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Adventures in Gearland


Submitted by j_ung on 2005-08-17 | Last Modified on 2006-11-13

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Click a day to rocket faster than light directly to it's first entry! VVVRRROOOOMMM!

Tuesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

Or do you prefer to search by company?

CAMP Nicros Mammut Montrail Arc'teryx WildCountry BalanceBar Arborwear OmegaPacific BlackDiamond DMM NEMO Mental HERAFoundation Fiveten Podclimber EVOLV BDC3s Metolius Versalayer Trango Asana(Gunther'sBigDay) MountainHardware DarnTough

Tuesday, August 9, 2005, 10:30 AM

I'm at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Thursday through Sunday to explore the booths and find out what gear makers are up to for Spring '06.

Is there something of which you'd really like to see a picture? A manufacturer you'd really like to hear about? A particular piece of new and improved gear about which you'd like an update? Post your request in the Adventures in Gearland Thread. I have a pretty tight schedule of meetings lined up, so no promises, but I'll see what I can do for you.

Expect the first installment of this online journal (plus photos) sometime mid-day on Thursday, and then check back often for stories, updates and reports, plus the occasional lie, exaggeration and slanderous slur.

j_ung

Thursday, August 11, 2005, 11:45 AM Mountain Time

"On behalf of myself, the crew and all of Crying Baby Airlines, enjoy your stay in Salt Lake City. We hope to see you agai-- Dammit! Will somebody please shut that baby up?!"

At least, that's what I imagine the Captain of our flight said as we taxied to the gate. I gotta tell you, that was the loudest flight I haver flown. It's a wonder I'm not crazy from it.

It was a bad way to start the trip, but the omen didn't hold. Things are peachy now, mostly because I am literally surrounded by toys. Indeed, even upon arrival at the magnificent Salt Palace Convention Center, things began to look up...

OR Show Line
The registration line for the riff-raff.

Line at OR Show 2
The press registration line. w00t!

But enough of the chit chat! Let's see some gear! First stop... CAMP! These guys, like a lot of other gear makers out there are making the move to lighter and lighter gear. In fact, CAMP boasts the single lightest harness on the market, as of... now. That could change at any moment. The harness in question is the XLH, a slim and sleek little number designed mainly for ski mountaineering that weighs in at an astounding 95 grams, or about the same as two standard locking biners.

CAMP continues its move toward weightlessness with a selection of quickdraws to suit any sport climber.

CAMP Draws
CAMP's light draws, from left to right: the Steelkar Dyneema Draw, the Base Dyneema Draw and the much-discussed-on-RC.com, Nano Wire Draw.

Also of note are the new Anodized Tricams. Though these have only just hit the open market, they've already compiled a list of detractors due to the uni-colored Dyneema. Many have come to know and love the Tricams distinctive colored sling.

Anodized Tricams
CAMP's Anodized Tricams

I'll make two main points, and then I'll shut up. The classic Tricam's only weakness has always been its ultra thin sling, and the new the Dyneema sling adds 4kN to the strength rating. Two, CAMP has ears. They have heard your complaints, so don't be surprised if forthcoming generations of Anodized Tricams have colored slings, too.

On the harness front, expect a lot more from CAMP than just lightness. They're introducing several new innovations to most of their harness lines, all of which are patented and will not be duplicated. You'll see a very interesting one-touch, one-pull buckle system on some models and a new and improved attachment for keeper straps that are less prone to snagging in chimneys and OWs.

But the best of the new stuff from CAMP are these...

Auto Fit (tm)
Auto Fit (tm), CAMP's automatically adjusting leg loop. Buy it snug. Then, as you climb the loop loosens to allow freedom of movement. It snugs back up when weighted.

Pic of No Twist (tm)
No Twist (tm) is CAMP's new belay loop designed to vitually eliminate the problem of crossloaded belay biners. The smaller loop-in-a-loop works just like a snuggly quickdraw to hold a belay biner firmly in place.

