‘Best in Show’ Winter Gear: Outdoor Retailer 2020

From outerwear and sleeping bags to backcountry skis, brands congregated to launch products at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show 2020.

Our team spent 3 days in Denver last week at the trade show to find the best to-be-released products for winter 2020-2021. The following items caught our eye at Outdoor Retailer as some of the most innovative and the “Best in Show.”

The North Face: Advanced Mountain Kit

The North Face Advanced Mountain Kit

The Advanced Mountain Kit may be the most refined apparel and equipment line for mountaineering we have seen. The North Face worked for 4 years on research and development to build a 21-piece line that includes base-, mid-, and outer-layers, down jackets, a tent, sleeping bag, gloves, boots, and basically everything you need on peaks up to 8,000 meters.

It starts from a base layer and works outward, through midlayers, a shell, and a down summit suit. In addition to FUTURELIGHT materials, four proprietary technologies are found throughout the line. These include new down baffle construction, octagonal-shaped yarn (for higher thermal performance in fleece), a moisture-expelling material with hydrophobic inner yarns, and more.

Working its way down, the line reimagines 8,000m boots with low-top hikers that fit inside insulating overboots in high-altitude situations. Finally, a sub-3-pound single-wall tent made from breathable FUTURELIGHT fabric rounds out this incredible package of gear built for the tallest peaks on the planet.

Atomic: Backland ‘Autoclimb’ Binding

Atomic Backland Autoclimb binding

Atomic introduced one of the most unique backcountry ski bindings we’ve seen in years, the Backland Autoclimb. And while we’re not sure how popular it will eventually be, it innovates in a way our team had never even considered.

The Backland Autoclimb is a tech ski binding that automatically adjusts the heel riser for uphill travel using two hydraulic pistons. We played with the binding on the show floor, and while the early-production sample we tried was a little rough around the corners, it really did work!

Put the ski flat on the floor, and the binding provides a flat surface for hiking. But tilt the nose skyward, as a skier traveling up a steep hill, and a few pumps of the binding result in a heel riser moving up to meet the climber.

Meant for beginning backcountry skiers, this innovative product opens a new way to manage a small part of backcountry skiing in a way no other brand has tried.

Cake: Osa Electric Motorcycle

Cake Osa

The Cake Osa is a street-legal “electric utility motorcycle” with a top speed of 63 miles per hour for both on- and off-road riding. But what really sets it apart is its modular design and gear-hauling capability. Designed with various clamps and mounting points in mind, the Osa is a gear-hauling beast of a bike with over 1,000 customization combinations. Consumers will be able to get the Osa in two models, the Osa+ and the Osa Lite (63 mph versus 30 mph).

It’s a smart design that gives a huge array of uses, from a daily commuter to a gear-hauler that could lug chainsaws into the wilds for trail maintenance. The beauty is that beyond top speed and a range of about 60 miles, the utility of the Osa is only limited by the user’s imagination.

Rossignol: BLACKOPS Sender TI

Rossignol BLACKOPS Sender Ti

One of the biggest ski announcements at the show, Rossignol completely shakes up its line for 2020-2021. First, it will eliminate its cornerstone “7” series, which includes such wildly popular models as the Soul 7, Sky 7 HD, and Super 7 RD. In its place, the brand launches the BLACKOPS series.

And while a few popular BLACKOPS models from last year remain, the reminted line has a new pinnacle piece in the BLACKOPS Sender TI. Meant for expert skiers on big lines, the Sender TI takes the brand in a freeride-oriented direction.

The Sender TI is 106 mm at the waist, with a modest tip and tail taper. It carries a Titanal layer for stiffness underfoot and in the tail. Plus, the shovel has some dampening technologies to reduce vibration.

Finally, the ski uses FSC- and PEFC-certified wood and other recycled materials for a more sustainable ride. We look forward to riding this very sendy-looking ski soon.

Black Diamond: Distance Spike Traction Device

black diamond distance spike

Traction devices for hiking and running on ice have not changed much in several years — until now. Black Diamond’s Distance Spike traction device offers an industry-first hybrid upper with a softshell toe cover combined with a heel retention elastomer.

This soft, waterproof foot cover gives trail runners a good fit over shoes for when trails get icy. Plus, the Distance weighs in at just 100 g per device. It has 14 spikes that are 8 mm in length, designed to provide traction on snow and ice.

The spikes are made of stainless steel and are heat-treated for strength, corrosion, and wear resistance.

