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Outdoor Retailer Trade Show Highlights – Summer 2015

Outdoor Retailer is always a far out experience with over 1000 outdoor manufacturers demonstrating products to industry insiders, one to two years before they become availble to consumers.

Outdoor Retailer is always a far out experience with over 1000 outdoor manufacturers demonstrating products to industry insiders, one to two years before they become available to consumers.

I spent three days last week in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show, a twice annual exhibition where manufacturer meet retail buyers and the press to show them new products and product prototypes which will be available to consumers anywhere from six months to two years in the future. With over 1000 manufacturers exhibiting, there were close to a million products on display from outdoor pizza ovens to ukuleles, drones, electric skateboards, fishing kayaks, and SUPs outfitted with yoga mats.

This being the summer show (there’s a second winter gear orgy every year), the focus was on warm weather activities. Here’s a summary of the main themes I observed and some standout products that I think you’ll find interesting.

Berghaus Hypershell Jacket, a 75g waterproof breathable minimalist rain jacket which will retail for $150.

Berghaus Hypershell Jacket, a 75 g waterproof breathable minimalist rain jacket which will retail for $150.

Ultralight Minimalist Raincoats

Berghaus, Montane, and Ultimate Direction, all announced waterproof breathable rain jackets at the show that push the envelope of what’s possible with ultralight rain garments.

Berghaus announced the 75 g ( 2.6 ounce) full-zip Hypershell Jacket made using the company’s proprietary membrane and waterproof coating. With an elasticized hood, wrist cuffs, hem, and taped seams, this minimalist jacket, which compresses down to the size of an orange, is a high exertion piece targeted at mountain runners and fast packers.

Montane announced the Minimus 777 Jacket, weighing 140 g (4.9 oz). A triple layer waterproof breathable jacket, the Minimus 777 has a 7 denier nylon face, a 7 micron laminate film, and a 7 denier tricot backing for durability and comfort. It a nice looking jacket.

The Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket features a hood chennel for moisture management, self storing rain mitts, and pit zips to increate ventilation.

The Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket features a hood channel for moisture management, self storing rain mitts, and pit zips to increased ventilation.

Not to be out done by the Brits, US-based Ultimate Direction showed off the waterproof breathable Ultra Jacket (5.9 ounces /167 grams) which features pit zips and self storing rain mitts attached at the end of the sleeves.

While the jury is out on whether any of these ultralight jackets will be sufficiently waterproof and breathable for hiking and backpacking in all-day rain, I expect to put them to the test when the first production runs become available later this year.

Sierra Designs new Frontcountry Bed Sleeping Bag moves the queen bed to the campsite.

Sierra Designs new Frontcountry Bed Sleeping Bag moves the queen bed to the campsite.

Killing the Mummy

Backcountry style beds, quilts, technical blankets, and modular bed systems continue to erode the long-held mummy style monopoly on sleeping bags, which have been increasingly relegated to technical and cold weather adventures rather than mainstream camping and backpacking use. Spurred by innovator Sierra Designs, this trend has been snowballing since last year when the company introduced their best-selling Backpacking Bed. Building on that success, Sierra Designs brings the queen bed to the campsite with its new Frontcountry Bed Sleep system so you can have all the comforts of home while camping.

The Nemo Concertos is a bed-like system that is rathed for 20 degrees.

The Nemo Concertos is a bed-like system that is rated for 20 degrees.

Along the bed theme, Nemo introduced the 700 fill power Downtek Concerto bed system, rated to 20 degrees which includes removable sheets, stretch construction and a quilted mattress top. Building on the success of NEMO’s Stratoloft bed system, the Concerto’s hood has extra down baffles inside the hood that cradle your head and increase heat retention in cold weather.

The Sea-to-Summit Basecamp integrates closely with the companies sleeping pads and pillows to create a complete reconfigurable sleep system.