Onward to a little something that'll make all you gym climbers (and especially you routesetters) pretty happy... the Nicros booth. Nicros' newly annointed head shaper, Nic Oklobzija (don't bother trying to pronouncing it) has been hard at work with their Extreme Hold Technology (patent pending). EHT isn't new, but those of you with more than a year's worth of setting experience will remember that these guys used to have the heaviest MF-ing holds on the market, and not really the greatest shapes. That era appears to have ended and Nicros is now sporting the lightest holds around for the size and some of the coolest new shapes.

Nicros 1
Nicros' new shape, the Surgeon General: big, diverse, light. This particular shape has so many different ways to grab it depending on the angle of your wall, you may want more than one.

Nicros 2
Here's why EHTs are so light. They're hollow and made of fiberglass. The glass is strong, but flexible enough to conform to irregularly-shaped and highly textured walls.

Nic reports that you can screw jibs to these Extreme mondos, and that you'll actually be able to bolt modular holds on to future generations. In fact, according to Nic, "We're moving to bigger and bigger shapes in the future." He motions to a display stand the size of a large footlocker. "Expect to see holds that size soon." And expect them to be light as a feather.

That's all for now! I have Mammut, Montrail and one or two other surprises on the docket for this afternoon. Stay tuned!

Yours from SLC,
j_ung

Thursday, August 11, 2005, 6:15 PM Mountain Time

Helllllloooo again from the Salt Palace! Well, I spent the afternoon with Mammut and Montrail, and I have a few things to report.

Let's start with Mammut. My theory that the lightness trend will continue to play out well into next year is holding true. Mammut, in particular is going for a light and strong approach. In the words of Mammut's Jeff Cunningham, "We're trying to be light, but there's no way we're going to sacrifice strength and durability for it."

Carsten Von Birckhahn agrees. "Others are making things light," he reports. "Anybody can do that." The trick, according to Mammut is maintaining the quality for which they're already known.

You'll see a few new things on the market from them soon. One that really pushes the boundaries of what I thought possible is the new 8.9mm Serenity rope, which is rated for single use. That's right, folks: 9.1 is no longer the magic number. It leaves one wondering how thin we can go before the belay device necessary to hold a fall is too small to use, before the rope is so thin, that one physically can't hold a fall. I don't know where the line is, but Mammut apparently hasn't reached it yet.

Serenity
Expect the Serenity to be the ultimate sending rope, for when you're pushing your onsight grade, prepping for that final redpoint burn or climbing alpine routes. It is not intended to be your workhorse.

Along those lines, Mammut is also taking the next step in Dyneema runners. If you like the 8mm slings, you'll love (or be terrified by) the new 6mm Dyneema. That's right... six. They'll be available in 30, 60 and 120mm lengths, which is roughly, 12, 24 and 48 inches, respectively.

6mm Dyneema
As of this moment Mammut's 6mm Dyneema sling awaits CE certification. Carsten and Mammut expect not to encounter any difficulties. Keep your eyes peeled.

Here's something else that's cool: how many times have you been frustrated by a new rope that refused to uncoil without kinking, no matter how hard you tried or how many friends you enlisted to help? Mammut's new packaging (it's a sad day when packaging is news worthy) aims to end that problem. The package itself is a spool, so all you need is one friend to hold it and you'll make short work of that coil. Bye-bye first route blues.

Montrail isn't into light, these days. Not that their stuff is heavy... it's just that their priority is comfort and performance all the way.

Let’s be honest. Montrail is trying to bust its way into climbing shoes. They’ve gotten a somewhat bad rap for it, too, though I have no idea why, because, frankly, they’re doing a pretty good job of it. Someone once wrote on this site that Montrail hadn’t a clue. That it takes more than just rock bottom prices to make a good product. Well, “someone” needs to shut up and see what these guys are up to.

