There's only one way to describe the Bootlegger 3-in-1 modular pack system from Boreas—Russian dolls. That's because it's a 3-pack system in which the individual packs—30-liter Scrimshaw Dry Bag, 28-liter Hopper Day Pack and 13-liter Torpedo Hydration Bag (from outermost to innermost)—literally nest inside of each other. The straps come off and attach to each individual bag, so you can carry the whole, four-pound set on a big adventure, or just bring one for a specific activity—a rafting trip, day hike or, say, a day of singletrack downhill. Available June 2013.
When you're headed out for a short day in the backcountry—or, more likely, a few hours in the sidecountry outside of the resort's boundaries—you definitely need avalanche safety gear (seriously) but don't necessarily want the branch-snagging, weigh-you-down bulk of a backpack. Dakine has come up with a novel solution, its seven-pocketed Utility Vest. The fully-enclosed pockets are specifically designed to carry backcountry gear—shovel, radio, hydration, skis and probe—and it even has a sturdy diagonal ski carry across the back. Available Fall 2013.
For three generations, family-owned Julbo has been putting out some of the most reliable mountaineering eyewear on the market. In recent years, it's also been responsible for some of the funkiest-looking, most garish designs available (which don't suit every mountaineer). What a welcome change when it announced the release of the throwback Mythic Vermont line of glacier glasses to celebrate the company's 125th anniversary. The limited-edition sunglasses—with classic leather shields, curved and wrapped temples and all-glass lenses—are modeled after Julbo's first-ever pair, which was crafted in 1888 for Alpine gem hunters.
Trail running company Inov-8 comes hot into the apparel category with the introduction of its reversible Race Elite 200 ThermoShell. The PrimaLoft shell features body-mapped stitching to keep you cool on a long run, but warms you up when the weather turns ugly or you take a refuel break. To turn up the heat, simply turn it inside-out, flipping the wind-resistant Pertex Quantum liner to the outside and putting the PrimaLoft next-to-skin, where it delivers 10 percent more warmth. Available Fall 2013.
With the recent addition of its all-in-one Pilchuck and Hyak backcountry safety kits (including pack, avalanche shovel and probe), K2 helped lower the barrier of entry for backcountry snowboarding novices. And it's continuing that trend with the brand-new Kwicker Splitboarding System. Not only does it come with everything you need—board, boots, crampons and bindings—to ride off-piste, it also does it pounds lighter than any setup currently available. Then, thanks to a completely new binding design, it cuts transition time from splitting uphill to shredding down in half (see it in action here). And it can do it all in real on-mountain conditions, while wearing gloves. Pair the Kwicker with the Hyak for a one-stop fast ticket to untracked snow.
$1,250 for entire system, $200 for bindings alone; k2snowboarding.com
In order to address the ease of use issue, K2 designed a completely new way of attaching and locking to the Voile puck and plate system. The click-in style bindings and pinless transition design increase the speed and ease of switching from splitting to shredding modes. All this can easily be done while wearing gloves.
K2's Kwicker Splitboarding System is like a highlight reel of products built to enhance backcountry riding. Built in conjunction with Voile's proven splitboard hardware, a long-deserved evolution of K2' step-in Clicker binding design, and trick features such as Boa technology in the boots, everything here is proven to work rapidly and effectively in real on-mountain conditions.
A kind of one-stop shop for any rider looking to go far beyond the boundaries (just add transceivers, snow safety gear and a good off-piste education), this is a real mainstream commitment to accessing the untracked.
One of 2012's biggest outdoor gear stories was the development of hydrophobic down—each cluster of feathers is treated with a thin, water-repellent polymer—that won't lose its loft when it gets wet. That means you get the incredible warmth-to-weight ratio of down without it losing its insulating power in a drizzle. But Outdoor Research is pursuing a different, completely novel tack with its 850-fill down Floodlight Jacket. Its Pertex Shield shell is bonded rather than stitched, making it fully waterproof and eliminating cold spots. Available Fall 2013.
Klymit, the gear geek company known for its unconventional, lightweight products, is rolling out its LiteWater Dinghy this spring. Weighing in at just two pounds and packing down to 4.5" x 9", the polyester raft promises to be one of the smallest boats on the market. It's also one of the most affordable packrafts available, ringing in at a very reasonable $225. You won't be running big waters with the aptly named dinghy, but it should be a fine option for backpacking to a secluded lake, fording rivers on a long trek or hitting other hard-to-reach waters. Available April 2013.
Petzl's "reactive lighting" NAO headlamp was a game changer in 2012. With a built-in sensor, it "knows" where you're looking—near or far, bright or dim—and automatically (and fairly instantly) adjusts the light's power accordingly (check out this demo video). The result is a headlamp that increases battery life, helps preserve night vision and saves a lot of messing around with hard-to-locate buttons when you're on the go. Over the past 12 months, though, Petzl has tinkered with the technology, and managed to package it into two more consumer-friendly units—Tikka RXP and Tikka R+—that are 40% lighter and only about half the price of the $175 NAO (a pinnacle piece whose price limits its market appeal). Both the 180-lumen RXP and the 135-lumen R+ weigh only four ounces and come with a USB-rechargeable lithium ion and accept regular AAAs.
$86 (RXP) and $76 (R+); petzl.com
It's more than mere coincidence that Japan-based Montbell's down-filled Plasma 1000 looks sort of like a cloud. The jacket weighs in at a barely-there 5.2 ounces, thanks to its lofty, lightweight and extremely warm 1,000-fill down. As far as we can tell, this will be the first and only 1,000-fill product on the market and, to Montbell's credit, they're pricing it very reasonably, despite its high-quality, hard-to-source feathers. The Plasma 1000, which is wrapped in 7D rip-stop nylon, will be best worn as part of a layering system.
Another new backcountry tool from K2 is the Shaxe, which builds upon the company's reliable avalanche rescue shovel, giving it a removable handle and interchangeable ice axe head. It's a space- and weight-saving innovation that expands your backcountry kit without the addition of yet another tool. It's ingenious and easy to switch and, frankly, we're shocked nobody thought of it before.
For four years, SKORA has been "enabling runners to Run Real" with its laser-like focus on minimal, lightweight, zero-drop shoes. Soon it'll help runners Run Real Bright with the 360-degree reflectivity of the brand-new Phase X. The top-of-the-line sneakers resemble stylish, understated street shoes, until you shine a light—car headlights, say—on them and they glow like a disco ball, thanks to an invisible reflective covering. It's a great, smoothly incorporated safety feature for year-round runners when (sigh) nighttime hours outnumber daylight hours. Available August 2013.
Plenty of snow sports companies are producing great goggles, but it's rare to find one that's as versatile and high-quality as Scott's new Lens Change Goggle (LCG). Its easy-to-operate lens-changing system—just slide a switch on the right side of the goggle to raise and release the lens, pop it off and trade in a lens suited to current light conditions—means you can switch your specs out on the slopes, even while wearing gloves (see for yourself). The LCG also features an expanded field of view and screw-adjust cams on the frame that allow skiers and riders to adjust the fit of their goggles to their unique facial contours. Available Fall 2013.
Heads up, ounce counters! Sea to Summit is about to release the lightest backpacking sleeping bag we've ever seen. The 12.3-ounce Spark Sp1 is rated to 46º, giving it a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than almost anything else on the market. Credit DownTek's water-resistant 850-fill Ultra-Dry Down feathers, a one-third-length zipper and ultralight liner materials. This bag should be great for summer alpine trips, cycle touring and, of course, fast-and-light backpacking. Bonus: It (literally) packs down to the size of a grapefruit.