Every summer the outdoors industry gathers in Friedrichshafen, Germany to unveil the latest, greatest, outright best new outdoors kit for the following year - in this case 2017 - and we were there to get a scoop look at what's new and exciting from the top outdoors brands. It's all kit that's due to appear in the shops early next year, so we won't go into too much detail, but there's some great new gear out there ranging from an Arc'teryx trail-running shoe that transforms into a scrambling one with a quick lace adjustment through a new Berghaus waterproof jacket that weights less than 100g, while still being comfortable and - apparently - durable too.
Other stuff we liked included a new, lightweight, four-season mountain tent from MSR, technical denim jeans from Paramo - yes really, you read that right - and new technical women's kit from Haglöfs and Salomon that's both fashionable and functional. Sorry boys, you'll just have to make do with the latter.
All images: Jon Doran
Hanwag's New Approach Weaponry
German footwear specialist Hanwag has always done lightweight and technical really well and the new Macra Combi GTX approach shoes and matching mids look like a chip off the old block. They use Hanwag's excellent alpine fit, with a wide option for folk with broader feet, have a all-round, but artfully svelte rubber rand on the mixed Cordura and suede uppers and are rated for C1 crampon use too.
What you can't see is that the Vibram Pepe sole unit uses a honeycomb construction which saves precious grammes and means a single size 7 mid weighs just 590g. They'll set you back £145 from early 2017.
Also new from Hanwag were urban hikers with a mad-looking Lava Ultragrip sole unit and some neat new light hikers.
Fjällräven's Swank New Packs
Swedish brand Fjällräven has been producing some excellent, retro-styled, but modern-functioning packs for a while now using it's canvas-like waxed poly-cotton G-1000 fabrics to good effect and for spring 2017 it's expanding the range with a selection of new Absisko packs. The Abisko Hike, as seen up there in the pic, is a simple all-round walking day-pack for simple all-round walking use.
Meanwhile, the new Friloft is a warm weather-friendly version with a ventilated back system complete with hip-belt pockets, a mahoosive, zip-opening front panel for easy grabbing of stuff and adjustable side stash pockets. There's a floating lid too and both versions come with a stow-away rain cover.
Prices, once available, will be £130 for the basic Abisko Hike 35 with the vented Friloft coming in at £150 for the 35 and a tenner more for the weekend-friendly Friloft 45 version.
Mountain Equipment's Quiet Sleeping Bag Revolution
For Spring 2017, Mountain Equipment has completely revamped its down sleeping bag range in an orgy of technological research that has, believe it or not, created a range of 35 sleeping bags that are not only lighter than their predecessors, but actually warmer as well, which is a pretty good trick - some bags are actually going to be around a third lighter for the same levels of warmth.
It's all down to a two-year project led by that man up there, sleeping bag guru Matt Fuller, ex of Leeds University. What's changed? Well without getting super geeky, ME has looked at optimising down fill densities and ratios so that you get exactly the right amount of down per compartment for optimum warmth. They've also looked at down density, so down is less compressible in areas like the toe-box and underneath of the bag which tend to get squished.
Then there are new, lighter fabrics all-round including 'functionally waterproof' Gore Thermium for expedition bags and a new PU-coated, DriLite 200 fabric that's very water resistant, but lighter than pretty much anything else out there. All this means the -45˚C Redline can weigh less than 2000g and a bag containing 650g of down can tip the scales at just 1000g all in.
There are neat new design touches too, like the magnetic fastener pictured above. All you really need to know is that the same warmth bag will be lighter, more compressible and more efficient next year right across ME's down range, so if you're in the market for a new sleeping bag, it might just be worth holding fire until early 2017.
Haglöfs Discovers Girl Power!
The big news from the Swedish brand was a new range of women's technical clothing designed in conjunction with Basque mountaineer Edurne Pasaban, the first woman to climb all 14 eight-thousanders. With a background in engineering plus years of full-on mountaineering experience, Pasaban has strong ideas about not only the function of the collection that carries her name, but also wants clothing that's designed to fit women well and look good at the same time.
