BIVY SACKS. We found two new minimalist waterproof breathable bivys at the show – an 18 oz 3-layer eVENT bag cover from Integral Designs and an ultralight (7.0 oz) PU waterproof-breathable bivy from Montbell. It is interesting to note the naming conventions here. Integral Designs calls their product the “All eVENT Overbag/Bivy” – a brutally descriptive name that lacks branding finesse, but by God, we know what the heck the product is, don’t we? Let’s contrast this to MontBell’s product: the DRTC U.L. Sleeping Bag Cover. Man, do these companies need some help naming their products! Fortunately the engineering is solid – these are well made products that are a true expression of ultralight simplicity and art. MontBell earns the edge in packability and weight, but we expect the Integral Designs product to perform better in terms of breathability – a lot better in fact – than the MontBell product, which uses a PU membrane-based fabric.

MontBell DRTC U.L. Sleeping Bag Cover

GAITERS AND GLOVES. Integral Designs, Outdoor Research, and MontBell offer new gaiter options for backpackers. ID uses three-layer eVENT in a half-height (mid-calf) gaiter that weighs only 2.5 ounces. These will make you drool (packed size is 2” x 4”). OR ditches the XCR Cayman – a delicate affair for mountaineers, in lieu of tougher 50d WP/B fabric in the Verglas Gaiter, keeping weight at 7.4 ounces but dropping the price to forty bucks. The OR Celestial is a six-ounce Pac-Lite full length gaiter that looks like their Rocky Mountain gaiters that costs – you guessed it – forty bucks. MontBell enters the gaiter market with a 3.2 oz Schoeller shorty that weighs about the same as other soft shell shorties on the market.

Integral Designs eVENT Gaiters

MontBell Soft Shell Gaiters

Outdoor Research Celestial Gaiters

Bid adieu to Outdoor Research Rain Mitts and Lobster Claw Mitts – chief complaints of which were miserably user-unfriendly wrist closures and slippery palms. What replaces them, sort of, are the short gauntlet Rain Claw Mitts, which have a grippier palm and tougher fabric but inflate to 3.2 oz – not exactly a viable alternative to the stick-in-the-bottom-of-your-pack-and-forget-it mitts of old. The new Rain Claws fill a niche – for sure – but we’re sad to see old friends go away, even if they hadn’t yet reached their design potential.

Outdoor Research Rain Claw Mitts

STOVES AND COOKWARE. Not a lot of new or interesting ultralight cookware is being released in ’05, but we like the 1.9 oz SnowPeak Titanium Bowl that uses thinner metal than on most of their cookware. Add an aluminum foil lid and a pair of wool gloves, and voila, you have an ultralight titanium cookpot that weighs less than two ounces and is perfectly suited for solo cooking on just about any alcohol or canister stove. Hmmm…

Coleman F1 Powerboost 24,000 BTU Stove

How about Primus? They’re getting into the business of lightweight white gas stoves, too. The sleek-looking Primus Gravity MF Multi-Fuel Stove weighs 10.4 oz (stove and pump), puts out 10,500 btu/hr, and also uses kerosene. A 7.8 oz version works with a detached canister.

Coleman – manufacturer of the Big Green Stove that Belongs in Every Ford Truck – is going after lightweight backpackers in a big way with redneck power. Not only is their PowerMax fuel system grabbing market share from white gas enthusiasts, they are building sub-three-ounce canister stoves that are hotter than anything else on the market: the Coleman F1 Canister Stove puts out 16,000 btu/hr and our tests with it confirm that it has the fastest boil times in the industry and has the power to bring water to boil in wind without a windscreen. If you like that, get this: the 4.5 ounce Coleman F1 Powerboost Canister Stove burns at 24k. Yeah, that’s hot.

