Whether you are hitting the slopes or taking the dogs for a walk on a snowy day, outerwear brands are competing to keep you warm during the winter. One of those brands, Merrell, is in Grand Rapids’ backyard.
Shaun Bohnsack, Merrell senior performance product management director, and Erika Derylo, Merrell performance marketing manager, spoke with Grand Rapids Magazine about what the company is doing to develop the best winter outerwear options.
Bohnsack works specifically with Merrell’s performance footwear team, working with the design, development and color teams to create “high-quality performance footwear that allow Merrell wearers to get outside in a variety of climates and terrains,” while Derylo helps share the stories behind the products.
Grand Rapids Magazine: What are some of the newest advances in outerwear technology/materials that Merrell is incorporating into its winter lines?
Shaun Bohnsack: Insulation and waterproofing are two big areas that we continue to advance and incorporate into our seasonal lines. We work with GORE-TEX to provide new innovations in waterproofing that allow footwear to be lighter and more breathable, while being fully waterproof.
GRM: How is technology influencing outerwear?
SB: Technology has allowed for lighter, more durable materials. New resilient foams in midsoles allow shoes to maintain their cushioning and comfort longer, while weighing less. New insulation allows for thinner footwear that keeps the wearer just as warm as the old traditional pack boots that were much bulkier.
GRM: What kinds of insulation options does Merrell offer and what works best for which outdoor winter activities?
SB: On the apparel side, we utilize Primaloft down plus insulation in the Ridgevent line. This is a great material that provides the benefits of down (light and compressible) with the benefits of synthetic (warm when wet). When you pair this material with the heat-mapped back baffles, you get a jacket that will actively regulate temperature. Temperature regulation when being active is a key feature for Merrell in both footwear and apparel.
GRM: Staying upright in snowy and icy conditions is my number one goal in winter. What kinds of improvements has Merrell been able to develop to help with this in its foot and bootwear?
SB: Grip and traction are always important aspects in performance footwear, especially so in icy winter conditions. We utilize Vibram Arctic grip technology in boots like our Thermo Overlook 2 Mid Waterproof and Thermo Aurora 2 Mid Shell Waterproof to ensure slip-proof wear.
GRM: How does Merrell blend the need for comfort, style and high-performance gear in its products?
Erika Derylo: We call our signature blend of comfort, fit and performance ‘Merrell Magic.’ The out-of-the-box comfort that we’re known for is a unique mix of cushioning, weight, insulation and ventilation depending on each product’s purpose. For fit, we consider shape, stability and insoles when utilizing engineered materials like e-mesh and jacquard. Traction, waterproofing, breathability and durability all factor into designing gear that performs both on and off the trail. For style, we take cues from emerging trends in color and shape, while always putting our Merrell spin on each piece.
GRM: Where does sustainability fit into Merrell’s outerwear product development?
ED: Our brand purpose is to share the simple power of being outside and we have a responsibility to protect our outdoor spaces. We work to do that through our dedication to sustainable processes and use of responsible materials. Acting in a sustainable way and aligning themselves with brands that follow suit is continuing to rise as an important, and sometimes non-negotiable, consideration for consumers when deciding what brands they’ll purchase from. The quality and sustainability of our materials will always be top priorities for us. Our goal is to integrate sustainable materials into access level to premium products, allowing for a broader range of consumers to purchase.
GRM: What are some general trends in winter outerwear that you see for the upcoming season?
ED: We are seeing an uptick in athleisure-inspired footwear with the lightweight flexibility of sneakers alongside the high-performing safety and warmth of traditional winter boots in bright colors that stand out.
Check out some of Merrell’s winter gear
The Ridgevent Thermo Collection
Vests, Jackets, Parkas
Puts warmth exactly where consumers need it — with a ventilated spine and gender-specific heat mapping to regulate body temperature while on the trail. This engineered spine keeps your core warm while allowing excess heat to escape, eliminating the hot spots created on your back when you carry a pack. Warmth where you need it. Ventilation where it matters.
Thermo Aurora 2 Mid Shell Waterproof
A women’s-specific winter boot with Vibram Arctic grip for traction and a waterproof shell
for insulated cold-weather protection.
Bravada Knit Polar Waterproof
A female-focused waterproof winter boot with the fit and feel of a sneaker plus the traction and performance of a hiker, including a comfort Achilles collar to reduce common hot-spot zones.
Thermo Overlook 2 Mid Waterproof
Featuring Vibram Arctic grip for traction and a waterproof shell for insulated cold-weather protection.