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Outdoor Retailer 2019: Editor’s Choice Gear Picks

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 (2020). The big themes at the show were a move by the industry to eliminate single-use bottles and PFC’s (more below) in their products to reduce the impact they have on the environment. It was impressive. The entire industry is behind this initiative for the right reasons, not just because younger customers have indicated a preference for ecologically friendly products

Editor’s Choice Gear Picks

My focus at Outdoor Retailer 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. 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 2020 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 promising and worth a test to see if they measure up.

Big Agnes Scout 1 Platinum

1. Big Agnes Scout 1 Platinum Tent

Big Agnes has a new wedge-shaped, trekking pole tent, called the Scout 1 Platinum that weighs 13 oz and will retail for $350. It’s not made with Dyneema DCF, but will certainly compete against cottage tents that are, both in terms of price and weight. The new Scout 1 is roomier than a bivy tent and has a rain awning over the front door. The tent body is made with silicone-treated nylon ripstop with a 1200 mm PU coating and is seam-taped.

While Big Agnes’ new Dyneema Tents are selling like hotcakes (they are having a hard time keeping them in stock), demand for their Platinum line of ultralight non-DCF tents is in even higher. Big Agnes also announced a more conventional exoskeleton TigerWall UL 1 that weighs 1 lb 14 oz.

2. Rab Mythic Sleeping Bags

Rab Mythic Sleeping Bags

Rab invented a new process to coat thread with titanium, enabling the addition of a reflective thermal layer to their sleeping bags without any added weight. This adds about 7-14 degrees of warmth to the EN rating of their sleeping bags. The EN sleeping bag temperature rating standard doesn’t account for reflected human body heat because a dummy is used for testing and not a live human, but Rab is working on a way to communicate the added insulation value so customers can understand the performance advantage. This sounds like quite a breakthrough and the weight of the 32-degree Mythos Ultra 180 (14.1 oz) and the 18-degree Mythos Ultra 360 (21.4 oz) is quite competitive.

3. Hilleberg Anaris 2P Trekking Pole Tent

Hilleberg has a new 2-person new trekking pole tent called the Anaris that weighs less than 2 pounds 14 ounces. It’s a double wall tent with a huge air gap between the inner and outer tents to reduce internal condensation. The inner tent is incredibly spacious with vertical corners to maximize headroom. The outer fly can also be folded up (see above) so only half covers the inner tent, for maximum ventilation. The Anaris has been wind machine tested to withstand 55 mph winds and is made with Hilleberg’s dual-coated silnylon, which is 3-4 times more waterproof than most tents sold at REI.

4. Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pad Valves and R-Value Updates

Closeup of the new Therm-a-Rest WingLock Sleeping Pad Valve

Therm-a-Rest is replacing all of the inflation/deflation stick valves on their sleeping pads with two new valves that inflate and deflate much more quickly. The WingLock’s larger one-way valve will replace the existing stick valves used on the NeoAir Uberlite, XLite, and XTherm sleeping pads. It provides a 3X improvement in inflation speed and a 2X improvement in deflation speed. Therm-a-Rest’s larger pads will use the new TwinLock valve system which utilizes two one-way valves, one for inflation and one for deflation. The TwinLock deflates 5X faster than the current valve.

The updated NeoAir XLite has the same weight but a higher R-value

In addition, the R-values of the NeoAir Uberlite, XLite, and XTherm sleeping pads have all been upgraded, reflecting the new industry-wide R-value standard and testing procedure. (See The New Sleeping Pad R-value Standards)

  • NeoAir Uberlite goes from R=2 to R=2.3
  • NeoAir XLite goes from R=3.2 to R=4.2
  • NeoAir XTherm goes from R= 5.7 to R=7.2

5. Roving Blue Ozone Water Purification Pen

The Roving Blue O-Pen Ozone water purification pen ($149) looks like a promising new water purification technology. It purifies water by blowing ozone into it using a short, battery-powered “pen.” The current pen product can only process a half-liter at a time but can purify 30 liters before it needs to be recharged using a USB compatible charger. Developed in cooperation with the US military, the ozone produced by the pen is effective against multiple dangerous organisms, bacteria, viruses, and cysts. Best of all, the ozone reverts to oxygen quickly, leaving no chemical residue, odors or tastes.

