PICKIN' AND CLIMBIN'
There has always been a strange mismatch between boots and crampons. Crampons have to be designed to fit a generic boot; boots a generic crampon. But Montrail hopes to change that with its newish I.C.E. 9 boot ($350), just now hitting retail channels after a long gestation. It's a high-end insulated leather boot, available with a matching gaiter ($85), and, best of all, a crampon specifically designed for the boot ($185). The crampon uses attachment points at each end of the sole, plus one in the middle. That lets a climber wear a semi-rigid boot for comfort, with the great ice-climbing leverage of a rigid crampon. I'm usually skeptical of gear "systems," but this makes sense and I think will work well.
THE FUTURE OF KAYAKING?
Fiberglass boats have always been the dreamboat for serious touring kayakers. But they're expensiveoften close to $3,000. In Salt Lake City, Dagger and Perception were showing boats made of a new dual-layer plastic called Airalite. It looks, weighs, and paddles like composite materials, but costs much, much less. The new Dagger Specter 15.5, a day-touring boat using Airalite, will run at $1,500, half the price of some composite boats. It's what I'm getting in the spring when I pop for a new boat, that's for sure. The Dagger people are talking seriously about abandoning fiberglass boats if the new material finds wide consumer acceptance.
DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH
Black Diamond had some new headlamps at the show. Its three-ounce Zenix uses a focused LED to throw out the light of a halogen; price is $42.50. Bibler, feeling the pinch from low-cost single-wall tents such as the Mountain Hardwear Waypoint, showed a new tent made with silicone-impregnated Epic fabric. Called the Lighthouse, it weighs a mere three pounds and sells for $369. Schoeller, the company leading the way in the soft-shell category, has come up with "nano-particles," tiny bits of material applied to a fabric surface that repel water, dirt, and stains. Mammut was showing the stuff in its new Cerro Torre soft shell, selling for $239. Manzella will soon introduce its new Expedition 850 glove ($50), which employs Polartec Power Shield and a tough synthetic leather. I wore a sample pair on Rainier in July, and was amazed by their warmth and dexterity. Finally, Garmin was showing a wrist-mounted GPS unit called the Forerunner 201, designed for hiking and training. It'll retail for $160.
IF I COULD BUY FROM ONLY ONE COMPANY...
It would be Marmot. They've always made good stuff, but in recent years they seem to have really ramped up their line of offerings and its quality. Their packs, jackets, layering clothing, sleeping bags, and tents all look great. I'm anxious to try the Equinox, a lighter and improved version of what has long been one of the better (albeit heavier) three-season tents on the market. Price will be $259. It has lost about a pound, and uses a new "knee"-pole design, which puts a slight bend in the pole a foot or so above the ground. In effect, it braces the pole against wind, while also creating more-vertical sidewalls. In bags, I liked the 15-degree Helium, which uses 900-fill down and superlight Pertex fabric to create a near-winter bag that weighs a mere two pounds (cost will be $399). Marmot is also expanding its hugely popular lineup of affordable, functional PreCip rainwear. New in spring 2004: the Rim jacket, with a revised formulation of the PreCip material that is more breathable. Taped seams, stash hood, arm and chest pockets, all for $189.
PICKIN' AND CLIMBIN'