‘Best In Show’ Outdoor Retailer – Top Gear 2016

The Outdoor Retailer trade show is a venue for brands to display new gear for the upcoming year. From our time at the show in Utah this week, these to-be-released products for 2016 represent some of the best.

Outdoor Retailer ‘Best In Show’ Selection

Next-level ski boots to “indestructible” mountaineering socks, in this roundup you will see some of the most innovative new outdoors gear coming to market in 2016. This is the GearJunkie Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2016 “Best In Show” awards.

‘Smart’ Headlamp, Programmable Beam

headlamp can be controlled by a smartphone to regulate its beam for a specified amount of time. For example: Know you have one hour for a night trail run? Via Bluetooth and a phone screen a runner can program the 750-lumen headlamp to kick out the maximum amount of light possible to run for said hour with the exact amount of battery power that remains.

Vibram Sole Grips Ice

sole blew our minds. What appears to be rubber tread mutates with cold temps to change color and grip solidly on wet ice. At the trade show, hundreds of people tested the Arctic Grip sole on an elevated walkway of ice side by side against a traditional Vibram sole. The verdict? This stuff works amazingly well, and it is likely to be a winter benchmark for years to come.

Lightest Avalanche Airbag

Avalanche airbags can save lives, but they usually come with a hefty weight penalty. At 4lb. 3oz., Mammut’s Ultralight Removable Airbag 3.0 is barely heavier than traditional backpacks and comes packed with an effective airbag system. It will cost $489.95 when it comes to stores in October 2016.

Ultimate Mountaineering Sock

Climber Conrad Anker worked with SmartWool to develop the merino-based PhD Outdoor Mountaineer Socks, which are made on 200-needle count machines that allow knitting the “lightest possible socks with the finest yarn,” SmartWool states. The resulting “Industractawool” fabric is a light but durable material with a bulk-free instep, mesh zones for venting, and an overall tight, high-performance fit. We tested the socks over two weeks prior to the show, including kicking steps up a winter 14er in Colorado, and we can agree with SmartWool that they are among the “most technical mountaineering socks ever built.”

A Mountaineering Boot For Skiers

Ski boots, even those designed for touring, tend to feel bulky and restricting when used for hiking. But thanks to a new kind of articulating cuff design that adds side-to-side motion, the Arc’teryx Procline ski boot behaves more like footwear that’s made for hiking. The result is a high-end mountaineering boot that can drive skis or don crampons in alpine environments. We tested the Procline at Solitude Mountain before the OR Show and came away impressed.

Ski Pole So Light You Won’t Believe It

“Wow.” That was the reaction of our editors picking up the Black Diamond Helio touring pole for the first time. At just 4.5 ounces each, these things weigh basically nothing yet feel strong and rigid. They are made in a similar way as carbon-fiber bike frames, begging the question “why did they take so long.” The company used inflation-molded carbon fiber, a process that takes a lot of time. (Black Diamond claims it can output just 10 pairs a day.) The Helio poles are crazy light, but you’ll pay for it at $299.

Columbia OutDry Ex Diamond Insulated Jacket

We’ve had more time with this pre-release jacket than any other product on the list, and we have come to love the waterproof puffy, which redefines the genre of winter outerwear. Made with waterproof OutDry Extreme fabric, the jacket serves as a shell and a well-insulated down puffy in one. The waterproof/breathable membrane is on the outside of the fabric, eliminating the need for DWR treatments and creating a “permanent beading surface” that sheds water like a duck’s back. We’ve tested it in harsh conditions, from alpine skiing in subzero weather to the top of a 14er, and Columbia’s Outdry Ex Diamond Insulated Jacket shined through it all.

External Frame Pack, Modernized

External frame packs have been a stagnant segment in the outdoors market for decades. But Mystery Ranch’s hunting-inspired Metcalf pack caught attention for its hauling ability and innovative frame. Dana Gleason (of Dana Designs fame) built the external frame pack to ferry the huge loads associated with hunting, though with the nimbleness desired for a hiking pack. The brand’s Guide Light Frame forms a backbone of the system, which opens and expands to stow huge hauls.

Snow & Ice Running Shoe

Start with the Vibram Arctic Grip sole (also an award-winner; see here), which grips onto glare ice better than anything we’ve tested. Then add a streamlined upper that tapers to a gaiter. Inside, a fleece-lined neoprene completes the package, making the Saucony Razor ICE+ a new standard for runners who don’t slow down when it gets cold outside.

A Better Connection To Trekking Poles

Most cinch-on pole straps lock your hand in one place. The simple elastic band on the LEKI Trigger S Vertical System gives multiple grip positions while you hike. You can grip the main handle or stretch to move the hand up and down on the pole, including to the top of the pole when needed on rugged terrain. A second option is the LEKI Tour Plus S Glove, which integrates the system via a Dynema connection loop between thumb and forefinger.

Off-Grid ‘Minipresso’ Espresso Maker

We are coffee lovers at GearJunkie, but sometimes it’s impractical to boil a lot of water to make a large cup of Joe. Enter the Wacaco Minipresso, a liter-bottle sized espresso maker that uses a hand pump to force boiling water through pre-ground beans. The result is a deliciously frothy espresso that can be made anywhere, from your kitchen to the side of a mountain. It’s been around for about six months on Amazon, but this is the first release of the product to the outdoors market, and it seems a perfect fit.

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