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Waves of change are coming, if they are not already here. Just check out these intriguing examples.
These days, it seems, bad news is painfully easy to find. The good stuff often takes a bit more digging. That’s where GP’s expert writers and editors come in, keeping their fingers on the pulse of the industries they cover to tap into all the exciting product news breaking now — and waiting for us on the horizon.
With that in mind, we tasked our teams with ID-ing the most interesting trends in their areas of expertise, and wow, there’s lots to celebrate and anticipate. Just a few examples to whet your appetite: microdosing mushrooms or LSD is becoming a legal way to level out, you can order coffee beans via text message, digital audio quality has never been better, and holy crap a lot of rad EVs are coming this year.
So hey, quit the doomscrolling and do some pleasant perusing of what’s good in outdoors, fitness, style, wellness, food & drink, home, tech, audio, motoring and watches below. It won’t erase the bad news, but it just might make things easier to ride out.
They say three’s a trend, right? In that case, we are officially declaring the outdoor industry’s push toward “endemic recycling” — incorporating factory scraps into new products — just that. The micro movement’s inspiration is, of course, Cotopaxi. The seven-year-old Salt Lake City-based brand’s colorful packs and jackets are legendarily scrap-sourced, with 94 percent of its products containing repurposed, recycled or responsible materials. More to the point, it has an entire series dubbed Remnant, currently composed of 21 different bags made with fabric sourced from other companies’ larger production runs.
The practice makes both environmental and business sense, which may explain why at least three other prominent brands have somewhat mimicked it. First there’s Nemo Equipment, which assembles the Chipper Reclaimed Closed-Cell Foam Seat — aka butt pad — from leftover sleeping pad foam. On a larger scale, you’ll find Fjällräven’s Samlaren collection. Named after the Swedish word for gathering, the very limited series features unique color combinations, including a Pink-Air Blue Kånken pack, which we are crossing our fingers comes back in stock.
Most recently, we have Arc’teryx’s ReBird program, a sweeping effort to rethink sustainability that includes an initiative to collect end-of-roll materials and upcycle them into new products. This stuff seems to sell out even faster than Samlaren does, perhaps because it truly doesn’t skimp on performance: the lightweight, ski-ready Rush Jacket Rebird features Gore-Tex Pro Most Rugged, after all. That fabric is so high-performance, it’s no wonder Arc’teryx isn’t letting an ounce of it go to waste.
As curious creatures, we humans been tracking ourselves for a pretty long time. We’ve created almanacs, cave paintings, the Manpo-kei and more to document our exploits, bringing ever-better technology to bear with every passing year.
Until recently, breaking down our bodies’ activities has been fairly hands-on: the pedometer, the wireless heart rate monitor, the accelerometers embedded in phones all record various data, but they still demand a degree of user engagement. The advent of Fitbit and its ilk introduced passive tracking — monitoring biometrics in real time, with minimal effort, to hone our pursuit of physical perfection (or something like that). And now, thanks to brands like HidrateSpark and Whoop, we’re seeing a truly friction-free movement on the horizon.
The HidrateSpark PRO sets hydration goals, employs an LED smart sensor to record water intake and glows to remind you when it’s time to take a swig, pretty much autonomously. The Whoop 4.0 with Any-Wear clothing technology is more advanced but just as unobtrusive. Users can hide the sensor pod on various points of their bodies to track physical activity, heart rate, stress levels and more. The unit never turns off — charge it on the go with the battery pack, and digitize your metrics, 24/7. There’s no screen, no buttons, no effort (other than the initial setup, and, well, your workouts).
Different as they are, both products signal the dawn of a new era in fitness — one where we can comprehensively keep tabs on our bodies, without breaking a sweat.
GORP Takes to the Streets
Arc’teryx, Salomon, Patagonia, Snow Peak, And Wander, The North Face. Do these brands sound familiar? Probably so if you’re prone to long, treacherous hikes across rough terrain. But for fashion-minded folks, these labels represent a new subset of the industry growing with each passing season: GORPcore, an adaption of the acronym for “good ’ol raisins and peanuts,” a popular snack mix people take on the trail.
The term encompasses technical outerwear for city-oriented types. No, the conditions in a place like New York City cannot compare to the Pacific Northwest, where trails like the Alpine Lakes or the Badlands are located, but you’ll find people wearing the gear within city limits nonetheless. The trend can be traced back to the early 2010s, when trendsetters turned their attention toward the elderly or the unknowingly boring for inspiration. Then, it was “normcore,” embodied by gray sneakers, high-end chinos and crisp, plain shirts. The TL;DR of it all: think of someone dressed head-to-toe in humbly priced pieces, or a designer’s rendition thereof.
Now, a $339-dollar Arc’teryx jacket outweighs a silky bomber by a well-known Maison; fleeces are fighting suit jackets off the shelves; Salomon sneakers are converting lifelong Nike and Adidas loyalists. It’s a signal that function and form can not only coexist in the menswear space, but drive the conversation.
Microdosing Goes Mainstream
Let’s break microdosing down into its two parts: micro, meaning small, and dosing, a reference to the way you dole out a certain substance over time. The word has upended the medical and psychedelics industries respectively over the past half-decade, but it’s all coming to a head now.
Substances once perceived as mere gateways to hallucinogenic (often great, occasionally bad, sometimes horrible) trips — like mushrooms or LSD — are now breakthrough therapeutic treatments in their own rights, capable of aiding those battling depression, PTSD or addiction with one to 10 percent of the amount needed to trip taken daily for a mild, nearly unnoticeable impact. Over time, though, consistent ingestion can lead to transformative change.
Psilocybin, the compound in mushrooms that triggers trips, is still fully illegal in almost every state. Oregon, in late November 2020, became the first state to legalize it for medicinal use. In Denver, Detroit, Somerville, Massachusetts and Oakland, California, psilocybin mushrooms are merely decriminalized, essentially meaning the police cannot enforce laws against possession or consumption.
In Texas and Pennsylvania, bills to further research the compound’s potential to treat mental illnesses are nearly law. Plenty of research has already confirmed the likely upsides of both mushrooms and LSD, but professional, state-level assessments could convince even more states to pass similar, medicinal-first legalization plans. That could save thousands of lives, and help millions establish healthier habits and exist with less anxiety, new research reveals.
Sandbagging, Microwaves and Convenience
If describing food as “convenient” sounds a bit like a dog whistle (lazy, bad), know that, as of 2022, it’s not. More time at home means more time in the kitchen and, after a year-plus spent indoors, no one should be ashamed to admit they could use a little more help.
Help like Fellow’s new text-to-order coffee bean service, Drops, which asks that you reply to a text with a number indicating how many bags you want. David Chang, self-proclaimed master of the art of sandbagging in the home kitchen, played a part in a pair of new releases: an absurdly good instant noodle released under his Momofuku line and cookware meant not for the stovetop, but the microwave.
Shit, a podcaster came up with a new dried pasta shape to optimize sauce carrying capacity. Making convenient also good isn’t entirely new. (Ever heard of an Instant Pot? How about air fryer?) But it’s easy to argue we’ve never seen low- and high-brow merge quite like this.
If you’re not a gamer, you probably didn’t know there’s a whole product category dedicated to gaming furniture and accessories. Brands like Razer and Secretlab have dedicated their entire existence to help gamers achieve win after win.
In the past couple years, we got hints that gaming would become more pronounced outside of the gaming sphere. Razer made a mouse to help with the recent surge in working from home, and Herman Miller released a gaming chair with Logitech G.
In 2022, gaming gear continues to extend far beyond these niche brands, entering almost every aspect of the cultural zeitgeist and becoming more approachable. Mavix released an entry-level gaming chair to complement its pricier options, maintaining its gamer-friendly features minus the huge investment.
And if there’s one release that solidifies the category’s staying power, it’s Ikea’s Uppspel collection. The line was designed in collaboration with Republic of Gamers, an Asus-owned brand dedicated to PC gaming. It’s filled with stuff to make gaming more comfortable, from chairs to desks, and while no one needs gaming-specific furniture, it’s just a hint at what’s to come.
The March of the Microchips
For decades, devices that compete on the open market have shared some very, very similar components inside. Until Apple’s M1-chip initiative — brought to its apex with the new MacBook Pros — Mac and Windows computers alike ran on the same Intel chips. In the land of smartphones, meanwhile, virtually every Android phone, from Samsung or Google or LG, has historically had a Qualcomm chip of some sort at its heart.
But the times are changing. Apple’s M1 chip is the loudest example, but this past fall Google announced it’s heading in the same direction with its “Tensor” chip that powers the Pixel 6. Amazon is already on its third generation of in-house Graviton chips, used to power the computers at its cloud data centers. Tesla is preparing to produce its own chips as well. Facebook (“Meta,” if you must) is on the war path too.
