Monday, July 14, 2014

OutDoor 2014

Just a couple hours after the Outdoor Trade Show I find myself lying in my huge Ticket to the Moon hammock eating homemade jam that I put on my bread using my Light My Fire knife and writing this text on the e-reader that i just charged with my Goal Zero batterypack. 

Brands; loads of them. Halls full of images that are screaming to be sold. "I’m the best” is what they’re all meaning to say. But are they? 

Some are good in making you believe they’re really good an some actually are good but are still a tiny brand.
Good example of the tiny brand (now bought by a big brand but still acting as a small brand and not having huge sales figures) is Crux. 
Nice example of a big brand that makes you believe they’re good but actually aren’t making that much impressive stuff is Jack Wolfskin.

Of course, this is my opinion, coloured by the images the brands are trying to show to me and the talks they give out.

I still don’t have big sponsors, except from Julbo who provides me with sunglasses and Scarpa who just, last week, promised us to be out new shoes sponsor (great!).
Still looking for a brand that fits my needs and that I’d like to represent (in clothing, cooking, equipment, sleeping). I thought I found some but I’m not that sure anymore...
For a brand it seems far more interesting to sponsor a climber from America or Germany. 

Countries where there are more climbers, have climbing magazines and actually have sales figures that do matter.

The game that is being played at the trade show is one with many faces. Some are honest and tell you what they think, others have the 'American Approach' and never tell you what they think. It’s a hard game.
Being Dutch and being a climber doesn’t work that well. The country is too small for any proper outdoor business sales and we don’t have any mountains either.
Though, this is just one side of the story. I think there is more potential in the Netherlands then some brands might think. Dutch people like gadgets, new stuff, quality and a lot of them have money to spent. Too bad most of them seem to spent it abroad. Not so strange when you see whats for sale in the Netherkands compared to, let’s say the UK, Germany, Sweden or even Iceland.
The potential is there, I’m sure. Just as a number, to give you an idea; the amount of members in the Dutch Mountaineerjng Federation (NKBV) is almost 60.000, as one insider told me during OutDoor.
Now you Dutch shops, sales reps, magazines, websites... lets change these sales figures together. Lets make the Netherlands into a outdoor worthy country where the big brands are proud to be represented.

Let’s get back to the show. 
I’ve had some time to walk around, to spot new stuff, trying to understand innovations. 
I’d like to share these observations with you, share them with my direct typically Dutch opinion with my “objective but coloured view”. 
No one is fully free of influences, I’m sure, although I’m not receiving any money from any brand I still have a coloured view.
Now, here we go:

With colours I don’t just mean the thing in clothing and fashion. But also hardwear and utilities.

Over all there is a style coming up. It’s been growing over the years but is it clearly there now; retro. 
The theme in general is ‘back to basic’.

The popular colours are any kind of lime/light green, pure red and navy blue. 
Really, every brand has these colours now. Patagonia in their clothing and Petzl in the new colour of the GriGri and helmet. Even the gadgets have this as a new colour. 
Now green, the lime green happens to be a bright colour so it stands out, is easy to spot. But the red and blue are 'boring' but seem to fit well with the retro style. 
Pure stainless steel products, wood, and the simplicity reinvented fit with these colours. 
Take the backpacks. Simplicity is finally there. 
I overheard two Germans at a booth saying "es ist der Aldi vom Outdoor" when looking at some equipment that clearly missed the simplicity point: Six different straps, five different zippers, green combined with blue and black and a material that had the feeling of five Euro rainjackets.
Take some other brands, like Crux, who've understood the simplicity concept for years already. But other brands, fairly new in the market also seem to understand the uselessness of the tweny-two-strap-systems. And most important this non-ALDI companies do understand the concept of comfort and good materials.  Although...Some materials could be used more I think. Cordura is nice, durable, looks good, really retro but truly, non-woven Dyneema is the ultimate thing. Unfortunately far too expensive to successfully sell. 
Nice things in the backpack scene I spotted are the new crack bags in the Patagonia line and even more cool are the Bach backpacks. Bach, a brand I didn’t even notice, as they seem fairly small. But their new line of travel packs, light durable with a very, very stylish integrated wooden structure are very sweet to look at, and as I was free to fiddle around a bit, they seemed very functional too.

