Friday, July 13, 2012

Industry rumblings, what can we look forward to? Part 1

For many of us, summer is a great time of year to get outside and actually DO those things we love so much. For the Outdoor Industry and those of us obsessed with the outdoor industry,'s just another season at the office!

OutDoor Friedrichshafen 2012 just wrapped up, and as usual some very cool stuff came from some of the big players.

North America's favorite luxury brand has updated their pack line with notable changes coming to the Altra series and Miura series.

Interestingly it appears as thought the new Miura series will no longer have a roll-top closure, with what seems to be a full wrap-around zipper instead. Time will tell how much this affects the durability of the pack.  Thankfully though the full-opening nature of the pack should be maintained.

Black Diamond Equipment
Last year we saw the Magnetron technology (coming to retail in September) make waves in the locking carabiner market. This year we see BD producing a direct competitor to the Metolius Master Cam and the new Fixe Aliens - the X4.

These small, super-flexible cams share design cues from both predecessors but with a key difference - they are double-axle designs (according to BD, with something BD calls "stacked-axle technology") as opposed to single-axle. The X4s occupy the same sizes currently filled by the C3. It will be interesting to see how these stack up against the current offerings, especially given the claim that double-axle designs are inferior due to their tendency to walk in placements.

Cascade Designs
Not too much new and exciting from Cascade Designs to be honest - an updated gravity filter from Platypus is one thing we can expect. The primary summer rumblings seem to be in the form of a new range of sleeping bags from Thermarest. Low-fill bottoms and straps to connect them securely to sleeping pads seem to be the primary selling points.

Sub-900g for a -7 mummy bag is a pretty good weight for sure - and for those alpinists looking for every gram of weight savings, there will be a hoodless shorter-cut bag that has been designed around pairing with a down jacket. Very cool to see these kind of generally underground/custom designs making more headway in the mainstream market.

Gregory Packs
I am a huge Gregory fan - I own the Palisade 80 for my expedition pack and it is a fantastic design - so I was admittedly a little worried when the company was grabbed by Black Diamond a couple years ago.  Thankfully though the union has not resulted in a dilution of design for Gregory and they continue to release fantastic designs.

One of the designs I am excited to take a closer look at when it is released is the Contour series with their brand new packing system which Gregory has called "TrailSmart". Promising here is the idea that they have separated the pack into three separate packing zones - trail gear is separate from camp gear and gear that might be needed on a regular basis is on-hand and easy to access. Sounds interesting for sure and I'm excited to check it out in-person.

Mammut Sports Group
Mammut is easily one of my favourite gear companies - their designs are slick and great looking, and they're always doing something a little different. This year is no different, with Mammut introducing new Active Shell jackets and updating their softshell repertoire as well. Although we don't get their sleeping bags in N.A., I had the opportunity to take a look at them in Europe and they're great designs - a pedigree that no doubt will continue with a brand new high-alpine -30 down bag, the AltitudeEXP 5-season.

What I found most intriguing, though, is the RescYou. Designed for use when crevasse falls are a significant danger, the device can be used for both self-rescue and rescuing a partner. Essentially it is two ascenders connected by a 6-fold pulley system. It's pretty hard to see how it works without trying it, but it looks like the lower ascender (rope clamp) is connected to the belay loop, and then the climber pulls themselves up the rope through the pulleys (significantly reducing the difficulty of ascention, although moving a shorter distance with every pull). Similar operation of the device would facilitate rescuing a partner.

It would be interesting to see the weight of this device compared to other rescue setups because it looks like a great idea.

Schoeller Textil
Though not gear companies themselves, textile manufacturers like schoeller have a profound impact on the industry through their technologies. At OutDoor 2012, schoeller has seemed to put more focus in their softshell technologies - unfortunately the fabrics are not scheduled for release until 2014!

Schoeller is using the inspiration from natural cork to apparently deliver thin, flexible softshells with significantly greater insulating properties than current offerings - this tech will supplement their existing WB-400 softshell series. Very interesting I'm excited to see what comes of this.

I can only assume that this is based around ceramic particles. It's a 3D coating that is slated to not only vastly improve abrasion resistance, but maintains flexibility of the softshell and looks damn slick as well. That's pretty neat.

Hopefully more neat things to come this summer! OR Summer Market in Utah is coming up in August - very exciting!

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