Of the three big pushes coming from The North Face in the fall of 2013, we’re perhaps most excited about the brand’s new insulation innovations. ThermoBall ain’t the sequel to Skyfall; It’s a synthetic insulation made in concert with Primaloft, providing spherical patches of insulation designed to mimic the structure of down, trapping heat within small air pockets. This also makes it highly packable, and will insulate even when wet. The insulation on the ThermoBall Full-Zip Jacket ($199, pictured) is equivalent to that of a 600-fill down jacket of similar weight. ProDown—TNF’s proprietary water-resistant down—will also be introduced this fall, boasting products that will stay dry and full of loft for up to 100 minutes, and will be found in such products as the 950-fill Supernatural Jacket ($449). They’ll also introduce the new ZLoft tech, which uses Primaloft One synthetic insulation with a Z-baffle shape that maximizes warmth without adding much weight or bulk in hybrid, high-performance pieces like the Zephyrus Pro Hoodie ($299).
Another big initiative in 2013? Apparel and footwear for cold-weather running, including products that’ll make use of Gore Windstopper and proprietary tech like FlashDry and Thermo3D designs to create high-performance, gender-specific temp regulation for long-distance cold-weather runners. Products like the Feather Lite Storm Blocker Jacket ($200)—the lightest fully-waterproof, seam-sealed jacket they’ve made at just 10.5 ounces—were tested by TNF athletes on the trails of Mont Blanc, so they’ll work for you just fine.
They’ll also fill out a new line for the niche outdoor scene that prides themselves on braving the harshest cold-weather environments. The new Steep Series was tested by TNF athletes in the harsh world of Antarctica, and the 19 pieces in this new line will bring forth hardcore products with tech like the new Gore-Tex Pro waterproof/breathable fabric, water-resistant down, and other features that’ll keep you sheltered from the extremes.
www.mammut.ch, nine ounces
We talk a lot here at Gearzilla about one’s relationship to gear. How one item in our arsenal suddenly becomes our go-to must-have, the one that you describe to anyone who will listen. For one intrepid, snow-obsessed tester that had been his pair of Mammut ski gloves, which were stolen last year (or…left behind after après). This season we arranged for him to test a pair of the Extreme Siams, and all of his prior allegiance is like dust in the wind. These two-chamber gloves are a worthy partner for all high-alpine applications. The “upper” chamber (read: wearing the glove with the full use of insulation) provides hearty protection against the cold, cold winter. Then, in warmer conditions or when more dexterity is needed, you slip into the lower chamber, which pushes the insulation to the back of the hand and gives you solid tactility. The palms are lined with tough sheep leather, while the outer shell keeps things dry thanks to a Gore-Tex XCR three-layer waterproof/breathable insert. The glove has been pre-curved for optimal fit, with reinforced knuckles, a wicking liner, Velcro straps at the wrist, and easy pull cords on the gauntlet-style cuffs. Pull loops make it easy to get ‘em on (even if your hand is wet), but we do wish they also had interior wrist leashes. That would make us feel safer about yanking them off while on the lift—or keep us from leaving ‘em behind after one too many.
www.arcteryx.com, one pound, six ounces
Arc‘Teryx and Gore just upped the ante with the new Caden Jacket, whichCaden incorporates new N80pX Gore-Tex Pro Shell, a more breathable version of their standard-setting benchmark fabric. The Caden’s articulated pattern mimics the posture of the ski and snowboard athlete, with a design that moves fluidly for big mountain skiing and riding. The new micro-seam technology increases breathability and reduces overall garment weight. A waterproof front zipper helps keep rain and snow at bay, plus it’s easy to use with gloved fingers. Our tester loved the hood that fits easily over standard ski and climbing helmets. The hood rotates with your head, with no blocking of peripheral vision or that suffocating feeling when its zipped up. The first-rate feature set is rounded out with zippered hand pockets, internal mesh pockets roomy enough for gloves or a waterbottle, and a discreet powder skirt that kept us dry in the deep.
This March, Princeton Tec will unveil a new outdoor/all-purpose headlamp that should hit the sweet spot for weekend warriors and backpackers looking to light up the backcountry (or brave a power outage). The design of the Vizz itself is nearly idiot-proof, with one big button—and that’s about it. Press the button once and you illuminate two ultra-bright red LEDs, press it twice and get dual ultra-bright white LEDs. You can also hold the button down to cycle through the modes, which includes a 150-lumin max-bright LED that can illuminate up to 90 feet. The Vizz is waterproof down to one meter for up to half an hour, and runs on three AAA batteries—with a built-in power meter to let you how much juice you’ve got left in the estimated 160-hour run time; a low-battery indicator also triggers when you’re down to 20 percent.
We’ve been testing Gore Running apparel for the past six months. While the brand is a top-seller in the category in Europe, it has only recently been distributed in the United States. For Fall ’13, we are excited about their new Magnitude Outfit Systems for men (the Comp Shirt and Tights are pictured above). The performance line is designed for the long-distance runner. The tights have enough compression to shape and support the quads and calves, without restricting movement. We like the new vest and jacket with Windstopper laminate for cold-weather training, as well as the reflective and neon detailing for heightened visibility after dark, great ventilation, and smartly-positioned pockets.