ISPO 2019 - Best in Show Review

© Nick Brown

The annual ISPO trade show, which brings the world's outdoor industry together under one roof (or a series of gigantic roofs) in Munich, has just wrapped up for 2019. Heavy snowfall gave this year's event a suitably wintry feel, and if we'd really rather have been out in the nearby Bavarian Alps enjoying the conditions, our compensation was getting an early look at mountains of new gear that'll be hitting the shelves in the near future.

The 2019 show was a bit of an odd one, in that several leading brands chose not to attend. We missed seeing the likes of Berghaus, Montane, Edelrid, Beal, Five Ten, Moon and Crux, to name only a few. If everyone could just agree to attend the same show once a year, we'd all save a lot of air miles and shoe rubber.

And that's a wrap for @ispo.acceleratingsports Winter 2019 trade show. It's been super fun reporting on new stuff for @ukclimbing. I have worn a lot of jackets and raved about quite a few hoods. The good news is us chicks are getting better hoods, better colours and more and more choice in the products we can buy. Manufacturers have realised that "shrink it and pink it" just doesn't cut it any more. Top stuff as I am about to attend a female-majority MIC Training and we are seeing more and more women working in winter. Thanks to the team for having me back and here's to really good kit keeping you warm and dry in 2019. . . . #ukclimbing #ukhillwalking #getoutside #nosuchthingasbadweather #reallygoodhoods #ispo2019 #thisgirlcan @ami_professionals #dowhatyoulove #upyoursindoors #germany #bavaria #mastersofourcraft #makewintercount

A post shared by Rachael Crewesmith (@rachcrewe) on

That said, the UKC/UKH schedule was still packed. Among the many new products shown to us by attending brands, a number caught our attention in particular. From some mean-looking winter spikes, to a new (but as yet unproven) waterproof fabric, here are some items of interest as chosen by members of our six-strong trade show team.

There's loads more where this came from of course, and we'll be publishing our usual round of trade show videos soon.

New Scarpa Phantom Tech

It was a close call whether we included the new Mont Blanc or the Phantom Tech from Scarpa, as both look great. The former has received a major overhaul and has never looked better, but it was pipped to the post by the Phantom simply because - let's face it - it's a super sexy boot...

The Scarpa Phantom Tech

The Scarpa Phantom Tech

Lighter, warmer and generally better than the old version (and £50 cheaper too) this improved winter boot really turned our heads. There's more volume in the forefoot, which is better for warmth and comfort, a straighter zip and a softer top of the gaiter which looks way more comfortable than the old design.

By popular demand the sole unit is now more durable too, news which users of the previous model will doubtless welcome. Whilst a low profile tread might be fine in an alpine environment, it's a lot less fine for the UK's more prevalent muddy mountaineering conditions! For warmth there's 100g PrimaLoft in there, plus a luxurious feeling fleece lining. And the low profile lacing system looks pleasantly simple and faff-free. There'll be a bun fight at UKC Towers to decide who gets to review these when they're out later in the year.

The Scarpa Phantom Tech Sole

The Scarpa Phantom Tech Lining

  • Available autumn/winter 19 £500

New La Sportiva Olympus Mons

And now for something a bit different... and a lot bigger.

At over £800 the Olympus Mons is very much a high altitude and polar expedition specialist with a price tag to match, and as such represents a big budget niche within an already-rarefied field.

The Evolution of the Olympus Mon  © UKC Gear
The Evolution of the Olympus Mon
© UKC Gear

What's that got to do with your average climber or walker? Well you could look at it as a concept car of a boot, with some funky technologies that may one day filter down to more mass market products. Fundamentally it's just cool.

This re-working of the Olympus Mons has a honeycomb carbon shank for lightweight structure and warmth. There are two boa dials for variable foot tightness, a double inner bootie for which additional socks are available, a pin binding on the toe for skiing, a PrimaLoft reflecting bit for heat retention, and an expanded Eva sole which makes it very light (but perhaps less good for Scottish style rocky ground). And most amazingly, despite all that each boot weighs under 1kg (size 42) while still looking like it should keep your toes toasty on the Solar System's highest volcano (look it up).

The Twin Boa Dial

  • Available autumn/winter 19 £835

The North Face FutureLight Fabric

We have suspended our natural scepticism here, and chosen this for its promised potential rather than any hands-on experience.

FutureLight was unveiled to great fanfare at the show, and if it even slightly lives up to the hype surrounding it then TNF may be onto something. According to the brand, this new waterproof breathable membrane, developed over many years in close collaboration with some leading mountain athletes, beats competitors in the performance stakes. Since the density of its weave - and thus its levels of weatherproofness and breathability - can be tailored to suit the end user, there will be a different FutureLight shell for climbers, runners and skiers. A very high air permeability means it should be wearable in a wider range of conditions than a traditional shell, too. Or so we're told...

We can't yet say how the claimed performance stacks up in real world use, nor how durable it will prove for prolonged hard abuse, but TNF have promised us an early chance to find out. Watch this space for a review later in the year.

