‘Best in Show’ awards (part II)

Earlier this week, in Part I of our “Best in Show” series, we highlighted a handful of new and innovative products from the Outdoor Retailer trade show. Part II includes touchscreen gloves, an alpine “smock” jacket, and a GPS device that connects to your smartphone. Congrats to the designers and the companies pushing limits in the industry of outdoors gear! —Stephen Regenold

Technical Smock — For its pure audacity of design, the Spektr Smock jacket from U.K.-based Montane gets an award. Touted as the market’s first zipper-free eVent garment, the Spektr Smock — it’s a “smock,” not a jacket! — is made for ultra-light freaks in the sports of alpine climbing, cycling, and wilderness running. It weighs a scant 7.4 ounces and uses tiny elastic loops and closure hooks on front in lieu of a zipper. Its three-layer eVent face fabric is waterproof and breathable, and the jacket, er, smock will be available in March for $270. www.montane.co.uk

Spektr Smock: “World’s first zipper-free eVent garment”

NEMO Pad — Tentmaker NEMO Equipment Inc. jumps into the ultra-light camp pad game with an innovative foam-filled inflatable. The Zor pad packs up super small because of its unique configuration of cored holes inside — the foam is cut with horizontal and vertical channels to ditch weight and add insulating value. The result is a 48-inch-long pad (size small) that weighs a scant 10 ounces and packs to a size about as big as a Nalgene water bottle. $79.95, www.nemoequipment.com

NEMO Equipment Inc.‘s tiny and light ZOR camp pad

Light Saber — Tough, waterproof, and extremely bright — it’s touted to throw an 800+ lumen beam more than 1,000 feet into the night! — the TK35 from Fenix is a neat debut in the realm of the flashlight. We blazed it around on the show floor, and in a brightly-lit room with windows the TK35’s L.E.D. cut through the air and shined on the high ceiling as a tight circle of white. The light takes four CR123A batteries and, according to company specs, can shine for up to an hour and a half on its high setting before running dry (or much longer on lower settings). The TK35 is made of metal and, at about 6 inches long, fits easily in the hand. Available now. $109, www.fenixlighting.com

Super bright and small TK35 flashlight from Fenix

Armored Ski Pack — Deuter’s Descentor 22 looks like a regular stealthy ski pack, including a close fit, ski-attachment straps, and pockets for avalanche probes and a shovel. But hidden inside is a built-in back protector to keep you safer in a crash. A sandwiched foam and composite board back panel can protect from blunt forces encountered in an avalanche or a mistimed huck. Bonus touches include a fleece-lined goggle pocket and a neoprene tunnel integrated into the shoulder strap to keep a hydration hose from freezing up. $169, www.deuterusa.com

Deuter’s Descentor 22 ski pack has a built-in back protector panel

Timberland “Jacket” Boot — Promising the “waterproof protection of a hiker, but the lightness of a sneaker,” Timberland’s LiteTrace boot weighs just 12 ounces in a men’s size nine. But what makes the boot innovative is its upper, which incorporates a tough, single-layer waterproof fabric that acts and feels like a beefed up GORETEX shell. The material is flexible and thin, but stout enough to take abuse on a trail. The company uses a “no-sew construction” and minimal seam sealing up top, too, in an effort to keep the boot durable and leak-proof for the long haul. Available in August for $155. www.timberland.com

12 ounces: Timberland’s LiteTrace boot

Bright Lamp — Light & Motion, a company known mainly for its bike lights, enters the outdoors category in full with the Solite 150, a neat new headlamp that puts out a max of 150 lumens. I tested the Solite on a nocturnal cross-country ski outing last week in Utah, and the little L.E.D. light was indeed quite bright. It weighs just 125 grams. The complete package ships with a bike mount and the headlamp strap. Bonus: You can recharge the Solite 150’s integrated li-ion battery via a USB port on a laptop computer. Available in April for $179. www.lightandmotion.com

The Solite 150 by Light & Motion is 150 lumens bright (and only 125 grams in weight)

Alpine iPhone Glove — The Outdoor Research Ambit Gloves are bonafide alpine handwear that let you take a call on a touchscreen phone (without exposing your hands to the cold). The waterproof winter gloves feature a patented technology called TouchTec ™ made by Broleco Inc. that allows the screen to sense the touch of the leather. This enables the use of a touchscreen with gloves on. The gloves are insulated and have mountain-ready features — rip-stop nylon gauntlet, a nose wipe on the thumb, “idiot cords” to clip ‘em in — that are standard on many Outdoor Research gloves made for alpine climbing or the ski slopes. Available next fall for $99. www.outdoorresearch.com

OR’s waterproof winter gloves have special leather that enables the use of a touchscreen phone

NeoShell — Polartec used the OR show as an opportunity to unveil NeoShell, a waterproof-breathable hardshell fabric that competes head-to-head with GORETEX. It is touted as the “most breathable waterproof fabric on the market” and for 2011 several major outerwear companies — including Marmot, Rab, The North Face, Westcomb, 66 North, Mammut, and Eider — are onboard. What makes it different? As I wrote in my “Hardshell Jacket ‘Rebirth’ in 2011?” article last year, the heart of NeoShell is in a polyurethane-based, microscopically-porous membrane that is made to repel water and breathe. Polartec says NeoShell is different from GORETEX in that it is highly “air permeable.” Translation: While other membranes are airtight, NeoShell lets a tiny bit of air get in through a hardshell fabric. Here’s an official explanation from Polartec literature: “NeoShell is completely waterproof but unlike most hardshells on the market today with zero airflow, NeoShell allows actual air permeability. Even a tiny amount of air permeability, imperceptible from a wind chill standpoint, accelerates moisture vapor transport significantly.” www.polartec.com

Polartec diagram

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