The daily perspective: As an industry vet experiencing OR for the first time, the show is a fantastic all-systems overload. If you're at all familiar with, say, the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall, I think it's fair to describe OR as several times more intense. Where to focus?! What to share?! Some of the things I've found aren't the lightest-weight options on the market... but are relevant to those who are more lightweight than UL, or have a great price point, or are just plain cool. Today's points of interest?
You didn't think we'd pass up a great ultralight company like this, did you? WM is introducing their Flash Booties. (No, they don't have anything to do with bun warmers or streaking!) The Flash Booties have a lot of loft, a foam-insulated sole, a mini-crew-ish height, and weigh 2.75 ounces for a pair in size medium. (There's just something about 12 denier fabric and 850 fill down, isn't there?) They'll be available in January for a MSRP of $49.
WM is also bringing out a Flash XR Jacket. The new laminate Proloft XR shell fabric is water resistant and breathable, the pockets are zippered, and the back of the hood has a cinch tab. The weight of the Flash XR is 11 ounces, 2 more ounces than the standard Hooded Flash Jacket. But hey, if you're concerned about water resistance or losing things from your pockets, this could be a great way to go. Suggested retail will be $300.
Will has been testing the new Montbell Tachyon Anorak and will be bringing us one of his stellar reviews in the near future. In the meantime I'll give you the briefest of teasers: the Tachyon is a 2.3-ounce hooded windbreaker, made of wispy 7 denier ripstop nylon. The $89 price tag is pretty good, too.
As you might be aware, Montbell makes packs under the Zero Point label. I was impressed by the exceptionally clean and functional aesthetic of their revised Alpine Pack 50. The framed pack is made of durable materials (main body 330 denier ripstop, 1000 denier reinforcement), but the lack of frills keeps the weight down to 3 pounds 5 ounces. I think of the frame as a "H" - Montbell calls it a Super Wishbone Double Frame, but either way, the point is that the frame won't barrel like a simple two-stay suspension would. The slanted side pockets are perfectly integrated into the pack body, and the circular bar tacks add a nice touch. MSRP is $179.
Let's be honest: Some people just don't have the cash for a super-premium down bag. And I can't say that I've ever thought of Kelty as making something that our dear readers would enjoy. BUT... the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 is an actual, amazing bargain. The 20 degree Farenheit EN Comfort-rated down bag weighs a mere 2 pounds 3 ounces (in short), and it costs a measly $99.95! (Size regular is 2 lb 8 oz, $109.95.) To put this in perspective, a 5'6" Western Mountaineering UltraLite weighs 1 pound 12 ounces and costs $370. If you don't have the $270 to save yourself the 7 ounces and gain the nicer materials and construction, the Cosmic Down is worthy of your consideration.
Another really cool find from Kelty is their upcoming vintage pack line. They're not ultralight, but man are they spiffy! If you're the type of person who haunts eBay looking for retro packs, these are just your thing. The packs re-introduce styles from the 60s and 70s, right down to the label style, leather patches, metal zippers, and metal buckles. That old favorite teardrop style pack (14 ounces) will be available again next spring for $49.95. Their top-end Mockingbird (with removable side pockets, 30 ounces) will cost $124.95.
If you liked most things about the NeoAir but were concerned about durability and price, the upcoming NeoAir Trekker might be your pad. The Trekker uses more rugged materials and eliminates the radiant barrier. The result is a pad that still has a R-value of 2.0, weighs 19 ounces in Regular (instead of the NeoAir's 14 ounces), and costs $119.95 instead of $149.95. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the new design is Cascade's introduction of... wait for it... a Large Torso size! They heard our call for a wide but short pad, folks, and will be making a NeoAir Trekker in a 25" x 48" size resulting in a 16-ounce pad. I'm excited about the size, disappointed in the model. The Large NeoAir I shortened to 60 inches weighs 14.25 ounces; at 48 inches I'd expect it to weigh about 12 ounces instead of the 16-ounce Trekker. It would make a lot more sense for Cascade to introduce a weight-conscious comfort pad in their lightest line, but I guess we'll take what we can get for now, eh?
