Best Outdoor Gear 2018 | A Sneak Peek at Next Summer’s Jackets, Backpacks & Boots
A guide to the most exciting new products from this year's OutDoor Tradeshow in Friedrichshafen
This week, the entire outdoor industry descended on the sleepy German city of Friedrichshafen, nestled on the banks of the stunning Lake Konstanz. The sun shone brightly as exhibitors gave us all a sneak peek at their upcoming products at one of the biggest shows on the calendar; The Outdoor Show 2017.
Here are a selection of some of the products we saw - highlights of the best outdoor gear that will be in the shops in 2018.
In 2018, Swedish outdoor specialists Fjallraven will be celebrating a very special anniversary. It will be 50 years since they released their first ever Greenland Jacket, way back in 1968. To celebrate, they’ll be releasing their Greenland range.
Above is the Greenland Half Century Jacket. It’s a superb jacket that combines functionality with style, so you’ll be just as at home on the hills of the Peak District as you would drinking gin from anything other than a glass in Shoreditch.
The Greenland Shirt Jacket is also rather stylish indeed, and ideal if you’re the kind of person who wants to roll straight out of dress-down-friday into the woodlands for a weekend in the wilderness.
Another Fjallraven classic with a contemporary twist is the Zip pack. The Kanken is the classic Fjallraven cube-like pack that's well known the world over, and the 2018 Zip pack takes a lot of its style cues from it. The Zip features padded straps, making this timeless looking piece a little easier on the shoulders in the hustle and bustle of modern day.
Primus have well over a century of experience making stoves, and what they have in knowledge they match in innovation, as the new Kuchoma grill proves. The rectangular grill is ideal for whipping up some sausages while you’re out in the field, but would work just as well in your back garden, or even on the tiny balcony of a city dweller lucky enough to have some outside real-estate.
The one pictured here was on the stand, and Germanic health and safety regulations no doubt stopped it from being fired up, but they a chef using one at an outdoor area of the show one evening, and we can confirm it’s more than capable of rustling up a smashing bit of grub.
Rab have a strong heritage in sleeping bags, so it’s maybe no surprise that they know how to make a pretty special sleep sack. One of those on show was the incredible Mythic 600. If you’re into camping in cold places, this is for you - the Mythic 600 will keep you warm and toasty when the mercury outside drops down as far as minus 32°. And yet this bag is lightweight, packing down small and weighing just 885g, so it won’t take up excess room in your pack.
Another item of theirs that can come in a tiny package when needed is the new Cirrus Flex jacket. Designed to move with you to make climbing easier, this will keep you snug and warm, but will pack down small enough to fit in the left pocket of the coat. So when you haven’t got in on, you can forget it’s even there.
Arc’ Teryx are well known for producing high-quality goods, and the range on display at the Outdoor show this week was no different. The Arc' Teryx apparel design team and hardgoods design team normally work separately, but on the Norvan, they collaborated. This meant that the apparel people ensured the running vest fits perfectly like a shirt, increasing comfort and reducing fatigue on a long run, and the hardgoods folks ensured that it also functioned like a backpack.
The flap pockets on the front ensure that you don’t need zippers, and the super versatile hydration system comes complete with a two litre source water bladder, but you’re free to swap that for flasks, if they’re more your thing.
The V80 Rolling Duffle is a large bag that has an external frame which not only means you can carry it from just about any angle, but it also gives it a superior carry capacity to weight ratio. The internal compression system means you can get a load of gear in it without putting pressure on the zippers, and when you’re not using it, it packs down nice and flat.
On the jacket front, Arc’ Teryx showed us their new Cerium SL down jacket. This clever coat uses synthetic coreloft insulation around the shoulders, cuffs, and anywhere you’d expect moisture, but then uses conventional down around the centre, giving you the very best of both worlds
Keen had one of the most eye catching stands at the entire Outdoor show this year, which included an ice cream man, a robot making Keen shoes and, one night, a barbecue cooked on a giant metal Keen shoe. But while all of this was obviously amazing, we’re here to talk about the products they had on the stand.