Montrail has set out on a mission to fuse comfort and performance into one shoe. This time, they may have succeeded. In fact, I’m at a loss to describe how comfortable their newest offerings truly are. The word, comfort, just doesn’t seem to do it. I’ve worn comfortable climbing shoes and I know most of the rest of you have, too. This is better. A lot better. Two new models, the Magnet and the Wasabi (shown below) are fitted with Montrail’s patent-pending CTX Thermo-Molding memory foam. This means that your shoe, once broken in, will be uniquely fitted to your foot. It works. I’ve tried it. If you think you know what I’m talking about, but haven’t yet tried CTX in a climbing shoe, trust me, you don’t.

Montrail shoes
The Magnet (left) and Wasabi. The most comfortable climbing shoes ever? Don’t pass judgment until you’ve tried them. Will they perform, too? We’ll see.

Montrail sandals
Bonus Product: Montrail’s sandals offer CTX through and through.

This past year we saw a quantum leap in camming device technology and it seems like this year we’ll see something similar in backpacks. Arc’teryx has taken the first step in new and improvedness with several models that redefine what packs can do. And since I'm a big fan of simplicity, I’ll plug that angle, too. The entire body of each pack is made from only two pieces of fabric. The forward piece is laminated to a one-piece plate-like frame and laminated to it is the suspension system. Their new offerings are the first ever packs with fully integrated bodies and suspension systems.

All of this is possible thanks to two innovations. One, the fabric is a thick, durable polymer coated number that, two, allows Arc’teryx to fuse strap attachments directly to the fabric without sewing them into seams. Here, have a gander…

Arc'teryx suspension
Strap attachments are fused directly to the fabric and are unencumbered by seam locations. Though these are only the basic first generation packs of this type, Arc'teryx believes that the technology will allow for packs that are far more sport-specific in the very near future. This pic shows how the suspension is integrated with the frame and body. Note the lack of seams.

Add to all of the above Arc’teryx’s dry-bag type closing system and you get a pack that is not just water proof… if you have enough air in it, it will damn well float.

That’s all for today. The industry party is about to kick off and I’ve got a hankerin’ for a frosty adult beverage. Tune in tomorrow for reports from Omega Pacific, Black Diamond and many more.

Cheers from the Great Salt Lake,
j_ung

Friday, August 12, 2005, Noon, Mountain Time

Good morning from Saltland!

I have a special treat for you today. Let’s take just a small break from climbing equipment to see one of the crazier exhibits at the show this year… vehicles, or as I like to call them, mobile base camps. There’s one for every budget here at the show. Car campers take heed…

Kelty Car-to
If your budget is low, like mine, you may be interested this little number from Kelty. It’s essentially a Ripstop lean-to; simple, light, easy to throw in the trunk of any car.

Airstream
Have a little more dough to blow and a truck big enough to pull a trailer? Check out Airstream’s industio-Darth-mobile. It looks like a Cylon inside and out, but the privacy tint rules and the features, including pretty much everything but a bathroom, complete the package.

Sportsmobile
And here’s this year’s top-of-the-line model, a 6.8 liter, turbo diesel, 4x4 Sportsmobile. This baby has it all including a go anywhere, do anything appeal. It also has a 70k price tag, which is less than I thought it would be, but more than I can afford. One can dream…

OK, on to the climbing gear. That’s what I’m here for, after all.

After drooling all throughout the Sportsmobile, I felt like the best follow up would be Wild Country, so I beelined for them. WC has two new offerings on the floor this year to note. The first involves something we’ve all heard a bit about, but maybe haven’t seen up close, Superlight Rocks. Made for pin scars and flares where standard nuts may not do the trick, the Superlight Rocks have half the surface area of their full-sized counterparts for narrower placements. Not meant for soft stone.

Rocks
Wild Country’s Superlight Rocks shown directly under the regular and large Rocks. If you’re building your first rack and you want to get more placement options out of your wedge set, this may be just the ticket.

Wild Country’s other big deal this year involves your feedback. In yet another example of a great company listening to the people who use its products, WC adapted the Zeroes to meet our needs.

New Zeroes
Changes to WC’s Zeroes include a bigger trigger bar and an inch and a half more length to the stem. Now they’re easier to grab, place and clean.

