It's not easy predicting what the future of gear design will look like, but these four ideas just may be the next big thing.
The Gear of Tomorrow: Wired Ski Poles
The lowest-tech piece of ski gear is finally getting a high-tech makeover. Neva carbon poles, developed by Salt Lake City's SlopeScience Backcountry Research and debuting this winter, feature an inch-wide screen atop one of the grips. Paired with your phone, it displays text messages and caller ID, temperature, slope angle, GPS location, and elevation. You'll need a headset to have a conversation, but you can swipe the screen to take a call without removing your glove.
CHANCE OF SUCCESS: 2/10
The Gear of Tomorrow: Barefoot Socks
The minimalist movement has transformed the running-shoe landscape, and we’re beginning to see its influence in other footwear, too. Companies like Vivobarefoot now make everything from barefoot-inspired casual shoes to slipper-like high-top hikers. So we shouldn’t be surprised that someone decided to jettison the shoe entirely. Swiss Barefoot’s Protection socks are a Kevlar and cotton-poly-spandex blend, and are designed to be worn by runners instead of shoes, not in them.
CHANCE OF SUCCESS: 1/10
The Gear of Tomorrow: Magic Coating
Here’s how it works: you send $59 and your smartphone to Liquipel, a nanotechnology company in Southern California, and it’ll coat the device with a special sauce that will make it completely waterproof without a case. How’s that? The handset is placed in a low-pressure vacuum chamber and then treated with a water-repellent vapor. Sound too good to be true? We didn’t believe it either, until we saw phones functioning just fine fully submerged.
CHANCE OF SUCCESS: 8/10
The Gear of Tomorrow: Wool Puffies
Having shed its itchy reputation to become the performance base-layer fabric of choice, wool is now looking to give down a run for its money. SmartWool claims that two of its new jackets, stuffed with a springy wool insulation dubbed SmartLoft, have a higher warmth-to-weight ratio. Ibex, meanwhile, adds a cornstarch derivative called Ingeo to its Wool Aire fill for added durability and volume, making its entire line of insulated apparel machine washable. Ibex claims that its products are more compressible and breathable than synthetic alternatives, while SmartWool professes to regulate temperature more efficiently. Because they keep you warm even when wet, both options are superior to down.
CHANCE OF SUCCESS: 7/10