Every year the Outdoors Magic team heads to the beautiful city of Friedrichshafen in Germany then gets a taxi to an industrial estate about 15 minutes outside it. Why? For the OutDoor Show, that's why. It's where all of the most exciting gear releases for the following Spring/Summer are revealed to the world and where a lot of bratwurst is consumed.
As usual, at this year's show there were plenty of brands that had some great innovation to show off. 'Fast & light' was one of the definite themes with lots of new lightweight packs and trail shoes on display. Sustainability has been a catchword at the show for a number of years now and this time it seemed to be a big, big focus as well – for just about every brand there. I heard stories of new ways of waterproofing, of ethical sourcing and use of recycled and recyclable fabrics.
I must have been shown over 100 products this time, but only a certain amount of them really stood out, and these are all presented to you below. We've picked out five items that we considered the best of the best; products we think will prove particularly popular once they're on the market, and that are genuinely different. Scroll through each gallery to see the best of the rest as well.
Photo Gallery: Best Footwear
Best Boot/Shoe of OutDoor 2018: Arc'teryx Norvan SL
We've loved both versions of the Norvan shoe that Arc'teryx have already released, and this one looks like it could round off a nice triple crown. Named the Norvan SL (super light) half a pair weighs 185g making it one of the lightest trail shoes out there. The upper is made from one single piece of hydrophobic mesh, there's a Vibram sole and a clip on point so you can attach the pair to your harness. It's supposedly made for the climbers who run between their ascents.
Originally launched in Spring 2018, Hanwag have now extended its innovative TubeTec technology across their range. Used in their shoe soles, this combines a number of clever materials, including a PU foam, to make for longer lasting comfort and durability. One of the new shoes to feature it in 2019 will be the Ferrata II GTX, a complete re-work of one of the German brand's best selling alpine boots. It's now 10 per cent lighter and has a smart upper made from a blend of suede and abrasion resistant microfibre plus a high and supportive ankle cuff.
Another OutDoor Award winner, the Mammut Taiss Light Mid GTX has an upper made from a 'Geo-organic' 3D printed fabric designed to conform perfectly the shape of your foot, and this is combined with a nice and grippy Vibram Litebase sole.
The North Face's new Truxel shoe features the first ever sole produced in-house by the U.S. brand. It's based around the 'barefoot' style to give a natural feel underfoot. A city-to-summit-type offering designed to be comfortable on the streets and technical enough to perform on the trails.
The Aku Trekker Lite 3 GTX is inspired by the Tengu Lite which we liked enough to include in our Outdoors Magic 100 guide. Half a pair weighs 560g, there's a suede upper and Vibram sole, plus that Elica insole to give an anatomical fit.
2019 will see the release of Keen's Karraig Mid WP, a high-end offering that the U.S. brand say could be the most technical backpacking boot they've ever released. It's made from nubuck leather that's ethically-sourced and it features an anti-bacterial treatment that's chemical-free. There's also an aggressive sole with 5mm lugs and a solid toe bumper to help on uneven, rocky trails.
As I said in the introduction, the OutDoor Show in Germany seemed to be all about 'fast & light' this year, and this is one of the many examples of that trend. With its protective ankle, grippy outsole and lightweight build, the Arc'teryx Aerios FL Mid GTX is made for hiking technical trails at pace. It's made from the same last as the Norvan trail running shoe (which was featured in our Outdoors Magic 100) albeit with a thicker outsole. Set to retail at £160.
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Photo Gallery: Best Innovation
Best Innovation: Therm-a-Rest Neoair Uberlite
Outrageously innovative stuff from Therm-a-Rest who've created a sleeping mat called the Neoair Uberlite that weighs just 200g. It's part of a new sleeping system they're angling at ultralight hikers and runners. It involves a water repellent down quilt (not a sleeping bag) that can be cleverly integrated with the mat.
And here's that quilt. It packs down to the tiniest of sizes and, though we're not sure on the weight, we can tell you it's very, very light.
Some very nice looking camping equipment from Primus at the show this year. The Aeril stood out in particular. It's an accessory for cooking over an open fire, with a stainless steel platform to pop a kettle or pan and collapsible legs. All-in-all a compact unit that could be perfect for slipping in a backpack before heading down to the beach.
Socks or shoes? Neither says new brand Skinners. Their clever product is basically a sock with a durable, protective, water resistant base which allows you to comfortably walk around in it. Weighing just 80g (half a pair) this could be a very attractive option for backpackers who want something comfortable to wear around camp at the end of the day. They're on the market now.
It's already on the market, and admittedly a little bit different to what we normally cover, but still, this was an eye-catching product at the OutDoor Show. Ideal for family campers or campervan travel, the Horizon by a Cornwall-based company called Anevay should offer a fun and surprisingly convenient alternative to barbecuing.
Rab's new Kinetic Alpine trousers could be something very special. Complementing the new Kinetic Alpine Jacket, these are waterproof trousers that can potentially be worn all day, perhaps just over bare skin or a baselayer, all thanks to their soft, comfy, stretchy but fully waterproof material. They weigh just 90g as well!