Looking further into the brand I spotted a small pack made for Cordura too. Roll-up top, soft shoulder pads and no other straps or nonsense. A perfect daily but also a perfect cycle pack, crack bag and hipster enough to have the school kids like them. I wouldn’t mind having one for my daily home-work-home cycle tour.
Much  better then the old style shoulder strap packs that always keep on sliding off your shoulder when you bike or walk.

Oh, yes, and as ropes seem to be a product almost every climbing brand tries to sell nowadays, they’re also producing new lines of rope-bags in a casual style. 
Already a while ago Arc’Teryx copied an Edelrid concept and now other Edelrid concepts seem to be copied by other brands too (like the ‘Caddy’ rope-bag system). Still, Edelrid did a good job in their ‘strike-back’ and answered with clean, stylish ropebags that are functional as a regular bag too, not very Retro though, maybe slightly too colourful and technical looking for the new general style. 

And yet another pack, can't remember the name. Find it a funny system for photographers. (gosh, you can find so many different packs on this show!)

To stay within the soft goods topic and retro, Clothing.

So. Having seen the technology at the bigger ones (like Polartec, Gore Tex  
and Sympatex) I was a little disappointed again. They all claim to be better, or even the best but I'm not sure if they are. They haven’t succeeded in convincing me. With the hydrophobe-down treatments for example. Nice. Congrats all of you. You seem to be working on it. But really, if I go and climb a cold but semi-wet waterfall I don’t believe your new down will keep me warm. Same counts for the sleepingbags. On the whole fair it had been raining and on the campsite all seemed to suffer in their semi-humid sticky sleepingbags. Down and synthetic... 

In the clothing you do see a change in interest. Alpine, ice and yoga is out. Trailrunning is in. Logical. Trailrunners aren’t always dirtbags. They like flashy lightweight clothing and like trends. Most alpine climbers seem to turn away from trends. Their jackets have to be good and durable. A trailrunning jacket is lighter, has less expensive material (not always though) and can be sold to people that just do street running too. And, I have to admit I like the semi yoga-fitness-athletics style in it. 
Other thing spotted was the rich-people style. Gold, darker colours, classy style. Arc'Teryx seemed to be good at it. And Mammut, with their new Matterhorn anniversary line for 2015.
Cool mountain by the way :)

Oh, and there a backpack I forgot to mention.  Vertepack. A tiny brand that is just starting. Making a packing system that looks like a spine. They claim the system takes the weight fully off the shoulders and spreading it evenly over your lower back and hips. Interesting concept.

From clothing to gadgets

Loads of them. Little fiddles, tricks and extra ‘thingies’ to add in your already way too full pack.
Anything plastic that uses small cell-batteries is out. Anything meant for short-term use and isn’t bio-degradable is out too. 
Though, there are some things that seem to last. 
Two years ago I got a small wind-up LED lamp from Rubytec.

I like gadgets, but only if they’re functional and last for longer then just one trip. 
And I thought ‘well thank you, that was a useless gift, that won’t last anyway’. But, now two years later I still have it hanging on my keys and it still works! When I need a light (and that happens more often then I would like) it always works. They just introduced a couple new colours and some other small products.

More gadegts. DEET-free insect spray, just spotted it, no idea if it actually works. 
And Jewelry from an Italian designer. Fine and nice unique stuff available in small qualities only as it's all hand made. 

In between gadgets, useful sleeping stuff and functional cool gear I found this brand in the REI last month. 
Just really wanted to have one but found them rather expensive. 
Now at OutDoor I had the chance to hear their whole story. 
The Hammock. 
Try it, go and have your hammock-day. It’s really good. 

Ticket to the Moon is the brand and I’m the happy owner of two of their hammocks now (and yes I bought the hammock). 

In short: produced in Bali in a factory where employee welfare is important. More then the average Asian standard. They never hire people to fire them again a couple weeks later. And waste materials are used too, to make packs and more. Alltogether a very friendly company with even the European employees that are very conscious about the environment. Just to support them and their ideas I’d already choose their brand above any other. Now the stuff they sell also looks nice and you can spent all day in it.

