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Jul 27, 2015

Top Gear at Outdoor Friedrichshafen 2015

The Outdoor Journal lists top eight gear brands to look out for, from the 20th European outdoor trade exhibition at Friedrichshafen, Germany.


Trivik Verma

Lesser known brands make their mark with creative leaps in technology for longer and safer experiences.

Versant 60L
Versandt 60L expedition pack
1. Versant 60L Versant Backpacking Pack

By Thule

A carefully designed technical hiking backpack, the Versant series packs are designed for long hikes and expeditions. They are gender specific and available in three sizes (50L, 60L and 70L). The bottom quarter of the pack is lined with a waterproof fabric, ideal for river crossings. Their key is customization, with numerous combinations for very different conditions in the mountains. Thule recently entered the outdoor backpacking industry and has successfully made a stand among top brands with bags ranging from bike attachments to expeditions; all designed with durable and light weight fabrics. Thule-Erik Thulin’s idea to provide fishermen with transport solutions, first in 1942-is primarily known for carriers for surf boards, cycles and ski equipment.

2. Polarmond ALL-IN-ONE tent

By Polarmond AG

Polarmond All-in-One Tent
Polarmond All-in-One Tent

The Polarmand technology is a 3-in-1 tent that is designed to have assortments for a sleep shell and bivouac module. It is targeted at extreme expeditions. All components of the tent system can be used separately. The sleep shell is designed to withstand up to -30°C and is marketed as a “self-warming tent” that regulates temperature and integrates a dehumidification management system. It has a light construction of 4.1 – 4.5 kg (depend on the liner insulation thickness) and does not use down in any of its parts. Polarmond is a Swiss startup set up with the help of researchers from EMPA (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology).

Agro | Vegan rock climbing shoe
Photo: Trivik Verma | Agro – Vegan rock climbing shoe
3. Agro V

By Evolv

The Agro is a high end bouldering shoe devoid of any leather material. Their new Tension Power System (TPS) pulls the forefoot from three different positions. It is light, breathable and exceptionally soft for a midsole-less shoe. Evolv is evolving into an eco-friendly rock climbing shoe manufacturer; Steph Davis is designing a new vegan version of the Evolv Addict.


4. Rind Jacket

By Klättermusen

Rind Jacket
Rind Jacket
Rind Pants
Rind Pants

Klättermusen (KM) 2016 collection is inspired by the weather in Jämtland, Sweden. A day in this town, situated at the mouth of the North Sea wind, can experience anything from a hailstorm to soaring sunlight. Their collection is a testimony to these weather conditions with gear that is waterproof and light weight, easily removable and compresses in a small backpack. Rind products have taped seams and a 2.5 layer breathable fabric that is recycled from fishing-nets. The series is free from any fluorocarbon. Other products from this brand are so versatile and durable, “customers don’t want a new range. Instead they want the old product fixed even after excessive use”, Malin Nilsson told The Outdoor Journal at the KM booth.

Race 2.0 Ultra light sports glasses
Race 2.0 Ultra light sports glasses
5. Race 2.0

By Julbo

The Race 2.0 version has side vents for better ventilation and prevention of fog. Its temples curve to provide a snug fit on any sized skull. The nose grip enhances the fit by adjusting the rubbers attached to it according to the shape of the nose. It is extremely light weight, a huge relief for long distance runners.

6. Camalot Ultraight

By Black Diamond

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This version shaves 25% weight from the Camalot camming device used for traditional climbing. A continuous loop of dyneema core replaces the steel cables in the shell of the traditional Camalot. Trigger wires are reinforced with plastic after shrinking them. Cams can add a lot of weight for long trad climbs. This is going to be a welcoming surprise for climbers around the world and perhaps allow cam manufacturers to completely revolutionise the cam industry. Black Diamond was initially called Chouinard Equipment, when climber Yvon Chouinard started selling hand-forged pitons in Yosemite.

7. Super Leggera DDS

By Dachstein

Super Leggera | Hiking boot
Photo: Trivik Verma | Super Leggera hiking boot

The Super Leggera has a knitted upper body, meshed using a flexible fabric that employs an interplay of tensile and compressive tissue zones. The boot fits like socks and is incredibly light weight compared to any other similar shoe grade on the market. The sole integrates Vibram’s Motion Flex Sole technology, making walking on rocky surfaces seem effortless. The company was established in 1925 after a successful shoemaker’s workshop, getting its name from the famous Dachstein mountain region in Austria.

Gecko Sleeping bag | Plant-oil based nylon fabric
Photo: Trivik Verma | Gecco Sleeping bag made from a plant-oil based nylon fabric
8. Sleeping Gear

By Yeti

The sleeping tent gear set (mat, sleeping bag, tent) fits in a day backpack of 20L. Its combined weight is less than 1500 grams. Yeti is focusing on designing light weight breathable down packs for sleeping bags, tents, and camping mats. Their newest Gecko sleeping bag is eco-friendly, with a 100% recycled polyester lining and is filled with light weight down in their factory in Germany. Their unique Gecco fabric is based on renewable plant oil extracted from the non-food Ricinus plant. Yeti has renewed its brand focus in the recent years, committing to the lightest camping gear available.



Image courtesy : Outdoor Friedrichshafen 2015 Press Release

Feature Image : Trivik Verma

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Jan 22, 2019

Painting On-Piste: James Niehues is Skiing’s Cartographer

Illustrator James Niehues has produced exquisite, hand-painted trail maps for ski resorts as far afield as Portillo, Chile, and Vail, Colorado since the late 1980s. His crowdfunded coffee table book just became Kickstarter’s most successful art-illustration project ever.



