2011 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Coverage
- Part 1: Lightweight Shelters and Sleep Gear
- Part 2: Lightweight Backpacks, Stoves, and Accessories
- Part 3: Lightweight Apparel and Hiking Footwear
- Part 4: Technical Watches, Minimalist Footwear, and Family Gear
Although there are a lot of new packs coming out, our only focus is the lightest of the batch. Most of the truly lightweight frameless backpacks are available from small companies, as detailed in our recent Lightweight Frameless Backpacks State of the Market Report while most of the lightweight Internal Frame Backpacks come from larger companies, as detailed in our recent Lightweight Internal Frame Backpacks State of the Market Report.
Truly lightweight internal frame backpacks are fairly scarce. While large companies may be willing to lighten up other gear, there are limits to how light they are willing to go on backpacks. The obvious reason is backpacks get some rough use and manufacturers don’t want them to fail. Frameless backpacks have also trended to more durable fabrics. Truly ultralight backpacks require an experienced and careful user, and have a limited lifespan. The bottom line is that more durable fabrics don’t add that much weight to a backpack; the frame, padding, straps, and connectors account for most of the weight.
The new Granite Gear Crown 60 is the standout in the group of new packs we found. It’s the official replacement for the popular Vapor Trail, and features a removable HDPE framesheet. The weight of this 60-liter pack is 2 pounds 2 ounces (964 g) with the frame in and 1 pound 13 ounces (822 g) without the frame. The pack does not have a top lid, rather it has a rolldown drybag type closure; an optional top lid is available. New with the Crown 60 is GG’s Vapor Current Suspension, consisting of the HDPE framesheet and thinner dual density shoulder straps and hipbelt. Although the padding is not as cushy as other GG packs, it still appears to be very comfortable, which is a GG tradition. GG has also lightened the pack by going to narrower webbing for the straps and LineLok compression cords. The pack has a fixed torso length and will be available in spring 2012 in three torso sizes and four hipbelt sizes. The MSRP will be US$199.
Granite Gear's YouTube video about the new pack:
The REI Flash Backpack is their lightest model, and these popular packs are getting a makeover for 2012. The new packs will have a lightweight perimeter tubular aluminum frame that anchors solidly to a stiffened and well padded hipbelt. They will have a fixed torso length and all the features you would ever want, including a useful kango pocket plus a large capacity zippered pocket on the front. We were delighted to hear that the new Flash packs will come in under 3 pounds (1.36 kg); the men’s Flash 62 is 3 pounds (1.36 kg) and the women’s Flash 52 is 2 pounds 13 ounces (1.28 kg). MSRPs are US$189 for the men’s model and US$179 for the women’s model.
Terra Nova will be expanding their backpack range for spring 2012 with the addition of the ultralight Quasar 30, 45, and 55 Packs and more durable Voyager 30, 45, and 55 Packs (Voyager 30 shown in the above photos). The Quasar packs utilize TN’s very light Ultra fabric (Cuben fiber) reinforced with Dyneema and Cordura fabrics in high wear areas. The feature set is conventional with several removable components. The 55-liter pack has a removable HDPE framesheet with a single alloy strut. The complete Quasar 30 weighs 18 ounces (510 g) and costs US$240; the Quasar 45 weighs 21 ounces (595 g) and costs US$270, and the Quasar 55 weighs 30 ounces (850 g) and costs US$300. The Voyager series shares the same design as the Quasar series, but is constructed of more durable fabrics and costs less.
We previously reported on Sea to Summit’s 20-liter 2.4 ounce (68 g) Ultra-Sil Day Pack. In spring 2012, STS will introduce the Ultra-Sil Dry Day Pack, which is a waterproof version of this pack with a drybag closure. It’s made of a very lightweight siliconized Cordura fabric, volume is 20 liters, weight is 3.2 ounces (90 g), and MSRP is US$55. This pack can easily be used for multiple uses like a stuff sack, pillow, and day pack for sojourns from camp.
It seems like there is always a new stove or two at each OR show, and this time we found some good ones.
