Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 Preview: Winter Gear - SNEWS

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 Preview: Winter Gear

Backcountry boost: Airbags, winter safety tools and helmets bring new technology to growing market.
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This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Winter Market preview is brought to you by Cordura.

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Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014, SNEWS is previewing some of the top trends and new products you’ll see at the trade show and All Mountain Demo in Salt Lake City, Jan. 21-25. You can access all these articles and more in our digital edition of the O.R. Daily Day 0.

As backcountry skis, boots and bindings become more affordable and easier to use (see page 22), the growing customer base is looking for more winter-specific pack, safety and accessory options to round out their kits.

Brands are rushing to gain a foothold in the avy pack market — with most brands offering airbag-compatible versions — but the big hype at the show will be Black Diamond’s new high-powered fan technology to inflate the bags, which could prove disruptive to the current canister mechanisms.

“The canister airbags on the market today have travel restrictions, inflate only once and are hard to get refilled,” said Nathan Kuder, category director of packs at Black Diamond. “Our athletes told us, if we weren’t going to improve the paradigm, then there was no reason to get into the category. So we targeted replacing the canisters with something better.”

The overall winter safety category remains considerably active with new beacons, shovels, probes and saws set for debut at Winter Market, and brands are increasingly recognizing the importance of providing education along with product. Expect new education funding and partnerships to be announced at the show, plus a push for social media and video outreach to supplement hands-on training.

Outside of safety, winter packs are following their summer brethren in becoming sportier for aerobic pursuits such as skinning up a hill or snowshoe racing, which involve a lot more movement and intensity than a stroll throw the snow.

“We’re finally starting to see some consumers come out of this economic-recession train of thought that they just want one do-it-all pack,” said Gareth Martins, director of marketing at Osprey. “They’re demanding sport-specific versions.”

Winter accessory helmets and gloves are moving in the same direction, focusing on better breathability when heart rates are up without sacrificing protection.

>>Black Diamond’s new JetForce technology isn’t any lighter, smaller or less expensive than the existing gas canister airbags on the market today — the battery has to be big enough for at least two inflations at -30 Celsius — but it solves several drawbacks of canisters and has great potential to shrink in size, weight and cost quickly as the technology advances. There’s also a new mechanism to let out the airbag — the trigger system releases clips — replacing zippers and Velcro, which has a tendency to open on its own.

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>>Osprey targets randonee racers and anyone kicking it uphill on skis with the Kode Race 18L pack (MSRP $100). The sporty hauler sits higher on the body to stay out of the way and makes it easier to stow gear without taking off the pack.

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>> There’s some interesting movement in glove world with Columbia abandoning its Omni-Heat Electric technology (after some troubles and recalls), while Outdoor Research and Seirus swoop in to try and get a handhold in the space. Both are using new heating elements integrated into the interior fabric rather than wire-based technology, as well as heated areas on the back of the hand in addition to the fingers. Outdoor Research’s new Stormtracker Gore-Tex Heated Gloves (MSRP $235) sport rechargeable lithium batteries on each glove to provide 8 hours of heat on low, 5 hours on medium and 2.5 hours on high.

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>> It’s all about getting lighter and faster in the backcountry. At 320 grams (0.7 pound) K2 Ski’s Route helmet (MSRP $150) claims to be the lightest snow sports helmet on the market with certifications for both ski and bike, and seamless goggle integration.

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>> Snow saws are on the rise as more people head into the winter backcountry. MSR’s Basecamp Snow Shelter Saw (MSRP $89) has a slightly curved blade, allowing all the laser-cut, two-directional teeth to connect with uneven hardpacked snow and ice for more efficient cutting. The blade’s high-strength 7075 aluminum construction aims to offer the rigidity of a single-piece blade, yet it has the ability to collapse to half its size when folded.

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>>Pieps updates its DSP beacons, the Sport and Pro (MSRP $275/$375), extending circular ranges to 50 and 60 meters, respectively. The new versions also reduce interference in multi-burial situations, taking a more accurate mark of the first victim, then storing, so it can ignore it to move onto the next victim. This provides equal search signal strength and range to find both victims. The beacons have the ability to make secondary antenna the primary one if the former is being interfered with by an emergency radio.

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