This year UKClimbing and UKHillwalking sent four reporters to Europe's biggest gear event, OutDoor. In the first report, Sarah Stirling introduced the show and announced the Outdoor Industry Award Winners 2011 - REPORT: OutDoor 2011. In the second installment, sound recordist Alan James covered Rock Shoes and captured some of the big players on video. Next Dan Bailey pitched in with some news on Camping Gear. In the fourth instalment, Alan James handled developments in Ropes. Now Sarah Stirling runs through some innovations in technical clothing and packs.
The gear marketeer's buzzword at OutDoor was 'story'. Many key products had good yarns spun behind them. For example, a whole new kit range at Mountain Hardwear was designed to make Ueli Steck even faster and lighter; meanwhile a Rab base layer range has ethically sourced Merino wool and eco-friendly crushed coconut husks intimately blended in the fabric: two great product stories. It's a development from last year's watchword 'experience' (we were offered the Gore-tex Experience Tour, and generally invited to experience jackets rather than simply wear them).
Speaking of Gore-tex, where are we with the fabric war - which brands are buying into Gore-tex Active Shell, and which are investing in Polartec Neoshell, two new fabrics both billed as the most breathable waterproof fabric ever invented? There are plenty more innovations in the pipeline, too ...
Happy Birthday to loads of brands this year: Arc'teryx are 20, DMM and Rab are both 30, Mountain Equipment are 50 and Mammut are 150!
We attended DMM's 30th bash (see the team photo above) out in Germany. Arc'teryx also held a celebration at OutDoor. This news item reveals how Mountain Equipment are celebrating: 50 Years of Mountaineering and Mountain Equipment and Mammut are celebrating with a very special line of clothing (read on for news of that). Rab have lots of exciting projects in the pipeline ... in fact they are so busy they haven't had time to party (although they've told me that they will be making up for it)!
Crux have been working on two new lightweight down mid layer styles - the Nano Jacket and Pico Top. Crux's existing Halo garments are amongst the lightest down garments available, but these new ones are set to be even more feather-light.
The Nano Jacket has 25% less down fill than the Halo, and a full length zip allows more venting. With only 70g of fill, the Pico is truly ultra-light. It's warmer than the weight suggests though, as the down has been distributed with more fill on the outside areas (back, front and arms) and less on non-exposed areas (underneath and inside the arms, and on the torso sides). The Pyro Jacket, coming out this winter, has 150g of down fill and will be the warmest down mid layer in the range.
The main 'story' for Mountain Hardwear in 2012 will be their new Dry Q fabric. Based on eVent fabric, Dry Q has proved yet another solid rival in the waterproof breathable fabric war. The brand won a Gold award in the OutDoor industry awards for their Spinoza Jacket - the judges loved Dry Q - see this news item: REPORT: OutDoor 2011 Europe's Biggest Gear Event.
The other main story next spring will be the 'Ueli Steck Project'. Mountain Hardwear halved the weight of clothing and kit Ueli wears and carries in the mountains, from roughly 12 kilos to 6. The new 'Ueli Steck System' consists of 14 items, and the whole set costs about £2500. To give you an idea of individual prices, the Quasar Pullover will be £300. The range is available in both men's and women's versions.
The main items from the Ueli Steck Collection are below; there are also some gloves, hats and a balaclava.
- Quasar Pullover - a Dry Q Elite anorak (261g)
- Quasar Pant - Ultralight full side zip pants (369g)
- Nilas Jacket - 850 fill down jacket (631g)
- Desna Pullover - a versatile Power Stretch pullover (349g)
- Nilas Pant - 850 fill down trousers (697g)
- Warlow Pant - Stretch pants (392g)
- Estero Long Sleeve Zip T - a wicking T (158g)
- Direkt 2 Tent - a super light 2 person expedition tent (1.12kg)
- Mtn Speed 32 sleeping bag - a superlight 850 down fill bag (446g)
- SummitRocket 30 daypack (450g)
- SummitRocket 40 pack (750g)
Find out more about the Ueli Steck Project in the video below.
Rab have been been experimenting with several innovative new fabrics. They've used the new Polartec Neoshell fabric in their Autumn/Winter 2011 range, due into shops over the next few weeks.
Rab's 'MeCo' base layers are also hitting shelves this autumn: they won a prestigious iF award this year. They're made from (recycled) Cocona 'intimately blended' with (ethically sourced) Merino. I've had a long-sleeved base layer top on test: it effectively combines the warmth and softness of Merino with the fast drying and wicking performance of Cocona. Cocona is polyester with added discarded coconut shells and other natural micro porous particles, which absorb odours, helps wicking and adds a bit of 'eco friendliness' to polyester. See this news item for more about MeCo.
The Vapour-rise range gets a more modern 'sexy new look' in 2012 with new styling and new colours. Vapour-rise garments have something of a cult following: fans love the balance of breathability, weather resistance and durability (see this Gear Review). New jackets will include the lighter weight Vapour-rise Lite Alpine Jacket and the revised Vapour-rise Lite Jacket.