Roving Blue O-Pen Ozone Purifier

6. Nikwax and Granger

If Nikwax and Granger were publicly traded companies, I’d recommend that you buy their stock. The elimination of PFC’s (perfluorinated compounds) from DWR (durable water repellent) coatings means that you’ll need to refresh them more frequently (as in a lot more frequently) if you want them to shed water and stay breathable. Those PFCs are what made DWR stick to rain jackets. Without them, DWR has less stick, which leads to a degradation of rain jacket breathability. We may well see a paradigm shift away from DWR coatings altogether before the dust settles.

Deuter PFC Free Beer

7. Outdoor Research Helium III

Outdoor Research is coming out with the Helium III rain jacket next spring, made with Pertex, which will be 50% more waterproof than the current Helium II. The Helium III will only be available as an REI member exclusive for the first 6 months after it ships. Get ready to snatch up discount Helium II’s in the coming months.

8. Rab Phantom Waterproof/Breathable Pull-on

The Rab Phantom is a 3.1 oz (size large men’s) waterproof/breathable Pertex 2.5 layer jacket that is light enough to eliminate the need for a wind shirt. It has a volume adjustable hood and elastic wrist cuffs. These super lightweight rain jackets are great for warm weather and high heat output activities like trail running. I am curious to see how far I can push the Phantom for use in cold and nasty weather when a thicker jacket often provides better insulation.

The Rab Phantom Pull-on is a 3.1 waterproof/breathable jacket

9. Exped Lightning and Thunder Backpacks

The iconic Exped Lightning 60 backpack has been updated, including both the men’s and women’s models. The side stretch pockets have been enlarged and more durable fabric has been added to the pack’s base. The adjustable frame stay has been strengthened and the lumbar pad is now softer and more comfortable. Exped’s Thunder 50 and 70 backpacks have been similarly updated.

10. Soto Stormbreaker Dual Fuel Stove

The stove wizards from Soto have a new dual fuel stove called the Stormbreaker (currently available) which can burn canister gas (including in inverted mode) and liquid fuel (gasoline). The Stormbreaker has a self-cleaning jet, a wind resistant burner head, and an integrated folding pot stand. Liquid fuel stoves are making a comeback, especially with motorcyclists, because they can burn unleaded gas, which is more readily available than canister fuel.

11. Black Diamond Whippet-Ready Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Pole

The Black Diamond Whippet is a pre-existing, cult-favorite with ski mountaineers and mountain guides. It’s a trekking pole outfitted with an ice axe head that is used for self-rescue and climbing steep snow slab. Black Diamond has started selling a Whippet Head Attachment that can be added to their trekking poles in a push to make their gear into “systems” that can be used together and modified for different types of trips. The new Alpine Cork Trekking Pole WR will come “Whippet-Ready” with a handle that can be augmented with the Whippet Attachment (see below).

Black Diamond’s new Whippet-Ready Alpine Cork Pole

12. Hillsound BTR Ultralight Telescoping Stools

Hillsound is introducing a new line of ultralight folding stools that are good for fishing, camping or day hiking with kids and older parents who need to sit and take a breather, once in a while. The smallest of these stools weighs 12.2 oz and folds up to the size of a collapsible umbrella making it easy to carry in a backpack.

Hillsound Ultralight Folding Stools

13. Granite Gear Daypacks

Granite Gear has three new technical daypacks that look pretty sweet. They’re designed first and foremost for hiking, climbing, and ski mountaineering, not the office. Of course, if your office is a hiking trail or climbing crag, then these 20-30L packs should be able to hold all your office supplies!

