What will your climbing gear look like next year? Sarah Stirling reveals her top climbing products that will be rocking your world in 2015.
OutDoor Friedrichshafen is the main European gear event of the summer. It's kind of a big deal - 12 halls and several courtyards housing over 900 exhibitor stands from around 40 countries - and it happens in Germany each year. Here, outdoor gear companies show off products in the pipeline for the following year.
Only trade and press are invited, and some gear stands even have security staff to prevent other manufacturers R&D-ing their products ("Research and Development" or "Rip-off and Duplicate", depending on your perspective!)
Everyone wants to see the exciting new products that will be hitting shops this winter and next spring.
So, following on from our Made in Britain article in the latest Summit (which highlighted all the great gear being made in Britain), we sent Sarah Stirling along to the show.
Her mission: to quiz the British manufacturers, and the other brands that support Summit magazine, and to reveal just what will be hot in climbing in 2015.
Read on for her report and check out our New Gear channel on BMC TV to easily watch all her video clips.
Look out for part 2: walking gear, coming soon.
DMM: evolving belay devices and new lightweight 'biner
DMM have two innovative belay devices in the pipeline. Look out for the Grip (86g / £45) in shops from Spring 2015. Its unique magnets, spring and split-body construction may look complicated but it's actually blindingly simple to use. There's no need to learn any new technique, you belay as normal and the mechanics spring into action when needed. It's not an auto-locking device, but takes most of the strain, making it a lot easier to hold a falling climber (see video below).
The new DMM Pivot belay device (£30 / 72g) will also be in shops from Spring 2015. if you find releasing and lowering a climber hard work with a guide-style device this could well be the answer (see video). There's also a sawn-off version called the Mantis, which is a simple, light and reasonably-priced device at £18 / 45g.
DMM Phantom fans - the new Chimera (£9.50 / 28g) is an evolution of this popular lightweight, high-performance 'biner. It's the same weight as the Phantom and has the clean-nose of their Alpha Light. You'll also be able to get packs of five 12- or 18cm Chimera quickdraws for £90 from Spring 2015.
Wild Country: new climbing clothing and Superlight Offset Rocks
Despite an initially-dubious reaction from shops, Wild Country's new climbing clothing collection quickly sold out across the UK this year. It’s good-looking kit with some eco-friendly touches - check it out in the video below. In 2015 there will be more of it, divided into two ranges, 'technical' and 'training'. Does it make you want to rock the Wild Country logo?
Wild Country Superlight Offset Rocks
A new variation of Wild Country Rocks will be in shops from Spring 2015. No, not Superlight Rocks - I know you've seen them before - look again. Superlight Offset Rocks have the same curved face as original Rocks, but are much narrower, and the sides are different angles, giving you extra placement options.
Superlight Offset Rock (on right) compared to Rock below. Wild Country's Marketing Manager Richie Patterson came up with the idea, sawed up a Rock, and asked the design team: "Can we make these?" He introduces them in the video. £10 each or £55 for the set of six in sizes 5-10.
Black Diamond: new Fuel axe and Ember Power Light
BD have been working on a new Fuel axe (£199 / 638g). It bears more than a passing resemblance to an existing BD tool, but look closer. Matt Helliker says, “It is similar to the Fusion, but is way better for ice." BD say: "No-one else in the industry is doing anything like the Fuel's one-piece hydroformed shaft. It's a quiver of one for the modern winter climber." In shops from Autumn 2014.
BD's new rechargeable Ember Power Light (£40) is a nifty gadget, disguised as a bit of hand-held heritage from the days before the headtorch revolution. At max power, its one LED produces an impressive 150 lumens of light, which reaches 40m and provides nine hours of light.
That's not all - a built-in USB port can charge your other electronic devices while you're on the move or in an emergency. The Ember has the power to bring your iPhone back from the dead 1.5 times. You can also disengage the battery so it won't drain much charge, even if left in your rucksack lid for months. In shops Spring 2015.
CAMP: new auto-locking belay device with three special features
CAMP have been working on the Matik in the background and perfecting for it 15 years. It's so expensive to manufacture this auto-locking belay device that CAMP don't expect to make much money from it, despite the seemingly-hefty £100 price tag. What's so special? It's a three-trick show pony, if you will.
Firstly, the Matik is impressively smooth to use - not at all clunky. It also has an 'Anti-Panic' function, which automatically brakes if you open the lever all the way. The device's final trick is that it's dynamic - in a fall there's a little give before it catches. According to CAMP, in a Factor 1 fall test of 80 kilos onto a new rope, the Matik reduces the impact force by 40%. The Matik is made in Italy, too. You could think of it as £1 for 100 belays...
Grivel: karabiners with 'Twin Gates' and relaunch of Grivel Machine
Grivel have been working on a range of seven karabiners with an innovative Twin Gate safety feature (see video below). Stevie Haston is clearly well-practiced at demo-ing the technique, but it is straightforward and I imagine would quickly becomes an intuitive motion. If you sometimes forget to do-up screwgate carabiners, or find that twist-lock ones can jam and fail to close, this could be the answer.
