Austin Parker, Kid Richmond, and I are back from last week’s exciting Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Now that we have had a chance to compare notes and collect our thoughts, we would like to share with you what gear we thought was definitely “Best of Show” this year. Below you’ll find the first half of our selections. The second half will be published tomorrow. While not all the products featured in our “Best of Show” are brand new for 2016, this is what stood out amongst the thousands and thousands of items on display …
We all know Arc’teryx as a titan in the outerwear and climbing gear world. In the last year however, they have moved into new categories, and their venerable heritage and design DNA carries over in every product we’ve seen. The pinnacle of their footwear campaign is the new Procline ski boot. Built with ski alpinists in mind, the Procline just begs for human-powered uphill travel. The upper cuff provides ample flex while in “walk mode”. However, unlike most competitors, the Procline features some lateral flex as well as forward and backward. What does this mean? For awkward side hill crossing in crampons or on skis, the Procline is much better at providing balance. We got a sneak peek at this feature, as well as the built-in gaiter (another first for backcountry ski boots) at the on snow demo day, and we’re chomping at the bit to get a test pair in our size for some longer technical climbing missions soon.
SmartWool PhD Indestructiwool
Famed big wall climber Conrad Anker came to SmartWool last year and asked for the best high altitude mountaineering sock they could build. After multiple trips to fabric mills in Tennessee, and ten iterations of prototypes, the Outdoor Mountaineer Sock was born. Using a new process of knitting, on machines which employ 200 needles at a time, the new “Indestructiwool” socks provide reinforcements in high abrasion areas, merino next to skin, a nylon core, and merino on the outside. If ever there was a sock that we would actually view as a piece of technical gear, this is it.
UCO Titan Stormproof Matches – $9.99
The Titan definitely lives up to its name. These stormproof matches are UCO’s beefiest, longest-burning windproof and waterproof matches. Measuring just over four inches long and sporting a burn time of up to 25 seconds, these super sticks will fire right up even in the harshest of conditions – even right after bring submerged in water. UCO set us up with a couple of boxes and we’re already putting them to the test! Look for an in-depth review in the weeks ahead.
Petzl NAO+ Headlamp
The current Petal NAO has found a core of users in the climbing and skiing world. After all, being able to output up to 750 lumens is always welcome when you’re on the trail alone in the predawn hours. The next model, NAO+, adds in bluetooth connectivity so you can set it and forget it. Our favorite feature was the separate profiles, so that we could run the lamp adaptably in varying light while out on the trail or around camp. It also has a live battery indicator in the app, so you’ll know that you can run that dazzling spot light at full power for your after work train run, or conserve batteries on a long weekend in the wilderness. Finally, you can even program custom SOS messages that the NAO+ can send to rescuers through flashing morse code in the case of emergency. Our choice of message? “Send more beer!”
Vibram Arctic Grip
The night before the show started, we were invited to a launch party to check out the latest sole technology from Vibram – Arctic Grip. While it was easy to dismiss the posters and marketing materials, once we put a pair of shoes with Arctic Grip on that evening, we were convinced. Using a thermochromatic rubber compound , Arctic Grip has up to 30% more traction on wet ice in extreme cold. Vibram engineers poured a barrel of water on an ice rink and we were able to walk across it like we had serious crampons on. When combined with their previous iteration of IceTrek for drier conditions, we anticipate this to become the gold standard for winter footwear (and hopefully those Hankook tires with Arctic Grip we spotted at the booth will make it to market for our winter rigs too).
HydraPak Seeker – $17.99 – $21.99
If you’re looking for a collapsible, ultralight and portable container for water storage, the HydraPak Seeker is it! Designed for camping, hiking, or just about any backcountry adventure, the Seeker features a flow-control cap for quick and easy pours while the thin TPU and RF welded seams ensure durability and longevity. HydraPak said it was strong enough to handle anything. Trust us – we plan to put that claim to the test once we get our hands on one. Available in 1L, 2L, and 3L sizes, the Seeker comes with a No-Leak warranty for worry-free use.
STABILicers Hike XP – $49.95
The Hike XP from STABIL is their most dynamic traction device yet. It provides superior traction and stability in a variety of winter conditions and terrains. Strap a set on your boots or hiking boots and the SureFit binding system and contoured insole provide a secure and comfortable fit. The Hike XP features replaceable cleats and a proprietary tread pattern to tackle anything from frozen streams to un-groomed trails.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Best of Show: OR Winter Market 2016 tomorrow …