The Overwhelmingly Massive Winter OR Climbing Report

I’ve been going to the OR show for many years now, but I’ll never forget the first time I walked into the Salt Palace, completely overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of all that was going on around me. These days, it just fades into the background, as I hop from appointment to appointment, saying hello to the many friends you run into over the course of the day. Still, there’s an undeniable energy when you walk into the building. The sense that we’re all a part of this really cool thing, and this is one of our tribe’s major gatherings, to keep the stoke alive, and move the industry forward.

The winter show is always a little quieter than its summer counterpart, especially on the rock climbing front. Most of the new gear on display will be coming out in the fall, so usually that means new ice gear, winter clothing, etc. On the flip side, the gear that we could only look at in the summer will likely be hitting retail shelves soon, so it’s exciting to see what will be coming into play for the spring season.

Despite my social director (Tracy) being absent, I still had some good times on that front. I want to give a shout out to Edelrid and Sanuk for the appointments with most laughs. Ran into David from Climberism, who looked to be all business. Finally met Brendan from Semi-Rad.com, and had some good laughs as people were scooping up his stickers left and right from the booth we were chilling at. And a big thanks to the Rab ladies for getting me out to the free Franti show on Thursday night, it was phenomenal. Even got some exercise in, hitting up Momentum and the Front, unreal how good those facilities are. OK, enough of that, onto the gear!

This time around there was the usual fun stuff from a variety of folks, although a few booths were fairly quiet. Here’s a recap of (almost) everything we saw:

Black Diamond

The big focus here was all the fun skiing stuff, but that’s a topic for some other website. This spring there’s a slew of new rock gear coming out, including the Flight, Siren and Focus harnesses and the new Vector helmet. For the Fall, keep an eye out for the new hooded Oz and Oz rackpack. The Oz is now hot forged, so even with the hood it still weighs only an ounce. Also in the fall comes the Aspect and Lotus harnesses, getting more upgrades in materials.

Evolv

The new Astroman, which debuted at the last show, got some refinements, including the now popular love bump under the toes. This gives it a more high performance edge, but I’m wondering if it’s crack jamming abilities will suffer without your toes being flat. Time will tell, it’s due out in early summer. Also, picked up a pair of the Cruzers, the new lightweight approach shoe, and wore them around the entire show. Surprisingly comfy given their minimalistic feel.

Five Ten

This was a pretty quiet show in the Five Ten booth, and they’ve actually parred the line down a bit for next year. (Adios Supermocs and Hornets). They do have a new slipper coming called the Outlaw, which will offer a more narrow fit then is usual for the brand. They’ve also tweaked the Anasazi High Top, which offers the performance of an all day shoe in the convenience of a slipper. I was told the summer show should be more exciting, as they will have their feet under them from the Adidas buyout, and will be pushing forward in their usual manner.

Gregory

The Alpinisto is a new alpine/ice climbing pack, available in a 35L and 50L sizes. A bunch of great features on this one, including my favorite, a side zipper that allows access to the inside of the pack.

Mammut

For Fall, there’s a couple new jackets, along with a new helmet. The Alpine Rider will appeal to the jack of all trades, as it’s certified for use in snow sports as well as climbing and mountaineering.  And keep an eye out this spring for the enviro friendly Transformer rope, and the stylish El Cap helmet.

Metolius

Some great stuff coming out this year, including the SafeTech Crux helmet, which I’ve been wearing since October and absolutely love. They also have two new harnesses, the SafeTech Trad and comp, both featuring speed buckles and lighter weight materials than their predecessors. Boulders will want to take a look at the Bouldering Shield, an item taken from the stunt world to help better direct falling climbers onto pads.

Mountain Khakis

Having earned a permanent place in our hearts with the wonderful Lake Lodge Twills, they continue to put out high quality lifestyle clothing. They’ve also got some new bags, including one that uses recycled rope as the handle.

Native

A new lense was the big news here, which blocks up to 40% of infrared light from hitting your eyes. The result is that your eyes get less tired, and wont get as dry without all that heat reaching them.

Outdoor Research

Some fun stuff here, as the company continues to pump money into R&D. First up, the Lodestar jacket and pants, which blend “the warmth of a puffy with the moisture-wicking properties of fleece and the protection of a softshell,” and are sure to appeal to those spending most of their time ice climbing in cold weather. The Salvo utilizes Windstopper X-Fast material, and should bring a smile to the light and fast crowd, and the Incandescent is a new puffy made with Pertex and filled with 800 fill down. I got warm just looking at it. The other thing that stood out was the Feedback Flannel, which looks and feels like a cotton shirt, but is really synthetic, offering some style as well as performance. Lastly, the Mixalot glove looks to be an excellent light climbing glove for those spend most of their time on the steep stuff in the winter months.

Prana

These folks are jumping full steam ahead into more winter wear, with a wide selection of jackets that bring a lot of style to a somewhat boring space. They’ve also got a new women’s hemp yoga collection that sure to please the enviro friendly crowd.

Patagonia

Some fancy new digs going on at this booth, including the Nano Puff Hybrid, which features a Nano Puff top combined with R2 fleece on the bottom for an ideal active-in-cold-weather jacket. Not content with that fantastic creation, the mad scientists at Patagonia have also combined Polartec Wind Pro with Power Dry to make the Piton Hybrid, the perfect softshell for long alpine climbs. Many of the colors on display here were more reminiscent of the latest trend in the ski industry, with lots of bright neons, and anyone who had fun in the early 90′s will surely be nostalgic for those days when they see the Fall ’12 lineup.

Petzl

Probably the most innovative new gear at the show was on display here with their NAO headlamp, featuring a reactive lighting system. There is a sensor on the headlamp which detects the ambient light and adjusts the output of the beam accordingly. So imagine you are climbing the Grand, and you start in the early morning dark. As it gets lighter with the coming of the day, your headlamp automatically adjusts the brightness lower and lower, saving a bunch of juice in your batteries. It’s also programmable with multiple modes via their Petzl OS software. Also, the Elios/Elia gets an upgrade, the e+LITE is brighter, and the large Ange biner is coming soon.

Rab

The usual sickness was on display here, and the highlight for me was the new Generator Alpine Jacket, a 21 oz synthetic shell with 100 grams of insulation in the body. The Ice Fall looks like a great ice climbing jacket, both bomber and highly breathable. And there are some new offerings in their MeCo line, which features a blend of Merino wool and recycled polyester that dries five times faster than standard Merino.

Scarpa

The new Boostic is coming this Spring, along with the Crux, an everyman’s approach shoe at the reasonable price of $99. The Gecko gets a sole upgrade, making it more versatile in a wider range of conditions, and the Tech Ascent will be a new mid top approach shoe with GoreTex.

Sportiva

No longer just about footwear (and skis), they have introduced a new clothing line, featuring everything from base layers to hard shells to puffy jackets. In all there are 48 different pieces in the line, each bringing some Euro style to the market. For the spring, the Futura is on the way, along with a slew of new approach shoes, the most interesting to us being the featherweight Vertical K. I also spoke with president Jonathan Lantz about the production issues that have been problematic for the brand over the last year, and he gave me a glimpse into the fascinating world of high end cobblers and Italian labor laws. Rest assured for the loyal Sportiva fans out there, they should have everything back on track very soon.

We also saw great stuff from Sanuk, Osprey, Nau, Vapur, Treksta, Deuter, Patagonia Foootwear, and others. Thanks to everyone for a great show!

One Response to The Overwhelmingly Massive Winter OR Climbing Report

  1. So… shoes, packs and jackets? Ok then.

    Dave January 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm Reply

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