The Sea-to-Summit Basecamp integrates closely with the companies sleeping pads and pillows to create a complete configurable sleep system.

Sea-to-Summit introduced three Basecamp Bed systems that are generously sized for side sleepers or tall campers. Available with down or synthetic insulation, you can vent the feet or unzip one or both sides to remain comfortable, transforming the Basecamp into  large summer quilt. Sea-to Summit also introduced three new down ultralight style Ember Quilts which can be used as blankets or attached to a sleeping pad using adjustable straps.

Additionally, Therm-a-Rest announced several new quilts and warm weather camping blankets, including the Corus HD Quilt rated for 35-45 degrees, filled with 650 fill power Nikwax Hyrodophobic Down, an updated Vela Quilt and Double Vela Quilt, and four new technical sleeping blankets: the Proton with a reflective liner, the Stellar and Argo blankets, and the wearable Honcho Poncho.

Jetboil Genesis - a propane-powered stove system with a new shape.

Jetboil Genesis – a propane-powered car camping stove system with a new shape.

Camping Stoves Reimagined

Jetboil has come out with a new propane powered car camping stove called the Genesis which leverages the simmer control in the Jetboil Minimo Canister Stove. Highly modular, the Genesis breaks the traditional camping stove paradigm in half, with rounded stacking burners instead of your father’s rectangular Coleman style camp stove. Never fear, if you still like making your morning coffee with a Jetboil French Press and can’t give that up, you can daisy chain the propane burning Jetboil Luna pot and Satellite Burner off the same propane tank as the Genesis so you only have to carry one Propane bottle when you go camping.

Primus brings refined European styling to backcountry cooking with the new Onjia, Tupike, and

Primus brings refined European styling to backcountry cooking with the new Onjia, Tupike, and

If you prefer sleeker European styling, check out the new Onja, Tupike, and Kinjia isobutane burning stoves from Primus. Designed for easy urban transport, the Onja includes a built-in cutting board and folds up into a stylish briefcase-sized unit that you can sling over your shoulder.

In other stove news, Soto stove has a new low-cost, high performance stove called the Amicus, designed for first time stove buyers, available with and without built-in igniter. (2.7 ounces).

Additionally, GSI Outdoors will begin bundling isobutane canister stoves and windscreens with their cookware systems so consumers can purchase all the components required for a full camping or backpacking cook system at once. The Minimalist Complete, shown below, includes the Minimalist cook pot, lid, spoon, pot holder, windshield, and canister stove. All of the new GSI Outdoors Complete stove systems will be available in January.

GSI Outdoors Minimalist Complete includes a cook pot, lid, spoon, pot holder, windshield, and Canister Stove.

GSI Outdoors Minimalist Complete includes a cook pot, lid, spoon, pot holder, windshield, and canister Stove.

Finally, stove-making giant Kovea has released the Alpine Pot EZ Eco Stove which has a built-in fuel tank that can be refilled using the partially used isobutane canisters you have lying around the house. Developed to help reduce litter from discarded gas canisters in Korea’s National Parks, the Alpine Pot EZ Eco can hold one ounce of isobutane fuel, which according to the manufacturer, is enough to boil six 500 ml portions of water.

Alpine EZ-Eco stove can be refilled using gas from partially full isobutane gas canisters you have lying around the house to reduce waste.

Alpine EZ-Eco stove can be refilled using gas from full isobutane gas canisters you have lying around the house to reduce waste.

Kovea plans to sell the Alpine EZ Eco directly to consumers in the US and not through retail channels.

Tents, Shelters, and Hammocks: Oh My!

The new Fly Creek UL 1 HV (high volume) features a new DAC hub that makes it possible to have steeper side walls for more interior volume, while improving the rain protection provided by the tent vestibule.

The new Fly Creek UL 1 HV (high volume) features a new DAC hub that makes it possible to have steeper side walls for more interior volume, while improving the rain protection provided by the tent vestibule.

