I spent the past few days at Outdoor Retailer, a trade show held twice a year in Salt Lake City, where all of the major outdoor gear manufacturers gather to show off their new products to retailers and the media. While I wouldn’t say that any of the new products that I learned about were revolutionary, the impact of lightweight fabrics, materials and insulation technologies continues to effect every segment of the outdoor industry from snowshoes, skis, footwear, and apparel to tents, sleeping bags, and backpacks. It’s a fascinating process to watch and I’m always surprised by the many innovative and creative products that gear and clothing designers introduce each year.
Here are some of the new and notable products that I saw at this year’s Outdoor Retailer Winter Market:
Single Wall Tents and Tarps
Big Agnes has introduced a new 2 person ultralight A-frame style shelter called the Scout UL 2 that weighs in at an incredibly low 1 pound 9 ounces. A single skin shelter, it comes with a built in floor, side mesh vents, and is pitched using trekking poles.
Mountainsmith also introduced a two-person shelter called the Mountain Shelter LT which is a floorless A-Frame tarp with a front vestibule designed for two people. Weighing 1 pound 15 ounces, it is a radical departure from the dome style car camping tents that Mountainsmith has been making the past few years.
Easton Mountain Products showed off the Ultra Light Expedition tent, a 2-person, all season tent made with a cuben fiber floor and large eVent panels for enhanced breathability. Weighing 2.1 pounds, the freestanding Ultra Light Expedition is designed for summit attempts. Pricing has not been set but will be in the neighborhood of $2000. For that much money, it better be pretty breathable!
Designed for backpacking and camping, the Sierra Designs Flash 2 has an external frame with hybrid single and double wall panels that can be set up very quickly without the need to pitch a separate rain fly, preventing the inside of the tent from getting soaked if you need to set up your tent in the rain. Atrium style vents at the ends of the tent significantly reduce internal condensation by providing better airflow including a three-fold reduction in the amount of internal condensation compared to a double walled tent. Freestanding, with two doors and twin vestibules, the Flash 2 is an attractive alternative for couples or backpacking partners looking for a lightweight but roomy tent that is still under 4 pounds in weight.
Sleeping Bags, Quilts, and Pads
Therm-a-Rest introduced a new line of synthetic and down mummy sleeping bags, including an integrated attachment system to keep your sleeping bag on your sleeping pad at night without the use of a bivy sack. Called Synergy Link, the underside of the sleeping bags have two stretchy bands that wrap around and secure to your Therm-A-Rest or any other sleeping pad. Available in a wide range of weights and temperature ratings, the sleeping bags are configured as top bags with most of of the insulation positioned over your chest. This makes it possible to lighten the overall weight and packed volume of the bags, while providing the comfort of a full wrap-around sleeping bag back, which Therm-a-Rest found consumers prefer over backless quilts or down blankets.
Big Agnes and Sierra Designs introduced new high fill power down bags at the show made with Downtek and DriDown waterproof treated goose down. In a major departure from their existing products, Big Agnes introduced several traditional mummy sleeping bags without an integrated sleeping pad sleeve or attachment system because “they want to be everywhere in all segments of the market.”
The new Sierra Designs sleeping bags are rated for colder weather backpacking and camping including bags rated for -20, -5, 13 and 30 degrees. They are exceptionally lightweight and competitively priced against high end bags made by other manufacturers like Western Mountaineering..
Mountainsmith announced a new line of lightweight backpacks, including the Haze 50, a minimalist top loader, under two pounds in weight. The Haze features a unique illiac crest shell cup waist belt which provides superior load to hip transfer. The Haze 50 is rated for loads up to 35 pounds.
Sea-to-Summit introduced a new line of multi-sport, all-in-one, waterproof backpacks designed for hiking, mountain biking, climbing, canyoneering, kayaking, packrafting, and fishing that combine the properties of a TPU laminated 420d seam-sealed nylon dry bag with the comfort and suspension of a backpack. Sized in 24, 26, and 34 liters, the packs feature a top loading roll top main chamber, fully seam sealed construction, a white interior for improved visibility of contents, padded quick drying shoulder straps, removable waist belts and external lash points. I think there’s a crying need for waterproof backpacks in the market that carry like proper backpacks not canoe dry bags and I’m excited to try these packs out in wet conditions.
Deuter introduced a new series of Extended Length (EL) backpacks available across their most popular models for people with very long torso sizes ranging from 20″-24″.
Korkers and Vibram have co-developed an interchangeable foot tread system that lets you quickly switch out boot soles depending on the type of traction required. Initially developed for ice fisherman, Vibram hopes to commercialize the interchangeable tread system for other consumer segments.
Salomon has a new trail running shoe called the Fellraiser that will be available in mid-summer. Designed for wet and muddy conditions, it is a lightweight and fast drying trail runner without a breathable waterproof lining, and potentially a good hiking shoe.
Those were some of the more notable product highlights I saw at Outdoor Retailer and you should expect to see some reviews of these products on Section Hiker in the coming months.