Wow, what a day! We struck gold right away on our first day visits. Never underestimate people’s creativity and innovation! That’s what the industry is all about - constantly developing new and improved products, staying ahead of the competition, and filling in every niche. And the beneficiaries are us! Actually, it’s a fair trade, we get better gear and they get our money.
Okay, no more horsing around. Here is our daily blog on the interesting gear we found today.
Patagonia Develops the Lightest Down Jacket in the World
How’s that for a claim? Patagonia’s new Ultralight Down Shirt for Spring 2011 weighs just 5.5 ounces (162 g) for the men’s model and 5 ounces (142 g) for the women’s model (not shown, but it has more stylistic quilting). It’s insulated with 800 fill power down and has a 10 denier 0.8 oz/yd2 (27 g/m2) ripstop nylon shell with Deluge DWR finish. MSRP will be US$250. The weights are actually a miniscule difference from the Montbell Ex Light Down Jackets, which weigh 5.7 ounces (163 g) for the men’s model and 4.7 ounces (133 g) for the women’s model, and they feature 900 fill power down and 7 denier shell fabric.
“The new Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt is our next step in the process of evolving the insulation business,” notes Tim Bantle, business unit director for Technical Outerwear, “the Ultralight Down Shirt is not just a new product, it's a new product category.” With a slim fit and minimal silhouette, the Ultralight Down Shirt is engineered for thermal efficiency. Its unique quilted pattern controls any shifting of the 800 fill power European goose down, resulting in optimal loft and warmth. This new quilting technology, with decreased channel sizing, allows for less down to be used in the garment, ultimately lessening the overall garment weight while maintaining warmth.
I have found that jackets with a lot of quilting release small down fragments created from sewing through the down, and the fragments make a mess of a fleece garment worn under or over the down garment. We will see how this one fares…
Featuring Carbon ION poles with AirLock connectors, the Easton Mountain Products Kilo Tent weighs Less Than 1 Kilogram
Weighing less that 1 kilogram (2.2 lb), the two-person Kilo tent packs the most advanced materials and technologies into an ultra-light freestanding tent. “The Kilo incorporates all of the latest and greatest technologies from Easton,” says Marketing Coordinator Rich Packer. “With the Carbon ION poles and AirLock pole connectors, the Kilo is unlike any tent you’ve ever seen before.”
Features: The new Easton Kilo two-person double-wall tent features Easton’s Carbon ION poles with AirLock connectors (see below). The inner tent is 20 denier nylon no-see-um mesh, the fly is 20-denier silicone/PU coated nylon ripstop 1500 mm, the floor is 30 denier PU-coated nylon ripstop 5000 mm. Floor area is 26 ft2 (2.42 m2) and the vestibule is 6 ft2 (0.56 m2). Trail weight is 2 pounds (910 g), MSRP is US$400.
The new Easton AirLock carbon fiber poles are 56% lighter than aluminum poles with elastic cord inside. AirLock uses precision inserts that utilize a short monofilament tether to keep pole sections in sequence. AirLock’s construction starts with an advanced aluminum/carbon composite insert tube. This precision-built core is machined to a high-tolerance fitment that mates to pressure-molded high strength Delrin receivers. An ultra-strong monofilament cord completes the AirLock modular system that pressure-fits between pole sections. The new system eliminates the elastic cord running through the poleset, and dramatically reduces weight. For example, the entire poleset for the Kilo tent above weighs 5.3 ounces (150 g).
New Granite Gear Nimbus Trace 62 is a Super Comfortable Load Hauler
The 4-pound (1.81-kg) Nimbus Trace for spring 2011 is right at our normal weight limit for an internal frame backpack, but that requires some qualification. We can’t judge a pack by light weight alone. Other factors - such as comfort, load-carrying capacity, adjustability, and useful features, need to be taken into account - and Granite Gear has those attributes in abundance, so the extra weight is justified for many hikers. A Granite gear may weigh a half pound more than similar-sized packs, but the extra weight is pure comfort.
The new Granite Gear Nimbus Trace has their Nimbus suspension, which is very adjustable and very comfortable. Other features include stretch mesh lower side pockets, zippered stretch-woven top side pockets, a full height stretch mesh front pocket with a compression sleeve over it (enables attaching a sleeping pad to the front of the pack), Advection backpanel (shown), Criss-Cross top closure with extension collar, removable floating top lid, lightweight LineLoc compression system, and TAC Ideal zippers (claimed to never wear out). This is a really nice feature set. Total weight is 4 pounds (1.81 kg) with the top pocket and 3 pounds 7 ounces (1.56 g) without, volume is 62 L (3800 in3), and MSRP is US$260. Available spring 2011.