Other stuff, cooking ware.

Bear Grills was on the show. Maybe some people would find that cool. I don’t. There are far more interesting people with far more interesting survival skills. And his stuff doesn’t seem to be any better then the more original things. I prefer a axe with a hand-made wooden handle then an injection-molded thing. 
Though, there’s a way in-between as well. The feminine-girly brand Light My Fire is one of my favourites. Colourful but very functional. Know for the Spork but they have more then just that. 
They just introduced some new colours to their knive collection.

The collapsable bowls and pots are nice looking and seem functional too. So far I only have a bowl but really thinking of buying a pot too to save some precious space in my van. 
The new collection has some bamboo added to the looks, making it more friendly and ‘Retro’ (yup, there we have it again).

OutWare is yet another brand that isn’t very well known in my outdoor world. But as I live in my camper every weekend of even more, I like stuff that packs well.

Mentioned earlier are the stainless steel things. Clearly to be found in the big amount of bottles you can choose of these days. 
It used to be Sigg that dominated the market and maybe a Thermos. But now there is Klean Kanteen, Stanley and many others adding onto the collection. 
And not with just some crappy rip-off Sigg bottle. A full new design with plastic free bottles (Klean Kanteen) functional thermos-mugs and other re-usable ones. 
A really cool thing is the new Stanley range with meal-thermoses and a bottle that holds a French press. The all-in-one bottle with a  French press, a cup for fresh ground coffee, a mug for water and a steel mug to heat the water on a stove. Too bad they used the French press, I prefer the Italian way using the Mokka for strong bitter coffee instead of the Americano 'tea-taste.' But...haven't tried it yet, so actually does work too for the stronger coffee :)

In Stove-land I didn't find much new stuff. Finally the brands are figuring a gas-canister works better when you turn it up-side-down. So the smart ones came up with simple (Optimus) to extremely advanced (Jet Boil) systems to have the stoves work well in cold/altitude. 

Not many people seemed to be very interested in the food business. Me neither. Energy-bars are out. Natural stuff is in. 
But between all the so-called natural stuff I found a brand that surprised me. Becuase of the rules on the European market Oregon Freezedried is not allowed to sell their high-fructose-corn-syrup-starch-additive food pack overhere. So they have a special 'trimmed' version for their market in Europe. No additives, no high-energy things. Basically, just food. Than that surprised me, in a good way. 

This year I didn’t have enough time to watch all the brands, I didn’t visit the tent-city and didn’t visit all the shoe brands.

- The Uneek, a new rope-shoe from Keen. Funny to have ‘unique’ as marketing thing. And express creativity with it. It stands out. 
At least the lawn-mower-bike stood out. 
- Boreal. They launched their new alpine boots. Warmer, lighter, more comfortable they claim. Warmer is a good point. They don’t seem to be much different from some other brands, but adding some extra warmth to a 6000m boot isn’t that bad. Boreal is a nice brand, I hope for them that they manage to sell their shoes. 

Though, I had to say hi to some friends that are working for different brands and spotted this on the way. 
DMM, Camp, CT, Salewa, Mad Rock, Ice Rock, Edelrid... all of them came with something new. 
Really new. 

To the topic I spend most time on. The hardware/climbing section. Cams, axes, harnesses, biners and more stuff like that. Most of all the belay-device topic was one that stood out.

I write "we" all the time in this story. Because most of the time I wasn't alone, but walked around with my boyfriend, best climbing partner and industrial designer, Dennis. 

Here our next part of the story at OutDoor 2014. 

Outdoor 2014 Hardware.

On the Outdoor show I got a question of a climber: what made me so exited about all the new hardware and how on earth could I be all exited with another karabiner design.
Of course the innovations in hardware are not that big most of the time. A karabiner stays a karabiner, right…?
In the way that the function stays the same to connect different climbing materials. Yes a karabiner is a karabiner.
But smaller details change as well, not only the colours.
This way the end user; the climber; You will get a better product!
For example DMM makes a very nice karabiner: the Phantom and they improved it with a clean nose. This way the karabiner will not snag on slings or ropes. Existing technology they are using already on other biners, but new on ther smallest wire gate.
Other karabiners don’t work at all like the skylotec pinch lock; so safe that you need a pen to pinch the button…

Next to the biner improvements DMM developed a whole new range of belay devices. For multipitch, sport and alpine climbing they made the Pivot. They improved the eyelet with a hinge, this way it’s much easier to release the tension off the rope when the Pivot is used in seconding-mode.

