Although tons of cool new gear was on show at Outdoor Retailer last week (we will continue our coverage here over the coming days), a few items stood out as truly innovative. Here are our picks for Innovation Award Winner Winter 2015.
Columbia TurboDown Wave: This unique method of jacket construction combines 900-fill water-resistant down with Omni-Heat Thermal synthetic insulation–the two run through the jacket in a ‘wave-like’ pattern, with the down flanking both sides of the baffles. The jacket lining and shell are stitched into this internal wave, rather than into each other in order to eliminate seams where heat can escape. The HeatZone 1000 jacket is the pinnacle TurboDown Wave piece–I have been wearing it all winter and have been impressed at both its warmth and breathability.
Hoka Tor Ultra Hi WP ($230): Weighing in at just over one pound, this hiking boot combines Hoka’s signature running shoe cushioning and Meta-Rocker geometry with a supportive high-top, waterproof upper. The new Vibram MegaGrip outsole with five millimeter lugs gives hikers the traction and durability they require over a variety of terrain.
Gore-Tex C-Knit: The new C-Knit backer from Gore-Tex is made from a tuck and stitch circular knit nylon—very similar to a pair of panty hose. This new backer is then paired with 22 different laminates featuring Gore-Tex’s most proven membrane and a variety of nylon face fabrics (including stretch nylon) ranging from 12 denier to 140 denier in weight. The result is a softer, lighter, and more breathable construction, yet just as durably waterproof as traditional Tricot backed products. Aimed at the hiking, trekking, and freeride markets, C-Knit offers the softness of a 2-layer jacket with the breathability of a 3-layer. I saw some great C-Knit pieces from Mammut, Arc’teryx, and Millet.
Black Diamond Snaggletooth Crampons ($210): This unique crampon combines the precision of a monopoint with the stability and versatility of horizontal frontpoints, making the perfect crampon for technical alpine routes. I would love to take these to climb in Chamonix.
The North Face Modulator ABS ($1000): This modular ABS system can be used with almost any pack and adds only 4.5 pounds of weight. A secure harness system attaches the dual airbags and nitrogen canister to both your backpack and yourself with webbing shoulder straps and leg loops. The pneumatic trigger can be located on either shoulder strap.
Salomon MTN Skins: Salomon partnered with POMOCA to offer the lightest, most compact, and least water-retaining skin available–best of all, the MTN Skins are glueless (they use tiny suction cups instead), meaning they are easy to pull apart and attach. No more tug of war with your skins.
Mountain Khakis Alpha Switch Pullover ($240): This piece stood out for the innovative use of Polartec Alpha insulation–the reversible pullover features 80 grams of Alpha sandwiched between a stretch woven on one side and a translucent, DWR ripstop nylon on the other. This means the jacket performs equally well as both an active outdoor piece and as a more casual lifestyle design.