Tuesday 17 July 2012

Friedrichshafen Thoughts

Outdoor shows are strange places. In vast, hot, artificially lit, windowless halls of concrete and steel little stands are built and filled with gear designed to keep users comfortable and safe outside in the real, natural world that can only be seen in the pictures of mountains and forests decorating the stands. This year at the giant OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen I camped just a few minutes walk away from the exhibition centre along with hundreds of others, including colleagues from TGO magazine. Sleeping in a tent and waking to bird song and the smell of wet grass (it rained every night) added a touch of reality. One morning I looked across the packed tents to see distant jagged peaks rising into the sky, the edge of the Alps, the real world. Then I grabbed my shoulder bag and cameras and headed off into the show, to spend the day out of sight of the mountains but in constant contact with gear designed for climbing and living in them.

For two days I tramped the halls, visiting a succession of stands and seeing huge amounts of gear. Even so I missed much. Some themes became obvious though as the stands flashed past. Colour for one. Bright colours – sky blue, pink, orange, yellow – that repeated from company to company on everything from boots to packs. Trail running was another theme, with so much footwear and clothing aimed at it that you’d think it was the most popular outdoor activity. Light weight continued from past shows, though as before what is considered light varies enormously. Check the weights not the description!

So did I see anything of any real interest? Yes, I did. Detailed descriptions will appear in the September TGO (with some information on the TGO website before then) but here’s a taster. (There’s also some show reports from Daniel Neilson on the TGO site now).

In footwear there were some curious shoes from Teva called TevaSphere with a sole claimed to perform better on all types of terrain plus, from Hanwag, some boots for anyone with bunions, inevitably to be known as Bunion Boots. The Ecco Biom boots that won the Scandinavian Outdoor Award were also on show.

The most exciting tents were almost identical to the Terra Nova Laser models. Why exciting? Because the Wild Country Zephyros Lite 1 and 2 person tents are around half the price of the Lasers yet weigh only a little more and look, to my eye, just as good  (better in one respect as the fiddly pole sleeve has been dispensed with). Also very light is the 880 gram 2 person Nordisk Telemark 2 Carbon tent. Away from these ultralight backpacking tents Crux showed a single-skin mountaineering tent, the X1 Assault, made from a carbon incorporating fabric claimed to minimise condensation.

New ideas in sleeping bags would seem unlikely but two companies had come up with them. Nemo showed the unusual-looking Wave bag that is very curvy and designed to allow comfortable sleeping on your side or any other position. Cascade Designs had sleeping bags with straps underneath to secure them to sleeping pads as with quilts. These are full bags though. Other bags looked more conventional. Of these I particularly liked Lightwave’s first down bags as they are ultralight and the quality looks superb.

Montane launched their first packs at the show last year. For 2012 they have expanded the range with a bigger pack, the lightweight Grand Tour 55, that has some interesting features. Other good looking lightweight backpacking packs came from Arc’teryx.

In stoves there were two that I’m looking forward to trying. Primus has completely redesigned the EtaExpress with a windscreen that fits properly and a wider, lower profile pot while MSR has finally made a smaller version of the powerful Reactor.

Whilst there are plenty of new colourful base and midlayers in clothing it was two shell jackets that really caught my eye. In Gore-Tex Active Shell Berghaus has designed a jacket, the Vapour Storm, with the most thorough venting system I’ve ever seen. In Neoshell, my current favourite waterproof fabric, Rab has a new lightweight jacket, the Myriad.


  1. Thanks Chris, most interesting. What is the mat under the Nemo bag. Is it also Nemo or is it a new Exped going off the valves?

  2. Thanks Chris,for the update. I saw the Wild Country tents a couple of weeks ago at an TN Open day which a few bloggers attended(must write that up now the embargo is off!). They look great for the price indicted to us and will help many new backpackers to get a good tent from the start. I also like the look of the Hoolie 2 Tunnel tent as well from Wild Country.

  3. Hi Chris,
    I liked reading about your visit to this outdoor show. Isn't it a bit late in the season to have a show like this ? If the show were held 3months earlier that would be 3 months more sales?

  4. Hi Alastair, the outdoor trade works much farther ahead than that! This show was for gear for spring/summer 2013.