Last order of business this morning: Balance Bars! In my frenzy of activity here at the show, I haven’t had a lot of time for the necessities of life… like eating. Thankfully, my favorite bar company is conveniently situated about a hundred meters from my wi-fi hotspot. Balance reps here estimate that by the end of the show they will have passed out 48,000 bars, a significant percentage of those to me.

Balance Booth
Balance reps pass out samples of two new flavors, Crunchy Peanut Butter and Chewy Chocolate Chip. The new flavors are great, but of course, it would take devine intervention to create a bar tastier than Balance’s sublime Cookie Dough. [Homer]Mmmmm… cookie dough… mmmmm…[/Homer]

That's it for the morning! Check back tonight for reports from Omega Pacific and Black Diamond.

Later from Saltville,
j_ung

Friday, August 12, 2005, 5:30 PM Mountain Time

Balance Bars… Airstreams… Mobile Base Camps… I suppose one could get the impression that I’m not really working. For those naysayers, here’s proof:

Me, hard at work..
Why yes, as a matter of fact that is both coffee and beer beside me.

In fact, on my way from the chair massage girl to the far corner of the building where I obtained a giant Frisbee from one of the water sports vendors, I stopped by the Arborwear booth. They’re a little bit out of the way, almost as if CEO, Paul Taylor, did something to piss off Outdoor Retailer… But really, the shy booth location mirrors Arborwear’s marketing philosophy, which, refreshingly, is to speak softy and produce a quality product.

You may remember maculated’s review of Arborwear’s Tech Pants last year. This year keep an eye out for the Single Front Tech Pant, which boasts the same comfy-yet-sturdy 7 oz. brushed nylon and gusseted crotch, but no annoying cargo pocket to get in your way.

After Arborwear, it was off to Omega Pacific to get the real low down on when Link Cams would finally be available. Well folks, you’re in luck. Several Link Cams have already shipped to high-priority outlets. If you have some on back order, don’t worry, it won’t be long now. The delay was due to the fact that the production model just wasn’t ready. Everything we’ve seen so far has been a prototype of one generation or another. When you get your hands on it, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s wide and a little heavy, but the latest generation looks a lot better than what we’ve seen.

Link Cams
The production model link cam: note the ergonomic trigger bar and separate trigger wires.

Here’s where the surprises start…

A lot of what you’ve heard about the Link Cam are lies, exaggerations and assumptions based on animations and photos of prototypes. OmegaPac's Gary Peterson is adamant that zero – that’s right, ZERO – Link Cams have been sent to any media outlet for review. Allow me to bust a couple myths…

Myth One: The Link Cam is tricky to place and it takes a lot of practice to finagle the best placement in an irregular crack. The Truth: The Link Cam seems no more tricky to place that a normal cam. Though each individual cam has three sections, only one at a time is in contact with the rock. Once you release the trigger, the cam sections that are no longer needed are under no tension and have no active role in the placement, whatsoever. In those rare sized placements that require the exact amount of retraction to engage two cams at once, it’s still not a problem. At that size, the two sections work in tandem as if they were one big section.

Link Cams 2
Myth Two: You can’t place the Link Cam in a shallow horizontal. The Truth: For the same reason as above, placement in a shallow horizontal is no trickier than a normal cam. The slack sections aren’t involved in any way and the stem pivots until it comes to rest on the bottom of the crack. Shallow placements like this require no more consideration than any other SLCD.

I’ve also heard that the Link Cam tends to walk quite a bit. I won’t bust this myth until I have a chance to climb with one, but I suspect that this too is false. In fact, the farther into the unit’s range you contract the lobes, the more spring tension the cam produces. This is the same with every cam out there, but it’s pronounced on the Link Cam, since the springs retract so far.

Other news from OP involves what you won’t see next year, rather than what you will. Scallops are going bye bye and OP is bringing back its once popular Wedgies. Trinuts are now a collectors’ item. And every single one of OP’s ice tools are being discontinued. New models won’t even be introduced at trade shows until sometime next year, but expect big things.