In the mid 1980s Rab was the first manufacturer in the world to use Pertex face fabrics in sleeping bags and down jackets. Rab's 2012 range will include several new products made from Pertex's newest fabric, waterproof Pertex Shield and Pertex Shield +, with stretch. This fabric hasn't had the marketing hype of Active Shell, Neoshell or Dry Q but it works well: Pertex are now renowned for their incredibly lightweight, abrasion and weather resistant face fabrics, and essentially they've added waterproofing using breathable laminate and coating technologies.
The Spark Jacket (260g), made from Pertex Shield, is featured in the video below.
If you haven't seen any Mountain Equipment products for a while, take a look. One of Britain's oldest outdoor gear companies, they're renowned for their traditional designs and colours. Over the past few decades the range has diversified and ME have continued successfully moving up the brand ladder in terms of innovation, style and 'colourways'. The Mountain Equipment Titan 450 sleeping bag won a GOLD award in the category 'products of high ecological and sustainable value' as a result of their industry first Down Codex Project.
Mountain Equipment clothing to look forward in Spring 2012 includes the Orbital Jacket. It's a bit like the Patagonia Ascensionist but has a more full-on hood and is easier to spell. The jacket is primarily targeted at done-in-a-day alpine adventurists and is made from Exolite II fabric. Mountain Equipment's own brand Exolite fabrics are non-membrane fabrics. Exolite II is very water resistant, breathable and stretchy - essentially sitting on the fence between hard and softshell - which makes it ideal for travelling fast and light.
Mountain Equipment's 2012 range will also include some fast and light jackets made from Gore-tex's new Active Shell. The new Supercell (not to be confused with Patagonia's new Super Cell jacket) is a fully featured mountain jacket that weighs in at just 350g.
In the video below, Richard Bailey from Mountain Equipment talks us through their state-of-the-art Kalanka Jacket, made from Gore-tex's full on full stretch Pro Shell fabric.
Primarily renowned as an innovative accessory brand, in recent years Outdoor Research have been concentrating on their clothing range. It is equally innovative - I wore their Enigma jacket last year - it blends lightweight, breathable Gore-tex Paclite with rugged Gore-tex Pro Shell reinforcements in high wear areas. (Arc'teryx are now calling this two-fabric technique 'hybrid technology' and it features strongly in their 2012 range see below). The Enigma also has two-way pit zips that extend all the way to the hem, which works brilliantly in warm/wet conditions, and this idea has been carried through to the 2011 Autumn/Winter range.
The Maximus Jacket in OR's new Autumn/Winter 2011 range is a burly, fully featured 550g suit of armour for mountaineers. It's built from rugged 70D Gore-tex Pro Shell fabric, and is fully seam taped with water resistant zips. A fully adjustable hood fits over a helmet and a tab secures it rolled up. The two-way zip has an internal storm flap, and there are also two-way zips from hem to underarms. Other features include a zipped Napoleon pocket, two zipped internal pockets (with 'media ports'), two zipped hand pockets (mesh lined for more venting) and articulated elbows.
Looking forwards to Spring 2012, Outdoor Research are focussing on simple, clean cut styling that works. The Axiom Jacket (RRP £290), the pinnacle storm shell, is designed for fast and light alpine climbs and uses the new Gore-tex Active Shell fabric, which is of course super lightweight, breathable and stretchy. The jacket itself is fully seam-taped with water resistant zips, an adjustable helmet-compatible hood, Napoleon pocket, and hand pockets set above the hip belt area. One pocket doubles as a stuff sac. Job done.
For Berghaus, Spring/Summer 2012 represents another significant season in product development. The pace of change within the company has been rapid in recent years. MtnHaus, Berghaus' new global design and development innovation team (news item here), has been working on the second generation of Bioflex rucksacks.
The original Bioflex system, introduced in 2005, allowed movement of the pelvis via a central hub low on the back frame. The new development uses the latest materials to take this a step further in terms of lightness and load carrying comfort. The pack itself is amongst the lightest in its category. Berghaus also say that it came out top of the tree in an independent test with five other leading brands as the most efficient carrying system requiring less energy to carry during each day of use.
In clothing, Berghaus has been working on plugging gaps in the range next year. There will be new leg wear, windproofs and waterproofs made from Berghaus' AQ family of waterproof and breathable fabrics. The highest proportion of new products will be in the Trail Sports range: extremely lightweight shell jackets and vests, and running tights and shorts.
Mammut is 150 years old. To celebrate, they've developed a no compromises technical range called Eiger Extreme, available this autumn from specially selected retailers who have the alpine competence to 'handle the technical products and demanding end consumers in terms of quality of advice, selection and product presentation.'
