Gear trends: 2015/16 Wintersport and trekking poles

Poles get lighter and less fussy to adjust. Check out what's ahead for retail shelves next season in 2015-16.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Poles mightseem plain and simple, but there’s plenty of innovation to find in the sector at Winter Market this year.

From adjustable ferrules to high-tech Nordic offerings, poles, for trekking and skiing, are benefitting from R&D just like their more-in-the-limelight hardgoods brethren.

Black Diamond comes to the show with four new poles in its Freeride, Ski Mountaineering and Touring series for 2015, all built for mechanized access, performance and adjustability. Included in the line-up is its Touring line’s Vapor Carbon 1 (MSRP $150), a 100-percent carbon pole that’s one of the lightest on the market at just 310 grams per pair; its new Boundary Probe (MSRP $120), which features a built-in probe function — also available in a 610-gram version in carbon (MSRP $150); and Fixed Length Carbon (MSRP $120), its lightest freeride pole with a Kevlar-wrapped lower for ski edge protection, dual-density rubber palm grip and hook point for leveraging buckles.

Leki debuts its aluminum upper/carbon lower BlueBird Vario Pole (MSRP $150) with a trigger grip system that allows for adjustable lengths of 110–140 centimeters. It comes with a thermo-foam mid-grip for choking up while skinning and traversing, LEKI’s SpeedLock 2 locking technology, and two sets of interchangeable baskets for on-piste and off. “Usually when a pole tries to do this much, it doesn’t excel at any one discipline,” said Leki vice-president Greg Wozer. “The BlueBird is the ultimate performer in every situation.” K2’s All Seasons Speedlink Kit Poles (MSRP $130, plus $7.95 for summer kit) span the seasons with add-on rubber summer tips and mini baskets.

Day3_GT_Poles_LEKI_BlueBirdVario

Innovation is also coming to the Nordic front. Capitalizing on the growing rental market in the Nordic category, Alpina Sports rolls out its new CR pole to complement its CR ski and boot line, with dual density cork grip, easy-adjust strap and flexible, extra-large basket. “The rental category is booming,” said William McSherry, marketing vice-president. “This fits that need really well.”

In the winter safety tool category, multi-use quickly is becoming a must-have. Backcountry Access adds extras to its new line of Scepter poles by including a scraper grip for pushing snow off of the ski’s top sheath, as well as a grip utility hook for flipping risers and boot buckles.

Day3_GT_Poles_BCA_Scepter

Poles aren’t just centered around snow. Trekkers are increasingly using them on the trail, with features like adjustability and weight as important as they are for their winter cousins. Komperdell addresses adjustability with the new Stiletto line, with length adjusted single-handedly via a button on the handle.

“Changing height on standard twist- or power-lock poles is too time-consuming,” said Komperdell’s Sabina Hoffman. “No other pole can be adjusted more simply or faster.” The line includes four models, all made from high-grade carbon fiber for improved stiffness and weights starting at 165 grams per pole, including the four-piece Expedition, Ultralite and Approach, and C3 Carbon. The poles can be adjusted between 120-145 centimeters for the standard length and between 105-125 centimeters for the compact version.

Day3_GT_Poles_KomperdellPole-Carbon_Expedition4_PM

Versatility and value are cornerstones for Mountainsmith, which focuses on allowing consumers to reap multiple seasons with the same pole by swapping out baskets. “Using poles reduces impact on lower body joints and promotes a fuller body workout,” said President Jay Getzel, adding that the company’s growth in pole sales has surged in the last five years. “They add a level of stability to every adventure.” For 2015, the company refines its Trekker FX (MSRP $30), whose grip comes with built-in attachment points for POV, DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras.

Day3_GT_Poles_MountainSmith_TrekkerFX

Helinox keeps trekking with its four-section Passport Tension-Lock Adjustable pole (MSRP $150), which weighs just 13 ounces per pair and collapses to 15 inches in length. The TH72M aluminum alloy pole has one twist-lock section at the top for adjustability, with its simple Tension Lock mechanism employed by pulling up on the top shaft until the pole locks into place.

Day3_GT_Poles_Helinox_Passport

--Eugene Buchanan

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