Lightweight Tents

Tent weights continue to plunge with major brands racing for ultralight bragging rights, although the livability, features, and durability of these tents do suffer when all you care about is weight. One exception is the new Fly Creek UL+ 1 & 2 HV (for high volume) series of tents from Big Agnes, built using a new tent pole hub that enables steeper side-walls, improving interior volume while improving the effectiveness of the vestibule to shed rain.

The new MSR Freelite 2 is a freesstanding double wall tent weighing 2 pounds and has 2 doors and ample interior room for wide width sleeping pads and gear.

The new MSR Freelite 2 is a freestanding double wall tent weighing 2 pounds and has 2 doors, with ample interior room for wide width sleeping pads and gear.

Following the lightweight trend, MSR introduced a lightweight double-walled freestanding tent called the Freelite 2, which weighs 2 pounds and has 2 doors, with enough internal volume for wide camping pads and internal gear storage. The Freelite will also be available in 1 person and 3 person models.

The freestanding Hilleberg Niak 2 person tent is  easy to pitch weighs slightly less than 4 pounds.

The freestanding Hilleberg Niak 2 person tent is easy to pitch and weighs 3 pounds 10 ounces

Hilleberg also unveiled a lightweight two person freestanding tent called the Niak, weighing 3 pounds 10 ounces, that builds on the success of the lightweight 1-person Enan tent that the company introduced last year. Well-ventilated, the Niak can be pitched fly first in rainy weather in order to keep the inner tent dry, with extra guy out points and pole sleeves for bomber protection in exposed and windy terrain.

The North Face, Big Agnes, Freecountry dress up tent walls with loud colors and prints

The North Face, Big Agnes, and Field Candy  dress up tent walls with loud colors and prints

Tent Fly Art

In a bid to woo millennials, several tent manufacturers including The North Face and Field Candy have strayed from using muted Leave No Trace colors on their tent fly sheets, replacing them with crowd-sourced art and retro prints. I’ll let you judge the results.

MSR's new tarp and inner tent is avilable for two or three people.

MSR’s new tarp and inner tent is available for two or three people.

Tarp Shelters

MSR unveiled two ultralight tarps called the Thru Hiker Wing 70 and 100 made with a 20 d coated ripstop nylon and weighing 12 ounces and 17 ounces respectively. When coupled with the Thru-Hiker Mesh House 2 (14 oz) and Thru-Hiker Mesh 3 (16 oz), they can accommodate two or three people.

The Hilleberg Tarp 5 only weighs 11 ounces and has no ridgeline seam.

The Hilleberg Tarp 5 only weighs 11 ounces and has no ridgeline seam.

Hilleberg also demonstrated a prototype of the Tarp 5 catenary cut tarp which is large enough for two people to share. Weighing under 11 ounces, the Tarp 5 does not have a ridgeline seam and is set up using trekking poles.

EnoPod 3P Hammock Stand

EnoPod 3P Hammock Stand

Hammocks

While hammocks are all the rage these days for car camping and urban hanging, and hammock manufacturers are springing up like weeds, there’s a surprising lack of innovation in the market when it comes to simple gathered end sling hammocks.

While hammock specialist,  ENO (Eagles Nest Outfitters) did announce plans to sell single person, multi-person, and mobile hammock suspension systems, it’s not like Byer of Maine hasn’t been doing that for years already. I think there’s room for enormous innovation in the hammock space, but manufacturers are going to have to think out of the box to make them easy for consumers (beyond existing enthusiasts) to carry and use more widely.

A fraction of the backpacks that German Gear Maker Deuter exhibited at the show

A fraction of the backpacks that German Gear Maker Deuter exhibited at the show

Pack Attack

Backpacks were all the rage this year, with manufacturers launching hundreds of new models especially lower volume urban lifestyle, day hiking, and climbing packs. Here are some of the more promising packs I saw.

Mystery Ranch has added several new lines of day packs and switched to lighter weight fabrics.