For spring 2012, Cascade Designs is introducing the new MSR MicroRocket Canister Fuel Stove which weighs just 2.6 ounces (74 g) and will cost US$60. It doesn’t have an incorporated piezo igniter (thankfully!), rather a separate mini-igniter is included, which gives the user the option to carry it or not. The claimed boil time is 3.5 minutes to boil 1 quart (0.95 liter) of water. The burner collapses down to a small size for packing (right) and a plastic case is included.
Also from Cascade Designs, the new MSR Whisperlite Universal Multi-Fuel Stove is claimed to burn white gas, kerosene, unleaded gasoline, and canister fuels. While other multi-fuel stoves will burn some fuels better than others, this one is claimed to burn all of the named fuels with ease. A quick jet change is required to burn canister fuel. The carry weight is 11.5 ounces (326 g) in liquid fuel mode and 9.5 ounces (269 g) in canister fuel mode, and canister fuels can be burned using a liquid feed. MSRP is US$140.
Cascade Designs' YouTube video about the new stove:
We had the opportunity to meet with George Andrews from AntiGravityGear at OR, who showed us a couple of his latest creations. In the stove category, he showed us his new AGG Katahdin Stove, which is a manufactured aluminum alcohol burner and priming pan, rather than the common hand-made burners. The elegant new burner weighs 1.25 ounces (35.4 g) and is wider in diameter than most alcohol stoves. It’s designed to place a cookpot directly on top of the burner, so a pot stand is not required. According to George (Tinman), with 24 jets the new stove burns uniformly, has more fuel capacity, and has about the same efficiency as the original AGG stove. MSRP is US$22.95; available now.
This is a catch-all group of products that we found interesting and useful.
A remarkable new product from AntiGravityGear is their PocketProfile Maps, which are compact lightweight waterproof tearproof quick reference maps, currently available for the Appalachian Trail and John Muir Trail. These maps, as the name implies, show the trail profile (ups and downs), mileages between landmarks, and connection info valuable for trip planning and on-the-trail decisions. While guidebooks provide such information in narrative form, which the reader has to assemble for trip logistics, the PocketProfile maps do it for you. For the AT, map sets are available for the entire trail (US$86.90), each segment (approx. 100 miles/1617 km, US$3.95), and for the four major sections of the trail (US$15.80 to $27.65). Sections 1 to 2 are available now; the Mid-Atlantic section will be available in spring 2012, and New England section will be available in July 2012. Plans are underway to produce similar maps for several other long trails.
We reported on Hillsound’s Trail Crampon last time, which are somewhat similar to the Kahtoola MicroSpikes, a serious trail crampon. Hillsound is also introducing their new Trail Crampon Pro, which is a lightweight ten-point crampon for even more serious terrain like glacier travel or icy/snowy approaches. The crampon is made of heat-treated S50C carbon steel. The Pro model is adjustable to fit most footwear, has a ratchet buckle binding (right), weighs 24 ounces (680 g) per pair, retails for US$79, and is available now. See a YouTube video here (will open in new tab) for more information. Since the video was made, Hillsound has added the red plastic “Alpine Stopper” behind the ratchet buckle to prevent the binding from accidentally opening, and no longer includes a storage bag.
New trekking poles from Big Agnes include the Passport (bottom), a collapsible pole available in 115- and 125-centimeter lengths (10.2 ounces and 10.7 ounces), and the Featherlite (top), which is a fixed length pole available in 120- and 135-centimeter lengths (9.9 and 12.1 ounces). Both poles are made of DAC’s proprietary TH72M aluminum alloy. The collapsible poles compact to a 14-inch (36-cm) length, which allows them to be easily stashed inside a backpack or travel bag. MSRPs are US$100 for the Passport and US$120 for the Featherlite.
