A few key new technologies have come to light recently that are worth checking out when it comes to the outdoor products that make our sports and lives even greater, and that drive the collective outdoor-focused industries forward, from gravel biking to backcountry skiing to trail running and everything in between. I could literally do a column like this every day with the amount of amazing product pitches and press releases I receive. It’s impossible for me to do them all justice, unfortunately, I just can’t give everything the time or ink it deserves (in this economy :) but here are a few noteworthy additions to our stratosphere that have really got my attention of late.
I’m not someone who’s overly focused on tech in my workouts and adventures, but I do know when it matters to me, when it’s crucial for certain goals/adventures, and when it improves our environmental impact, and I’ve been covering these types of advancing technologies for more than 25 years. I think some people are just more tech driven and tech savvy than others, just like some people have to have their earbuds in at all times and others don’t, and that’s ok. And then there’s technology that just completely changes everyones’ lives outdoors, such as LED lighting, bluetooth, solar charging, blended Merino baselayers, as just a few monumental examples. And when you dig into bike and cycling focused technology, well that’s a whole other barrel of monkeys. Of course fly fishing, climbing, every niche sport we enjoy has its own highly specialized and ever-evolving tech — but here are a few that might be of interest. With the amount of releases I’ve been getting lately, this list is far from comprehensive, so stay tuned to my column here and follow me on Instagram for more ongoing and upcoming latest and greatest.
The world of algal-based products and technology just continues to grow and improve. While ski maker WNDR gained widespread attention for its use of micro-algae in creating bio-based plastics for use in sidewalls, they are now using their bio-resin in other product categories as well. But outside the ski world, Igloo coolers is using macro-alge to create a sustainable insulation option.
The brand was also the first to develop a biodegradable cooler, and to manufacture hard sided coolers using recycled plastic. Introduced in 2021, Igloo’s ECOCOOL hardside coolers are made in America with a recycled resin compound that repurposes post-consumer plastic, primarily derived from plastic yogurt cups and milk jugs. Igloo then released a new compact 16-Quart ECOCOOL roller cooler to expand this lineup.
For 2023, Igloo is expanding its ECOCOOL category into softside coolers — with fully sustainable cooler bags that are the first to feature BLOOM technology: an innovative, durable material made from repurposed algae. The creation of this renewable and restorative material with BLOOM aids in the removal of over-abundant and harmful algae from ecosystems around the world, resulting in clean and oxygenated water, along with cleaner air being restored to the environment.
The ECOCOOL collection of soft sided coolers featuring BLOOM Rise algae-blended and recycled EVA insulation, REPREVE (made from recycled plastic bottles) exterior and zippers, recycled aluminum hardware, and natural hemp details is available in three styles: the Cube 12-Can Lunch Bag ($39.99), Switch 24-Can Tote ($54.99) and 24-Can Backpack ($64.99). Igloo hosted its annual Eco Event with top-tier media, partners, retailers and industry leaders virtually again this year to help reduce travel-related carbon emissions, and the brand says it remains committed to its mission in becoming “the most environmentally friendly cooler company on Earth.” Igloo is 1,200 employees strong, calling a 1.8-million-square-foot, three-building facility in Katy, Texas, home, with more than 500 products sold at thousands of retailers around the globe. Born from a small metalworking shop in 1947, what began with bringing clean water to the worksite quickly moved into highly functional, best-in-class ice chests. Igloo products in some ways made the family outdoor recreation movement of the 20th century possible as taking your kids camping, fishing, tailgating, and on road trips became easier and more enjoyable as technologies improved. And now, the brand is focused on removing as much of its white styrofoam from the planet as possible. The collection can be viewed and purchased at igloocoolers.com/ecocool.
Suunto Unveils New Vertical GPS Adventure Watch
Made in Finland with 100 percent renewable energy, the new large-screen Suunto Vertical GPS sport watch is designed for outdoor expeditions and committed training. Market-leading battery life is supported by solar charging (in the solar titanium models), beating the highest global standards of toughness, detailed (and free) offline maps globally, advanced weather forecasting, and the best satellite accuracy in the market. Read on.
“As its name states, the Suunto Vertical is a watch for those aiming to keep moving upwards and onwards, always improving their potential in the outdoors. Its robustness, its size – plus the free online maps wherever you are in the world – tell you everything you need to know; this is a watch for people who live and breathe adventure,” said Petri Lehtovirta, Suunto’s Head of Product.
The detailed outdoor offline maps are globally free of charge and build on Suunto’s already advanced route navigation in the Suunto app — including heatmaps, 3D maps, and road surface type layers. In theory this gives users offline maps (and a compass) to consult no matter where they are, offering them greater safety and confidence without having to carry a phone.
