I love gear. But beyond that, I love gear that finds a specific problem or annoyance inherent in an activity, and presents a solution. And when it comes to dealing with snow and cold weather, there are plenty of annoyances to be dealt with. Foggy goggles, cold fingers, cold ears, if you’ve played in the snow you know what I’m talking about. Well, there are some pretty awesome new gadgets that have hit the market in the past couple of years to deal with such problems and make your snow experience that much better. Here are some of my favorites.
Last year I got the chance to try out the Packtalk Ski, and was massively impressed by the motorcycle-radio turned ski-helmet communicator. With a boom mike and impressive software that detects when you’re talking and when you’re not, I was rolling down the mountain, jamming to my favorite tunes through the surprisingly good helmet speakers (which connected to my phone via bluetooth), and chatting it up with my buddies who could be hundreds of feet away. Check out the full review here.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Speaking of helmet comms, here’s another solution to the relatable where-are-my-friends-on-the-mountain problem. The Aleck, however, relies on an app and bluetooth connection to your phone, as well as cell signals, to stay connected. That means you can chat with friends on the other side of the mountain, no problems at all, but you’ll need a cell signal (and a charged phone) to do so. And the new app, launching Thursday November 3rd, will allow you to use your Aleck 006 to communicate with anyone using the app with regular headphones, making the Aleck app the real product here, and the Aleck 006 headset simply a convenient way to operate the software. Both Aleck and Packtalk seem like awesome options, the Aleck with a lot more functionality provided you are ok with the cell-signal limitations. It’s worth mentioning that most resorts these days have pretty decent cell coverage. I’m stoked to try the Aleck this season and see how it holds up to the hype.CHECK PRICE ON REI
There is nothing worse than a dead phone while riding snow – there goes your music, and ability to rendezvous with friends elsewhere on the mountain. And on colder days, even your deepest pocket won’t be enough to protect your phone from battery-numbing chill as you zip down the mountain. While you could load up on power banks to revive your phone once it dies, why not avoid the problem in the first place? The Phoozy promises to do just that. A SharkTank success story, this nifty gadget acts as a thermal barrier for your phone to prolong battery life in extreme conditions.
Another awesome item from Phoozy that I used a ton last season is their tablet/laptop case. Living in San Francisco means when I want to hit the slopes, I’ve got to roadtrip it to Tahoe. And if powder is hitting mid-week, I’m bringing my computer with me, and probably getting some work done from my car or the resort lodge. As such, it’s imperative that my battery doesn’t get drained by the cold. I used to just wrap my computer in a sleeping bag and hope for the best, but this insulated computer case from Phoozy gives me assured battery protection. I also was stoked to have it for summer roadtrips down to Los Angeles, when I didn’t want my electronics to overheat. To the summer/winter digital nomad road warrior, this one’s for you.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
These have got to be some of the coolest snow goggles on the market right now. First off, they’re photochromic, meaning they adapt to changing light conditions as you ski – similar to transition lenses for glasses, but way less dorky. Photochromic lenses for goggles are becoming more popular in recent years, with top brands like Smith, Dragon, and Oakley hopping on the bandwagon, so that feature in and of itself isn’t specific to Julbo. But the innovative SuperFlow design is specific to Julbo, and is definitely something to rave about. In any scenario where your goggles might fog up, activate the SuperFlow system by pulling the lens away from the frame to fully ventilate your goggles and beat the fog. When you’re ready for the descent, push them back into place for reduced airflow.
Are your extremely well-ventilated goggles not good enough to beat the kind of goggle-fog you’re producing? Check out this rad option from Abom. These goggles work like the rear-window defroster on your car, using an electrically heated layer to defrost your lenses and zap the fog like magic. An “always on” mode gives you six hours of battery life, and an “on demand” mode quickly turns on to zap the fog, and then powers down to save battery life. I’d love to see how these guys do on the goggle fog that I get from snow in my goggles after I’ve face-planted a few times.CHECK PRICE ON Abom.com
Zippo has upped its game when it comes to hand warmers – they used to make one of the few reusable handwarmers in the game with the 12-Hour Hand Warmer that runs off of their Zippo Lighter Fluid to produce 12 hours of “flameless heat.” I’ve owned one for many years, and despite the “flameless heat” assurance I’ve only used it a handful of times, nervous about starting a fire in my pocket. Now, Zippo produces a battery-powered hand warmer, a boon to nervous types like myself, which offers up to six hours of heat as well as a charging port for your phone and other devices. Pretty nifty, and an absolute godsend when your digits need a quick blast of heat to get them functional again.
