Editor's Note: Read all the articles in this series:
- February 6, 2011 dispatch: International Delights (this article)
- February 7, 2011 dispatch: Powered By Nutella
- February 8, 2011 dispatch: A Smorgasboard of Worldly Flavors
- February 9, 2011 dispatch: Technical Treats
We are delighted to report from ISPO - the International Sports Trade Show in Munich, Germany. This is the first year Backpacking Light has covered ISPO, so we’ll ease you in with a few facts. ISPO has over 2,200 exhibitors representing 45 countries. 64,000 visitors come from 117 countries to attend the four-day event. In comparison, this year’s winter Outdoor Retailer had 6,875 attendees representing 33 countries, plus 10,061 people working at the exhibits. ISPO began 71 years ago, while Outdoor Retailer is 22 years young.
Our focus during the next few days will be reporting on lightweight and innovative gear and apparel that is generally not available in the US market. Since the companies that develop these products might be unfamiliar to many readers, we will add a little extra background information for context.
To ease ourselves into the day, we started at CAMP, an Italian company which has recently made inroads into the US market. Their most exciting equipment comes from their ski racing line, as the products are very light, utilitarian, and efficient in design.
The Hotmit’n is a serious cold-weather mitt that was designed to keep hands warm during rest breaks in backcountry ski races. The mitts have 50 grams (1.8 oz) of 650 EU fill down and weigh 176 grams (6.2 oz) per pair. The light nylon shell is the same that is used on the Windmit’n (a 12 g / 0.4 oz per pair wind-proof mitten previously covered at OR). These mitts will be available in October for 90€ (US$122).
SkiTrab may be lesser known in the US, but this innovative Italian company makes outstanding ski racing equipment.
The Overglove Warmup Alp (78g/2.8oz) is intended to be worn with a thin linger glove for pre-race warm-up, as the name would suggest. The stretchy hole in the palm allows you to quickly free your hand without having to take off the mitten, as shown above sans liner glove. The benefits are numerous: you can make adjustments to your boots, packs, or camera, your hands stay warmer, and the wind won't steal your mittens. Additionally, the lack of fabric on your palm would give you a better grip on poles while you are wearing the mitts. These retail for 50€(US$68) and are available now, though there will be slight modifications made for the fall 2011 model (most notably, a change from black to bright orange fabric for the outer shell).
The best deals of the day were found at Milo, a 17-year-old Polish company that creates clothing and gear for mountaineering and climbing. Milo uses Gelanots, a waterproof/breathable fabric developed by Tomen Corporation and sold to Toyota in 2003.
The Shawan Jacket is a full-featured three-layer shell that retails for US$110. The athletic cut and long arms, combined with the stretchy Gelanots fabric, give the shell a very slim but comfortably unrestricted fit. For 400 grams (14.1 oz), you get Velcro cuffs, two-way full front waterproof zipper, two chest pockets, one shoulder pocket, reinforced shoulders, pit zips, and a helmet-compatible hood. Now go back and read the first sentence again - this jackets costs US$110. It is available now in a few color schemes (apparently not everyone appreciates the bold color combination shown here). Also available are the Shawan Pants that weigh 550 grams (19.4 oz) and also retail for only US$110. Both the pants and jacket will be available by March 2011. Otay is the name of the female versions that are available for a few dollars less.
Another garment that piqued our interest was the Hetta Jacket. This super warm parka uses 130 g/m² weight Primaloft. This thick jacket does not feel bulky and sports a full front zip, zippered hand pockets, a small front chest pocket, and a noggin-hugging hood (read: not helmet compatible). The men’s version is pictured here; a women’s version is also available. At 500 grams (17.6 oz) for the men’s Large, it’s not the lightest synthetic jacket, but at US$66, it’s the most budget friendly substitute for a down parka, or a lightweight upgrade from a 200 or 300 weight fleece. Available in March 2011.
Climbing Technology is the brand of Aludesign, an Italian company with over 25 years of subcontractor experience in the international production of personal protective equipment. Aludesign saw the focus of the market emphasizing profit margin rather than quality, so they decided to fill the niche starting in 2004 with their Climbing Technology brand. All products are designed and created with the highest quality in their modern 4,000 m² building in the province of Bergamo.
Climbing Technology (CT) caught our eye with the above product - a combination of a snow shovel and ice axe. The ASD package includes an ice axe and shovel blade, plus a steel cable which is intended to be used as a dead man anchor in the snow. Hence, ASD stands for Agile Shovel D-Man. The ASD Plus Kit, pictured above, includes a steel axe and weighs 820 grams (28.9 oz). The ASD Light Kit uses the aluminum axe and weighs 700 grams (24.7 oz). Both axes are 45 cm and UIAA approved, though the steel axe has a more aggressive pick and spike. These are available now at a cost of 120€ (US$163) per kit. The axes and shovel blade are also sold individually.
To attach the ice axe shaft to the shovel blade, you simply pull back on a metal tab, insert the shaft, and let go of the tab. The shaft is firmly locked in place. Structural stability is enhanced with the six-sided shaft design. This axe-and-shovel combo looks ideal for spring hiking or ski touring trips, when there is a chance you might need an ice axe on a snow-covered pass or there's a possibility of camping in the snow.
