From intelligent drones to “levitating” tents, the future of the outdoors industry is nothing if not unique. These trends and observations were culled from trade shows, industry events, and from R&D labs as a peek at what’s upcoming in outdoors gear.
Drones will follow and film
Your own personal film crew? A new genre of camera-equipped drones that track their owner while skiing, biking, or running become a reality soon from a few brands. One example, appropriately named the Staaker, is touted as “artificially intelligent” enough to auto-follow (and film) anyone at up to 50mph.
Boots will stick to ice
A new rubber compound, Vibram’s Arctic Grip Sole gives “up to three times better grip” on wet ice surfaces. We tested a prototype last winter, and the technology works. Wolverine debuts the new kind of sole this fall in its Crossbuck FX Ice+ boots. Look for Arctic Grip on multiple brands in 2017.
Your T-shirt will cool you
So-called “cooling shirts” have been around. But next year materials giant Polartec has a new take with Delta, a fabric that has hydrophobic and hydrophilic fibers to disperse moisture and increase airflow. The shirt gets cooler once wet (from sweat) and was impressive in my pre-release test. (See full review.)
Climbing gear gets safer
The key safety piece in climbing, the belay device, gets an upgrade for 2017 from a few brands. Most notably, the Wild Country Revo has a new “bi-directional” auto-locking design to make belaying almost foolproof.
‘Inflatable’ hammocks will be everywhere
Dutch brand Lamzac popularized a new kind of outdoors seating, dubbed “inflatable hammocks.” The air-filled couches were omnipresent at recent industry events, with more than a dozen companies involved in manufacturing and perpetuating the odd, cushiony trend. (See our full review.)
B-corps gain steam
Patagonia is the industry poster child for the benefit corporation (b-corp) designation, which entails a company legally committing to supporting environmental and humanitarian causes. Brands as diverse as Wylder, a women-focused startup, and energy-food maker Yumbutter are jumping aboard the b-corp ship.
Synthetic insulation (still) aims at down
The brand Primaloft and other insulation brands have long produced fluffy white stuff that traps warm air and mimics down in jackets and sleeping bags. For next year, another major player, ALLIED Feather & Down, after years of R&D, will leave its goose feathers out of the picture and introduce LOFTECH, which it claims to be the first synthetic to “truly mimic the structure of natural down.”