OR Show — Day 2 Highlights

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | July 23, 2009      

First stop, check out WildSnow supporter B&D’s Dynafit “tech” compatible crampons. Bill has filled out his line, now offering standard sizes 80, 90, 95, 102,110 millimeters (and 120 or 135 available on special order).

All B&D crampons are now built with the slightly thicker alu Bill began using last year, and with a new reinforcement rib that’s bent up on top (see photo below).

Backcountry Skiing

B&D crampons for Dynafit bindings

Dynafit compatible ski cramps work best when they’re close to the width of your skis, snug so they resist any side-to-side torque. More available crampon widths make it much easier to achieve this good fit with various ski widths.

Backcountry Skiing

B&D owner Bill Bollinger is also working on a tech compatible binding heel unit.

Bill is also working on a sweet tech compatible binding heel unit (pictured above) that’s super light, and converts from having a centimeter of for/aft adjustment to an even lighter unit with no adjustment range, similar to other “race” style tech heel units.

Next, Pacific Outdoors. These guys make a variety of stuff, but what stood out for me was their sleeping pads. They’ve really gone overboard on the tech, even including Aspen Aerogel under the torso area. That’s the “nano” unobtanium stuff that insulates well in mere millimeters of thickness. Using body-mapped Aspen Aerogel in a sleeping pad was an application that immediately occurred to me when I first saw the stuff being marketed, that time in a shoe insole. So good.

Also from Pacific Outdoors: They’re known for their drybags, so they applied that technology to a series of reusable ziplock bags made of nylon fabric, with clear plastic windows. The “Pneumo” bags (sounds like a medical device, eh?) come in quite a few sizes said to match those of common ziplock plastic bags. I don’t know about you, but we spend a ton of money on ziplocks every year, for use as everything from cell phone drybags to storing snowmobile parts. I’ll probably not use my Pneumos for greasy car parts — but they’ll work great for the cell phone or our favorite $20/pound cave aged Gruyère cheese that’s worth treating like gold.

On to La Sportiva for my promised assignation with Stratos carbon AT boot. Sure enough, there she was, svelte and glowing, waiting… Whoops, sharing too many details there.

Backcountry Skiing

$2,200? Sure, in a world with $10,000 mountain bikes, what's a few more grand for high performance ski boots?

Let me just say that Stratos, at an estimated MSRP of $2,200, is perhaps a very expensive date. She’s cool though, in that the Stratos liner is incredibly well integrated with the shell. Thing is, carbon don’t flex, so the liner has to work with your foot to give a carbon boot the feel of a conventional ski boot. In Stratos this is done with an ingenious method of combining an interior strap over the ankle with the usual external buckle which closes the lower shell. Cuff of course has a one-step close and downhill latch system, and so forth.

Only problem I could see with this admittedly pre-production Stratos sample is a closure system that’s quite complex. The boot industry tried this with the Dachstein AT boot many years ago. The Dachstein had a cuff system that had to be closed just so, or it would break the first time you flexed the cuff. Problem was, few people would take the time to close the Dachstein correctly, so the boot never went over great even though it had an amazingly comfortable walk mode. Stratos didn’t look that sensitive to breakage, but definitely had a user learning curve for getting them on your feet correctly. It’ll be interesting to see if that flies.

Mainly, I was told Stratos is the “tip of the pyramid” in terms of a full line of AT boots to be eventually birthed by Las Sportiva. My hope is they’re all carbon. I mean, the future is now, right?

As for the initial sticker shock at the Stratos $2,200 MSRP, after thinking about it I realized we’re talking a culture that’ll drive a rusted out Subaru with $20,000 worth of bicycles on the roof rack and wear a $300 jacket while splitting firewood. A couple of thousand for ski boots? Pocket change.

I got away from my expensive La Sportiva date ASAP (especially after I figured out she was anorexic and only weighed 2 lbs) and headed over to the Brooks Range Mountaineering house of gadgets for some more level-headed geekism. Best thing over there (other than the Rocket tent blogged yesterday) is a new packable rescue sled which is used in “drag bag” style. In other words, constructing this sled with skis is not necessary, though optional.

Backcountry skiing rescue sled

Brooks Range backcountry skiing rescue sled system.

