In an industry driven for so long by innovation, it’s ironic to discover that as technology changes a great many things remain the same. Equipment meant to get people outdoors aims simply to provide comfort and security while hauling supplies, creating shelter, preparing food or bedding down for the night. Of course new products introduced at the 2010 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market offered many of the technical advances one typically expects from the world’s leading gear manufacturers. But a recurring theme throughout most presentations included an apparent desire to return to the core values behind the creation of backpacks, tents, cooking supplies and sleeping bags. The latest outdoor gear is getting back to the basics.
The enduring tradition of torsional stability in backpacks is revealed in a series of three new products from Jansport. A maker of packs since 1967, the company is bringing back an aluminum frame reminiscent of previous designs with the Arch Rival perimeter frame stay. In the Eichorn TUK1, the Versteeg TUK2 and the Forsyth TUK3 capacities range from 3051 to 3966 cubic inches. These packs-with a light-weight frame visible from the outside-are destined for extended overnights and long thru hikes worthy of the Jansport’s long history.
With its first backpacks since the 1970’s, Sierra Designs introduced the Pinnacle series. Seven new packs for men and women feature the Fulcrum Suspension System, an amalgam of a single DAC aluminum stay, a shoulder-high partial frame sheet and an autonomously articulated waist belt meant to complement the human skeleton. Engineered to offer greater freedom of movement the high volume men’s Rivival 65 and women’s Jubilee 65 also provide dedicated conduits for better ventilation and are available in three sizes for an easy fit.
Golite co-founder Demetri Coupounas said he wanted to build a pack that carries as well as the classic Dana Designs Astroplane but weighs only 4 pounds. At 4 pounds 7 ounces, the new Terrono comes pretty close and with 5490 cubic inches of carrying capacity it’s a monster load hauler. The LiteRail perimeter frame system provides heavy lifting support.
Heritage Pack Brands Go Retro…
No conversation about packs would be complete without talking about hydration. Camelbak offers a redesign of its ubiquitous accessory water reservoir now called the Antidote. With a full collection of its own packs the company has made improvements to its bladders-which can be integrated into many brands with backpacks built to accommodate them. A new fill port, a slimmer more stable profile, a quick release system for the hose and a new bite valve with the slip resistant Ergo Hydralock feature provides an even better drinking system. Camelbak also has introduced an Antidote reservoir that will fit exclusively into a new design called the Octane LR which positions your water at the low back as a lumbar pack. It’s incredibly lightweight and fits snuggly for trail running, adventure racing or cycling.
Speaking of lumbar bags, Mountainsmith announced that its classic Tour Pack will have available units made only in the U.S. Domestic production is of growing importance among consumers worried about trade deficits and local jobs. The company aims to offer value as well with basic equipment that’s well built and gets people outside. New this year, Mountainsmith is bringing out a modest line of tents and sleeping bags. The Morrison 2 is a two-person shelter that will retail for $159. Wide double doors on each side of the long axis and a small vestibule for both make for a nice crash site for backpacking or car camping.
Best suited as an expedition base camp the Saitaris from Hilleberg offers many of the same rugged features found in its tents dating back more than 30 years. This newest model sleeps four, but is designed to be set up by one person wearing heavy gloves in a howling wind. Its double wall construction common to most modern tents is unique in that the poles attach to the canopy on the outside with continuous sleeves. An inner-tent is linked to the outer-tent so both can be set up quickly at the same time. But each can be set separately. And a huge extended vestibule for extra gear storage has two entrances so one door can be position out of the wind in harsh conditions.
Base camp tents in temperate climates create a staging area for day-use adventures out of the car or off the trail for an extended stay. The Kelty Hula House sleeps 4 or 6 respectively in two price tiered tents. For loading up on occupants or comfort with room for gear this mostly mesh structure features an innovative hoop design at its crown to make the walls a bit more vertical and provide a plentiful amount of usable space.
