Justin’s Picks: Best of Outdoor Retailer (Part 1)
Justin's Picks: The Most Noteworthy Gear of Winter Outdoor Retailer 2010
If you're as geeked about gear as we are here at Outside magazine, you probably already know that the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City is the Mecca for the coming season's new products. Hot, cold, innovative, derivative, you name it and it's there. Here's the best, most interesting, or simply most creative stuff I saw. Let me know what you like, what you hate, and what you covet, and I'll tell you more about it. —JUSTIN NYBERG (twitter: @justinnyberg)
First, let us pass through the gates of swag…
The Hanesbrands/Champion “Super Suit”
OK, this one you'll have to see to believe. It's an Everest climbing suit that is as thin as a ski jacket. Instead of 40 millimeters of Michelin-Man-like goose down, the suit is insulated by just 6-millimeters of a techy insulation called Zero Loft Aerogel. Aerogel is semi-porous substance that traps a lot of microscopic air bubbles in its structure which keeps it incredibly warm without being very thick. Until now, they've never been able to make it thin enough to put in garments. Now that they have figured that out, Champion is making a suit for climbing Everest (and will put it to the test this May on the mountain). If the Zero Loft Aerogel works as well as promised, it will quite possibly be the most important development in insulation materials since the down jacket, and will trickle down quickly into your local gear shop. Stephen Regenold, the Gear Junkie, has a good wrap up on the product (full disclosure: he's also being paid by Hanesbrands to cover the expedition to Everest). Trailspace has another good story on it.
Photo courtesy: Hanesbrands (the Super Suit is the red jacket; the blue jacket is just a generic down puffer)
Arcteryx's Alpha SV glove
Just because your glove says it's waterproof doesn't mean it will actually keep you dry. In really wet snow or rain, water can get through the glove liner and soak up the space between it and the waterproof liner buried inside. Then, especially if you are holding something like a ski pole, water gets smashed through the waterproof liner inside, and your hands turn blue. Arcteryx's solution is an insane glove called the Alpha SV, which is basically a storm shell for your hands. The shell is made with GoreTex ProShell, a top-tier and highly durable waterproof-breathable fabric, and the seams inside are sealed all the way through to the fingers. This is a difficult way to construct a glove, but it also allows you to have a glove that waterproof on the outside gives you unparalleled dexterity. I could pick up a pin (provided by Arcteryx PR) with my fingertips. It's a sharp looking glove, though at first glance it has some curious points: it's an eye-popping $275, and the baggy interior fleece liner glove is a little underwhelming, considering the price. But I've been skiing with a pair all day today, and the dexterity and waterproofing seems to make up for it.
Leki Speedlock poles
Collapsable trekking poles and ski poles are incredibly convenient for stowing on a pack, or adjusting quickly if you're climbing (make them shorter), or descending (make them longer). So far, the most reliable system for doing that has been Black Diamond's Flicklock system, which is very easy to adjust, doesn't slip, and is easy to fix or tighten in the backcountry (as opposed to internal caming or “swivel” tightening poles that can slip and get finicky on you exactly when you need them most). Leki has a sweet looking new external locking mechanism similar in some ways to the Flicklock that is quick to adjust and can be tightened/adjusted on the trail with a coin or another Leki speedlock clasp. Check it:
Polartec PowerShield Pro // The North Face Kishtwar Jacket
Why should you care that there's one more water-resistant, breathable fabric on the market—in an industry already awash with really good fabrics? Well, if you don't really push your gear to the max, you probably don't need to. But if you are looking for a windproof, water-resistant material that claims to be the most breathable material of it's kind on the market, you should probably check out Polartec's new PowerShield Pro. (Beware, here comes some wonkiness). According to Ian Anderson, PR guy for Polartec, the new fabric is the most breathable of all the other windproof fabrics out there. It rates a 2 on the CFM airflow test (how much are goes washes through the fabric) while still rating a 5,000 on a water column test (how much water can sit on the garmet). If you're a nerd for this stuff like me, both figures are impressive, offering a Windstopper-like performance. As for what's really best? We'll be testing the fabric this summer and will get back to you.