Skis really don’t make a great sled anyway, and they take time to construct, so for an appropriate injury this “drag bag” sled is a good idea. Fast. You’re a mile from the hut and someone blows out a knee. Throw ’em in the drag bag and they’ll be in the hut RICEing before you can say “watch out for that avalanche!”

I don’t know what it is about this OR trip, but it sure has a geek theme. So next stop was of course Garmin to play with GPS units for an hour. Oh the sacrifices we make!

I was having some trouble with Garmin’s GPS units not being what I thought of as user friendly. My Venture HC just seemed unnecessarily difficult to use for following a trackback, and I simply could not figure out how to accomplish certain things with the menus. Turns out most of my trouble with trackback was due to me expecting too much of the unit, when in reality I need the better Vista HCx that has an electronic compass which enables a more intuitive display of the track as you follow it. Which brings me to my main point about Garmin.

Garmin indeed has some impressive units, but their line is incredibly confusing with 27 (give or take a few) different handheld GPS “navigators” — and that’s not counting the wrist units. Even a shop employee related to Albert Einstein would have trouble keeping 27 GPS units sorted out in her or his little head, and forget a time harried blogger doing it. Garmin must have their reasons for this wealth of toys, but it seems crazy.

Shopping challenges aside, one of the most important features an alpinist or backcountry skier needs in a joystick controlled GPS is a control lock. Sadly, not happening with the Garmins of that ilk. As for the impressive touch screen units they were showing, I’m assuming these do not have a control lock in a conventional sense, but probably do have a way of blanking the screen so every bump and scrape doesn’t result in menus flashing and grinding their way to insanity. More about that when we get a test unit.

One last thing for today. I was looking around for cool stuff and found this high strength polymer carabiner. Not for climbing, but super light and very strong. Perfect utility biner for the lightweight backpacker and such. More info at ITN Military Products, though I don’t see this biner on their site yet.


Polymer carabiners from ITW.

That’s all the show highlights for now, more tomorrow or perhaps later today. Working it hard so we have lots of backcountry skiing gear review resources for the coming months — and the advertisers to support that!


11 Responses to “OR Show — Day 2 Highlights”

  1. Jason July 23rd, 2009 9:15 am

    Polymer carabiners are a little outta the norm. Kinda sketchy feeling, but I guess they’d work. Why else would the make them? $2,200 for a carbon boot is too much, but the first thing I thought of was the Flex. Your right carbon doesn’t flex, which is kinda cool, cause you would have to rely on some other technology to make it do so. Could this mean stiff AT boots? It’d be the Factor x10. :)!

  2. Jonathan Shefftz July 23rd, 2009 10:46 am

    I was wondering when someone would join all those Euros in small-shop Dynafit race heel production. I should have known it would be Bill/B&D!

    And Great to see Brooks-Range expanding its offerings.

    But La Sportiva should get its story straight on availability of their race boot.

    Yesterday, in response to my inquiry, I was informed:
    “The Stratos Rando is only available in Europe, and unfortunately we are not permitted to sell the Euro exclusive models in North America.”

    Today, in response to my “so why’s it being shown at OR?” I was informed:
    “If La Sportiva does decide to distribute this boot to the general public in the US, it may be over a year from now.”

    What a tease!

  3. Lou July 23rd, 2009 12:36 pm

    it’s all teaser, they’re only making 20 pair, or at least that’s what they said…

  4. Lou July 23rd, 2009 12:43 pm

    So long as the poly biner isn’t misused, it has some advantages other than weight savings: no inductive heating from nearby lightning strike, less dangerous shrapnel if hit by gunfire, and no richchet, when heated by the sun, doesn’t give you the “ouch” factor of a hot alu biner — stuff like that. Since gunfire may become common when in the middle of the mechanized non-mechanized debate, I’d prefer to have equipment that makes that situation safer.

  5. Lee July 23rd, 2009 1:22 pm

    I have avoided GPS’s (preferring good old map, compass and altimeter), but it seemed to take a decade before the ‘hi-tech’ wrist altimeters were “useable” i.e. showed you what altitude you were at and your total altitude gain/loss each day, instead of a thousand things I really wasn’t interested in, which resulted in me having to carry a 200 page instruction book (in 9 languages) with me to access the most simple data. Trouble with ‘hi-tech’ equipment manufacturers is that their R and D departments are run by IT geeks, always chasing the “latest thing”. Does anyone know if you can buy a mobile phone (cell phone) which just allows me to call someone? I don’t want a crap camera, a diary, an MP3 player, a digital radio, a voice recorder, 24/7 access to on-line porn, etc, etc.

