Typically, these trade-show recaps start with something like, “Wow, we just spent several days barely sleeping and eating nothing but fun-size candy.”
But this year’s Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show was surprisingly … mellow. There was still a ton of stuff to cover, but the trade show floor seemed oddly calm compared to prior years.
Last year, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and SIA were combined into one show, which was convenient, but very hectic (to say the least). So this year, the two shows were separated so that most of the apparel, camping, and backpack brands could show off their 19/20 lines last weekend at ORWM, and most of the hard goods will be shown at SIA at the end of this coming January.
So this past weekend consisted mostly of perusing lots of new apparel and packs, with the occasional ski and ski boot mixed in. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:
Scarpa Maestrale XT Touring Boot
This was one of the biggest surprises. Scarpa is releasing a stiffer version of their already-pretty-stiff Maestrale RS.
The new Maestrale XT has:
- The same carbon-Grilamid lower shell of the Maestrale RS
- A much more substantial full-overlap cuff than Maestrale RS
- The walk mode from Scarpa’s Freedom line of boots
- Two upper buckles (instead of one on the RS)
- A wide Booster-style power strap
- Stated weight of 1490 grams for a size 27
- Stated range of motion of 56° (vs. the RS’s 60°)
- Stated flex of “130+”
(Ski-boot flex numbers are always a bit enigmatic, but since we already know the Maestrale RS is a pretty stiff boot, we expect the XT to be worth a look for bigger and / or very aggressive skiers.)
Scarpa Furia Air Climbing Shoe
In addition to their new ski boot, Scarpa also announced a new climbing shoe called the Furia Air. The standard Furia S is already an extremely soft and sensitive shoe, but the Furia Air is reportedly even softer and more sensitive. And the Furia Air is supposedly only 150 grams per shoe for a size 40. Crazy.
Rab Gore Infinium Shakedry Down Jacket
Rab was showing off a new down jacket that featured Gore’s “Shakedry” technology, which basically means that the waterproof fabric does not have a face fabric, and the membrane itself is the outer layer. We’ve seen this before on ultralight running shells, but this is the first time we’ve seen Shakedry on an insulated piece. This is an interesting approach to staying warm and dry, and we’re excited to see Gore give brands more freedom to experiment with their fabrics.
Rab Hybrid Gore Pro / Gore Active Shell
Speaking of experimentation, Rab is also coming out with a shell that features Gore Pro on throughout most of the jacket, but then uses Gore’s much more breathable Active fabric around the face, hood, and under the arms. We’ve been big fans of Gore Active in our limited testing so far, so we’re glad to see it being used more.
Outdoor Research Refuge Air Hooded Jacket
Outdoor Research is releasing a new active insulation piece that uses their proprietary VerticalX Air insulation. This piece looks like it could be a strong competitor for the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hoody, which is a favorite of ours. In addition to the comfy and lightweight insulation, the Refuge Air also features an interesting-sounding treatment on the lining which is supposed to adapt to changing temperatures — when you get hot, it’s supposed to breathe more, and when you get cold, it’s supposed to breathe less. Interesting stuff.
Norrona Tamok Collection
While Norrona’s 19/20 Tamok collection doesn’t feature any insane new tech, it caught our eye due to the pieces’ combination of quality fabrics and very cool, urban-inspired silhouettes. The fits are long and generous, and the Gore-Pro Tamok shell and bibs look like solid options for people who want technical garments with a more casual look.
Norrona Trollveggen Collection
The Trollveggen collection is Norrona’s all-purpose alpine line, and several pieces in the 19/20 collection look very interesting. Most notable of which were the 950-fill-power down parka, and the burly Gore Pro shell and bibs. For a winter kit that you could use for a variety of activities (alpine climbing, ski touring, etc.), the new Trolveggen line looks pretty sweet. Plus, Norrona is reportedly dropping the prices on many of their items next year, making their high-quality apparel more approachable to more people.
(Norrona’s Lofoten and Lyngen ski collections are coming back largely unchanged for 19/20, and we should be reviewing a few new pieces from those collections this season.)
G3 Minimist & Escapist Skins
G3 overhauled their skin lineup this year, and they’re adding some more options for 19/20.
The new Minimist skins feature a totally redesigned tip attachment system, which uses much less plastic than the current Alpinist+ skins. This, combined with the next feature, is designed to let the Minimist pack up much smaller than G3’s standard Alpinist+ skins, which have pretty bulky tip and tail sections. The Minimist skins also feature carbon-fiber inserts around the tip section of the plush which are designed to decrease snow-creep without compromising packability. The Minimist skins will be available in G3’s Universal, Glide, and Speed plushes.
Complementing the Minimist line is the new Escapist, which gives people more freedom in terms of customizing their skin fit to their skis. The Escapist skins are available in G3’s Universal and Glide plushes, and come without the tip attachments already attached so that you can tweak the length of your skins as you like. The tip attachments on the Escapist skins are similar to the smaller attachment on the Minimist skins, but without the carbon reinforcements.
Flylow is making some notable updates to their outerwear lineup for 19/20.