Montura is a small Italian apparel company that began as a very technical brand, with the founder believing that high quality products speak for themselves, thus little need for a large advertising department. Montura won two Polartec European APEX Awards in 2010, and this year’s products appear to continue their high level of innovation.
According to Montura, the Super Nova is the first completely stitchless jacket using Polertec’s NeoShell fabric. The jacket has two zippered hand pockets, one external chest pocket, built-in thumb loops, and a light fleece lining. The jacket feels svelte thanks to the athletic cut and stretchy fabric. Montura couldn’t tell us the weight, but this welded-seam beauty will sell for 550€ (US$747) when it comes out in the fall of 2011.
This stretchy synthetic baselayer, called the Ski Sky Pullover, has a very large two-way front zip. This allows you to release heat from your core while keeping your neck and face covered. Weight and cost were not available, though the Montura reps did say it will be available in the fall.
Red Fox Outdoor Equipment is a company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. They manufacture a full line of quality products, such as mountaineering tents, sleeping bags with welded seems, Arctic-worthy down jackets and pants, and Gore-Tex shells.
The most expensive item of the day was found at Red Fox. Danny is wearing the Belite Jacket filled with Eider duck down. This insulation reportedly costs from 3,680-11,000€ (US$4,999-14,944) per kilo. The feathers are collected by hand from the nests of wild ducks in northern Russia. The Eider duck feathers stick together, creating an almost uniformly-thick insulation and reducing the need of structure-supporting baffles. The Eider duck feathers do not have sharp tips like goose down feathers, which can poke holes in ultralight fabrics. Only about 30 of these jackets are custom made per year, and with 100 grams (3.5 oz) of down, cost about 2,200€ (US$2,989) each.
A clump of the Eider duck down, clinging together.
Inov-8 Ltd., UK
Inov-8 are well known for their trail shoes, but they also have an excellent selection of ultralight race-inspired packs. All packs are frameless, under 600 grams (21.1 oz), and range in size from 12-30 liters. The Race Pro 30, shown above, has an innovative zippered-bottom pouch that holds a two-liter water bladder. In addition to ensuring easy access to the bladder, the H2Orizontal Hydration System has a few advantages. By placing the bladder around the hips, the center of gravity is lowered and pack sway is reduced. The Race Pro 30 weighs 590 grams (20.8 oz) and costs US$105. The horizontal bladder (167 g / 5.9 oz) is US$28 and is sold separately. The pack has two side mesh pockets, a stretchy zippered lid pocket, hip-belt pockets, and anatomical shoulder straps.
There are many functional add-ons to the Inov-8 packs. Attached to the shoulder straps of this Race Pro 30 is mesh-lined storage that has three zippered pockets and a map pouch.
Will and Janet covered a super svelte La Sportiva ski setup at the most recent OR. The bindings in that setup, though, are actually made by ATK Race specifically for La Sportiva. In Europe, ATK race sells their own three-way release, Dynafit-compatible ski bindings. The SL bindings, shown here floating away from my hand, weigh in at a paltry 110 grams (3.9 oz). MSRP is 415€ (US$564), and they will be in stores in October.
ATK Race displayed a few custom race-specific designs, such as the above carbon fiber shovel, probe and skis. You can’t buy them.
Sir Joseph is a family-run Czech Republic company, with 35 years of experience producing high quality outdoor apparel and equipment. Sir Joseph uses their own proprietary fabrics. We were drawn to their Super Light Series, and pleasantly surprised by their new Kid’s Collection, which includes sleeping bags and a novel jacket add-on.
The Jacket Expander is an elegantly simple product. Dual #3 YKK zips allows the product to be inserted into most jackets, allowing extra room to carry and insulate your baby. There is a draw cord at the bottom and a pocket for the baby’s feet. The expander uses Softex ECO, which is comfortable to the touch, and is insulated with Thermaloft Q. The Jacket Expander can even be used by pregnant women who need a little extra room. Weight is 100 grams (3.5 oz), cost is 40€ (US$54), and it is available now.
The Koteka Down Jacket has 220 grams (7.8 oz) of 800 EU fill down. The inner and outer shell are Softex Micro, a fabric exclusive to Sir Joseph. The jacket has horizontal baffles, zippered hand warmer pockets, two-way front zip, and an interior chest pocket. This 490-gram (17.3-oz) wonder retails for 269€ (US$365) and is available now (though the hood will be slightly modified in the fall 2011 model). If these stats are true, they put the jacket as one of the best-in-class for ultralight down parkas, rivaling the Rab Inifinity.
The Koteka Vest has the same horizontal baffles, fabric, and quality down. The single-layer loft is nearly 5 cm (2.0 in), which is the same as the jacket. The vest has 140 grams (4.9 oz) of down and weighs 320 grams (11.3 oz). It is available now for 179€ (US$243).
We hope you enjoyed our first day’s coverage of this overwhelmingly enormous sports trade show. We will certainly be stumbling upon new light gear and clothing in the three days to come, and we look forward to bringing you all the details.