New Lightweight Backpacking Gear - (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2003) - Public Version

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by the Product Review Staff | 2003-08-16 03:00:00-06

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Gear Availability

Many of these products will be available in Spring '04. Some are being released in Fall '03 (as early as September) and a few are available now or in the next few weeks. Please contact the manufacturer directly (let 'em know you heard about their products here!) for more precise product release dates and updated retail pricing.

Packs

Trends

Frameless rucksacks aren't really getting much lighter this year, and there are few innovations in this area. However, there is a substantial push among several manufacturers to drop weights of internal frame packs, and we are now seeing several new internal frame packs in the 2-3 pound range with enough volume for week-long lightweight backpacking trips (up to 50L).

GoLite

GoLite makes the most substantial contribution in internal frame philosophy and design by introducing a corrugated polystyrene frame sheet with rod-shaped aluminum stays, a combination that works well together to provide surprisingly good support for far less weight than full-blown suspension systems.

GoLite Framesheet (photo in member's version)

Combined with GoLite's minimal suspensions (padded foam shoulder straps and mesh/webbing or thinly padded hip belts), we think that GoLite spent its weight in the appropriate places in the suspension - these are very comfortable packs. There are three new packs in their internal frame line - the GoLite Vision (30L), the GoLite Continuum (40L), and the GoLite Infinity (50L). They use a combination of fabrics - a newer, stronger (1.76 oz/sq.yd.) silicone-coated polyester ripstop to save weight and Dimension-Polyant's lightest X-Pac diamond ripstop for wear areas. This combination provides the right balance of weight and durability and are significant improvements to currently available models that use a combination of lighter silicone-coated nylon and Dyneema ripstop. Another new addition to GoLite's pack line is the GoLite Jam - a smaller and more feature rich version of the Gust.

GoLite Vision. (photo and specs in member's version).

GoLite Continuum. (photo and specs in member's version)

GoLite Infinity. (photo and specs in member's version)

GoLite Jam. (photo and specs in member's version)

CamelBak

CamelBak enters the lightweight backpacking market with two sleepers that are not being highly touted but offer good load carrying capacity: the 28L frameless CamelBak Raza and the 40L internal frame CamelBak Kronos. We think these are a couple of packs awaiting discovery.

CamelBak Raza. (photo and specs in member's version)

CamelBak Kronos. (photo and specs in member's version)

Vaude

Vaude offers what we think is going to be one of the best small volume packs that can comfortably carry a small, dense load (e.g., a full load of water with ultralight overnight gear) - the 24L Vaude Argon (weight about 24 oz).

Vaude Argon. (photo and specs in member's version)

Equinox

Equinox released a new version of their evolving frameless Equinox Katahdin pack. At 55L, it offers a fabric-wing and buckle compression system that works well to reduce pack volume for smaller loads.

Equinox Katahdin. (photo and specs in member's version)

Marmot

Marmot has contributed to the flood of other alpine pack manufacturers with reasonably-light frameless rucksacks that carry heavy loads poorly and are somewhat ill-suited for the backpacker. However, this year they introduce hollow 7075-T6 frame stays to the rucksack design in 40L and 55L versions of the Marmot Alpinist packs. Both packs are well under 3 pounds.

Marmot Alpinist 40. (photo and specs in member's version)

Marmot Alpinist 55. (photo and specs in member's version)

Granite Gear

Granite Gear introduces the Granite Gear Wisp and enters the market for hardcore ultralighters needing a solid load-carrying pack in the 30L size range.

Granite Gear Wisp. (photo and specs in member's version)

Note: Most of our field testing is complete and We'll be publishing reviews on Granite Gear's other ultralight packs, Granite Gear Virga, Granite Gear Vapor Trail, and Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone in the near future.

Shelters

Trends

Weight is not being shaved in the area of shelters (with some notable innovations from Black Diamond) but a few solid designs emerged for those that like the security of a floored tent. In addition, Granite Gear offers some unique innovations in tarp design that are sure to improve the storm resistance of tarps in inclement conditions.