Mystery Ranch has added several new lines of day packs and switched to lighter weight fabrics.

In a major strategy shift, Mystery Ranch unveiled several lines of day packs in a repeat attempt to sell through select retailers, in addition to direct to consumer sales from their website.  They’ve also started making packs with high tenacity Robic nylon to provide higher durability, while dropping pack weights,  including their high-capacity hunting pack models.

The Granite Gear Lutsen pack features solid side pockets, side compression webbing straps, and a roll top closure under a top lid.

The Granite Gear Lutsen pack features solid side pockets, side compression webbing straps, and a roll top closure under a top lid.

On larger backpacks, having an adjustable frame and hip belt is quickly becoming a market requirement, especially as the number of people day hiking and backpacking grows. Granite Gear just introduced the Lutsen multi-day backpack in 35L, 45L, and 55L sizes, which has a significantly different look than the packs in their Blaze, Crown, and Leopard families. Weighing  approximately 3 pounds in the 55L  size, the Lutsen has an adjustable length torso and adjustable length hip belt, a first for the company. With a roll top closure, top lid, hip belt pockets (YAY!), solid side water bottle pockets, and a larger rear mesh pocket, Granite Gear plans to upgrade their backpacking line in coming years to look more like the Lutsen.

Kelty updates their adjustable frame pack line, furniture, tents, sleeping bags, and furniture with new colors and fabrics in an effort to woo millenials and women.

Kelty updates their adjustable frame pack line, furniture, tents, sleeping bags, and furniture with new colors and fabrics in an effort to woo millennials and women.

Kelty also rolled out new updated packs including the venerable Red Wing 50 Reserve with a whole new look and an adjustable frame which can be refitted on the fly while worn. Targeting women and millennials, Kelty hopes to leverage their brand-name capital for urban and backcountry adventures by providing cool products at reasonable prices.

Osprey Packs adds the AG Suspension System to the Poco Child Carrier and Manta AG daypacks

Osprey Packs adds the AG Suspension System to the Poco Child Carrier and Manta AG daypacks

After the successful launch of its Anti-Gravity backpack suspension system, Osprey Packs has started to incorporate the AG suspension into other packs including the large Poco Child Carrier AG and the Manta AG day pack.

Montane also added 14 new backpacks to the line, including a minimalist cuben fiber pack called the Hyper Tour  38.

Mountain Hardware continues to expand their lineup of waterproof backpacks and daypacks lined with Outdry in a bid to bring multi-sport athletes and urban pack users, such as cyclists, back to the brand.

The Exped Synmat Hyperlite Duo two-person sleeping pad has separate adjustments enabling a couple to select different firmness settings while sharing the same pad.

The Exped Synmat Hyperlite Duo two-person sleeping pad has separate adjustments enabling a couple to select different firmness settings while sharing the same pad.

Sleeping Pads

Exped continues to expand its premium sleeping pad line, unveiling the Synmat Hyperlight Duo 2 person pad which provides separate firmness controls for each sleeper.

The NeoAir Camper SV (Speed Valve) inflates in one third the time of a normal air mattress and deflates almost instantly.

The NeoAir Camper SV (Speed Valve) inflates in one third the time of a normal air mattress and deflates almost instantly.

Therm-a-Rest demonstrated a prototype of the NeoAir Camper SV (Speed Valve) which inflates in 1/3 the time of a normal NeoAir pad and deflates almost instantly. Featuring a large roll top port, a user can inflate the pad with a few breaths and empty the air inside quickly, using the valve for fine adjustments only.

The NEMO Vector is the lightest most comfortable sleeping pad available with an integrated foot pump.

The NEMO Vector is the lightest most comfortable sleeping pad available with an integrated foot pump.

NEMO demonstrated a new family of insulated inflatable pads, the Tensor and the Vector, with internal reflective layers for better heat retention. The face fabric on these pads is quiet, comfortable, and feels better against the skin than competitive products.

