If you wish to see new products for the coming year's market before anyone else in the United States, then you had best head out to OutDoor in 2007. This year, as in past years, the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, became THE international preview of 2006 outdoor product, for both European and North American companies.
U.S. and Canadian brands, such as Black Diamond, Arc'Teryx, Gregory, Osprey, Keen, Chaco, Crocs, Eagle Creek, SmartWool, Western Mountaineering, Timbuk2, Highgear (TechTrail), Sugoi, Primaloft, Vasque, Timberland, Camelbak, Thorlo, Teva, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Jetboil, Outdoor Research and more, laid out their product, noting to the SNEWS® team on hand that in most cases, what we were being shown was what the company would also debut at WSA or Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in August.
What follows is a by-no-means complete peek at some of the new products and product introductions that stood out to our SNEWS® team of three editors -- and if you've been reading our trends wraps from Summer Market, you've already noted we've mentioned OutDoor product debuts there as well:
World of stoves
Optimus announced at OutDoor that Katadyn North America would be the new North American distributor for Optimus Stoves of Sweden -- which makes sense to us as the line of Optimus stoves should prove to be a natural extension of business for Katadyn North America's water-filter distribution network and sales reps. New features for the stoves include all moving parts, like on/off knobs and switches, are now colored green for easy identification. Nice touch.
Primus (U.S. distribution by www.nagear.com) waved its banner with a new stove system, the EtaPower EF Stove. Primus president, Joakim Grönvik, told SNEWS® that the stove represented the "first truly integrated cooking system on the market." A close look at the stove system revealed a heat exchanging ring on the bottom of the system's cookpot that looked decidedly like the heat exchanger on the Jetboil system. Grönvik bristled when we asked him about the similarity with Jetboil's stove, saying that he could not show us how it was different as that information was proprietary, but assured us it was. Grönvik also appeared shocked when we noted that we knew Primus had, for the last several years, been supplying Jetboil with burner assembly parts for its own system.
Dwight Aspinwall, president of Jetboil, told SNEWS® that his company has a patent pending on its system in the EU, Japan and United States, and that certain elements of the heat exchanger design, what Jetboil terms a flux ring, is at the heart of that patent.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out -- hopefully not in court. The Primus system is very cool, but the similarity in design to the Jetboil system, the true first integrated cooking system on the market if truth be told, without giving Jetboil even so much as a nod was a bit, well, surprising to more than just us.
Mike Parsons, the founder of Karrimor (he eventually lost ownership of the company in bankruptcy) and the founder of the Original Mountain Marathon, the namesake of his new company, is back producing lightweight gear. His premise is that lightweight gear does not mean having to sacrifice needed durability or versatility, which drove him to coin the phrase, leanweight. Obviously keen on acronyms, Parsons' innovative pack designs rely on a UGR (universal gear rail) for attaching a multitude of tools -- axes, poles, skis, etc.); an MSC (multi sport compressor) that is removable and is used for stowing helmets, sleeping pads and shovels; and a Leanweight Chassis (sorry, no acronym) which essentially creates an equipment cradle made up of the back panel, the pack base, the waist-belt attachments and continuous strips up the front side of the bag. Though not available in the United States yet, Parsons told SNEWS® he would be open to talking to the right person or company if an interest in U.S. distribution is expressed. Simple, clean, innovative in design -- our team is already coveting some of the packs for our lightweight adventures into the backcountry. www.theomm.com
Offering tights and a fitted top with silver filaments woven into the fabric aren't all that new -- think odor resistance. However, when you combine a small, rechargeable power pack that is hooked up to those silver filaments to provide heat to legs and feet, as well as zoned areas in the upper body, now we're talking innovative. Think no wires! The fabric is soft to the touch. Circuitry is designed so sweat will not short it out. Temperature is thermostatically controlled and the garments are fully washable. If there is any drawback, we're talking price -- Euro 348 (USD $440) for the tights and Euro 398 (USD $504) for the shirt. Still, if your customer is seeking warmth at any cost, this is worth a look. www.warmx.com