To guarantee the quality of the products and prevent copies, the hard and softshell jackets and backpacks feature a non-reproducible tesa Holospot. A code allows the owner of an Extreme jacket to verify online the authenticity of each product. The high tech range focuses on light weight, functionality and striking designs; Mammut have worked closely with selected fabric partners such as Gore-Tex, Schoeller, Polartec and YKK to create it.
The men's Eiswand Zip Pull Light (available this autumn) is a good example of the attention to detail - a light fleece jumper made from Polartec PowerDry, it features flat-locked seams, a covered chin protector with a flat edge, a high collar for neck protection and a deep front zip for rapid ventilation. It weighs 150g.
Meanwhile the women's Felsnadel Half-Zip (available next spring) is a 3-layer Gore-tex Active Shell top. It offers maximum breathability and weather protection. The main features are an innovative spiral zip to reduce weight and avoid sewing puncture holes, a hood with a 3-point adjustment system which rolls up and has a reinforced hood shield, ergonomically engineered sleeves for ease of movement and front pockets positioned for access even if wearing a pack. It weighs 260g.
There are always too many innovative new things to choose from on the Marmot stand. This year, the brand were honoured with an award from Outdoor Markt magazine: 'most innovative brand of the show', which Hugh from the UK office is proudly wielding below. Colours are a key feature in next year's collection. Inspired by the wide range of colours in nature, the jackets and pants are dazzling, bold and dynamic.
So what jackets can you look forward to next spring? The stars of the fast and light category will be the innovative Vector Jacket (£250), made from Gore-tex Active Shell with a ventilation panel in the back; the Fusion Jacket made from ultra-lightweight Pertex Quantum; and fans of Marmot's DriClime range look out for the Atomic Jacket (£110), with Marmot's new Stretch Dri Clime lining for moisture management and comfort during intensive activities.
What else? Two new styles in the Gore-tex shell line: the Speed Light Jacket is lean, clean and technical, made from Pro Shell, while the Vagabond offers reliable and reasonably priced protection for all outdoor activities: it's made from Gore-tex Performance Shell. Women: look out in particular for the Nano - this popular jacket was previously only available in men's. The Gore-tex Paclite shell weighs only 218g and is fully seam taped with water resistant zips.
In Spring 2012 Arc'teryx's range will be refocused on summer alpinism. The emphasis is on jackets that work perfectly when moving fast in the mountains – offering the best possible balance of breathability, durability, compactness and weather protection. How? They've used 'hybrid construction', i.e. jackets made from two different fabrics.
In the video below, Tom Duguid from Arc'teryx talks us through the Alpha FL jacket, which arrives in Spring 2012 (RRP £340). It combines Gore-tex Active Shell and Gore-tex Pro Shell.
The North Face
In Spring 2012 The North Face range will include Gore-Tex Active Shell for the first time, in three Summit Series (their expert collection) jackets: the men's and women's Alpine Project and the men's Apparition. The Alpine Project is simple: it's main features are a technical fit, a hood with a laminated brim, a two-way centre front zip, two big pockets and pit zip vents.
Another jacket to look out for is the men's Alpine Project Wind Jacket. It's constructed from two thin layers of a 15D nylon micro ripstop fabric, which makes it very windproof. The main body of the jacket features 'body mapping' technology for a perfect fit, and it stows into it's own pocket.
TNF's other main story is the new 'Mountaineering Backpacking' footwear. It's the first time they've produced crampon compatible boots. The key boot is the Verto S4K, which has been designed and produced in Europe, another first. The other shoes to watch out for are the Verbera Backpacker GTX, Verbera Lightpacker GTX and the Verbera Hiker GTX.
Big news for Lowe Alpine is that the brand has just been bought by Equip, the Derbyshire company which owns British brands Rab and Podsacs, amongst others. That means that clothing will soon be back in the range. We were impressed by the innovative details on many Lowe Alpine packs.
Below, Dave Suddes talks us through a clever system for attaching an axe to the Alpine Attack range of packs.
The most noteworthy new jackets to look forward to in Patagonia's Spring 2012 range are the Super Cell Jacket, the Adze Jacket and the updated version of the popular Simple Guide Jacket.
The Super Cell will be the lightest Gore-tex Paclite jacket in the line. It's efficient, durable and compressible. The Adze is a soft shell made from Polartec Windbloc stretch-woven fabric. The fabric is exclusive to Patagonia. It gives the jacket mobility, durability and complete windproofing. Meanwhile the Simple Guide Jacket gets a new hood.
The trail running range will also be completely revamped and expanded next spring – look out for the Air Flow (men) and Draft (women), which offer max air permeability, durability and 15 UPF. The running shorts have all been completely redesigned from scratch, too.
Also new: Silkweight Merino base layers made from the finest chlorine-free merino available, and blended with recycled polyester for added durability.
From this autumn, all Patagonia products can be returned to them for efficient recycling once they're worn out, under their Common Threads Initiative.