Q:

Is Anyone Making Outside-the-Box Gear Anymore?

Our roundup of the weirdest gear on the market.     Photo: Courtesy of Selk'Bag

A:We’re always on the lookout for bold designs while walking the aisles at Outdoor Retailer, the outdoor industry’s largest trade show. These are the gutsy, sometimes bizarre ideas that make us want to give the designers a round of applause for being willing to try something new. We’ll see how they pan out next season.

So without further ado, here are the six boldest ideas we saw on the show floor this winter.   

BikeBoards ($389)

BikeBoards founder David Bach is a fat bike rider who wanted to be able to play in deep snow. So he created BikeBoards, a company that makes skis to lock onto the front tire of your bike. Because the front wheel won’t get bogged down and your rear tire still has traction, you can plow single-track turns through semi-deep powder.

We’re excited to test the idea out.  

Sierra Designs Better Vest ($99)

I must admit I thought these insulated T-shirts (or “vests with sleeves”) looked ridiculous when I first saw them. But maybe that’s just my own preconceived notion of what a midlayer should look like. I have zero problem with vests, which are essentially insulated tank tops, right?  

As outlandish as they might look, these insulated T-shirts do have an edge over vests—warmth. Bodyheat from your core will typically seep out through a vest’s armholes, according to Sierra Designs. A short-sleeve insulated midlayer is a nifty solution to keep both your hands and your forearms warmer. These “shirts” also happen to be ultra-light and build with top-notch materials.

So here's to expanding my midlayer horizons.

SnowXu ($195)

Snowshoes are big, bulky, and hard to pack. So Deb Kreutzer, founder of SnowXu, decided to start making collapsible, two-pound snowshoes that break down to two-thirds of their original size.

Kreutzer and designer James Page make the snowshoes from aircraft-quality aluminum and double-coated urethane nylon, a durable material often used in river rafts. The goal was to make recreational snowshoes easier to store, but the product could have an impact on the snow safety community too.     

"People often admit that they should be carrying snowshoes with them, but it’s too cumbersome," says Kreutzer. "Even first responders should routinely carry snowshoes and this answers that need."

Selk'Bag Patagon ($259)

Selk'Bag is not new, but its designs still always catch our eye. The company manufactures wearable sleeping bags that make the user look a bit like a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

But even though you might look ridiculous walking around base camp in one of these suits, we do appreciate comfortable sleeping insulation that conforms to your body.

The Patagon, Selk'Bag's newest model, has removable booties so you can use your own footwear when cruising around camp in your sleeping bag. Selk'Bag claims the Patagon has a fit that promotes mobility, and it comes with velcro straps to roll up the sleeves.

Vasque Ultra SST ($170)

We thought the Hokas looked like clown shoes, but now Vasque has taken maximalism a step further.

The unique-looking Ultra SST has a Boa closure system that locks down the upper. The bright colored, generous outsole is also hard to miss. Vasque removed any excess material between the upper and the midsole on these shoes, a technique to supposedly give the runner a bit more cush.  

Five Ten Hiangle ($120)

Most beginner climbing shoes look and feel more like slippers than high-performance climbing kicks. That’s why I was skeptical when Five Ten told me they would introduce a downturned climbing shoe for beginners next fall.

It’s a bold strategy—downturned shoes are known for their aggressive, uncomfortable fit and could make a novice climber hate the sport even before she makes it to the crag.   

Five Ten doesn’t think that will happen. The logic—since most beginners start climbing in a gym, they have access to difficult routes early on in their climbing careers. Those folks will appreciate the extra pull they get with a downturned shoe, even if comfort is compromised. 

I warmed up to the idea when Five Ten told me that the shoe comes with beginner-specific features like a stretchy, comfortable leather upper and a stiff sole to give young climbers the support needed to learn to pull with their feet.

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