The Hubba Hubba has been one of the best-selling double wall tents on the market for years. Cascade is launching the Gear Shed, a 26.5 square foot hooped vestibule that can be added to any Hubba or Hubba Hubba. (I wouldn't be surprised if you could even pop it on a Carbon Reflex 3.) The Gear Shed adds 1 pound 12 ounces to your pack but essentially doubles the covered space of your shelter and will set you back $149.95. End result with the combo is approximately 63 square feet of shelter for 5 pounds 12 ounces. Yes, heavy by many of our standards, but possibly just right for some needs or desires. One other point of interest in most of the MSR shelters: if the yellow rainflies drove you nuts, the new ones will be a sort of Granny Smith green.
If you've joined the Vibram Five Fingers craze, Injinji is introducing their new Liner Series in a stretchy, close but comfy fitting Coolmax. Injinji developed the sock specifically to fit well inside the Five Fingers, and not surprisingly it looks like they'll be perfect for the application. At $10 a pair, stocking up (sorry, the pun was intended) won't hurt as much as other performance socks. Injinji will also have a Performance Series Midweight sock available in late fall or early winter.
Cocoon by Design Salt
If you're like me, as soon as you see the above brand you probably think "Sleep sacks, whatever, moving on." But Cocoon had a few things even ultralighters might love. The first thing that caught my attention was their newest pillow, the Hyperlite AirCore pillow. The 13 x 17 inch pillow only weighs 2.4 ounces, but is thick and comfortably supportive.
Some of our readers, namely Scouters traveling to Philmont, are required to carry sleep-specific clothing. Others of us choose to. Either way, Cocoon has silk travel pajamas that weigh 5 ounces for long-sleeve top and pants. Even a thru-hiker might like them, given that the pajamas are styled well enough that they could ostensibly be worn in public on laundry day (granted, there might be a bit of a lounge lizard effect). MSRP is $65.
I wasn't sure whether or not to include this, but what the heck. Cocoon also has a 50 degree Primaloft Innerbag. It costs $100, weighs 1 pound 10 ounces, and should easily pack to about 6 x 12 inches.
Aw, shoot. I can't help it. There's one completely random thing I'm going to throw out for you worldly travelers. Get this: Cocoon is also introducing aromatherapy travel pillows. Scents include lavender, lavender/chamomile, vanilla, and apple blossom. The 10 x 14 inch pillows weigh 6.5 ounces and are very supportive but pleasantly squishy. If you need to de-stress on de plane, these might be a nifty addition to your carry-on.
Esbit (an AGS brand)
There are some truly die-hard Esbit users in our community; I'm not sure if the same people will jump on these offerings from Esbit, or if people new to the solid fuel will be more interested. The 585 ml Esbit Cookset is a hard anodized aluminum pot with a nesting, integrated stove/windshield/pot support. Weight with lid is 6.95 ounces, MSRP is only $30.
They also have a 2.8 ounce hard anodized aluminum mug with a plastic rim (and handle) for safe sipping. MSRP is $9.99.
A random nifty item for your consideration: the Esbit Coffee Maker, an almost artsy and aesthetically pleasing historical espresso-style coffee maker that comes with a bottom unit similar to that of the cookset. The coffee pot itself fits reassuringly snugly into the the stove. Weight is about 10.6 ounces (yup, this is probably more of an office or car camping thing for us) and retail is about $59.95.
Gregory has done a ton of re-design work on their packs for 2011 that I think will help them fit more consumers, as well as offer some nice tweaks. A huge growth segment in overall market pack sales has been in the 40 liter-ish size that people can squeeze in as a carry-on. The upcoming Z40 (and women's specific Jade 38) is a framed pack with front panel load, sleeping bag compartment, plenty of pockets, and removable rain cover for 3 pounds 4 ounces. MSRP will be $149.95.