Winter innovations and ski gadgets for surviving the cold
If you're currently in a state of semi-permanent misery because of the bleak, damp cold outside your window, help is on the way. After looking at the new gear and clothing revealed at major sports shows like ISPO and SIA, as well as in the latest crowdfunding campaigns, we've found the newest, most innovative and, in some cases, weirdest new gizmos and wearables for beating the cold and frost, on the slopes and on the streets.
Vibram Arctic Grip
We haven't always been impressed with winter-specific rubber outsoles. Unless there are spikes or chains involved, winter shoes and boots do little to eliminate the fear of doing spontaneous acrobatics on the really slick stuff.
Hopefully Vibram Arctic tech will prove different. Vibram bills it as its "most advanced cold-weather gripping system ever" and says that it's designed specifically for traction on wet, slippery ice. Thermochromatic lugs change color in winter conditions to let you know the tech is at work (assuming you're looking at the bottom of your shoes).
Vibram was confident enough to bring blocks of ice to Outdoor Retailer and ISPO for testing, and the early feedback sounds promising. Arctic Grip will launch in (Northern Hemisphere) Fall 2016 on footwear from the Wolverine Worlwide group of brands, including Merrell and Saucony.
More info: Vibram
FNDN heated scarf
Built for the cold, gritty winters of Detroit, Michigan, the FNDN scarf wraps your neck and chin in electrically-heated micro fleece. The lithium-ion-powered heat system provides up to 4.5 hours of heat via three settings.
If a full-blown heated jacket or vest seems like too much heat or weight, perhaps this $130 heated scarf will be just the ticket.
Product page: FNDN scarf
Icebug Now4 Bugweb RB9X
Remember what we said before about never trusting bare rubber to perform a task that should be left to chains and spikes? Swedish footwear manufacturer Icebug seems to agree, offering winter shoes, boots and accessories with built-in carbide studs.
The ISPO Award-winning Now4 Bugweb RB9X combines Icebug's carbide stud traction technology, in the form of a removable "Bugweb" traction aid, with its RB9X non-slip wet-weather outsole technology. So the shoe grips effectively in snow and ice, as well as in warmer slick conditions. The Bugweb fits neatly around the outsole for a cleaner integration than third-party traction aids.
Aimed at three-season urban use, the Now4 features a casual design with water-repellent suede upper. It will launch in (Northern Hemisphere) Fall 2016 for an estimated €169.95 (approx. US$190).
Product page: Now4
SubQ Designs Jackson ABS Avalanche Airbag Jacket
Michigan-based startup SubQ Designs pulls the avalanche airbag out of the backpack and integrates it directly into a 10K/10K waterproof-breathable shell. With its multi-component storage system, you can wear the Jackson jacket alone or wear it with the included harness and secure the shovel/probe holder and ABS system. The jacket can also carry a hydration bladder and secure skis or a snowboard for the hike up-mountain. It's designed to provide a lighter, freer and more versatile alternative to airbag backpacks with more weatherproofing than layering garments like the TNF Powder Guide ABS Vest.
The Jackson jacket retails for $1,099, plus another $169 for the ABS activation canister.
Kel52 Powr wireless headset
An all-season action sports gadget that could prove handy to the likes of backcountry skiers and snowmobilers, the Kel52 Powr takes in-helmet audio to the next level. Instead of simply connecting with your smartphone for music and hands-free calling (which it does), the Powr also offers helmet-mounted access to your walkie talkie and GoPro-based audio recording for clearer action cam audio. You can also use the recorder for phone calls and other audio. Basically, all your on-slope audio gadgets get easier to use when you put a Powr inside your helmet. It's scheduled for release in (Northern Hemisphere) Fall 2016 for $139.
More info: kel52.com
Oros Orion aerogel apparel
We've seen aerogel winter outerwear before, most notably in Hanesbrands' Champion Supersuit from a few years back. Despite all kinds of touted advantages in weight, warmth and slimness, aerogel is yet to catch on. Oros is determined to get it there. After running a successful $319,000 Kickstarter campaign for its aerogel-based Lukla Endeavor jacket last March, and getting jackets shipped out later in 2015, it's back on Kickstarter with a full aerogel apparel lineup.
An ultralight, ultra-thin insulator, aerogel has a history of use in highly demanding applications like oil pipeline insulation. Oros claims that the Solarcore aerogel in its new Orion line is the first aerogel suitable for apparel, offering warmth, flexibility, breathability and durability. If you're looking to stay warm without the bulk of traditional fill insulations, aerogel might be worth a look.
Kickstarter pledge levels range from $35+ for the beanie to $275+ for the jacket, which has been redesigned from last year's Lukla.
Ravean C6 heated down jacket
If you run cold in winter, down is one of the best ways to insulate yourself. If you run really cold, though, you might want to turn on electric power. Utah startup Ravean combines those two body-warming standards in its lightweight, battery-heated C6 jacket.
Designed to keep you warm in temperatures right down to -4° F (-20° C), Ravean's C6 jacket features a three-setting core heating system that also serves to dry out the water-resistant fabric. More than just a heater, the C6 is a wearable power system that can charge your mobile phone up to six times or power the accompanying heated gloves. Ravean held a successful $1.3 million Kickstarter campaign last year and went on to offer more preorders through Indiegogo InDemand. It estimates a $349 retail price for the hooded down jacket with 12V heating system and gloves.
More info: Ravean
Kjus BT 2.0 Glove
In introducing the BT Glove, ski apparel company Kjus attempted to solve the problem of having to pull your gloves off to handle your phone by integrating a Bluetooth headset into the glove itself and making those mimed thumb and pinky phone calls a reality. The ISPO Gold Award-winning BT 2.0 adds an OLED display for even better smartphone integration.
The ISPO jury said in selecting it: "Like magic, you accept calls in the ski lift or make a call from the ski lodge, simply by holding your fingers to your mouth and ear. But that's not all, because the glove itself is wonderfully crafted and made of the best materials."
More info: KJUS
NuDown Approach compressed air mid-layers
In late 2014, we reported that NuDown had taken the torch from Klymit in developing air-insulated clothing. It showed its first styles at last winter's trade shows, and at this year's shows it highlighted an expanded 2016/17 lineup that includes the Approach mid-layer line.
The new Echo Lake Mid-Layer Vest and Lake Tahoe Mid-Layer Jacket combine a frontside of NuDown's air chamber insulation with a backside of four-way-stretch Polartec fleece. The air chambers have also been redesigned for better flexibility.
Both the Echo Lake vest and Lake Tahoe jacket are designed for three-season use in sports like skiing and hiking, and each can be worn under a shell or on its own. They'll be available for both men and women in (Northern Hemisphere) Fall 2016, with prices ranging between $200 and $300.
Zippo 6-Hour Hand Warmer
Zippo's 12-hour Hand Warmer made our list of top ski gadgets back in the 2012-13 season. At this year's SHOT show, Zippo showed a lighter, smaller version. The new 6-Hour Hand Warmer has great Zippo looks like its sibling, but offers even more flameless, odorless heat. The tradeoff is half the burn time – which you probably figured out from the name – so it's best for shorter outings, like a half-day on the slopes or an afternoon snowshoe tour. An easy-fill design and flat base provide quick, painless refueling.
The 6-Hour Hand Warmer is available now for $19.95 in buyer's choice of chrome or pearl.