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Outdoor Retailer 2018: Editor’s Choice Gear Picks

Outdoor Retailer 2018 Editor's Choice

Outdoor Retailer is a trade show held every summer where outdoor gear manufacturers come together and show off the gear they plan to bring to market in the upcoming year (2019). It’s a very social event where you get to catch up with old friends, drink a lot of beer, and try to figure out what the most promising new products will be. My focus at these shows is to look for new gear that I can use on my own trips and adventures and that I think my readers will benefit from knowing about.

Editor’s Choice

There were hundreds and hundreds of outdoor gear manufacturers at the Outdoor Retailer trade show this year and I met with many of them to see their 2019 offerings. The following products are the cream of the crop in my opinion, representing a variety of needs and price points. You should expect to see many of them featured in SectionHiker’s detailed gear reviews in the coming year as they come to market. I won’t formally recommend them until I get to test them, but they all look very promising.

Tents and Shelters

Key Trends: Material science innovations continue to drive gear weights lower and lower in the tent and shelter category. Some brands have embraced the new materials, while others have been slower to adopt them until manufacturing costs fall or the real world durability of new fabrics and structural materials is better understood.

Big Agnes' Carbon Tents have Dyneema Rain Flies and Carbon Fiber Poles
Big Agnes’ Carbon Tents have Dyneema Rain Flies, Nylon and Mesh Inner Tents, and Carbon Fiber Poles

Big Agnes made a splash with the introduction of the new ultralight “Carbon” line of tents made with Dyneema rain flies, nylon and mesh inner tents, and carbon fiber poles. While the weights of these tents is outstanding, you’ll probably need to tap into your trust fund to buy one.

ModelTrail WeightPrice
Fly Creek HV 1 Carbon16 oz / 454g$799.95
Fly Creek HV 2 Carbon18 oz / 510 g$849.95
Tiger Wall 2 Carbon25 oz / 709g$999.95
Tiger Wall 3 Carbon30 oz / 850g$1,199.95
Scout 2 Carbon11 oz / 312g$699.95
Onyx Tarp Carbon8 oz / 227g$499.95
Flower Wall Bivy Carbon6 oz / 170gTBD
Big Agnes Bikepacking Tents have short tent poles that are easier to pack on bikes
Big Agnes’ Bikepacking Tents have short tent poles that are easier to pack on bikes, with more functional stuff sacks.

Big Agnes also introduced ultralight bikepacking versions of the Fly Creek HV UL 1, Fly Creek HV UL 2, Copper Spur HV UL 1, and the Copper Spur HV UL2. The key innovation in this series are tent poles that have a maximum segment length of 12 inches, making them easier to pack in bike frame bags or panniers.

The Eureka Solitaire AL weighs 2 lbs 10 oz and costs just $99.95
The Eureka Solitaire AL weighs 2 lbs 10 oz and costs just $99.95

Eureka will be introducing a more durable version of the iconic Solitaire Tent ($99.95) that will include more durable aluminum poles instead of the fiberglass ones sold with the Solitaire today, which have a history of breaking. Weighing 2 lbs 10 ounces, the Solitaire AL is a spacious bivy style tent with a mesh roof that can be used for stargazing on cool nights. I reviewed the Solitaire 1P on SectionHiker.com a few years ago and think it will be an even better entry-level backpacking tent with the new aluminum poles.

NEMO Rocket 2 - 22 oz
NEMO Rocket 2 – 22 oz

The NEMO Rocket 2 is a two person ultralight, single-wall tent for two people with dual vestibules that’s pitched with trekking poles. Abundant side mesh helps cut down on internal condensation while high sidewalls and a deep bathtub floor provide enhanced weather protection and increased head room. The tent is made using the same conventional Silnylon/PU 7d and 10d fabrics on the NEMO Hornet UL double-wall tents.

MSR has eliminated seam taping in the Hubba Hubba NX and has a new bug bivy for use with tarps
MSR has eliminated seam taping in the Hubba Hubba NX and has a new bug bivy for use with tarps

The 2019 MSR Hubba Hubba NX will include Easton Syclone tent poles which are more durable and resilient than the aluminum poles previously included with the tent and less prone to breaking than carbon fiber poles. MSR has changed the way they sew the Hubba Hubba’s fabric seams, making them waterproof without the use of seam taping (which breaks down with use and exposure to sun), thereby increasing the tents effective lifespan. MSR also introduced a 10 oz mesh inner tent/bug bivy for use with a tarp, but it has an unusual door orientation, so I’m not sure whether it will be that convenient to use. But that’s why we test gear, to find out.

