2013 Trail-Running Gear Trends

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The new, hot goods from the Winter Outdoor Retailer tradeshow


This week, we made our annual pilgrimage to Salt Lake City for Outdoor Retailer (OR). Imagine if REI and IKEA joined forces and took over a convention center, and you’ll have an idea of what this industry trade show looks like: a veritable maze through puffy jackets, running mannequins and the occasional soft-serve machine.

In scoping out new trail-running goodies that the geniuses of the industry have been dreaming up, we noticed a few high-level trends.

Trend 1: Minimal Design

Though minimalist running shoes have been around for several years, we noticed a distinctive trend, industry-wide, toward lighter materials and more efficient designs. From Skechers, we’re excited to see the new GoBionic Trail (launching this spring), a colorful trail runner with an integrated tongue and low, adjustable heel-to-toe drop—4mm with the insole, 0mm without. At a scant 8 ounces for men and 6.8 ounces for women, it can be worn either barefoot or with socks.

Skechers GoBionic Trail

Many snowshoeing companies are also beginning to cater to the rapidly growing segment of athletes interested in running and racing on snowshoes—and, in doing so, are lightening and streamlining their designs. The Northern Lites Race, the snowshoe of choice for elite runners Josiah Middaugh and Travis Macy for 10-plus years, is now available as a direct-mount snowshoe, i.e. drill holes through your running kicks and mount them directly onto the snowshoes—no more hassle with bindings.

Northern Lites Race Direct Mount

… and they’re not the only ones! Louis Garneau will debut new race snowshoes with  featherweight BOA lacing, while Easton and Redfeather also showed off direct-mount snowshoes for the speed-driven.

Easton Vo2 Racing Snowshoe

Fastpacking enthusiasts rejoice: Klymit has tons of innovative, highly packable options for adventures in the mountains, including the Inertia X Frame lightweight sleeping pad (available now). The cutouts not only shave weight, but also boost your sleeping bag’s warmth by allowing natural lofting zones for the insulation to expand into.

Klymit Sleeping Pads


Trend 2: Everyone Loves UTMB!

Europe’s premier ultra, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), seems to set the gold standard for many companies when creating and testing trail-running gear; several product designers, developers and vendors told us that they use UTMB as testing ground for their gear during the development phase.

Dubbed “UTMB-compatible” by its designers, the new men- and women-specific Vapor Wrap hydration pack from Nathan (available this spring) offers plenty of features for those going the distance through treacherous terrain and capricious weather: loops to hold trekking poles, easily accessible front pocket space (and plenty of it!), integrated safety whistle, magnet to secure your hydration tube and adjustment straps to cinch down the water reservoir progressively closer to your back as you drink.

Nathan Vapor Wrap (men’s version shown here)

From The North Face, their latest winter-running apparel is trail-tested by many of their athletes at UTMB; the designers figure that if the gear works there, it will work anywhere. We’re especially excited about the Isotherm Half-Zip shirt (available fall 2013), a quick-drying, wind-blocking, ripstop base layer with merino wool blended in at the sleeves and other key areas for warmth—and a double zipper at the front to ventilate from either the top or bottom on vigorous climbs.

The North Face Isotherm Half-Zip


Trend 3: Natural Foods

Kit’s Organic bars, by CLIF

Good news for the health conscious—as well as allergy sufferers, vegans, the lactose intolerant, the gluten intolerant, Michael Pollan fans and anyone who enjoyed our “No More Gels” article on fueling with real foods: the outdoors industry is embracing more natural ways to fuel our bodies. If at mile 20, the thought of swallowing another sugary gel makes you queasy, take heart: there are more options than ever for natural, unprocessed alternatives.

Chia Peanut Butter from New York Superfoods (Two ingredients: chia seeds and peanuts)

A Few Other Can’t-Miss Items

  • This fall, Inov-8 will launch an entire line of lightweight, performance trail-running apparel and gear. In keeping with the focus on ultralight functionality Inov-8 has taken with its shoes, its expansive new line of hydration packs, base layers, wind shells, storm shells, tights, shorts and other mountain-running apparel aims to target front-of-the-pack runners.

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New trail-running apparel and hydration packs from Inov-8

  • In case you missed the memo a couple months ago, SUUNTO recently launched SUUNTO Apps for its popular Ambit GPS watch—a crowd-sourced platform for anyone, not just developers, to create apps that bring new functionality to the watch, e.g. an app that gives you real-time data on hill inclines, or one that tells you how many beers you’ve earned, calorie-wise, on your run so far. More than a thousand user-generated apps are already available, and the possibilities for more are endless.
  • Runners will enjoy Switch Eyewear’s innovative design: interchangeable lenses that secure in the frames with (strong!) embedded magnets, so lenses snap easily in and out of place. No more hassle in twisting and tweaking interchangeable lenses when light conditions suddenly change—less fumbling while you’re out on a run, and to boot, they’re easy to exchange with gloves on!

Switch Tioga Sunglasses with magnetic interchangeable lenses

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