It's an interesting frame of mind at this point: on one hand my mind keeps stumbling, on the other I could easily spend another week cruising around. Perhaps it's best to call it a show and leave on an exhausted but exhilarated note.
Today's products will focus more on those familiar lightweight to ultralight territory, but I'll keep a random thing or two in the mix.
Evernew will be launching a new "Mug Pot" series of pots. The Mug Pot 900 is a narrower, taller version of their standard 900 ml pot. Aspects of the design are strikingly familiar to the MSR Titan kettle, but this struck me as being a deeper pot. The handles are just big enough (in a positive way I think), and the bottom is specifically designed to loosely interlock with the DX Stove set to eliminate sideways slip. The Mug Pot 900 only weighs 3.5 ounces. They'll also be introducing the Appalachian set, which is the DX Stove set that nests neatly into a 500 ml pot. Like the 900, the 500 is designed to nestle into place on the stove stand. However, the 900 has a small groove up into the bottom and the 500 has a notch around the lower perimeter that allows the pot to drop a little into the stand.
I've been using the Evernew Ti alcohol stove since its release and have generally been pleased with its performance. It is a very strong, durable design, and I've found the stove to be equally as efficient in my Tri Ti as the 12-10 stove. However, after having burn tested five different Ti alcohol stoves in multiple configurations, I've found that the top row of jets never light. I've tested them on the bench, with a pot on stand above, and in my Tri Ti. Never has the top row of jets lit. Like I said, the stove has still worked well, but it really bothers me that the stove has a row of jets that appear to be nonfunctional. I'm told there is a fuel wick that should get fuel up there, but I'm pretty confident that it's not working if that's the case. Evernew swears that the stoves are fine and working properly, but I don't know how it could be considered to be working properly if half the burner doesn't light. Maybe there's some weird thing going on with the top row of jets actually being for air intake and mix? I don't know.
The lightest-weight mass market trekking poles usually come in around 6.5 to 8.5 ounces per pole, or 13 to 17 ounces per pair. Enter CAMP: Their Xenon 4 trekking poles only weigh 9.9 ounces per pair. Not only are they very light, but they break down into four sections using avalanche probe technology at the joints. There's a Dyneema cord in the middle of the pole; pull it up through the handle and just pull down to lock. Packed down, the poles are only 12.6 inches long. CAMP claims that their poles are the lightest trekking poles in the world, but they must not be familiar with Gossamer Gear LT4s (6.6 ounces per pair). Regardless, I'm really impressed with these poles and am anxious to test them. Talk about ease of packing! MSRP is $69.95. CAMP also makes a sturdier, much less flexy pair, the Xenon Trek, that weighs 12.7 ounces per pair for $79.95. (Pictured is the Xenon Trek, not the 4.)
It seems like forum questions come up somewhat regularly about ultralight ice axes or crampons. Though not new, I wanted to mention Camp's Corsa ice axe that weighs only 7.2 ounces. MSRP is $119.95. They also make a twelve-point aluminum crampon, the XLC 390, that only weighs 13.8 ounces. MSRP is $149.95.
La Sportiva introduced two new models in their Mountain Running line, the Electron and Quantum. What's great is that they've adopted a more ergonomic last, slip-lasted and a softer midsole that cushions impact and should adapt better to trail surfaces. In more real-world terms, they had me try on a pair and walk around on a few large sharp-ish objects; the shoe conformed to the chunky stuff, let me keep a pretty flat pace by not rocker-ing on the objects, and were soft but not squishy or unsupportive. The tread is also pretty unique, looking kind of like wave-rippled sand. La Sportiva describes the 11.95-ounce Electrons as dynamic, highly cushioned, with excellent grip and a terrain adapting sole. MSRP on the Electron will be $120.
I recently tried spending a night in a different company's ultralight hammock, but was so uncomfortable and verging on unexpected egress that I spent the last half of the night on the ground. When I stopped by the Hennessy booth I jumped in one and tried it out... really comfortable, really stable. I'm psyched. Hennessy Hammock has long been known for their bottom entry velcro, euphemistically referred to as the “birth canal,” but the company has some new developments. They're now introducing zippered versions in their most popular models. One thing I like about the side-zippered mesh is that it easily flips over the suspension line for the mesh, so you can sit in the hammock without undoing or reconfiguring anything.
My favorite model is the new Hyperlite Backpacker A-Sym Zip. It's a complete shelter (hammock, net, fly, lines) for 1 pound 10 ounces! The hammock body fabric is crazy stuff. It looks kind of like a sil ripstop, but the ripstop squares are made of Dyneema. I bought one and will start testing as soon as possible! Price is $229.95.
A lot of us have dogs who travel the backcountry by our sides (at least, when they're not chasing random scents). I think many outdoor people have some tendencies toward organics and more nutritious food, and I've noticed that the trend in pet supply stores is increasingly toward natural pet foods. Zuke's is no newcomer to the party, but I wanted to bring some attention their way for a great line of dog treats and supplements. (My pup Java, pictured, resoundingly supports the company despite giving the camera the cold shoulder!)