Black Diamond

Black Diamond introduces Epic Malibu (1.9 oz/sq.yd.) into a new line of shelters, including the Black Diamond Lighthouse (based on Bibler's Ahwahnee design), Black Diamond Firstlight (based on Bibler's I-Tent design), and the Black Diamond Lightsabre Bivy (based on the Bibler Tripod Bivy design). Yes, we said Epic. The same Epic (not waterproof in apparel) used in many popular apparel designs. And yes, these are designed to be standalone storm shelters not requiring a tarp pitched above them for a rain fly. We told Black Diamond that we thought this was a great innovation in cold-weather tent design. They replied with, "Cold weather? No, these are for all weather - rain, sleet, or snow, warm or cold..." The shelters save significant weights over the Bibler Todd-Tex counterparts (add Fibraplex carbon pole sets and you can shave a lot more weight). All have 30d silicone-coated nylon floors.

Black Diamond Lighthouse. (specs in member's version)

Black Diamond Firstlight. (photo and specs in member's version)

Black Diamond Lightsabre Bivy. (specs in member's version)

GoLite introduces the GoLite Trig 2 shelter, a more stormproof, vestibuled, and floored version of the GoLite Lair 2. The shelter pitches taut, offers ventilation, and good vestibule storage. A key innovation with this shelter: you can pitch it with trekking poles inside (for greater stability and ease of setup in stormy weather) or outside (for more free space inside the shelter).

GoLite Trig 2. (photos and specs in member's version) 

Mont Bell

Mont Bell offers one person and two person floored double-walled and single-hoop pole tents that weigh less than 2.4 lbs and 3.1 lbs (stakes included) respectively, remarkably light weights for double-walled tents. The inner tents can be left at home, leaving you with virtually stormproof, floorless, single wall shelters with hooped pole designs that are very light.

Mont Bell Mono Frame Shelter Diamond. (specs in member's version).

Mont Bell Mono Frame Shelter Hexagon. (specs in member's version)

Granite Gear

Who would have thought that a major pack maker would be introducing what might be this year's most innovative advances in design application for ultralight tarps. Granite Gear introduces the Granite Gear White Lightnin', a series of silicone-coated nylon tarps that offer what is probably the tightest pitch of any tarps available on the market today. Offered in sizes suitable for 1-4 persons. A new type of silicone-coated nylon, a unique cut, load bearing binding tape on tarp edges and ridgline, tension buckles at guy points, and finally, an easy way to integrate trekking poles into the ridgeline pitch.

Granite Gear White Lightnin'. (specs in member's version)

Sleeping Bags

Top bags! More designs are being introduced and it looks like this is a market segment that will have a strong suite of options by Spring 2004.

Western Mountaineering

The Western Mountaineering Pod 15 and Western Mountaineering Pod 30 - we've been waiting a long time for these. The new bags are shipping soon. The Western Mountainaering Pod comes with or without an inflatable sleeping pad (and, coming soon: a custom shaped foam pad to fit the bags) and makes valiant attempts to control drafts at the bag-pad interface down the sides with an innovative pad attachment system and side baffle. Our staff is split on whether this will be the bags' weak point. We'll reserve our judgment on performance following at the end of our review period. Statistics, features, and more photos are available at BackcountryGear.com.

(photos in member's version)

Sierra Designs

Sierra Designs also enters the top bag market with the Sierra Designs Wickedfast line, comprised of two bags ("summer" and "spring" weights). The summer weight bag (size regular) weighs less than a pound and has more loft than the Pod 30, from 7 oz of 800 fill down (15 oz claimed weight, which we could not verify). The spring weight bag (size regular) was even loftier, has 14 oz of 800-fill down (1 lb 9 oz total weight). Both bags have generous girth of 63" x 59" x 46", which may cause problems for thin sleepers needing to warm up the extra space.