Suunto Vertical packs 85 hours of continuous exercise tracking on the most accurate location tracking setting with the titanium solar variant and 60 hours with the stainless steel variant. Tour mode, which still provides accurate tracking, offers 500 hours of continuous exercise tracking. In daily mode, Suunto Vertical accompanies you for up to 60 days – in the titanium solar variant even up to one year without charging. The Suunto Vertical can uniquely connect with up to five satellite systems and up to 32 individual satellites simultaneously with dual frequency.
These iconic instruments are made in Suunto’s own factory with renewable energy and the Suunto Vertical has its carbon footprint calculated and fully compensated in a Tree-Nation reforestation project with Verified Carbon Units. During its whole lifespan the titanium solar variant creates only 6.59 kg of CO2e – the equivalent of driving a combustion engine car for 39 km. Combining Finnish design with the highest quality materials (such as sapphire glass and titanium in selected models), Suunto now offers military-tested durability validated by world-class athletes. Of course it can also serve as a trusty companion for everyday exercise, training, races and even sleep tracking and other daily functions. The big screen makes it easy to follow metrics while moving. All 95 customizable sport modes are equipped with sport-specific data screens, including everything from trail running to gravel cycling as well as swimming and spear fishing (waterproof down to -328 feet).
New to the Suunto app is Training Zone where users can follow their training load, progress, recovery, and sleep analysis and benefit from training insights from an AI-based Suunto coach. Partner services like Strava, Training Peaks, and Komoot connect you to your community and inspire competition and adventure. The Suunto Vertical will be available in eight different versions, four models built with solar charging ($839 USD) and four models built with stainless steel ($629 USD).
PEAK Ski Introduces New Ski Location Technology
Peak Ski Company and its strategic partner Pebblebee unveiled PEAK Lôc8, a first-of-its-kind locating and tracking device that will be embedded within certain models of Peak Ski Company’s 2023/24 line.
Lôc8 provides skiers the ability to “locate” their skis by connecting a phone or tablet to the PEAK Lôc8 device integrated within each Peak ski. PEAK Lôc8 is wirelessly rechargeable, and the technology is compatible with both iOS and Android platforms.
The licensing of this new technology is a result of Peak’s extensive development work with Pebblebee, a leader in technology associated with integrated tracking and locating solutions. “After years of work on the concept and the development criteria, we are thrilled to unveil PEAK Lôc8 to our community of customers and the world of skiing,” said Andy Wirth, co-founder and CEO of Peak Ski Company. “At the center of Peak’s ethos is innovation, and this announcement is the first expression of the many strategic innovations on which we are working. PEAK Lôc8 will help skiers locate their skis if lost in deep snow or if they have trouble finding them on a busy day at a resort’s base area or lodge. It also serves as a remarkably effective theft deterrent.”
Pebblebee was founded in 2013 by former Boeing military asset tracking engineers and has developed a wide range of cutting-edge products that include Bluetooth and cellular trackers, Apple FindMy MFi-certified trackers, and asset management solutions. By combining the power of IoT technology and proprietary algorithms, the company provides users with the ability to locate and manage their belongings efficiently and securely.
The concept was started when Wirth was training for a Denali expedition several years ago. Curious to understand how tracking technology might work in harsh winter environments, he duct taped a market-leading tracking device to his backcountry skis, and began to learn a great deal relative to the tracking device’s value, some of the limitations, and a host of upsides associated with this type of technology.
“While tracking and locating devices are not uncommon, the first iteration of PEAK Lôc8 is unique in that it is compatible with both iOS and Android platforms and can be easily recharged wirelessly with a single charge expected to last up to a full ski season,” says Darrin Haugen, Peak Ski Company vice president of Design, Innovation and Production. “It’s also packed with other features and compatibility, including individually controlled LEDs, NFC for claiming, left-behind alerts, and virtual fence notifications. We look forward to providing additional details on which models will feature this innovative new technology within a few months.”
Pebblebee partnered with PEAK to license their technology along with an innovative patent portfolio and bring the concept to fruition, working together to address some of the concerns identified by Wirth in his winter backcountry lab: Beehive Basin located in Southwest, Montana. “Through a joint development agreement, Peak Ski Company has established exclusive global licensing rights within the mountain and winter sports sector with Pebblebee. We’ve already commenced discussions with innovative companies in this sector and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” continued Wirth.
Recognizing that many customers seek to “leave technology behind” when they venture to the mountains, the integration of PEAK Lôc8 was very purposefully developed to be non-intrusive to the overall mountain experience. The device is embedded within the ski, under the topsheet material, and is wirelessly, externally rechargeable with a standard Qi charger.