OR's new Waterproof Breathable stargazer and Interstellar Bivies have U-shaped zippers for ease of access and Delrin rods to increase headroom and livability.
OR’s new Waterproof/ Breathable Stargazer and Interstellar Bivies have U-shaped zippers for ease of access and Delrin rods to increase headroom and livability.

Outdoor Research has overhauled their entire bivy product line while introducing two new waterproof/breathable bivy sacks called the Interstellar Bivy (19.9 oz, $275)  and the Stargazer Bivy (18.5 oz, $259) that have U-shaped zippers for ease of access. The weight of the Helium Bivy ($179), originally introduced in 2014, has dropped from 18 oz to 16.8 oz, while the Alpine Bivy ($250) has dropped from 32 oz to an astounding 21.5 oz.

Backpacks

Key Trends: It’s amazing how many new backpacks are introduced every year or improved and updated. The availability of light weight packs continues to grow and more manufacturers, including Mountain Hardware and Exped, have started making packs with Dyneema DCF. But the biggest trend that stands out in the backpacking world is the widespread introduction of women’s-specific backpacks by many new manufacturers, including Mystery Ranch and Granite Gear. Take note: unisex backpack sizing is dead-on-arrival.

The new Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 has a max load rating of 50 lbs and is available in men's and women's-specific models
The new Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 has a max load rating of 50 lbs and is available in men’s and women’s-specific models.

Granite Gear unveiled an impressive upgrade of the Blaze AC 60 Backpack, with an entirely new injection molded framesheet that gives the pack an impressive 50 lb load rating. The pack has an adjustable length hip belt and adjustable torso length so you can dial in a perfect fit. It has a removable top lid than can be attached to the front of the pack and used as a large chest pocket, a rear zipper that provides full interior access, and large hip belt pockets. The new Blaze AC uses a custom 210 Robic Nylon UHMWPE triple gridstop in high wears areas, making it Granite Gear’s most durable backpack to date. The pack is available in multiple torso ranges raging from 15″ to 24″ for men and ranging from 15″ to 21″ for women, including women’s specific shoulder straps and hip belts. The Blaze AC 60 pack weight ranges from 2.9 to 3.1 lbs, depending on the size.

Mountain Hardwear and Exped have new Dyneema climbing packs.
Mountain Hardwear and Exped have new Dyneema climbing packs.

In addition, Mountain Hardware and Exped announced two new Dyneema (DCF) climbing packs. The Mountain Hardware Alpine Light Backpack is a full-on climbing and winter sport backpack that will be competitively priced in 28L ($270), 35L ($330), and 50L ($350) sizes. Fit is unisex, but there will be multiple torso sizes available. Weights are currently unavailable. The Exped Whiteout is more of a minimalist alpine pack, with a roll-top, two external daisy chains, and a small zippered pocket. The Whiteout will be available in 35L, 45L, and 55L sizes weighing 24.5 oz, 28 oz, and 30 oz, respectively.

Mammut has a new adjustable-length backpack called the Trion Spine Pack, intended for trekking and mountaineering, which has dual pivot points at the hips and shoulders that can move independent of one another and helping you to climb or hike more efficiently. A stabilizing rod connecting the two ends of the frame dampens any excess movement, providing a very stable carry. The Trion Spine will be available this spring in men’s and women’s specific version in 35L, 50L, and 70L sizes.

Sleeping Bags, Quilts, and Pads

Key Trends: Sleep system components keep getting lighter and lighter, finally rivaling those made by the ultralight cottage manufacturers in the sleeping bag and quilt category. In addition, the first version of an industry-wide sleeping pad R-value measurement standard has been ratified and will soon be an ASTM International Standard. Participation by key retailers, including REI, will likely force major sleeping pad manufacturers such as NEMO and Big Agnes to start labelling their sleeping pads with R-values instead of temperature ratings by 2020, increasing consumer confidence, and providing a basis of comparison between sleeping pad brands.

The NeoAir Uberlite only weighs 8.8 ounces (72" x 20") and has an R-value of 2
The NeoAir Uberlite only weighs 8.8 ounces (72″ x 20″) and has an R-value of 2. The crinkly potato chip layer has also been removed, providing a much quieter air mattress.

In sleeping pads, Therm-a-Rest introduced the new NeoAir Uberlite Air Mattress, which weighs 8.8 oz ($179.95) in a regular 72″ x 20″ size and just 6.0 oz ($139.95) in a small 48″ x 20″ size. The Uberlite has an R-value of 2.0, with 2.5 inches of cushioning. While the Uberlite retains the Triangular Core Matrix insulation used in other NeoAir mattresses, the crinkly (potato-chip) sounding mirrored layer has been removed, which will be a welcome relief for people who think the old NeoAir pads are noisy to sleep on.

The Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt is filled with 900 fill power RDS certified waterproof down
The Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt is filled with 900 fill power RDS certified waterproof down. A 32F, size regular, weighs under a pound.

Therm-a-Rest also has a hot new ultralight quilt called the Vesper 32F/0C & 20/F/-6V that is filled with 900 fill power, RDS-certified, Nikwax Hydrophobic Down. The Vesper 32 weighs 15 oz in a size regular ($329.95) and 17 oz in a size long ($349.95), while the Vesper 20 weighs 19 oz in a size regular ($379.95) and 21 oz in a size long (399.95). All of the Vespers have side baffles, a neckline draft collar, insulated footbox, and incorporate Therm-a-Rest’s ThermaCapture lining. They also include SynergyLink connectors to integrate with your sleeping pad to form a complete sleep system.

The Big Agnes Pluton is a 40F ultralight sleeping bag that weighs 15 oz
The Big Agnes Pluton is a 40F ultralight sleeping bag that weighs 15 oz

Big Agnes announced a new ultralight 40 degree sleeping bag called the Pluton ($349.95) that is filled with 850 fill power Downtek RDS-certified down and weighs in at 15 oz. It has a minimalist hood and a full-length, two-way zipper, so you can vent your feet if they’re too warm.

Other Notable Products and Updates

The Lifesaver Jerrycan is a water container capable of filtering 5282 gallons of water on one replaceable filter cartridge
The Lifesaver Jerrycan is a water container capable of filtering 5282 gallons of water per replaceable filter cartridge.
  • Sawyer will begin a sell a Micro Version of the popular Squeeze Filter in a few weeks. It will flow nearly as fast as the Squeeze, but has the benefit of dual-threaded ends for cleaning, connection to a gravity setup, and inline use.
  • The Lifesaver Jerrycan Water Filter (available today) is 4.9 gallon container with a built-in filter that can process 5,300 gallons of water, making it ideal for groups, emergency preparedness, and RV use. The Jerrycan filter removes 99.99% of viruses, 99.9999% of bacteria, and 99.99% of cysts. Once the filter cartridge is blocked, water will not pass through, so you’ll know when to replace it. A shower attachment is also available.
  • The Granite Gear Crown 2 60L gets an upgrade to its side water bottles pockets, which will be  slanted to make it easier to pull out and insert water bottles. The side pockets are also reinforced with solid fabric for increased durability.
  • Gregory will release new updated models of the Zulu and Jade Backpacks for men and women across a variety of sizes.
  • Mystery Ranch has rolled out a full line of women’s specific backpacks.
  • The Sierra Designs High Route FL 1 Tent has had a color revamp to match the other tents in the SD product line. The tent’s weight has also been reduced by 5 oz, to 1 lb 15 oz, bringing it under 2 lbs to encourage more thru-hikers to purchase it.
  • Sierra Designs will also offer an updated version of its original 800 fill power down Backcountry Quilt, renamed the Nitro Quilt in 35F (20 oz) and 20F degree (25 oz) options. Half bag, half quilt, the Nitro has a unique hood that folds away when not needed on warm nights.
  • Big Agnes has revamped their classic sleeping bag attachment system across the sleeping bag product line, making it simpler and lighter weight.
  • Vargo has entered the tent business with a new 2-person single wall, dual vestibule tent called the No-Fly 2P, weighing 2.6 lbs. The No-Fly is a freestanding tent with two interior poles that cross inside the tent’s roof and slot into the corners, providing a peak height of 43 inches for great livability.

What strikes your fancy?

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28 comments

  1. excellent report, many thanks

  2. Interesting with the Big Agnes tents with DCF rainflys. Surprised they didn’t go all in and make the tent body out of DCF, but maybe they’d have to redesign the shape to work well with poles. Or they’re dragging out the evolution to get some people to buy these new tents this year, and then again when the entire tent is upgraded. Oh wait, if the body is DCF, people won’t bother paying almost $100 for a footprint. I get their scheme!

    • I think it probably has to do more with cost and ease of manufacture. Making rain flies out of DCF only is rather smart because the their polyester floors are probably far more durable and lighter than dcf ones.

      • Not to mention the DCF floors tend to get pin holes and leak over time. They got it right.

  3. Langleybackcountry

    Do you know if Nemo intends to also put out a 1P version of the Rocket?

    • I don’t think that’s on their radar. But they didn’t say.

      • Langleybackcountry

        Do you have more about the “pitched with trekking poles?” There is a video tour of it and it uses a “T” with a vertical pole in the middle (like a ‘mid) and a ridge pole running across the tent at the top. Seems like at least the ridge pole would have to be part of the tent.

      • I didn’t get to take it apart at the trade show. They told me that trekking poles go into the top of the vestibules.

