Editor's Note: This article was opened to the public on July 22, 2010. To subscribe and see Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010 articles as they are published, click here.
Gore-Tex Extended Comfort Range Footwear Sounds like a new Gore-Tex product (i.e. membrane) right? Wrong! Extended Comfort Range simply means that the Gore-Tex XCR footwear bootie is optimized with other construction materials in the shoe to achieve more breathability, as shown in the photo above. In other words, if you want more breathability in a Gore-Tex shoe, construct it with a breathable material over the bootie, not something like solid leather that blocks breathability. Duhhh! There are actually some changes in the bootie itself: rather than a completely enveloping bootie, the bottom of the bootie is open and is bonded directly to the midsole of the shoe so it's still sealed on the bottom. This change in construction is claimed to allow easier manufacturing, a better fit, and provide more "three dimensionality," whatever that means. The bottom line is they found a more efficient way to construct Gore-Tex shoes, and by combining it with the common sense recommendation to cover the membrane with breathable materials to optimize breathability, they have a new marketing spin called Extended Comfort Range Footwear. Go figure.
The AquaClip Water Bottle Attachment (0.4 ounce, $2) is a head slapper of "why didn't I think of that?" proportions. This little piece of plastic is amazing - simply snap the rounded end (cap wrench) around the neck of any small mouth water bottle and slip the angled end under a hipbelt or into a shoulder strap loop, and you have a simple and effective water bottle attachment. A 20-ounce disposable water bottle is probably best for shoulder strap mounting because the bottle itself is very light and the total weight (about 1 pound) is about right. No problem removing the bottle cap while the clip is attached. www.aquaclip.com
The Integral Designs SilTunnel Shelter (3 pounds 5 ounces, $500) is a four-person silnylon floorless tunnel tent. It's supported by three lateral aluminum hoop poles, and there is a vestibule-protected door on each end. This baby is big - 150 inches long from end to end. The floor width is 83 inches and height is 52 inches. It's designed specifically as a winter shelter for large groups, but of course it can be used in any season, and it's light enough to by used by a pair of hikers. The steep sidewalls of the tunnel design provide maximum interior space. It can be set up quickly with only two stakes at the ends, but it's advisable to anchor all eight staking points. Digging down in the snow and digging a lengthwise trench really helps to provide enough height to stand up and sit comfortably. For ventilation, the SilTunnel has vents on either end created by a unique upsidedown V at the top of the door zippers.
Osprey continues to add to their large and diverse backpack line. I asked them how many packs they have now, and they said they have 575 SKUs, which includes all packs, sizes, and colors. Clearly they don't have enough yet, because they have added the Talon 44 (44 liters, $159) to the Talon series. Unlike the other Talon packs, the Talon 44 has a peripheral aluminum frame, so it's an internal frame backpack about the right size for lightweight backpacking, coming in at about 2.5 pounds. It's a top loader with an extension collar, top compression strap, and top pocket. There is also a large stretch nylon shovit pocket on the front, two side pockets, two hipbelt pockets, and a sleeping bag compartment on the bottom. It has Osprey's Airspeed ventilated backpanel. The only real competition for this pack is Osprey's own Exos 46, which has slightly larger volume and is about the same weight.
The really big news from Osprey is their new line of hydration packs, which they call Osprey Hydraulics. The unique features of Osprey's hydration packs are: the hydration reservoir is actually a structural member of the pack, providing backpanel curvature and support (left photos); their HydraLock system effectively puts positive pressure on the reservoir to deliver water with minimal sucking; Osprey has integrated many of their proven backpack technologies (AirScape suspension, BioStretch hipbelt and harness, roomy hipbelt pockets)... the list of features goes on and on! There are two series within the line: the Manta series intended for trail/day hiking/multi-sport, and the Raptor series (right photos) targeted to mountain biking/running. Both series have a range of pack sizes with specific features. These packs are indeed impressive; Osprey has worked their magic once again to integrate their expertise in design, comfort, and fit into a complete line of truly innovative hydration packs.
I had the pleasure of meeting Grant Sible and Glen Van Peski of Gossamer Gear, both of whom were also attending the trade show. They brought along a pair of their new Lightrek 4 adjustable carbon fiber trekking poles (3.4 oz/pole, $150, new camo color shown) to show me. They have a simple single connection in the middle to enable adjustment from 90 to 140 centimeters and are quite stiff and strong. These poles are absolutely wonderful! I have used quite a few different CF trekking poles, and (in my opinion) these are simply the best. I use trekking poles a lot in my off-trail hiking, and use them with a variety of shelters, so adjustable poles are preferred and Gossamer Gear offers them with no weight penalty. They are available in regular and short sizes, with or without straps, and in black or camo.
In fall 2009 Tubbs will introduce their new Flex Series snowshoes. This series is a complete departure from their traditional aluminum frame snowshoes - they are made of injection molded plastic that is thin enough and strong enough to give the snowshoes a distinct flex to roll naturally from heel to toe. Note that these snowshoes are optimized for walking on firm snow, not for floating on fluffy snow. The topside has an easy to attach step-in binding, and the bottomside has serious lateral and toe crampons. The toe crampon rotates on a hardened steel clevis pin. There are three models in the series: the Flex ALP for backcountry use is the largest and most aggressively treaded, the Flex NRG for day hiking is intermediate, and the Flex TRK for trail walking is smaller and has less aggressive traction. The weight of the ALP shoes is just over 4 pounds/pair, so the story here is not on light weight but on pure raw traction and flexibility, and the new Flex series delivers. MSR's are $180 for the NRG and $220 for the ALP.
At the Sierra Designs booth we found the new LT Strike 2 Tent (3 pounds 6 ounces trail weight, $398), a sub-four-pound two-person double-wall tent with two doors and two vestibules. Tent weight is kept low through the use of lightweight fabrics and a minimalist pole design. It's supported by lightweight diagonal eye-poles with a hub on each end. Floor area is 29 square feet, and the vestibules add 18 square feet; interior height is 37 inches. Overall, the LT Strike 2 has adequate, but not abundant, interior space, and the height is adequate for shorter people. It is not free-standing.