Here’s a fun one, for those who might have a bit more to spend on keeping their hands warm. Battery-powered, heated gloves. With a massive battery life of 12-plus hours on low heat, these gloves are guaranteed to keep your hands warm on even the coldest days in the mountains.
For those heading out into the backcountry, an avalanche beacon is an essential part of the kit. I’ve relied on the BCA Tracker 3 for the past few years, but am stoked to be giving the Ortovox Diract Voice a shot this season.
Ortovox has been a trusted manufacturer of avalanche equipment for years, and their beacons have been prized as intuitive and reliable equipment. This year, they replaced the 3+ and Zoom+ beacons with the Diract and Diract Voice. The Diract Voice offers voice-guided search directions, a first among avvy beacons. The voice doesn’t replace an avalanche course, obviously, but the added layer of information can definitely be useful for beginners in the backcountry or those who appreciate a bit of verbal feedback during high-stress situations. Stay tuned for a full review later this season when the snow arrives.CHECK PRICE ON REI
While they may not be “innovative,” per se, there’s no better place to plug regular old headlamps as an essential piece of ski and snowboard equipment. And to be fair, in recent years, headlamp tech has improved drastically, packing more lumens in smaller and longer-lasting packages. So “innovative” maybe isn’t that big of a stretch.
Most headlamps these days are making the switch to rechargeable batteries instead of disposables, which I’m personally a huge fan of. The drawback is a slight hit to battery life as rechargeables tend not to last as long as disposable batteries, but the upside is that with a quick top-up charge before heading out, you can always be sure to have a reliable light source on you. You never know when you might need it.
Depending on what type of lamp you’re looking for, I have a couple of recommendations. For those who want a compact, stash-it-and-forget-it-until-you-need-it option, I’d go with the Petzl Actik Core (600 lumens), or the Black Diamond Spot 400-R. The Actik Core wins on brightness and for the ability to use regular alkaline batteries if needed (it has a removable, rechargeable battery pack), and the Spot wins on battery life and waterproofing. For something more heavy-duty for night skiing and very early backcountry starts, I’d recommend the competitively priced Biolite 800 Pro, or the all-out Petzl NAO RL with an astonishing 1,500 max lumens.
Here’s another way to beat the goggle fog – with a well-designed face buff. Your huffing and puffing under a layer of fabric is the number one cause of google fog, so why not design a face buff that doesn’t send all that hot air straight to your viewports? That’s what the folks over at Turtle Fur did with their Fog-Free Windproof Facemask. With a layered construction that includes downward vents to let hot air escape, this is a great way to make it down the mountain with un-fogged goggles and a warm face at the same time.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Ski helmets these days seem to be trending more towards the “well-ventilated” side of the spectrum rather than the “warm” side. If that’s the case on the fancy new helmet that you bought and now don’t have the cash to spring for a less-ventilated option, check out Turtle Fur’s Overhood. Designed to fit over a ski helmet, the Overhood brings the warmth by wrapping your helmeted head in a toasty blanket, and looks cool while doing so with plenty of different colors to match every style. My ski helmet often leaves my ears a bit more exposed than I’d like, so I’ll be giving this one a shot as soon as I can.
Taking a flight to the mountains this year? You’ll probably want to get your hands on one of these guys. A solid snow roller is a must for air travel. While a $20 piece of fabric from Amazon might do in a pinch, a true snow roller will do a lot to ease the frustrations of traveling with all of your ski gear. The Evo Deluxe Snow Roller is one of the heaviest hitters in that category. This monolith of a bag can hold two snowboards or two sets of skis (three, in a pinch) while still having enough room for boots, helmet, jackets, poles, and the kitchen sink. Sturdy wheels and conveniently-placed handles make airport navigation a breeze, and two different sizes accommodate a wide range of ski lengths.CHECK PRICE ON EVO
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.