I only got a quick introduction to this tent from Big Agnes, but still, what I heard was impressive. It has lots of clever little features designed to suit people who are bikepacking. That means loads of storage, organising space and hanging clips for kit plus a little strap in the porch to hold a helmet (as you can see)
What you see is what you get with this from Black Diamond: an alpine bivvy that's supported by two trekking poles that are attached to each other by a sturdy crossover pole. I'm not sure of the weight but I expect it's going to be low. One for fast & light ascents.
What you have here is a knife that floats! Designed for cutting rope at sea or on/alongside rivers, its cork grip will prevent it from disappearing into the depths should it plop overboard. Morakniv were given an OutDoor Award at the show for this.
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Photo Gallery: Best Jacket
Best Jacket of OutDoor 2018: Rab Kinetic Alpine
An unbeliebably stretchy waterproof jacket that feels like a softshell, the Rab Kinetic Plus was a hit with the team here at Outdoors Magic. Next year will see the Kinetic Alpine (pictured here) which will be lighter than the first iteration, but supposedly no less durable thanks to the use of a clever fabric-strengthening ceramic print.
Mountain Equipment are another brand who showed off an update to one of their popular jackets – their best seller in fact. The Lhotse Atmo weighs 340g – much lighter than the original Lhotse – and features a clever blend of Gore-Tex Paclite and Gore-Tex Pro.
Another jacket to adopt the soft-to-the-touch and lightweight waterproof fabric that is Gore-Tex Paclite, the Sprayway Rask (Helo) seems a great-looking and good value jacket (£150). And its water repellent treatment is completely free of environmentally-hazardous PFCs.
One big news story from Gore-Tex was the development of a brand new fabric called Gore-Tex Infinium. The aim with this isn't waterproofing, rather it's all about offering complete wind protection without compromising on breathability. Expect to see this in a lot of trail running jackets in 2019.
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Photo Gallery: Best Backpacks
Best Backpack: Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre
Two new exciting backpacks from Lowe Alpine on the way in 2019: the Cerro Torre (right) and the Altus (two on the left). Both have excellent back systems with fantastic weight distribution – at least that's the impression we got from a quick fully-loaded jaunt around the tradeshow. The hipbelts have a slight pivot built into their wings which allow the pack to move with your hips and torso. We loved both packs but our Best Backpack Award has to go to the Cerro Torre. Its top lid turns into a proper day pack!
We very nearly chose this for the Best Backpack Award at the show, but on the basis of its eco-credentials we decided to give it the Sustainability Award instead. Go check out our description of it in that section.
The Ortlieb Atrack, our Best of OutDoor this year. Scroll to the bottom of the page for all the details on this waterproof backpack/duffel
A real premium product from Exped Their Whiteout pack is made from a blend of polyester and Dyneema, a super strong fabric that can't be dyed – hence the white colour. The seams are all taped, it has a roll top and slight padding on the back. You'll find it in either a 30L or 45L capacity.
The Mammut Trea and Trion are two seriously high-spec packs. They're both very durable, full of nice design features and most notably, they use something called Active Spine Technology, which is basically a pivoting hipbelt yoke.
This year saw the release of OMM's Trailfire Vest which we included in the Outdoors Magic 100. With this 2019 release they've taken elements of that vest's design and created a brand new daypack for moving quickly in the mountains with. One for the ultralight runners and hikers.
A new range of daypacks from Osprey called the Skarab and Skimmer. They're both simple in design and aesthetic but they offer everything you need from such a daypack. I was given a sample of the 22-litre Skarab to test out and I've used it for running, hiking and even for a two-day backpacking trip in Snowdonia.
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Photo Gallery: Sustainability
The Sustainability Award: Fjällräven Bergshell Fabric
Fjällräven's new Bergshell fabric certainly deserves the OutDoor Award it picked up at the show and we've chosen to give it our own award as well. It's an abrasion resistant waterproof material that's made from a PFC-free 100 per cent recycled nylon. What's more it features a hugely innovative flat ripstop construction which means that the stronger yarns are less exposed and more protected. This Bergshell fabric is featured in the Bergtagen Pack (pictured). With its sleek design and details plus removable wooden stays, it's a thing of beauty.
This year, Nikwax's focus at the show was to champion the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) a group that they've been a long-standing member of. They're calling on more brands to pledge and join the group which aims to unite the outdoor industry behind environmental causes. EOCA recently reached its target of planting 1 million trees.
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Best of OutDoor
Best of OutDoor 2018: Ortlieb Atrack
Our favourite product at the show this year. Is it a backpack? Is it a duffel? Well, it's both. Waterproof to ip67 standard, this could be the dream pack for anyone into packrafting, or any paddle sport for that matter. Features include a full length zip opening, a sleeve for a hydration bladder, internal and external pockets and straps for compression.
For more 'gear of the future' check out our round up of the highlights from ISPO Munich which is essentially the winter equivalent of the OutDoor show.