During a normal year—remind us what those are like again?—the Outside gear team heads to Denver for both the Summer and Winter Outdoor Retailer trade shows. We meet with brands in packed booths, raise glasses with public relations reps, and generally get the skinny on what the best new gear will be for the upcoming season. That obviously hasn’t happened in a while (although the show did happen virtually), and to be honest, we miss it like hell. So we emailed all the brands we know and asked them to pitch us anyway. Out of hundreds of products, these are the top three that we want to try for next winter—our virtual Gear of the Show winners.
On Running Cyclon Shoe and Subscription Service
We’re always skeptical when a company claims to “revolutionize” a sport, which is exactly what On Running suggests its latest project will do with running shoes. But we’re cautiously optimistic about Cyclon, which is both a new shoe and a subscription service. For $30 a month, subscribers receive the brand’s fully recyclable plant-based road shoe, log miles in them until they need a new pair, and return them to On to be turned into new ones. “It’s a novelty in the footwear sector and a huge leap into the unknown,” Outside contributor Tim Sohn wrote when the program was announced last fall. We think this model has the potential to have a big positive impact on the shoe industry’s footprint.
The biggest takeaway is how sustainable this model promises to be. On claims the shoe is 100 percent recyclable. It’s undyed, and the upper is made from a single cut of fabric to help reduce manufacturing waste. “Closing the loop”—instead of dumping more shoes in the landfill—is something other active brands are trying but haven’t yet accomplished on a large scale.
While this is an innovative way for runners to address the “environmental footprint of their consumption,” Sohn wrote, a plan like this won’t be successful if the shoe is a dud. On claims that its new seven-ounce, eight-millimeter drop model won’t skimp on performance. It has an aggressive rocker and is intended for uptempo training and racing. With its stretchy socklike upper, the Cyclon reminds me of lightweight shoes like the Nike Free Fly 4.0, a model I loved before it quickly lost its springiness and snap, which led me to discard it.
As I look at the cardboard box in my closet full of old pairs of road runners, the idea of having fresh tires—and a responsible place to send them when I’m done—feels very exciting. —Jeremy Rellosa
Atomic Redster S9 Gen S Skis
Buying nordic equipment is hard. Unlike their alpine counterparts, cross-country skis come in not only different lengths but also different flexes. Most of the time, picking the right pair requires the help of a shop professional who can help you calculate the optimal combination for your height and weight. Now, Atomic is offering a different system.
The brand’s new Redster Gen S ($960) will be the first skate ski to come in just one size, with two flex options—medium and stiff. The 183-centimeter length sits smack in the middle of traditional skate-ski sizing. (These models usually come in increments from 170 to 200 centimeters.) Atomic gave the Redster an all-new sidecut that’s designed to maximize stride efficiency without the need for a longer or shorter ski based on weight. It’s more exaggerated than usual, with a wider tip and tail. This does two things: it forces the ski to track inward rather than outward during kickoff, which boosts power, and it lengthens the glide portion of the stride. At the same time, the 183-centimeter length—which is shorter than usual for anyone over roughly 130 pounds—makes for improved agility. In theory, this means the ski is faster yet easier to maneuver than a traditionally shaped skate ski, and it eliminates the need for multiple lengths to optimize performance based on height and weight.
We haven’t put the Redster to the test yet, but the concept of a one-size-fits-all system that improves the skiing experience is extremely appealing. It could be a win for first-time customers looking for a simple buying experience and for families—siblings or spouses can now share. —Ariella Gintzler
The North Face Inferno Double Sleeping Bag
We’re big believers in double sleeping bags here at Outside. Why should you forego snuggles in the outdoors if you and your partner both like to sleep under the stars? Well, in the past there have been drawbacks: two-person bags are often bulky, heavy, or both, which limits their utility, especially in the backcountry. (We’re fans of Sierra Designs’ Backcountry Bed, which weighs four pounds, ten ounces, but we wish it were a little more packable.)
The holy grail for adventurous couples may arrive with the launch of The North Face’s Inferno Double ($1,000). This 3.1-pound bag was designed with input from high-altitude power couple Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison, who were looking for a sleep system to share on their numerous ski-mountaineering objectives around the globe. It packs down to under 30 liters, thanks to the 800-fill Responsible Down Standard insulation, and will take up much less space than two bags that add up to a similar weight. It’s rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and the fully recycled body material features a reflective aluminum coating for improved heat retention. The Inferno Double also features some nice touches like individual cinchable hoods, a draft collar between the two sides to retain warmth, a roomy footbox, and a shockcord to secure the bag to your pads.
All this means you won’t hesitate to haul the Inferno Double into the wild for whatever adventure you and your partner have planned. —Will Taylor