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Twice a year, hundreds of outdoor gear brands, from The North Face to Nite Ize, gather under one roof to show off their latest, most cutting-edge toys. Outdoor Retailer just wrapped this weekend in Salt Lake City, UT, and we were there to be your eyes on the ground, scoping out the goods for the coming year. This is the drool-worthy gear—barely there skis, robotic GoPro mounts, and Technicolor sunglasses—of the future, the stuff you’ll be coveting from now until next winter.
1. Black Diamond Halo 28 JetForce Pack
The Halo 28 is, in short, a revolutionary avalanche airbag. What sets it apart from literally every other pack is that it uses a rechargeable electronically controlled jet fan for inflation rather than a single-use compressed gas canister. That means it’s airline-friendly; it can be deployed multiple times in a single outing (which encourages field testing); and it performs a self-diagnosis every time you power up. Pull the chord in a slide, and a larger-than-average, 200-liter balloon inflates, helping you float high in the snow. It continues re-inflating for three minutes, then reverses direction and deflates, leaving you with a big air pocket if you’ve been buried.
2. Columbia TurboDown
They call it “down on steroids,” but Columbia’s new proprietary TurboDown is really just 850-fill down sandwiched between a layer of synthetic insulation and two layers of its infrared-reflecting Omni-Heat dots. Still that means it’s ridiculously light, compressible, and warm—warm enough, in fact, that the company did what few gear companies are willing to, and individually called out four competing, top-selling jackets that TurboDown beat in its own testing. The full line will include 14 items, including the pictured Diamond 890 TurboDown hooded jacket ($325).
3. Dynafit RC1
What happens when Dynafit teams up with legendary French carbon fiber boot maker Pierre Gignoux? A super specialized, 500-gram, handmade randonee racing boot that weighs in lighter than some running shoes. At more than $2,000, this is clearly a showpiece built for its prestige rather than its everyday practicality. Still, the innovative boot may someday trickle down its technology to consumer-level boots that are more firmly planted on the ground.
4. Goal Zero Sherpa 100
At less than two pounds, the Sherpa 100 packs plenty of power—enough to charge a laptop twice or your GoPro 18 times—into an incredibly small, easy-to-carry package. Just toss it in your backpack or camera bag along with one of GZ’s super rugged solar panels, and venture off-grid worry-free. Plenty of output options, from two USB’s to an optional AC socket, will keep your camera, GPS or, hell, just about any other gadget juiced.
5. Jaybird Reign
It may look like your average fitness tracker, but the Reign is smarter. Yes, it’s a bracelet that measures your running, cycling, swimming, walking and sleep with built-in accelerometers. But rather than tell you what you’ve done, it uses that data, along with detailed sleep metrics and accurate heart rate readings, to help you choose what to do next—get some much-needed R&R or push your limits. An integrated smartphone app stores your data, and gives you a user-friendly well-being/workout readiness report card in real-time. That means fewer bad workouts and—sorry, bud—no more excuses.
6. Jigabot AIMe Camera Mount
Ever wish you could afford a pro cameraman to film you shredding, or bombing down singletrack? When it’s mounted on AIMe (pronounced “Amy”), your GoPro can respond like a real person, following you through the shot and keeping you at the center of every frame. This “smart” robotic mount spins 360 degrees horizontally and rotates 120 degrees vertically to seamlessly track a small remote beacon that’s worn or carried by the subject (i.e., you). The technology’s not perfect, but it’s definitely the start of a revolution in the filming of action sports.
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7. K2 Route Helmet
You’ve probably never spotted a bike helmet at the terrain park, and for good reason. Until now, sport-specific helmets were made to protect you in very limited, high-likelihood crashes. But K2’s Route is certified for streets and slopes, where, at 0.7 pounds, it’s the lightest snow sports helmet on the market. Removable earflaps and goggle clips help it make seasonal transitions, 59(!) vent holes allow it to breathe on sweaty summer rides and a slick Boa fit system snugs it down on almost any head. Now that’s using your noggin.
