Summit County Gear Guide: Gear Junkie explores ‘Future Gear’ from The North Face
On a recent Wednesday in Alameda, Calif., in a messy product lab at The North Face’s new headquarters campus, a work group gathered around a pile of gear. The topic was innovation as well as subtle tweaks to the company’s 2014 product line. As a journalist invited to snoop around on the campus, I was allowed a look at a dozen products to be released in 2014 and beyond. Here are my top five favorite “future gear” picks.
Origami Design: Fuse Uno Jacket
It looks like a standard shell jacket. But the Fuse Uno Jacket was cut from a single piece of fabric then folded and stitched into shape intricately like a paper swan. The company showed me the production pattern for the Uno — the jacket begins its life as a single, flat sheet of fabric. The single-ply waterproof/breathable material requires less material waste to make. The result? One of the most minimal shell jackets ever seen. Expected retail price: $399; Release date: October 2014
iPad In Your Tent: Kaiju 6
Like it or not, technology is becoming ubiquitous in the outdoors. A family tent for 2014, the Kaiju 6 model, comes with see-through mesh pockets made to fit an iPad. You can lie down in a sleeping bag and watch a movie. Cartoon-loving kids, I am betting, will be most excited about this upgrade to the family camping experience. Expected retail price: $399; Release date: January 2014
Divergent Sleeping Bag Design
The staple mummy-style sleeping bag still has its place. But going forward look to new shapes, different insulation types, zipper-less creations, and special features built to encourage comfort and warmth. One bag design I saw mixed goose down with a segmented synthetic layer of fill for better performance where the fluff gets pressed flat against a sleeping pad. Winter-rated bags will offer wider designs and more room to stretch out and even sleep on your stomach or side. Expected release dates: 2014 or 2015
Inside-the-Pack Climbing Gear Stowage
A to-be-released backpack for ice climbing gives slots for axes, ice screws, a rope, runners, and other gear inside its main compartment. A separate crampon pocket keeps the sharp footwear compartmentalized and away from other gear. An organized system is the result of this un-named pack’s design, as well as a clean exterior for no-fuss, no-snag hikes into a crag or frozen icefall. Expected retail price: $199; Release date: Late 2014 or 2015
Venting Runner’s Jacket: Stormy Trail shell
Made to better utilize the airflow a runner generates as he or she moves, this cold-weather jacket, called the Stormy Trail, has elasticized cords hidden inside its hand pockets. When tugged the cords tighten a baffle and create a “flow chamber” of sorts to vent a runner in motion. It works by sealing off the waist, forcing air to rise up the back as a person strides ahead instead of fluffing out at the waist. An open vent on the jacket’s back then lets the air and body heat escape, which would otherwise cause a runner to sweat and get soaked on back. Expected retail price: $165; Release date: July 2014
Stephen Regenold is the founder of GearJunkie.com
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