Kela Fetters

If you’ve ever unfolded a ski resort trail map and plotted your day on the mountain, you’ve probably got James Niehues (pronounced “Nee-hews”) to thank. He doesn’t throw backflips and won’t feature in the next Warren Miller film, but he’s arguably the most ubiquitous name in skiing.

James Niehues in his home studio in Parker, Colorado. Photo by Lindsay Pierce Martin.

The map-maker/artist extraordinaire goes by Jim, and he’s illustrated almost 200 ski resorts worldwide in resplendent detail. Equal parts art and atlas, his work effuses a passion and idiosyncrasy undeniably compatible with the world of snowsports. Every meticulously painted evergreen and the careful shading of cliffs and gullies are evidence of Niehue’s commitment to verisimilitude. In April of 2018, Jim and a team of innovators got the idea to curate a hardcover coffee table book to showcase his life’s work of ski cartography. The campaign hit Kickstarter in November 2018 with a goal of raising $8,000. As of the project’s January 2019 deadline, 5,196 backers had pledged $590,088, making Jim’s magnum opus Kickstarter’s highest-funded illustration project ever.

Niehues did not anticipate the overwhelming response. “That last day, we were going absolutely crazy. Half a million! I couldn’t believe it!” he exclaimed. “I knew there were some real trail map nuts out there, but I was surprised by the amount of people.” The enormous success of the Kickstarter campaign may have stunned Niehues, but the adulation is overdue for the undersung king of ski cartography.

First, Jim takes aerial photographs of the resort from a small plane or helicopter. Then he sketches their likeness with pencil, down to every tree’s shadow and slope’s grade change.

In the late 1980s, at age 40, Niehues began his prolific career under the tutelage of reigning ski resort illustrator Bill Brown. “I got lucky in the beginning, had good exposure, and my career blossomed—no, exploded,” he described. Though Jim had skied briefly in the Alps in the 60s on duty in the Army, he was not a snowsports fanatic when he began painting maps for the industry. Over time, he became a self-described “intermediate skier” via “on-the-job training”. His hometown hill is Powderhorn Mountain Resort, outside of Grand Junction, Colorado, and he frequented mom-and-pop Sunlight Mountain Resort in nearby Glenwood Springs with his kids. But he’s set skis down on only a handful of the nearly 200 world-class locales he’s painted, preferring to pay homage to the mountains through art rather than athletics. At age 72, Niehues has captured a global array of resorts, showcasing the splendour of the slopes in two dimensions on a 4”x9” folded map. Play ‘I Spy’ with your next trail map—you might find Niehues’s signature hidden in a copse of trees.

Next, Jim animates the landscape with colorful paint.

Maybe there’s something in Niehues’s work that can’t be captured in pixels.

It’s the Digital Age and mega ski resorts are implementing high-tech upgrades: RFID (radio-frequency identification) gates, all-mountain WiFi, and navigation apps like Vail’s EpicMix. One might fear that Niehues’s hand-drawn creations will be rendered obsolete by computer-generated designs. But he’s stayed in-demand at resorts large and small around the world. Niehues thinks that until technology improves, computers can’t compete with the accuracy afforded by the artist’s imagination. “So far, digital maps are just an artist using Photoshop. They don’t offer anything that a hand-painted map can’t.” And maybe there’s something in Niehues’s work that can’t be captured in pixels. “These maps represent the Great Outdoors. Users are there to ski and appreciate the surroundings, and I don’t think a computer-generated image offers the same connection,” he opines. Certainly, the pastel peaks of the Elk Range backgrounding Aspen Highlands or the creamy contours of New Zealand’s Whakapapa effuse a je ne se quois inconceivable of a CGI. Like Bill Brown before him, Niehues wants to preserve the tradition of homespun ski maps. His own protégé, illustrator Rad Smith, is a CGI guyNiehues is mentoring him in hand illustration. In an increasingly digitized world, Niehues’s maps epitomize the indispensability of handicraft.

Jim in his studio.

“It doesn’t feel like a job—it’s like a hobby on steroids”

Though he’s been thinking about retirement for the past several years, Niehues just can’t bring himself to put the paintbrush down. “A ski resort will call me up, and I just can’t resist the offer. I enjoy doing it; it’s a challenge and it’s very rewarding. It doesn’t feel like a job—it’s like a hobby on steroids,” he explains. In fact, one of Niehues’s current projects, Mt. Bachelor ski resort in Oregon, is a fresh challenge. “It’s got skiing on a volcano at all 360 degrees and I’ve got to get it all in one view,” he says. He’s also occupied with the post-production of his Kickstarter book. Todd Bennett, a member of the creative team behind the campaign, says the project is in its concept design and layout phase. The finished product will include a story component orchestrated by writer Jason Blevins of the Colorado Sun. “Working with Jim has been a really fun fanboy experience,” Bennett laughs. He too was blown away by the massive success of the Kickstarter campaign. “We had a very humble goal of $8,000, and day one, we hit $60,000. It was awesome to see so many people interested in Jim’s story,” he says. Jim’s biographic exhibition is Open Road Ski Company’s first commercial venture, and backers can expect their hardcover editions in June of 2019. With the enormous success of his Kickstarter campaign as rocket fuel, the reigning king of ski cartography paints on.

The result is a highly accurate rendering of a world-class resort. Pictured: Telluride Ski Resort in Telluride, CO, USA. Copyright James Niehues.

For a full selection of Jim’s art, visit his website here.

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