A:Last week, the Outside crew returned from Outdoor Retailer, the massive outdoor gear trade show where the industry shows off its newest, coolest products.
For gearheads like me, the show is heaven—an overwhelming, indoor, sleep-deprived heaven. And although we love to see all the high-tech (i.e., expensive) gear from the biggest brands, we didn't forget about some of the more affordable items.
Here are our six favorite items coming out in 2015 that cost less than a dinner for two.
Dakine Stashable Duffle ($30)
We've test hundreds of compact duffels, but we have yet to see a bag as cool looking as the Dakine Stashable Duffle with its stylish prints. This 33-liter duffle is more than a pretty face: It's built from sturdy 150-denier nylon (tougher than most stuff bags) and packs down to the size of a sunglasses case.
Outdoor Research Active Ice Ubertube ($29)
In July, I asked elite ultrarunners for gear tips to stay cool in the heat. Almost all of them emphasized the importance of keeping your neck cold. Enter Outdoor Research's Active Ice Ubertube. Worn as a hat or neck gaiter, the tube incorporates the company's Active Ice technology—when triggered by sweat, the fabric creates a cooling effect similar to what you experience in your mouth when you chew mint gum. Result: Your body temperature drops up to five degrees.
Smartwool White Socks ($15–$24)
While writing this column, I have outed myself as a massive dork a number of times, but getting as excited as I have about white merino wool socks might be my nerdiest moment to date. In my defense, these socks are the result of a fascinating gear story.
Smartwool has been trying to make white socks for a decade without success because bleach destroys merino wool. But with the help of Austrian textile brand Schoeller, the company developed a brilliant white merino fiber to avoid bleaching. Why go to all this trouble? Out of habit, many runners prefer white socks and are willing to sacrifice the superior wicking and thermoregulation qualities that merino wool offers. Now white-sock lovers can have the best of both worlds.
Stanley Vacuum Coffee Press ($35)
Almost every desk in the Outside office has a classic Stanley coffee mug sitting on it. We love the mugs for their 1930s riveter style and ability to keep our coffee warm throughout the day.
Now Stanley has paired its proven mugs with a simple, strong, easy-to-use coffee press that pushes your grounds to the bottom and can stay in the mug while you drink. Store the press in the cup to save space. The system weighs more than a pound, so you won't be backpacking with one of these puppies, but it should make an excellent car-camping addition next spring. Bonus: The press looks like it'll be very easy to clean once you're done.
Miir Tall Boy Pint Cups ($12)
You'll see stainless-steel beer mugs everywhere at Outdoor Retailer. Not only are they a popular item for retailers, they're also a common swag-bag item. (Coincidently, kegs are tapped every afternoon at OR.)
We love Miir's take on this popular trend, with its pint cup that looks like a Rainier or PBR Tall Boy. The single-wall, top-grade stainless-steel cup is dishwasher safe and certainly feels bombproof. On top of looking cool, this cup also makes you feel good about drinking out of it: For every cup sold, Miir makes a donation that gives one person access to drinking water in a developing country.
Parks Project Trail Arrow Camp Hat ($34)
This five-panel hat caught our eye because, in addition to its simple, clean styling, it's made entirely in the United States. Plus, proceeds help fund projects that address specific problems facing our national parks.