There's a lot of great gear coming for Spring 2011, and most of it is on display now in Salt Lake City at the Outdoor Retailer convention—the biannual mecca for gear junkies of all stripes. Here are a few items to keep on your radar:
Alien Cocoon...or Running Shoe?
Something's missing from the sole of the Electron, one of La Sportiva's new trail runners for Spring 2011. Notably: lugs. While just about every trail running shoe on the planet is built to grip gravel, sand, mud and rocks with toothy tread patterns, La Sportiva's designers are going in a radically different direction. The outsole is a smooth, corrugated rubber that sits below a very soft layer of polyurethane (spongy stuff). The material is so soft, that the rubber supposedly wraps around terrain features to grip them. They're calling it MorphoDynamic technology, and according to La Sportiva's North American president Jonathan Lantz, Sportiva's athletes are trilled about the smooth-and-low riding feel, and it performs great in mud and sand. It's one of the more radical recent design shake-ups in trail running, and I can't wait to test them. Oh, the rest of the shoe looks like this:
It's hard to argue that there's a big problem with stainless steel bottles these days—except maybe the fact that they're everywhere. Still, one company daring to think outside the metallic cylinder is — The Bamboo Bottle Company! It sounds crazier than it is—the bottle is really glass, wrapped in an protective sheath of bamboo. Glass is taste and chemical free, and the bamboo armor makes it pretty much indestructible. But you'll want it mostly because it looks awesome. ($25).
...are taking over. Besides Vibram's now classic Five Fingers (in new models!) and Merrell's new Barefoot collection (a slipper-like running shoe), New Balance is launching a new line of less-shoe-is-more models called the Minimus. It's about 4mm thick in the heel, instead of about 12mm—which forces you to run in a more flat-footed, barefoot-like way. There's one for road, trail, and—er—wellness (i.e., other stuff you sorta need a shoe for, but not much shoe). There's also a new Teva model called the Zilch--a minimalist sandal! Actually, this isn't for running—it's more of an ultralight sandal you can roll up and bring with you for camp, which definitely beats walking around a tent site barefoot. It's going to run you $80.
Return of the GriGri!
After 20 years, Petzl has finally redesigned the GriGri—the classic autolocking belay device that made being on rope with a novice belayer a far less hair-raising experience. The new device is much lighter (25-percent), can handle ropes as thin as 8.9mm (as opposed to the old device, which wasn't designed for ropes thinner than 10mm), and has a much smoother system for slowly lowering a climber—all addressing complaints climbers had with the original GriGri.
Portable Beer Bottle
Technically, this is not a thermos for your beer. It's the Carbonated Drink Bottle from Stanley. But the purpose is clear: It's dome-shaped cap and bottom (invisible) can handle the high-pressure of a carbonated liquid and sudsy goodness, and will keep 32-ounces of your brew fresh and cold for hours.
Knife As Backup Plan!
You'll almost certainly never be in a situation where your knife will be your chief survival tool. But when it is, you better have a damn good knife. Enter the Bear Grylls signature knife series from Gerber. Designed with input from the Discovery Channel's guru of getting out alive, the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Series Ultimate Knife has about a 5-inch blade, a magnesium fire starter and sharpening stone on the sheath, a hammer/pommel on the butt of the handle, and a partially serrated blade. It even has two holes on in the handle, near the blade, where you can lash it to the point of a spear. Careful now. This thing's sharp. ($60).
More tomorrow. Be good.