I love going to the Outdoor Retailer Show. The continual evolution of backcountry gear for both men and women is exciting to see. Sifting through products covering over half a million square feet of convention space is the task. Every year I try to improve my approach for dialing in on news that will be the most relevant to you as ski tourers.
This year I challenged myself to report on one thing from each meeting that is truly exceptional. I failed. As I sort thru my notes and photos, I just can’t narrow it down that much.
So, to wrap up my Outdoor Retailer Winter Show experience, I’m resorting to the Sears catalog approach. Here are some of the highlights. And, I could have gone on and on.
La Sportiva’s new plank is the Vapor Float. Made with the same construction as the Vapor Nano and Vapor Svelte, it’s fat but light — 117mm underfoot with stated weight of 1,400g per ski. MSRP, $1,200. We’ll have fun testing these!
Vapor Float specs for 178cm:
Spectre 2.0 and Sparkle 2.0 are 5% stiffer than the original 1.0 models, while providing 60 degrees of ankle rotation. Available fall 2016, MSRP $625
Spectre 2.0 and Sparkle 2.0 specs:
We’re fans of Mountain Equipment. The mission of the British company is to provide top quality gear at reasonable prices and they pursue their goals relentlessly. So much so, one of their product engineers has the only PhD in the world specifically related to the structure, properties and use of down in outdoor equipment. “Dr. Down” spends his time optimizing down fill weights, densities and distribution to help give Mountain Equipment products the best thermal performance and compression recovery with minimum weight.
Mountain Equipment’s Trango men’s jacket has 700 fill of teflon treated down, a water resistant treatment that lasts longer after multiple washings. The outer shell is lightweight Helium 30. The jacket is box baffled in the body for warmth with stitched through construction in the arms and hood to make it lighter and more flexible. MSRP, $300.
The Prophet Jacket features Gore-Tex Thermium. Pitched as a lightweight “highly water-resistant fabric” designed for insulating apparel. Marketed as added protection, without sacrificing pack-ability, and durability. The Prophet is seam-sealed and insulated with Primaloft Gold. It’s said to be water resistant, breathable, windproof and durable. Packs up small and weighs about half a kilo. MSRP, $350. Prophet pants available too.
Rachel is the green queen in Mountain Equipment’s women’s Transition jacket. Polarloft insulates the body and side panels are made of a wool blend for stretch. Lightweight nylon outer fabric makes it windproof while still breathable. Two zipped side pockets, one of which you can pack the jacket into.
The Moreno is a warm, shearling-style fleece jacket. I like it for it’s retro look. It’s super comfy and it will make you look good on the street or cuddled up with a book in a hut. 100% polyester, available fall 2016 for men and women.
Skiing is our life and we live in our ski socks. Honestly, Lou wears them 24/7. Look in his sock drawer and you’ll see one brand, one style — Darn Tough lightweight over-the-calf, black.
During our meeting with Darn Tough, I was happy to learn the company is doing well and growing. This past year alone, overall sales have increased over 40%, and sales in the specialty ski segment increased more than 100%. They bought 60 new knitting machines and hired 115 new employees. All 235 employees are based in Vermont.
Most know that Darn Tough socks are guaranteed for life. They’ll replace them even if your dog uses them as a chew toy. A tip I learned during our meeting: they recommend turning the socks inside out to dry at the end of the day. Do this and you can wear them 30 days straight, stink free.
Meridian Line T-shirts sport vibrant colors and lovely sketches by our favorite artist adventurer, Jeremy Collins. On top of that there’s six recycled water bottles in each shirt and the fabric is surprisingly soft.
New from Yeti is the Hopper, a leakproof portable cooler. HydroLok zipper, also used in hazmat protective gear, seals it air and water tight. The tough shell fabric is waterproof and the inner liner is made from food-grade material. $400.
Insulated Yeti Rambler bottles have an extra wide opening for ease with drinking and cleaning. Stainless steel with double wall construction. Comes in 18, 36, 64 oz. MSRP starts at $39. Available spring 2016.
Outdoor Research Lodestar Sensor Glove is one we plan to test. The surprisingly lightweight glove has insulating Polartec high loft fabric on the back of the hand that wicks like fleece. Inside is cozy grid microfleece that complements the breathability of the outer fabric. The palm is pliable goat leather with touch-screen compatibility on finger tips. Made for recreation in colder temps, I think it will be quite nice for ski touring. My hip old Kinkos might have to stay in the cabin. Unisex sizing, $99.
New for fall 2016 and designed for backcountry skiing and skinning is the “soft hardshell” Skyward jacket and pant. Outdoor Research’s AscentShell fabric is waterproof, breathable, and hem-to-bicep zippers gives you more venting when you need it on the skin track. Fully seam taped with helmet compatible wire-brimmed hood. Pants have zippered thigh vents, integfrated beascon paock and internal gaiters. Available for men and women, jacket $350; pants, $299.
I remember how impossible it was to find a good sleeping bag when Louie was little. One of Lou’s old bivvy half bags served the purpose and over the years it’s been used by many of our young friends. But now, Big Agnes fills the niche. They’re one of the few companies that make a expedition worthy kid’s sleeping bag. MSRP, $70.
K2 continues to offer backcountry skis. The Coomba is the same as last year’s Coomback, but with new graphics. Wayback and Talkback have new topsheets as well.
Coomba 114 specs:
Coomba 104 specs:
Wayback 96 specs:
Wayback 88 specs: