At this Outdoor Retailer show, I finally decided to hand out awards for products or technologies that I believe to be truly innovative and helping to push the industry forward. Although there are tons of really cool new products for Spring ’15 (many of which I already have or still plan to highlight on the site), the following 5 products or technologies stood out for their fresh approach at solving a problem or pushing product design.
1. Columbia Lightrail Zipper: Extremely lightweight, discreet, and fully waterproof, the Lightrail zipper does away with zipper tape by directly bonding the zipper onto laser cut fabric. The zipper head locks into a docking station to further ensure all moisture stays out. Columbia excels at taking technologies that appear in higher end apparel and bringing them to more affordable pieces in a relatively short period of time. Debuting in the US Olympic Freestyle Ski uniforms at the Sochi games this winter, the LightRail zipper now features in the $80 Sleeker Jacket for Spring ’15.
2. Arc’teryx Alpha2 FL: Taking a completely new approach to footwear in their inaugural collection, Arc’teryx breaks down the shoe into two parts—an inner liner for exceptional fit and comfort, with a durable outer shell made from a seamless one piece upper, protected EVA midsole, 3-D toe and heel caps, and a custom Vibram outsole. The waterproof stretch GORE-TEX liner is removable for easy drying, to wear as a hut/camp shoe, or to swap out for a warmer insulated Mid level liner.
3. GORE-TEX Surround: This new footwear technology from GORE-TEX ups the breathability for a waterproof shoe. Moisture and warmth can escape from below the foot through the waterproof GORE-TEX membrane into what is called a spacer, and from there, out through the sides of the shaft of the shoe via the ventilation outlets. This makes for drier, happier feet, both inside and out.
4. The North Face FuseForm: Although technically launched at the winter show, The North Face’s FuseForm construction creates a jacket out of a single piece of fabric, folded and stitched together almost like origami. This cuts the amount of seam taping by nearly half, improving protection and reducing weight. The fabrics are made from a blend of varying strength yarns that seamlessly reinforces high-wear areas. For Spring ’15, the technology continues in pieces such as the FuseForm Dot Matrix Jacket ($199)—a technical rain shell.
5. Salomon S-Lab X Alp Carbon GTX ($300): The trend in alpine climbing is most definitely towards fast and light, done in a day type assaults. Exceptional athletes such as Kilian Jornet and Ueli Steck have shown us what is possible. Working with Kilian, Salomon created a mountaineering “boot” to support these types of endeavors. Although you may not be climbing WI 6 ice in the S-Lab X Alp Carbon GTX, they will definitely help you bag the summit of many a mountain and make it back down in time for dinner.