Outdoor Retailer Summer Market '09: Technical outerwear and performance apparel trend highlights

As the SNEWS® editors were roaming the halls of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, various themes continued to prevail in technical and performance apparel: ultra-lightweight, bike commuting, trail running and the continuing expansion of the women's skort. In outerwear, how light can you go? Companies are pushing the envelope to find out, emphasizing light and fast fabrics and pared-down hardware as evidenced at Patagonia, Outdoor Research and Mammut, to name a few. It all sounds good, but at what point will durability be sacrificed -- only real-world testing will bear witness.

As the SNEWS® editors were roaming the halls of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, various themes continued to prevail in technical and performance apparel: ultra-lightweight, bike commuting, trail running and the continuing expansion of the women's skort.

In outerwear, how light can you go? Companies are pushing the envelope to find out, emphasizing light and fast fabrics and pared-down hardware as evidenced at Patagonia, Outdoor Research and Mammut, to name a few. It all sounds good, but at what point will durability be sacrificed -- only real-world testing will bear witness.

In performance apparel, it seems you couldn't throw a stick without hitting a new piece for trail running or bike commuting as companies like Arc’Teryx, Merrell Apparel, GoLite and Mountain Hardwear built or expanded focused collections for these disciplines.


Then there’s the running skirt or skort – name depending on whom you talk to. SkirtSports certainly made an impression in about 2004 with its introduction and now more and more companies are introducing skirts with shorts, tights or briefs underneath for hiking or running.


Cloudveil: Part of Cloudveil's spring 2010 story is an emphasis on hybrids -- blending the hardness of a hard shell with the mobility of a soft shell as seen in the Doublet jacket for male and female alpinists (pictured right). The piece is water resistant, has stretch paneling across shoulders and underarms, and pit zips and high hand pockets that won't interfere with climbing harnesses or pack hip belts (MSRP $250). Cloudveil calls the Hagen jacket the next evolution in its three-season soft shells, and is handy for a wide range of warm-weather pursuits like climbing, biking or high alpine hiking that require flexibility and weather protection. Available in men's and women's styling, it has a DWR treatment to shed moisture (MSRP $120). In base layers, the men's Canopy shirt and women's Canopy hoody are made of a bamboo/poly/cotton blend with antibacterial properties and UPF 30 (MSRP $60). www.cloudveil.com

Mammut: Light, fast, breathable and packable are mantras for Mammut's summer 2010 apparel. Its new Lobuche jacket (MSRP $429 -- photo to right) is made of proprietary DryTech fabric and built using an electro-spinning process that eliminates the need for glue between the fabric and the waterproof insert. Mammut told us the jacket is extremely lightweight and nearly 80 percent more breathable than other waterproof jackets on the market. The company is also using more of Schoeller's ColdBlack finishing technology in its pants, which reduces heat build-up, and updating the athletic-fitting Champ pant into the Glacier pant with a "regular" looser fit, articulated knees and reinforced cuffs (MSRP $259). www.mammut.com


Marmot: Building upon its ultralight arsenal, Marmot incorporated the MemBrain Strata technology in the new men's Super Mica jacket -- a 9-ounce, waterproof/breathable ripstop jacket for lightweight protection against the elements. It has micro stitching, totally taped seams, Duralite reinforcement patches on the shoulder and hip, and a hood (MSRP $200). The women's Metamorphosis jacket (MSRP $160) also made with the MemBrain Strata ripstop takes a chance with a flowery print -- breaking the mold from solids but which can draw mixed reactions at retail. It weighs in at 6 ounces, is form- fitting and has an adjustable attached hood. www.marmot.com

Outdoor Research: "Be prepared" could be Outdoor Research's motto with the debut of the new Helium jacket (pictured right) -- a lightweight shell to bring along should the weather flip to stormy conditions. Weighing in under 7 ounces, it's ultralight, waterproof/breathable with a 2.5-layer 20-denier Pertex Shield ripstop fabric and fully taped seams. Comes with a hood and a stuff pocket on the side hem so it can be compressed down and clipped to a pack for any "just in case" moment. Available in men's and women's versions for a retail of $140. www.outdoorresearch.com


Patagonia: When the big boss at Patagonia asked company designers to create the lightest 3-layer hard shell jacket, they came through with the slim-fitting M10. It addresses a light and efficient theme running through the company's collections for the spring 2010 season. To achieve 10.7 ounces for the men's version and 10.5 ounces for the women's, the company did not sacrifice detail features, including an adjustable helmet-compatible hood, pit zips and drawcord hem. The three-layer fabric is a 15-denier nylon ripstop with a waterproof/breathable H2No barrier and deluge DWR finish that makes for a lightweight, relatively quiet shell for alpine pursuits. It retails for $399 with a matching pant at $299 that weighs in at about 8.5 ounces. Also new is the Simple Guide jacket that's lighter than its brethren Guide jacket with a simple, clean finish in a stretchy soft-shell fabric. www.patagonia.com

