OR Show Highlights

The great Gearlapalooza that is the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show has come to an end. This summer’s show featured an impressive lineup of new technologies and product innovations, including the likes of a line of full-strength mini carabiners from Metolius, a “rip-stop merino wool” backpack from The North Face, and a jacket from Klymit that inflates at the press of a button to create insulating cells filled with argon gas.

Pump it up for insulation: Gas valve on the Klymit shell jacket

Last week, I walked the show floor for three days, meeting with dozens of companies. I tried on all manner of shoes, jackets, and apparel, most of which will not come to market until spring of 2010. At an industry event the first night of the show, I got a sneak peek at GoPro’s latest helmet camera. It is a high-definition model with snap-on battery packs and new firmware to keep footage steady. Video looked super slick on a large plasma screen the company set out to display some fresh footage of skiers in the terrain park at Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

As mentioned, Metolius unveiled mini carabiners, which are full-strength (22kn rating) clips that look and feel like keychain ornaments. I could see using a rack of these for big weight savings on a long alpine climb. Black Diamond’s climbing offerings included the new lightweight UL Harness (230 grams), which is a minimalist tie-in seat that is svelte and nicely-designed. Black Diamond’s new packs, including the Infinity 50 model, employ bicycle housing cable to add dynamic qualities to the hip belt. There’s also a 3D socket in the hip belt to allow the pack to move better with your body.

Small but strong: Metolius Mini carabiners are full-strength climbing clips

Brunton unveiled an iPod-size solar charger, the Restore, which is a nice compact form factor for sun-based battery charging in the wilds. Osprey had new hydration packs, which include rigid hydration sleeves for easier in-and-out when you need to refill. The Raptor 18 looked slick. It will cost $119 next spring. A smaller model, the Raptor 10, will cost $89.

Hydration and support: Osprey Raptor 10 backpack

Wool cycling apparel was the latest from SmartWool, and the company’s jerseys, shorts, and shirts felt nice on the display. Biking wear has been dominated by synthetic fibers for decades, and it is cool to see wool making its way into the peloton. In other retro news, JanSport’s Heritage Line continues to expand. These funky packs take design aesthetic from some of the company’s original pack products circa the ’70’s. Even more impressive, JanSport unveiled activity-oriented backpacks, with models made for adventure racing, fast-packing, and backcountry skiing. The 8000 Meter AR pack looked up my alley, with generous mesh hip pockets and a svelte design. The company’s Talus is nice, too, with a lightweight breathable strap system, trekking pole loops, and a hydration compartment.

Specialty Pack: The JanSport Talus backpack

REI announced updates to several standby pieces in its line, including outdoors-oriented shirts and pants. More exciting, the company’s popular Half Dome tent has been updated with straighter/taller sidewalls and an improved door zipper design. The “two-person, two-door, two-vestibule” lightweight backpacking tent will start at $179.

Updating a classic: The new Half Dome tent from REI

Petzl, a top climbing brand, now has a women’s-specific helmet, the Elia, with a lightweight design and a slot for a ponytail to poke out the back. It’ll cost $65.

Petzl’s Elia women’s climbing helmet accommodates a ponytail

Noted in my blog earlier this week (https://gearjunkie.com/new-spot-satellite-gps-messenger), the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger will now come in a lighter form factor. It is touted to have usability upgrades and a new smaller size — it’s about 30% more compact at 3.7 × 2.6 × 1 inches. In eyewear news, Smith’s Evolve is a line of eco-oriented sunglasses that have frames made of a natural nylon alternative material derived from castor seeds. The bio-plastic is called Rislan Clear, and it looks and feels like high-quality nylon.

Emergency Link: The new SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

The Pocket Survival Pak Plus from Adventure Medical Kits includes survival staples like a signaling mirror, rescue whistle, and a sparker fire starter. Bonus: The kit comes with high-end survival tools, including a tiny Columbia River Knife & Tool knife; the E-Gear Pico LED flashlight; a Whirl-Pak disposable 1-liter water bag; and Katadyn Chlorine Water purification tablets. The 5.6 oz. kit comes in a water-resistant case and will cost $80 (available in Jan. 2010).

High-End Survival: AMK’s Pocket Survival Pak Plus, which will retail for $80

Thule had big new with its Traverse Foot, a rooftop rack foot that allows for easier installation on a car. In development for more than three years, the foot can cut installation time by 50 percent, according to the company. Thule also unveiled a new line of luggage. It looks nice and is built with high-end and unique materials — everything down to the zipper pulls and metal clips are unique.

