beyond electricity, how about some other cool stuff to vibrate your minimalist bone?

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
Who would have ever thought they’d come up with a folding helmet? Yep, here you go. The sides slide up, and the back folds in. Stows in your pack no bigger than a large ham sandwich. We want one.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
What’s in the bag? We’ve asked for a truly lightweight shell to wear over our softshells in the even of extra severe weather. That’s what is in the stuffsack — a waterproof fully hooded hard shell from C.A.M.P.

Backcountry skiing gear.
It’s called the “Magic Jacket.” Weighs about 117 grams, clips on to your climbing harness like a draw or fits in you pack like an extra Power Bar. Must have.

Other lightweight news from CAMP: Their “lightest harness in the world” now has a buckle so it won’t fall off when not under tension. Excellent! Oh, and we liked their team randonnnee racing pack with the towing strap. I can think of some people I’d like to hook up to with that…

After elbowing my way through what seemed like all of the 20,000 people at OR, I stopped by Cloudveil for a hit of mountain clothing culture. Their latest minimalist peice is the BPM Jacket, which is said to combine the feel of a softshell and the performance of a hard shell. This thing looked really good, so another thumbs up from us. Well get a few in testing ASAP. By the way, Cloudveil is set to keep supporting WildSnow.com, so that’s a whole famly of thumbs up!

Backcountry skiing gear.
We’ll close today with the craziest thing seen (pictured above). But it just might work. These guys are making fabric insulation that fills with user controlled amounts of argon gas, thus providing optional levels of insulation depending on how far you inflate. This could potentially allow you to have one jacket or sleeping bag that worked in everything from mellow to sub-zero temperatures. We’re told that a few major clothing labels are working on incorporating this into product, so look for it. Should be interesting — but carry a spare gas cylinder in your repair kit! (Might be best for mountain biking, as you can inflate your jacket — or your tires.)

More tomorrow.


5 Responses to “OR Show Gear Highlights – Part One”

  1. BillL August 11th, 2008 10:37 am

    Looks like some sailing safety equipment…life jackets that wait to inflate until they get wet.

    Maybe they can use oxygen to make the jacket fully inflate in an avalanche, providing padding, less crushing weight of concrete snow, and extra O’s for breathing…?

  2. Lou August 11th, 2008 11:14 am

    Bill, yeah, I’ve always thought a good avalanche emergency breathing system could just be something that squirts supplemental oxygen at your face. Perhaps these guys, since they’re experts at working with highly compressed gas, could someday come up with something like that.

  3. Dongshow August 11th, 2008 12:30 pm

    Is the OR show still a drunken mess? While going to the U of U I remember sneaking in with a couple of passes from some Park’s and Rec students and having a great time. That was the show in January, but at the time it seemed like the main marketing method was to ignore Utah’s absurd drinking laws. Some company was pouring Mt. Gay and Coke and I drank so many I can’t remember what they were trying to sell.

  4. Lou August 11th, 2008 12:41 pm

    I wouldn’t call it a drunken mess, but it’s definitely a mess. With over 20,000 people packed into that small space, it’s gotten way too crowded. Happy hour is fun every day, but the crowding is making it more like a rock concert depending on where in the hall you are. They either need a bigger venue, or they need to jury out some of the cast iron cookware makers and clothing companies that crowd out the core companies.

    It’s also so crowded I’ve started wondering what it would be like in an emergency such as a fire. Scary.

  5. Dongshow August 11th, 2008 1:41 pm

    Lou, yea that’s really funny to hear about the Salt Palace being over run. I remember them building that thing for the Olympics and talking about how it’d serve the community for years, looks like it’s lasted 6.

    Is there any talk going around SLC about Kennecott’s proposed ski area in the Oquirrh’s west of town? I’d really love to see how they turn an open pit copper mine into a resort, could be very interesting.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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