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The Scoop on Gear for 2005


Submitted by maculated on 2004-09-01 | Last Modified on 2010-02-26

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Since I know my articles are often long-winded, follow these directions:

  • If you want to know about the tradeshow specifically, look for the ~~~~~ line break. (or just click here)
  • If all you care about is the gear, check out the **** line break. (or just click here)
  • If you're coming for the Trip Report aspect, begin here.

From the moment I left the balmy Salt Lake City (SLC) airport, I knew something special was going on. The big screen flashed, "Welcome OutdoorRetailer Attendees" as I trotted down the steps with only a backpack and a canvas tote bag containing my harness and climbing shoes. (I would leave Salt Lake with a 36" duffle bag filled to the brim, however.) Not once have I ever been to a convention where I felt as though I belonged. I always wondered what the motivation behind the "Welcome" signs was, but now I know - I felt a sense of exhiliration that I was a part of this.

I, maculated, had come to the Beehive State with one goal in mind: to check out the new gear that will be available to the climbing public soon - and let the users of RC.com know about advances in climbing technology. Well, that's just one goal. I also figured I'd get some climbing in there somewhere, too. Oh yeah, and free goodies, free goodies were a goal, too.

The problem remained, however, that my ride/host for the weekend, Peter Gram (brother to my heinous desert tower partner, Andrew aka atg200) wasn't due to get off work and into SLC until 17:30/18:00 at the earliest. No worries, I mused, I'll get the lay of the land.

Riding the bus into town, I remembered the beta that my single-serving friend on the plane had dispensed: check out the Gateway Mall, and don't miss the Mormon Temple. As luck would have it, the mall and the Temple were within walking distance, and I saw the mall on my left and exited into the arid heat of Utah.

The Gateway Mall, it appears, has been created solely for the influx of tourism from the 2002 winter Olympics. Flagship stores and behemoth Abercrombie and Fitches lined the cobbled streets. Loud music and screaming children eventually drew me in, where I found a commemorative fountain of sorts. Moms with umbrellas and waiting towels watched as their offspring ran shrieking to and from the jets of water and spray that erupted heavenward, "Mom! The misties are on!"

Interesting, don't you think, that there would be a summer fountain landmark for a winter event?

After a brief stay at the Barnes and Noble to keep up with some reading, and a stop at the Orange Julius shop (I haven't had one of those in yeeeeears. Now I know why.) I hoofed it over to the Temple. If you've never been to Utah, here's a secret - it's never hard to find the temple in town. All the streets are numbered for their proximity to the temple (which is the center of town). If you're at 3300 N and 1500 W, you are that far away from the temple. Just head South and East, and you'll arrive.

Now, I'm not a Latter Day Saint, and I never will be, but I'm always interested in religion. I've done a fair amount of studying the beliefs of the Mormons and visiting the Temple was an interesting experience. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is pumped out from the central building, pairs of missionaries with flags of their country of origin stroll amongst the tourists. It occurs to me that I'm standing grounds equivalent to Mecca and the Vatican.

I spent the rest of the afternoon on the grounds reading and watching various couples shoot wedding photos in front of the fountain. I wonder how well these will turn out, as the sun is beginning to set - not the best lighting ever.


What is it about people and the unnatural degravitization of water, anyway?

Once Peter comes to pick me up, we head to Little Cottonwood Canyon's Dihedrals area and enjoy some late afternoon climbing. As he finishes up his lead of Satan's Corner, I marvel at the pinks and oranges of the alpenglow against the granite of the canyon. After that, it's off to bed - up with the sun and I need to be ready for the onslaught of gear!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

10:00 and I'm riding down the highway with Trevor Allred, owner and creator of Rockclimbing.com. He's a quiet guy with a generous grin and a rank truck (borrowed from a friend in Orem). He presents me with my very own Rockclimbing.com business cards and we pick up our media badges.

Once inside, we immediately walk past the row of industry magazines and I begin filling my backpack with Climbing, Rock&Ice, Gripped, and Oprah (just kidding, I was just checking to see if you were paying attention). We head over to what is known as the "Climbing Zone" which is where most of the climbing companies are centered. There is a large Rock&Ice booth which will be later used to host signings by Alex Huber, Chris Sharma, David Graham, Dean Potter, Stephanie Davis, Tori Allen, Lynn Hill, Lauren Lee, Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden, etc, etc. Behind them is a large rock-like boulder with Entre Prise holds and cracks that throughout the day feature a number of contests. There is a larger-scaled wall with top ropes set up, one face of it featuring Entre Prise's "Dry Ice" ice climbing wall.


