What gear's in the pipeline for 2017? Sarah Stirling reveals sneak previews of the kit that could transform you into a slick and stylish climbing machine next year. From made-in-Wales harnesses to the game-changing Wild Country Revo mechanical belay device, it's a particularly exciting time for British outdoor gear companies.
OutDoor in Germany is the main European gear schmooze of the summer, where outdoor manufacturers show off next year's products, hoping to impress judges, journalists and trade visitors. There's an air of excitement and plenty of sausages and beers to fuel the long treks around the 12 huge halls, which host over 900 brands from around 40 countries.
For the seventh year running, Summit magazine assistant editor Sarah Stirling went along to the show; joined once again by the excellent Chamonix-based photographer Tom Humpage. The mission: to quiz British manufacturers, along with the other brands that support Summit magazine, and pick out the gear that will be hottest in 2017.
Read on for the full report and check out the Gear channel on BMC TV to easily watch all the video clips.
Look out for Part 2: outdoor gear, coming soon.
PS Here's the climbing gear news from last year. The kit featured last year will now be available!
1. New DMM harness range made in Wales
"We're investing heavily in textile development and sewing manufacture"
If, like me, you need a new harness but can't decide between perhaps Arc’teryx's Warp Strength Technology (they hand-pick out weft threads then spread the warp ones), Black Diamond’s Kinetic Core Construction (with technology borrowed from NASA's space suits), and, er, let's stop there, then I’m pleased to say your decision just got easier.
DMM’s new 'Flexform' harnesses offer a perfect mix of comfort and slick ergonomics. The technology is ungimmicky, and they've created a bunch of design and manufacturing jobs in Llanberis, where a wing of the factory is now filled with sewing machines.
Rob Partridge, Product Manager, told us feedback suggests climbers are finally moving on from wanting everything light and fast, and prioritising a bit of comfort now. This comes in the form of laminated thermoform pads, which borrow technology from their I-beam karabiner construction. Essentially, there's thicker material where necessary to spread the load, and thinner material to keep it flexible, light and comfortable in between.
Rob gives a 3D tour and more details in the video below. The harnesses will come in three sizes for men (red) and women (blue), with adjustable (£110) and fixed-leg (£100) options.
By the way, if you do still want light and fast, Edelrid's new harness weighs less than a chocolate bar...
DMM Flexform harnesses. Photos: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
2. Iconic La Sportiva Miura totally revamped
To celebrate the 20th birthday of the Miura, there'll be a limited edition high-performance Ondra version
“The DNA of La Sportiva is performance shoes," purrs Pietro Dal Pra, charismatic Italian sponsored climber, vigorous tester of their rock shoes, and the man behind their mind-bending ‘No Edge’ technology.
"Now 20 years old, the Miura was risking becoming old, so we renovated it completely,” Pietro continues. Don’t worry, they won't retire the old favourite like Five Ten would (more on that later); the new Miura XX is an addition to the range – right at the top-end. It was developed with the help of Mr Ondra, and the graphics reference Change, the route he created while testing it. So, yep, these shoes can climb 9b+.
A key difference is that, unlike the standard Miura lace-up, the XX version has La Sportiva’s P3 (Permanent Power Platform), so it maintains its downturn all its life, along with its precision on small holds. Pietro shows off its many other bellissimo assets in the video below.
La Sportiva Miura XX. Photo: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
3. Move over Gri Gri? The new Wild Country Revo
Solves the three main problems of the mechanical semi-auto belay device
At first glance I thought this looked like – I'm not sure – an unusual piece of fish-shaped ironmongery? I didn’t say this to Wild Country’s design engineer James Wilson, whose disproportionate arms suggest he gets out field-testing a lot and is not to be messed with. Luckily, a quick demo later, it was clear the Peak District-based company have come up with something really exciting.
As you'll notice, James hasn't reinvented the wheel, like Edelrid did with the Eddy and Camp with the Matik, which resemble the GriGri; he's started from a blanker drawing board, and won a prestigious OutDoor award at the show for his efforts.
Firstly, it’s fully symmetrical and works either way round, so rope-loading is idiot-proof, and there are no excuses for left-handers. Secondly, even if you hold the locking system down with your thumb, it will still catch a falling climber. And thirdly, the internal wheel pays rope incredibly smoothly. Even if your belayer is eating a sandwich you can actually pull your own rope from the device as you climb, although this is not officially recommended...
PS there's also a new Petzl GriGri+, so read on.
Wild Country Revo. Photo: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
4. Five Ten are bringing back the 'Tighty-Whiteys'
Because, apparently, Steve McClure can't climb anything at Malham without them
And a bunch of other climbers have campaigned for their comeback, too. From what I can gather, basically everyone who stockpiled the Anasazi Blanco when Five Ten stopped making them is down to their final pair, so it's time to reintroduce them now they have gained mystical allure on a par with their original Anasazi Pinks.
