Best New Gear 2017 - OTS Special
We're back from the UK's Outdoor Trade Show with a quick look at some of the new stuff heading our way in early 2017 from sharp new shoes to insulated hammocks.
The Outdoors Trade Show (OTS) is the UK's very own chance for brands to show off some of the new kit coming your way in early 2017. It's not on the scale of the giant OutDoor euro mega show - see our report part one - but there's always some interesting stuff to take in.
Highlights included GPS savvy shoes that tell you which way to head from Hi-Tec, the (second) lightest running cap in the world from Buff, an insulated, modular hammock ensemble from Snugpak, a neat new mid-layer from a mysterious new UK start-up and more. Here's a quick run-down of some of the stuff we liked.
Buff Pack Run Cap
The Buff Pack Run Cap is due out early next year and it's a little slice of genius aimed at runners and lightweight hikers who want peaked sun protection that they can stow away in a pocket when it's no longer needed. The cap offers 97% UV protection, packs down to into a tiny ball that'll fit into a shorts gel pocket and weighs just 30 grammes on the OM digital scales.
It's only the second lightest cap out there, but that - says Buff - is because it has more features. Those include a whopping great peak to keep the sun out of your eyes, it's stiffened with a proprietary Buff material that gives just enough stiffness, but scrunches down. Then there's a rear adjustment cord for perfect fit and reflective stripes visible from 150m away.
It fit nicely and has all the hallmarks of a modern classic. We've got one to have a play with, but it'll be in the shops from March, 2017 with a price-tag of £29.
It may sound like an April Fool, but the new Hi-Tec Navigator shoe tells you which way to turn at city street junctions by buzzing under the appropriate foot. Yes really. It works like this: the removable footbed inside the shoe is linked to a phone app which uses the phone's built-in GPS to locate you on a downloaded city map.
Once you've set your destination, it's simple. Reach a junction where you need to turn left and your left heel vibrates alarmingly and vice versa if you need to turn right and so on until you arrive.
The technology is from Indian firm Lechal and will also do the shoe fitness stats thing and set you goals and so on. All the technology is housed in the removable footbed, but the Navigator shoe itself looks well specced with a Michelin-branded rubber sole and a fully-waterproof upper.
You can't put the insole into just any shoe as it's quite thick in the heel area and the Navigator has been designed around it. Finally, it's a strictly urban device, no plans as yet for it to tackle off road navigation, which is probably just as well. Ooops, was that a cliff, I could have sworn I felt a buzz...
Out right now, www.hi-tec.co.uk at a price of erm, eek, £230.
Asolo A-Fast Lightweight Boots
We've always like Asolo footwear, it's fits our feet well and is nicely made - there's an old pair of Fugitives permanently resident in the boot of the OM jalopy 'just in case'. They're arguably overdue for replacement, though and the new A-Fast line look like prime candidates.
In brief, A-Fast is lightweight walking footwear made using top-notch components like soles with Vibram's sticky but durable Megagrip rubber, Perwanger leather and Schoeller fabrics for the soft, comfortable padded cuff.
The boots also have a Gore-Tex ZCR waterproof liner and a purposeful heel-cup for maximum stability and, we quote, 'a precision fit'. Should be a good call if your feet are Asolo shaped.
New Primus Trekking Stoves
Swedish stove specialist Primus has two new trekking models up its sleeve for next spring, both of them feature burners with integrated wind-shields, pot-sets and lids.
The premium version is the new PrimeTech Stove - it's the gun-metal coloured one above - which gets all mod cons. New design means it sits lower than previous Primus stoves for better stability, has an all-round built-in windscreen and a regulated valve for consistent performance even when cold or from a part-emptied cartridge.
Primus says the stove uses a whopping 50% of the fuel of a comparable conventional stove, thanks partly to the integrated heat-exchanger on the base of the pot. Two versions, one is 1.3l the other 2.3l, both have a ceramic coated pot and one in uncoated aluminium. We love the pot-gripper which locks in position for ease of use, neat.