(photos in member's version)

Mont Bell

Mont Bell offers a complete line of down bags but one contribution in particular, which is one of the lightest down bags in the world, has one of the longest and weirdest names of any bag on the market: The Mont Bell U.L. Alpine Down Hugger #5 (#5 in the U.L. Alpine Down Hugger series). This is a hoodless summer weight bag with vertical box baffles at 15 ounces (6.4 oz fill weight of 725-fill down).

Equinox

Equinox introduces a beta version of a new synthetic sleeping bag. It is a 3/4-zippered design with 1.1 oz nylon shell and liner and summer-weight synthetic insulation. We couldn't validate the weight, and Equinox didn't give one, but they are targeting an $80 price point in a summer-weight bag that might be well-suited for combining with clothing and bivy gear for summertime backpacking especially in the humid Northeast.

Slumberjack

Who would've thought that Slumberjack, not well known for their premier ultralight backpacking gear, would introduce a synthetic sleeping bag that weighs less than six ounces.

(photo in member's version)

Kitchen

Kitchen gear innovations. Don't expect great things here, either. We thought the coolest new gear was a titanium java press.

Snowpeak

Yep, Snow Peak introduces a titanium java press. And color.

(photos in member's version)

Trangia

Titanium cookpot and fry pan/lid for the 28-5 cookset.

(photos in member's version)

Vaude

(Markill) folding stove, titanium, 3 oz with piezo ignition. folding legs (good pot support).

(photo in member's version)

Brunton

Relatively new and redesigned for this year, Brunton has a nice and very compact canister stove, the Brunton Crux. This has 12,000 BTU output, a wide flame spread, and superb simmer control.

(photo in member's version)

Rain Shells

Patagonia

Patagonia introduces the new Patagonia Specter shell line that includes an 8 ounce anorak with hood (no pockets) and 10.5 ounce jacket that includes a hood, handwarmer pockets/core vents. The 3 oz waterproof breathable fabric has a nice drape and is very durable.

(photos in member's version)

Equinox

Equinox introduces an 8-ounce (size Large) silnylon anorak that has a neck zip, hood, mesh pit vents, and elastic drawcord hem. We thought this was an innovative piece that offered good emergency rain protection.

(photo in member's version)

Ibex

Ibex is upgrading the Ibex Bug Wing for Spring '04 with an ultralight polyurethane-coated fabric that promises to be more breathable than than the current Tomen fabric used in the jacket. Expect it to remain less than four ounces, but offer significantly better comfort in the rain. Hood storage is also improved.

(photo in member's version)

Wind Shells

Patagonia

The Patagonia Dragonfly gets a face lift and adds half an ounce with a full length zipper and a more durable fabric.

(photo in member's version)

Pertex Equilibrium, Marmot, and GoLite

Stretchwoven softshell fabrics get even lighter with Pertex Equilibrium, a 4.5 oz fabric that gives full-zip jackets the ability to tip the scales at 10 oz or less. Equilibrium is a density gradient fabric that offers great breathability balanced with wind and drizzle protection, designed primarily for moisture (sweat vapor and wicking) management in high energy activities. Check out new garments from Marmot and GoLite that use Equilibrium.

(photo in member's version)

Cloudveil Women's Cloudveil has two new garments for women. A nice pair of capri pants and the Rodeo pants are available in a women's style.

Base Layers

Ibex

Ibex continues to innovate in the area of wool fabrics. They offer a loose-fitting aerobic jersey with a neck zipper that has a very subtle wool inner surface (for temperature control) and a tightly knitted polyester outer surface (for wind resistance and durability). This design provides a good balance between the wide temperature range of wool while still providing the benefits of low moisture absorption offered by all-synthetic garments.

(photos in member's version)

Insulating Layers

Patagonia

The new Patagonia Micro Puff pullover revisits the long-forgotten roots of the original puffball, offering a new Polarguard Delta pullover with a 1 oz fabric shell and lining. The result: quite possibly the warmest 10.5 ounces you'll find in a synthetic garment.