What's so special? First of all, the ingredients are all fit for human consumption and meet USDA standards. They don't add random junk or filler to the treats... no corn, no artificial colors or flavors, no added fat or by-products. One example, ingredients in Z-Filets Prime Venison strips: Venison, rice flour, maple syrup, garlic powder, salt, phosphoric acid, sorbic acid (as preservative), mixed tocopherols (i.e. vitamin E). Chicken 'n Cherryz basically has oats, rice, chicken, cherries, potatoes, and molasses.
The company puts a lot of effort into making the world a better place, too. Their biscuits are made in the U.S. with 100% wind energy, the box is 100% recycled and smaller/more full than competitors, the offices are powered with 100% green energy, and employees are paid to bike commute. A portion of all sales goes to the dog and cat cancer fund. I mean, this company really takes their commitment seriously. Let your four-legged kids give 'em a try! (Honestly, they sound so good I might have to start eating them.)
Metro Magic Air
Packrafters rejoice! There's a great option out there for getting plenty of air into your boat in very little time. Meet the Metro Vac Deluxe, a 110 Volt Inflator/Deflator that features all-steel construction. The inflator includes a power unit and is compact, portable, and easy to use. It has a one-gallon tank for the 1.17 horsepower motor. Best of all the inflator only weighs 6 pounds. Widely available for $159.
As passionate about this company as so many of our readers are, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I'd never actually seen one of the shoes in person before. What an experience! For those wanting to make the switch from boots to trail runners, the Roclite 319 (replaces the 320) is a great option. It's one of their most supportive shoes and is a softer ride than their mega-stripped down options. In my notes on the 319 after walking around in them I wrote "backpack boot," but the shoe is very low-bulk and unencumbering. Inov-8 slots the 319 as a supportive distance trail shoe. Weight is 11.3 ounces.
If you're not familiar, it helps to know that Inov-8 rates the support of their shoes with a "Shoc-Zone" rating of zero to four (they're little arrows on the heel). I tried out a couple of their spring 2011 road shoes, too, and felt that both the Road-X 255 (S.Z. 3, 9.5 oz) and the Road-X 222 (S.Z. 1, 6.7 oz) had pretty good potential as uberlight trail shoes. Now, understand that I'm pretty much the last standing boot hold-out. But on a hike last year my feet hurt enough that I ended up backpacking around ten miles in Crocs, no problems. The Inov-8s provide much better but completely unobtrusive support. One of many points of construction interest: many of the shoes (not the 222) feature a Fascia Band that mimics the ligaments on the bottom of your feet (think fingers spreading from heel to toe) to provide biomechanically correct support and maximized natural proprioception.
Nite Ize makes a ton of great little accessories. Many people I know use the stainless S-Biners to hang food bags. (I use the #1, although its weight rating is for much less than I hang. I haven't had any problems, but if you try it, it'll probably break just as a bear wanders through camp.)
I found a couple of cool little random accessories at the Nite Ize booth, including the Ziplit LED Zipper pull, a mini micro (not much larger than a zipper tab) LED zipper pull with switch (two-pack for $5.49). They also had the Spokelit ($7.99), oddly enough a bike commuter's spoke-fit wheel light. I liked the Spotlit, too, which might be for Spot, or Rover, or whatever you call your canine friend. It's a red or white LED with a stainless steel spring clip for the pup's collar ($6.99).
Many of you are familiar with Bodyglide Anti-Chafe. They're also introducing versions of the same product to better reach other markets, Bodyglide For Her and Chamois Glide. Same product, different marketing... which I think is fine, because it helps consumers realize that the product can be used in different applications.
The news from Bodyglide, though, is the Liquified Powder. The cream dries after applied and becomes a “smooth, silky shield.” Bodyglide says it not only contains moisturizers and is great for application to feet (ever tried getting the mini deodorant stick between your toes?), but that the Powder is “effective, if not magical.” Liquified Powder will be available in single-use pouches and tubes.
bluesign (the "b" isn't supposed to be capitalized) is another example of social consciousness, higher industry standards, and better business practices that not only reduce our impact on the world but can significantly reduce costs of business. Sounds like pretty heady stuff, eh? As I started learning about bluesign, the first thought through my head was “This sounds like something Yvon Chouinard might have started.” bluesign recognizes that many contemporary consumers “want to know everything about origin, production, and quality” of products. The CEO of bluesign postulates “If you don't know, you don't care.” And although it's good (or nice) to be socially and environmentally conscious, businesses have to remain (or become more) competitive.
What bluesign has done is develop standards that cover all stages of textile production. In other words, they don't just evaluate a final product. They consider all inputs from raw materials, water, energy, and chemicals. bluesign also works with products at the chemical/materials suppliers, the textile manufacturers, and the retailers and brands to make sure the standards are upheld throughout product development and sale. From bluesign materials: “The bluesign standard is built around five principles: resource productivity, consumer safety, air emission, water emission, and occupational health and safety.”
