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Backcountry Tech: Five New Products for 2016

January 11, 2016

  • by
  • Jed Doane

Whether you’re ski touring or splitboarding, getting good turns in the backcountry is strenuous work. Having the right gear makes the difference between a great day and a nightmare, especially when you’re earning your turns. Active Junky combed through thousands of new products at the 2016 Outdoor Retailer show and found five tech-laden gear choices for your backcountry adventures in 2016.

Rab Alpha Direct Jacket

Rab’s attempt at the perfect uphill jacket looks like it will deliver, with breathable Polartec Alpha Direct insulation and a light Pertex Microlight shell fabric. The result? A lightweight, packable jacket that handles most wind and chills during the ascent while providing optimal breathability when the skinning gets tough. Multiple pockets and a hood make it a standalone option for fair weather days, but for most trips just slip a waterproof shell over the Alpha Direct for the descent.

The North Face Stretch Thermoball Jacket

The wildly popular Thermoball line from The North Face is expanding to everything from boots to lifestyle pieces, but we’re especially excited about the addition of stretch fabrics. Most midlayer puffy fabrics are static and not very breathable, but times are changing with the introduction of jackets like the Patagonia Nano Air. TNF’s entry combines its proven insulation technology with new stretch outer fabrics for increased flexibility. Check out the Stretch Thermoball jacket if you’re looking for the balance of warmth and mobility necessary for backcountry travel.

Hestra Ergo Grip Active glove

Standard ski gloves can get unbearably hot during long, arduous ascents, and it’s difficult to find an ideal uphill glove with the perfect combination of protection, warmth, and durability. The new Ergo Grip Active glove combines Hestra’s supple, durable goat leather in the palm and fingers with a breathable Gore Windstopper Breeze fabric on the backhand. The result is a durable, versatile glove that keeps you comfortable at all stages of the uphill slog.

Icebreaker Ellipse Jacket

Merino wool is a popular next-to-skin and midlayer fabric for its anti-stink, wicking, and warm-when-wet performance. The Ellipse combines those attributes with lofted wool insulation in the chest area and hood to create a hybrid jacket with the optimal combination of warmth and wicking. Icebreaker uses 25% polyester in the non-lofted fabric of its Ellipse jacket for extra durability, as 100% wool can stretch out over time. These features make the Ellipse a versatile midlayer option for backcountry travelers.

Voile Speed Rail Splitboard Binding

A conversation about splitboard technology wouldn’t be complete without Voile. Their puck design has dominated the market since its inception, and is used by several splitboard binding manufacturers. For 2016/2017, they’ve upped the ante with their Speed Rail binding. The new design eliminates the often-frustrating sliding pin system that Voile bindings previously used, replacing them with upward-facing hooks and a rear latch plate that is fully compatible with standard pucks. Faster transition times and no fumbling with pins should make Voile loyalists very happy next winter.

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