First, they’re using an updated fabric for the Cooper Jacket and Smythe Bib that’s reportedly 20% lighter than this year’s version. That should make those pieces even more appealing for dedicated backcountry skiers and snowboarders.
To complement the Cooper, Flylow is coming out with their first women’s piece in their “Z-Line” touring collection. The jacket is called the Domino, and features the same Perm fabric as the Cooper.
Lastly, Flylow is experimenting with a new DWR that’s reportedly three to five times more effective than traditional DWR’s, and will be debuting it on a few of their key pieces, including the 19/20 Baker Bib.
In addition to their outerwear, Flylow is also coming out with some new midlayers. First is a Primaloft-insulated jacket that has softshell panels under the arms and on the back where your pack sits.
On the lighter side of things, they’re also making a grid fleece with ripstop reinforcements on the elbows and shoulders. It looks like it could be a strong competitor to the classic Patagonia R1 Hoody.
Mystery Ranch Ski Packs
I’m personally a huge fan of the Mystery Ranch Saddle Peak pack, so I was a bit anxious when they announced that they were changing the pack for 19/20. But many of the updates sound like steps in the right direction, including more glove-friendly buckles, an integrated helmet carry system, a strap for an ice axe, and a larger opening on the avalanche-gear pocket. The Saddle Peak now also has a lighter fabric and a slightly more minimal waist belt, so we’re very interested to see how the updated version performs.
In addition to the 25L Saddle Peak, Mystery Ranch was also showing off the 40L Gallatin Peak ski pack, which looks like it could be a good option for guides and / or longer tours.
Mystery Ranch Mountaineering Packs
Mystery Ranch is also releasing a totally new line of minimalist mountaineering packs — the Specter 35L and 50L. The Specter packs have all the typical alpine-pack features like dual-ice-tool carry options, plenty of lash points, and a front bungee system that you can use to stash crampons or extra layers. They also feature a separate drop-in pocket for wet layers or extra gear. And if you want to go lighter, you can strip off most of the external features on the packs, transforming them into sleek, light day packs. But unlike many alpine packs, the Specter packs still feature Mystery Ranch’s excellent suspension system. We’re very curious to see how the Specter 35L compares to other minimal alpine packs like the Patagonia Ascensionist.
The main story at Strafe’s booth was fabric refinement. They’ve continued to dial in their proprietary, air-permeable Recon fabric, and the freedom they’ve got with it is exciting. They’ve reportedly been able to tweak the membrane so that the 19/20 Pyramid Jacket will be even more waterproof than the Recon fabric on the current Cham Jacket, while still being air permeable. The new Pyramid also feels significantly lighter than the NeoShell version we tested, making it look even more appealing for touring.
Strafe’s also releasing some 2-layer versions of the Recon fabric, including the new insulated and urban-styled Conundrum Jacket. And the insulation in the Conundrum? That’s really interesting, which takes us to the next section:
The new Strafe Conundrum Jacket features “Primaloft Gold Cross Core,” which is also used on their new ultralight Aero Insulator. The Cross Core insulation is essentially a mix of standard Primaloft Gold fibers and aerogel, which is one of the best insulators known to man. The Aero Insulator is crazy light, and we’re very interested to see how it compares to other ultralight synthetic midlayers like the Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody.
While Allied doesn’t manufacture any garments, they do supply the down for a large portion of the outdoor industry. And while down has been traditionally thought of as just another ingredient in the apparel we use all the time, there’s been a recent (and worthwhile) shift toward being more cognizant of where the down in our products comes from, and how the birds from which that down came were treated.
To address this, Allied has developed an extremely interesting program where, for apparel pieces that use down sourced through Allied, you can scan a QR code on the piece’s hangtag and find out exactly where the down came from, what it fill power is, if it has any treatments, and how to take care of it. To test their site, click this link and then enter this code: 13150315388
Down has always been popular, but many consumers still don’t know much about it. So, Allied’s program seems like a very good step in the right direction.
La Sportiva Ski Boots
One of the few exhibitors showing off new hard goods, La Sportiva announced a new touring boot called the Skorpius that reportedly comes in at around 1000 grams per boot, and features a carbon-reinforced shell and minimal two-buckle layout. This new Skorpius boot looks like it could be a strong competitor for the very good Scarpa Alien RS.
La Sportiva Skis
Along with the new Skorpius boot, La Sportiva is also tweaking their Vapor line of skis. In the past, the Vapor skis had used a carbon-nanotube construction, with no wood in the core. For 19/20, the Vapor Float (117 mm), Vapor Nano (105 mm), and Vapor Svelte (96 mm) will all feature a poplar stringer in the core, which is designed to increase downhill performance and durability.
This does come with a slight bump up in weight, but we think this could make the Vapor series more appealing to a broader range of backcountry skiers (especially since the current versions of the skis are so incredibly light). For reference, we were told that the 19/20 Vapor Nano is coming in at around 1400 grams for the 178 cm length. A quick hand-flex of the skis revealed pretty soft tips, but with a very stout midsection and tail.