Highlights from the Mile High City

The 10 Best Products We Saw at Outdoor Retailer

February 4, 2019 Sports and Outdoors By Photo by Chase Pellerin

The first of three Outdoor Retailer shows this year went off with a bang. The OR Snow Show is North America’s largest outdoor trade show, and at the end of January, outdoor, ski and snowboard brands revealed their fall-winter 2019-20 products at the convention center in Denver for everyone from retailers and media to check out. This is the place for powerhouse brands like Patagonia, The North Face and Black Diamond to smaller brands and up and comers to launch product, host important speakers and mix and learn from each other. Our team met with over 120 brands to see what’s coming out next fall, winter and beyond.

All around the showroom floor, there were nods to the ’90s (bright pinks and neon greens) and too many anoraks reminding us that what’s old is new again. Sustainability was a big buzzword across the entire showroom floor — whether that’s a commitment to biodegradable items or mindfully sourcing and using materials like recycled wool and cotton. Many brands are turning plastic water bottles into products like blankets, sunglasses and more. Fabric-focused brands Polartec and PrimaLoft both announced their commitment to creating and using recycled materials and biodegradable gear. When ingredient companies, like these, spearhead these shifts it means there will be ripple effects throughout the entire industry because their partners will have to adapt with them.

While our brains are still ringing with all the innovative gear we can’t wait to test, these ten products were standouts. These items won our Best Of Outdoor Retailer Snow Show Award thanks to their top of the line designs, advanced technical materials and well-defined upgrades. Here are the ten that we are most excited about.

Additional contribution by Tanner Bowden, Meg Lappe, Brenden Clarke, Ali Carr and AJ Powell.

We were at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show 2019 and covered the show extensively. To see all of our product coverage, not just our award winners, you can head: here.

Cake Kalk


Our team tested the Cake Kalk last spring and loved it. It even made our GP100 list this year. The catch with this electric motorcycle is that one can only ride it off-road, not on the street. So Cake got to work, added a headlight, turn signals and a longer fender with a license plate mount, and kept everything else the same. As of March, you’ll be able to pre-order this street-legal version with a $200 deposit. The bike will cost $14,000.

Hestra Freeride CZone Mitt

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Since 1936 Hestra has been making some of the best leather gloves and mittens in the world. Based in Sweden, the brand designs insulated dress gloves, motorcycle gloves, skiing gloves and as of Outdoor Retailer, snowboard-specific gloves. The Freeride CZone is warm, water-resistant and flexible, making them perfect for snowboarding. Hestra tapped Chris Rogers, AASI national snowboard team member to test out the new trigger gloves. He loves the update with CZone membrane construction, Wolf Paw reinforcements, and special cuffs that help with wrist mobility. Look for them this fall for $160.

Patagonia Macro Puff


Patagonia’s synthetic insulation most closely matches the performance of down yet and was released initially in its Micro Puff Jacket in fall 2017. The key to that success is PlumaFill, an insulation that’s made up of down-mimicking polyester fibers secured together in one continuous, fluffy line. It made the Micro Puff remarkably warm for its weight. In 2018 Patagonia followed the release with the waterproof Micro Puff Storm, and for 2019 it’s releasing a thicker, warmer version called the Macro Puff. Warmth isn’t the only element that makes the Macro different than the Micro though — it’s longer and less boxy, which makes it less performance-oriented and perhaps better suited for everyday wear in cold towns and cities (as well as off the grid).

Igloo Recool Biodegradable Cooler


Igloo has been a pillar in the cooler world long before Yeti came to be. If your childhood involved a Playmate cooler, you are a part of the Igloo team. While the brand has grown and changed with time, we’re pretty excited about the cheap cooler the brand just dropped. The Igloo Recool cooler ($10) is biodegradable, reusable and holds up to 20 cans. While this likely won’t be the best cooler of the year, it is a huge step toward eliminating styrofoam single-use coolers that are found at grocery stores and gas stations. As more and more cities ban styrofoam (see: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle), the Recool cooler might just become the new standard.