Barely scratching the surface in the United States since it launched less than a year ago, X-Socks makes a huge statement in Europe with incredibly designed (and pretty pricey) zoned/mapped socks (Euro 10 to 30, or USD $12.75 to $38.25) and undergarments (Euro 70 to 200, or USD $89.30 to $255.15) that it began selling in 2000. The biggest news at the OutDoor show was the mid-layer it showed (launching in Europe in August 2007) and outerwear garments it is showing samples of to launch in two or three years. Undergarments came first, we were told, before the company could create outerwear that matched the zoned and mapped systems of the socks and base layer. www.x-socks.com
Of course, the folding flatware of Orikaso isn't new in the United States now, but what the company is launching that is new is re-useable and recyclable packaging. Forget a paper sleeve with the gear. The package will now be polypropylene to store your flatware in when it's, well, flat. In addition, the company now has shot glasses and espresso cups for your folding pleasure. www.orikaso.com
We've raved about this German company's lightest of lightweight umbrellas, but one disadvantage was it was full-length and not truly packable. Last year, the founder told us making it foldable wasn't possible since it wouldn't be strong enough. Guess he was wrong (or hiding something). Now the Telescope umbrella (they have dubbed it "the real backpack umbrella"), which will be out in November is light as a feather at 11 ounces and closes down to only 18 inches long (Euro 57, or USD $72). Also new is the Flashlite Umbrella, which actually has an LED light in the handle. Not only can you use it in the umbrella handle, but you can unscrew it and use it in your hand as a light. It also has a blinking distress signal (Euro 60, or USD $76.50). www.euroschirm.com
Israel's Source company, still available here and there in the United States, showed a tube system to convert a bottle into a hydration system. With a basic ConverTube kit, which includes all the adapters you need for any size bottle, will run USD $8. In addition, we loved the "Liquitainers" the company showed that are lightweight, foldable, flexible bottles that fold flat when empty and can withstand both freezing and boiling (USD $5 to $7 for 0.75 liter, 1 liter and 2 liters). www.source-vagabond.com
Lucido continues to make some marks in the lighting arena, but hit some snags with its intended launch this summer in the United States. We're told some other opportunities are pending for the future. Meanwhile, the company showed its new TR1 headlamp as an entry-level option at Euro 30 (USD $38). It has four LEDs run by three AAA batteries and weighs a mere 72 grams with batteries. A switch lock allows a user to lock it off, and a battery check feature tells you how full the batteries are by a number of blinks AND can be used as an emergency light. The light has a distinctly defined circle at 40 degrees, and on max mode can light your way 40 meters out. The TX1, to be out in early 2007, has a unique feature that allows the light compartment to swivel backward in its casing, so it closes down and protects the LEDs (Euro 39, or USD $50). Its max mode gives you visibility 60 meters out with a spotlight that can hit 120 meters. www.lucido.de
Though not yet available in the United States, Sweden-based Klaettermusen hits only the high end, and does so with aplomb and attitude. The company is also trying to think more about the environment and has introduced organic cotton in the Einride Jacket (that won an OutDoor award this year). It's "old-fashioned," if you will since it's not some coating or layer that makes it waterproof, but rather the dense weave of the cotton. The company says it will be waterproof for about three to four years of use and is highly wind resistant. Although introduced two years ago, it has just now taken off, we were told. It's a high-tech jacket that has a soft, cottony feel and stuffs into its own pocket for carrying (Euro 320, or USD $400).
All of Klaettermusen's offerings are not exactly inexpensive, and co-founder Peter Askulv said it used to be a discussion when they brought the line outside of Sweden four years ago. But now, no one mentions it, he told SNEWS®. Askulv pays attention to tiny details that make the price worth it, he said. For example, in researching what caused returns, he found that 20 percent was because of a failure of the laminate in some jackets due to oils from hair rubbing on the inside of the collar. He solved it by placing a bit of fleece at the back of the neck. He also put a thin protective net around the waist area so Velcro and belts wouldn't damage the inside of the jacket, which also accounts for a large portion of returns. www.klattermusen.se