Their EvoFit has a really nice sock-style upper for comfort and an excellent fit. This is overlayed on the outside to make it abrasion resistant, while the inside has an anti-odour lining. The fact that these won an award at the Outdoor show rather speaks for itself.
A sandal version of the Terra Dora Ethos has been introduced, which is ideal for watersports enthusiasts, be that canoeing, sailing, stand up paddling, kayaking, or whatever else takes your fancy.
Keen are, of course, known for their well established Uneek range, and their Uneek o2 sandals featured in our Winter Outdoor 100 in 2016. For Spring/Summer 2018, they've added the Uneek Exo to the family. It takes its cues from the Uneek o2 sandal, and adds many new features, including the water repellant mesh that protects the foot and wicks unwanted odours away, while strategically placed ventilation areas ensure it remains completely breathable.
Our favourite part was the free-moving cord system that adjusts to the shape of your foot, ensuring a comfortable and snug fit, wherever you go, and whatever you do.
Jack Wolfskin features their Texapore Ecosphere range, which included the new Sierra Pass and Sierra Trail jackets. Straight from the off, the jackets look super stylish, and would be equally at home ordering an avacado bagel in a coffee shop as it would hiking in the Lake District.
But, if you pardon the motoring analogy, it’s what’s under the bonnet that’s really exciting. The jackets are made from the special Texapore material, from which the range gets its name. This features the world’s first 100 per cent fully recycled membrane.
This unique feature means that, aside from the zippers, the Sierra Pass and Sierra Trail can claim to be the first completely recycled jacket, showing Jack Wolfskin’s commitment to protecting the environment.
The North Face
The North Face are one of the most recognisable outdoor brands in the world, having made high quality mountain wear for 50 years now. In 2018, they’re producing some excellent distance running gear. They’re been working with world renowned ultra runner Rob Krar to design the Fast Foam Flight RKT. It’s not only the lightest shoe ever made by The North Face, but it also has super bouncy energy returning foam in the midsole to keep you running for longer.
We love the Apex Jacket from The North Face so much that we included it in our Outdoor 100, and we’re pleased to see this superb piece of kit has now got even better. This evolution of the Apex is lighter than the one featured last year, and every single one is hand made, utilising seamless technology for greater water resistance.
We’re long-standing admirers of Montane, who’s Mountain Equaliser jacket features in our Summer Outdoor 100, along with their Endurance Pro jacket and Primino base layer featuring in the Winter Outdoor 100 in 2016.
2018 sees the launch of Montane’s VIA trail running range. We particularly liked the Razor trail running backpack. At just 350 grams, it won’t slow you down when you’re banging out the hard yards, but that light weight doesn’t mean Montane have missed any features.
The Freelight Chassis vest ensures a comfortable, ergonomic fit, while two Montane SoftFlasks ensure you can stay hydrated on the move. There is also an edition called Claw, which is designed specifically for women, taking their different physiology from men into account in its design.
The whole Via pack series from Montane is also the first to use Polygiene anti-odour treatments in its back system, which will keep your fresh even after a full day on the trail.
Family ran business, Aku have been making boots for 40 years, and have picked up a thing or two in that time. The fact that 80 per cent of their products are hand made is testament to this craftsmanship.
At the show they unveiled their Tengu Lite GTX boot. And at just 510 grams per boot, they aren’t kidding when they call them Lite.
Part of the Dynamic collection, the Air 8000 range are made from the same excellent proprietary fabric used on the women's Ljbra trekking shoe from Aku. Aku’s own special sole also adds extra support when you’re wearing it, minimising the possibility of rolling your ankle.
Nikwax and their extensive range of products have been keeping your outdoor gear clean and protected from the elements for 40 years, and you can’t be that invested in nature without sparing a thought for the environment. As such, Nikwax have committed to being completely carbon neutral by the end of 2018. But that’s not just current emissions, but historic ones as well.
The had their new BaseFresh range on display, which has been created specifically for keeping your base layers clean, fresh, and protected against whatever you can throw at them.
British company Paramo had some new pieces that really stood out from the crowd, among the hangars of the Outdoor show 2017.