New Granite Gear Technical Daypacks

14. Exped FlexMat Foam Folding Sleeping Pads

Exped has two new folding foam sleeping pads designed for summer (R-value=2) and winter (R-Value=3) use. These are great for augmenting air pads to increase their combined R-value and as a fall back pad in case your air mattress is punctured. They’re also good to insulate a hammock so your back doesn’t get cold at night.

Exped Flexmat Sleeping Pads

15. Big Agnes Gear Lofts

Big Agnes has added gear lofts at the foot ends of several of their tents to improve interior space utilization. This is a great feature, especially in narrow two-person tents that just have a single front door/vestibule that must be used for entering/existing instead of gear storage.

Big Agnes has added gears lofts at the foot end of their tents.
Big Agnes has added gears lofts at the foot end of their tents.

16. Therm-a-Rest Vesper 45 Quilt

The Vesper 45 weighs 12 oz and is insulated with 900 fill power, Nikwax waterproof, RDS-certified down. The new version of this quilt does not have box baffles like the Vesper 32 or Vesper 20 because Therm-a-Rest determined that they didn’t actually increase user warmth in warmer temperatures.

The Therm-a-Rest Vesper 45 quilt weighs 12 oz

17. NEMO and Big Agnes switch to R-value Ratings for Sleeping Pads

Both NEMO and Big Agnes are switching from temperature ratings to R-values to rate their sleeping pads in compliance with the new industry-wide R-value sleeping pad standard. This is good for consumers because it will give them a standard framework to evaluate products from different manufacturers and help ensure that they have enough sleep insulation to stay warm.

Big Agnes Sleeping Pads have new valves and R-Values

18. Gregory Paragon and Maven Backpacks

Gregory plans to update their popular Paragon and Maven backpacks with a new frame system that combines the best properties of a ventilated back panel with the load carrying efficiency of a pack that sits closer to your back. The new packs will have adjustable torsos, adjustable length hip belts, and additional access methods into the main compartment.

19. Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor Backpack

Sierra Designs changed the exterior fabric of the Flex Capacitor Backpack so that it comes in black and white instead of gray. They did make one minor design change to the pack, making it possible to move and hang the mesh-based internal hydration pocket on the front of the pack so you can dry wet gear.

New Flex Capacitor Colors – any color as long as it’s black or while.

20. NEMO Flyer Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

NEMO is coming out with a new self-inflating sleeping pad called the Flyer along with several new and more affordable lightweight tents. The Flyer combines a unique combination of foam and air cells to provide warmth, comfort, and fast inflation/deflation times. It will have an R-value of 3.0 and will weigh 23 oz in a size 20″ x  72″ regular size.

NEMO Flyer Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

21. Klymit Maxfield 2P and 4P Tents

Klymit has expanded into tents, with the new Maxfield 4P and 2P. Their goal is to become the goto brand that makes the outdoors more accessible (as in affordable) for people and their families.

Klymit Maxfield 4 Tent

22. Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack

The Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack, designed in cooperation with the Hiking Viking, will be available in limited quantities beginning in August. It’s a 40L pack designed for “backpackers who want to crush 30 miles days” with a trail running style harness. One cool innovation is the addition of additional stretch pockets, kind of like hamster cheeks, on the outside of the side pockets, so you have a place to stash trail bar wrappers when you’re chewing up those miles.

Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack

23. Marmot Superalloy 2P Tent

Marmot is coming out with a spacious, semi-freestanding two person tent that weighs a respectable 2 lbs 4 oz called the Superalloy.

Their other lightweight tents are doing quite well in the market because they’re so reasonably priced and livable.

24. ENO SkyLite and JungleNest Hammocks

The ENO Skylight is a lightweight bridge hammock that will provide a flat sleeping experience. It weighs 32 oz and has a detachable bug net, large zippered door, and DAC aluminum spreader bars. Toggles on the hammock will integrate with the Helios suspension system.

The new ENO JungleNest hammock will be 10 feet in length with an integrated spreader bar in the overhead netting for increased interior volume. It will weigh 20 oz and have a weight limit of 300 pounds.