Basic shelters for more moderate circumstances keep getting lighter. The Fast Stash from MSR weighs in at an incredibly light 2 pounds 14 ounces. That doesn’t include poles, which can be left behind and substituted for your favorite walking sticks. A single-wall construct, this tent provides an extended vestibule overhang and adjustable side wings for protection from a light rain, a nice option for minimalist backpacking.
Simplicity is a recurring theme throughout the 2011 new gear cycle. Several providers of cooking equipment offer elegant but simple solutions to the challenge of achieving comfort through food. Jetboil made a few modifications to its personal cooking system to introduce the Sol, a pot/stove combo that features Thermo-Regulate Burner technology. Available in either aluminum or titanium, this new stove is a self-contained unit with push-button ignition that heats consistently to boil down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Express Lander from Primus puts a liquid fuel stove in the palm of your hand. At 6.2 ounces this tiny white gas burner folds out into a stable cooking system that’s both lightweight and compact. With a hose-attached to a refillable fuel bottle, it’s easy to know exactly how much gas remains. And though small the stove can boil water in 4.5 to 5 minutes to accommodate a single user or a party of four.
Outdoor Retailer Summer Market: Sleeping Bags Go Double Wide…
For just about any group size GSI Outdoors offers a number of highly organized cook sets. The Dualist in the Glaciers Stainless series provides a place setting for two packed into a 1.8-liter pot. Color coded for each user the set includes an insulted mug with lid, bowl, cup and a combined fork/spoon utensil called a foon. The entire kit collapses down in a tight package that includes room for a mid-sized fuel canister and a stove.
With so many modern different options for boiling water in the backcountry its kind of refreshing to see a gear maker go completely old school. The Kelly Kettle burns wood or other combustibles, pinecones, bark, etc., in a closed firebase. Available in both stainless steel and aluminum in three sizes the kettle is designed as a smoke stack whose hollow walls contain water while it’s being heated and purified at a super fast rate. The top of the chimney can be used as a secondary burner for cooking or keeping food warm. Clearly more complicated than contemporary cooking solutions but a nice throwback to simpler times.
Way back when, camping and backpacking were just about getting outside and leading gear manufactures like Mountain Hardwear are working to rekindle that original concept. The MegaLamina is one of two double-wide synthetic sleepingbags built for couples. The equivalent of a double bed this bag is designed to accommodate two adults or perhaps a parent and child without the hassle of zipping together a pair of bags with that annoying inevitable cold strip at the joint. Thermic Miroc insulation and welded Lamina construction offers enhanced loft and minimal heat loss through the seams.
Therm-a-Rest offers a nice alternative to the traditional mummy-style sleeping bag with the Alpine Down Blanket. As the name implies this technical 700-fill down comforter is a simple duvet with Velcro attaches to a camp-mattress, like the many self-inflating ground mats the company has offered since day-one. Therm-a-Rest also provides a fitted sheet accessory with corresponding Velcro tabs. A draft collar and foot box help to retain heat and prevent intrusion of cold air while sleeping.
Variations on the down sleeping bag persist throughout new products in 2011. Sea To Summit, a brand known for accessories, is entering the market this year with a series of tricked-out bags that feature its 3D NanoShell technology. In addition to offset and side baffles with a draft tube, the new Alpine bag includes a durable water repellant outer nylon shell with an intricate moisture management system. Above 850-fill power down is a thin silicone encapsulated condensation layer. And below is a light 20 denier polyester lining fabric. All combined, they slow outward dampness while providing ventilation for water vapor transfer.
Every season gear manufacturers will aggressively push the envelope to introduce the latest technology-and 2011 is no exception. But beyond the bells and whistles what truly matters is performance. While seeing to the basic equipment needs of the consumer the industry has made available to retailers a broad selection of new products that will ensure the comfort of their customers while providing a great deal of value. And in our recovering economy that’s all the incentive anyone needs to make an investment in new gear and get outside.