The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market bested me again. I’d hoped to explore it using planning and strategy to unearth the best winter gear with surgical precision. Alas, my usual distracted tendencies prevailed. Soon I found myself wandering aimlessly toward every shiny object that caught my eye.
Outdoor Retailer is a gear nerd’s playground. Nearly every manufacturer in the industry attends with their finest new “toys.”
Luckily, I had help from fellow gear nerd, Steve Seliger. Grabbing me by the shoulders, he’d point me toward our goal, finding cool products to share with you. We walked the aisles looking for innovative, well-thought-out products, some we even tried at Mountain Demo Day. This list is a collaborative effort between us. We didn’t see everything, but these brands delivered items worth checking out:
Columbia Sportswear is challenging the industry’s top performers head on. Their new Diamond 890 TurboDown™ fill jackets are light, water resistant, and pack into their own hand-pocket for compact storage. Lined with 2x Omni-Heat reflective shell and lining, this coat warms up fast. Did I mention they are sharp looking too? Available Fall 2014.
I’m impressed when a product elegantly blends form and function. Zeal runs with that: Clean, minimalist lines; Frames that are as beautiful as they are functional; Multi-chromatic lenses that look cool (like looking into a dragonfly’s eye) and open up a world of detail and color that are mind-blowing. For me, the Eclipse frame with the automatic lens was my choice. What will be yours?
More skiers are looking for gear which transitions from resort to backcountry without missing a beat. While there will always be a tradeoff, this hybrid boot is lightweight, versatile, and offers a great range of motion without loosing downhill performance. Other models in the series include the Pro 110 and Pro 90. Pro 130 runs for $700.
In search of better powder and more solitude, more skiers are venturing into the backcountry and out-of-bounds ski areas. With Marker’s Duke and Baron bindings, it is now possible to have one set-up that can handle resort, big mountain and backcountry skiing. Possessing all the features of Marker’s state-of-the-art downhill bindings, the Duke and Baron switch into touring mode with ease and accept both alpine and touring boots. Now resort skiers can venture into the backcountry without investing in a completely separate rig.
Marker strongly supports snowsports safety, from avalanche awareness to developing new safety features in their products. The new MAP (Multi-Impact Adaptive Polymer) technology used in the Phoenix helmet is a good example. This high-tech material has been added to the most sensitive helmet areas to absorb multiple blows without loosing it’s protective qualities. Look for MAP in their Otis helmets, goggles and protective garments.
Volkl redesigned both the Aura and Mantra mountain/freestyle skis for 2014-15. The Aura is a woman’s model, and after just two turns, I knew these skis were different. They carved satiny smooth lines making me feel utterly in control. Designed to float in powder, the full rocker profile is forgiving in a wide range of conditions. The Mantra performed similarly during demo. Available Soon.
Icebreaker embraces innovation while maintaining tradition with their new mid-layer technology. The new mid-layers uphold Icebreaker’s high standards with a new twist; the merino wool is wrapped around a nylon core for strength and brushed to create millions of air pockets, adding to the warmth. Look for the new technology in their Atom, Realfleece and Escape lines. Available Fall 2014.
The Wailer 112RP is a superlative magnet. Steve skied it for a solid two weeks in powder, bumps, tight trees and even some hard and fast corduroy. “It floats, it carves, remains stable at high speeds, and is quite fast edge to edge. I love this ski: an amazing powder tool that holds it’s own even when things get thin and crusty,” he reports. The Nina 99, essentially a woman’s version of the Wailer 112RP, is also a sweet ride. Wailer 112RP runs about $799 to $1249.
The Edelrid Mega Jul belay device is one of the finest innovations in climbing hardware technology out there today. Weighing only 65 grams with no moving parts, it earns my highest praise for combining simplicity, versatility, and safety. Most intriguing is it’s natural auto-brake design that works both on belay and rappel. The Mega Jul proves that less can be much more. $34.95 alone or $49.95 with their HMS Strike FG Carabiner.
Designed for fast accents, the Ascensionist is a minimalist pack with thoughtful features, perfect for winter climbing. From daisy chain loops to compression straps, versatility is the feature I most appreciate. The back stays and hip pads are even removable for accents where every ounce matters. Double-ripstop nylon construction gives the pack durability without adding too much weight. Ascensionist 35L will cost you $149. Also available in 25L and 45L volumes.
The volume of new outdoor products launched each season is staggering. Chances are, none of us will see them all. Hopefully this collection will give you a few fun ideas to investigate.