The 10’ ENO JungleNest comes with a bug net spreader bar.

Off the Wall

There were also a couple of cool products that I saw the show that looked pretty promising, even though they’re not directly related to backpacking.

25. MSR Emergency Water Filter

MSR has a new water filter designed for emergency preparedness that screws on to your garden water spout to provide potable drinking water during a natural disaster. I think it’d also be a great product to provide drinking water for picnics and outdoor parties in the backyard.

The MSR Emergency Water Filter turns your garden faucet into an emergency water source.

26. FlipRocks Extreme Flip Flops and Sandals

FlipRocks Extreme Flip Flops and Sandals (currently available) were originally developed for fly fishing but can be used for multiple sports, including boating, hiking, and golf. These sandals have replaceable soles so you can modify them for different activities, like Korkers boots, if you’re familiar with those. The different soles are attached using velcro so you can switch between activities without having to bring multiple pairs of shoes. The sandals are also extra burly and will stay on in surf or fast water while providing additional toe protection.

27. Blue Quench Qooler Instant Beer Chiller

Have you ever wanted a cold beer after a hike but been dissuaded from drinking one because it was warm? This product solves that problem. It chills beer in 60 seconds by covering cans or bottles with a thin film of ice cold water and rotating them at 500 RPMs. This process chills the contents rapidly because the spinning action brings the contents close to the cold source so it can be chilled. However, the spinning process does NOT shake up the beer though so it won’t explode on you when you open it. That’s because the liquid inside is spinning in the same direction instead of every-which-way.

What strikes your fancy?

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  1. RE #2, if EN/ISO is measured using a heated mannequin, how is radiant heat loss from such heated mannequin not captured in the test?

    • That does sound fishy. Let me see what Rab says and get back to you.

    • The mannequin is likely not emitting radiant heat so there’s no radiant energy to capture.
      This difference is instantly noticeable in cold water wetsuits any 8 mm will stop hypothermia in 42 degrees water but the one with a silver lining will quickly re-warm you if you’re a little cold between dives but in the plain suit will stay “a little cold” but not get colder.
      May sound irrelevant but the ability of clothing to re-warm can be life and or tissue saving especially hands and feet.

    • The coming backpack looks good, but is WAY (reading like 3 times) too heavy to really appeal to the UL community, sadly.

  2. Has Therm-a-Rest added a efficient pad inflation sack to eliminate their electric one or blowing it up by mouth. The sack thar comes with the pad doesn’t work.

  3. Hi Philip,

    Thanks for all the great info! Very happy to see the R values finally being standardized.

    Am I right in reading that the Xlite I currently own will now be rated at 4.2? Or is that for models released 2020 and after? Obviously it’s still as warm, just interested to see how they’ll all compare.

    • They did alter the pad…so I don’t know. Let me ask. Somehow I doubt it. They’ve had the test apparatus for the new standard in house for before the standard was passed.

      • Nope I was WRONG!

        Therm-a-rest tells me that the old pads DO have the higher R-values as a result of being tested under the new standard! So there’s no need to upgrade your old pads.

      • Nice! I suppose it’s just a mental thing as it’s the same pad, but very helpful when comparing.

        A good future article idea once the new standard is ubiquitous would be to advise on recommended R-Values for recommended conditions/sleep systems.

        • You need a minimum of R=4 to achieve the rating of your sleeping bag (since quilts aren’t for the most part rateable). That’s also only true down to about 10 degrees. Below that the sleeping bag standard temperature ratings are not statistically reliable.

      • Thanks, that’s what I’ve worked off of roughly before…

        Given the new standard, what would you say the minimum R value for a quilt to get close to it’s stated value is? For reference I have a KG Flex 30 and have been eyeing a FF Flicker :)

      • I should add I’m asking based on the new standard…my Xlite was a 3.2…now it’s a 4.2. Still the same pad so figured those minimums would move up as well.

