Best New Gear Awards - Summer 2017
The innovation never stops. That’s probably because most of the designers in the outdoor industry are outdoor enthusiasts themselves. They know how gear can be made better, smarter, lighter, and tougher, and in the products we honor here, that first-hand experience shows.
All of these products hit stores in spring or summer 2018.
Tecnica Outdoor Forge Hiking Boots
Italian ski boot maker Tecnica has come up with a technology to make the first fully custom molded hiking boot. It makes sense that that this concept came from a ski boot brand where the internal liner is heat molded to fit the user’s foot. Both the whole boot as well as the custom moldable insole are cooked just like a ski boot then custom molded onto the user’s foot. The process is done in-store and takes about 20 minutes. This substantially raises the bar for how well a hiking boot can fit. It’s about time!
Osprey Levity & Lumina Backpacks
Despite the compounding superlatives (Osprey calls this a “superultralight” pack), the Levity and Lumina really are amazing—they introduce a new category of lightweight, overnight backpacks. They’re available in a 45 liter version weighing an astonishingly light 1.76 pounds and a 60 liter version at a mere 1.8 pounds. Seriously. The company hit those featherweight targets by using a slate of new, incredibly light fabrics that it claims have achieved high durability ratings. We are really excited about getting this pack out on the trail to see how it carries and holds up to the long haul.
SealLine BlockerLite Compression Dry Sacks
SealLine’s Continuous Compression system in their new dry sacks is going to make it easier and faster to smash down the load and minimize pressure on seams. With lighter fabrics, compression straps and an air-purging valve, we can really mash these bags down and eliminate that dead airspace that takes up precious room in the cargo hold.
Gore-Tex Invisible Fit Technology
Waterproof running shoes have had a problem for years. Traditionally, the waterproofing material (usually Gore-Tex) had to be incorporated into the shoe in the form of a waterproof bootie, which was like inserting a shoe within a shoe. It was bulky, crinkly, added weight, and caused fit issues. But Gore-Tex’s launch of its new Invisible Fit technology in running shoes could be a game changer. The waterproofing material adheres directly to the interior surface of the upper, so there is no longer a bulky inner bootie taking up space. It’s also lighter and faster to dry than the traditional design. Our early tests of the system showed the amazing potential—you can’t tell the shoe is waterproof until you step in a puddle. While Invisible Fit is similar in many ways to Columbia’s proprietary Outdry technology, Gore-Tex’s version won’t be limited to one brand’s shoes. Given that, we predict this system will soon take over running shoes and bulky waterproof booties will (finally!) be a thing of the past.
Sierra Designs Cloud Sleeping Bag
Zipperless bags go technical. While a few brands have been trying to innovate with zipperless sleeping bag designs, Sierra Designs took an early lead and the Cloud proves they are keeping pace. Their previous zipperless models have fallen into the more casual backpacker and front-country camper categories, while the Cloud has legit technical bonafides—the 35-degree version is stuffed with 800 Fill Power PFC-free Allied DriDown and comes in at just 1 lb 7 oz.
Thermacell Radius Zone Mosquito Repellent
The Problem: Thermacell’s mosquito repellent systems have used gas to heat the repellant pads to release the chrysanthemum-based vapor into the air. The new Thermacell Radius uses a rechargeable battery replacing the old butane-based canisters used to heat those repellant pads. This also alleviates any concern of using a repellant device at altitude where butane-based systems can be tougher to ignite in the thinner air. Smaller than a can of soda and providing up to 8 hours of protection on a single battery charge (the pads last longer: up to 36 hours), the Radius can go from back deck to car camping and even to the backcountry.
Meet the world’s first self-heating water bottle. Using rechargeable battery power (from AC or DC outlets), users can choose a few different settings to heat up liquid: boil, brew, hot and extra hot. The battery charge can provide up to two boils or a boil and some duration (undisclosed as of yet) of keeping the drink warm after that. We love this idea for snow days and car trips where coffee shops are scarce, and there’s not time to whip out a stove to brew up.
Vargo Titanium Dig Dig Tool
Even if you’re not “one of those” who manages to forget the trowel at home when hitting the trail for a few days, you haven’t seen a trowel like this. Now, if you are someone who hasn’t typically packed a trowel on your trips, this is the one to invest in. With more and more backpackers hitting the backcountry for a few days, human waste management is even more important to ensure you don’t get to a campsite that is left in an unsavory condition and for you to provide the same courtesy for those coming after you. The Dig Dig Tool is made of super light (1.25 oz) and strong titanium so it won’t weigh down your pack nor will it falter under the pressure of the ground you’re trying to dig into. The serrated edges make short work of small roots that normally thwart standard trowels and the curved in edges of the handle as well as the top keep the edges from digging into your hands. At 8” long, it shows the depth suggested by Leave No Trace ethic for catholes.
Kovea Alpine Pot EZ Eco
Kovea built a stove to consolidate the gas in all those partially-used butane or isobutane canisters everyone has lying around. The system sucks the last bit of fuel from several canisters and stores it in it’s own internal reservoir. The system holds about 30 grams of fuel which is enough to boil a half liter of water about six times. This is just enough for a solo backpacker to have enough for a summer weekend trip, and efficient couples will be able to eek out an overnight. Beyond that chuck in a full canister to recharge the internal reservoir and have enough fuel for more. We love the idea of being able to get every last drop out of canisters and to allow users to more easily properly dispose of them.
One of the greatest annoyances in pitching a tent in foul weather is trying to get the rain fly onto the tent while rain soaks the unprotected inner tent body. And maneuvering that rain fly into place in blasting wind is just a disaster. That’s one of the reasons we love Nemo’s design for the three-person, 7.6 pound Chogori mountaineering tent. The poles are placed on exterior of the integrated fly to allow for easy (and dry) setup. Plus, the integrated vestibule space adds another 19 square feet of gear storage and cook space. Also, for expeditions where more tent space is needed—but bigger tents are not necessarily a solution—two of these tents can be linked together. Just smart.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Sleeping Bag
Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Whisperer jackets are the sleeping bag equivalent of cotton candy—so airy, so light, they almost seem like they should disappear into thin air. For spring 2018, the company is borrowing the same approach for a pair of amazing ultralight sleeping bags. The bags, weighing in at a mere one pound, twelve ounces for the all-season 20-degree version, and one pound, one ounce for the summer 40-degree version, are filled with hyper-lofty 900-fill down and wrapped in a Kleenex-thin 10-denier nylon ripstop. And the 20-degree bag packs down to the size of a football. These are going to be the bags of choice for ounce counters and through hikers when they hit the market this spring.
Scarpa Ribelle Tech OD
Why bother with an approach shoe or boot when you can build a boot that is just as comfortable on the approach as on the climb? That’s what Scarpa set out to do with the new Ribelle Tech OD. Essentially, they combined a mountaineering boot with a trail running shoe. And not only do you not have to carry a second pair of footwear but at 1 pound 3.4 ounces the Ribelle is certainly lighter than the boots you have now and possibly nearly as light as your current approach shoes. Even at this weight, the Ribelle Tech is still stacked with features including a nice rocker profile in the toe for easy trekking in, a PU midsole, a stiff midsole, lugged Vibram mountaineering outsole and tread, semi-automatic crampon compatibility, a full-perimeter rubber rand and the integration of a waterproof Outdry gaiter. The upper is built with Scarpa’s SockFit construction that does away with the standard tongue and gusset where the fabric can fold over and create pressure points. It even includes a few reflective hits to be seen by your climbing partner on those pre-dawn starts or post-dusk hikes out.