Equally impressive in its simplicity and features is the Blaze AC 60, weighing 2 pounds 14 ounces (1.3 kg). Features include AirCurrent suspension with quick torso adjustment, AC frame with molded air channels, lidless pack body (lid shown is optional, US$40), LineLoc compression system, stretch mesh lower side pockets, and full height stretch mesh front pocket with compression sleeve over it. A women’s version, the Blaze AC Ki will also be available. MSRP is US$200.
The only deficit I see in these packs is hipbelt pockets, but Granite Gear does have accessory pockets available that attach to all of their packs.
Pentax Introduces the 11th Generation Optio W90
It took several years and several compact digital cameras to make me realize that a waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof digital camera is the way to go for backpacking. The new Pentax Optio W90 (available now) offers enhanced waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, and coldproof performance and features an innovative Digital Microscope mode with LED lighting to capture small but intriguing subjects.
Features of the new Pentax Optio W90 include: waterproof to 20 feet (6.1 m), shockproof to 4 feet (1.22 m), coldproof to sub-freezing temperatures, 12.1 megapixel sensor and wide angle 5X optical zoom (28-140 mm equivalent), Digital Microscope mode with LED lens lighting perfectly captures the smallest and closest macro subjects as near as 1 centimeter from the camera, Eye-Fi wireless SD memory card connectivity for built-in Wi-Fi capability to transfer photos and videos from the camera to a computer or an online sharing site such as Picasaweb, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube (Eye-fi cards sold separately), 2.7 inch (7 cm) LCD with 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio that is easy to view in strong light or underwater, captures movies in widescreen 720p HD video at 30 frames per second, HDMI port plays back beautiful high resolution images and video on HDTVs, Advanced Pixel Track Shake Reduction captures blur-free images in any lighting, Fast Face Detection, Smile Capture, Blink Detection, and processing modes specifically designed for portraiture, and new Pet Recognition captures up to 3 pre-programmed pet faces in memory, infrared remote control compatibility with new waterproof Remote Control WP, as well as other PENTAX infrared remotes, autofocus assist lamp helps to quickly and accurately focus, even in challenging lighting. MSRP is US$340.
Cascade Designs Rolls Out a Passel of New Gear
Cascade Designs - an umbrella company that owns Platypus, Therm-a-Rest, MSR, and SealLine - had literally dozens of new or redesigned gear to show us. I could write our entire daily blog on new gear from Cascade Designs!
The new MSR Fast Stash Shelter is a single wall tent for two people plus gear. It sets up with trekking poles or included aluminum poles. It has a large front porch and adjustable side wings. Ventilation is through mesh panels on the ends (shown). Specifications: minimum weight 2 pounds 14 ounces (1.3 kg), floor area 36.5 ft2 (3.4 m2), inside height 46 inches (117 cm). MSRP is US$300, available January 2011.
The MSR Twin Brothers Shelter is a single wall floorless (floor optional) shelter for four to six people. Sets up with included poles or trekking poles. Features include a large door, top vents, and snow flaps. Specifications: minimum weight 4 pounds 14 ounces (2.2 kg), floor area 96 ft2 (8.9 m2), inside height 68 inches (173 cm). MSRP is US$400, available January 2011.
The snow flaps on this tent suggest a “cool” application for this shelter: use it for snow camping by setting it up over a dug and packed snow pit with kitchen bench and sleeping platforms. That’s something I have been thinking about for some time and hope to try out next winter.
New SealLine Cirrus Sacks will be the lightest in their lineup. Built with fully taped silicone impregnated, urethane coated Cordura nylon. Sizes are 2.5 L (1 oz/29 g, US$13) 5 L (1.2 oz/34 g, US$15), 10 L (1.7 oz/49 g, US$23), 20 L (2.3 oz/64 g, US$23), and 30 L (2.8 oz/80 g, US$28). Available January 2011.
Outdoor Research Bug Net Cap
The versatile OR Bug Net Cap features a no-see-um netting that keeps bugs and no-see-ums off the face and neck. The netting can be tucked into a pocket at the back of the cap. Wicking headband manages moisture. Features: Supplex nylon fabric UPF 30, TransAction headband, drawcord closure seals netting around neck, Color: khaki. MSRP US$34, available spring 2011.
GoLite Terrono 70 and 90 L Backpacks are Lightweight Freight Haulers
GoLite is adding a new member to their Adventure Series with their new mega Terrono backpacks. These are completely new packs, designed to carry “any load,” and they back that up with “60 pounds (27.2 kg) is not unreasonable.” Well, that is normally outside our scope, by choice. But there are times when we do need a Mack truck, and when we do we want a lightweight one, like 4 pounds (1.81 kg). Did I mention they have adjustable torso length and hipbelt length?