  4. re: New Therm-a-Rest valves. Any idea if the new valve’s OD will match inflation sacks such as the Schnozzle?

  5. The Klymit Maxfield 2 is listed for $399 on their website. They will need to have some neat features to make headwind against the REI Quarter Dome 2 for the value-conscious backpacker, which costs and weighs less.

    The ENO Skylight seems to be drafting on the REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock, which in turn, copied from the Jacks-r-Better Bear Mountain Bridge Hammock. REI looks like it may be discontinuing its bridge hammock. The JRB looks within a few ounces of the ENO, without suspension included. All-in-all, good to see more hammock options.

  6. Excited to see the new Hilleberg tent…any idea how high the bathtub is? It looks short from the pix.
    Thanks for the great info!

  7. It’s really great to see that the Soto StormBreaker has finally been released in the US. I used one on my Whitney trip, and it was a really nice stove.

  8. Nice to see Jabba at work with the Zerk. I hope the pack functions as well as it looks. It has my attention!

  9. Veronica Rodriquez

    Looks like a great list! Thanks for sharing…

  10. Too bad I can’t switch out the valve on my recently replaced neoaire lt

  11. Great article as usual! Section Hiker always seems to be the best source for new and detailed gear information.
    As someone who started backpacking in the 70’s when 35-40 pounds was an “ultralight” load, we sure seem to be in a Golden Age for backpacking gear. My only regret at being old is I won’t get to see when they invent the true “anti-grav” pack (sorry Osprey) that you just tow behind you on a string like a birthday balloon.

  12. thanks Phillip.. Sadly there is not one item I will spend my money on.. after 47 years of Backpacking they still haven’t come with anything that will cause me to change my ways.. or waste $350.00 on products that cost probably $12.00 to make in China…. Nope ain’t wasting my money no more.. and that White Tent from Big Agnes, the Scout.. first of all what an eyesore, at one time the idea was to “Blend in with Nature” now probably because their afraid of the Dark they have to have something like this to BRIGHTEN UP the Meadow…. secondly, I guess the Engineers never slept in it on a Full Moon Night in the High Country, or did they do that on purpose because their going to sell you a Separate “Black Out” accessory for $10,149.00.. Ain’t nobody gonna get any sleep in that thing….Therma-rest newest offering is nice but is it guaranteed leak proof,, that’s what I want, a leak proof valve and pad……The Hammock had some good things, and I did like the Spreader bar which I have been using my own Homemade one for years and years and of course.. Where is the Waterproof, Not Resistant, but Proof… Rain Cover…. or is that another $10,149.00 accessory… In my last two Hikes I was wishing the Forest Service would ban them with two people taking up an entire Shelter because they did not think to bring a Tarp, I guess they thought their Hammocks with a Net was Water Proof….. Oh well.. maybe before I die…… Guess I am getting to be a Cranky Old guy.. yeah I’ll be 70 soon and will be doing a 70 mile Backpacking Trip to Celebrate…. Oldsters like me is why Marketing Maggots hate old people.. we’re not guillable like a Teenage..

    • Yes, you are cranky. I don’t take issue with critiques — I often do the same with overly-gushy reviews of backcountry gear — but it sounds like you really need some time in the woods to boost your spirits!

      Some folks like the tents with light-color fabric because they find the dark tents gloomy, and some folks will fall asleep as soon as they’re vertical.

      A hammock can be protected from the rain with a tarp, and those tarps are usually pretty inexpensive.

      There’s a wide variety of innovative gear being manufactured here in the US by small companies.

  13. Great read!

    I didnt see an anticipated release on the Exped Flexmats. Any idea?


  14. What’s the valve stem diameter for the thermarest update? Wondering if the valve replacement kit will be updated and a faster deflate time can be retrofitted on existing neoairs.

  15. Did OR say if the Helium III will have pit zips?

  16. What’s the the weight of the warmer Exped mat?

  17. Hey Philip, did you ever do a review of the Superalloy? I’m looking to purchase a new tent and this is on my shortlist

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