Altra's new bluetooth enabled trail runners montor cadence, contact time, foot force, foot zone, and pace so runners can improve their form and performance.

Altra’s new bluetooth enabled trail runners monitor cadence, contact time, foot force, foot zone, and pace so runners can improve their form and performance.

Other Notable Product Announcements

  • Altra has developed a bluetooth sensor-enabled running shoe that helps trail runners monitor variables such as pace, foot force, strike zone, cadence, and contact time to help improve their stride. It will be available next year.
  • Big Agnes will release mtnGlo versions of the Fly Creek UL 1 & 2 and the Copper Spur UL 1 & 2.
  • Exped’s USA subsidiary will begin selling all of the products sold by its European parent, including a greatly expanded backpack range.
  • The Italian bootmaker Garmont has relaunched its USA business. Famous for its well-fitting boots, it is targeting the hiking boot, approach, and trail running segments.
  • Ex Officio has come out with an even more comfortable version of its Give-N-Go performance underwear (a SectionHiker reader favorite) which is now available in a cooler, better wicking sports mesh version.
  • Outdoor Research will introduce 22 new women’s specific sportswear styles combining outwardly casual styles that offer beneath-the-surface technical function.

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7 Responses to Outdoor Retailer Trade Show Highlights – Summer 2015

  1. louisfbrooks August 10, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    The rain jackets looking interesting and I look forward to your review. I have been using a poncho from Zpacks the past couple of years but I wouldn’t want to use it off trail.

    As for the sleeping bags it seems more and more companies are following BA with the sleeps systems. I would like to see a UL version that combines the light weight of a quilt without the draft issues. That queen size set may be interesting for car camping with the wife.

    None of the stoves really look interesting from a UL standpoint. Though I do like the Kovea idea of a refillable fuel canister. I have half a dozen canisters now that have some fuel but not enough for a multiday trip. Someone needs to offer this with a standard bayonet mount so I can use my trusty Pocket Rocket.

    Wow, a 2 lb freestanding tent from a major manufacturer. Wonder what the cost will be for that one. I just picked up an REI quarter dome for kayak camping but I might have waited had I known this was coming out. Then I could loan it to friends when I take them backpacking. That MSR tarp tent reminds me of the A-frames I started with in the Boy Scouts so many years ago.

    I hope that more cottage manufacturers look into adjustable frames for their packs. It is one of the reasons I am always hesitant to recommend them to newbies. Right now I usually recommended a Gregory pack or Kelty Pack because they can go to an outfitter and get them fitted. For those that are a little more savvy I point them to GG or Zpacks depending on their budget.

    I just recently converted from UA to Ex Officio and there is no comparison. They make great undergarments for women as well.

    –louis

    • J Henricks August 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

      I would like to point out that the first sleep system I ever owned was made by Marmot (I think) and that was in 1995. Its was very nice down fill, with the top “quilt” unzipping from the bottom pad sleeve and a semi-rectangular shape. I believe it did not sell well…too revolutionary.The sleeping system concepthas been around for quite some time.

  2. Amy August 10, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    Wow! Thanks! I am happily married, but if you ever want to take a date to that trade show, I would be happy to tag along! :)

  3. Yaan G August 10, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    I wonder how some of these ultralight tents would stand up to a strong wind.
    I remember about 25 years ago, REI built a big platform on top of a pickup truck. To assess the strength of the tents, they pitched tents on top and drove around at various speeds until the tent deformed or failed.
    Are there any Section Hiker regulars out there ready to strap a piece of plywood to the top of their Subaru so we can get this new generation of tents tested?

    • Philip Werner August 11, 2015 at 6:23 am #

      That why mfgs do wind room testing now. Many publish the videos on YouTube.

  4. Axel August 10, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

    Looks like the Hilleberg Niak is a retool of the Unna in the same spirit as theEnan and Akto?

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