The Gear Junkie: Outdoor Retailer ‘Best in Show’

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By Stephen Regenold

The twice-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show is an exhibition of thebest outdoors equipment in the world. New this year, GearJunkie.comlaunched an inaugural “Best in Show” award for the Summer Market tradeshow, held in early August. After four days in Salt Lake City at theshow — and some early product tests — I've picked a dozenproducts you'll see on the market in 2011.From featherweight tents to portable power generators, these itemsexemplify innovation and new thinking in the world outdoors.


Not much bigger than a cigar, and weighing about 12ounces, the nPower PEG device captures and stores kinetic energy asyou hike. Put it in your backpack and the up-and-down movement ofhiking bounces a magnetically-active mass that passes through aconductive loop. The result of this weird science is enough juice toidly charge an iPod, GPS or cell phone as you bounce and trek down atrail., $149.99


Made for fast-and-light backpackers andendurance runners, the Z-Poles have three-section, carbon-fiber shaftsthat offer stout support but also fold up fast. Black Diamond debutedthree versions of the Z-Pole at the trade show. The Ultra Distancemodel, pictured here, weigh a scant 4.75 ounces per pole. Light andbomber on the trail, the Z-Poles offer a new type of trekking poleexperience. (Ultra Distance model costs $149.95 a pair.)


Low to the ground, but still wellcushioned. That's the promise of La Sportiva's MorphoDynamic soletechnology, which will soon be seen on two new trail shoes from theItalian shoe- and boot-maker. The wider, lower, and less-treadedMorphoDynamic soles are made to absorb, add stability and grip whenrunning on uneven terrain. The promise is a fast shoe that is “one ofthe most responsive, plushest rides around.”


No batteries required. The SteriPENSidewinder has a crank arm mechanism to power its water-purifyingsystem. The protozoa-zapping unit uses bursts of UV light to killbacteria and other bad microbes that swim and float unseen inuntreated water. $99.95,


Down insulation loses performancewhen it's wet. But for sleeping bags, down's warmth and compression isking. 3D Nanoshell is the name of a new idea from Sea to Summit thatis an innovative approach to managing moisture in down bags. Thesystem includes a breathable, water-repellent outer shell and then alayer of fluffy, synthetic, silicone-encapsulated fibers underneath.The next layer underneath that is the down. This sandwich of fabricsand synthetic fiber creates a system that blocks moisture from theoutside of the bag and also allows condensation from the body to risethrough and “wick” out of the down. In short, thesilicone-encapsulated fiber pulls moisture from the down to keep thebag dry from the inside and maintain performance where otherdown-insulated bags might suffer.


Poles and fly included, the Laser Ultra1 weighs an impossible 1 pound, 1 ounce. This is a feat ofounce-shaving heretofore unseen in the world of shelters outside. TheU.K. company uses thin fabrics and minimal design to create a sheltermade for one person that is being touted as the lightest double-walltent in the world.


Cut out, body-mapped, and highlycompressible, Klymit's Inertia X Frame is a new turn in the categoryof the sleeping pad. It inflates by mouth with air or with a specialargon gas, which is pumped in via Klymit's optional handheld cartridgegun. According to the company, argon adds significant insulation valueover normal air. Deflate the pad, roll and fold it up, and the X Framepacks into a stuff sack not much larger than a soda can. $99.95,


Easton Mountain Products' new tent poletechnology eliminates the need for shock cords. Instead of cord strungthroughout a pole, Easton's AirLock pole connector holds tent polestogether with tiny aluminum/carbon core tubes and flexible tethers.The result is lighter weight poles. The company says some pole setupscould shave 50 percent of their weight by employing the AirLocksystem.


Thicker than a rash guard, but not as restrictive asa wetsuit, SeasonFive's debut line of tops and pants offers a new wayof looking at apparel for water sports. The key ingredient is thecompany's Atmos 1.0 fabric, a three-layer build comprised of a faceand backing of dense polyester. A stretchy waterproof-breathablemembrane is the inner layer. The result is a tight-fitting suit thatoffers warmth, breathability, and water-shedding properties to keepsurfers, paddlers, and other water enthusiasts more comfortable acrossof range of aquatic conditions.


It holds water. A hose comes out the bottom,and you suck it to drink. Those things have not changed. But theAntidote, CamelBak's latest hydration reservoir, has a fewlong-awaited upgrades. The screw-on lid is wide and easy to reachinside — a good idea for aiding in cleaning it out. The cap opens andcloses easily with a quarter turn, and it locks watertight. For airingout the Antidote, dryer arms fold out to hold the reservoir open fromthe inside. The design is lighter and lower-profile than past models,and CamelBak added a new click-in connection that auto shuts-off witha valve to let you take the hose out and keep water from leaking intoyour pack. $30 – $35, depending on size.


Officially released at Outdoor Retailer,the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator is a GPScombo pack capable of sending text messages from almost anywhere inthe world. Want to send a Twitter or Facebook update from Denali? TheDeLorme/SPOT product enables satellite-based text messaging whereusers can transmit 40-character geo-tagged messages to anyone viaFacebook, Twitter, e-mail or text message. DeLorme's PN-60w unitgrants full GPS functionality with the two-device package as well.Cost is $550 plus $100 per year for the SPOT service,


Flexible, light, minimally-built, andclose-fitting, the New Balance Minimus line is a major diversion forthis running-shoe giant. The shoes, which won't be to market untilspring 2011, are still top-secret. (The company would only providecropped “sneak peek” photos.) But after some time with the shoes in aclosed room at the Outdoor Retailer trade show, it's apparent that thebarefoot-inspired Minimus line could be a game

Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at

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