Gear-Palooza 2012: Part I
Washington Trails review of Outdoor Retailer Summer Marketplace 2012; top picks from BioLite, Big Agnes, Sierra Designs, Mountain Hardwear, Vasque, Scarpa, Gregory, Deuter, SteriPEN, Revivex, Rab, Therm-a-Rest and more.
Every summer, the outdoor industry invades Salt Lake City, Utah for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Marketplace. This is the event where every outdoor brand under the sun—sweltering in the Southwest summer—gathers to show off their latest and greatest, and preview their up-and-coming. You won't find an empty hotel room for miles, as buyers, media reps and exhibitors converge from around the world in this Western Rockies town. I got to spend a few days roaming the Salt Palace Convention Center at this year's event.
As always, the gear displays and offerings are impressive, showing off more gear than you could ever hope to use in ten hiking seasons. There were lots of new technologies being introduced, classics updated, and plenty of new items on the horizon for next year—just in time for when your next REI dividend comes in the mail.
Best in Show: BioLite CampStove
One of the items that stole the show, both for me and several other outdoor publications, including GearJunkie.com's Best-in-Show award, was the BioLite CampStove.
This remarkable new backpacking stove requires no fuel, but burns on organic material you collect around your camp—dry twigs, pinecones, etc. Add to that, the fan element that drives the high-efficiency burner (thus recharging itself) also houses a USB port that lets you recharge your smartphone, GPS or other electronic device. Broken down for transport, it's extra-compact. The WT gear team will be doing extensive field testing on this item in the coming months, so look for our reviews soon.
Mountain Hardwear's Latest: Made for the Northwest
I'm a big fan of Mountain Hardwear's gear—durable and dependable. Next spring, Mountain Hardwear will be introducing a variety of new items, including a selection of tents seemingly made just for the Northwest—the Mountain Hardwear DryPitch line. This new design will be available in both the SkyLedge and LightWedge models and let the user fast-pitch the fly of the tent when the weather suddenly goes south, helping keep you and your gear dry.
In the apparel department, the new Plasmic Jacket (pictured) will be an affordable rain shell incorporating their new DryQ Evap technology, and a selection of new clothing will feature Mountain Hardwear's new CoolQ Zero technology, which actually helps keep you cool on sweaty hikes or trail runs—something I've already sampled on a sweltering backpack in Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness and it is awesome!
Sierra Designs Tent Preview
Another knockout presentation at the show was Sierra Designs. For those of you with an easy $1,800 to burn and have to have the ultimate in hyperlight gear, you'll want the Sierra Designs Mojo UFO Tent (pictured). This one-piece ExoFusion tent is made of a water-repellant cuben fiber material and weighs in a a ridiculous 1 lb., 11 oz. for the 2P model!
For the rest of us, their new Flash Tent series comes in 2P, 3P, and 4P sizes, and is constructed with the same ExoFusion design at a more affordable price range. For keeping warm, the new Sierra Designs Cloud Layer System is a 3-piece system that employs a warming midlayer, a lightweight DryDown Puffy (perfect for the wet NW!) and an ultralight 4 oz. rain shell. Look for these items next spring.
Best in Boots and Trail Runners
If you've worn through your boots this year and will be in the market for next season, there are plenty of brands to help get your feet back on the trail. For a winter trails boot, the new Vasque Snow Junkie will keep your feet toasty warm with a comfy fleece lining and an UltraDry waterproof upper.
The La Sportiva Omega is a heavy-duty backpacking boot without the weight you would expect from such a durable boot. Top that off with a Gore-Tex Italian leather upper and Vibram sole and these boots will take you up any trail.
For fast-movers, you should check out the Scarpa Spark Runner (pictured). Winner of "Best Debut" in Runner's World magazine, these ultralight trail runners feature a compression-molded EVA midsole with a minimal 6mm drop and a tread that will hold up to our often wet and slick trail conditions.
More from Big Agnes, Therm-a-Rest, Deuter, Gregory and Rab
Stay tuned to Signpost Blog next week for part two of my OR wrap-up with reviews on new tents and sleeping systems from Big Agnes, an ultralight backpacking cot from Therm-a-Rest, some great new packs from Deuter and Gregory, an amazing Rab jacket that incorporates Polartec NeoShell technology, and more!
Full disclosure: Gregory and Therm-a-Rest are both sponsors of WTA's 2012 Hike-a-Thon.