Dakine’s Commuter Pack includes a stash-away rain fly

Dakine is looking slick. The company’s design — both visually and functionally — continues to impress, and at this trade show the company unveiled gloves, apparel, and a line of bike-commuting packs. The Commuter pack — $110 and available in February — has a tarp-lined shoe pocket, a padded laptop sleeve, a deployable rain fly, and ventilated shoulder straps. Merrell was hawking bike-commuting, too. Its Furtive shell jacket is made for the bike-to-work set. So is a new pant from Merrell, which have the improbable feature of detachable waterproof chaps. Yep.

There was performance apparel from Woolrich. Arc’teryx is making inroads to trail running and aerobic sports with a new apparel and outerwear line. KEEN Footwear has cloaked some of its best-looking urban shoes with clip-in bike cleats. Slick idea and a stylish look. Check out the to-be-released Austin and Presidio models when you get a chance.

The Arc’teryx Accelero Jacket, made for aerobic pursuits

Inov-8 unveiled the O Roc, an orienteering-oriented shoe with a lace guard and spikes. (I’m drooling to try that one out!) Saucony’s ProGrid Razor shoe has a neoprene bootie with an eVent gaiter built in. The company will market the Razor to winter runners and snowshoers.

Clif SHOT Roks: “Malted milk balls” for the outdoors set

Clif unveiled SHOT Roks, which are like malted milk balls for the outdoors set. They taste pretty good, and each ball provides a dose of protein and other essential nutritional elements for recovery. Wenger’s Mike Horn Knife, designed by its namesake adventurer, is a meaty “compact tool box” of a jackknife that has a metal saw, a standard blade, a serrated edge blade with blunt tip, a needle-nose pliers, and more. Wenger’s Nomad LED Digi, available now, is a high-end analog watch ($375) with a hidden digital compass that appears at the press of a button.

Wenger Mike Horn Knife, a “compact tool box” of a jackknife

The North Face, as noted above, showed a backpack with a shell fabric made of merino wool. Called the Tree Hugger 32, it has a crisscross stitch for durability to create a “rip-stop merino” face fabric that looks natural and feels tough. Wigwam’s new socks include a runner made of wool and then laced with a silver treatment for odor control. I like that idea.

CamelBak’s All Clear Microbiological UV Water Purifier and its Flow Meter are worthy additions to the hydration category. The first product is touted as “the fastest, all-in-one, portable microbiological water purification technology” on the market. It zaps questionable water with UV light to kill the nasties. CamelBak’s Flow Meter, a long-needed solution, measures how much fluid has been consumed from a hydration bladder and digitally displays how much remains in the reservoir unseen.

Ziploc on steroids: Pacific Outdoor’s Zip Pnuemo bags

Pacific Outdoor Equipment showed its new Zip Pnuemo bags, which are like Ziploc bags but much more beefy. A zip-shut closure is guaranteed waterproof. The Pneumo Zips come in four sizes — pint, quart, gallon, and “jumbo” — to meet needs for dry-locking electronics, food, and even cloths. Prices range between $7.95 to $19.95. Available spring 2010.

Mountain Hardwear’s Fluid 32 is a new pack for spring 2010. It has a unique “HardWave” frame sheet that keeps the back panel flat for a stable fit without compromising flexibility, according to the company. The frame sheet can bend with your body but remains laterally rigid to help distribute pack weight and support a load. It is a 1,600 cubic inch pack and it weighs 2 pounds when empty. Cost will be $100.

Mountain Hardwear’s Fluid 32 has a unique frame sheet for support

Finally, Cascade Designs’ Therm-a-Rest Haven Top Bag was a neat new product. The ultralight sleeping bag eliminates insulation on the bottom to save weight. The result is a unique wrap-around design with an elasticized opening that packs small by eliminating zippers and unnecessary insulation. It weighs only 1 lb. 6 oz. and is purported to be warm to 20°F with a good air mattress (like the company’s NeoAir, pictured below).

Therm-a-Rest Haven Top Bag — cozy and lightweight

I met with many other companies at the OR Show, and we’ll be highlighting new products and technologies seen at the show over the coming weeks. Stay tuned for the details on these products and my preliminary gear tests soon!

—Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.

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.