Rab: The mountaineering and trekking crowd are concerned about having gear that is light and fast. And Rab’s new jackets, the Demand (pictured right), made with waterproof/breathable Event fabric, and Positron, made from water- and windproof Pertex, fit the bill. Both are available in pullover or full zip styles. The former is great to wear on the go, while the latter is designed as more of a packable emergency piece. Rab uses lightweight fabrics combined with narrower seam tape in the non-critical areas and minimal pockets to shave weight. By bringing the hood adjustment chords and hardware to the outside, it claims it was able to minimize the necessary housing and shave grams, while still maintaining fully functioning, helmet-compatible hoods. The Positron Pull-on, the lightest of the bunch, weighs in at 7 ounces, while the Demand Full, the heaviest in the group, is still a pretty svelte 11 ounces. The shells retail from $130 to $265. http://us.rab.uk.com/


Sherpa: The folks at Sherpadecided to bring the highly techy specs of its adult gear into a kids' line of technical apparel. The pieces shun the popular earth tones seen in other lines, embracing Sherpa's cultural feel with bright, bold colors, reminiscent of the Himalayan region they call home. Products like the Vajra jacket exemplify both. This kids' jacket mimics the adult construction, with a super light (7.5 ounces), ripstop, windproof and water resistant outer and Primaloft One fill. Available in the company's trademark rich blue and green (and black) for $99. www.sherpaadventuregear.com

Sierra Designs: While SD's marketing department was on overdrive with the new Fusonic name, R&D may be on to something with the technology that shaves weight, eliminates sewn seams and is reputed to improve the overall strength of pieces like the Mantra Fusion hard shell jacket (photo to right). The three-layer waterproof/breathable jacket is made of Tropozone fabric that reportedly keeps wearers dry by venting internal moisture. It also has the company's Condor Construction, which offers an elongated, continuous panel under the arms for unrestricted movement, as well as pit zips. Available in men's and women's versions for $259, it comes with an adjustable hood and plenty of pockets. There's also a Fusion pant for $199. www.sierradesigns.com


Performance: Trail running and biking

: Two former college roommates have morphed into entrepreneurial moms and business partners to provide apparel for women before, during and after pregnancy. During their own pregnancies, founders Lisa Welch and Julie Hill searched for maternity active wear and came up short. "As our culture continues to place more emphasis on fitness, pregnant moms are also seeing the need for apparel to fit their active lifestyle throughout pregnancy and beyond," Welch said. BornFit uses stretchy, moisture-wicking fabrics and modern shapes to complement a variety of figures, as well as the changing bodies of moms-to-be during pregnancy. Apparel offerings run the gamut of long and short sleeve shirts, shorts, skorts, capris, pants and a bike short (MSRP range $38-$90). Bottoms feature a signature wide waistband with a hidden drawstring that can be worn below the waist as bellies expand – then back up to the waist afterward. And new this season -- and much asked for, they told us -- is the Rosie nursing sport bra (MSRP $60-$64). www.bornfit.com

GoLite: Previously with a smattering of items here and there, GoLite has now dedicated an entire collection to trail running for men and women. The line includes short and long sleeve shirts, tanks, shorts and skirts, three lightweight wind jackets and a vest -- many of which are made with DriMove Lite and Cocona Minerale fabric technologies. Shorts and skirts are versatile and built to move with fast-drying Minerale liners, reflective logos and secure pockets. The company also told SNEWS that about 20 percent of its company's products utilize eco materials, and it hopes to have that up to 50 percent by spring 2010. www.golite.com

Icebreaker: Icebreaker's growing GT apparel line for active endeavors like trail running and biking uses varying densities of merino wool with about 3 percent Lycra for shape and an improved athletic fit. Most pieces also have an “eyelet” mesh merino in select locations, such as under the arms, across the back or under the bust line for better breathability when the intensity (and sweat production) goes up. A variety of styles are available for men and women, including the women's SS Dash Zip shirt (MSRP $80 -- image to right). www.icebreaker.com


Marmot: Marmot's new Momentum collection provides wind protection, quick wicking and drying, and breathability for activities like trail running, biking and hiking where you grab-and-go. Weighing in at 5 ounces and packing into its own pocket, the Trail Wind Hoody is polyester ripstop that's wind resistant, water repellent and breathable (MSRP $70). Made of MemBrain Strata nylon stretch for waterproof/breathability, the Paceline jacket is fitted for both men's and women's body silhouettes (MSRP $150). Also of note for women are the Crystal long and short sleeve knit shirts (MSRP $42) with flat-lock seams, mesh panels for breathability and a wavy line graphic stitched in, and the Taylor skort that'll make the ladies feel sassy stylish as they run (MSRP $45). www.marmot.com