Gee, this ice climbing isn't as hard as they say! What's the point of looking down when you swing, anyway? It's just foam! Wussies!

Tradeshows have always been an interesting phenomenon to me. You've got this huge conglomeration of retailers, producers, media, hot women in tiny tube-tops and heels hawking socks, and misty-eyed onlookers. There's stickers and samples and promotions and posters and little tables for sitting and networking. In the advent of the Internet, it all seems highly unlikely that we need this sort of vehicle anymore. Want to talk to Petzl? Send 'em an email! But there's something about being in a huge room with every company who's any company (or so it seems), meeting people who make things work.

The events are fun, I won myself a "Nordic Walking" kit and some Moab-colored chalk by filling out forms and correctly spelling out "Tuolumne." The weird thing about this particular conference is the incidence of dirtbag climbers who no longer are dirtbagged. I spent a fair amount of time with these same people in my travels, and it was astounding to see everyone freshly bathed and groomed. A friend asked me if I'd done something with my hair. My response, "Yeah! I washed and blow-dried it!"

The sheer number of professional and sponsored climbers attending was huge. I ran into a friend of mine who was hawking his most excellent video, "Action Adept" shot the summer of 2003 in Yosemite Valley(interested in the video? His email is bigwallfun@yahoo.com), as well as himself . This was a huge logistics issue I'd never imagined: people don't come knocking on your door when you're seeking sponsorships, you have to attend these tradeshows and sell a product, too - your climbing. I almost wonder if I didn't get in more climbing than these guys during my trip.

After talking to the various reps for each company (and all of them are really fantastic, if you ever need anything, contact these companies, the people driving them are some of the nicest) I started to notice the milling of people around various vendors. A guy with red hair on the climbing team for Evolv showed me his booty: yes folks, it's beer. 4 pm and the beers are coming out! In Utah! Full strength! What a great conference!


But not just any beer! La Sportiva brand! Opposite the surgeon general's warning it says: Consumption of la Sportiva Ale may result in (1) Making plans for alpine climbs way beyond your ability and (2) Claiming first ascents of peaks in countries you have never actually visited.

Well, everyone knows that the jig is up once the partying begins. I had reps coming up for hugs and kisses and asking me where the afterparty was. Why me? "You just have that aura about you." That's right, folks, maculated is where the party's at!

Well, turns out I did know: the party was outside. Moses Guest, which is a pretty popular band in SLC, was playing. Pair that up with a mechanical bull and free beer, and you have a good time.


Salt Lake City host extraordinaire asks, "Well, Kristin, should we go climbing after the show, or drink?" Survey says . . . "FREE BEER!" Though, truth be told, La Sportiva had an edge on "Old Chub."

After the pre-partying inside, the crowd was really worked up, and the band was rockin'. "This is the best moment of your lives!" the drummer-singer shouted. "Get down! Jump up!" Like a wicked game of Simon Says, the crowd responded in kind, throwin' up the horns.


"Who's sure?"

So that, my dear reader, is the happenings at the OutdoorRetailer Summer Market show.

******************************************************

"But maculated!" you protest, "What about the gear? What new and interesting things did you discover?"

Well, let us say, quite a few. This is the year of the outsourced, but affordable, climbing shoe. It is the year of more gadgets on simple devices; the year of multitudes of chalkbag styles; and it is the year of foul tasting electrolytes. Trevor and I spent two exhaustive days (well, I spent 2, the third I went climbing :D) meeting with the reps of the companies you know and love and having them show off their finest wares.


Trevor (at right) meets with Yates.

What follows is the list of gear I found most worth mentioning.

Best of:


Most of the list below is comprised of old favorites with a new twist. Sometimes you can fix what ain't broke.

  • Camalot - Black Diamond
    You've been hearing about it forever, and the verdict is in: BD has improved upon the most valuable bit of protection in your rack. It is indeed 20% lighter, making it competitive to the lighter camming devices on the market. They've also replaced the single stem trigger with an ergonomic loop; this loop makes it easier to grab and place, and it also provides a direct clip-in point for aid climbing (like CCH Aliens). Handy dandy! The cut outs on the lobes have also been rendered a bit, giving it a more aesthetic appeal.


    Old and busted on the left, new hotness on the right.

  • Rubber Webbing - La Sportiva
    La Sportiva is now making bouldering shoes with a Vibram rubber covering to assist with toe-hooking on gnarly problems. It is a mesh pattern which should allow for some breathability, and I've been assured that resoling the rand doesn't affect the rubber. Your shoes should last longer and stick more firmly with this innovation.