  4. Those BA bikepacking tents sound interesting for backpacking, too. Easier to pack those shorter poles. The TAR Uberlite pads might be the ticket for a lot of backpacking here in the southeast, with the added bonus of being quieter. Heck, loud lads wake me up when I’m the one sleeping on them. Though it might be tough to beat the Nemo Tensor pads for quiet comfort.

    • Yes. I might pick up an Uberlite at some point for the Arizona summers, and even some fall and spring desert camping when a hammock is impractical but the XLite is too warm.

  5. Do you have any notion of the release on on the new OR bivy line? They look very interesting.

  6. Does the updated Granite Gear Crown 2 60L stay with the open mesh back panel? I personally don’t care for it. Nice to see Dyneema DCF gaining traction. Thanks for a good overview of what’s coming.

  7. Regarding the Big Agnes Dyneema, is the only thing made out of dyneema the rain fly? Is that to say the rest of the tent is the same? If so I wonder if theyll make the cuben rain fly available on its own, ill probably pick one up then for my fly creek hv ul2

  8. Perhaps I just got lucky but the NeoAir XLite Large is as quiet as sleeping on sleeping on an Alpaca Skin Rug. No noise except for the occasional fart. It is also in the Large size as I like comfort and warm elbows when I sleep. I know of no one in real life that has this problem I keep reading about.

  9. It’s a bit frustrating that a backpacker can’t look at this gear directly. I went to REI the other day and they don’t have a single quit. Carbela has nothing I would buy. LL Bean, same thing. I appreciate your reviews because the only option for lightweight gear is buying on line.

    • It’s the era we live in. Brick and mortar is dead.

      • Or, maybe not.

        www (dot) retaildive.com/news/why-most-shoppers-still-choose-brick-and-mortar-stores-over-e-commerce/436068/

        Why most shoppers still choose brick-and-mortar stores over e-commerce
        Online shopping has never been easier. But the majority of American consumers want the tactile experiences offered by physical stores.

        www (dot) forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2017/06/30/the-e-commerce-paradox-brick-and-mortar-killer-or-is-it/

        The E-Commerce Paradox: Brick-And-Mortar Killer…Or Is It?

  10. It’s really heartening to see more women’s packs.

    I hope that next, we’ll see shorter sleeping bags. Average height for a woman is 5’4″. I’m just a bit salty; I’m really lusting over the Sierra Design Cloud 35 but it’s just too long.

    • Happy to second this comment!!!! Also thank you Philip for highlighting the lack of choice for equipment designed for women in your reviews. For some reason in the outdoor industry women are second class citizens despite the accomplishments of many amazing women athletes and the participation and retail clout of women.

      Stating the obvious, equipment designed on a male prototype equals weight penalties, less choice and loss of comfort for women. After questioning Patagonia on the issue of ‘unisex’ pants in the women’s category (with male measurements in the sizing window) the response from Patagonia, “With the outdoor industry being a male dominated culture, that does carry over to our customer base being mostly males as well”.?????

  11. A superb update that will lead to many of us updating some piece of gear. I am particularly interested in the new packs as design begins to keep up with materials with pockets and such. As a gram counter though I wish you had weights and measures in normal metric as changing the ozs is well… thanks for all you do and safe hiking to you and all. Her majesty here may give out when I buy the Nepalese uberlight but she can have the several others. Cheers! Dara in Ottawa Canada. Latest hike TGO Scotland.

  12. Nice summary of new stuff in the pipeline; thanks for the report!

    I’ll be curious to see how much the pendulum continues to swing toward more packs with perimeter-frames, packs with more pocket options, and maybe away from from stretchy mesh pockets (prone to snagging, tearing, etc.). For a while, external frames, and even sewn-in perimeter frames were nowhere to be found. Now, a number of packs have these “loop” or U-shaped structures, and a few, like Vargo and Seek Outside are old-school, but updated, overtly external frame designs.

    The stretchy, mesh pocket thing has never made much sense to me. Seems like the purported benefits are usually outweighed by problems. I’d be happy to see not only more packs offered with external pocket options, but also have those pockets be solid fabric with some kind of definitive closure. Better still, someone could offer a modular kind of pack with choices for things like this.

  13. I’m not all that taken with much of the new SUL gear when compared to my own merely UL gear. But despite that I’m heartened to see that advances are being made in lightening our load. However most items also lighten my wallet waaay too much.

    My solo TT Moment DW tent, WM Megalite down bag, Osprey EXOS 58 pack and Trail Designs ti cone stove are still light enough that the difference in weight v.s. price does not entice me – yet.

    I am a geezer in my mid 70s so maybe I’ll be forced to lighter (& pricier) gear soon but so far so good. Still looking for Unobtanium hiking poles to replace my carbon fiber poles.

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