OR Show – Day One Highlights

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | July 22, 2009      

I’ve lost count of how many OR shows I’ve been to. Could be easy to burn out, but every OR has a few things that keep the WildSnow buzz going.

One of my first stops was a visit with the grand master of the backpack geek council, otherwise known as Graham Williams. Graham and his company Cilo Gear have worked up their usual stunning array of scientifically infeasible but nonetheless real Dyneema backpacks. I’ve got one coming that’ll work for backcountry skiing day trips. The NWD 30 liter weighs a pound. Gad, that’s heavy!

What is indeed more (or less), the NWD is made with this crazy non woven material that’s kind of like having a pack constructed from a large plastic bag — only this sack can stop bullets, and rocks, and sticks, and anything other stuff that makes regular nylon backpacks run scared. Cilo Gear website here.

Backcountry Skiing backpack

Cilo Gear 30 liter NWD.

My day began with a little Dynafit chat. I was psyched to hear the kings and queens of lightweight are still swinging a scepter in the shape of a Manaslu ski. More, they’re still pushing their ZZeus, Titan, and Gaia urethane freeride boots.

Titan is stiff enough to shut up even the most persistant “my AT boots are too soft” whiners, while ZZeus continues as a stiff but tour able version coming from the same mold. We’re assuming they will have relocated the instep buckle a bit on these, so it won’t bind in the cuff break during heavy flexing, as last year’s did for some folks. Gaia is of course the ski boot beefcake designed to keep the ladies happy, same features as the other Dynafit freeride shoes. Salewa North America (Dynafit) will be importing more Salewa product and more summer product, which will help their already excellent distributorship remain viable. We’ll be interested in how their line fills out.

Next stop, Tecnica, to talk about where they’re going with AT boots now that they’ve branded the Lowa boot as their Agent AT. Tecnica is serious about keeping AT in their line, though they’re up front about their need to concentrate on the alpine market.

Even so, we’re told Tecnica had two more molds made for the Agent, in smaller sizes down to 22! (Molds are expensive, so good to see that measure of commitment.) This is GREAT news for the ladies as we get at least 25 emails a season from asking how to get AT boots that fit pixie feet (don’t get me wrong, pixie feet are very attractive…) Tecnica also says they may slap rubber cleated soles on some of their freeride boots, and in a few years they’ll have a redesigned AT boot all originated by them.

Update, summer 2009: Agent small sized for winter 2009/2010
Size 25.0/25.5- sole length 298 mm
Size 24.0/24.5- sole length 288 mm
Size 23.0/23.5- sole length 278 mm

Moving along, I checked out Aspen Expeditions owner Dick Jackson’s new tent design. Dick has been working for years on a lightweight shelter for backcountry skiers. He got Brooks Range Mountaineering behind things and bingo, they’re showing a production ready one person (or two in a pinch) 1.5 lb tent that sets up using your ski poles and avalanche probe. We love stuff that honors the gear multi-use concept — this delivers the concept.

Backcountry skiing

Backcountry Skiing tent

Dick’s little love shack is awesome. I mean, what a cool thing for the alps. It weighs little more than a bivvy sack, but is way more comfortable. Don’t like how expensive or noisy the hut is? Stop in for a brew and rub shoulders with some Frenchmen, then head outside to your quiet domain under the stars. Dick’s tent is called the “Rocket.” He said the name comes from Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” book, wherein the guys land on Mars and discuss their sleeping logistics. One guy pipes up and unequivocally states “tonight, I’m sleeping in the ROCKET.”

Then, Cloudveil — an esteemed WildSnow supporter we’ve worked with since their company began as the first to really go with the softshell concept, and thus germinated a revolution in clothing design. Cloudveil is constantly tweaking their line. Sometimes that’s frustrating, as when you fall in lust with the perfect softshell, go to replace it, and the item you know and love has ceased to exist. But the upside is these guys keep innovating at a furious pace and coming up with great stuff. More, they’ve made their line much less confusing by dividing into three specific price classes. Our favorite item in the new lineup is the Albright Jacket, a hybrid hardshell softshell which offers the easy arm movement and fabric draping of soft shell, and the ultra weather protection of hard shell in the right places. Perfect for backcountry skiing. One is coming for testing.

I saved some of the best till last. Spot Satellite messenger is now downsized! Not only that, but the new unit has a few more buttons to access the features, a cover for the S.O.S. button (previously and misleadingly called “911” even though it didn’t dial 911 but rather contacted rescue people by whatever phone number necessary).

Backcountry Skiing Spot Messenger

New Spot to left.

Weight of the new svelte model is 5.2 ounces and it’s 30% smaller than the previous bulky unit. Only downside is you’ll now have another device that runs on AAA batteries instead of AA, and the battery life is slightly reduced – but still good for 4 full days broadcasting an SOS message. Durability is said to be even better, and it’s even got an LCD that indicates satellite lock. In a nutshell:

Spot Messenger for backcountry skiing.

The smaller 2009 model Spot also comes in a less garish silver/black color theme.

* 30% smaller and lighter than the original model at 5.2 ounces
* New enhanced satellite antenna for improved performance in foliage
or canopied environments
* Advanced GPS performance chipset
* GPS Acquisition light
* “Message Sending” indicator light
* Dedicated GPS Tracking button
* New, dedicated pre-programmable Custom Message button
* Protective covers over S.O.S and Help button to prevent inadvertent
message transmissions
* Illuminated buttons (much needed in previous unit, for true emergencies.)
* Choice of orange or silver
* Included case and neoprene fastening band

Rarely do you see a product this improved so quickly, kudos to the Spot folks for staying on the case!

