Review by The Kiteboarder: The Orbit

“The Orbit was a standout with its rangy pull, incredible boost and hangtime and solid turning. It does a lot of things really well and makes you want to push your limits.”

- Tom Moore

“The Orbit was a standout with its rangy pull, incredible boost and hangtime and solid turning. It does a lot of things really well and makes you want to push your limits.” - Tom Moore, Tester for The Kiteboarder

The Kiteboarder says;

This is our first look at the North Orbit as one of the initial kites launched with North’s re-emergence into the market for 2019/2020. One of the key advantages highlighted by the new North team is that these products are built from the ground up beginning with a clean slate, using state of the art design knowledge without any sacrifices or compromises due to legacy product lines — and this year’s freeride test was a great place to evaluate if that is indeed true. The Orbit’s name implies its purpose, a high-lift performance freeride kite that can boost you into the stratosphere (*editorial note: it’s worth mentioning as we are writing this that Jesse Richman just won the King of the Air on a 9m Orbit with Nick Jacobsen taking second on the Orbit as well). With its 5-strut airframe in a medium to slightly higher aspect canopy with a flat arc in the center and sweptback wingtips, the Orbit received excellent marks as a high-lifting boosting kite while always maintaining super user-friendly handling. The Orbit comes with the large diameter bayonet-style inflation valve that requires no nozzle on the end of your standard pump hose for a quick and easy pump up. To deflate you just unscrew the bayonet insert for one of the fastest deflates of any kite in our 2020 test. The Orbit wingtips feature a fair amount of dacron. The trailing edge uses dacron as well, with flexible small foam battens interspersed between the middle struts and no hard battens. The Orbit uses a single setting front bridle that has a fixed attachment point for adjusting the kite’s angle of attack and the pigtail attachment points on the front bridle end in larks head loops while the wingtip attachment pigtails end in knots. There are two wingtip attachment points for setting the bar pressure, with the stock position outboard towards the back of the kite in the lighter position.

From the moment you launch the Orbit, you get the sense that this kite has one foot in big-air freeride performance and the other in all-around user-friendly handling. The canopy has the feeling of a kite that is designed to create a tremendous amount of lift, and boosts you, as its name aptly applies, into ‘orbit,’ but many of the kite’s behaviors feel intuitive and dependable. The overall bar sheeting dynamics felt fairly progressive and simple sheet and go which isn’t something you always get with a high-lifting performance freeride kite. Many testers highlighted the kite’s intuitive power delivery along the bar’s throw and generally found the bar pressure to be medium-plus. The Orbit’s beginning strokes feel grunty and powerful and anytime you move the kite across the window you can feel the Orbit generating a ton of lift. Testers found that of all the kites tested in the performance freeride category, the Orbit tended to have a generous amount of depower in the canopy when the bar is sheeted all the way out — this aspect tends to make the Orbit’s strong lifting forces seem more user-friendly. Testers praised the smooth flying and middle of the road stability of this kite with a steering arc that seemed to be fairly tight, and not quite as wide as other performance freeride kites. This seemed to make it easier to place the Orbit exactly where you needed it. The Orbit delivers a tight turning response that feels solidly crisp and reactive, particularly with more aggressive movements on the bar. The overall jumping performance was quite impressive. When the 5-strut frame is ridden a size larger or overpowered, its jumping performance turns scary good and with G-ed out lift-offs that required minor re-alignment of internal organs after launch (and/or lunch). The testers rated the Orbit excellent for its long and lofty hangtimes and predictable steering that lent to soft landings more often than not. Our relaunch tests proved the Orbit to be very reliable. With the kite nose down in the center of the window, a medium amount of pressure on one side of the bar caused the kite to rotate right onto a wingtip. If you pulled hard on the bar, the Orbit would relaunch hot from the bottom of the window, or alternatively, with steady pressure, it would taxi farther to the side before releasing with an overall easy and predictable relaunch every time. The Orbit brings a finely tuned and balanced new kite to the performance freeride category with user-friendly handling that is approachable to kiters of all levels. If big air is your passion and you want a dependable accomplice to bust some super heated sends into the upper stratosphere, then the Orbit is the performance freeride kite perfectly tailored for you.

Learn more about the Orbit here

Navigator Control System - The Kiteboarder says;

This is the first look for Tkb at the North Navigator bar that offers a ton of features that balance performance and safety. This is an adjustable length bar (45-50cm or 50-55cm) that you can adjust by pulling out a cassette at the bottom of each bar end and flipping it over. The center lines end in knots and the outside lines end in larks head loops, with connection points receiving clear green/red color-coding. The attachment pigtails can be swapped to reverse the polarity of the kook-proof connections to fit other brands and there are three tuning knots inside the floats to adjust the overall tuning of the kite by just pulling the bar end cassettes out and moving knots. The lines are 22m (12m + 10m extension) long. The Navigator features a single centerline safety depower that runs through the plastic-coated throw line and routes cleanly down through the quick release to a D-ring in the center of the chicken loop. The quick-release handle is a good size and clearly labeled with vibrant red. The push away mechanism is clean and the reset is super slick with the click system that allows you to insert the chicken loop back into place without moving the quick release gate. This ‘single-action reload’ feature is the future of quick releases and we will probably be seeing the market including more click/seatbelt designs such as this because they are so clean and effortless to reset. The quick release also showcases a new design for swapping out the chicken loop, by simply rolling a rubber clip out of position and then pushing the loop in and twisting to disconnect it from the release body. You can swap from the stock freeride loop to the smaller surf/rope slider hook quite easily.

The plastic-coated throw/power line slides through the bar smoothly and offers longevity, yet doesn’t offer adjustable length throw. The power system uses an above the bar cam cleat with a power tuning handle that features an infused bungee and soft spongy toggle that is easy to grab and stays within reach. The Navigator offers fairly obvious color-coding with a red grip and white float on the left along with plastic-coated leader lines that feature red and green color-coding. There is a North logo on the center insert of the bar to indicate when you are holding the bar the correct way – which is helpful for those awkward moments. The bar grip is smooth on the bottom with a rubbery stamped grip on the top and a subtle triangular/ergonomic rise on the top that tapers towards the center of the bar. The Navigator features integrated floats attached to the padded bar ends and retractable bungees for stowing your lines when not in use.

Overall, the Navigator scored high marks for balancing a ton of really well thought out and functional design features in a medium weight package that is comfortable and easy to use.

“Stable, solid depower and bar range with medium-plus bar pressure. The Orbit delivers smooth yet big jumps and fairly quick turns in the larger sizes.” - Pierce Martin, tester for The Kiteboarder.

Check out the full review here

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