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
Being a shoe geek, a techie, and a dad that loves to take his family out backpacking, there was definitely a lot to see at OR this year. Considering that this was my first year attending, and the biggest show ever, I found the whole experienced mind blowing. I have a new respect for Will and Janet, who skillfully scour the hundreds of booths sifting through crap to surface the true gems for the lightweight backpacking community.
To keep things manageable on my first foray, I decided to cover the three areas that I am most familiar with: minimalist footwear, technical watches, and family/kids gear.
Being an outdoorsman, a fitness enthusiast, and somewhat of a minimalist, I am always on the lookout for gear that not only functions in the backcountry but for everyday life as well. One area that is of particular interest to me is technical watches. My goal is to find THE watch that works equally well on the trail, during a workout session, or around town without looking like I am wearing a hockey puck strapped to my wrist.
High Gear has released a timepiece that packs an incredible amount of functionality in a very small package. The High Gear XT7 Alti-GPS features a GPS, an altimeter, a barometer, a thermometer, a digital compass, and a heart rate monitor (as well as the usual stopwatch, alarm, etc.). Through this combination of sensors, practically any statistic you could possibly want is available: speed, distance, pace, rate of ascent/descent, slope gradient, and weather forecast... to name a few! The GPS can also be used for navigation, storing up to 100 waypoints and 25,000 track points, making it both a sports watch and an outdoors watch all-in-one. The watch can be operated with the GPS on or off, enabling the user to conserve (rechargeable) battery life as required. With the GPS on, the battery life is approximately eight hours, with the GPS off, battery life is claimed to be up to a year. The expected retail price for this watch is $250 and it will be available in early 2012.
Tech40 (Silva) has also just released a GPS sports watch dubbed the Discover. While this watch also includes a compass and a heart rate monitor, it does not include altimeter or barometer sensors (although altitude is available via the GPS). The GPS can be used for both speed/distance/pace measurement as well as navigation, making it useful for both outdoorsmen and athletes. The navigation functions allow the user to create up to 10 paths with 99 waypoints each, and includes a backtrack feature. The digital compass has 1 degree resolution and a declination setting. With the GPS off, the rechargeable battery will last up to a year, with the GPS on, you can expect around 8 hours. This watch also includes the usual features including stopwatch, alarms, countdown timer, rechargeable battery, etc. The retail price of $200 is quite affordable considering the included features.
Columbia is releasing a new watch for outdoor enthusiasts called the Treeline (not pictured). The Treeline will include an altimeter, barometer, digital compass, temperature sensor, and a tide database for over 200 locations. Watch functions will include a chronograph, interval timers, a data memory, and of course date, time, and alarm modes. The watch will be available in early 2012 at an MSRP of $250.
As minimalist footwear continues to gain traction in the marketplace, we are starting to see more options available for a wide range of activities as companies round out their lines. The net result is that backpackers get to look forward to a few more options.
VIVOBAREFOOT has two trail models in the works: The Neo Trail and the Breatho Trail. The Neo Trail is an off-road/off-trail fell running shoe designed for fall/winter conditions with its water resistant upper. The Breatho Trail is designed for summer conditions with a very breathable mesh upper.
Both shoes have the new VIVOBAREFOOT trail sole (a 4mm sole with 4mm lugs) and are built on an anatomical last (i.e. they have a roomy toebox). The Neo Trail will be available late August 2011 and the Breatho Trail will be available spring 2012.
GoLite continues to stay the course with their zero-drop trail shoes. Previously called the BareTech line, GoLite has decided to drop that name, but keep the technology. Now named the Go series, the line continues to use their soft-against-the-ground technology, but features a more flexible sole design for improved proprioception and a Vibram outsole for improved durability. Their trail running shoes come in two models: a Gore-Tex lined waterproof/breathable low-top with Boa lacing and a claimed weight of 10.5 oz, and the TR-63, which is the non-waterproof version and has a claimed weight of 8.4 oz.