Five Ten's Anasazi recipe – simple shoes with no down-turn, No Edge, or other fancy tech, combined with incredible secret-sauce rubber – remains the same in the new Blancos. It's basically the same stiff shoe with a C4 sole but they've updated the other materials: a new thermoplastic midsole retains stiffness for longer, while the perforated Ariaprene tongue is breathable and comfy, and that piping detail has gone so they look a bit more clean and modern.
Check out the video for a look at the new Blanco, plus a tour of the eye-catching new Gambit (see pic below below), and – controversial – the lovely Katy Whittaker explains why the Anasazi Blue is actually her all-time favourite Anasazi model.
Five Ten Gambit. Photo: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
5. A smooth operator: The Black Diamond ATC Pilot
A semi-auto belay device with their signature ergonomic handling and smooth operation
If you're interested in the added safety of semi-auto devices but prefer the non-mechanical variety, check out the ATC Pilot. It's made of steel and handles ropes from 8.7 to 11mm.
An evolution of a concept that you'll probably have seen already, in the CT Click Up, Mammut Smart and Salewa Ergo for example; it's the same idea, with the attention to finesse that fans of BD's ATC XP and ATC Guide have come to rely on. Disclaimer: apologies for Matt Helliker's turn of technical climbing phraseology in the video!
In other news, BD are reintroducing climbing ropes. There will be four dynamic ones (7.8, 9.2, 9.6 and 9.9mm) with FullDry treatment; lengths from 35m to 80m and trendy solid colour options.
BD ATC Pilot. Photos: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
6. Rab cragwear
Rab's reputation is built on quality technical gear, but this year their non-technical range really caught my eye, too
I'd describe the casual collection – which they've been expanding over the past couple of years – as very Patagonia or Howies: dominated by comfy, quality cords, denims, tees and flannel shirts in classy colours and styles.
Meanwhile, in the cragging and climbing wall ranges, they have some really beautifully-designed, bright new gear, including the racer-and-split-back top with a built-in bra and jazzy leggings shown-off in the video below.
Rab cragging clothing. Photo: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
7. Edelrid's award-winning bean-bag crash mat
This clever mat won Edelrid a prestigious OutDoor award
Below the padded section of the mat, there's a soft bag made from ballistic nylon and filled with EPS beads. Imagine one of those trays with bean bags underneath that facilitate TV dinners, if you will. This ‘substructure’ makes it possible fill in uneven, rocky and sloping landing zones.
Its a taco-style mat, so has no central fold; all its fastenings are made from indestructible aluminium hooks; the handles are made from recycled, leftover rope from their production facilities, and it even has a built in foot-wiper for cleaning your shoes!
In other news, Edelrid won another award for the Lopopo Lite harness - the world's lightest fully-certified climbing harness. At just 80g it weighs less than a chocolate bar.
In other news...
Keep your eye on the Gear channel on BMC TV. We'll be adding videos of more 2017 products including the ones listed below over the coming week.
Scarpa Chimera: latest design from rock shoe guru Heinz Mariacher
The super-soft Chimera is a sensitive sole, with their 'foot-wrapping' system to add tensioning alongside more rubber for toe-hooking; plus there's a midsole just in the toe and carbon in the heel to increase support.
Scarpa Chimera. Photos: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
The Grivel mini Clepsydra: three quick and simple safety features
If you're unfamiliar with Grivel's Twin Gate safety karabiner feature, check it out here. As well as the nifty double gate, the mini Clepsydra belay karabiner has a 'captive eye' and a bump on top to keep everything oriented properly and prevent cross-loading when belaying.
Grivel mini Clepsydra. Photo: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
DMM karabiners will have a new look and feel in 2017
The new-look locking mechanisms are designed for optimum grip, and a patented design means you can't overtighten them.
DMM's new-look for 2017. Photos: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
The Petzl GriGri+ beefed up version
A new GriGri+ with added safety features looks ideal for climbing wall and climbing centre use. A stainless steel wear plate adds durability, it will accept a wider range of ropes from 11mm down to 8.5mm, a switch on the back changes to a top-rope mode which makes it easier to take in slack, and if you pull too hard on the anti-panic handle it will brake the descent.
Petzl GriGri+. Photos: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
The G5: new flagship La Sportiva alpine climbing boot
The G5 takes over from the legendary Batura 2.0 as La Sportiva's top-end technical boot for climbing at altitude. The impressive Boa lacing system (see video) makes it really easy to take them on and off even with gloves on. La Sportiva are using their own waterproof-breathable membrane instead of Gore-tex, which means this boot is £50 cheaper than the Batura, too.
La Sportiva G5. Photos: Tom Humpage / numero97.com
Black Diamond: two new axes
Check out the new Swift for classical alpinism and the more technical Venom. The sliding Flick-lock pommel allows you to shorten your grip when necessary.
The Swift and the Venom. Photos: Tom Humpage / numero97.com