The simpler, more economic version - we should check the prices shouldn't we - is the new Essential Stove Set. It comes in the same sizes as the Prime Tech, but without the frills, so you get plain, bare aluminium finish, a simpler burner design - though it's still anti-flare - and a lid that doubles as a non-stick frying pan.
Not as swank as big brother and no doubt heavier too, but it all packs together neatly for non-rattling transport and is designed as 'an affordable, easy-to-use starter set'.
Craghoppers Gets It On With Discovery Adventure Channel
Craghoppers already has an ongoing relationship with Bear Grylls, now it's got together with the Discovery Adventure TV channel to produce a range of kit designed with them to keep their camera and production crews happy and comfortable while producing programmes like Naked and Afraid - really - Gold Ruck and Deadliest Catch.
It'll be available for men, women and kids too and uses Craghoppers technologies like the synthetic, minor-baffled ClimaPlus insulation you can see in the images above. Watch out for Discovery Adventure concept stores coming to an airport near you soon.
Aquapac Waterproof Bum-Bag
Already out there, Aquapac 'waterproof waist pack' is basically a waterproof nine bum-bag with sealed seams and a roll-over, dry-bag type closure. Capacity is a claimed three-litres, enough for a reasonable run we reckon and in addition to the main, waterproof compartment, there's also a zipped pocket where you can stow small things you might want rapid access to.
It's not the most sculpted of designs with functional square lines accentuated by a retina-burning colour scheme, but it's designed to do what it says on the box and keep the contents dry on the move. Price is £35. You can find it at aquapac.net/store/shop/waterproof-backpacks/waterproof-waist-pack/
Dannah Zip-neck Fleece
Not strictly an OTS exhibitor, but we ran into small British start-up Richard Dannah who was wearing a simple, but unusual looking fleece top, which is due for release this autumn. Rich is an experienced, long-standing outdoor clothing designer, who's worked for pretty much all the big names in the UK outdoors industry including the likes of Rab, ME and Montane.
He's recently started his own small, eponymous brand, Dannah with just a single product, an all-round mountain shell with an unusual hood design. More about that in the next couple of weeks, but the Dannah Zip-neck Fleece is an interesting one.
On the face of it, it's just another all-round mid-layer using Polartec's excellent gridded, mid-weight PowerDry, with a collar, deep-neck zip and a pocket, but dig deeper and you realise that he's ingeniously minimised the seams throughout the jacket to absolutely maximise wicking potential.
Take the 'collar' above, it's not a separate panel at all, just carefully cut and shaped.. Similarly there are no seams at the side of the trunk and minimal ones elsewhere. Yes, it is all a little 'marginal gains', but it makes the top a little bit different from the norm.
It's about the right warmth for layering under a shell too, not stupidly light or heavy and with enough stretch to promise a neat technical fit. It'll be out this autumn with the price likely to be somewhere around £110-£120.
Storm Proofing And Cleaning
If you're anything like us, your first question about Storm, who produce a wide range of technical cleaning and reproofing products, is what makes them different and/or better than the usual suspects, Nikwax and Grangers. So that's what we asked them.
First, they say, they use a technology new to the outdoor industry which is neither silicone or fluoro-chemical based - the latter being particularly controversial. It's used commercially by the likes of VauDe and Haglöfs for their original, environmentally friendly, DWR treatments.
Next, they say, the way their treatments work mean you can use them in a single washing machine cycle, but treating the proofer like a fabric conditioner and using the relevant compartment. The cleaner prepares the fabric and makes it more receptive to the proofer they say giving the best possible outcome.
They also claim that Storm products will give the same number of treatments regardless of water hardness and you can use the same treatment on hard-shell or soft-shell fabrics allowing mixed wash loads.
All the brand's 'Eco' products are PFC free, but do need to be heat cured for maximum effectiveness. They do produce an air-cured alternative using short 6 fluoro-chemicals, the less harmful of the kind. It's also worth noting that fluoro-based treatments not only repel water, but also increase resistance to staining from oils and dirt.
All of which is interesting, but the real question is 'how well do they work' compared to the competition. And that's exactly what we're aiming to find out in the future, by putting together an objective comparative test of the leading care brands in identical conditions. Watch this space.