Picture Organic: Demain Jacket

Picture Organic Demain Jacket

Picture Organic has done it again, launching what might be the most sustainable and innovative jacket at Outdoor Retailer. Last year, the brand won Best in Show for its Harvest jacket. This year, Picture ups the ante with the Demain, a waterproof-breathable shell made from 58% bio-sourced materials and 42% recycled polyester.

But the bigger story here may be the unveiling of an all-new material tech called Xpore that imbues the Demain with its performance features. The new membrane was created by consumer-electronics giant BenQ, and it purports to match GORE-TEX on waterproofness, beat it on breathability, and come in at half the weight. What’s more, Xpore is touted as being made at its factory without the use of chemical solvents.

Look for the Demain jacket this fall for $500.

Morrison Outdoors: Little Mo 20 Baby Sleeping Bag

morrison outdoors little mo 20

From big brands and big mountains, we shift to a cottage brand making products for the smallest members of the outdoor community — babies. Morrison Outdoors this year introduced the first brand founded on building sleeping bags for babies up to 2 years old (and other models for toddlers and young children).

But the Little Mo 20 grabbed our attention most. Morrison Outdoors rates this sleeping bag for babies to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It uses 650-fill Responsible Down Standard-certified duck down to keep the bag light and compressible. The bag has arm sleeves enclosed at the ends for warmth and to keep babies safer. For families exploring the outdoors with very young children, this product could be a godsend.

GSI: Pinnacle Pro Stove

GSI Pinnacle Pro Stove

Camping brand GSI put clever innovation into a cornerstone outdoor product to reimagine how a camp stove folds down and stores. The Pinnacle Pro Stove uses a folding parallelogram design to become incredibly thin for storage. Folded down, it’s just 1.4 inches thick! But at 20.0 x 12.4 inches, it provides a full-size, two-burner stove for camp chefs.

It offers two 11,000 BTU compact regulated propane burners with piezo ignition; a unique, nonstick-coated drip pan for easy cleanup; and folding legs for full-height tabletop cooking and efficient storage. GSI estimates the retail price around $170.

Five Ten: Hiangle Pro

5.10 hi angle

Five Ten calls its Hiangle Pro the “biggest innovation in climbing shoes since the down-turned last.” Up close, one sees a shoe that follows the trajectory of indoor climbing’s volume-oriented evolution.

Specifically, Five Ten created the Hiangle Pro to work well on volumes, as well as the transition between volume and traditional holds. (Volumes are large shapes placed on climbing walls that climbers can use to progress upward.) While traditional climbing shoes incorporate a 90-degree angle on the inside edge, the Hiangle Pro has a unique, rounded inside sole and heel design meant to excel for Olympic-level climbers.

To handmake the shoe, Five Ten uses 17 pattern pieces. The upper is a high-end microfiber that mimics the comfort and breathability of leather, with just enough “knuckle” stretch to allow the shoe to conform to each foot. The shoe will launch in Europe and Japan for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, then roll out in North America in fall 2020.

Hustle: REM Pedals

Hustle REM Pedals

The REM bike pedal may not be the first magnetic bike pedal, but it’s poised to be the best — by far. Hustle invented the REM Pedal for mountain bikers and commuters who want the power and connection of SPD-style pedals but the easy exit of flats. And from some early tests, we’d say the brand nailed the design.

Using extremely powerful Neodymium N52 magnets, the Hustle REM pedals provide 128 pounds of pull force per pedal. So for even very powerful riders, it’s nearly impossible to pull your foot straight off the pedal. But a simple, light twist easily pops your foot free for fast and safe dismounting.

For a lot of riders (we’re looking at you, flats-riding mountain bikers), this could be a really nice improvement over current options.

GORE-TEX: PRO

Gore-Tex Pro 2020

For 2020, GORE-TEX introduces an entirely retooled PRO fabric, and it’s the best we’ve seen yet from the ubiquitous brand. The latest iteration of GORE-TEX PRO gives apparel manufacturers three “pro”-level fabric choices with three different properties:

  • PRO with stretch is a new and advanced way of creating 20 percent stretch (a lot in a waterproof-breathable fabric). Due to this new technology, stretching the fabric doesn’t compromise the waterproof rating of the membrane.
  • PRO most breathable is a 30-denier face fabric in the lightest GORE-TEX PRO fabric the brand has ever offered. For the gram-counters out there who want a durable, long-lasting product but still desire lightness, longevity, and breathability, this PRO technology is the latest solution.
  • PRO most rugged is the most durable version of GORE-TEX fabric ever offered.

Plus, all three GORE-TEX PRO offerings can be combined in single garments, like Outdoor Research’s Archangel Kit (we’ll see many more in fall 2020). This will result in some of the most advanced outerwear offerings the world has seen.