I followed up my visit to OP with trip down the aisle to one that, I know, many of you have been waiting for, Black Diamond. The C3s are slated to hit the shelves spring of next year. Sorry I can’t be more specific… you know how these things work. Anyway, the units are very much still in development. The model displayed here is a prototype.

C3 prototype
On three cables with three separate compression springs, each cam articulates entirely independently of the others. One unique feature of this cam is how this design allows the unit to twist in place, without affecting the integrity of the placement.

Other than the fact that they have three cables, the first thing one notices about the C3s are how narrow the heads are. According to Penn Newhart of Backbone Media, BD’s marketing firm, “They're 30% narrower than anything else of comparable size.”

Click here to jump ahead to more pics of BD's C3s.

A few other tidbits of note from Black diamond: They are introducing the Tracer, which, at 285g, is currently the lightest helmet made. Boulderers may be interested to know that the Franklin name is now completely gone. Pads such as the Mondo now carry the familiar BD logo. Some harness models have gone to one-pull speed buckles, and BD is now making their own autoblocking belay device.

ATC Guide
The ATC Guide combines features of the popular ATC-XP with autoblocking capability.

Alllllll righty then… That’s all I have for you today, Rockclimbing.com, but I’ll be back on the job again tomorrow, bringing you more Adventures in Gearland. Till then, toodle-oo from Saltburg.

Yours in salt,
j_ung

PS - Ya know, I don't think I really posted enough views of Black Diamond's C3. I'll remedy that tomorrow. Oh, speaking of tomorrow, it's my busiest day here, so you may only get one posting near the end of the day. I'll try to do more, though. Over and out.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Greetings from Saltopia!

I started the day off right today, with a visit to the DMM booth. They’ve got a couple of interesting developments in rock gear, but maybe the most interesting of all are the new ice axes. The Anarchist and Rebel are both hot forged, which enables DMM to create a shaft and head that are all one piece. Both tools also sport adjustable handles to accommodate different sized hands and gloves, plus a matching handle. They’ll hit the shops this fall, so if you’re in the market for new tools, keep an eye out.

DMM Axe
Though DMM didn’t have any production models with them, they did have a sample of the hot forged shaft in an early stage of production. Nifty, huh?

We spent a minute or two talking over the tools, and then moved on to rock gear, which was a relief to me. Just between us, I’m not much of an ice climber; it’s a consequence of living in the southeast. DMM has replaced their popular Prowire and Wirelock biners with similar models, the Shield and Spectre, both of which combine features of their forebears with hot-forged I-beam construction. DMM has also taken this approach with several of their locking biners, as well and the new iterations are lighter and stronger than their predecessors. Also of note are this year’s anodized Wallnuts. In my opinion there’s not better nut on the market and the anodizing (which matches, sizewise, WC’s anodized Rocks) is an improvement for desperate gear grabbers.

Walnuts
Visible beneath the Anodized Wallnuts are a few of DMM’s hot-forged, I-beam lockers.

From DMM, I made my way to the far side of the Salt Palace – a trek, I tell you – to NEMO Equipment. You may remember a review of their AirSupported™ Sako, a three-season model.

Stop thinking of NEMO as a tent company right now. Their mission is to create the most appropriate solution to every problem they encounter, and tents were simply the first thing they tackled. There are other products already in the NEMO pipeline, but mum’s the word. Marketing Director, Chris Dickey, won’t say anything more, other than that we should expect big things that aren’t tents sometime soon. Whether or not you like the concept of an AirSupported™ tent, you have to admit, it’s refreshing to see a company this committed to ignoring the status quo. Says Chris, “Don’t classify us. We’re totally fluid and not committed to any one design or concept. If we find a better way of doing things, we’ll scrap what we’ve got and move on.”

Burrito
NEMO’s single-person Burrito hangs above their booth.

With a couple of minutes to kill after meeting with NEMO, I decided to try to find something unique, but hopefully relevant to climbers. In a trade show the size of this one, it wasn’t too difficult. I soon stumbled across the booth of a company called Mental, which, among other things, specializes in crazy hats.