The largest karabiner in the range is the chunky, pear-shaped Omega (84g / £12); the smallest is the tiny, double wire-gated Plume G (39g / £11). You can see them both in the video below. The Omega is available from this month; the Plume and others from Autumn 2014.
Three new axes to look out for in Autumn 2014: Grivel are bringing back the Grivel Machine - a defining tool of 15 years ago - and have updated it for a new generation. The new tools have the same geometry and angulation which was well-received in the original Machine series.
The Light Machine (570g / £170), designed for alpinism and easier technical terrain, is on the far right below. In the middle is the Tech Machine (660g / £200), and on the left The Machine 3.0 (650g / £250) - both are designed for steep ice, mixed climbing and dry tooling.
La Sportiva: new Genius rock shoes with No-Edge technology
The new Genius rock shoes (£130) are a lace-up version of the popular Futura, with the same No-Edge technology, which was designed by La Sportiva’s rock shoe guru, Pietro Dal Pra. There are no sharp edges - the rock shoe toe-box is the shape of ... well, toes. This places you as close to the rock as possible, allowing a consistent, sensitive and natural feel. It looks weird, but James Pearson was raving about them, so I got him to explain the appeal in the video below.
Apparently these are comfy shoes, too. The lacing and patented ‘P3 system’ (Permanent Power Platform: it maintains the downturned shape permanently) help support your weight, even if you don't wear the shoes tight. The heel has a super grippy coating, and the sole is Vibram XSGrip2.
Mammut: new technical alpine outfit
Mammut was founded 150 years ago, around the same time the Matterhorn was first climbed. A great reason to launch a new technical alpine outfit! Mammut are celebrating the link between two Swiss alpine emblems with a new Matterhorn Collection. Mammut fans, it's designed to their usual exacting Swiss standards, and features traditional Mammut colours. in shops from Spring 2015. Highlights below.
The Whymper Jacket (450g / £425) is a robust Gore-Tex shell, while the articulated, soft shell Shoulder Jacket (495g / £170) is made from breathable Pertex Equilibrium. There's also a technical alpine boot called the Magic Advanced High GTX (881g / £270) and a 35+7 pack (1.5kg / £130).
The 9.5 Matterhorn rope (£180 / 60m) is treated with Mammut’s top-end Dry technology. It absorb only 1% water, according to UIAA tests. As well as meaning it won't freeze up, the treatment apparently increases abrasion-resistance by 50%.
Patagonia: new crag packs and superlight rock pants
Patagonia's 'alpine ambassadors' have been helping develop a new range of crag packs. Unlike their existing lightweight and stripped-back Ascensionist packs, which are designed for mountaineering, these are all are built from burly fabrics and have well-thought out features for comfortable cragging.
There’s the 45-litre Crag Daddy carryall (£140); the 35-litre Cragsmith (£110), which opens wide through the zipped back panel to reveal all the contents; and the little 16-litre Linked Pack (£65), a trimmer pack designed for lead climbers to carry up the wall.
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard was into ethical and sustainable manufacturing way before it became a popular concept. The brand also seem to get the balance between practical and good-looking outdoor clothing just right.
These new RPS Rock Pants (£70/312g) will be the lightest stretch-woven trousers Patagonia make - in shops Spring 2015. Designed specifically for climbing, they have articulated knees, a reinforced seat for durability, a trim fit and drawstring hem. They look good for summer hill-walking and trekking too. Women's on the left, men's on the right below.
Petzl: reshaping all their mountaineering axes and harnesses
If you’re thinking of buying a new Petzl axe or harness, I’d wait till January 2015. Petzl are reshaping all their mountaineering axes, and completely updating their harnesses with new materials and construction techniques. The classic Summit axe, for example, will be 30% lighter (£95 / 400g in the longest length - 66cm), and there'll be a new Summit Evo axe (£120 / 450g in the longest length - 66cm) see below, designed for classic alpine trips.
Some familiar Petzl harness names remain, but the harnesses will all feature Petzl's new Endoframe or the lighter Fuseframe technology from 2015. There's not a lot of information about the technology yet (keep your eye on the Petzl website if you're interested) but basically they'll all be a bit lighter, more comfortable, and spread the load better without causing pressure points. There'll also be a new top-end alpine harness, the Aquila, see below (£100 / 345g).
Scarpa: new rock shoes designed to seek 'the limits of friction'
Scarpa's new lightweight and super-soft Furia rock shoes (£120 / 380g per pair, size 40) are so malleable you can easily roll them up in your hand. The idea is that they conform to the shape of your foot, offering heightened sensitivity and precision, and of course they'll be great for smearing. There's a bit of tension in the mid-sole, but not enough to compromise on their smearing power. The sole is XS Grip and the uber-sticky rand rubber has ‘friction zones’ (sticky out bars of rubber across the heel) for even more grip. Basically, they look so sticky some might call it cheating...
Thanks to everyone who took part. Look out for part 2: walking gear, coming soon.
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