OR Gear Trends: Baselayers Get A Boost

New fabrics, technologies and wool lead the wintersports layering news at Outdoor Retailer's Winter Market show.
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New fabrics, technologies and wool lead the wintersports layering news at Outdoor Retailer's Winter Market show.

SmartWool's NTS Zip T

Although skis seem to have a dominant direction at Winter Market—rocker and width—that’s not the case with wintersports apparel. There, manufacturers are pursuing a range of improvements as varied as the colors on their racks. From new moisture management technology to style upgrades and varied fabrics, the only unifying theme here is that most of the attention is centered on products meant for aerobic activities, like running and Nordic skiing. Keep the user dry, warm and, of course, odor-free to keep them happy it seems.

Here are the key trends in this category:

Better Performance: The demands for more-and-better technology are never-ending, and Mountain Hardwear is answering the newness challenge by revamping 65 percent of its apparel line for fall 2011. Leading the changes is its new DryQ Active three-layer knit, which is meant for fast-forward, cold-weather sports. The close-fitting women’s Effusion hooded jacket (MSRP $200), for example, is 100-percent waterproof, according to Mountain Hardwear, and employs stretch materials for flexibility. “It is waterproof and breathable with tons of stretch and is super lightweight,” said Tracey Mammolito, a designer/brand manager with Mountain Hardwear.

At Salomon, the new EXO XR compression tights (for running or as a skiing base layer) uses Sensifit technology, which reportedly helps reduce cramping and muscle soreness (to reportedly save energy and prevent fatigue), while also promoting quicker recovery (MSRP $85). Helly Hansen (#34094) also steps things up on the performance front with its new Dry Revolution collection, which is constructed with the company’s new softer LIFA fibers. Helly Hansen also debuts its first-ever winter training collection for running, cross-country and skate skiing. The line includes the Pro Winter Training Jacket (MSRP $250) and Pro Winter Training Pant (MSRP $125), both made with waterproof/ breathable protection

Sharper Looks: Who doesn’t want good-looking long johns? SmartWool (#32089), which has led the market in sprucing up base layer colors, patterns and features, is back at it this season. For fall 2011, the company tweaks its lightweight men’s and women’s base layer collections. For instance, raglan sleeves and an offset zipper grace the Women’s Lightweight Asymmetrical Zip (MSRP $85). “We saw a gap in the marketplace to bring a fashion element into a performance piece,” said Scott Belisle, SmartWool’s product line manager for apparel and accessories. SmartWool's design department also took a hard look at what makes an attractive fit—and reshaped the men’s and women’s silhouettes to match its findings. “We did a huge fit study in 2010 and considered how we could bring in body-enhancing design for a variety of body types,” said Belisle. “For the men’s line, we wanted to have that accentuation of strong shoulders, an upside-down triangle with a narrow waist. On the women’s side, we focused on an hourglass shape.”

Wool Gains More Ground: Merino continues to extend its foothold in the wintersports apparel category. This season, Rab (#7007) debuts a base layer line styled from merino and Cocona. Product offerings include the men’s and women’s MeCo 165 Long-Sleeve Zip Tee (MSRP $90) and the men’s and women’s MeCo 120 Pants (MSRP $60). The “MeCo” blend used in Rab’s garments reportedly dries five times faster than traditional merino, while providing the same great odor-resistance. Patagonia (#13027), meanwhile, introduces a completely redesigned merino collection for fall 2011, with fabrics that the company says are more durable and eco-friendly than the previous line. Everything from the Men’s Merino 2 bottoms (MSRP $70) to the Women’s Merino 3 hoody (MSRP $125) incorporate a fabric that is a blend of 80-percent chlorine-free Australian merino and 20-percent recycled polyester. According to Patagonia, this blend gives the fabric a very high tear strength, resists pilling, and boasts high shape retention.

—Erinn Morgan, ORD powered by SNEWS (www.snewsnet.com/ordaily)