Best Gear of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014

The winter Outdoor Retailer show is the lesser of the semi-annual OR shows when it comes to exciting debuts applicable to the trail running world. That said, there are always some finds along the way. We share some of the best gear finds below.

For more, enjoy our in-depth look at the the best shoes of ORWM 2014, which all debut in late spring or early summer 2014.

Apparel

I’d not noticed at previous shows, but companies are increasingly incorporating POLARTEC’s highly breathable Alpha insulation into tops suitable for endurance sports. (Think The North Face’s Animagi jacket with the latest in insulation technology.) One such jacket (apparently not new for FW14) is the Montane Alpha Guide Jacket. This hooded jacket with thumb holes and a side zip pocket weighs 16.2 ounces (458 grams). Arc’teryx will launch the Gaea and Argus ($189) this fall.

Arc'teryx Gaea

The Arc’teryx Gaea with POLARTEC Alpha insulation.

One accessory that caught my eye was the Saucony Razor Hat ($38), a windproof and a waterproof hat with a fleece lining and a short brim for keeping the elements out of your eyes. The hat, which comes in two sizes (S/M & M/L), features both a high and low ponytail hole. It’ll be available August 1.

Saucony Razor Hat

The Saucony Razor Hat.

Packs and Hydration

In April 2014, Montane is launched a line of running-specific packs: the Montane Fang 5 ($127 – 8.7 oz/247 g), the Montane Jaws 10 ($139 – 9.9 oz/282 g), and the Montane Dragon 20 ($154 – 13.2 oz/375 g). These vest-style packs feature water-resistant rear compartments and a pair of anatomically-curved front water bottles. Another defining feature of these packs is that both the waist (found in all capacities) and sternum straps are stretchy to accommodate torso expansion while breathing. Designed for fastpacking and the like, the Dragon 20 has a roll top closure. There are, of course, the to-be-expected pockets and pole attachments.

Montane Pack

One of Montane’s new packs.

Speaking of roll-top packs for fastpacking, in mid-July you’ll see the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 ($150) on the market. The pack will feature 15-20 liters of capacity in the main rear compartment (made from a seemless one-piece back panel) with much more to be found in the packs many external compartments, including a huge rear stash pocket. If you need even more storage, there are six attachment points on each side of the rear as well as a pair of ice ax loops. The pack lacks major support, but the semi-rigid backing should provide a bit of structure.

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20

A pre-production version of the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20. The product is under development. The colors are not the final colors.

Gaiters

Extremities FellaGaiter

Extremities FellaGaiter

Well, gaiters were the thing this season. Aside from continued use of integrated gaiters in select trail running shoes, at least three brands were showing off new gaiters. First off, there’s the most innovative of the lot, the Extremities FellaGaiter ($40), designed primarily to protect the front of the leg while lumbering through brush. It should be compatible with most shoes.

Altra’s offering a proprietary gaiter with the Altra Trail Gaiter ($20). This low, lightweight, breathable gaiter attaches with a hook to the front laces and velcro in the gaiter trap found on the rear of all Altra trail shoes. It wouldn’t be that hard to buy velcro tape to create a rear attachment point on any other shoe. Inov-8 Race Ultra Gaiter ($27) was recently introduced in conjunction with the RaceUltra 290 launch. The proprietary gaiter relies on integrated slots on both sides of the heal.

Lighting

The relentless march of progress continues on the LED lighting front. This show, Petzl was the mover we’ll note. Petzl has recently launched updates to its Tikka line–Tikkina ($20); Tikka ($30); Zipka ($40)–with all models receiving some degree of extra candle power. (Note: Model numbering, i.e., Tikka2, has been removed from the line.) Also out now, are Reactive Lighting versions of the Tikka RXP ($95) and Tikka R+ ($80) with the models maxing out at 215 and 170 lumens, respectively. Both models come with what appears to be an incredibly comfortable head strap. Come this July, the Petzl NAO ($185, a $15 bump up) goes from a max output of 350 lumens to 575 lumens. Not bad in just two years… and on par with the original Petzl Ultra, which I used to refer to as the Oh Sh!t Light because it was so bright. Aaaaah, progress.

Petzl NAO, Tikka RXP, Tikka R+

An updated Petzl NAO along with the new Tikka RXP and Tikka R+

From the head-slappingly-obvious-yet-heretofore-unseen (by us) category are the Nathan Zephyr Fire 100 ($45) & 300 ($55), a pair flashlights with an integrated handheld strap. Think of your handheld water bottle… and imagine you had a small downward-tilted flashlight there instead. Both models have rear-facing blinking red LEDs to make you visible from behind as well as an emergency siren. They throw a maximum of just over 100 and 300 lumens, respectively, and recharge via USB.

Nathan Zephyr Fire 100 300

The Nathan Zephyr Fire 100 & 300.

Wrist-Top GPS

A year after the Suunto Ambit2/2 S (preview) launch, the Suunto Ambit2 R ($250/$300 with heart rate monitor) arrived mid-March. You can think of it as the Ambit2 S (the smaller of last year’s models) with the swim and bike-power features removed. The 2R also replaces the metal bezel with a plastic one. What? You get “less” with the 2R? Yup… and you pay $100 less than the 2s… which sounds like a good deal for those of us who focus on running with maybe an occasional dabble in other sports. The 2R’s interface is streamlined and optimized for running. For me (a one trick pony), that in and of itself could be a feature. Fortunately, Suunto will roll out a software update making the 2R’s features available on the 2S. The Ambit 2R has the same 8/12/25-hour battery life (depending on the accuracy settings) as the 2S. It’s worth noting that at the same time, the 2S receives a price break from $400/$450 to $350/$400.

Suunto Ambit2 R

Suunto Ambit2 R

Call for Comments

  • Will you be picking up any of these pieces of kit for your upcoming adventures?
  • Anything else on the horizon that you’re itching to pick up for your trail running?

There are 4 comments

  1. kjz

    I have the Ambit 2R and love it… i do wish it had 1s recording with 12+hr battery life–the 8h is very frustrating for me… but cost was the bigger deal and when i found it on sale, it was the winner. i was surprised with the ease of scratching the face of the watch–one fall in some dirt (not sure how i slid on that side of my wrist) and the scratches seem permanent, but it doesn't alter my ability to read/use the watch.

  2. ThaMessenjah

    I have the Ambit2 R and absolutely love it. REI had it for $186 over Memorial Day weekend. Make sure though to study all of the available options for the screen customizations. It is pretty annoying when you are out on a run and haven't sync'd it up to include the Time of Day and you want to know what time it is.

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