About 10 months ago we flocked to Munich again. It was that beautiful time of the year! No not Christmas. It was time to glean over all the shiny fancy skiing and expedition gear we all want to have that usually costs a dime and a limb. The biggest outdoor gear fair, the ISPO Munich. But hell as the comic strip where a person goes grocery shopping and buys just junk; goes clothing shopping and buys the cheapest crap; once we enter a gear store we think: “Just take our money”. Now as romantic as that notion seems, the reality is that there is only so much one will spend on gear, granted always more then one should. The stuff we get should also last a bit more then a single season. A common problem with new products. So in order to make it a bit easier for your consideration I took the liberty to stroll around the vast halls of the Munich Convention Center and spoof on some new stuff I found exciting and will, for the most part, be taking for a spin this season to see how it holds up to it`s godly marketing promises. So here my humble selection of Brands I checked out in greater detail.
Like every ISPO for the last couple of years, dear Alexander from the Italian Outdoor Group ASSOSPORT invited me to join a nice morning breakfast with fine donuts. As it is also a super opportunity to meet my Ferrino friends before all the seller meetings start I had to get there early, getting snowed in at Siegsdorf finding my white car at the bottom of the LiftlaAlm it was already and adventure then, but one that was definitely worth it, because Ferrino was here with a new kind of avalanche backpack I wanted.
I started my cooperation with them ages ago and despite not having the marketing budget of The North face or other conglomerate brands. Ferrino is one of the original outdoor companies with a heritage dating back to 1870 when they had the idea to make fabrics water resistant. Yes. Not GORE… since then they make tents, garments, outdoor gear and specifically innovative safety equipment. I swear on their backpacks for the hardest expeditions and tend to use their mountain rescue line products like the OP 50 and the Sierra Alpha as my daily drivers. They also make avalanche backpacks based on the Alpride system. Hell they even had a proprietary one before switching to Alpride. Since I used ABS for a good decade now and also tested their Pride system in depth, not being all to thrilled about its wired gas to electric solution, I was looking for a new generation system.
Having seen the Alpride E1 solutions premier at SCOTT a year earlier, I was leaning on getting a basic Scott Alpride Patroler pack, having tested the big and the small version to replace my old style ABS Vario. There was only one problem. Last year, in order to differentiate the expensive Alpride E1 system from its very good ergonomic design of the low end model, Scott did one of those shitty moves, you probably know to well if you are into computers and know Intel`s marketing. They cannibalized the product that was great a year earlier, to make the new one seem better to justify its insane price. That made the standard one worse. That in itself made the thing passe for me.
Now here I was at ISPO and Ferrino shows off this Alpride E1 based backpack, that is essentially the first avalanche system designed with mountain rescue in mind, made of my favorite Cordura material with a attention to mountaineering detail I am spoiled to form my extensive use of the OP50 pack and on top of it all, it also has a respirator installed, just so you can breath under an avalanche too or snorkel in Japan, hopefully the latter. Ok, I usually do not mention RECCO systems because I still think they just make it easy to find dead bodies but hell it has that too, and the improved thermo formed backplate I love. The design makes it easy to stow all the gear where you want it .. need I say more.
So happy as a little kiddo I already have it at home to put trough the meat grinder. Usual price is still pretty high at around 1.000 EUR, as I am told the premium on the Alpride E1 units is expensive, but it will be about the same price as the Scott E1 only with more durable materials a respirator and the RECCO reflector. As for the interior I can attest that if Ferrino says 30+5 l it really is that ! If you are interested in getting one PM to firstname.lastname@example.org 😉 maybe we can arrange something haha.
A meeting that turned out a bit differently to what I was thinking it would was at Dynastar. Last year around march I had the opportunity to take their all around powder touring skis, the MYSTIC 97 and 87 for a spin at Schladming. I toured up from Hochwurzen towards the Patzenalp and tired them out in the woods. They did a bit better on the down way as my Salomon MTN Explore 95 do in bad wet snow, mostly do the their shape and weight but unlike my initial thought, that went kinda like: “Oh god it looks like a Salomon BBR”, they rode remarkably well in the woods. Very turn friendly even in crappy pack snow. After the rest of the season passed and my buddy Mani, who rides for Dynastar Austria, had them on every single one of our extreme steep adventures, and even did a few insane culis in Kaunertal with them I was convinced there was something going here and I would want to try them more thoroughly.