The Alize ultralight jacket that will be out for Spring/Summer 2018 is an update of the Paramo Alize that we featured in the Outdoor 100 earlier this year. It's the perfect jacket for getting around the trails and mountains in the hotter months, and just 106 grams, it virtually felt like we weren’t holding anything at all. Quite incredible.
The new Kili shirt also caught our attention. The design walks the fine line between being bright, but also earthy really nicely. But it’s not just a looker. It’s also super tough, which is ideal if you’re scrambling up some spiky rocks, and it’s also insect proof, and avoiding those bites can be the difference between a good time and a bad one.
Berghaus has plenty of innovative new gear on display at the Outdoor show, and their new GR20 Storm jacket really caught our attention. BBerghaus say it’s the most breathable three-layer jacket ever made from Gore-Tex, so you know it’s going to keep you both safe from the weather, but also just the right temperature.
The secret of its success are body mapped storm vents - essentially strategically placed holes in the jacket that regulate your body temperature. However, the jacket still passed the rigours of the Gore-Tex Storm Test, so you know it’s going to be superb.
The Berghaus team were also really excited about their new range of Fast Hike packs. Coming in a range of sizes - 45 litre for multi day hikes, and the smaller 32 and 20 litres for shorter treks, the packs have actually been inspired by running vests, and are designed to spread the load across the body, as opposed to just a few contact points. The largest of the bags weighs in at 930 grams, which is impressive for its size, but it can be stripped down to just 530 grams if you need something with a little less bulk.
Lifesystems were displaying some smart new innovations, not least the Heatshield Thermal bag. Weighing in at only 100 grams, and packing down to a tiny size, it’s a bit like a waterproof bivvy bag, so ideal for those wild camping missions.
Their new UltraLight survival shelter also caught our attention. At just 215 grams, it weighs next to nothing. But it packs a lot of power for a shelter its size. It has a 5000mm hydrostatic head, meaning it can hold a column of water five metres high and still remain waterproof. Amazing.
Swiss mountain masters Mammut had this bright Neon Smart climbing pack on show which caught our eye for more than the obvious reason of it having that really nice green interior. It’s a climbing bag that's big enough to fit all of your climbing kit in, but can flatten out completely, giving you easy access to all of your kit when you're at the rock face.
We also really liked their Alnasca Knit Low approach shoe, made from tough fabric that will resist boulders and small rocks . Ideal for running light trails, it features a base fit lacing system, which wraps around the bottom of the foot, lifting if from beneath for excellent comfort and stability in the shoe.
Hanwag are known for making durable mountain boots, and the Tara 2 GTX more than lives up to that reputation. It features hard wearing metal work in its construction, and a locking point mid way up the lacing system. It also features a more cushioned sole than its predecessor, which will make for a comfortable, snug fit. It's also available in wide.
Hanwag were also exhibiting female specific boot, the Tara Light. It has a unique Vibram sole, designed especially for this particular boot, which features prism studs on the bottom for assured foot hold, and lateral flex technology (or LFT) with extra reinforced areas on the boot to minimise the risk of rolling your ankle.
Osprey are known to inspire fierce brand loyalty among those that use their packs, such is the quality of what they make. As such, it’s maybe no surprise that their flagship large pack for 2018, the Levity 60 won the Best Pack award at the Outdoor show this year.
Having looked at it closely, its success is little surprise. At a huge 60 litres, it’s big enough to fit just about everything short of a nine foot surfboard in. But this isn’t just a big old tank of a bag. It’s incredibly light for its size and is made from a special material that’s stronger than steel. All in all, a worthy winner.
The team at Mountain Safety Research, or MSR for short, have been making head-turning outdoor gear for almost 50 years now. We’re a big fan of their cooking range (possibly because we’re big fans of eating what we can cook using it), with the MSR PocketRocket 2 stove featuring in our Summer Outdoor 100 earlier this year.
At the Outdoor show, among their innovative 2018 product range was this selection of cooking pots. Designed to work perfectly with the PocketRocket, it’s a series of eight pots and pans, which is easily enough to either cook for a large group or, should you be so inclined, cook yourself the kind of feast that would make Louis XVI blush.
What’s more, the pans are cleverly designed to fit into one another, meaning that for the space taken up by two pans, you’re getting eight. Amazing.