3 Big Trends for 2016 Winter Gear
Sometimes, we have to walk icy sidewalks when we visit Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show. But, this year we found slick ice inside the Salt Palace Convention Center. Beside the Merrell booth, we traversed an ice platform to test the latest winter boots with anti-slip soles. It was just the first of many run-ins with gear designed to prevent winter falls. While we saw a proliferation of traction products, we also caught a few other trends as we browsed everything from shoes to down jackets to underwear.
Here are three gear trends that really stood out to us…
Getting a Grip on Winter
Whether you’re crossing an icy driveway, running a trail in winter, or hoofing it down a sidewalk to catch the train, you can avoid dangerous falls with a growing number of footwear traction products.
This year we noticed definite growth in this niche market, including a significant step forward with Vibram’s Arctic Grip outsole material. In the past, shoe companies have outfitted their products with a wide range of rubber soles that supposedly provided great traction when wet. But, Vibram has created the first rubber outsole that effectively grips ice.
Rather than using metal or spikes or carbide nubs, Arctic Grip combines two types of rubber compounds, including one that latches onto wet ice and one that grabs drier ice. In the convention center, we slipped on shoes that had Arctic Grip soles and walked across an ice bridge. As we proceeded, we were shocked at how secure we felt, and we joined the chorus of oohs ahhs from fellow testers. While we rarely use the term game-changer to describe gear, this breakthrough in sole technology qualifies. Launching in fall 2016, Arctic Ice soles will be available on footwear from Wolverine, Merrell, Saucony, Sperry, Hush Puppies and CAT Footwear.
Also at the show we noticed more companies offering slip-on traction devices, including relative newcomer Veriga, whose Pro Track Crampons with serrated staples (rather than spikes) were designed for oil field workers in Canada. You’ll also find trail crampons from Hillsound and Snowline.
In addition, industry veteran Icebug launched a new line of grippy shoes that includes the Idre BUGrip GTX ($269.95), which has 16 carbide studs on the sole. Another pioneer in the category, Kahtoola, improved its excellent Nanospikes by incorporating reinforced eyelets that eliminate wear points due to stretching.
The Puffy Jacket Revolution Continues
Over the past three to four years, puffy jackets have evolved in radical ways as companies have stuffed them with hyper-breathable insulation (such as Polartec Alpha) and water-resistant down. For fall 2016, Columbia is raising the bar once again with the OutDry Ex Down Hooded Jacket ($250), which is essentially a waterproof puffy jacket.
With a traditional waterproof jacket, your sweat must pass through several layers to escape and prevent you from getting hot and clammy. Typically, the outermost layer is a durable fabric that has a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment, which can erode over time. Behind this layer is a waterproof membrane, and then another fabric lies next to your skin to add comfort and protect the membrane.
But the OutDry Extreme Puffy Jacket has just two layers. First, there’s a waterproof membrane on the outside of the jacket, which eliminates the outer fabric and DWR. Second, there is an interior liner fabric that’s attached to the membrane. While this liner wicks moisture away from you skin, it also allows moisture to escape and provides a soft surface so it’s comfortable next to skin. With this new type of puffy, there are fewer layers, so sweat escapes more efficiently, and the jacket weighs less. Plus, in cold weather, you can essentially eliminate your rain shell.
Underwear Makers Focus On ‘Asset Management’
Only a few outdoor companies are known for making great boxer briefs for men, but a couple of new players are challenging ExOfficio, Patagonia and other market leaders. We checked out new styles from Saxx Underwear and 2UNDR that have special compartments to keep things in place. As one company rep commented, it’s underwear that focuses on “asset management.”
Saxx has introduced the Quest 2.0 ($32.95), a unique model of underwear with mesh panels that create a pouch to keep everything in place and prevent friction and chafing. Perfect for travel, the Quest 2.0 is made of lightweight, synthetic mesh that dries quickly and sports an antimicrobial treatment. We also like that this boxer brief has a 7-inch inseam, so it won’t ride up much.
2UNDR’s Gearshift ($30) and Swingshift ($28) models of underwear have a “Joey Pouch” that supports a guy’s assets and prevents unwanted skin-to-skin action. The Swingshift is made of Rayon that’s smooth, soft and breathes extremely well. It’s made to be cool to the touch and feel like silk or cotton. But, unlike cotton, it will dry quickly and won’t shrink easily or pill from friction. The Gearshift is made of fabric that seems a bit more lightweight and breathable. Made with a blend of Polyester and Spandex, it will wick moisture, dry quickly, and stay snug on your thighs.