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.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
We finished another full day at the trade show and came up with another batch of interesting gear and technologies. Its much akin to a treasure hunt – we need to know where to look and be able recognize something interesting or truly innovative when we see it. There is something of interest to most everyone here, and as usual, we present it in no particular order. All items are new for spring 2010 unless stated otherwise.
The GoLite booth is always a good place to look for lightweight, exciting new gear, and the good folks there came through as expected. GoLite will add a second quilt called the Ultralite 1+ Season Quilt (left, 20 ounces, three lengths, $200-$240) to their Ultralite sleeping bag line. It’s insulated with 800-fill down and rated at 40F. The current quilt will be packed with a little more down to drop its rating to 20F and will be renamed the Ultralight 3-Season Quilt (right, 25 ounces, three lengths, $255-$295).
GoLite will also be adding the Peak Backpack (2318 cubic inches for size M, 27 oz, $125) to their Ultralite backpack series. The new Peak is a smaller version of the Jam (2857 cubic inches, 31 oz, $150), and both packs feature a new recycled nylon fabric (still with Dyneema gridstop), revised padding in the backpanel, and a new hipbelt that wraps around the hips better. Note it will be called the Jam, rather than the Jam2. With the new Peak, the frameless Ultralite pack series will offer three pack sizes (Pinnacle, Jam, Peak) to meet the needs of most hikers.
At this OR, we decided to concentrate more on really lightweight mid-height footwear for a possible future article for Backpacking Light. Salomon has several shoes in this category. We reported on the Salomon 3D Fastpacker Mid GTX (left, 15.2 oz/shoe, $150) in our coverage of summer 2008 Outdoor Retailer. This time we found the new Salomon XA Pro 3D Mid GTX Ultra (center, 13.2 oz/shoe, $160) and the Salomon Wings Sky GTX (right, 18.7 oz/shoe, $200). The latter appears heavy, but the weight is actually not bad for a full-height boot. All of these shoes are based on trail running platforms to minimize weight while adding cushioning and support. Salomon knows that many buyers prefer Gore-Tex shoes so their feet won’t get wet (!), but we would prefer a more breathable shoe rather than a waterproof one that traps moisture inside. Many footwear manufacturers (including Salomon) offer two versions for that very reason.
First we had the Jetboil, then the MSR Reactor, and soon we will have the Primus Eta-Solo. It looks quite similar to the Jetboil. Jetboil’s stove used the Primus Micron burner for a long time, which was very reliable. Then they switched to a burner from a different source and ended up having a lot of problems, which led to a recall. Now, ironically, Primus is introducing their own integrated canister fuel solo cooking system utilizing the Micron burner. The Eta-Solo has a 0.9 liter pot with a flux ring attached to the bottom, similar to the Jetboil and MSR. The pot cozy is made of a durable fabric with a Velcro closure. The unit shown is still a prototype, subject to change, and an MSRP is not yet available. They hope to have it ready by spring 2010. (Didn’t MSR say something like that about the Reactor?)
***(PHOTO TO BE PROVIDED ON MONDAY, JULY 27)*** REI is an exhibitor at Outdoor Retailer, and we always enjoy meeting with their talented product development team and seeing their new REI-branded gear. A standout from our visit this time is the updated Half Dome Tent (4 pounds 14 ounces trail weight, $179). Yes, the weight is a little high by our standards, but you have to consider what you get: a downright spacious double-wall tent with two doors and two vestibules for $179. And the updated Half Dome is roomier, lighter, and stronger than ever. Most of the sub-4 pound tents with the same configuration that we find elsewhere are tight – minimal floor space, interior height, and vestibule space. The Half Dome is a wonderful design, roomy, and value priced. The Half Dome 2 Plus ($209) is 10 inches longer and 4 inches wider.
How about a 2.4 ounce day pack? At the Sea to Summit booth we found the UltraSil Day Pack (1200 cubic inches, $28). The arrow points to the pack stuffed into its stuff sack. It’s made of a very lightweight proprietary high tenacity Cordura ripstop silnylon and has a zippered opening on top and unpadded fabric shoulder straps. This pack would really work well as both a stuff sack and a day pack for sojourns from camp.
Sea to Summit also has a new range of TPU Map Cases and Accessory Cases coming out (0.07 to 3.6 oz, three sizes of each, $15 to $35). TPU stands for Thermo Plastic Urethane, which is very strong, clear, flexible, and foldable (even in cold temperatures). Their new map cases have a zip-lock closure and are definitely the lightest to be found (0.07 to 1.2 ounces), and the accessory cases (1.8 to 3.6 ounces) have a clip closure and protect things like cell phones, i-Pods, and GPS units.
END Footwear is a new company that makes a range of very light trail runners and hikers. The name stands for Environmentally Neutral Design. In our search for really light mid-height hikers we found the END LT-365 (left, 11.6 ounces/shoe, $110, available December 2009) which is built on a trail running platform and has an Ion Mask treatment making it water-resistant. The END Stumptown LT (right, 11 ounces/shoe, $95, available now) is the same shoe without Ion Mask treatment. These mid-height shoes are designed for lightweight hiking, with a midsole TPU plate to provide rock protection and moderate stiffness.