UMBRELLAS. The MontBell Trekking Umbrella is made with Ballistic Airlight nylon, has a 32 in diameter, packs to a very compact size, and weighs only 5.6 oz. The GoLite Chrome Dome (metallized polyester canopy for sun protection) has a sturdy shaft and more comfortable and durable knurled grip using high-density foam. It is 44 inches in diameter and weighs in at 10 oz.

GoLite Dome Umbrella and Chrome Dome Waterproof polyester, 44 in diameter, 9 oz Dome and 10 oz Chrome Dome

Mont-Bell Trekking Umbrella Ballistic Airlight nylon, 32 in diameter, 5.6 oz

CLOTHING. The big guys with the fancy mountain logo are releasing the most innovative apparel at OR this year. In addition to newer, lighter soft shells and raingear, we like the Patagonia Micro Puff Vest: it weighs a paltry five ounces and uses 1.1 oz nylon fabric and Polarguard Delta like its bigger brother, the 12-ounce Micro Puff Pullover. Wool clothing continues to evolve into lighter weights: how about the long awaited Smartwool Microweight line? For 2005, a short sleeve shirt that weighs less than five ounces (and is noticeably cooler in the heat than the lightweight pieces) is the signature piece in the line, but expand the line to expand to long sleeves and long pants in six to twelve months. Smartwool Lightweight offers the most options for backpackers today, and is perhaps the most versatile weight in the entire line. Ibex puts a minimization routine on the Icefall with a lighter version of Ibex ClimaWool Lite (lighter nap, lighter shell fabric – ClimaWool Lighter? ClimaWool really light?), trims the fit, dumps the hand pockets, cleans up the construction, and gets to 12 oz – the lightest wool soft shell on the market now. Here’s something interesting: Integral Designs is building 18 oz Primaloft blankets with a hold in the middle. Got a poncho? Wanna wear your bed in camp? Fun gear!

Ibex Climawool Lighter Soft Shell Jacket

PACKS. Granite Gear enters the lightweight-packs-for-women-too business with the Granite Gear Nimbus Latitude Ki Backpack being the most interesting affair: a 3800 ci rated for 30-45 pound loads offering shorter torsos, more padding in the harness, curvy-hip-friendly belt, and shoulder straps that curve in the right places. Of course, it comes in pretty colors, too: putty is the base color, and sage and ribbon red are offered as accent options. Not ultralight, but women seeking comfort should have a look.

GIZMOS AND GADGETS. Are you someone who needs Bach or Black Sabbath, Air Supply or ZZ Top, to round out that perfect backcountry experience? A watch company may have the ticket: The High Gear Trail Audio MP3 Player is a 512mb MP3 player/FM radio in a compact, 3.5 oz package with a carabiner clip that gives you up to 17 hours of play time on its single AAA battery. We may go to hell for encouraging our readers to indulge in devices that interrupt the pristine wilderness experience, so we need to offer our disclaimer: you don’t need this device and it will add to your pack weight. (But not much!)

Macintosh users rejoice: National Geographic, despite indications to the contrary, will now be offering Topo! Mapping Software for Mac.

Outdoor Research, the company that was formerly the innovator in organizational tools for backpackers – think stuff sacks, cubes, cylinders (maybe we’ll see helixes from them in the future) – is playing catch up to Granite Gear’s wildly successful SilCordura sack program. OR is launching a new line of SilCordura products that offer a little more styling, with no meaningful differences in weight or function. It’s the right move for OR: we’ve been waiting for them to join in and we hope to see more ultralight accessories from them in the future. More interesting is Integral Designs’ Silcoat Backpack, a silicone coated nylon stuff sack/day pack: a 25L affair that weighs 4.5 ounces and offers both shoulder straps (2”) and a hip belt (1”). Of course, it’s marketed for backpackers wanting a day pack out of their sleeping bag compression strap, but we’re sort of drooling over another application, maybe…superultralight backpacking?

Outdoor Research SilCordura Stuff Sacks and More

THAT’s a WRAP! That’s it for summer OR – almost. Be sure to check out our more comprehensive introductions to new products and trends from today: