The Best Gear from Winter Outdoor Retailer 2019
From magnetic skis to e-motorbikes, here's what we're excited about for the coming season
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It’s been a great winter so far in the West, with powder days aplenty. But as we attend Outdoor Retailer this week, we’ve already got our eyes on the gear for next winter. And there’s much to be excited about. Here’s what rose to the top to win Gear of the Show.
G3 Findr Skis ($919)
A lot of people struggle to carry skis. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the Jerry of the Day Instagram page or watch this video. Now tourists, many of whom only ski once a year, are the butt of most of the jokes. But the truth is, skis suck to carry—after all, you’re trying to shoulder a pair of six-foot-long, ten-pound boards. There’s technically a right way to it: slide both skis together using the brakes to hold them in place, then hoist the planks so the binding sits right behind your shoulder, and use your arm to balance them. And sure, wrapping the skis with a ski strap will also help keep them together. But who carries a ski strap with them all the time other than nerds?
Enter the Findr. This lightweight charger has been in G3’s lineup since 2016. This year, along with trimming up to 70 grams off each ski, designers embedded magnetic strips in the tips and tails. Snap both skis together and they become one solid and easy-to-manage load—no brakes or ski straps necessary. Sure it’s still an unwieldy bundle, but the magnets make a huge difference when schlepping from your car to the lift or transitioning to a bootpack in the backcountry.
That said, the Findr is very much a touring-oriented plank that might not appeal to average skiers. But we’re hopeful that its magnet technology will soon be used in the rest of G3’s line and that other brands roll out something similar in the near future.
The Findr will be released in October.
—Ben Fox, affiliate reviews manager
Hydrapak Velocity IT Reservoir ($38)
If you play outside, no matter your sport of choice, chances are you have a hydration bladder. The simple, flexible polyurethane design revolutionized drinking on the go when it came around in the early nineties and has remained largely unchanged since. But there’s always been one major downside: the bladder sits against your back and picks up body heat, so your water warms quickly—especially on scorching days. Hydrapak’s solution is the new Velocity IT 1.5-liter reservoir, the first ever insulated hydration bladder.
The double-walled bladder features an insulating layer of closed-cell foam, which Hydrapak claims keeps water cold 38 percent longer than typical reservoirs. It slides and hooks into the bladder sleeves of all standard backpacks just like its non-insulated predecessors, meaning you can easily upgrade your existing hydration setup with little added cost.
Swap out the standard hose for the insulated Hydrafusion Tube ($15) for a fully cold-proofed system that will help keep water at a drinkable (not too chilled) temperature and prevent frozen tubes in the winter.
Naturally, the foam lining adds weight. But the benefit of having cold water on your next 90-degree summit day—and room-temperature water on your next ski trip—seems well worth it.
The Velocity IT goes on sale in February.
—Ariella Gintzler, assistant gear editor
Cake Kalk& E-Motorbike ($TBD)
We’ve had our eye on Cake for a while now. The Swedish company, started by the former founder of POC, first came on the scene early last year with its Kalk e-motorbike. As we described it then, “The Kalk looks like the love child of a mountain bike and a motocross bike that was conceived at an Ikea store.” And it occupies that middle ground nicely, with the potential to be a category-defining product.
The version that will go on sale this spring, the Kalk&, is designed to provide power on trails without destroying them. Cake uses its own rubber compound and tread pattern so the bike doesn’t tear up and ruin the ground—a knock against dirt bikes and other motorized vehicles. And it’s quiet: the electric motor, which only takes an hour and a half to charge (less than some headlamps and speakers), emits a small whir.
Though what’s most new and notable in the Kalk& (unlike the model we tested last summer) is that it’s street-legal, thanks to the addition of head- and tailights, turn signals, and a license-plate holder.
Being an e-motorbike, the Kalk& doesn’t produce any climate-harming emissions. Doesn’t hurt that it looks hella fun to ride, too. And as a brand that’s pioneered this category of riding machine, Cake has the potential to get more people on the trails while replacing their daily commuter. Yes, a bike or e-bike is capable of the same. But the Kalk& is more accessible, liable to pull both cyclists and motorists from their sides of the aisle. And if that also results in fewer cars on the roads, we’re all for it.
The Kalk& will be available for preorder in March.
—Will Egensteiner, senior gear editor
Flaxta Exalted Aware Impact System ($220)
The Aware Impact is a three-dimensional modular sensor for snowsports helmets that measures, analyzes, and displays the severity of head impacts. Say you’re ripping down a fresh line on your skis, and you see a tree coming but not early enough to redirect. Next thing you know you’re on the ground. Flaxta’s system immediately measures the linear and rotational forces, plus identifies the impact location (i.e. frontal lobe, left side), and sends the information to the smartphone app.
The end result is a rating of the severity of your crash on an index of one to three—from a relatively low-impact hit (that could result in brain damage if repeated) to an urgent injury that a doctor should check out ASAP. Over time, the app will keep a log of all impacts (time, date, and severity) and provide you with an overall impact history. If you have a severe crash that trashes your helmet, you can remove the system and swap it into a new lid without losing any of your data.
While Flaxta is releasing this technology as a concept, it plans to bring this to consumers by early 2020. Down the line, the designers hope to implement the system in other sports equipment like bike and football helmets, and even soccer headbands.
Available in spring 2020.
—Emily Reed, assistant gear editor