A direct-to-consumer, high-performance ski and brand platform, Peak’s high-performance all mountain skis include the Peak 88, Peak 98, Peak 104, and Peak 110. Developed and tested in the Montana backcountry, the company has also developed a line of high-performance “sidecountry” skis, Peak SC by Bode Miller, including Peak 98SCs and Peak 104SCs. Peak says it is the first, at-scale, direct-to-consumer ski company in the United States focused on developing advanced materials, manufacturing processes, and equipment, integrating technologies into its skis with an intense cadence and a focus on performance. Learn more at www.peakskis.com.
Recyclable, U.S.-Made Aero Wheel Set
The all-new Chris King ARD44 wheels are, according to the brand, the world’s first and only recyclable aero wheels, made entirely in the USA. The ARD44 wheels were years in the making and represent Chris King’s dedication to sustainability and innovation, designed and built in collaboration with CSS Composites, pioneers in thermoplastic carbon fiber technology and inventors of recyclable FusionFiber. Offering an aero profile, low weight, unique ride feel, and a lifetime warranty, these wheels are engineered to improve your ride without leaving a huge carbon footprint.
Built to surpass the most rigorous industry standards, the ARD44 Wheelset is built around King’s industry-leading R45D hub and an aero-profiled, 44mm deep FusionFiber rim that produces a stable, responsive, and nimble ride while reducing bodily fatigue and strain on the rider due to the superior damping attributes of Fusion Fiber’s thermoplastic technology.
They say it minimizes unnecessary road feedback and vibrations, resulting in better traction and a smooth, comfortable ride that will keep riders fresher longer. “While we were fine-tuning the GRD23 and MTN30 rims, I knew developing our own road rim was the next step. To design a high-performance wheel that’s worthy of the King name is no small feat, but the moment I rode the first prototype, I knew we were on to something special/unique,” said Greg Hudson, Wheel Product Manager at Chris King.
The final piece of this puzzle is Chris King’s renowned RingDrive system, which maximizes engagement throughout the pedal stroke by providing 45 points of simultaneous engagement. King’s reputation in the industry is built on bearings that wear in, not out, coupled to RingDrive’s high engagement super-efficient core. The wheelset is aerodynamically tailored for 28mm-32mm tires — but its 25mm internal width and 30.5mm external width accommodate a broad range of tire sizes, up to 47mm. The TSS hookless, tubeless rim design simplifies installation and maintenance while optimizing the interface between the tire and rim bed. Alongside the all-new ARD44 wheelset (MSRP $2850), Chris King unveiled its new unified logo mark on all FusionFiber wheels. The GRD23, MTN30, and New ARD44 come subtly embellished with their new “KING” logo that will now be standard on all their new wheels.
Not Just Another App
AspectAvy, is an exciting new app for backcountry skiers that will be launching this Fall just in time for ski season. It’s reported that 37 people lost their lives in avalanches in 2021 in the United States: the highest death rate in backcountry recreation recorded history, and AspectAvy says it wants to provide a tool that can be used alongside proper avalanche safety training that simplifies the decision making process and helps backcountry users understand and lower their risk of getting caught in an avalanche.
We all have our blind spots, says Co-Founder of AspectAvy, Jeff Banks. “When ignored these blind spots can lead to tragic consequences in the backcountry. We help riders identify their blind spots by coaching them to avoid their biases, improve their planning and execute on processes that will effectively manage their risk.”
The app leverages research on avalanches and avalanche accidents that’s been collected over several decades. With this data, an algorithm is able to screen out 90 percent of accidents, the brand says. “We do the heavy lifting so you can focus on managing your group, the terrain and fun. AspectAvy chooses the slopes and angles that have the same risk level as everyday activities like driving.”
Bio-Based Bike Lube
Everyone has heard by now of MountainFLOW eco-wax and the brand’s biodegradable bike lube, and all the work they’ve done to prime both the ski and bike market for these types of products. I recently got samples of a similar product, Gear Hugger ECO multi-purpose lube, which the brand says is all-purpose, eco-friendly, and non-toxic with “3x the lubricating power than leading petroleum brands.” Plant-based, biodegradable ingredients make it safe for user and planet and as a 96% USDA Certified Biobased product, it’s also safe to use around children and pets. I mean, I knew I spent the last 30 years poisoning myself, in the ski tuning shed, bike shops, lots of photography chemicals and dark rooms, Phish shows, etc., but I didn’t know it was this serious. I’m really happy that products like this are commonly available now.
—Definitely Wild is a column by EO Contributing Editor Aaron Bible. He has been writing for Elevation Outdoors and Blue Ridge Outdoors, among other outdoor publications, for more than a decade, covering cycling, skiing, gear and mountain life. The opinions expressed here are his own. Follow him on Instagram at @DefinitelyWild.