Twice a year, all the companies that make camping, climbing, hiking, paddling gear, clothes, shoes, and gadgets get together in one cement bunker in Salt Lake City to hock their wares. It's called the Outdoor Retailer Show, and it's the biggest gearapalooza in the land. Mostly the show allows shop owners to preview everybody's new lines of gear and apparel, most of which won't be available to consumers until later this fall or 2012.
Of course, A few of us magazine types sneak in as well to preview the latest and greatest. We won't get to actually see next year's crop of goods until later this week—the show officially kicks off on Wednesday, with an in-the-field demo day—but here's the short list of shiny objects we'll be tracking down.
1. Exotac Nanostryker: There are a million ferrocerium firestarters, but the Nanostryker, from the engineers at Georgia-based Exotac, is supposedly the smallest on the market. Made for BMW driving boyscouts, this key chain bauble is a flint you'll have on hand at all times. It's collapsible, it's self contained, it works when wet, and it comes in stanless steel and titanium. If you consider yourself too sophisticated for rubbing two sticks together or for blocky flints you might have to say, keep in your glove box, this little firestarter will let you be the keeper of the flame anywhere in a pinch. Available now, $27 ($75 for titanium), exotac.com.
2. Jetboil Sumo Ti Cooking System: Jetboil has cornered the market for the past seven years with its fast and light personal cooking systems that combine a lidded cooking cup and a compatible stove that stores inside the cup with the fuel canister. But Jetboil's cups, its "pots," have only held a liter of water--so they didn't work well for a party larger than two. With the Sumo, Jetboil doubles its cup capacity with a system that including cup/pot, lid and stove weighs a mere 12 ounces, and is ultrapackable. The fuel, stove, a smaller companion cup or three miniature bowls all pack inside the cup to save space.
3. DIY Headlamp: We've never looked at our headlamp and thought, "Damn. I wish it matched my jacket and pack better." Even so, being the gear geeks that we are, we have to admit that we got a little excited by the fact that Princeton Tec now lets you design your own headlamp. At the company's new Spectrum online design center, online in September, you get to choose strap color and pattern, and custom color all the plastic pieces in the body of your own custom Fuel headlamp. The sturdy Fuel ($30) is 43 lumens, and burns for 146 hours on three AAA batteries.
4. Snowpeak Titanium Straw: Snowpeak pushes the boundaries with its camping cutlery. First it was stainless steel and bamboo modular chopsticks. Then, Snowpeak introduced the titanium spork. Its newest addition to your backpacking kitchen kit is a titanium straw. It will seamlessly replace the plastic straws that keep getting crushed in your pack. What--you don't pack a straw when you go camping? Well now you can. We're not sure if this for sipping backcountry margaritas or for campfire Maté drinkers with an industrial aesthetic, but you can bet we'll investigate and get back to you. Available now, $15, Snowpeak.com.
5. Carhartt Astoria/Ketchikan Waterproof Breathable Cotton jackets: In its press release, Carhartt says "this product will be the best waterproof breathable cotton jacket in the industry." It will also, we're pretty sure, be the only one. The 100% cotton canvas jacket is also stated to be made of nylon and polyester in other parts of the press release, so we're kinda confused. We do know both jackets are fully seam taped with a waterproof breathable membrane, and thanks to Carhartt's signature workwear styling, they'll be jackets that are comfortable at deer camp or base camp. We'll sort it all out next week, in person, at the Outdoor Retailer show.