by Ryan Jordan | 2006-08-09 03:00:00-06
Tomorrow, tens of thousands of retail buyers will browse the booths of thousands of outdoor manufacturers in our industry's largest trade show: Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.
Simultaneously and not coincidentally, our editorial staff will begin weeding through hundreds of thousands of outdoor products to find those that have the greatest potential for changing your outdoor experience.
Now for a reality check.
The actual number of products you (a discriminating backpacker) will be interested in will number in the dozens, and the number of products that will genuinely excite you will number in the single digits.
Sleep Systems Section Editor Mike Martin tells me there is a winter sleeping mat using ceramic nanotechnology that has an R value in the range of 5+ and weighs around a pound. Why is this important? Because standard open and closed cell foams can only reach this sort of R-value at weights in excess of two pounds. As a comparison, the 3/4 length Therma-Rest ProLite 4, at 1.5 inches thick, weighs a pound and a half and offers an R-value of only 3.2.
Production Editor Ken Knight has his eye on a new sub-one-ounce LED headlamp that promises long battery life and more light that will redefine the benchmarks in this useful category, currently dominated by the poorly-performing Black Diamond Ion and the slightly better Princeton Tec Scout.
Packing Systems Section Editor Will Rietveld has his eye on GoLite's new line of backpacks, and two stoves that offer direct competition to the Jetboil while promising higher performance:weight ratios.
As for me, my hopes of three years ago are finally becoming realized: lighter merino wool. Around the corner, we have two companies introducing truly ultralight merino wool fabrics in sub-150 g/m2 weights. Current "ultralight" wool fabrics are in the 170-190 g/m2 range, so this is the biggest step we've seen in a few years.
Another company launches a less-than-two-ounce and sub-$200 personal locator beacon and is self-positioning themselves to take over the personal rescue market. If nothing else, this should offer more exciting reads about rescue drama in national magazines and newspapers, and offer some new candidates for the Darwin Award.
Currently, only Salomon and Inov-8 make trail running shoes that honestly weigh less than 12 oz each (size 9) while offering enough stability for extended distance, off-trail hiking. Three more manufacturers add their shoes to this mix.
And, for canister stove fans, a new ultralight canister stove that is (finally) lighter than the 2.5-oz Snow Peak Giga Power Ti that has been on the market for several years is here.
This ORSM offers more promises as well: a top bag for couples that weighs less than three pounds but may keep spooners warm at 15 *F, a 3-layer waterproof-breathable shell that weighs half a pound, a 28-gram carabiner, an ultralight 3W headlamp, socks that feature anti-compression technology, ultralight umbrellas from a new-on-the-scene cottage company, and new lightweight eVENT jackets.
There will be no shortage of weird and unusual as well, so we'll keep you posted about the world's first interactive water bottle and the backpackable rhythm drums...
"Product Preview (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2006)," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/preview_orsm06.html, 2006-08-09 03:00:00-06.