Outdoor Retail Gear Trends: 2016 Climbing equipment

See what's ahead for climbing equipment slated for retail in 2016.
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Climbing is a recreational pursuit for most participants, and manufacturers are responding by developing products that are all about keeping the fun factor high. Hence, comfort and versatility are the top climbing trends for 2016.

The market has grown to the point that it encompasses a wide range of climbing consumers, and some brands are putting out products that will only appeal to a small, but dedicated audience at the upper end of the scale. “We want to stay true to our core values and develop products that address the needs of climbers who are out using this stuff on a daily basis,” said Kolin Powick, climbing category director at Black Diamond Equipment.

Helmets have seen slow acceptance among sport climbers, typically because of too much weight and a lack of comfort. They’ll have one less excuse with the new Mammut Wall Rider (MSRP $100), a sub-200 gram lid with an expanded polypropylene shell that offers superb ventilation and comfort. The Camp Titan (MSRP $55) uses an ABS-injected shell along with a removable liner for easy cleaning or replacement. The Petzl Elia has been redesigned with a higher arch in the ponytail-friendly headband and new foam inserts. It’s more comfortable and now sits lower on the head than the previous version.

Sport-climbing specific harnesses often trade weight savings for less comfort, but consumers may not have to make that sacrifice any longer. The Black Diamond Solution (MSRP $70) utilizes its Fusion Comfort Technology, with three independent bands of webbing in the waistbelt and leg loops to evenly distribute the load and eliminate pressure points. The Camp Flash (MSRP $80) has structural longitudinal threads that allow for greater support without the added weight of traditional webbing, with 3 millimeters of padding adhered directly to the webbing for added comfort. For alpine climbers, the Edelrid Huascaran (MSRP $60) is a 7.8-ounce minimalist harness that is also the first harness to earn Bluesign approval for minimizing environmental impact during the production process.

The new Cragaconda (MSRP $170) from The North Face is a 45-liter pack that was developed by athlete Sam Elias, offering a high level of organization with internal racking points, an internal shoe/harness pocket and dedicated helmet holder. The Cassin Shake (MSRP $100) should appeal to urban climbers, easily switching between a bag for bouldering gear or your laptop. The Petzl Bug is an 18-liter day pack for multipitch climbs that includes a rope strap for packing away the cord on the outside for the descent.

Black Diamond wanted to make their popular Camalots even better for alpine climbing, so it cut their weight by 25 percent, producing the new Camalot Ultralights (MSRPs $90-$130). The weight reduction was accomplished via a unique Dyneema core stem, which is strong and durable but significantly lighter than steel. Available in sizes from 0.4 to #4, the nylon slings found on the C4s have been replaced with Dyneema to further reduce weight.

Looking at ways to minimize its environmental impact, Edelrid introduces the Boa Eco 9.8 (MSRP $170 for 60m), made of high-quality yarns leftover from its normal rope production process. In addition, all ropes in Edelrid’s 2016 pro line will meet the UIAA water repellency standard. The Mad Rock Lifeguard (MSRP $89) is an assisted-braking device made from hot-forged aluminum and stainless steel for improved durability. Light (146 grams) and ergonomic, it works on ropes from 8.9 to 11 millimeters, and can be used with classic belay technique, no learning curve required.

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Several new products are aimed at the growing segment of gym climbers. Sterling introduces the Gym ReVO, a low-elongation rope with a unique braided core specifically designed to hold up to the high-volume use of top ropes on the taller walls in today’s modern gyms. Metolius is getting back in the hold game, launching a new line of polyurethane climbing holds designed from 18 months of research and conversations with gyms about what they wanted. And Trango has the Forge (MSRP $120), a new hangboard for advanced climbers ready to upgrade from the Rock Prodigy. A thumb catch allows for safely training the closed crimp grip, as well as other new grips and pinch widths.

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Petzl upgraded the Tibloc, with a new spring-loaded component that engages braking on the rope in any position. They are also introducing interchangeable front sections for their Vasak, Sarken and Irvis crampons, meaning you can buy one set of crampons and swap out the fronts for different uses. Stop by Grivel to see the latest iteration of its twin gate technology, the Clepsydra belay carabiner. And for all-day adventures, Mammut has the Multipitch Chalk Bag (MSRP $30), with two zippered pockets and a mesh stow pouch, along with a bungee attachment on the bottom for carrying a jacket.

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--BJ Sbarra

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