At Outside, we try our best to reserve judgment about gear until we’ve actually tried it. Most of the time, we don’t know how a product will surprise us until we’ve taken it out in the field. But sometimes we’re just plain excited. The following three pieces were pitched to us for our Gear of the Show awards for Winter Outdoor Retailer 2021. While they didn’t make that cut, we can’t wait to get our hands on them and put them through some thorough tests.
Salewa Ortles Couloir Ice Climbing Boot
Ice climbing boots need to be stiff. It’s what allows you to kick hard and “stand” up, even when a good portion of your body weight rests on just the front points of your crampons, sunk a half-inch into the frozen flow. But stiffness comes with trade-offs. Ice boots tend to be clunky to walk in, and even the lightest among them are relatively heavy, which means they’re only good for climbing. Salewa’s new Ortles Couloir boot will be the first to truly change that paradigm, resulting in a tool that will be appropriate both for daily wear on alpine expeditions and while swinging tools.
Weighing just 725 grams, the Ortles Couloir will be the lightest ice and mixed climbing boot on the market when it hits shelves this September. There are plenty of lighter-weight boots for mountaineering, but none that are designed to also scale steep, frozen waterfalls. The Ortles Couloir is a single boot (no separate liner) with a low-cut, lace-up bootie underneath an integrated, stretchy, waterproof gaiter. But the real magic comes from an external carbon-fiber exoskeleton that goes around the back of the boot, up the ankle, and around the gaiter, enabling a stiff and supportive yet ultralight fit. A super-thin Vibram Litebase outsole lends still more weight savings, while an exaggerated midsole rocker yields a more natural walking stride than most other ice boots. The $1,000 price tag ensures that this is a niche product for an even smaller group of enthusiasts, though over time the technology may trickle down into more affordable boots. Until then, we still can’t help getting excited. —Ariella Gintzler
Elan Voyager Skis
When we saw Elan’s new Voyager ($1,800), a folding all-mountain ski, it immediately raised some questions: why, how, and what could go wrong? It’s not the first folding ski ever, though that title also goes to Elan for the backcountry-ready Ibex Tactix ($2,000). This version is made with the traveling skier in mind: along with the included check-in-compliant roller bag, in theory it makes storing and getting to the slopes with your equipment easier, since you wouldn’t have to lug a large bag. Our staff’s experienced snow vagabonds, however, are skeptical that this is a major problem: modern ski bags are well designed, oversized luggage typically doesn’t take much longer to arrive at baggage claim, and most ski town–capable cars have plenty of room for gear.
But for those skiers hell-bent on saving as much space as possible, Elan went the extra mile. The Slovenian company says it spent the past decade honing the Voyager’s folding mechanism to make it bombproof enough for all-mountain use and repeated folding and unfolding, while maintaining a smooth flex despite the underfoot joint. In storage, the integrated binding sits atop the front part of the ski. To lock your sticks into shred mode, unfold, then rotate the bindings 180 degrees to slide them onto a “four-axis mechanism” that straddles the joint and anchors into a carbon-reinforced plate in the ski. Even after seeing how the mechanism works, we weren’t convinced they would hold up, but rough durability tests carried out by Slovenian ski-cross champion Filip Flisar do make the joint appear rock solid on the slopes.
Speculation only goes so far, though. Come next winter, we can’t wait to test the Voyager’s limits. —Maren Larsen
GoSun Chillest Cooler
Coolers have come a long way in the past couple decades. High-quality rotomolded coolers like those from Yeti changed the game first by extending the life of ice by days. Then, powered coolers like Dometic’s offerings hit the scene and removed ice from the picture completely for those who could afford to buy one. But one thing we hadn’t seen yet was a solar-powered cooler with an integrated battery to power it. GoSun is taking that leap in 2021 with its Chillest cooler, and we’re excited for the possibilities.
The Chillest can reach freezer temperatures, which will allow you to stick in an ice cube tray full of water and, a few hours later, be able to make proper mojitos. It’s potentially more portable than powered coolers—which often don’t have an onboard battery—thanks to the included 30 watt solar panel and 100 watt-hour battery, which you can charge at home before you head out and then keep topped up at camp. GoSun claims the battery takes an impressive two hours to reach a full charge from a wall outlet and says it will last as long as 18 hours or as little as two, depending on the temperature settings and how warm it is outside.
The cooler comes with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink list of accessories—a shade umbrella! cutting board! USB for charging your devices!—for $800. This evolution in powered-cooler tech has the potential to give you all the benefits of these boxes—no more soggy sandwiches, no more stops for ice—with fewer downsides. We like the sound of that. —Natalia Lutterman