Ben with Mystery Ranch was nice enough to talk to a few of us for almost half an hour about their packs, and it was very informative. I’ve always thought of their products as heavy and expensive – which they are, for the most part. But seeing the packs and hearing how 80% of their business is not to recreational users brings that in to perspective. They’re designed to fit well, carry well, and survive in very abusive environments. Mystery Ranch packs are also sewn in the US, which adds some cost over moving production to a factory in China. They had their existing airbag pack (the 42L Blackjack) and a smaller prototype model on hand, and it’s clear that they’re designing a functional pack first, and then figuring out how to add an airbag, rather than designing an airbag pack and trying to add functionality later. Weight (7.8lb) and price ($975) is fairly competitive with other bags on the market, so the “expensive and heavy” stigma isn’t necessarily appropriate. Definitely something I’m considering, as airbags become more pervasive in the market.
Our first stop Saturday morning was at Mammut, who is expanding their line of airbags next year. The system is fully removable and can be swapped between other bags in the line, with several packs ranging from 20L to 45L. The 45L even has back panel access, which makes it the first airbag pack I’ve seen with that feature.
After Mammut, we wandered over to Outdoor Research to check out next year’s outerwear. They gave FOBP a great deal on some down jackets this year (Lauren and I both got the Virtuoso, and are quite fond of them), so I had high hopes for their upcoming line. Their sidecountry line appears pretty well thought out and durable, with some features I haven’t seen before. The wrist cuff can wrap around to form a thumbhole over gloves, to better keep sleeves up.
One of their more heavily insulated pieces has a build-in hide-away balaclava, good for those windy above-treeline days.
From the “keepin’ it real” files comes pull-in with a set of tuxedo base layers. There was also a version with a denim-look.
I’ve been intrigued by Fischer’s vacuum-molded boot shells, and they’re now at the top of my list for replacement ski boots. Several different last sizes each with 5mm of room to move in either direction to mold perfectly to your feet. I’ll be surprised if more of the industry doesn’t start moving this way.
Kastle skis are still costly and nothing on their walls stood out or showed much innovation, though they have added nail polish and back scratchers to their lineup.
I spent quite a while over at La Sportiva, and was soundly impressed. In addition to their $3000 full-carbon fiber 534g/boot race boots, they’ve got a ~1150g boot under $900. The display says 950g but they changed the construction method to keep price reasonable, which brought the weight up a bit. More on those coming from the on-snow (I loved them).
I knew that La Sportiva was importing and rebranding a tech binding, but was not aware that it has an adjustable toe release value. Intriguing but still pricey at $750.
Their skis have been well-received, with solid shapes and light weights in the Hang 5 (powder ski), High 5 (all-around), and Lo 5 (which looks great for mountaineering to me) as well as some absurdly light rando race skis. New this year is a full line of backcountry-oriented apparel. Of note was an 11oz hardshell jacket, and an 18oz pair of yellow pants which include a beefy edge guard at the ankle.