'Best in Show' awards (part I)

The Gear Junkie crew is back home and in the office after our twice-annual sojourn to Salt Lake City and the Outdoor Retailer trade show. Over six days, we skied powder in the Wasatch Range, demo’d gear, met with product designers, sat in on presentations, and walked the trade show aisles for miles in search of the best new outdoors equipment this year. Here below is part I of our “Best in Show” gear list. These to-be-released items represent some of the most innovative thinking and design in the outdoors industry today. —Stephen Regenold

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Kid Helmet Combo — The Cosmos/Galaxy helmet and goggle system costs just $80. What you get for that is a youth ski helmet and goggles made to work together. Instead of an elastic strap on the back of the helmet, the system uses a magnet-and-buckle design to let the goggles snap into place on the side of the helmet. The Smith promise: “Even the youngest of rippers can put on and adjust their goggles by themselves in an easy-to-use system that means no more tears.” Cool innovation and not a bad price, either. $80 (for helmet and goggles together), www.smithoptics.com

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Smith Cosmos/Galaxy helmet package is $80

Flat Bike Tool — Delivering the term “ultra-light” to the world of bike repair, the MAKO Bike Tool is forged out of titanium and weighs an unnoticeable 19 grams. Neoprene inserts hold four driver bits. On the tool’s body, there are slots and cut-outs to create metric box wrench sizes, spoke wrenches and other crucial tools for ad hoc bike repair on the road or singletrack trail. $69, www.pockettoolx.com

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MAKO Bike Tool

Arctic Activity — For wintertime running, XC skiing and other aerobic activities in the cold, the HyBridge Lite offers a unique choice. It is a puffed-up and down-filled jacket from Canada Goose that was made to move with your body and to let your body breathe. The company added movement-friendly Polartec Power Stretch fabric panels down the sides of the jacket and under the arms where you need to vent. For warmth on the coldest winter days, the company’s eponymous Hutterite goose down wraps in panels on your shoulders, outer arms, and core. Caveat: All these Goose niceties do not come cheap. Cost is $450. www.canada-goose.com

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HyBridge Lite: Goose down jacket for activity in extreme cold

Speed Climber Knife — Take one of the top alpinists on the planet and give him free reign to design an ultimate knife for his job. That’s the liberty Wenger gave to climber Ueli Steck, whose signature knife — the Ueli Steck Special Edition Swiss Army Knife — offers a large blade with bolt-head wrenches, titanium handles, and a file to hone an ice pick in the field. Steck holds speed-ascent records on the Matterhorn, Eiger, Grandes Jorasses, and other stout peaks. This knife, developed over a couple years and after more than 10 prototypes, is a serious tool for the vertically inclined. Bonus: It weighs a scant 100 grams. $200, www.wengerna.com

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Wenger Ueli Steck Special Edition Swiss Army Knife

Dry Coco Water — A simple innovation, Big Tree Farms of Ashland, Ore., has found a way to crystallize coconut palm nectar. The result is a powdery drink mix that, when added to water, creates CocoHydro, a coconut water beverage with the taste and health advantages of regular coconut water, though with the added benefits of a smaller environmental footprint. (No more shipping heavy liquid and individually-packaged coconut water products around the globe.) For athletes and travelers, there’s the added bonus of convenience and portability of a powder. We tried CocoHydro on the show floor at Outdoor Retailer and fell slightly in love. The drink has electrolytes, proteins, amino acids, minerals and potassium. It has less sugar than typical sports drinks and tastes darn good to boot. $12 for a pack, www.cocohydro.com

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CocoHydro powdered “crystallize coconut palm nectar”

Adidas Short-Sleeve Jacket — Athletics giant Adidas made its U.S. debut at the show this winter. The company’s outdoor division has a complete line of outerwear, optics, footwear, and other products. One product that caught our eye, the women’s Terrex Active Shell is a sporty outerwear piece made with GORE-TEX Active Shell, a new waterproof/breathable fabric. But the kicker is the Terrex’s sleeves: This is a short-sleeve hard shell! Adidas includes snap-on stretchy sleeves for warmth. But the waterproof hardshell fabric extends only just past the elbows. $395, www.adidas.com/outdoor/us

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Short-sleeve waterproof jacket from Adidas’ new U.S. outdoor division

Tarahumara Sandal Shoe — GoLite Footwear’s Tara Lite running shoe is said to have been inspired by the Tarahumara tribes of Mexico, a native group known for their distance running skills who wear minimal thong-style sandals. What makes the GoLite shoe unique is its flat, “zero-drop” heel, flexible sole, and a soft upper. The kicker: Inside the shoe, separating your big toe from the rest, there’s an internal sandal post that keeps your foot from moving too much and helps the flexible shoe fit snug. The Tara Lite will come in men’s and women’s models for $115. www.golite-footwear.com/taralite

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GoLite Footwear’s Tara Lite includes a “sandal post” in the shoe

continued on next page. . .

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