They're trying to increase awareness of the varied types of cost of business. Quotes from bluesign promotional material: “We have to re-learn that quality is more important than quantity... With the help of bluesign technologies, we were able to reduce the cost for electric energy by 1.44 million USD per year... Bring more transparency into the supply chain.” Some little companies involved with bluesign: Patagonia, The North Face, REI, and Deuter, just to name a few.
The company's motto is “Always Light.” Ya gotta love that! But what do they do? They've been around in the Asian market for years, but are just launching in the U.S. with a great line of trail shoes. Most of the time when I see a shoe line and hear reps talking about all of a company's innovation I think, “Yeah, right.” But TrekSta has a couple of armloads of innovation to share, despite having a pretty small line.
First and foremost is their landmark last. (A “last” is the form that companies use to shape their footwear.) Nearly everyone on the market uses a last that looks kind of like an aerodynamic, futuristic, stylized artistic interpretation of a foot. (That'd be the one in the foreground.) TrekSta has a truly anatomical last based on scans of 20,000 feet. If you look at the last in the background, it's easy to see that it actually looks like a foot (even more so in person). TrekSta uses the last all the way through the manufacturing of the shoe... the inside of the outsole gets actual foot shape, the midsole does, and the insole does. The upper follows actual contact points, from the leading edge of the big toe, following the curve back along the toes, and the indentations of arch and instep.
They've even incorporated glass fibers (oriented vertically) into the outsole to increase traction on slippery surfaces, including ice. Actually, that was their demo... big hunks of ice on the show floor for people to try to skitter around. They didn't have much success slipping in the TrekSta shoes. The Evolution II looks to be right up our alley (foreground, weight unknown). The Nemesis also looks like a great option and is a bit lighter weight (350g). The mid-high in back is the Kobra II Gore-tex. Check out the Boa system placement on this shoe... off-centered from the tongue and onto the outside of the shoe. Really nice placement, great look, and functional. They also have a pretty great-looking amphibious sandal, the Kisatchie II, that has the side-mounted Boa system. I think this company has some great potential for us. (Prices range from $110 to $150.)
The Brooks-Range Elephant Foot Sleeping Bag.
These guys have some really killer stuff, especially if you're into the search and rescue or backcountry EMS kind of thing. But, as Will has noted, they make some awesome down pieces, too. One that caught my attention in a big way is their Elephant Foot Sleeping Bag. This bad boy is made with a 15 denier mini ripstop and (finally, a company that says it this way) “800 power hypoallergenic Canadian goose down.” The elephant foot style is meant to supplement a down parka, so... the bag is 5 feet 1 inch long. As a really tall guy (5'6") I can just squeeze my shoulders under the opening of a 5-foot bag (toes a little crammed, but ah well). The gold beauty weighs 16 ounces and is rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. MSRP $249.
Bluewater Kayak Works
You know I've gotta get something paddle-related in! As someone who used to kayak paddle, surf, and train on Lake Superior most days of the week, bilge pumps can occasionally be important devices. The problem is, if you need a bilge pump the water's probably bad enough that you want your hands on the paddle, not on a bilge pump. Years ago I installed a bulkhead-mounted foot-operated bilge on my boat, but the problem with that is I can't use my feet to brace when, all things considered, I'm using the bilge because the waves are nasty. Enter Bluewater and their electrical bilge pump! This little sucker will pump at a rate of 500 gallons per hour. It uses a 12 volt rechargeable NiMH battery that's well-protected in a waterproof box; the battery's good for 1.5 hours. The switch is magnet operated, with a magnetic slider that runs on your deck bungee cord. You can easily start the pump before re-entry, or just slide it on once you're in and have the skirt sealed. The system works smoothly and remarkably well... it'll really shoot the water out! It weighs about 3 pounds, which isn't bad for something like this.
No good press photos, but upper arrow is his hand on the switch, the lower arrow is the water shooting out as the pump starts to engage. Cool beans!
Day to Day Bottles
Yep, more water bottles. But I've only shared maybe 3.67% of them with you? Left to right: The wood-grain looking bottle is a stainless model from Polar Bottle. They're using the same lid as the mustard-ish Polar Bottle on the far right. It basically has a sippy lid; if you rotate it a quarter turn or so, you can drink, then just twist it back to seal. It's a pretty convenient system since you don't have to remove the lid. The mustard bottle weighs 3.9 ounces and the stainless one weighs a pretty standard 8.9 ounces.
The bottle in the middle has a really great feel in hand and is a very distinctive, stylized and functional bottle. It's sort of squared off like an old milk bottle, but more rounded, if you'll allow me the license. The top is big and rubbery and fits perfectly into the hand. The Waterbox crew did some really, really nice work developing their line. They also have a line of double-walled glass bottles coming out.
Tomorrow: tune in for our closing remarks on a remarkable Outdoor Retailer Show!