Talking exploratory everyday and adventure in the average life is talking for being over buying. Yet, some of the thoughts have been pushed forward by gear, and good gear makes the enjoyment of the outdoors and the readiness for adventure in the everyday much higher…
Nowhere better to find out what’s happening in that world than at the ISPO (except perhaps at the Outdoor Retailer – OR – show that also just took place ;) ). Like the OutDoor Friedrichshafen, it’s among the biggest trade fairs in the sports and outdoor sectors. Miles upon miles of stalls, two entire halls dedicated to ‘sourcing’ (which feel like one big “welcome back to China”), and stands by brands established and brand-new, large and small.
It’s always an experience, and always quite exhausting – and it didn’t help that I only had time to go there by night train and return in the night of the same day…
It basically dumbs down the Ambit 2S to only the essentials for running (but including running cadence on the wrist and training plans and guidance on the watch… which will also come to the Ambit 2 and Ambit 2S via software updates after the 2R’s release, around March/April) and brings the price point down to around €/$300 (including HR strap, subject to change).
Salomon, who again (like on the OutDoor last summer) hosted the minuscule display for Suunto at their booth, had a Sense 3 Ultra on display, and has some nice products for trail runners coming… Still find myself tempted by the SnowCross, especially now that winter has finally come.
Arc’teryx’s Endorphin collection continues without major news, but includes the Trino jacket and tights which are the next pieces I’d love to test – running clothes with Windstopper panels in front and a more breathable material in other areas, which may be a step up in the difficult balance between protection and comfort from the full (or no) Windstopper that I currently use. (The area I live in most of the time is constantly windy, and often-enough cold, so that good wind protection is absolutely essential. Take this plus a necessarily thrifty attitude, and I’m still running in Mountain Hardwear Windstopper tops which they haven’t been making for yeears…)
As it were, Arcteryx was the main draw for me because of their Veilance line, which is only too firmly in the luxury market because of the prices, but has many a piece that combines savvy urban style with technical features and materials, making it ideal for the everyday explorer. You’ll be hearing more about that in the future…
The interesting mix that the ISPO offers lies with both big and small brands that can be found.
Big or small, CW-X (my favorite when it comes to running tights due to their compressing/supporting “ExoWeb”) was there. It’s a company that has established itself very well in the USA but not here in Europe, even as compression wear for running has become more popular here. Meaning that their products are difficult to get here. (I have been in touch with them about this for a while – and there’s finally a German distributor – so it was nice to see them there and meet people hitherto only known via e-mail.)
The only problem I have with them now: The new Endurance Generator tights really do look enticing…
When it comes to wearable technology and training guidance, to continue the theme of big and small, there wasn’t just Suunto and the Ambit family (which is, by now, what it’s officially called). There was also Polar with the V800 and the Loop, of course.
(Impressions? Both pretty well wearable, though I personally have misgivings about all the life tracking wristbands. I’ll wear a watch on my wrist, a wedding band on my finger, but not any sort of wrist strap, be that Livestrong band or Loop tracker – even as I think the Loop’s capability to also track HR, provided one wear a compatible HR chest strap, is quite interesting.
The V800 seems pretty well wearable, not too bulky or big – though it’s not a small watch, of course – and with well thought-out features. The recovery taking into account constant activity, not just the training, is something that has really been missing so far. A combination like a Suunto for training and a FitBit for the everyday works to give an impression, but it’s not the same as a combined calculation… The way the display switches via a roll-in effect is rather too gimmicky for me, though; the vibration (which so many people call for the Ambits to get) rattled the watch I had in my hands in a way that wasn’t confidence-inspiring; and I suffer the problem I usually find directed at Suunto devices: when you are used to the way one brand’s devices function, another one’s devices aren’t exactly intuitive. Wouldn’t mind testing one, but I’m not DC Rainmaker…)
But then, there was also sense core. Their product is not available yet, but the “dry electrodes” they build into different wearables (from triathlon suits to mere chest bands) promise to record a 22h day of ECG data, respiration, body temperature and kinetics, with the software to analyze it and a simpler version for non-professional athletes in the works. Lots of data, and if the dry electrodes work as well as they are supposed to (without need for having them be moist, also able to record while swimming, etc.), this technology promises to be very interesting for the sports-tracking data freak.
Where the major brands put on fashion shows and had some great displays – and they are, of course, the main reason for a fair like this, it’s all about the (pretty volatile, it seems) market, after all – the real stand-out for me were the small and sometimes start-up brands that were also present.
Merino wool continued to be a major trend, but all-too-often, only for hats and not for clothing. Still nice to see, and there tends to be some interest in performance as well as environmental impacts – even as much of the wool continues to come only from New Zealand and be turned into garments only in China.
All the more interesting to also find “performance cashmere” from Scotland.
Not wool, but high-tech and attention-getting for me: the base layers from WarmWild which get a coating of bioceramics in Japan before being sewn into garments in Italy, and are supposed to keep comfortably warm or cool in a temperature range between -35C and +35C. Given my recent running, that would be just the thing…
Or, how about handmade skis in beautifully ‘furnished’ wood from Italy?
There was a lot to discover. Only too much, in fact. Too much of it is also just trying to stoke the consumerist fire and turn a quick profit – but, that’s just how and why I’ll be talking more about good gear in future, to present what’s really interesting and worth it for getting at home, not just going broke while ‘stuffocating’…