    Perhaps I’m just too much of a traditionalist? Just give me simple, light and functional kit (at a reasonable price)…..is that too much to ask? Are you listening Garmin?

  6. Jonathan Shefftz July 23rd, 2009 4:54 pm

    [repost w/ tinyurl]

    “it’s all teaser, they’re only making 20 pair, or at least that’s what they said…”
    – For the entire world? Oh well!

    “Garmin indeed has some impressive units, but their line is incredibly confusing what with 27 (give or take a few) different handheld GPS “navigators” — and that’s not counting the wrist units.”
    – I just counted 35 units on their website for outdoor recreational use (excluding wrist units). Plus 20 recently discontinued units!

    “[…]it seemed to take a decade before the ‘hi-tech’ wrist altimeters were “useable”[…]”
    – What was the time lag between the introduction of the first wrist altimeters (Casio?) and the Avocet Vertech? (Might have been a decade, but I really don’t know.)

    “Does anyone know if you can buy a mobile phone (cell phone) which just allows me to call someone? I don’t want a crap camera, a diary, an MP3 player, a digital radio, a voice recorder, 24/7 access to on-line porn, etc, etc.”
    – Yes: after my wife temporarily lost her basic CDMA (Verizon) phone, she got yet another basic phone (for free, as part of their enticement to upgrade to something fancier) that makes phone calls and does almost nothing else. Very small too.

    “Just give me simple, light and functional kit (at a reasonable price)…..is that too much to ask? Are you listening Garmin?”
    – Yes, they seem to be: http://tinyurl.com/2x2cce (And only $81 at Wal-Mart.)

  7. Dave Field July 23rd, 2009 5:36 pm

    Its equally annoying that many of these high tech devices with unneeded features have poor battery life when compared with their earlier simpler versions. Its hard to find a cell phone that has batteries which last for several days anymore and the latest and greatest GPS units are typically good for a single day of touring before they need new batteries or charging. Not good for a multi-day adventure!

  8. Randonnee July 23rd, 2009 6:34 pm

    Ha ha! Do anti-snomo folks even have weapons?…quote-“Since gunfire may become common when in the middle of the mechanized non-mechanized debate, I’d prefer to have equipment that makes that situation safer.”

    As far as technology, I avoid tech when at play, since I have to use, increasingly, tech devices at my job. My wife and I have Trac Fones, and I do not even like to talk on that. I quit wearing my altimeter watch since I memorized the altitudes along the 10 or places that I go all of the time to randonnee ski. I will wear my altimeter watch for serious navigation in unfamiliar terrain. I give serious consideration to just getting the simplest light altimeter to carry instead of wearing a big watch. In my emergency kit I have a very light compass similar to a Boy Scout compass. Actually, I have never personally used a GPS, if I need it my friends or my Professional Forester wife can use the GPS, but then my wife is pretty sharp with a compass also.

  9. john Gloor July 23rd, 2009 7:00 pm

    I have doubts of the stratos’ longevity. I know that most DOT and snell helmets incorporating a carbon outer layer need to use glass or spectra fibers to have some flex. Helmet manufacturers have found that a pure carbon shell is too brittle and some give has to be engineered into the shell. Hopefully they have looked into this. They are also too pretty to walk over rocks. The real story is that this is similar to the fox and the sour grapes.

  10. James Bond July 23rd, 2009 8:56 pm

    Funny I get peppered with gunfire all the time in the backcountry, so I could see those polymer biners coming in pretty handy. Now they just need to refine those inflatable avalanche spheres that you can roll down mountains in.

  11. Jonathan Shefftz July 24th, 2009 8:46 am

    “Its hard to find a cell phone that has batteries which last for several days anymore and the latest and greatest GPS units are typically good for a single day of touring before they need new batteries or charging.”
    — My experience has been the other way around: the switch from analog to digital extended my cell phone battery life from hours to days, and the switch from gray scale to color screens has about doubled my GPS battery life. Also, for cold wx, lithium batteries extend GPS battery life to more like summer temps.

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