Grivel Dark Machine

At £320 apiece they are clearly a considered purchase that only those with a laser-like focus on performance, and deep pockets, will be likely to consider, but it cannot be denied that these axes from Grivel really look the business.

The Dark Machine X

The Dark Machine

The Dark Machines have (T-rated) carbon shafts for lightness, a swing and balance that just feel right, and a simple, clutter-free handle which is nicely sculpted and a little larger (and a whole lot neater) than their non-carbon cousin the Tech Machine. Greg Boswell had input into the design of the axes, and the new picks, which are made to Grivel's usual exceptional standard. After seeing them we approached Greg to ask if he'd used them on Anubis, to which he replied no, but he wished he had!

The new Vario Blade system allows you to fit a small but effective looking adze, or one of two sizes of hammer for Scottish mixed fun. There's also a spike you can safely clip a springer leash into, and that doesn't look like it'll fall apart when accidentally weighted. That said, it's not currently rated (this isn't a stipulated test within the design parameters) but Grivel are planning to test it soon.

The Dark Machine is more axe than most will ever need, but there's also a super techy Dark Machine X for the very steepest and comp-style use. For us, though, the Dark Machine is the one to covet...

Small Hammer

Large Hammer


  • Available autumn/winter 19/20 £320 per unit

Kayland Dry Dragon

Keen dry toolers sometimes DIY their own fruit boots, bolting the front of a monopoint crampon onto a cycling or climbing shoe. With the Dry Dragon, Kayland have custom made something better, and to our knowledge it is the first low cut shoe for dry tooling on the market.

There's a man who likes his fruit boots  © UKC Gear
There's a man who likes his fruit boots

With a fully rigid carbon fibre sole, close fitting lacing, an anti-slip lining in the heel, grippy Vibram rubber and a waterproof zip-up cover, they look like a great lightweight option for dedicated toolers. Weight saving and improved ankle mobility are the obvious pros too, versus a higher boot such as Kayland's own Ice Dragon (which has had a revamp at the same time). And as an added bonus, the sole is compatible with suitable crampons from brands other than Cassin (who make the very capable-looking business end of the shoe).

The Ice Dragon boot is a more insulated, ice-oriented model which clearly has far less of a niche in the UK. It's the Dry Dragon that we can see ourselves wearing down at Newtyle, White Goods or The Works. It's a niche product for sure, and something of an investment, but it's good to see something different!

  • Available spring/summer 2019 EUR399

Rab's New Glove Range

Rab have revamped their glove selection for Autumn/Winter '19, including a much more comprehensive women's technical range and XS sizes in unisex gloves.

A robust leather palm

Good thumb articulation

The glove that particularly caught our eye is the redesigned Guide 2 GTX. Now with a Gore Tex lining, it features roll top fingers for extra dexterity and grippier palms to stop that weird sliding feeling when you are holding tools. A soft suede leather nose wipe looks better for inevitable snot wiping and the mid-sized cuff can go either under or over a jacket sleeve. The best bit is that the cuff does not have an exposed pile lining, which should help prevent that annoying situation where spindrift blows into the lining of your glove when you take it off and then melts; if your wrists stay drier then your hands should keep warmer. Easy cuff adjustment and reinforced bits top off a great all rounder work glove that's well suited to walking and climbing in the wild Scottish winter.

The lining of the Guide 2 GTX

The lining of the Guide 2 GTX

  • Available autumn/winter 19/20

Sprayway Torridon Jacket

We can become fixated on fast and light alpine shells, but much of the time what most of us need is something that'll really keep you dry, with a longer cut - an 'umbrella' of shells if you will.

The Torridon jacket was a classic model from Sprayway's glory days, with a colour scheme inspired by the 1990s Manchester rave scene (and, apparently, as chosen by Alison Hargreaves). It has now been reborn, with more than a nod to its previous styling, but modern touches too. As well as looking retro-cool you get Gore-Tex fabric, proper big pockets, a double storm flap, pit zips and a big walker-friendly hood. Not built for north faces, but made for good honest wet weather up Munros - pure and simple.

  • Available autumn/winter 19/20 £300

Petzl Dart Goes Fully Modular

Before there was the Dart (mono) and Dartwin (dual), but Petzl have now brought them together into a single, modular system. So on a single crampon you can now have dual points in an asymmetric configuration, dual points of thye same length, or mono points either long or short - that's four front point options instead of the standard two offered by most similar models.

Twin Point, Asymmetrical Mode

Mono Mode

As if this weren't enough the Petzl crampon range now all have common heels, so if you already have something like the Vasak you can now buy a Dart front section to go with it. It even works with the Leopard (though that looks a bit, ahem, specialist)! We really love this cross-range flexibility. One crampon to rule them all...?

Well someone might want to...  © UKC Gear
Well someone might want to...
© UKC Gear

  • Available autumn/winter 19/20 £205

Real Mountain Shells for Women

Historically the tendency in women's specific shells has been to "shrink it and pink it", providing women with a more limited selection of less technical models than their male counterparts.