What does this mean? For you, the humble end user, the direct effects may not be completely clearly microchip related. On the upside, a device that’s designed as one piece from silicon to screen can reach new heights of efficiency. That means better battery life, more horsepower and less bulk all at the same time.
On the downside, cross-compatibility could take a nosedive. Devices that used to share some common DNA increasingly won’t. This could leave developers in the lurch to prioritize one evolutionary path over another. As if they aren’t under enough pressure to do so as it is.
From a broader perspective, it illustrates a world-historical concentration of capital in the hands of tech mega-giants. Companies that once made their bones running goofy college websites or delivering books through the mail have ascended to architecting products on a scale that, just decades ago, required the cooperation of entire industries. That kind of centralized planning comes with its benefits, but not all of them are for you.
The Commoditization of Lossless Audio
Audio quality took a big hit in the ’90s during the age of Napster and the iPod when compressed digital files (which take a lot of details out of the music, especially on the high and low ends) were all the rage. But over the past four decades there’s been a steady resurgence of high-quality audio, largely thanks to old-school analog formats (like vinyl) becoming en vogue again and, more recently, lossless audio becoming easily streamable.
Last year was a banner one for lossless audio. The two biggest music streaming services on the planet, Apple Music and Spotify, both announced lossless streaming tiers. While Spotify’s service has yet to appear, Apple’s lossless tier made waves by rolling out to all paying Apple Music subscribers at no extra cost. Now you can stream lossless (or CD quality) for $10/month, which is half the price that some legacy lossless streaming services (like Tidal) are charging.
This move by Apple subsequently forced the hand of every other lossless streaming service out there — Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz and Amazon all lowered the barrier of entry to their lossless streaming tiers. Now it’s not only easier than ever to listen to high quality music streams, but it’s also affordable.
An EV for Everyone
So far, buying an EV has meant buying a Tesla or buying a not quite-as-good alternative to a Tesla that is expensive and not that conducive to most people’s lifestyles. But an avalanche of EVs will enter the market in 2022 — many on new dedicated EV platforms. And if you’re in the market for a new vehicle, there should be an EV that meets your needs.
Luxury options will increase dramatically. Want range and performance? The Lucid Air will deliver more than 500 miles of range and 1,100 horsepower. Want that performance from an off-road EV? The Hummer SUT arrives very soon, and it will accelerate as quickly as a Porsche in WTF mode with off-roading specs that beat the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Just want the luxury car you would have bought but electric? Stay tuned for new offerings from Mercedes, BMW and Audi that are just that.
Want an electric truck? You can hop on the Rivian bandwagon with the new R1T or keep things a bit more traditional with the Ford F-150 Lightning arriving next year. Want something relatively affordable? The VW ID.4 is out. And Nissan, Toyota, Subaru, Kia and Hyundai are launching electric crossovers. Oh, and the starting MSRP for that F-150 Lightning is under $40,000 — before the potential tax credit.
Hurdles remain for mass-adoption EVs — charging infrastructure isn’t where it needs to be yet if you don’t have a Level 2 home charger — but the right option should be out there if you’re willing to leap into the future.
Lean, Green Machines
While 2021 wasn’t the first year we noticed a trend toward, shall we say, a more “verdant” timepiece, it was certainly the year in which the green watch firmly took hold. As horological veteran William Massena once explained, the watch world is on a roughly three-year product development cycle, so while entirely new models take quite a while to develop, habillage, or “dressing up” is much quicker and easier to execute. (Read: Take that watch that already exists and make it green! Because everybody else is doing it!)
While it would’ve perhaps been unthinkable just a few short years ago — and certainly 20 or 30 years ago — watches with colored dials are back in a big way. Something that isn’t black, white or silver — or, heaven forbid, blue! — seems like it might just be the next big thing. Rolex launched a new series of “Stella” dials in their Oyster Perpetual line, and for the first time (perhaps ever), an OP became nearly impossible to buy at retail. Then came a green Datejust with what looks like either pot leafs or palm fronds on it (depending how much weed you smoke), and the entire Internet lit up.
Patek did the same thing, turning its 5909 annual calendar into a lean, green machine (and making it in steel, no less), which earned the timepiece a spot in our GP100. (The brand did the same for a short, final run of the famed 5711 — pure unobtanium if there is such a thing.) Who knows what’s next? If green is “in,” anything seems possible. Is this the end of boringly bland watch dials — a window into a brighter future? Color us intrigued.