This one’s going to be brief because we're on our way out of town to raft the San Juan River for the second, and last, time this season. The preparations seem less daunting now, maybe because our June trip is still fresh in minds or because, at four days and 27 river miles, this expedition is shorter and a smidge less remote than the lower section. The water’s lower and slower, too, flowing at 600 cubic-feet-per-second instead of 6,000. And, there are more of us: 5 families total, with 11 kids (baby to teenager), and 10 adults.
On the other hand, we have a different set of challenges now: Since we last went rafting, our one-year-old has started walking, enthusiastically if not very adeptly, judging from her skinned nose and bruised forehead. How to keep a rogue toddler from lurching into the river or pitching into a cactus? I ruled out a kiddy leash, not for ethical reasons but strictly for safety’s sake, after my boating and Wilderness First Responder friend, Whitney, pointed out that a leash could easily snag on a rock or branch and drag a small child underwater. Scary.
I'm bringing my indispensable, hands-free Ergo carrier and the Go-Pod, an ingenious piece of baby gear from Kid Co. that was the MVP of our last river trip, when the baby was 11 months old. A lightweight, pared-down version of a busy parent’s best friend—the burly, plastic Exersaucer—the Go-Pod is a nylon seat-cum-activity station that folds small and pops up to contain and entertain babies in practically any setting. It’s advertised for use on the sidelines of soccer fields and at Grandma’s house, but this thing is so handy and stashable, it’d be the perfect contraption at the local crag or fly-fishing hole. You could park a baby in the Go-Pod between laps at 24 Hours of Moab or in the ski lodge while you trade off on powder runs. I’d pack all seven pounds of it up Everest if I had to.
You want to have a little whiskey reward when you make to the lake. Or have some pinot noir along with your baked ziti on your next backpacking trip. We're with you.
Platypus Platypreserve: For vino, we've been, ah, pleasantly field testing these pouches for years. Cascade Design's Platypreserve collapsible reservoir lets you ditch the bottle and, just as important, squeeze the oxygen out and keep your drink in the dark (the two main environmental factors that make your wine go bad). The third, of course, is temperature. But how you keep it at a constant 52°F lakeside is your own issue. Available now, $10, cascadedesigns.com.
Stanley has been making insulated drink products since 1913. Clearly, they've learned a thing or two over the past 98 years, as their new One Handed Vac Mug is simply the best to-go mug we've ever tested. Like dozens of other fancy to-go mugs, this 16-ounce, vacuum-insulated thermos/mug hybrid is 100% spillproof, allowing you to confidently throw it in your bag (along with your computer, fancy gadgets, or documents) when it's time to head out the door. Then, when it's time to drink, a press of a button allows you to do so. Along the way, it will keep your drink hot for at least six hours, even in cold temperatures.
We could fill weeks of posts about all the cool new products we saw at last week's Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. But we won't. Instead, we've begun calling it in and field-testing it. Depending on how it fares, you'll likely read about more of it here on Gear Shed, in the monthly magazine, and in our Buyer's Guides special issues and iPad apps. Until then, here are three final products to geek out on.
Alchemy Goods Belt: Stuff made from recycled bicycle inner tubes is a great idea on paper, but generally not that good looking in real life. That was until Alchemy Goods came along. The company's recycled adjustable inner tube belt is in fact two nested tubes, but it looks like overstitched leather with a little extra flair. Thanks to the stitching, it stretches just enough to be comfortable, and won't stretch out like leather. The belt is made from 90% upcycled materials and, for $55 more, is also available with a hand forged, recycled, and pretty damn cool-looking bike cog buckle (regular buckle is pictured). Available now, $42, alchemygoods.com
The Outdoor Retailer Show just wrapped, and as per usual, it was epic. Over the next week or so, we'll continue to highlight some of the favorite new products we saw, starting with these three.
1. Columbia Baselayer Light Shortsleeve Top:Columbia’s new Omni-Freeze ICE shirts has the next best thing to an onboard air conditioner. The baselayer's fabric is embedded with microscopic crystals that get gummy when they interact with sweat, causing an endothermic reaction. If you remember seventh grade science class, that's the one that uses energy and in the process creates cold, not heat. It's no gimmick: The effect really is noticeable, but fleeting: once the shirt wicks away most of the moisture, the cool sensation you feel on your skin subsides. Available in January 2012, $55.