Five Gear Innovations

In the outdoors world, new backpacks, tents, climbing shoes, and other products are exciting initially but often fail to make a splash long term. Over the past five years, reviewing equipment for camping, hiking, skiing, running, and other sports, a few products and a few ideas have stood out. These “Five Innovations in Gear” below have literally changed the way I do things outside. —Stephen Regenold

1. Merino Wool Base Layers — The fine wool of the merino sheep happens to make a perfect performance fabric for base-layer clothing. Full story here: “Merino Wool Base Layers”

Merino sheep

2. Barefoot-Style Running Shoes — Christopher McDougall’s best-selling “Born to Run” book has seriously ramped up interest in a trend that was already soaring quite high. Full story here: “Barefoot-style Running Shoes”

Minimalist/“barefoot-style” shoe from Inov-8

3. Energy Food that Tastes Good — Remember the energy bars of yore? Or were those hunks of cardboard disguised as food? As a category, energy food has become substantially more palatable. Full story here: “Energy Food that Tastes Good”


4. Single-Speed Bikes — Simple solutions are sometimes the best ones. Thus is the case with single-speed bikes, which have taken off in the past five years for commuters and mountain bikers alike. Full story here: “Single-Speed and Fixed-Gear Bikes”

Fixed-gear up close

5. Hip Pockets on Backpacks — It is a rare day outdoors that I will wear a backpack without a pair of zippered hip pockets on the belt. These small gear holsters are a no-brainer innovation and a logical use of wasted empty space on the side of a hip belt. Full story here: “Hip pockets on Backpacks”

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.

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