That’s all for now, more later and thanks everyone for visiting WildSnow.com!


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


10 Responses to “OR Show – Day One Highlights”

  1. Charlie July 22nd, 2009 10:38 am

    Once the SPOT folks decide to integrate their messenger with a GPS display, I think they’ll find they have a lot more users…

    Thanks for the gear updates, Lou!

  2. Jason July 22nd, 2009 12:30 pm

    @charlie: been waiting for that for sure. I like the tent Lou! You hit it. Under the stars is the best. The feed sack backpack sounds great. Rugged as all can be. How’s it fit?

  3. Jack July 22nd, 2009 9:17 pm

    Very, very nice gear. Good article, Lou.

    I wonder how the gear would work in NZ? HINT! C’mon Louie! Give us another TR. Even if it’s inbounds stokage, write some more beta on the other side of the equator.

  4. Ed July 23rd, 2009 11:24 am

    @Charlie, I couldn’t agree more. My girlfriend bought me a Spot and told me I would have to pay for the subscription. I asked her to return it because I would rather have a GPS and know where I am than have a device that can tell anyone but me where I am. However, a GPS device that could send out a message just like the spot does, and also tell me where I am would be brilliant. In my mind it is always preferable to self rescue, rather than rely on someone else. However, there are obviously situations where this is impossible, but having both the rescuers and myself know where I am, makes it much less likely I will even need to be rescued.

  5. Jonathan Shefftz July 24th, 2009 8:53 am

    “However, a GPS device that could send out a message just like the spot does, and also tell me where I am would be brilliant. ”

    Given how popular Spot has been, and given that Garmin already has a line of GPS units with a second antenna for FRS/GMRS transmission, I’m surprised that Spot hasn’t been able to interest Garmin in redesigning that antenna to be used instead for Globalstar data network upload, integrated with GEOS rescue service.
    Sure it wouldn’t be as quick as just pressing the Spot “911″ button, but realistically, as opposed to EPIRB on a ship where you might have to jump in a lifeboat, in a backcountry recreationalist setting, if you don’t have enough time to scroll through a bunch of Garmin menus to select the rescue option (along with a bunch of confirmation “are you sure?” okay/cancel selections), then you’re not going to be able to wait out the rescue.
    Battery life would be an issue, but they could just warn users to always bring another set of batteries, as the GPS function is running down the batteries at a much faster rate than on a Spot.

  6. Lou July 24th, 2009 10:07 am

    I really thought the new Spot was going to have a small LCD that could show some info, such as basic GPS coords, sat-lock state, etc…. probably would add quite a bit of cost, but would be very cool.

    Main thing, the GPS folks seem to be seduced by things like adding cameras and touch screens, rather than really useful things like satphone link such as that used by Spot, or in the case of the Magellan that crashed on me, simple reliability and battery life (what a concept).

  7. thelawgoddess July 27th, 2009 3:06 pm

    I hope they’re talking a true 22 mondo shell for the ladies for once!!!

  8. John Lohr July 29th, 2009 12:51 pm

    I’ve been using Spot for almost a year now, backcountry skiing, kayaking and flying. These are mostly clear view of the sky applications. For a little plane trip from San Diego to Mammoth Lakes and back in late July 2009, here are the stats, which have been completely typical for the many tracks I’ve made.

    Up the Owens Valley, across the Sierras at Mammoth and back down the central Valley Spot was running the tracking function, which should send GPS position every 10 minutes. The unit failed to send position on 17 of 47 scheduled times. The gaps were sometimes in groups, suggesting the conclusion that it could be satellite coverage that’s to blame. The longest gap was an hour when Spot missed 6 consecutive position reports south of Fresno, which is completely flat, awful, country. Otherwise the gaps were distributed singly throughout the time period or in groups of 2 or 3. There was never a time when there was not a totally clear view of the sky. I had similarly erratic performance two months ago in Italy at sea, also with no obstructions.

    It works OK, but not as advertised. Depends on how fast you’re bleeding out whether you want one or not. The web site also could use some redesign and there have been bugs in the web software, which caused the notification link allowing friends to follow the track without logging in to the web site to be unexpectedly changed under some conditions. Spot said this was a known problem which would be fixed and may already have been. Customer support for me has been pretty good, although with a better web site you wouldn’t need it as much.

    John Lohr
    Encinitas CA

  9. Lou July 29th, 2009 1:56 pm

    Good feedback John, thanks!

  10. Jonathan Shefftz July 29th, 2009 4:12 pm

    Big difference in reliability for Tracking vs Okay vs “911″ – Tracking is far by the worst given the limited time available to send the message, the likelihood that you’re moving, and that the position of the unit being something other than perfectly horizontal. (The belt clip is certainly a misleading accessory!)
    Even putting Spot in a stationary horizontal position for ~30 minutes is not a perfect proxy for “911″ reliability, since if Spot can’t get a GPS fix during the Okay function, then no message will be sent. By contrast, for a “911″ message, the unit will upload to the sat data network (for which its antenna is more optimally designed) even if it doesn’t have a GPS position. Now that does mean that GEOS will have a Send-in-the-Cavalry alert w/o knowing where to send those horses, but if you left your planned itinerary with your emergency contacts, then that’s still a big advantage. (In my unit’s profile, for the 911 section I also include the email account and password for where I send my itinerary for solo trips.)

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