The Wonk: Sneak Peak from Outdoor Retailer
Day 2 of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market has just ended. It's been a long day of looking at new product. My brain is a bit fried, but here's what I can tell you. The color purple. You're going to see a lot of it next winter. Old-school, 1980's bright purple. In jackets, baselayers, hats, you name it.
Also, insulation. Everyone is trying to figure out new ways to keep us warm without making us look like Michelin men (and women). For example, next winter many of Columbia's winter jackets will have a thin, metallic, and reflective lining, the idea being that, much like a space blanket does, it will reflect up to 20% of your body heat, thereby retaining heat without having to add additional (and bulky) insulation. I tested a similar technology in GoLite jackets a few winters ago, and I'll be curious to see how well it works. (One of the problems with GoLite jacket was that it didn't breathe very well when you over-heated, but Columbia says it's figured out a better solution to let moisture out when necessary.) I'll have more on that later. In the meantime, here are a few other products I'm looking forward to reviewing this winter.
La Sportiva's Crossover GTX $140
Santa Fe (where I live) is getting pummeled with snow right now, so I'm thinking I'm going to need a pair of these when I get home. It has a Gore Tex membrane lining on the bottom portion of the shoe, but the upper gaiter is a stretchy, highly-water resistant softshell material, so you get the best of both worlds: big-time protection from wet snow, but an upper that keeps snow out but still breathes. Available next fall; lasportiva.com.
Marmot Cat Track Jacket $350
This waterproof-breathable, stretchy softshell ski jacket from Marmot is interesting for two reasons. First, the hood. Instead of the usual cord-and-toggle cinch systems you find on most hoods, this one has a Boa dial, a tiny dial near the base of the neck that allows you to adjust the fit with a quick (and one-handed) spin of the dial. You've probably seen Boa devices on various footwear like running shoes and ski and snowboard boots. If not, I can tell you it's a cool little gizmo that works really well at snugging things down, cinching things up, etc. The second is the strategic placement of d30 material at the elbows. d30 is pretty cool stuff: Without getting too technical, it's essentially a lightweight material that instantaneously stiffens upon impact, thereby providing you with a bit of instant armor should you run into something hard (like a tree, ice, or your buddy). You'll find it in all sorts of products, from ski gloves to mountain bike apparel to soccer shin guards. I've tested a pair of gloves with the stuff, and it seems to work quite well. Available next fall.
The North Face Kishtwar Jacket $279
This new softshell from TNF (available next fall) features a new fabric, Power Shield Pro, a hard-faced, fleece-lined, and stretchy softshell fabric that's been around for years. Now, you fabric and softshell geeks out there all know how great the regular Power Shield is. (I've worn Power Shield jackets for years hiking and backcountry skiing. Click here to see some products made with the stuff.) Supposedly, this new iteration of the fabric is even better: more breathable, but still dishing up just as much protection against wind, rain, and snow. I'll be backcountry skiing in it later this winter, and will let you know if it lives up to the claim. —Sam Moulton