Although it was released earlier this year, the Saucony ProGrid Peregrine was featured at the show as Saucony's latest trail shoe offering. The Peregrine has a very flat profile with only 4mm of heel lift but 14 mm of height at the forefoot. Although not hard-core minimalist, this shoe, with its moderate cushioning and moderately aggressive outsole, may be of interest to lightweight backpackers who are looking to transition to more minimal footwear.
If you hike and backpack with kids, you might be interested in this next development. This spring, Merrell has expanded their barefoot line to include trail shoes for children. While finding minimalist footwear suitable for kids has been difficult in the past, things are starting to look up!
Inov-8 is finally starting to come around! Well known for their low profile, comfy quick-drying uppers, great traction, and (unfortunately) narrow fit, people have had a love/hate relationship with Inov-8 products. They either fit you or they don't (or you buy them two sizes too big!). In spring of 2012 Inov-8 will be releasing their new Terrafly series of trail shoes, based on their new anatomical last (i.e. wide toebox), and a new sole pattern (using their endurance rubber). The Terrafly 303 (277 for women) has a lightweight mesh upper and a 2-arrow shoc-zone (6 mm of differential). The Terrafly 313 GTX (287 GTX for women) will have a 3-arrow shoc-zone (9 mm of differential) and a Gore-Tex membrane. The Terrafly sole is not very aggressive, and so will be most appropriate for trail use.
One other change to the Inov-8 line worthy of note is that the Roclite 288, their lightweight Gore-Tex boot is getting a makeover. In 2012 the 288 will be re-named the Roclite 286. How did they manage to shave off 2 grams, you ask? They dropped the amount of cushioning, moving the shoe from a 3-arrow shoc-zone to a 2-arrow shoc-zone which also dropped the heel from 9 mm to 6 mm. A great change, in my opinion!
Huaraches have come a long way from the recycled tire rubber and strips of leather they were made from (as described in the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall). Luna Sandals, Barefoot Ted's new company, was on-site showing off their latest models. Tested for running rugged off-road ultra-marathons by Ted himself, some models may be of interest to backpackers who want to experiment with toe-freeing options.
Family Backpacking Gear
While the majority of the lightweight backpacking world doesn't target families, occasionally stuff pops up that catches our attention as appropriate for taking kids out in the backcountry. What follows are a few nuggets we found along the way.
Nemo will be releasing three new tarps in 2012 called the Bugout series. These tarps feature permanently attached perimeter netting that can be rolled up or down, depending on how buggy the conditions are. The netting is designed using a special DWR mesh that helps to protect against wind-blown rain and shakes dry when packing up. The tarp comes with two adjustable poles or can be set up using trekking poles. It will be available in three sizes: 7x7 for two people (1 lb 15 oz), 9x9 for four people (4 lbs 5 oz), and 12x12 for six people (6 lb 8 oz). Optional footprints are also available. While I was flipping through the Nemo catalog after returning home, I also discovered that they will be releasing a new shelter called the Hexalite 6P. The 6P will be a double-pyramid style floorless shelter that sleeps six to ten people and weighs 7 pounds 14 ounces.
A couple of my kids are now getting to the age where B.O. is an issue. I guess it is bound to happen some time! For those families who spend a lot of time in the outdoors and are looking for merino wool options for the kids, Icebreaker now has a full children's line of base layers available.
Princeton Tec announced a new member to their family of headlamps: the Bot. Two high-powered LEDs fueled by two AAA batteries, housed in a rugged plastic case, with an auto shut-off, and available in a variety of colors. Other features include a big button for kid friendly operation, lightweight construction at 64 grams, and 9 hours of battery life.
And finally... one other item of interest. Adidas hit the show hard with a huge booth featuring their new arsenal of outdoor clothing. Tucked off in a corner was a rack of kids gear as well, including base layers, hard shells, soft shells, hiking pants, and a bunch of other stuff. From what I could see, the line looked quite complete. Although we weren't able to get any photos, we are looking forward to seeing how their stuff stands up to the real world abuse that kids can dish out!