  • Myo XP - Petzl
    Petzl takes its popular Myo series and improves upon it. Now offering light diffusion, a temporary full 3 watt projection, and an autoheat sensor - this baby can shoot a 3 watt LED beam up to 213 feet, and 150 feet for up to 70 hours. It also comes with a battery light indicator that turns from green to yellow to red, and flashes the headlamp beam when it changes to alert the wearer of the weakening light.

  • Toebail -Petzl
    The simple innovation of the toe clip adapter for crampons makes telemark boots just as versatile with crampons as AT boots. Yay for simple fixes!

  • Belay Master - DMM Wales
    Not neccessarily new, but this falls into the "new-to-maculated" file. What with all the safety things out there today, this one seems like a no-brainer. Since all of roped climbing really depends upon the single locking biner on the belay loop of your rope wrangler below you, it makes sense to invent, and invest in, the Belay Master. A piece of plastic that is clipped onto a locking biner, it prevents accidental gate opening and crossloading.

  • Herbals - All Terrain
    Also not a brand-new offering, this company offers herbal alternatives in the form of sunblock, bug repellent, muscle pain alleviator, and poison oak and ivy soap. I've used the bug repellent for years and been highly pleased with it, and I have it on good authority that the theraputic remedy rubs are the best in the industry. I've got myself a block of the soap and I'm going out to give myself PO to test it out for all you lovely people. I love the readers of RC.com that much. Do yourself and your world a favor and try out this natural alternative to chemicals.

  • Super Clip - RockClimbingTools.com
    Aside from zealousness its proprietor had for his product, this is a pretty nifty contraption. I'm not a stick-clip owner (though I should be), but I've used all manner of products down to a stick with some tape on it. What sets this clip apart is its lack of breakable parts and the additional feature of being able to also remove biners from hangers.


    Sure, it's cool, but I gotta ask why I would be stick clipping on an ice climb?

  • Wooden Hangboard - Metolius
    Why is it they make such loud and obnoxious colors for hangboards? It appears the manufacturers are aiming them for gyms and home-wall owners, but often times this is not the case. When wifey threatens to send your neon pink and purple hangboard packing, get one of these - a tasteful, all-wood hangboard. Easy on the skin, hard on the tendons.

On the Fence:


You know, sometimes great innovations can be a huge leap forward in climbing, and other times, they may be more trouble than they are worth. The following is a list of gear offerings that may or may not send the climbers of the world in to the 5.16 range.

  • Link Cam - Omega Pacific
    I knew you were looking for this in the "best of" list, but the fact is: until I physically try it out on real-life scenarios, I can't tell you one way or another if this is a good thing or not. When we saw the booth, I immediately grabbed the Link Cam and pulled it out of the display flaring crack. "It's so LIGHT!" I couldn't help but exclaim. The reps sat there smiling smugly. They were fully aware of the discussion s on RC.com, but they want their gear to speak for itself. Again, I took out my trusty .75 Camalot and compared. They are about equivalent, or the Link Cam may be a bit lighter.

    It is also lower profile than I imagined it would be. It has an interesting potential in small placements and aid. They engineered the lobes to fit in the middle of one another to take any kind of horizontal torquing a fall or an aid use might put on it. Again, I'd have to see it in action to see if the steel connections still maintained their shape after bounce testing or falls.

    The other problem I had was that the sample crack they offered was flaring, which is an awesome use of this cam. Even so, I had a hard time getting a placement I was happy with - even with the rep assuring me the placement was good. He says that like with all innovations, it is going to take some time to learn how to use before it becomes standard.

    If the Link Cam does prove to be as versatile and wonderful as it appears to be in the literature, it may replace all other cams on your rack - forget ideas about these being primarily for anchor building. They'll be producing other sizes after the public release of the Link when demand merits it.

  • Super Cam - Metolius
    No, this is not the Fat or Power cam, it's a cam with only one true lobe. The other lobe is made to rotate about 270 degrees, ensuring a stable placement because you've only got one lobe to worry about tipping out. It eclipses the two largest Power Cams (9 and 10) with its range. The trigger prototype is made out of kevlar string, though traditional wire may show up in the marketed one.

    The asymetricality (is that a word?) of this cam makes it difficult to place, and the rep freely admitted that it would take some getting used to. Getting used to a specialized cam is what makes me put this on the fence. That, and the fact that the trigger bar ends up closer to one side of the crack, which I imagine will make it difficult to both place and clean. Time will tell.

  • Revolver -DMM Wales
    You've seen the ads for that slightly greenish biner with the spinning pulley part, right? Well, this biner isn't green. It does, however, have a fascinating pulley action that took DMM two years to develop. The premise behind it is simple - weight is an issue, including rope weight. By reducing biner-created friction, your leads will be smooth and effortless.

