Fresh off a couple days of backcountry skinning and sk’riding (skiing and riding) and three days trekking the floor at Denver’s Outdoor Retailer Snow Show, our heads are still spinning. Blame the altitude, the 80-plus meetings we took or 1,000-plus products we saw — or maybe those final night margaritas. Regardless, it’s a lot to process.
But now that we’re coming up for air, we can take a moment to reflect on everything we saw and start to make sense of it. In the big picture, a ton of awesome stuff will be dropping for next winter. But zeroing in on our favorite upcoming releases, a couple of trends emerge.
The first one is accessibility. From a layering jacket that’s simultaneously warm and breathable to the perfect winter duffel and hiking shoe to snowboard and ski bindings that make life easier on the resort and way off-piste, several innovative new products stand out simply by lowering the many barriers to entry of cold-weather activities.
The second one, critically, is sustainability. We’re stoked to see that apparel and gear makers are taking more and more steps to make use of existing resources and minimize footprints, be that in the form of solar-powered gear, an eco-friendly hoody or an earth-friendly reinvention of a product most of us rarely think about: ski wax.
The future of cold-weather adventure can be scary to think about: it’s hard to know how long the powder will last. But as long as the passion we saw this past week remains, you can be sure we’ll be making the most of every flake. Without further ado, here are our Editors’ Picks for the best upcoming winter products.
We attended the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show 2020 and covered it extensively. To see all of our product coverage, not just our award winners, you can head here.
Adidas Terrex Free Hiker COLD.RDY
Adidas proved with the original Free Hiker that sneakerhead-approved style and trail functionality aren’t mutually exclusive. With the upcoming winterized COLD.RDY version, it’s demonstrating that it can maintain that visual appeal within a highly technical set of features. The Free Hiker COLD.RDY uses a stretchy Primeknit upper that zips instead of laces, and Gore-Tex’s insulated Duratherm waterproof membrane supports it with weatherproof warmth. Adidas also gave the boot a grippy Continental rubber outsole and its beloved and springy Boost foam.
Black Diamond StoneHauler Duffel
When nearly every equipment maker has added a rugged duffel to its collection in recent years, it takes a lot to make one stand out (let alone win an award). But the StoneHauler does that, thanks to carefully designed features. Inside is an integrated storage bag that cinches shut, enclosing and separating anything that might be dirty from the rest of your stuff. The 35- and 45-liter Pro models even include an exterior-access padded laptop sleeve and the requisite backpack straps. To top it off, Black Diamond made all the StoneHauler duffels with an ultra-rugged fabric that’s 100 percent recycled.
Houdini Mono Air Houdi
It’s a sad reality that the more science progresses, the more we learn about the damage some of our manufacturing processes can do. For example, microplastic pollution in our waters, the byproduct of microfiber shedding from synthetic fleece. Upstart Swedish brand Houdini and Polartec teamed up to do something about it, and this hoodie featuring Polartec Power Air — a microfiber fabric that traps air and generates heat in small pockets — is the result. It boasts the performance of traditional fleece but sheds fives times fewer fibers. It’s also made of 73 percent recycled fibers and can be recycled again. The fact that this slim-fitting, functional garment is as comfortable and stylish as they come is just a bonus.
K2 Clicker x HB Binding
A couple weeks back, we applauded the efforts of CLEW, a German brand that won an ISPO award for rivaling Burton’s Step-On binding with its own innovative tech. Now K2 has leapt into the fray, revamping its Clicker tech with a new system featuring a highback and toe-heel mounts to better mimic the feel of a classic strap-in set-up. Potential advantages over Burton’s approach? K2 Clicker boots can still be used with traditional bindings, and the process of getting in and out may come naturally to cyclists, as it’s somewhat similar to engaging an SPD pedal. Not unlike the Marker binding below, we’d love to spend more time with the Clicker x HB to fully vet it, but our limited exposure has been promising.
Marker Duke PT Ski Binding
Marker has long been a critical player in the ski binding space, but Salomon earned yards when it released its versatile uphill-downhill Shift binding. Marker’s comeback will finally arrive in the Duke PT, a transformer of a binding with a removable toe piece that lets backcountry skiers walk uphill with 10.6 fewer ounces beneath each foot (weight counters rejoice!). When it’s time to ski down, the toe piece locks back into place and stays there thanks to a lever that engages when skiers click in their boots.
Here’s something you probably don’t think about much: all that petroleum-based wax on the bottom of your skis or snowboard slowly sloughs off into the snowpack, and last year, an estimated 2.5 million pounds of the stuff wound up in U.S. waterways when the snow melted. Enter MountainFlow Eco-Wax, an exhaustively researched and tested blend of plant-based waxes and oils that rivals the performance of traditional ski wax and costs the same or even less. We tried it out on some Colorado slopes and hardly noticed it, which is exactly what you want from ski wax.
POC Cornea Solar Switch Goggle
Taking a bold swing in a snow optics market flooded with photochromic, LED and interchangeable lenses, the Solar Switch is a liquid crystal lens that changes its tint in response to dynamic conditions, darkening when the sun is bright and lightening in clouds or shadows, quickly adjusting to accommodate everything from bluebird days to tree runs. And because it’s solar-powered, you never have to worry about charging it up or running out of juice on the slopes.
The North Face Summit L5 FutureLight Ventrix Jacket
Never mind its jargon-y mouthful of a name; all you need to know about one of The North Face’s newest jackets is that it combines two of the brand’s most impressive technologies. FutureLight is an incredibly breathable waterproof shell that launched this winter, and the somewhat-older Ventrix is a lightweight and breathable insulation. Combined in this jacket, they work to create a warm mid-layer that can hold its own as an outer layer too. Together, they prove The North Face is thinking creatively about how it mixes and matches its various apparel innovations.
Yakima CBX Solar Roof Box
Like it or not, electronics are part of heading to the outdoors. When they’re at their best, they improve rather than impede the experience. By integrating a solar panel into the lid of its forthcoming cargo box, Yakima is ensuring that happens by letting you charge an external battery or power bank while you cruise to your campsite. Sunflare produced the panel for Yakima’s purposes and made sure that it’s lightweight, thin and can stand up to anything that comes after it, like hail, falling sticks or an errant trekking pole. No surprise, then, that it was named Product of the Year at the Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards — almost as lofty an honor as cracking our list.
We’re on the floor in Denver getting a first glimpse of what’s to come in the next 11 months. Here’s what sparked our eye. Read the Story
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