(photo in member's version)

Western Mountaineering

Western has a 5 oz down vest - the Western Mountaineering Flight Vest. It's very nice. And very lofty!

(photo in member's version)

GoLite

At a higher price, the GoLite Belay Parka is a great upgrade to the GoLite Coal. It uses Epic fabric and ads many nice design improvements. The GoLite Coal continues in GoLite's product line.

Miscellany

The Black Diamond Zenix is a 4.4-ounce headlamp (weight includes 3xAAA batteries that constitute 1.2 oz of the headlamp weight?? why on earth not just use 2xAA lithiums for less weight, more power, and better cold weather performance?) that still works with a helmet. The lamp uses a "hyper" bright LED that can shoot a 50-meter beam. It's a nice lamp, but what gives with the battery choice?

(photo in member's version)

Trekking Poles aren't making a big splash this year, but they do shave a few ounces. Look for 13 oz Leki Air Ergo Ultralight Ti poles and new 14 oz two-section carbon fiber trekking poles from Life-Link.

(photo in member's version)

Water Treatment. No one really cares about water filters anymore, but the MSR Miox Purifier pen offers 30-minute water treatment for up to 4L at a time in a 3.5 ounce package. Pour some water into a little reservoir in the end of the pen, push a button, wait 30 seconds, watch the solution bubble up, and pour the magic solution into your water bottle. Originally developed for the U.S. Military, the Miox works by reacting salt with a small volume of untreated water to create a brine solution. Then, after electrical activation of the solution, a chemical reaction produces a powerful cocktail of mixed oxidants that is then poured into the untreated water container. The microbes are typically killed in 30 minutes, and the pen is said to be capable of eliminating viruses, bacteria, Giardia, and Cryptosporidia. The pen includes safety indicator strips that measure oxidant residual, useful for evaluating the effectiveness of the dose in particularly dirty waters. The Miox is about the size of a good cigar, leaves no foul taste, and requires only salt (included in tablet form by MSR, or you can add your own iodized rock salt) and a pair of CR-123 batteries to operate.

(photo in member's version)

ThermaRest lightens their ultralight inflatable sleeping pads with the ProLite 3 series (13 oz in a 3/4 length, 20 oz in full length, and 2.75 oz in a 12" x 16" sit pad). But, stay tuned, Bozeman Mountain Works is whispering that a torso-sized inflatable sleeping pad to be introduced this fall will tip the scales at less than 10 ounces, a product to be found exclusively at BackpackingLight.com.

SealSkinz Inroduces fleece lined gloves and socks using their WP/B technology.

Storage. Granite gear introduced a new line of extremely light stuff and storage sacks at the show. These use the lightest silicone fabric in the industry, 1.1 oz coated weight. A 5x12.5" stuff sack weights in at 0.56 oz! A 5.5x15" compression sack weighs 2.5 oz. Also included are the rectangular side zip style Air Space stow bags and the smaller Air Pocket stow bags for items like maps, toiletries, sunscreen, matches and the ilk.

(photos in member's version)

Product Review Program - Participating Companies

BackpackingLight.com is pleased to announce that nearly every company that has been a previous participant in our product review program will be returning for the 2003-2004 season. In addition, we are excited to announce the inclusion of several new companies. In 2003-2004, we will be reviewing products from.

  • Patagonia
  • Sierra Designs
  • Marmot
  • Arc'Teryx
  • GoLite
  • Integral Designs
  • Cloudveil
  • Brunton
  • Mont Bell
  • CamelBak
  • Merrell
  • Black Diamond
  • Vaude
  • Western Mountaineering
  • Granite Gear
  • Cascade Designs
  • Equinox

This is only a partial list, of course, that doesn't include our existing cottage industry base and many, many more manufacturers that showcased their ultralight products to us at the show and will be submitting them for review.


Citation

"New Lightweight Backpacking Gear - (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2003) - Public Version," by the Product Review Staff. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00144.html, 2003-08-16 03:00:00-06.

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