But Dynastar also makes the other kind of skis, the ultra fat model. They are called MANACE of the F-TEAM variety where the latter stands for factory team. Like every brands top of the line, these are skis made in collaboration with pro team riders that excel at the most extreme level. Granted they are not what I would recommend to someone who does casual freeskiing or slack touring, the LEGEND 106 is better for that, but hell If you plan on going to Japan, like I am, the MENACE F-TEAM aka PROTO FACTORY might be the ski for you. With a 118 waist it is one of those rare rocker rockets that used to be all the rage and now in the days of Titanium inserts and, less weight is more, have become a rarity. It also got a ton of awards and it will be the ski I will take with me to Japan, granted most likely with a Salomon SHIFT binding on it :P.
Another ski that caught my attention was the F-TEAM VERTICAL. I was in a bind here. My current steep skiing beauty, the Salomon MTN Explore 95 was quite an enigma to me at first. I took it on against my own judgement by recommendation as kind of an experiment two season ago and I thought I would not use it much but it defacto became my daily driver. Excelling at everything but the deepest powder or the crappiest spring snow, but lets be honest, no ski excels at that all to well. I also really liked the 95 width and the fact that the thing is a tank. One major drawback was the low weight thou. If the Explore were 200 g heavier it would have been near perfect. As I was thinking the MYSTIC PRO 97 would have been my obvious choice here but then there was another thing I had noticed.
The F-TEAM VERTICAL, another enigma. Light versatile and made for steep skiing hmm… I thought that reminds me of the MTN Explore 95 gamble and my gut was saying go get those. On the show floor it seemed good. After the first piste day it seems mindbogglingly good. The flex is stiff and the build seemed solid. Co couple that with the SUPERLITE 12 binding form in Look branding and I might have another winner in for the steep touring and biwaking part of the season.
How well both the MENACE F-TEAM and the F-TEAM VERTICAL perform in the long run I will be able to share with you guys in the near future :).
Ahhh Leki. My favorite Germans. After our regular annual review on how last years gear worked I was able to check out what is in store for us next year. Leki always listens to what we riders say and uses that expertise better their products.
The Leki GORE TEX Infinium glove is one of such products. INFINIUM is a new material from GORE. What I did need for the climb up when touring is a glove that is breathable, not cold and has good sweat dissipation as well as some form of wind stopper. Last year I opted for Leki`s performance biathlon glove the Nordic Shark. It worked really well but what did bug me a bit was the sweat dissipation. The wind stopper worked well but I always sweat far to much and it just was not breathable enough. Infinium seem to work better in my first tests. And the design is a lot simpler too which I like :). The fingers also allow to use a touchscreens if you are into that sort of thing. The fabric is also slim enough to allow for good camera and drone operation. They go for around 90 bucks respectively and the space design with the stars and the mountain are awesome. I know most people just want black gloves but I love color and imagery, but as the designers at Leki told me, that is the problem with intricate graphic designs. Everyone loves to look at them and complement them, but few are bold enough to ware them.
Another glove that has my attention was of the all leather full warm verity. Over the last few years Leki has been perfecting the freeride daily driver gloves. The latest incarnation of that is the Progressive 8 S glove. It has a great fit,a bit reworked to be a bit tighter and the slip in part has been changed to easier fit under snow gaiters on arms of shell jackets. Another nice addition is the new Velcro tightener for the gloves upgrade. It is now made of some durable plasticity material that is harder and therefore easier to close up with gloves one. Another improvement that makes life easier.
On the pole side, the latest addition to the mountaineering poles is the new GUIDE PRO V pole that is kind of a lovechild between the HMC16 carbon summer pole I loved so much and misappropriated for winter use last season and the Tour Stick Vario I have been using over the last two seasons. I definitely recommend these if you are into harder touring and love the Trigger-S mounting system, but if you do not want to spend a ton on poles there is still the budget Haute Route which is kind of what I would consider the golden basic standard for what a touring pole should be able to give you while being super durable.
Lange is the synonyms for the age of plastic ski boots. They have been making them since 1948. They made the first rear entry boot and the first plastic mold material boot. They dominate the racing world and have for the better part of the last few decades. As such the company always innovates and improves their materials. As we were shown in the press tour, these boots are molten from different kinds of materials for different areas of the boot. A such their special dual core molding tech is top notch. Ill let this short corporate piece of marketing explain :P:
For me the most interesting one product on their palette is a boot that is made for touring with an emphasis on downhill performance. Regardless of endless innovation I still think that pure touring boots are more of a compromise then a solution. Sure there are really good crossover boots that started when the big names like Salomon started populating the segment. The product of this mostly marketing driven era were crossover boots like the Salomon MTN Lab and the X-ALP or the Dalbello Lupo and the highly marketed late to the party Hoji. Don`t get me wrong. I tried the Lupo that, like most Dalbello boots, just does not fit my foot, love the Salomon MTN Lab and have been using it since it came out. I even tried the Salomon X-Alp once and did not exactly know what to do with it in comparison to the MTN Lab. But once a few seasons back I also did an interesting “test”. My old Salomon Quest boot had been at the end of its life, almost flying to pieces on this adventure, and while I was waiting for a replacement, we did a tour to the top of the 3900m Piz Palü in Switzerland. That was a good 1800 hm and 30 km on the up and down. And I did it in a borrowed predecessor of the XT Free 130. Even all those years back it definitely rode better on the descent then the MTN Lab and I will be testing the 2020 incarnation on how it holds up for biwaking adventures all season long just to see if I can survive a few days out on a boot that is better to ski then to walk.