It's not fashion stuff, the collection uses top-end technical fabrics like the Aran (Valley) jacket pictured, which - we're pretty sure - utilises the latest version of Polartec's Alpha, but nor is it scaled-down men's kit. The message is that you can have technical clothing that also looks great. And yes, it is pink in a translucent sort of way.
Elsewhere in the range, Haglöfs has used a new version of Gore-Tex Surround for its first take on the ventilated, waterproof footwear technology. It features holes in the mid-sole to channel air under the foot, but looks more normal than earlier Surround shoes and is, apparently, more stable. Technology from parent company Asics means it should work well too. Here's a sneak look at it.
Arc'teryx Pack That Swivels And Slides
Backpacks that move with your hips are nothing new, we've seen several over the years, but the new for 2017 Bora looks more interesting than most because not only does the hip-belt move with your hips, it also slides so the pack elongates with your back. You can, for example, bend forwards to pick up a stray tenner without any hindrance from your pack. In simple terms, you don't feel splinted in place.
The hip-belt is dubbed 'Rotaglide' and relies on a simple sliding and pivoting joint, which you can see above. Arc'teryx says the effect is to improve stability, efficiency and mobility and quick try on with a loaded pack along with previous experience suggests they may be on to something. It just feels very natural to wear and particularly impressive in the 'bend over and take it', erm, test.
The rest of the back is typically slick too with an easy access taped front pocket for rapid stashing of frequently accessed kit, a shell jacket for example, while a fully taped lid pocket should keep your electrical gizmos safe from rain and ruin.
As you'd expect, the pack is slightly heavier than some at 2100-2200g in men's 63L and 50L versions and women's 60 and 49L.
The Trail Running Shoe That Scrambles
We've reported on the new Arc'teryx Norvan VT and VT GTX before, but this is the first time I've seen it in the flesh. In brief, it's a mountain trail-running shoe that, with the use of a small lacing hook on the forefoot, transforms into one that's equally at home on easy rock climbs and scrambling terrain. In running mode it has a wide forefoot to allow your toes to spread comfortably on impact and a cushioned mid-sole using a mix of EVA and /polyolefin, which lasts a claimed 36% longer than pure EVA and - we quote - 'adds a ton of rebound'.
Then, when you get to the bottom of, say, Crib Goch, you simply pop the lower lace over a carefully-site hook to instantly slim down the forefoot by around half a size and give the sort of precision you need on smallish rock holds, something normal trail running shoes struggle with. Two grades of Vibram sticky rubber up the grip factor, with the stickier compound up front, plus lightweight reinforcement stops toothier rocks from trashing the shoe. Not only that, it's light too at just 300g per pair.
There's a waterproof Gore-Tex version if you fancy it - we don't - and, if it bothers you, heel to toe drop is 9mm or so. Looks ace on paper and we can't wait to get hold of a pair for long mountain running and scrambling days.
Sub-100g Berghaus Waterproof That's Still Tough-ish...
This thing won awards. It's a three-layer waterproof jacket that manages to weigh less than 100g, but still has amazing stats for both waterproofness (20,000mm) and breathability (50,000 things) - the most breathable waterproof Berghaus has ever made. The fabric has a 6D outer face, a 7D membrane and an 8D backer and it should be significantly tougher than equivalent 2.5 layer fabrics and more comfortable to wear.
To save weight, you get one small internal pocket and non adjustable cuffs and hem. We have one to play with this winter and what this doesn't tell you is how exquisitely and precisely made it is. We showed our Hyper 100 to a top outdoor clothing designer and she swooned over the seam taping, the cunning minimal seam design and general top notch quality of the jacket.
It's tiny packed down as well, making it idea for stowing away 'just in case'. If there's a downside, it's the £260 price tag, a whopping £2.68 per gramme of jacket based on the 97g actual weight for a medium...