Nikwax has zillions of products to clean and waterproof most anything. One in particular that caught our attention is Nikwax Polar Proof which adds water repellency to fleece, ski wear, wool, and synthetic insulations. I like to wear lightweight fleece liners for backpacking and wear a shell over them as needed. The problem with fleece is it easily gets wet and then gets cold. Fleece garments with a smooth outer surface are often treated to make them more water repellent, but not the fuzzy ones. Making fleece more water resistant with Polar Proof seems like the perfect solution. MSRP is US$12.25.
We have seen a number of protective cases for cell phones and other electronics, but not as simple and lightweight as the LokSak 3x6 Cell Phone Protector which weighs only 0.175 ounce (5 g) and costs US$6.49 for a three-pack. It seals up water-tight (guaranteed to 200 feet/61 m) and you can operate the phone (place or receive a call and talk) while the phone is in the LokSak. Oftentimes the simple solution is the best solution. Numerous sizes are available to fit most electronics, including a tablet (right).
Sea to Summit has more widgets than anyone else, and remarkably, every one of them is very well thought out. The new Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sacks for spring 2012 are a good example. They are made of a 15 denier sil/PU fabric that weighs half as much as conventional silnylon, and have a lightened drybag-type closure. Seven sizes range from 1 liter to 35 liters and weight ranges from 0.5 ounce (13 g) to 1.6 ounces (46 g); now that is light! MSRPs range from US$13 to $35.
Everyone likes a dittybag in their backpack to hold small items, and a mesh bag works very well so you can see what’s inside. The Sea to Summit Mesh Stuff Sacks are a good candidate for that purpose. The smallest, size XXS, measures 4 x 10 inches (10 x 25 cm), weighs 1.1 ounces (30 g), and costs US$7. Other sizes up to 30 liters are available, which are useful for items you want to identify easily. Available now.
We sample a lot of energy bars, and find most of them to our liking. They really do provide a turbo boost when you need it on the trail. A new brand we discovered at OR is Journey Bar. They are different from other bars because they are low moisture, come in unique flavors, and are savory rather than sweet. They can be eaten as a meal. The current flavors are Coconut Curry, Parmesan Romano, Mesquite Barbecue, and Wasabi Ginger. They utilize organic ingredients and are travel friendly because they don’t melt. MSRP is US$19 for a box of 12.
Sawyer Products has recently introduced the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System, consisting of a screw-on filter, three lightweight collapsible pouches (16, 32, and 64 ounces/0.5, 0.95, and 1.9 liters), and cleaning syringe. The filter can be used with the included flasks or any small mouth (28 mm) beverage bottle. To drink water from the system you simply squeeze the pouch (or bottle) while sucking on the mouthpiece. The filter itself weighs just 2.3 ounces (65 g) and utilizes a 0.1 absolute micron hollow fiber membrane which removes 99.99999% of all bacteria like salmonella, cholera, and E. coli; and 99.9999% of all Protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. In contrast, the McNett Frontier Pro filter removes organisms down to only 3 microns. MSRP is US$60; available now. Like other Sawyer water filtration systems, it’s guaranteed for a lifetime of use. For more info on the Squeeze Filter, view this video: http://vimeo.com/25364486. FYI, Backpacking Light is currently working on a project to evaluate and compare alternative lightweight water treatment methods; the article will be published sometime in fall or winter.
An item that really “sparked” our interest is the Exotac Fire Starter. We looked at two lightweight models, the NanoStriker (left) which weighs just 0.6 ounce (17 g), comes in a threaded aluminum tube, and has replaceable parts; cost is US$27 and is available now. The PolyStriker (right) is slightly lighter at 0.5 ounce (14 g), but it's not enclosed and doesn’t have replaceable parts; MSRP is US$12 and it will be available October 2011. This begs a comparison with the Light My Fire Mini; the LMF starter weighs twice as much at 1.1 ounces (31 g), costs US$8, and is a bit unruly to carry with its dangling cord. Jason Klass has posted a video on YouTube comparing the two starters (embedded below). Thanks Jason!
Exotac's YouTube video about the new fire starter:
Jason Klass' YouTube video comparing the Exotac NanoStriker and the Light My Fire Mini: