The SNEWS® team of editors armed with maps and GPS (was this show big or what?) ducked and weaved around the trade show floor over the course of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned -- we do know you love your company's product, really. However, we're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned we either didn't think your product stood out sufficiently or we started drinking alcoholic beverages too early in the afternoon to see straight and missed you as a result -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on trends and new products for climbing hardware, shoes, stoves, helmets, packs, ropes, harnesses and accessories:
Arc'Teryx – A lot of the buzz in the climbing world was about the long overdue revamped harness line. At first glance, the new models appear to be a case of "fashion before function" since comfort and durability don't look like design priorities. However, there may be some merit to the minimalist designs based on the new construction technology -- only proper testing will tell. With four spendy models for men (MSRP $100-$150) and one for women (MSRP $125), the sleek harnesses will at least make consumers realize that the el cheapo $40 models may leave a lot to be desired. Accompanying the harnesses are several new crag packs, the Miura 20 (MSRP $150), 30 (MSRP $200) and 50 (MSRP $225) that have a clever combination of a panel and roll-top opening (Miura is also the name of a popular La Sportiva rock shoe and a Lamborghini.) And, of course, there's a soft shell chalk bag (MSRP $30-$35) with built-in bottle opener.
Black Diamond – The only new climbing products from BD for next season are a single harness and a belay device. The Big Gun (MSRP $100) is the first harness that BD has produced suitable for climbers sporting a more, ummm, beefy build. Designed for big walls, it should be a fine trad harness for larger guys too. Several other harnesses in the line get a nice improvement of a softer upper edge for better comfort. The ATC-Sport (MSRP $17) is simply a single-hole version of the company's popular ATC-XP friction belay and rappel device for people who never rappel.
C.A.M.P. – We can't be certain, but the battle over who makes the lightest carabiner may have at last ended with the introduction of the new Nano (MSRP $8), which only weighs 23 grams -- there really isn't much left to take away after that! Shops can expect to do a good business in the new ultra small .125 and .25 TriCams (MSRP $18), since they are bound to become fixed anchors once climbers can't retrieve them. The already-strong helmet line gets even better with the very stylish Armor (MSRP $60), which comes in five colors for men, four for women, and two for kids. At the high end, the Cosmic helmet (MSRP $100) features a new ratcheting chin strap that greatly improves comfort. Though the company isn't making a big deal about it, C.A.M.P. will also offer a line of ropes made for it by Beal.
DMM – When DMM first introduced the Revolver carabiner with a built-in roller two years ago, it received mixed reactions since many climbers didn't understand the concept of reducing friction. But the new locking Revolvers (MSRP around $35) should get a lot of reaction from those who travel on glaciers since they can simplify rescues. After the demise of HB equipment (RIP Hugh Banner), DMM acquired the molds for the popular aluminum offset nuts and is now making them with anodized colors to match the company's other nuts. The brass offsets, however, remain in limbo.
Edelrid – Like many other European companies, Edelrid is setting up its own distribution in the United States soon to cut out the middleman and combat the falling dollar. Aside from having a reputation for making great ropes (the company invented dynamic kernmantel ropes after all), a bevy of cool new products will give climbing shops more reasons to carry the line. The biggest buzz comes from the new climbing helmet, the Madillo (MSRP $109), which folds into a very compact package; it is a clever design that could prove popular with trad and alpine climbers. Three new lightweight climbing harnesses (MSRP $76-$87) feature a modular sliding rail system for gear loops and chalk bag (very slick), as well as some other nice refinements. A unique auto-locking belay carabiner, the Galaxy (MSRP $22), has an inner wire gate to hold the biner in place on a belay loop (great idea). Also of interest is a new belay device, the Zap-O-Mat (MSRP $75), which is more like a smarter tuber than a lighter automatic. The company now owns the brand formerly known as Lucky, so expect some interesting ice gear at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.
Grivel – While the company makes some of the best ice gear available anywhere, Grivel has struggled to offer packs suitable for the U.S. market. That could change next year with its strongest offering yet. The Alpine 35 (MSRP $180), Alpine 45 (MSRP $200) and Alpine 55 (MSRP $210) are rugged top-loaders (the larger two also have zipper access on the front) that are well designed for climbing. Equally important, the packs aren't bright yellow for a change, so they won't turn off customers before they even look at the features. Unfortunately, the new ultralight Air Tech Helmet (MSRP $110), which has incredible ventilation, is only available in bright yellow. Since the popularity of so-called "fruitboots" (high-performance insulated ice climbing boots with crampons bolted to them) continues to grow, Grivel has introduced the Ice Organizer (MSRP $100), which has a special compartment for carrying the boots without poking holes in everything and everyone in the vicinity -- great idea.
Keen – We know what you're thinking: "Why is SNEWS® talking about Keen in the climbing section?" Well, unless you were looking for them, it would be easy to miss the new Keen rock shoes. That's right, the distinctive-looking sandal company is going to sell rock shoes! Two models, the Broughton Velcro slipper and Carver lace-up shoe both come in men's and women's, with two colors each (eight models total). Retail for each is approximately $90. The main feature of these shoes is a durable construction where the leather uppers are assembled and then they are inserted into a mold and the rubber outsole and rand are directly bonded to the leather. Sorta similar to the Boreal IRS, which never garnered much favor. OK, so they can't delaminate and they don't look bad, but we suspect Keen will have quite a challenge on its hands trying to convince any specialty outdoor shop to take a chance on these, when there are more than sufficient top-notch climbing shoe brands already on the market.
Mad Rock – Every summer since its inception as a shoe company, Mad Rock has entered a different segment of the market with products that challenge industry standard pricing. This time, it's carabiners that appear well-designed and about a buck cheaper than similar models. There are six models starting at $6 and going up to $10 for a screw-lock pear biner. Also new is a Belay Glove (MSRP $30) that would make Michael Jackson proud.
Mammut – While slacklining has absolutely nothing to do with climbing, it is a fun activity that helps improve balance. Mammut has developed a Slackline Set (MSRP $150) that consists of a 65-foot piece of special webbing, a ratcheting tension unit, anchors and a carrying case. Set one up in your store and watch the liability lawyers flock like vultures -- just kidding. In other product news, the ultra-skinny 6 mm webbing was deemed too fragile for consumers, so it never reached the market. Instead, Mammut is offering new 10 mm Dyneema and 13 mm nylon webbing slings with a unique method for sewing the loops that ensures longevity. The new Tripod helmet (MSRP $80 for adults; MSRP $60 for kids) features the same construction used in modern bike helmets, but is beefed up for climbing.
Metolius – When the new Master Cams (MSRP $55-$60) start shipping, good luck trying to keep them in stock! This new single-stem camming device has a narrow head (a la the doomed CCH Aliens) with a good ergonomic design. These will certainly be the hot thin crack protection next season and climbers will be clamoring for them. A bit more mundane but still noteworthy are the new hot forged carabiners, the wire gate Inferno (MSRP $8) and screw lock Element (MSRP $10) that Metolius is now producing. The new Porta-Cord rope bag/bucket/pack (MSRP $55) appears to be an excellent design that offers a lot of versatility. Last but not least, the new Boss Hogg Crash Pad (MSRP $200) ups the ante with great new features to become one of the best on the market in our opinion.
Millet – While Vasque made a splash at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2007 with the most technical climbing boots on the market (M-Possible and Radiator), this French brand could well be the next contender. The new Radikal alpine climbing boots (MSRP $290) feature a honeycomb insulation that claims to offer serious warmth at next-to-nothing weight. Also noteworthy is that Millet will once again have a warehouse and normal distribution in the United States (it had been drop-shipping to a few stores). It's an impressive line with many high-end products well suited for specialty climbing shops.
Mountain Hardwear – Next year, Mountain Hardwear will offer the technical packs that the company needed from the beginning for well-rounded authenticity. The Splitter (MSRP $160) is a burly panel-loading crag pack that has detachable rope tarp and several other nice features. The Dihedral (40 liter, MSRP $160) and Diretissima (50 liter, MSRP $190) are no-nonsense alpine climbing packs that can be stripped down when needed. And the 76-liter South Col (MSRP $260) expedition pack weighs less than 4 pounds and can be stripped down to make a summit pack that only weighs 2 pounds, 4 ounces.
Omega Pacific – Now that the Kong patent on keylock carabiners has expired, the popular design that eliminates a gate notch will spread. Omega Pacific is rapidly transitioning much of its carabiner line to this style, with about half of them coming out this fall. Expect to see more sizes of the Link Cams before too long as well.
Ortik – The hit climbing product of Summer Market wasn't on display anywhere near the white Acropolis of Arc'Teryx or the climbing wall. In fact, it was about as far from the main climbing area as you can possibly get -- way in the furthest corner on a well-hidden walkway up off the show floor. It would be easy to walk by the Ortik booth and not realize the company was offering what we think is the best piece of equipment for alpine and big-wall climbers, as well as winter backpackers, to hit the market in ages. The Heat-it cooking system was developed in Portugal to allow almost any vertical-style butane stove to safely cook inside of a tent. There have been numerous hanging stove systems offered in the past that all suffered significant design flaws. Not only does the Heat-it solve all those issues from what we can see, but it also increases fuel efficiency, prevents a tent from catching on fire if the stove is on the ground and is knocked over, and it stores the pots/stove/fuel. Yet, it only weighs 5 ounces and will retail for $65. It even lets you bake a cake! Naturally, we'll be putting one through the testing paces soon.
Peips – The high-tech and high-priced avalanche beacons have been getting much of the media attention these days -- for better or for worse. Whether customers will flock to stores to spend upward of $350 per beacon with lots of gadgetry remains to be seen. It's more likely, however, that Peips will sell a heck of a lot of the new, no-frills Freeride since it retails for only $190 and still offers the convenience of digital searches. The iProbe (MSRP $190), however, is an avalanche probe with digital functionality that may be too gimmicky even for the diehard techweenie. It does look mighty cool, though, and there is no disputing its performance.
Petzl – At last, all of the design problems of the Reverso have been fixed in the new Reverso3 (MSRP $30). The belay device will now work with ropes of any diameter, has an easier method for releasing when loaded, and won't rattle annoyingly when carried, making this the great device we had been expecting from the start. The new climbing pack appears well designed and reasonably priced (MSRP $60), but could really use a better name than the Bug. Since most of the company's harnesses were new this season, only one harness out of the line gets redesigned for next year. The Calidris (MSRP $90) is the company's deluxe model, which rules for comfort and versatility, so it should be popular.
Tendon – Sequestered away in one of those hidden rooms that few buyers ever see, was a line of climbing ropes made by Lanax in the Czech Republic. If the name sounds familiar, it's because the company makes the Metolius climbing ropes, too. Just as New England Ropes markets its climbing ropes under the Maxim label, Lanax has chosen Tendon as the name for its ropes. Engineered by former Edelweiss designers, these are high-quality ropes and the first to claim using nanotechnology for a water-resistant Teflon finish.
Wild Country – The end of an era comes next month when Wild Country completes the final production run of Rigid Friends, still one of the most durable cams around. But Wild Country is sweetening the deal on Technical Friends by including a free carabiner. The VC Pro 2 belay device (MSRP $15) is updated to work better both with fatter and skinnier ropes. The new Pro Key (MSRP $13) may well be the nicest nut tool on the market, thanks to a spring clip and included leash.