8. La Sportiva Vapor Nano
Now that backcountry skiing—where you have to ski uphill to cruise down—is über-popular, lightweight skis are flooding the market like never before. But none is as slimmed-down as the aptly named, 2.65-pound Vapor Nano, which uses made-in-the-USA aerospace-grade carbon nanotubes to lighten the load while significantly improving torsional rigidity.
9. Outdoor Research Lucent Heated Gloves
These heated gloves stave off frostbite better than any other on the market, thanks to 61% more power output and double the heat coverage. Whereas competitors heat only the fingers, the Lucents thaw out the front and back of hand, too. When you finally do kill the rechargeable batteries—which, at eight hours on low, five hours on medium and 2.5 hours on high, still manage to outlast most on the market—you’re still left with a premium waterproof, insulated glove.
10. Patagonia Nano-Air
Rare is the winter layer that’s both warm and appropriate—with freedom of movement and breathability—for aerobic activities. It’s old hat that you’ll have to constantly add and subtract layers as you cycle through a day of backcountry skiing or ice climbing. Enter Patagonia’s Nano-Air, the Stretch Armstrong of synthetic jackets that’s filled with a new, elastic DWR-treated polyester insulation (called “FullRange”) that gives it unrivaled mobility among jackets of its weight. If the claims are true, this stay-on-all-day jacket should lighten your winter load considerably.
11. Scarpa F1 Evo Alpine Touring Boot
Scarpa’s ultralight AT boot makes transitioning from walk to ski mode—just click your heel into tech bindings—stupid simple, not to mention blazing fast. Beyond that trick, these are simply bomber boots that weigh less than 2.5 pounds, have a super-flexy walk mode and a stiff carbon fiber frame that transfers power to the ski and absorbs downhill chatter.
12. Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 800
Where standard mummy bags have all the constricting appeal of a straightjacket, the zipperless Backcountry Bed feels like, well, a bed. A wide, easy-access oval opening splits it down the middle, and an integrated comforter seals out drafts while giving you freedom of movement to thrash around to your heart’s content. Toasty-warm 800-fill, hydrophobic duck down keeps the cold (to 15ºF) from creeping in, and an integrated pad sleeve stabilizes it, even if you pitched your tent like a dummy. Believe it or not, camping just got comfortable.
13. Smith Optics ChromaPop Sunglasses
So many marketing gimmicks appear to be, well, gimmicks. But ChromaPop, Smith’s new color-enhancing lenses, are the real deal. Not only do they crank the saturation on every color, causing them to—you guessed it—pop, they’re also perceptibly clearer and more vibrant than any other polarized lens we’ve ever seen. Smith says they filter out light where color wavelengths cross over, “eliminating color confusion for the brain.” The result is that you register true colors faster and with greater precision. Gimmick or not, it sounds about right and ChromaPop is amazing to see. Now you can, in 21 different frame styles.
$209-269, depending on frame; smith-optics.com
14. Sugoi Zap Bike Jacket
Fashion can prove fatal to cyclists. It’s why they don’t wear helmets, use barely-visible lights and avoid geeky bright, neon clothing on nighttime commutes and training rides. But Sugoi’s sharp-looking new waterproof, breathable Zap jacket proves that safety and style aren’t mutually exclusive. Its exterior is covered with a layer of highly reflective ground glass “pixels” that are nearly invisible in daylight, but which light up like a disco ball under direct artificial light (e.g., headlights).
15. The North Face Fuse Uno
This high-tech jacket—improbably cut from a single piece of HyVent Alpha 3L waterproof-breathable fabric and carefully stitched into shape like a paper snowflake—revolutionizes outerwear from the standpoint of construction. By eliminating the need for dozens of separate fabric pieces, The North Face shed weight and material waste, leaving behind a durable, minimalist shell that offers great protection in a 12-ounce package.
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