Hats
Mental’s Misty Brewton chills in front of some of their more out there selections.

Hemet cover
Here’s something you might like, a helmet cover. Every bit as wild as the hats, it goes over your standard lid to hold in the heat on a cold climbing day. No more wearing your lid six inches above your head to accommodate your hat. And, you can look like… pretty much whatever you want.

On to the Climbing Magazine booth and the Hera Foundation! Climbing has generously donated booth space to the Hera Foundation, an organization that uses climbing rendezvous to fight ovarian cancer. Click the link, check them out and expect to hear a lot more about them right here on RC.com in the very near future.

Next up: Fiveten. Some of you may not know that 5.10’s twenty year anniversary is coming up in 2006. According to them, after that the gloves are off. The company views its anniversary as an opportunity to re-commit to being the 400-lb gorilla of climbing shoes by refocusing on core climbing business and capitalizing on name recognition.

This year’s new products, according to 5.10, are just the beginning of where they want to go. And speaking of new products… expect 5.10’s high-performance Onyx rubber to adorn all of them. Older models, with the exception of the Anasazi Velcro, will retain the popular C4 mix.

Fiveten shoes
From left to right: Siren, a women’s shoe that sports a “fingered heel” to fit a wide variety of heel sizes; Piton, a crack climbing shoe that includes a huge Stealth S1 toe rand; Galileo, the first offering to offer Onyx rubber; Anasazi Velcro, now also with Onyx; and Altia, a throwback, high top with a Stealth-reinforced arch to accommodate aiders. Planning on stepping out of your etriers to bust free moves? This may be just the ticket to glory.

Some time after visiting the guys at Fiveten, I dropped in on EVOLV (ironic, eh?) and happened to run into Larry Brumwell and his cohorts, Chris and Brett, of Podclimber, the worlds first podcasted climbing talk show. A short interview later and we were laughing like old friends. Check out their site – veeeerrrrry interesting. Listed on I-Tunes, these guys broke from four gigs of traffic a day to thirty in an alarmingly short period of time.

Pod people
Larry, Chris and Brett (not pictured) offer interviews with big names and other fun stuff in several categories, like access issues, training and tell tales. Larry’s interview with Beth Rodden is live right now, as is a sit down with John Bachar and Dave Yerian, in which they describe their first ascent of the route named for them, the Bachar-Yerian.

Brian of EVOLV graciously loaned me and the pod people use of a table to meet and then he offered me a chance to look at what we can expect from them in the way of shoes. I got a gander at four new models…

EVOLV Shoes
From left to right: The shoe with no name, a performance all around shoe; Kineta, a womens’ slipper; Rave (formerly Rage), a buttery-soft slipper; and Demorto (which may change before it hits the shelves), a very rare, symmetrically-toed performance shoe.

Note especially the understated color scheme of EVOLV’s new models. I refuse to evaluate gear on looks, but that’s just plain classy. The other models that caught my eye are all intended to be, as Brian puts it, “lifestyle shoes”. They’re made mainly for wearing around town and general playing, and each model sports EVOLV’s Trax rubber.

EVOLV shoes 2
The Flozos, a women’s clog is in front and another as-yet-unnamed men’s shoe, a model reminiscent of a skating shoe is in the back. (How on Earth did he make those shoes float in the air like that?)

OK, that’s if for now, folks! I still have a late meeting with Metolius, and if I get the chance, I’ll post up tonight with a report. If not tonight, then expect it first thing in the morning, mountain time.

Viva la Salt!
j_ung

PS – Grrrrr… why is the site so slow?!

Sunday, August 14, 2005, Noon, Mountain Time

Greetings from… Crap, I can’t think of any Salt names. Anyway, I’m back, and I brought additional pics of Black Diamond’s C3 prototypes with me.

C3

C3 2

There now, are you happy? You will be when those hit the market. Or, are you more of a TCU fan? If so, you’ll be thrilled at what Metolius has in store for a planned January debut – Ultralight Cams. Metolius has come up with several ways to lighten their existing models by a significant amount. In fact, a set of nine Ultralights shave a half pound from their already light predecessors. The Ultralight approach is applied across the board to all models – TCU, Power Cam and Fat Cam.