    All well and good, but again, this is an innovation that needs to be field tested to recommend. The biner is heavy (the design required a lot of metal at the pulley location) compared to most, but it is proponed to reduce rope drag between 40-47%. But at what cost? The biners are $25 a piece, and while the rep assured me that even one on a long runner on a trad climb would make a huge difference, I'm skeptical. Rope drag just isn't an issue most of the time for me.

    When I first saw this, I wondered why they didn't create a locking version, as this has definite top rope possibilities; I was assured that it was in the works. The ideal use for it appears to be wandering trad routes and sport climbing. At the staggering cost per biner, as well as the added weight of the pulley and stablizing metal, I wonder at the true benefit of the perceived improvements.

  • Light and Fast Collection - Mammut
    I'm sorely disappointed that I didn't get an appointment with Mammut, as they had two very interesting products on display at the show as part of their "light and fast" campaign.


    Well, it may look cool, but the fit of that harness could use some work, the dummy's falling out!

    On your left, we have the dyneema sling harness. Padded in all the right spots, light and thin dyneema everywhere else. Is is comfortable? Is it practical? Do you feel safe with it? I have no idea. I know, I suck.

    The cut out shoes are an interesting concept. The ones pictured I believe are women's shoes. There is a blockier cut out one with less rounded angles that appears to be the men's version. They look like stylish Mary Janes, don't they? It does appear to alleviate the problem of hot shoes (all that black rubber), and it seems to protect the foot where contact is likely. Am I getting in an off-width with those suckers? Heeeck no, but I might run up a sport climb.

  • FX Rubber - 5.10
    Like Black Diamond, 5.10 couldn't be satisfied with their rubber being the most favored on the market. Evolv has been giving their Stealth C4 rubber a run for the money with the latest incarnation of Trax rubber, but 5.10 is unveiling a new rubber they say is going to last 1.5 times longer than Stealth and offers a little more security on friction. Is it possible? We'll just have to see.

  • "Range Finder" Markings on Cams - Metolius
    Okay, so I had to ask the rep, "You have to know that a lot of people snicker at your pretty colored dots on all your cams, what do you say to that?" Safety was his reply. The concept is that manufacturer's specs on the maximum and optimum camming ranges on cam devices vary. Metolius went ahead and made their range obvious to the user. "Green is a bomber placement, yellow is marginal, but if you toss in the next size up, you know it will be good," he said.

    That said, I'm still skeptical. Climbing isn't for idiots. If people can't figure out optimal placements without eyeballing a colored dot, they shouldn't be climbing trad. He says the guiding services love it, and this I can see. Vague percentages aren't nearly as educational visually as the Range Finer markings.

  • Cinch - Trango
    This is another piece of gear I never got a chance to really look at, but it appears to be rather handy.

Worst of:


Here's some stuff that just made me laugh and laugh when I saw it. Prove me wrong.

  • "Descent" Shoe - 5.10
    They only showed it to me because it was a prototype. 5.10's trying something different, and I appreciate that, really I do. But a "descent" shoe?

    They are designing this shoe to have sticky rubber sole with an eva midsole at the heel, and light, mesh uppers to stack flat and weigh little for uncomfortable descents when your climbing shoes might kill a little too much and your approach shoes won't do the job. With elastic that keeps them together, they should stay flat and light and out of the way compared to most approach shoe designs.

    Okay, that sounds great, but the practical application of this is somewhat wanting, I think. Does this mean I need to carry THREE pairs of shoes with me on my next climb? Perhaps there's a place for these if you've got a 5.11 alpine climb with a 4th class descent and weight is an issue, but this appears to be a waste of 5.10's time.

    5.10's response to my reaction? "Well, it's only supposed to sell for $49.99." That should get me a new cam. Prove me wrong, 5.10.

  • Elete - Elete Water
    The Liberty Mountain rep handed me a sample of this "electrolytes in an eye dropper bottle" and told me it was flavorless, to be added to a bladder. Apparently distance bikers and runners are swearing by it. But is it simply a placebo?

    While I haven't done any kind of proper testing on it yet, I can tell you this, if you put a drop on your tongue in the middle of a sushi dinner, you'll be sorry. It's not tasteless in concentrate. Yee gads!!!

So that's it for the new and different list. There were certainly a ton of new models of shoes, expanded choices for women, and even gear innovations that I have decided to skip. Wondering about a piece of gear you've heard about? Let me know. I'll be happy to try my best to review it. Here's to 2005!
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