I’m very blessed to live here in Utah. Not only do we have the Greatest Snow on Earth, but we also get the Outdoor Retailer show here in town twice a year. It certainly makes for easy sorties into the Salt Palace Convention Center for some strategic missions. My 2nd and final day was chock full of backcountry gear with a smattering of other goodies inbetween. Here are the highlights.
First up was a visit to my pals at Salomon. Like every manufacturer, the list of new products was a sizeable, but the two items I latched onto were the new XR Crossmax trail running shoe and the XT Zipoff Vest.
What’s cool about the XR Crossmax shoes is their unique upper construction. Since full Gore-tex booties tend to be overkill for most applications, Salomon is introducing the first hybrid shoe with Climashield waterproof membrane in the front, lower tongue and sides, but no membrane in the rear 1/4 and upper tongue. For long wet-weather runs, these look to be just the ticket.
The XT Zip Off Vest is also quite the hybrid piece. It sports a zip-off sleeve/cape design that allows for a quick transition from jacket to vest. Simply unzip the two front zippers, pull off the sleeves and the snap at the rear of the collar keeps the cape from falling to the ground. Unsnap it and tuck it into the sizeable rear pocket. Available for men and women, the XT Zipoff Vest is very cool.
It’s always good to see what Teva is up to. The last big thing was the Illum Sandals. This year, we can look forward to freeride mountain bike shoes and (my favorite) the new Mush Frio — an ultralight shoe based on the Teva Mush sandals.
The top-of-the-line Teva Links Freeride shoes feature embedded Ion Mask waterproofing and lightweight, but strong, toe armor to keep your toes intact.
And the ultralight Mush Frio shoes had me at Mush. I’m a huge fan of the Mush Sandals and turning them into a lightweight pair of shoes sounds like a dream. Fall can’t come soon enough.
Yes, the plaid palace yielded one noteworthy item… the Exposure Jacket and Vest. Stuffed with 800-fill down, the new Woolrich Exposure Jacket and Vest look stylish and well-suited for around-town and occasional backcountry use. Both feature audio ports for rocking out on your iPod and the vest sports a baseball-style collar for reduced bulk when used as a mid-layer.
The North Face
Plenty of cool stuff here, but the number one was the new The North Face Powder Guide Vest ($189). We’ve all seen the MacGyver-style ski patroller with the home-made rope strap shovel carrier, well the Powder Guide Vest aims to eliminate that in style and versatility. For sidecountry or quick backcountry adventures, the Powder Guide may be just the ticket to carry all the essentials in a non-backpack form factor.
Another great hybrid (yeah, I heart hybrid jackets) is the new The North Face Zuper Zephyrus Hoodie ($179) for men and women and sports Primaloft insulation and body-mapped stretch venting panels for improved fit and movement.
Last year, the Maestrale stole the show with its amazingly-capable package at a modest price point. Along the same vein is the new, lighter Scarpa Rush. With amazing walkability and light weight, the Rush comes in at an affordable $559. This is focused on those who relish the tour, but it will still be capable enough to whip your rockered fatties into shape.
I’ve had my eye on G3 for years, but this year will really stand out as a big year for the “Little Black Diamond” from the North. First off, the Onyx ($499) tech (a.k.a. Dyafit) touring binding has been refined and has some unique features you’ll only find here. As opposed to other tech bindings, the toepiece’s natural state is closed, so it clamps down on the boot unlike any other on the market. I’ve been told that their release values (pseudo DIN) are much more accurate than others on the market as well (consistently measuring within 1/2 step of the setting vs. DIN that can be plus/minus 2).
The G3 Onyx heelpiece is unique as well. It has a flip on the rear that slides it into ski mode or touring mode instead of rotating, like the leading competition does. The heel lifter system is much more straightforward than previous designs. I’m told that this binding is the tech binding for those who like to ski, not just tour.
A handful of great pieces from OR this Fall, but the easiest “wow” factor were the two gloves featuring TouchTec leather. Both the lightweight Sensor Gloves ($70) and the all-weather Ambit Gloves ($99) feature this touchscreen-capable leather. We’ve all taken our gloves off in nasty weather to take care of a phone call or check your email. Now, these gloves will allow you to interact with your smart phone without taking your gloves off.
I gave it a whirl and it works… well… pretty darn well. It’s not 100% perfect, but I think with a bit of practice I could get it to work more consistently. Honestly, I was on overload with all the great new products from OR, but these will suffice as the coolest.
The Fall 2011 Dynafit lineup is something to behold. The boot options are off-the-hook and the new binding design is revolutionary for tech bindings. The Dynafit Radical FT ($599) touring binding now comes with a step-in toepiece. Guided in by the twin “power towers”, the boot toe clips in quite easily. The metal wings are now 100% forged aluminum to save weight and increase rigidity. This one also includes a carbon torsional plate than can be engaged to stiffen up the ski underfoot for ultra-burly conditions. Add on top of this the Speed Step climbing bars and the new Dynafit bindings remain the ones to beat, but are also the most expensive.
After nailing it with the Radium touring boot, Garmont pretty much made their old Endorphin/Adrenaline line obsolete. Who wouldn’t want a superior performing boot with less weight? Well, for Fall 2011, Garmont is introducing the Delirium FR 130 no-compromise touring boot for those who want a single boot for the resort and backcountry — it features interchangeable DIN and touring blocks (included). These Frankenstein-ish boots (check out the square toe) aren’t freaky by any means… they are burly and capable. I slipped them on and the toebox is quite roomy. So, for those who need extra room and are looking for that one boot quiver, the $799 Garmont Delirium may be your salvo. You can opt for the slightly softer Mystic FR 120 as another option as well.
While Rab hasn’t completely caught on here in the States, it is gaining in popularity. It’s product line continues to evolve and this year, expect them to launch an entirely-new base mid and base layer programs. In a midweight fabric, the Polartec Powerdry High Efficiency fabric in the AL Pull-on and Baseline Hoody err on the highly-breathable side of things.
As far as base layers go, the Rab Merino/Cocona lightweight base layers resist body odors naturally and provide a comfortable, durable wear. Look for 165 weight and 120 weight designs in long and short-sleeve designs.