This stuff is the best of the best, whether it lightens our load, beefs up our tent, or just makes drinking beer a bit easier.
This stuff is the best of the best, whether it lightens our load, beefs up our tent, or just makes drinking beer a bit easier. (Photo: ©Earl Harper)

The Best Gear from Summer Outdoor Retailer 2018

Once again, our gear editors head to the industry's largest trade show to scope out the latest, greatest outdoor tools and toys

This stuff is the best of the best, whether it lightens our load, beefs up our tent, or just makes drinking beer a bit easier.

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There’s a lot to ogle at the annual Outdoor Retailer summer trade show. All manner of new gear debuts, much of it interesting and noteworthy. But only a handful of products will be named Gear of the Show. This stuff is the best of the best, whether it lightens our load, beefs up our tent, or just makes drinking beer a bit easier.

Garmin InReach Mini ($350)

(Courtesy Garmin)

For years, the satellite communications market was at a standstill, with just a batch of standard, expensive options to choose from. If you wanted to cut down on weight, you’d have to turn to small one-way models like the Spot Gen 3. If you prioritized a screen and more functionality, you’d have to go heavier with a bigger two-way communicator like Garmin’s InReach SE. Yes, options like GoTenna and Somewear have sprung up, but their functionality is heavily reliant on being connected to a smartphone, and we don’t want to trust our communications solely on a phone’s battery life. So when Garmin announced it was debuting a miniaturized version of the InReach, we took note.

The new InReach Mini nicely bridges the gap between lightweight and feature-rich. It’s palm-sized and weighs a scant 3.5 ounces but retains most of the functionality of the original, with automatic location tracking, two-way messaging, weather updates, GPS navigation, and an SOS feature that sends a distress call to search and rescue operators. The GPS navigation is more rudimentary than the original InReach—no course mapping, just waypoints and breadcrumbs—but the Mini can pair with your phone, where you can access full mapping functions. And its battery lasts up to 30 days in power-saving mode.

Ultimately, the InReach Mini signals a new era for satellite communications. The days of choosing between weight and functionality are over.

Available now.

—Ariella Gintzler, assistant editor

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite Sleeping Pad ($180)

(Courtesy Therm-a-Rest)

While many major outdoor brands are just now launching ultralight, thru-hiking-inspired products (looking at you, Osprey and Gregory), Therm-a-Rest has been sitting at that table for a while now. For the past decade, the brand’s NeoAir Xlite mattress has been the sleeping pad of choice for thru-hikers, nailing the sweet spot between low weight and high comfort.

That’s why we’re excited about the new UberLite, which uses the NeoAir’s proven baffle design and 2.5 inches of cushion for a comfortable night’s sleep after a long day on the trail—in an even lighter 8.8-ounce package. That makes it the most featherweight pad on the market. The secret sauce? A new fabric that sheds more than three ounces off the UberLite’s predecessor.

Available in spring 2019.

—Ben Fox, affiliate reviews director

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV1 Carbon with Dyneema Tent ($750)

(Courtesy Big Agnes)

Historically, the problem with super-lightweight, expensive backpacking tents was durability—sure, you could shave ounces, and even pounds, from your pack weight, but you’d be stressed about the fabric ripping with the slightest provocation.

Big Agnes may have fixed this problem with the Fly Creek HV1 Carbon, which is built from Dyneema, an überlight fabric that’s five times stronger than steel. That means this one-pound freestanding tent is the lightest on the market, packs down to the size of your forearm, and (hopefully) won’t tear when a pinecone falls on it. We’ve yet to test it, but this could prove to be the holy grail of backpacking tents.

Available in spring 2019.


Nite Ize SlapLit LED Drink Wrap ($12)

(Courtesy Nite Ize)

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting around a fire with friends, lounging in your camp chair or sitting on a log, beer perched on the ground next to you. Someone gets up to freshen up their drink from the cooler, walks by you, and accidentally kicks your beer. Now you need freshening up as well.

No more. Remember those slap bracelets that were a big deal in the ’90s? Well, Nite Ize has developed something similar to that, only it wraps around a cup or beer can, acting as a koozie to keep beverages cold longer. But the best part is the LED strip running through the SlapLit. It comes in three colors so you can quickly see which drink’s yours and others can avoid playing kick the can in the dark. The light turns on with the press of button. No more crying over spilled beer.

Available in spring 2019.

—Emily Reed, assistant editor