Merrell Apparel: Two of the company's four new categories consist of Ride of Your Life commuter cycling designs and Trail Mix for running. The cycling collection aspires to go from the bike to the office seamlessly. Each piece has subtle details to make them workable for bikers, like discrete reflective stripes and grippy material on the hem on the men's Spokes shirt so it doesn't ride up (MSRP $69). Jumping into jeans for the first time, the men's Transform and the women's Cadena have removable waterproof chaps, reflective detailing, TPU-reinforced roll-up cuff for chain protection and even a little slot to attach a bike light (MSRP $89). For running, the men's Brookvale and women's Breeze jacket adapt to any situation with UPF protection, wind and water resistance, and can even convert into a belted lumbar pouch (MSRP $79). And for when it heats up, the men's Dualtrek shirt has removable arm warmers (MSRP $65) and the women's Longmont has a removable shrug (MSRP $79). www.merrell.com

Mountain Hardwear: For bike commuting and other activities, Mountain Hardwear introduced the On the Go collection featuring Dri-Release fabric in strategic spots for its wicking and quick-drying properties. Pieces -- like the women's La Strada pedal pusher (MSRP $65) and the men's Munday's Best pant (MSRP $75) -- have stretch fabric for movement, UPF 50 sun protection, and flip-up 3M reflective hems for visibility after dark. For trail running, there's the ultralight Geist jacket (photo to right) and vest (MSRP $110 and $90, respectively) for men and women made with ripstop stretch fabric for wind and water resistance, fast drying and 3M Scotchlite for reflectivity. www.mountainhardwear.com


Moving Comfort: Moving Comfort is putting a new spin on the phrase "coffee cups." Three new sport bras have cups constructed with “S.Cafe” technology, which uses recycled coffee grounds in the material for moisture management and odor control. The Juno is a racer-back style for B-DD cups (MSRP $52); the vixen is a high-impact pullover styles for A-D cups (MSRP $36-$38); and the Venus has a back closure and bold color-block design for A-D cups (MSRP $36-$38). It's also taking a go at underwear again with three new styles: thong (MSRP $14), bikini (MSRP $16) and hipster (MSRP $18) using a techy wicking fabric with a soft hand. They have no-sew, laser cut edges to help prevent the dreaded panty lines, and come in sizes S-XL.

To cover up those new undies, pieces in Moving Comfort's Sprint collection are made with DriLayer Eco Stretch, a recycled polyester fiber, or aerosilver technology, an anti-microbial material that we're told stops odor-producing bacteria. Both the Sprint Tee and Sprint skort have aerosilver (MSRP $44), and the Sprint short has the eco fabric (MSRP $32). www.movingcomfort.com

New Balance: New Balance is trying to coordinate runners, offering matching short, sport bra and tank outfits. It's also doing battle with the "muffin top" look with wide waistbands and low and mid-rises on select bottoms. It debuted the New Performance Collection with lightweight, fashion-forward running tops and bottoms. The women's NP short has a 3-inch inseam, music-friendly back pocket and interior key pocket (MSRP $25), while the men's NP short has a 9-inch inseam, two side pockets, an internal key pocket and an internal boxer brief for lightweight support (MSRP $28). X-Static and Cocona is also being used extensively through its apparel. www.newbalance.com


Salomon: Never afraid to flaunt its culture through color, Salomon’s new Whisper line is no exception. New for spring 2010, it has added a short, tee and tank (MSRP $55, $48 and $45, respectively). Made from ultra soft, ActiLite material, with UV coating, these stylish pieces are equally at-home on the yoga mat, weight bench or trail -- and should look great in the coffee shop afterward too. Wear them as is, or layer them under a light shell for your favorite winter pastime. And the perky iris and pink colors could give you an extra lift.

While you may not want to hit the coffee shop in the Exo Sensifit compression line (pictured to right), also from Salomon, the new trail running short and calf support -- like the T-shirt and three-quarter short already available – could help you run longer with less discomfort and recover faster, the company said. Many companies espouse the increased circulation and biomechanical alignment that support compression technology provides, and these pieces (MSRP short $120, calf $50) scream high-tech with an in-your-face, metallic honeycomb grid. But this is also functional since the increased support comes from the Exo grid itself, allowing the rest of the supple, highly elastic material to be lighter and more breathable. www.salomon.com

--Wendy Geister with contributions from Scott Boulbol

The SNEWS® team of seasoned reporters covers a trade show to seek out product highlights, indications of a trend (to a product category, a company or the industry) or products that are new to the market. In our post-show reports, we do not write about every last piece of gear or equipment we have seen, although, promise, we have most likely seen nearly everything. Even if not in a show report, you never know how information may be included in a future report, trend watch, product review or story. If you have any comments or questions, please email us at snewsbox@snewsnet.com.