TCUs
To lose the extra weight, Metolius shortened the trigger bars and eliminated the lobes at the ends of the axle to instead attach the cables directly.

TCUs
00 and 0 TCUs (TCUs only!) are also about an inch shorter than older models. I like the other changes and I’ll wait to pass judgment on this one. One of the chief complaints about the older WC Zeroes was that the stems were too short; the units were difficult to set and clean from deep placements.

Also of note are Metolius’ new crash pad line, which includes both the Fat and Cheap Bastards. The Fat Bastard boasts the popular Bastard flap which essentially turns the pad into an efficient top loader. It’s dimensions are a beefy 2’x4’x4” and it’s fabric is water proof this year, a thoughtful touch. If all you need is a big cushion with no frills, check out the Cheap Bastard, which is actually a half inch fatter than the fat bastard.

Lastly, Metolius lengthened the keeper cable on their not-so-popular BRD (Belay Rappel Device). The change means that the device should feed rope to your leader smoother than before, without locking up at just the wrong time.

Here’s a little something interesting… While trucking through the Salt Palace this morning I happened across one Andy Gathings who heads up a company called Verslayer, which will debut officially at the upcoming Winter Show. Right now, Andy is hawking Verslayer’s prototype soft shell, the Ability. What’s interesting is that Verslayer’s models all boast adjustable insulation levels.

Versalater
You don’t have to take the Ability off to adjust the insulation and you don’t have to disassemble any part of the jacket either. Just pull the red cord to warm up and the blue cord to cool down. Red expands a wrap-around insulation panel around your torso and blue retracts it to the small of your back.

I’m not 100% sure, but it looks like the insulation sits high enough to work with a harness, too. Imagine that, you start a route early in the morning, buried deep in the shade, so you snug up the red. As the sun clears the ridge – while you’re cruxing! – you tug the blue cords to ward off the impending hot flash. Not too shabby!

I ran into Andy right in front of Trango’s both, and coincidentally, they were my next meeting. Trango’s biggest addition to their rock climbing line up is probably a Titanium Cinch, which shaves 30% of the weight from the (mostly) original model. By the way, the older model will also still be available.

Titanium Cinch
The Titanium Cinch, in fact both of the Cinch models also boast bigger levers.

You know, in the outdoor gear industry companies innovate because of any combination of three reasons. One is simply the desire to innovate. Two is the necessity to keep of with the Joneses and their trends. And three, companies innovate in response to feedback from end users. I believe that climbing gear makers do this better than any other sub industry and I think that, out of all of them, Trango does it best. RC.com helps to bring this about. Almost anytime the name “Trango” pops up in an RC.com thread, you can pretty much expect that owner, Malcolm Daly, will soon follow to address complaints, answer questions and offer advice.

B-52
This year, Malcolm and Trango heard people express their concerns about the thickness of the metal of Trango’s belay device, the B-52. Though the old style, which I use, was plenty thick and safe enough, Trango beefed it up anyway in response to our concerns. Thanks, guys.

That’s all for now. I need some food, cause I have a big afternoon lined up.

See you later!
j_ung

Sunday, August 14, 2005, 6 PM, Mountain Time

Well, so far, I’ve had some big days here in Salt… something or other… (I’m still at loss for another Salt word). But I haven’t yet done any climbing. So, after lunch I decided to stop by Asana’s booth for a little bouldering. Asana doesn’t have a climbing wall, however, they do have a bouldering video game called Gunther’s Big Day. In G’s BD, you control Gunther the intrepid boulderer as he attempts various problems. Asana President and programmer, Jamey Sproull explained a few of the finer points of the game and I set off. I sent V1… on my fourth try. Apparently, video bouldering is harder than the real thing.

Gunther
Though the graphics are cartoon, the game is quickly engrossing and it becomes one of the more endearing qualities. Gunther has three different environments from which to choose for a total of 30 problems ranging from V1-on up.