For single rope climbing they made a very nice looking device called the “Grip”. With a magnet release system the device increases friction and jumps back with the big spring that also functions as the “keeper”. So, when belaying it’s smooth as a classic tuber but when someone falls it “grips”. Another great piece of engineering with nice hot forged aluminium CNCed and anodized finish.

Talking about belay devices; Edelrid released the Jul² specially made for single rope. In my opinion the most misunderstood device on the show. It’s a “brake assisting device” meaning; when a climber falls, the device is dynamic like a tuber but will lock of after some slipping. Of course you NEED to hold the rope! Else it would be a full Automatic (and just so you don't get any misunderstandings; in climbing a full-automatic doesn't exist, only half-automatic devices exist, like the gri-gri)

The “brake assisting function” means there is additional friction put through in the device in case of a fall. It doesn’t mean you can let go off the rope as some people on the OutDoor show where thinking… They where thinking about the locking function of the Mega Jul and mixed it up somehow with the new Camp Matik…??
Camp introduced ther new Matik a semi-automatic belaying device with anti panic function. When rappelling or lowering the device will lock when pulled to hard on the handle. Special for smaller diameters of rope.

Also CT has a new belaying device the Be-Up is of course smaller and lighter than any other. Using a special bending technology straight after the hot forged the part and riveted together.

And yet another belay device is ready to be launched by MadRock, a super small version of the Grigri that fits in the palm of your hand. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any pictures of the prototype itself.

Fixe hardware bought the patent and machining to make original CCH Aliens. Now they showed the evolution of the Alien. Even smaller cam head by reducing the size of the rivets on the side and the cable connection in the centre. This in combination with good looks and smooth plastic parts the evolution Alien is ready for another 25 years ( )

A small brand from Russia: Rock-Ice makes a incredible light ice axe: full carbon, titanium pick and Russian “armor tankgrade-steel” blade. As they told us.

And the last but not least Edelrid rapline.
A rapline that has dynamic properties. So when the leadrope gets stuck during rappel and you have to climb up with the rapline it still safe to lead. And it can hold 2 dynamic lead falls because of the special weaving construction.

Now we can write on forever about all the other new products. Edelrid improved the Fraggle and thereby still has the best children's harness on the market (much better then the Skylotec thing seen on the picture, with a viaferrata kit for children)
That via ferrata kit is yet a discussion on itself. I mean, really, do you want to have children of that age stand freely on a viaferrata? Please just use a rope and belay. But anyway, different discussion. I'd  need six A4 papers to explain my opinion here.
Also Petzl came with a children's harness and a chest harness, something very useful for the kids and their different geometry (compared to adults). 
Though, it's not new on the market. Edelrid already had the chest harness combi for the older kids.

The climbing-gym topic is growing too.
So many hold-manufacturers with all different techniques, styles and concepts. A smart dude even transformed a fingerboard into a digital app. Hang your phone above your board and follow the training program.
Though I prefer the looks of Ant Works and I like self discipline in my training instead of an app.

Now. Let's party ;)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Deep breath - breathe deep

Ok. And then I took a deep breath and thought. Well, let's try again.

Let's try to write again.
Because I like to share my adventures, experiences, thoughts.

Ok. I maybe could be more tactical about how I expose my opinion to my audience [the internet]. But it's not going to change my opinion.

So, here a blog post again.
Hi :)

Hopefully I'll have enough time in the next weeks to give you an update on what I've been up to:

- Winter ice and mixed (Eiger, Flying Circus...)
- Sportsclimbing on Malta
- Alpine mixed in Alaska
- Alpine Mentors in Alaska

and general life here in Allgäu.

I'll try to write some about other non-climbing stuff too, like spreading my opinion about 'zwarte piet', food, cooking, and just inspirational things I come ascross.

Deep breath again - and click on *publish*