The new Terrono 70 and 90 backpacks are impressive. Their LiteRail perimeter frame is anatomically contoured to fit the body, and has an additional curved flat aluminum stay. The pack body is 210 denier tier 1 Dyneema and thinner nylon webbing is used to save weight. Features include anatomical hipbelt with two pockets, large zippered front pocket, detachable large floating top pocket, Compaktor system to reduce pack volume for smaller loads, bottom sleeping bag compartment, internal stretch-woven hydration sleeve, and more. This is a high-end backpack that provides a lot of volume with low overall weight. The 90 L pack weighs about 4 pounds 7 ounces (2.01 kg) and the 70 L pack comes in at 4 pounds (1.81 kg). MSRPs are US$275 for the 70 L and US$300 for the 90 L. Women’s versions will also be available in spring 2011.
GoLite Malpais Jacket is Lightweight Gold!
The full name is the Malpais Trinity 3-Layer Liteshell Jacket. It's shell is Trinity three-layer stretch construction nylon with a polyurethane membrane.
The GoLite Malpais Jacket for spring 2011 weighs just 6.7 ounces (190 g) in men’s Medium. Features are fully taped seams, water-resistant zippers, adjustable hood, single adjustable hem, adjustable cuffs, two zippered hand pockets - an essential feature set done well. It will be available in men’s and women’s versions at a MSRP of US$250. Sorry, no pit zips.
Innovative Klymit Inertia X-Frame Inflatable Sleeping Pad is Full-Length and Weighs Just 9.1 Ounces - More Lightweight Gold!
How about a body-mapped inflatable sleeping pad? Those cutouts save around 3 ounces (85 g) and are also functional; your sleeping bag is compressed less over the voids, so it’s warmer. Another nice feature is it takes only four breaths to inflate it (my wife can do it in three breaths, but that doesn’t surprise me…).
The new Klymet Inertia X-Frame Sleeping Pad has a claimed weight of 9.1 ounces (258 g). So what’s our measured weight? (Drum-roll….) The actual weight is 8.7 ounces (247 g). This is sooo exciting! The dimensions are 72 inches long x 18 inches wide x 1.5 inches thick (183 x 46 x 3.8 cm). The top fabric is 30 denier and bottom fabric is 75 denier ripstop. MSRP is US$100 and it will be available on Klymit’s website in November 2010. More sizes are planned. We got a sample and will be testing it out for the rest of the summer.
Sea To Summit Sleeping Bags??
When we arrived at the Sea To Summit booth, we were in for a surprise. These folks have a reputation for constantly developing new lightweight, “can’t do without” gadgets and widgets. But we couldn't believe our eyeballs when we saw sleeping bags! Yes, a new sleeping bag line, and they did their homework too.
There will be four lines of bags: Alpine (warmest), Traverse (full featured), Micro (the lightest), and Trek (budget). These bags are still in development, so details are missing. I would like to provide a full report on the Micro line (the lightest ones), but information is simply not available at this time. However, they did have the Traverse bag on display, and I will report on that one to illustrate.
The new Sea To Summit Traverse Sleeping Bag for spring 2011 is EN rated at 19 F (-7 C, lower limit) and weighs 2 pounds 6 ounces (1.08 kg). That’s a bit heavy, but read on to get the details. As I said, STS did their homework; the features include: 14 ounces (397 g) of 850+ European goose down fill, 20 denier shell with nano DWR, ¾-length zipper with lightweight stiffener on both sides (very similar to Western Mountaineering), offset baffles that are precise-filled with down, insulated neck and zipper baffles, dual drawcord hood, and footbox vent/expander. The MSRP has not been set yet.
A unique feature of the Traverse bag is its hydrophobic polyester fiber layer just under the bag’s shell, which acts to trap migrating body moisture, keeping it from dampening the down and keeping it near the bag’s shell where it can be expelled. In cold temperatures, moisture normally migrates toward the outer shell and hits the dewpoint within the bag’s insulation, so it accumulates. This technology is designed to overcome that process. Sounds good in theory, but we need to test it to see if it works.
SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Adds Features and Cuts the Weight Down to 3.5 Ounces
I realized that I’m getting tired of using Aqua-Mira for water treatment - count the drops, wait five minutes for it to activate, add to water container, wait twenty minutes before I can drink it. I should have tried a UV filter by now, but I haven’t. I guess it’s because I usually use a lightweight water bottle or flask with a narrow mouth, which makes it hard to use a UV device for water treatment. But UV water treatment makes so much sense - simply wave the wand in the water while agitating it for ninety seconds and you’re done, and you can drink it right away.
Featuring an optical water sensing system, the new Adventurer Opti uses germicidal UV light to destroy viruses, bacteria, and protozoa in drinking water. The Opti combines a sleek, portable water purifier with a handy LED flashlight (the optical sensor doubles as a flashlight). Pocket-sized and weighing only 3.6 oz (103g), the SteriPEN Adventurer Opti is not only light, it's fast, easy, and effective. One CR123 battery has enough power to treat fifty liters of water. Note that UV treatment does not work when there are ice crystals in the water. MSRP is US$100. Available now.