As you work your way through the grades, the problems get harder and harder. Asana throws different challenges your way starting with sequences that grow ever more precise. Somewhere around V4, you have bad holds with which to contend. Power moves and even dumb luck also add to the mix for a surprisingly challenging gaming experience. Says Sproull, “It took me 220 tries to send V14, and I wrote the program.”

Do you plan on skipping straight to V14? Well guess what gumby, Big Day’s higher grades are password protected. You have to work the problems in order. If you fall too many times in a row, Gunther retires to the slackline (bust out the tricks!) to work on his balance. And if you eat it on the line, Gunther comes crashing down balls first. “It’s everybody’s secret dream to see that in real life,” chuckles Sproull. “So Gunther does it every time.” Since no bouldering vid is worth its weight without outtakes, Big Day even includes those, and they are freaking hilarious. Gunther’s Big Day is available for both PC and Mac. Hey, Jamey, how about Gunther’s Big Trad day?

As for me, I was a little pumped after V2, so I ambled on over to Mountain Hardware, where, quite possibly, backpack history is being made. Mountain Hardware designer, Charles Mosely, has spent the last seven years working on a pack suspension design that will allow almost complete freedom of movement in every direction and customization of fit for the wearer... all while taking the load off of the places that shouldn’t have to bear it and distributing it to the places that should.

Mosely
Suspension designer Charles Mosely becomes animated as he explains his creation.

Frame
Mosely’s creation: it… isssss… aliiiive…

Frame2
…and shockingly malleable. The carbon fiber frame lends a pack stiffness lengthwise for support plus unprecedented freedom in every direction.

U Bar
The U-bar replaces the standard – and comparatively useless – pull strap. This is one of the major innovations of Mosely’s frame.

A million dollars later, it looks as though he’s done it. Two frames on three large packs (with more to come down the road) will debut next spring. Mosely, primarily a skier, approached the problem of limited range of motion and came up with something that, at first glance, looks a little intimidating. With a bit of help from Mosely, however, it was easy to understand the premise. I’ll save the details for the gear review (expect it around this time next year), and let him explain it simply: “I wanted to get multi-day functionality with single-day feel.” Carrying heavy, and I mean heavy loads may never have been easier.

All of this doesn’t even touch the myriad of thoughtful and friendly features of Mountain Hardware’s pack bodies, for which they’re known. Roll tops, water proof zippers and much more add to the user friendliness of their latest models.

For my final stop of the show, I wanted a product that all of us take for granted. Something, I thought, that we all need regardless of climbing style or ability is what I wanted. For what else could I have opted but socks? Obviously nothing!

Amidst booths being broken down al around me, I spent the last ten minutes of the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market chatting with the guys from Darn Tough. Darn tough is a family-owned textile company that started off in hosiery and then branched in to custom knitting for other companies, such as LL Bean and J Crew. But with the textile industry being what it is for American companies, they soon realized that they needed their own brand to survive. Enter the Darn Tough name.

Darn Tough
The boys from Darn Tough pose next to the most technologically advanced socks on Earth. Heh heh.

Darn Tough uses a finer wool than any other company. Add to this a highly advanced knitting process and you get a sock with fabric that has more stitching and yet is more compressed than even Smart Wool. The finer yarns and tighter weave lend these babies more cushioning with less bulk than any competitors. The result is better circulation, which we all know means warmth.

Strangely, Darn Tough socks – even the synthetic models – don’t stink. Can you think of a better present for your climbing partner, tent mate or significant other?

Well folks, sadly, I’ve come to the end of this marathon reporting session. If you made it this far, I just want to say thank you for reading, thank you for being part of RC.com and thank you for bearing with me through site slowness and quirky products about which you may have cared nothing. I know I missed a few biggies. In the winter, I’ll be sure to hit up the ones I left out: La Sportiva, Petzl, Blue Water and more.

Until I see you on the boards, so long from the mean streets of Saltsylvania!
j_ung

PS – Thanks, J.K.

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