Whether park, street or backcountry – every snowboarder needs protection. Which they seem to understand, making the protection segment one of the most promising when it comes to future growth. Anna Langer looked into what’s coming onto the shelves for FW17/18.
No matter how you shred, a free range of movement is key. Amplifi focus on “second skin” style protection that “you won’t even feel, until you need it!” says CEO Jens Hartmann. Bliss agree that protection should “be invisible and shouldn’t restrict the user,” so they focus on “slim padding with great performance,” explains Andi Nitsche, Global Marketing & PR. Forcefield also state that “the trend right now is closer fitting, slim and subtle armour”, as do G-Form, who offer “protection so minimal that you often forget you are wearing pads.” Rossignol have “reworked the fit and pattern, bringing the end consumer a perfect fit with breathable materials and stretch fabrics,” says Product and Marketing Manager for Technical Equipment, Flav Foucher. Evoc combine “protection technology with a stylish piece of cloth, which offers outstanding wearing comfort.”
NEW PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY
G-Form will slightly expand their product line for 17/18, “offering both wider coverage knee and elbow pads”, says Alex Sardella, Brand & Sponsorship Coordinator. TSG introduce The Kneeguard Joint and Amplifi launch a new Cortex Polymer range: “Super clean, monocoque construction,” with “punchy, simple sublimation print” for a killer unique look, explains designer, Tom Howells. Forcefield launch the “Slam Shorts, the Mons Vest and the Carve CE2 Back Protector,” which is tested to -20 degree Celsius at Level 2.
Yet the main area for innovation is the technology behind it. Amplifi work with a new 3D knitted protection, Bliss introduce a material called ARG and Dainese feature a new Flexagon construction technology for their “most ergonomic and advanced design.” Icetools work with state of the art specialists regarding protection: “SASTEC who have been doing motorbike protection for BMW and a lot of other big players for years.” TSG introduce a new “Arti-lage foam that mimics the property of human cartilage with molecular freeflow technology,” explains CEO Ruedi Herger.
HARD VS SOFT
When it comes to the debate of hard shell vs. soft protection, opinions still diverge quite extensively. Amplifi find that “a few consumers are still looking for hard shells” and cater for them with the Fuse series. Dainese argue that a “hard shell is the precedent setting for its ability to dissipate shock over a wider area and to prevent ‘piercing’, leading to less injuries from sharp objects and rocks.” Yet Product Manager Giovanni Fogal adds that it always depends “who is going to use the protector and how they’re going to use it. Each technology finds an ideal application in a given type of use.” Hence Bliss combine soft protection with “high performance cover materials like CEVLAR,” yet most brands focus on “soft protection that allows freedom of movement and a second skin feel,” which is facilitated by “the advances in materials technology that are being made by amazing suppliers like Sas-Tec and Armourgel,” Jens from Amplifi concludes. Icetools agree that “SASTEC is one of the best inlays you can get on the market,” which absorbs almost 30% of the impact. They pair it with vicso elastic foam, that is multi shock resistant and also featured in Evoc’s joint protection, who find that “good soft protector concepts have the same damping properties, sometimes even better, as hardshell solutions.” Evoc are also offering free crash replacement for all protector backpacks. Forcefield share this view: “As we have pioneered soft armour for over 25 years, and have the world’s leading performance protection, we know that soft is both higher impact performing, and far more comfortable.” Forcefied’s armour is also completely removable and modular. Rossignol focus on soft materials as well, after having dropped hard plates 6 years ago, as do TSG who work with “D3O foam as well as the new Arti-Lage foam.” Icetools add that hard protection is not only bound to break if an impact is too strong, they also propose an extra risk of injury.
G-Form have lowered the price points on most of their base layer apparel over the last year, TSG add more products in a lower price range due to extensive material and supplier research and Amplifi minimize costs by “focussing on the most important elements for comfort, fit and protection,” instead of loading products with unnecessary features. With a wide range of price points offered by most brands, this category is only bound to grow further in future.