We drifted past Oboz at several recent shows, so we thought it was about time we had a proper look at the brand, which is brought into the UK by the team behind Mountain Equipment and Sprayway.
A US brand with a KEEN/Merrell sort of styling vibe, Oboz says it's all about fit being - and we quote - 'a distillation of several different lasts'. The brand also scores points by using a properly developed B-Fit footbed complete with rigid heel cup, high arch support and shock-absorbing inserts under both heel and forefoot. It's a real bonus given that most brands opt for a cheap and cheerful alternative.
So how is that fit? Based on the pair of Sawtooths we're wearing right now, pretty impressive. There's a medium broad, roomy but not swimmy sort of forefoot, with a close but not tight heel fit. On the move, the pronounced rocker to the heel means they feel easy rolling but not unstable and they a pleasing vibe of reassuring chunkiness to them, which you'll either like or not.
All quite positive first impressions for a day-to-day approach come hiking shoe. Definitely worth a look, more feedback on our £110 test Sawtooths to follow. More information on the brand itself at obozfootwear.com.
Snugpak Hammocks And More
Snugpak's set to unleash something a little bit different for the UK market in the form of the new Hammock Cocoon Sleep System. Like it sounds, the system is based on one of Snugpak's several hammocks, which can then be combined with several options. The main one is a sort of giant hammock cocoon that completely encases both sleeper and hammock like a sort of giant, zip-up banana skin.
One advantage is that the insulation sits under the hammock so it's not compressed by your body weight making it more efficient in use. It'll set you back 80 quid, but has one disadvantage for many hammock-friendly environments, it can't be used with a mosquito net.
In that case you can opt for a two-piece alternative insulation quilt and under blanket ensemble that will also accommodate a net. Interesting idea. There are no suggested insulation values, so it's pretty much sleep in it and see. The all-in-one cocoon weighs in at 1900g and insulation, as you'd expect, is synthetic.
Snugpak's other, more obviously UK orientated, new star is the Torrent Jacket. Out shortly, its a fully waterproof insulated jacket with taped seams and water-resistant zips. It's available in military drabs, but also in a more vibrant blue option. Out in early December when you'll also find a new Ultimate Soft Shell jacket appearing. All made in the UK too.
Stanley - Tough On Vacuum Bottles...
Two cool new developments from retro-styled insulated bottle expert Stanley. The first is the slightly awesome new Stanley Stein, a traditionally-styled Germanic beer tankard, but insulated. It looks ace in a taintlessly ridiculous way, but we want one, if only to keep our warm British beer, warm... £44.99 come next spring 2017.
More seriously, the new Master Series is Stanley's ultimate vacuum bottle. Made from 1mm thick stainless steel with a 60% wider vacuum gap than comparable flasks, it's not only very tough, something Stanley demonstrated by pulverising some competitor flasks with a virtually unmarked Master, it's also very efficient.
How efficient? It'll keep contents warm for up to 40 hours in the case of the one-litre version, a little less for the 500cc one. The cap/cup is also vacuum insulated - the technology is called QuadVac - and even the stopper is steel to avoid tainting.
Not light, but seriously tough and efficient. It'll sell for £75 or £50 depending on capacity. Out in early 2017.
MSR's Lightweight 4-season Tent
We first met the new MSR Access 2 out in Germany the other month and liked it a lot. More in the second part of our report from the OutDoor show soon - here's Part One - but in essence it's a four-season, less-standing, geodesic-esque tent that's not ridiculously heavy.
Our notes from Germany says that the two-person version weighs a minimum 1640g, or 1860g all in, has two entrances, and is designed to cope with snow and high winds. It's more backcountry than 'mountain', but the combination of tough and light fabrics with Easton Cyclone carbon fibre poles and input from Ueli Steck mean it could be spot on for year-round UK backpacking.
It's not cheap, think £440 for the one person version, £540 for this one or £600 for the 2300g Access 3, but it's one of the most interesting new tents we've seen for a while.