Black Diamond reinvented their larger pack line and developed their ErgoActiv Suspension System, which provides both fore and aft and side to side flexibility of motion. Fore and aft freedom is allowed by a bike cable system connected to the shoulder straps, and side to side freedom is allowed by means of a large hub on the backside of the hipbelt (shown in left photo). New backpacks based on this new technology are the Infinity 50 and 60 (3 pounds 8 ounces/3 pounds 15 ounces, $179.95), which are respectably light. The main story in these new packs is their innovative suspension system, beyond that, the packs are a traditional top loading design with durable fabrics.
At noon, yours truly was honored to be a judge at the Jetboil Cookoff, where three contestants combined their choice of twelve ingredients to create a camp meal. It was really fun – like a camp cookery version of Iron Chef – and the audience was really into it. All of the creations were very good, but a tasty curry dish by Allison Woods (foreground) had the edge. The other competitors, from left, were Jeremy Collins and Malcolm Daily.
Would you believe a miniature crank light that weighs just 0.5 ounce? The eGear Dynamo Dyno-Mite Keychain Light has two LEDs and no battery; one minute of winding produces five minutes of bright light. Measurements are 1.6 x 1.2 x 0.6 inches. MSRP is $8.95, and it’s available from essentialgear.com.
3M Thinsulate, the company that provides "warmth without bulk" insulation for many insulated boots, has developed the Thinsulate Thermal Insoles(3.2 ounces/pair, about $20) to provide underfoot warmth. The insoles are a sandwich of four layers: 1) an abrasion-resistant top layer containing an antimicrobial treatment to reduce odors and wicking technology to help keep feet drier; 2) a comfort layer of memory foam; 3) a Thinsulate insulation developed for underfoot applications; and 4) a bottom foam layer that absorbs shock, suppresses odors, and wicks moisture. 3M Thinsulate will likely OEM the insoles to various footwear manufactures for use in their insulated boots.
Therm-a-Rest will be introducing a new sleep system called the Haven Top Bag (22 ounces, $240 size regular). The Haven has a mummy-style hood, no zipper, and the center underside is not insulated; the shell and lining are 20 denier nylon. It’s insulated with 700-fill down and rated at 20F. Entry is through the hole in the bottomside. Simply attach the bag to a sleeping bag with two straps on the lower part of the bag, slide your legs into the foot of the bag as far as they will go, then pull the hood over your head like donning a sweater. A thinner pad can be put inside the bag for a tighter seal on the bottom.
At Granite Gear we found their new Uberlight CTF3 Drysacks. They look exactly like Cuben fiber, but Granite Gear calls the material "high strength composite." The bags will be available in 7L, 10L, 13L, and 18L sizes. All have glued seams and a drybag closure. The MSRPs (are you sitting down?) are $39 to $49 each. Amazingly, Granite Gear omitted the weights in their brochure on an "uberlight" product, but their representative said the weights are "slightly less than one-half the weight of their eVENT Sil-Drysacks," which means they are pretty darn light. However, they should float on air for that price!
We also discovered two new lightweight internal frame backpacks at Granite Gear. The 52L Vapor Flash (3 pounds 1 ounce, $180, available now) is based on the Vapor suspension with fixed shoulder straps, two body and harness sizes, and four hipbelt sizes. All suspension components have soft padding that is wonderfully comfortable. The women’s version is the 48L Vapor Flash Ki. The second new pack is the Escape 60 (60 liters, 2 pounds 15 ounces, $200) featuring a new Escape suspension, which is a next generation of the Vapor suspension. The Escape has vertical shoulder strap adjustment and is distinguished by a large zippered stretch pocket on the front of the pack and LineLoc compression straps. A women’s Escape 60 Ki will also be available. Both of these new packs are really sweet, and it’s especially gratifying to see the increasing number of three-pound 60L internal frame packs that are hitting the market in recognition of the growing interest in lightweight backpacking.
The new Jacks ‘R’ Better Mt. Washington 3 Under Quilt works on any hammock; it’s shown here under a JRB Bear Mountain Bridge Hammock. It attaches to a hammock in under a minute with the included JRB Suspension System. The shell is 1.1-ounce rip-stop nylon with a DWR treatment. Constant height radial cut baffles are filled with 800+ fill power down. The Mt. Washington weighs 22 ounces and comes with a JRB silnylon compression sack that allows it to be stuffed to 7 x 7 x 8 inches.
This is our last blog dispatch on our summer Outdoor Retailer findings. Janet and I covered a lot of ground and found a lot of great gear, but of course we couldn’t be everywhere and undoubtedly we missed some good things. It was a lot of fun – OR is exhilarating because of all the positive energy everywhere – but at the end we feel drained. Several nights with only five hours of sleep will tend to do that. We hope you enjoyed our coverage and the format we used; it enabled us to cover more items faster. Give us your comments below!