I popped over to Ratho a couple of weeks back to visit the Reliable Outdoor Kit show. It’s nice to have a trade show on your doorstep, so it seemed rude not to make an effort.
The show itself is expanding, there were some new and interesting brands to look at, along with some familiar faces. Anyway, here are some of what I thought were highlights.
Regular readers will know Wigwam is a brand I’m very keen on, I wear their socks on almost all of my outings. The main reason for that is moisture management, I do like the wee bottle that Gus uses to show the amount of moisture your socks have to deal with. Wigwam are pushing out into the fashion and lifestyle market, but that doesn’t mean there will less choice for us outdoor people. Lots of good stuff is in the pipeline. So much so, I’m going to do a wee standalone piece on Wigwam. Stay tuned for that.
Another favourite of this parish is KoziKidz, who make proper outdoor gear for small people. They’ve made some adjustments to the range, they are reducing the amount of pieces and focusing on getting the design and materials right on a smaller selection. Simplification is good, you can have too much choice when it comes to kitting out the little people. The Norfolk is back, and it looks better than ever. The merino baselayers are just awesome, I want them in adult size. There are some nice design tweaks too, check out the low secondary zip on the all-in-one; easier access for parents to pull the legs on over wee kicking feet and a quick access panel to check nappy status. Nice.
I had a wee surprise with a brand I hadn’t seen before, Kamik boots aren’t something I’d seen before. At first glance it would appear to be just another lifestyle brand with a hint of Sorel or Merrel about them. Closer inspection reveals some interesting stuff though. Firstly, they are designed for the North American market, so they go from Seattle-level rain protection to Canadian freeze-your-tongue-to-the-ski-tow temperatures. They’re designed to go down to -40.
Secondly they use a rather smart moulding system which means they are very lightweight indeed. Ok, I’m not going to be climbing tower ridge in them, but the prospect of a very lightweight boot that’ll keep my toes warm on the coldest nights on a winter camp is very appealing. The Kids pieces are almost made to go with the KoziKidz stuff too. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one I think.
Dalesman were there with the usual array of Bear Grylls branded multitools which I paid no attention to. But looking past Edwards gurning mug, hanging up beside the police-spec handheld torches was a wee sneaky one. The Nebo Lumo is tiny, weighs sod all and costs a fiver, and it’s a perfect tent light.
Onto things of more variety and interest. I joined up with Petesy to go and see Si from Lyon Equipment, who had some interesting little pieces for us. First up was a frankly outstanding pair of googles from Julbo, the Aerospace. Have you ever been slogging uphill in cruddy conditions only to find your goggles misting up and making it harder to see what the hell you’re doing? I know I have. The lens on the aerospace clips forward slightly to create airflow and voila, mist gone. Once you clip on your skis for the downhill, you click it back and they are wind tight again. Genius. I can see there might be a risk of spindrift getting in, however there is a wee shield that clips onto the top to help minimise that. I’d be very interested in trying these out in practice.
Another brand I hadn’t seen before is Hydrapak. Their Stash bottle is a wide mouthed collapsible bottle that’s very light. Looks like a good option for camp water supplies. I also had my eye on another liquid storage option, albeit in stainless steel. Weight isn’t everything, and you can’t keep a good single malt in plastic after all!
Gregory packs will be a more familiar name. It’s not a range I’ve played about with, but getting some hands-on tells me I should. The design looks good and simple. There’s nothing I hate more than a pack with tons of straps and bits and bobs you need to take the scissors to. Weight seems excellent for the capacity, without major compromises in comfort. Definitely worth checking out if you have the chance. The Zulu looks to be a good overnighter pack, coming in a variety of sizes. The Salvo has a high ventilation back system so strikes me as a good option for summer scrambles. The Maya has a mesh helmet pocket which I reckon would be great for a wet tent. Definitely interesting.
Petzl now, and three styles of mini-crampon/trail spikes all in descending order of weight. More interestingly than that, Si had a wee surprise: crampons held together with string. At least, that’s what they looked like. Closer inspection reveals that the Leopard is a heel and toe piece, held together with dyneema cord. Why didn’t I think of that? It keeps the weight down, makes them eminently more packable and perfect for ski-mo or people who don’t like carrying heavy hardwear. The wee lugs on the heel section make adjustment very simple. It’s a smart solution. There’s an accompanying Altitude harness which weights nowt, and the Ride axe makes the set, with the weight kept to a minimum. The whole Ski-mo thing is producing real benefits for the lightweight hiker too. I’m rather keen to take these out for a spin.
There’s an interesting development in the headtorch area, particularly if you’re an adventure racer. Want to know how long your torch battery will last you? Want to adjust the power output and see how much more battery life it gives you? Well, there’s an app for that. MyPetzl Light gives you a bluetooth connection to either the new Nao+ or Reactik+ torches. You can use the app to show how long your light will last and adjust on the fly. That seems pretty smart to me.
From La Sportiva we have the Bushido in Irn Bru colours. You can imagine Petesy’s wee face when he saw those. Seems like a damn good trail shoe too.
Paramo were there and looking less and less like the old man’s weapon of choice. They’ve listened to feedback and adopted some more athletic styling along with some design changes. More will follow on these, once Pete’s found his wallet.
Most surprising new brand award goes to Pfanner. They’re an Austrian company with a background in making gear for people who work outdoors, there’s a lot of forestry and workwear in their workbook, but they also do a line of gear that’s targetted at the outdoor audience, and damn fine it is too. Materials and designs are up to the minute, but there’s a flavour of classic stuff done well about it all. Making people comfortable when they spend all day outdoors isn’t just for people who are working there. The pricing is very favourable too, which is good news in these times of tight budgets. The range includes technical softshell trousers which made me grin the minute I saw them.
Pete was quite taken with the range of gloves, and we were both impressed with the Wool Felt gloves, which are like a mix between Dachsteins and Lowe Alpine Turbines. Very handy for the photographers amongst us. I’ve got a pair on test at the moment, and I’ll give you a full review very soon. Check out their Stretchflex Thermo and Stretchflex Ice Grip gloves too, that’s a whole lot of glove for less than a tenner.
Last mention goes to their Protos Integral Climber helmet. It’s got excellent coverage for climbing and use on the bike, and comes with integrated shades. When the sun comes out, you just click them down into place. If you need prescription shades, they do an wee insert so you can add your own lenses. When it gets dark you just click them up out of the way, no faff, and no dropping your shades halfway up a mountain. That rocks.
So there you have it, a quick buzz around some of the standouts. It’s always nice to see what’s coming up in terms of gear, and it was great to not have to do my own modelling for once, cheers Petesy. I met with a whole bunch of nice people and have lined up some new review kit to grace these pages in the coming months, so more will surely come of this. In the meantime, I’m off out to play in the snow.