Black Diamond Vision Down Parka


Down jackets have been a cornerstone item for any outdoor kit since the 1930s. While the concept hasn’t changed — to create an extremely warm, lightweight and packable layer — they’ve undergone a lot of changes in the decades since. This year, Black Diamond’s Vision Down Parka is the one to get excited about. With 800-fill, moisture-resistant down, it’s the warmest insulated jacket the brand has made yet. It includes gusseted arms for an increased range of motion and six pockets.

But the coolest thing about the Vision is its proprietary shell fabric, which is made in Japan with a liquid crystal polymer that makes it incredibly tear-resistant. It’s so hard-wearing that Black Diamond’s factory could barely cut it. The Vision applies to activities other than climbing too — a jacket this warm and durable is ideal for hiking, camping, skiing and casual wear, also.

POC Obex SPIN


Backcountry ski and snowboard emergencies are often met with unconscious victims. This helmet is equipped to deliver vital information when it’s not otherwise available. That’s because the POC Obex Backcountry SPIN has Near Field Communication (NFC) chip coordination. Just upload your health information (medicines, blood type, allergies) to the My Ice Info AB app and anyone with a smartphone (and the app) will be able to access it, making rescuers’ jobs easier. If someone is injured, the chip will enable the helmet to talk for you. It will be out in September for $250.

K2 Mindbender


After some recent business turbulence, K2 showcased an entirely remade line of freeride skis called Mindbender. And while nearly every ski brand at Outdoor Retailer Snow Show 2019 exhibited skis with slight variations for the coming year, K2 was the only one with a completely new collection. The Mindbender skis range in size from a 116-millimeter waist width for deep snow to 85-millimeters for bulletproof groomers and focus on torsional (lateral) rigidity while maintaining tip to tail flex. Take it as a signal that the brand is remaking itself through its core product: skis.

Airblaster Ninja Suit Pro


The Ninja Suit Pro is your one-stop shop for a winter base layer top and bottom. It’s a full body suit made from four-way stretch merino blend complete with a hood, thumb holes and a just the right amount of pockets. For the Pro, Airblaster added Schoeller to their original Ninja Suit design at the shoulders, arms and shins. This durable material means your pack and boots won’t wear through your base layer while touring. The drawstring waist keeps the suit in place, while the 350-degree waist zipper allows you to use the bathroom without having to take off your jacket. It comes in this all grey as well as a black and marine blue combo.

Weston Carbon Backwoods Splitboard


The Carbon Backwoods Splitboard comes pretty damn close to being the lightest splitboard on the market at 5.84 pounds. But, being the lightest wasn’t their goal. “We wanted to shave weight because that’s the main concern with backcountry travel, but we didn’t want to compromise durability,” said Weston’s marketing manager, Sean Eno, of the carbon fiber board. Based on their best-seller, the Backwoods Splitboard, the new model is 1.3 pounds lighter and combats chatter inherent to carbon with aluminum stringers. It’s also smartly cambered underfoot to maximize contact area with the snow during skinning for better grip. And, we’re applauding the price: it’s at least $300 less than the competition at $1,099.

Hydro Flask Journey Series


We tested the 20-liter hydration pack in a Flywheel class in Denver and were impressed with its comfort and ease of use. While we wouldn’t recommend it for an indoor cycling class, our team has a feeling this new backpack will shine on the hiking and biking trail. The 10- ($165) or 20-liter ($200) packs will keep water cold for up to four hours. Hydro Flask cut its teeth on insulated water bottles, mugs, growlers and then soft-sided coolers; now it’s tackling the hydration pack market. Check these out starting this April.

While a select few pieces below are available for purchase now, most of the gear featured here will be available for purchase in 2019.

Editor’s Choice: The Best of Outdoor Retailer Winter 2018

These are the ten products that made us excited for the outdoor industry and the year ahead. Read the Story

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