All-season gear standouts
Vail CO, Colorado
Twice a year, the outdoor industry floods the market with the newest innovations in materials and designs. At the Outdoor Retailer Show, held in August in Salt Lake City, many products highlighted were simply “new and improved.”
But there were a few truly innovative finds, and products that were just plain sensible.
We’ve compiled a list of some of this year’s standouts for all seasons. Most of these are available now, but others will be showing up in the next couple of months.
– $100, camelbak.com
Camelback’s new “wearable hydration” is perfect for cyclists and triathletes trying to shave every second. This simple, sleeveless base layer houses a wide, flat 70-ounce hydration bladder that rides comfortably and securely, thanks to super-stretchy material that forms its cradle. If you don’t mind the skin-tight fit, the top provides easy-access, aerodynamic hydration on the bike. It’s even secure enough to run with ” perfect for the last two legs in a tri.
– $200, highsierrasport.com
Outdoor enthusiasts do stuff that often requires lots of gear. Enter the ATQ, a bomb-proof, rolling duffel large enough to handle everything you’ll need on your next outing – including ski boots, in-line skates, helmet, etc. Its high-tech material is deceivingly light. And the zippered divider will help keep your on-the-town clothes clean and wrinkle-free. This expandable bag boasts almost 8,000 cubic inches of volume and even features backpack shoulder straps to help haul it up stairs or through the snow.
– $135, lokiusa.com
How many times have you seen a glove lying on the snow below the chairlift? Loki offers a solution on all of its jackets, with built-in removable mittens ” great in an emergency, or use them on their own or with liners. Plus a built-in neck gator hides inside the hood. Gimmicky only until you need them. And this hoodie-style softshell is highly water- and wind-resistant. Who are we kidding? It looks really cool! Perfect for cruising the slopes or campus.
– $90, gomotiongear.com
“Extend the day” is this company’s motto, and we agree. With this powerful 3-watt LED lamp, there’s no need to stop running (its target sport, though it would work great for hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, etc.). Designed to attach comfortably across the straps of any backpack (much like a typical sternum strap), the light casts a perfectly angled beam, maximizing shadows for optimal contrast while leaving hands and head free. The bulb is super-bright and lasts several hours.
– $25, http://www.fozzils.com
Whether backpacking in the backcountry or just picnicking at the beach, carry Fozzils along for super-lightweight and multifunctional dinnerware. Made of incredibly tough plastic (they can even double as cutting boards), each piece folds and snaps into stable and leakproof cups, plates and bowls. When done, rinse and fold back to perfectly flat. And the whole 10-by-11-inch package weighs 8.5 ounces. There’s even a set with beach toys for the kids.
– $100, walmart.com/catalog
Jeep’s new tent is nothing fancy – just a rugged, cleverly designed two-season dome. But two innovations make it stand out as a great car-camping tent (or short hiker ” it weighs 11 pounds). First, the bottom of each corner is flared into a squared-off, narrow triangle that, when unzipped, provides extra stability plus added ventilation on all sides at ground level ” where you sleep. This also allows the walls to rise more straight up, maximizing room. Next, the rain fly can be removed easily and stands alone as a movable rain/sun shelter.
– $2, clifbar.com
Clif’s Shot Bloks were an instant favorite when they debuted but were nearly impossible to enjoy on the fly because of their packaging. The new Fastpack sleeves allow athletes one-handed access to the same delicious, nutritious electrolyte- and carb-replacement cubes. Just hold in your palm, press your thumb and pop one right through the sealed end of the package and into your mouth.
– $90, ultimatesurvival.com
Don’t go into the backcountry – or back roads, for that matter – without this. Period. This 11-ounce kit easily could save your life. With a flexible wood saw, waterproof fire starter, signal mirror, whistle, tinder and waterproof bag, this kit has everything you’ll need to get warm and get help if stranded in the wilderness. But the fire starter is what sets this kit apart. The flint-based sparker will last a lifetime, and the tinder is completely waterproof.
– $140, smartwool.com
In cycling, wool is the new . . . well, wool. Once the standard in the industry, wool has been making a comeback, and SmartWool has upped the ante with this new mountain bike short. The stylish, 100 percent recycled polyester outers are soft and supple but also durable and functional (just the right pocket space). But the snap-in liner is the news here – the wool blend is supportive and comfortable, highlighted by an Italian-made chamois wrapped completely in incredibly soft merino wool.
– $115, sogknives.com
Other tools may be lighter, sleeker or offer more devices, but none is as impressive overall as this tool. Its two power-assisted blades – springs help open the blades – are the easiest one-finger blades we’ve seen, and they lock securely in the open and closed positions. The other components (13 tools in all) are functional and extremely durable. But SOG’s patented “compound leverage” pliers and wire cutters really make it stand out; gears actually seem to increase the squeezing power in your hands.
– $160 each, smithoptics.com
Smith has always been known for combining form and function, and they nail it with this combo – sold separately but best as a unit. The helmet combines two different materials and a manufacturing process that results in an uber-light and comfortable product, with adjustable vents for increased airflow through the goggles and helmet, regulating temps and limiting fogging. And the interchangeable-lens goggles sport a minimalist frame design that maximizes the coolness factor while also providing great peripheral vision and anti-fogging.
– $550, suunto.com
Look Ma, no hands! The X10 not only replaces your handheld GPS, but also can replace your bike computer, running pedometer, compass, etc., while leaving both hands free. No transmitters or pods necessary; just turn on the fully functioning GPS and see your speed, distance, elapsed time, elevation gain/loss, and so much more. Since it can update every second, changes are displayed in real time. When finished, download every activity into the provided software and keep track of your progress.
– $80 (2L bladder $25), inov-8.com
Most cycling hydration packs carry their bladders vertically – often causing back pain and overheating. This one carries the bat-shaped bladder horizontally along the bottom and into the waist straps. Weight is thus transferred to the waist (much like suspension systems in large backpacks), alleviating the pressure on the spine and allowing air to flow freely between the pack and the back. And there’s less pull against the front of the shoulders from the straps, freeing the arms.
– $13, store.haloheadband.com
Sweat happens! All too often for many athletes. Regular headbands quickly get saturated, allowing sweat to run directly into eyes. Not with Halo products. A thin waterproof strip attached to the inside of the band provides a sealed barrier with your forehead through which sweat can’t run; instead the liquid gets channeled to just above the ears where it can run off freely.
Scott Boulbol is a freelance writer/editor/photographer based out of Boulder. Send comments about this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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