Editor’s Note: This article was opened to the public on July 22, 2010. To subscribe and see Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010 articles as they are published, click here.
Tuesday July 21, 2009
Day one was very productive for finding gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. In no particular order, the following photo-rich dispatch will provide you with information and insights into what we found. All items will be available spring 2010 unless stated otherwise.
At Outdoor Research we found the new DryComp Ridge Sack (34 L, 16.4 oz, $119), which is basically a waterproof pack with a dry bag closure. It’s constructed of 70d nylon fabric with RF welded seams and has a basic feature set: dry bag closure, large front mesh pocket, two compression straps, front bungie cord system for attaching loose items, spacer mesh shoulder straps, and ice axe loops. This pack is appealing because of its versatility – use it as a waterproof backpack, wet weather or winter day pack, dry bag for winter camping or boating, or a pillow.
A visit to the Montbell booth nearly always produces some new goodies, and they did not disappoint. Alan Dixon models the new Montbell Teahyon Anorak (left), which weighs only 2.3 ounces and has a hood. It’s made of 7 denier Ballistic Airlight with a Polkatex DWR finish (the same fabric used in the Ex Light Down Jacket). The initial product will be unisex; MSRP is $89. The Montbell UL Wind Jacket (right, 3.6 oz, $74) will be available in men’s and women’s versions. It’s made of a more durable 12 denier Ballistic Airlight with Polkatex finish and has a full front zip, but no hood. These are really sweet wind shirts; Montbell’s Ballistic Airlight fabric is very durable, and their Polkatex DWR finish is excellent. However, the calendered Ballistic Airlight fabric does trade off some breathability for extra strength.
Another notable item at Montbell is that they are extending their Spiral construction technology (introduced in the Spiral Down Hugger) across their entire sleeping bag line. The spiral construction adds plenty of expansion capability while holding the bag close to the sleeper for better thermal efficiency, and it cuts bag weight by about 3 ounces.
In my article Lightweight Rainwear 2009, the Marmot Mica jacket (women’s Crystalline, left) was one of the standouts at just 6.5 ounces. For spring 2010 the Mica will gain pit vents and better hood adjustors, with a corresponding gain of 0.5 ounce, bringing the weight up to 7 ounces, which is probably well worth it. The MSRP will remain at $130. The Marmot Super Mica jacket (right, 9 oz, $200) will be an enhanced version adding a wire brim, more hood adjustment, pit zips, and core vents in the side pockets. Both jackets are based on Marmot’s Membrain Strata waterproof-breathable fabric, which is a really thin face fabric laminated to a polyurethane membrane and a sprayed on 0.5 layer for protection. For a really lightweight, full-featured rain jacket, these are hard to beat.
The Mountain Hardware Skyledge 2.1 ($350) is a new tent with an old name. This updated two-person double-wall tent now has a trail weight of 3 pounds 7 ounces, and it has two doors and two vestibules. Its fly is 20 denier with a polyether coating, and the floor is a durable 70 denier. It uses two X-poles plus a cross pole to extend the vestibules. Interior room is adequate at 28 square feet with good usable space, and interior height is 39 inches. The pitch light weight (fly, poles, footprint) is 2 pounds 11 ounces.
The increasing number of really light mid-height hiking boots is attracting our interest. The newest ones are the Montrail Jawbone boot (left, 15 oz/boot, $125) and the Montrail Sabino Trail Mid GTX (right, 15.6 oz/boot, $140). More supportive mid-height boots like these are preferred by lightweight backpackers and adventurous types who do more off-trail bushwhacking.
Terra Nova is a British company known for their lightweight double wall tents. Their latest creation is the Terra Nova Solar Elite solo tent ($370), weighing just 1 pound 13 ounces. It has a side entry with vestibule and is supported by a single ridge pole and connected wishbone at the head end. Fabrics are the same as the Laser Photon. It requires nine stakes to fully stake it out, and the stakes are their infamous 1-gram titanium toothpicks. The Solar Elite’s fly extends to about 3 inches above the ground, allowing some ventilation when the door is closed, but it lacks a high vent, so it appears that ventilation will be minimal and condensation common like the Laser Competition and Laser Photon we previously reviewed.
Rab, another British company, will be introducing their lightest eVENT jackets ever. The Rab Demand Pull-on (left photo, red model, 10 oz, $250) is a half zip, and the Rab Demand Full-on (left photo, blue model, 11 oz, $275) has a full front zipper. Both have a hood, one napoleon pocket, and the longest dropped tail we have ever seen (which is good for bending over). Both jackets have a unique external single drawcord adjustment on the hood (right photo) which saves some weight. The Pull-on doesn’t beat the Integral Designs eVENT Rain Jacket (8.9 ounces) in weight, but the ID jacket has a short body. The ID Thru Hiker Jacket has a full length body and weighs 11.9 ounces, so the Rab jackets are lighter when body length is taken into account. We’re still hopeful for the 7-8 ounce eVENT jacket – one of these days.
Equinox has a new ultralight day pack called the Parula (1050 cubic inches, 6.1 oz, $48) made of silnylon. It’s top loading with two mesh side pockets, a daisy chain on the front, a zippered top pocket, mesh backpanel, and padded shoulder straps. A pack this light can be used as both a stuff sack and a pack for day hikes from a base camp.