Good vs. Better Gear from Outdoor Retailer and SIA

Each January, marketers from outdoor brands scramble out of their post-holiday coma to construct tradeshow booths around the world. As if these folks didn’t see enough gear just a few weeks before, they now have to present their latest and greatest to retailers, media and trade.

This year, instead of coverage of each individual show, here is a comparison of the best gear from two shows (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, and Snowsports Industry Association Snow Show). While almost everything we saw out there was good, some was better.

Footwear
Good: Baffin Alicia (middle)
Where we saw it: OR
One of the interesting things about Baffin is they name many of their boots after employees and loved ones. With a one-thousand person manufacturing plant in Canada, running out of names isn’t a shortage of names. I met with PR Manager, Alicia Gies, the girl whom the boot is named after.

The Alicia boots are rated for the extreme cold at -58 F, yet weigh just a pound a boot thanks to the ultralight AirFlex midsole and TPU base. The leather uppers are coated with polyurethane, while the outer is made of rubber with rigid patches on the bottom to prevent slipping. Overall, despite being around since 2010, I was quite impressed by a negative 58 degree boot weighing a little more than a can of soda.

Alicia

Better: Pakems Mid
Where we saw it: SIA
Pakems was a hit at this winter’s SIA, garnering much attention for what is a rather simple concept: compactible shoes that are relatively warm. Perhaps it’s because they solve a universal problem of replacing uncomfortable ski boots during après ski.

Pakems

Pakems have a DWR on insulated ripstop nylon that keeps them water resistant and warm. At less than a pound per pair and a stuff sack that tightens down around the shoe, it’s a relatively small commitment in a backpack.

Outerwear
Better: Dynafit Beast Jacket
Where we saw it: SIA
MSRP: $499
The Dynafit Beast Jacket is Dynafit’s first fully featured jacket and for a first round, we’ll have to say they did a pretty excellent job. Made of 3-layer waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex Active Shell as the Beast Pant, , it’s waterproof up a water column rating of 40,000 meaning if you put a 1’’ by 1’’ square tube over the fabric, you could fill the tube with water to a height of 22,000 mm (72 feet) before water would begin to leak through.  40k is quickly becoming the new standard for premium waterproof breathable shells.

The jacket weighs less than a pound and includes a powder skirt and snaps that connect to the Beast pants.

Dynafit Beast Jacket
Good: NAU Hokkaido Blazer
Where we saw it: OR
MSRP: $600
Looks like an urban fashion jacket right? Think again. The Hokkaido Blazer is actually a 3-layer waterproof breathable ski jacket in disguise. The outermost layer is a DWR treated heathered wool with a soft tricot layer next to the skin for maximum breathability.

The zippers are fully seamed and the collar flips up and snaps together, to keep faceshot snow from wetting your neck. On the right side is a pit zip and n the left chest is a pocket for a trail map. This jacket is brilliant.

NAU Hokkaido Blazer
Tops
Good: Arbor Collective’s Howland Flannel
Where we saw it: SIA
Arbor’s newest tagline “Returning to the Roots” is appropriate given their brand name. The Howland Flannel is a great representation of going back to the vintage looks that brought the brand to prominence.

The piece itself is a DWR treated 65/35 polyester/cotton flannel. It’s water resistant, a nice tech touch for what seems to be a normal flannel.

Arbor Collective Howland Flannel
Better:  Helly Hansen Warm Baselayer
Where we saw it: Outdoor Retailer
Every winter at the All Mountain Demo at Outdoor Retailer, Helly Hansen hands out their newest iteration of baselayers for a $20 donation to charity. For the past two years, the baselayers have been so-so. This year, they nailed it.

The newest HH Warm Baselayers are made of machine washable merino wool meaning they won’t stink for a while (but when they do, you can just throw them in the wash). They eliminated the thumb holes but maintained the same contoured shape and quarter neck zip.

HH Warm Baselayer

Bottoms
Good: Gramicci Stretch Jeans (Left to right – Ansel Climber, Shiloh Utility, Tokyo G)
Where we saw it: OR
Who is to say you can’t climb in jeans? Gramicci’s new lineup of jeans features a premium dark washed 11.5 ounce abrasion resistant denim. With just Elastane to keep those legs flexible, these are about as utilitarian as jeans get.

The Ansel Climber and Tokyo G feature three gussets. The Shiloh is wider and needs no gusset. All three are sharp enough for a night out and are durable enough to withstand even the most abrasive rocks.

Gramicci Stretch Climbing Jeans

Better: Dynafit Beast Pant
Where we saw it: SIA
Designed to be lightweight with ski touring in mind, the Dynafit Beast Pant is constructed out of the same 3-layer Gore Tex Active Shell as the jacket. It features a snap integration system called Micro Snap so the jacket and pant can be worn as a set.

The pant legs have long zippers to vent during a climb as well as gaiters at the bottom for extra protection. The gaiters at the bottom feature a zipper right around the calves so you can snap in and out of walk/ski mode without fully unzipping the gaiters.

Dynafit Beast Pant

Bags
Good: Osprey Kode ABS 42
Where we saw it: OR
The Osprey Kode ABS 42 is an upgrade from the previous Kode 42 released in Winter 2013. While the Kode 42 is roomy and well designed for backcountry gear, there’s no airbag component which leaves it handicapped to competitors.

The Kode ABS 42 has a detachable back panel where a small or large ABS Vario Base Unit zips in. With the added functionality, the pack zip in an ABS pack or leave it out.

Osprey Kode ABS 42

Better: Thule Roundtrip Multi-Snowsport
Where we saw it: SIA
The name Thule is synonymous for “protecting stuff” which is why their racks, bags and even, cellphone cases do so well. This year, they’ll be introducing a new line of ski and snowboard bags. Of these we found the Roundtrip Multi-Snowsport Roller to be the grand-daddy of ski bags.

This particular bag holds two sets of skis or two snowboards, plus boots. The outside is made of a waterproof tarpaulin material with extra thick padding around the tips. Inside are two padded bags that you fill with clothes then slide over the ski/snowboard to keep edges from chopping up your clothes. This version has wheels and an optional locking system.

Thule RoundTrip Ski Bag

Accessories
Good: Velocity Clip and Adhesive Mount
Where we saw it: OR
Many of us have questioned the ridiculously high cost of a POV (point of view) sport camera. There’s a lot of great ones out there but for those on a budget, strapping your cellphone into a heavy duty case and strapping it into a VelocityClip is a great option.

The main body that connects to the base by way of a tooth locking pivot system that holds the vise part of the unit. Overall, I was quite impressed with the locking mechanism that holds the phone.

Velocity Clip

Better: Vew Do Nub Butter and Snurfer (back)
Where we saw it: SIA
Vew-Do got plenty of attention at this year’s SIA, pulling in curious bystanders wanting to give a go at one of their balance boards. Above is a picture of mountaineering legend, Conrad Anker, acing the nub on his first try.

Most recently, Vew Do attained the rights to the name Snurfer (the original name for “snowboard”) and has recreated it as a skateboard for the snow. Apparently it’s not a bad activity; after all, this is where snowboarding got its glorious starts.

Vew Do Nub Butter and Snurfer

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Yoon Kim

Yoon is a freelance journalist who writes for SNEWS, The Outdoor Retailer Daily, Retailing Today, Gear Junkie, and many more. He writes mostly on outdoor topics including business, gear, event coverage and interviews with outdoor athletes. Yoon is an Insanely Big Mountain.

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