Twin adjustment on the back of the Rab Women's Muztag, with further adjustment in/around the front too

Rab's Hetty Key looking pretty happy both with herself (for acing the presentation) and the jacket (for being ace)

Shells for women have often tended to be lighter and less durable than the fortress-like men's top-end offerings. But at risk of stating the obvious, women do real winter climbing, hillwalking and mountaineering too, and many do it hard - so why is it more difficult for them to find a shell with all the requisite technical features? Hats (or hoods) off to Rab and ME, among only a few brands to offer real parity with proper top-of-the-range mountain shells that boast a female-friendly cut AND decent helmet compatible hoods, nice deep harness-friendly map pockets, burly fabrics and all the rest.

We were equally taken with Mountain Equipment's female take on the classic Tupilak, and Rab's Muztag GTX, the first time they've made this shell for women.

Loving the Tupilak's roomy hood  © Nick Brown
Loving the Tupilak's roomy hood
© Nick Brown

  • Both available autumn/winter 19/20 both £350

Marmot West Rib Down Jacket

Instead of the usual horizontal baffles, Marmot have gone all left field here with their new 'Warm Cube Technology', whereby the down is held in a series of cuboid baffles across the body (the construction of the arms is more conventional).

Probably better suited to 7000m Peaks than Trade Shows...and to someone a lot larger than Rachael...

Each cube is a pocket of 800 fill down. Compared to standard ways of putting together a down jacket, here the fill is trapped in a smaller space, say Marmot, so there's less migration and settling of the contents than you get even in a decent box wall construction. This cube structure apparently holds more trapped air too, giving you more warmth. On the outside is a layer of sheet synthetic fill for better moisture management and weather protection - but even if the feathers do get damp they should dry out faster than in a full sized baffle. This is a serious jacket for high mountain cold, with big cuffs, a massive hood and everything you could want in a techy warm layer. If the price and spec are beyond most requirements, it's worth noting that this technology will probably find its way into Marmot's more mass market gear in future. A worthy ISPO Award gold winner.

A simple, uncluttered design

Baffles unlike anything you'll have seen before...

  • Available autumn/winter 19/20 £600

Lowe Alpine Technical Packs

Lowe Alpine's techy pack offering has undergone a wholesale revamp for the next winter season, with several all-new models. The designs are strong and functional, with an emphasis on burly fabrics and robust carrying systems. Two new ranges have been created, Alpine and Halcyon, between them offering something for pretty much any climber, scrambler or mountaineer.

The Uprise 30:40 is probably the one we're keenest to review  © UKC Gear
The Uprise 30:40 is probably the one we're keenest to review
© UKC Gear

In the Alpine collection, the Uprise 30:40 and 40:50 sit at the top of the tree. These look like exemplary stripped down packs for the fast-and-light hero niche, with a well-designed flap entry (that's extendable), a firm back panel, low profile straps and hip belt, some very tough-feeling and weather-shedding fabrics (210D Four Axis Ripstop - as found on the current Cerro Torre backpacking pack, but with added Hydroshield Dura coating to it so it is more weather and abrasion resistant) and thin-but-strong high tenacity nylon webbing. The Renegade 28 shares many features with the Uprise including harness and back panel, the main difference being that it's a zipped entry. The Rebel 18, meanwhile, is a simplified smaller version designed more for alpine and multi pitch rock - a nice neat fitted pack.

But when it comes to climbing packs we are not all minimalists, and here's where the Halcyon range comes in. These more traditional looking rucksacks are for those who want lots of features in a familiar top-loading buckled lid design. There's a bit more padding than on the Alpine packs, and even tougher fabric too - 330D ripstop and a 840D base and sides that look like they can really can take a battering.

The Broom

With Snow-Swipe Technology - a nifty arrangement of nylon bristles mounted on a long shaft for extra reach - this top bit of kit has proved just the thing for clearing steps and excavating the hire car on those Bavarian snow days. If we hadn't had The Broom, backed up with some vigorous Shovel action, we'd have missed most of ISPO and might still be stuck in a snowdrift. Don't leave home without one.

Clears snow more effectively than a credit card  © UKC Gear
Clears snow more effectively than a credit card
© UKC Gear

  • Available for centuries

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6 Feb, 2019

Nice to see Rab finally making the move to GoreTex

6 Feb, 2019

Very interested to see a review and general user feedback on the new Phantom Tech, especially sole durability and warmth. The soles on my ones wore out very quickly and to their credit Scarpa replaced them free of charge with a more durable and slightly heavier sole (seems tougher so far but it’s early days). I also find that I get cold feet on belays sometimes so a bit more warmth would be welcome. Great boot already though.

6 Feb, 2019

Does the Broom come in a left handed model?

7 Feb, 2019

does it come in a women's version ?

7 Feb, 2019

The modular Dart is really interesting! However this feels like the Lynx became obsolete.

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