Fairs are big. I could write a whole book on the different gear one finds at such events, so I put together a bit of a little quick thoughts on some of this stuff that seemed interesting while strolling trough the vast halls of the Messe München.
You guys know I have had mixed feelings about Marker rooted in my park riding days breaking Jesters and going forward. I initially was fascinated with the Kingpin, regardless of all its technical problems and blunders but after switching to a real tech binding for my steep descents, looking back it seems like a binding that sacrificed a lot of alpine functionality to look crossover. Especially since the SHIFT, that is better but also not the grand messiah, entered the market. Now do not get me wrong. The kingpin works with the exception of some icing issues and the now hopefully resolved heel piece blunder (the second after the pin blunder at it`s release). Generally I get pissed at companies who burden consumers with so many recalls of the same product. And to be honest. These recalls, kept low key in order to not do too much PR damaged in the PC world of corporate advertising, do not address the ton of potentially dangerous product still left on the market. This is not the car industry where a recall is build into the system. A lot of this gear lands on the second hand market as well and I would really love to see the real number of exchanged product after such a recall.
It was from my view thou kind of ironic, that the SHIFT, while being kind of a late answer to the Kingpin, actually turned out to usher in a new kind of “real” best of both worlds approach. In that regard I was expecting Marker to present it`s own answer to this concept. What was shown as new was a reworked kingpin made of more cutting edge materials, being litghter and stiffer with the toe piece of another product. That came form the Alpinist, that is pitted against ATK, the MTN Lab and a ton of more proven Dynafit offerings. The pricing seems to indicate that Marker sells it cheaper then the competition (Dynafit TLT Speed, The Hagan Core / ATK Raider 12 2.0, and the Atomic Backland Tour / Salomon MTN)to gain market share but I recon in the end they will all be about 400 EUR price range. The first reviewers like it so I hope it works out. There seems to be consensus about the questionable durability of the heel piece but I will not be testing to confirm or deny that.
But that is not all out of Marker to date. Probably, due to development not being ready to present for ISPO, the answer to the SHIFT has surfaced in the form a the DUKE PT promo video a few weeks back. Check it out above to understand the concept. It comes in specs akin to the SHIFT with a marketing mambo jumbo specific two weights as if the 200 g of the removable (and hopefully not icing issue related or lost in snow) alpine cover piece, given as extra less weight while skinning up. Really marketing? does it magically fly up the hill and materialize when I need it to ride down so I do not have to carry the extra weight LOL. Well have to wait and see more. From what I have theorized about it with my riding buddies we all agree that it does not seem to be easier to operate then the SHIFT. We all saw the same issues in certain scenarios we would take a binding like that too, but one will not know how well it performs until one tries it, but it does seem more of a compromise then the SHIFT is in a market that seems to tend to steer again, away from compromises in the long run. Still I do think that Marker deserves a lot of credit in moving innovation in the binding industry sector especially with being bold and forcing competitors to innovate as well, even if, at least for now, it seems they have slept on there lorels for a bit to long.
ISPO AWARD – JACKET FABRIC
Another part of ISPO that is interesting to explore is the products that get ISPO awards. I was specifically interested in space age fabrics we will be wearing. Of course any and all of these claim the as yet impossible, light, dry insulated etc. but generally we see a trend towards light and space age. Of course if light and durable go together remains to be seen.
ISPO AWARD – G3 SKIS AND SKINS
I do love the Salomon branded POMOCA skins I have, but do have to admit that after three seasons the G3s of old had faired better. Since those days G3 has expanded making skis and bindings and whatnot. This year they also revamped their entire ALPINIST skins lineup with three different types of skin fabric for different use and a minimal version the MINIMIST for saving weight. I will be testing these babies a bit over the course of the winter to see how well they have improved over the old days 🙂
Well that is it on the gear front. Now for a few pics form the snowstorm to make it to Munich and this epic lift set up at one of the booths id definitely put in my garden 🙂