Best New Gear Awards: Summer 2016
This week in Salt Lake City, Utah the top brands from the outdoor industry gathered for the semi-annual Outdoor Retailer gear convention, depbuting gear set to hit stores in spring of 2017. There's a LOT of gear, but these are the products that stood out from the crowd—for innovation, design, or sheer, unfettered awesomeness.
Big Agnes Cupper Spur UL2 Platinum
There’s nothing flashy about the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Platinum, but of all the tents we previewed at the Outdoor Retailer show, this is the one that we're most psyched to get on the trail this spring. It’s a free-standing, two door, double wall, true-two person tent that weighs a smidge under two and a half pounds. That’s just amazing. If you want a real utility tent—with a removable fly, easy ins and outs, and no fussy setups—this checks all the boxes but comes in significant lighter than other tents with the same feature set.
Black Diamond Iota Headlamp
With the introduction of the Iota, Black Diamond is laying claim to "the smallest, lightest, and brightest" rechargeable headlamp on the market. This rainproof light packs 150 lumens of power into a surprisingly small package, and at a shockingly low price—$39.99. That's more than enough light to run trails at night, and it does so without the heavy, cumbersome rear battery pack. This light is making us feel old. We remember the days when a 150 lumen light took up half a room.
Columbia OutDry Extreme ECO Shell
Waterproof jacket designers have tried for years to find a way to eliminate toxic PFC chemicals from the water resistant coating used on almost every rain shell. Columbia's Extreme ECO Shell is the first true performance hard shell to finally get the job done. As an outgrowth of the company’s Outdry Extreme jackets, which launched last summer, Outdry Extreme ECO is built the tough, Outdry Extreme waterproof membrane on the outer surface of the shell. This eliminates the need to wrap the jacket in a face fabric, and that in turn eliminates the need for a PFC-based DWR treatment to enhance the water resistance on that fabric (DWR causes water to "bead" on the surface of a fabric—until it washes off into the environment and throws a wrench into the food chain). While it’s a bummer other outdoor company’s can’t use the same technique—Outdry and Outdry Extreme are proprietary to Columbia—it’s an innovative and laudable approach to eliminating an environmental villain that’s pervasive in outdoor clothing.
Kovea Slim Twin Stove
The Slim Twin Stove from Kovea certainly lives up to its name. The two-burner, low profile camp stove is lightweight and easy to transport, which alone helps it to stand out from the briefcase-like other double burner stoves on the market. But the Slim Twin also happens to be the only multi-fuel stove on the market. It ships with four adapters – two for each burner – that allow it to burn both propane and butane, so there's no need to buy two different types of fuel cannisters for your backcountry and basecamp stoves.
MSR TrailShot Microfilter
Carrying a filter on short, fast-forward missions seems like overkill, but schlepping along a couple litters of water is a drag. That's why we love MRS's new, innovative approach to ultralight filtration. Designed for backpackers, trail runners, and mountain bikers, the TrailShot Microfilter from MSR can let you filter clean water on the go without adding bulk or weight to your pack. The filter weighs a mere 5.4 oz and, according to MSR, can purify a liter of water in just 60 seconds—making it fast, light and extremely easy to use.
The North Face Hyper Kazoo Sleeping Bag
Overlapping baffles save energy by stacking a baffle full of insulation over the cold spots where baffles get stitched together. The problem? The weight of all that stitching starts to add up, especially in a sleeping bag. The North Face has figured out a way to actually weave baffle sheets together at the seams, creating extremely strong seams without any extra weight.
The North Face says that its new seamless construction is up to 40 times stronger than traditional manufacturing methods, ensuring that the Kazoo will be able to stand up to a lifetime of abuse in the field. It comes equipped with 800 fill ProDown that is certified to meet the Responsible Down Standard as well.
Suunto Spartan Ultra Watch
Suunto's new Spartan Ultra is a next-generation GPS watch built specifically with outdoor athletes in mind. The Spartan comes equipped with a color touchscreen, outstanding battery life (26 hours with GPS activated!), barometric altitude sensors, Bluetooth paring with a smartphone, and built-in support for 80 different sports. Additionally, innovative features like Heatmaps, which uses GPS and social sharing to show the most popular running, cycling, and swimming routes in your area, are a novel approach to crowdsourced route sharing.
Wild Country REVO Belay Device
The REVO is the first bi-directional auto-locking belay device that has been specifically designed to avoid misloading of the rope. Other auto-locking or "braking assisted" belay devices have relied on the belayer to load the rope in the right direction, which can lead to user error and an uncontrolled descent (when it brakes in the wrong direction). The REVO brakes in both directions, useing a specially designed mechanism that can automatically detect an uncontrolled descent and activate a grip that will arrest the fall without damaging the rope in any way. During normal operation the REVO is designed to feed rope smoothly and easily, keeping the line properly aligned at all times, for lead or top-rope belaying.