The midsummer tradition of unveiling new outdoors gear comes to fruition next week in Salt Lake City at the twice-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show. But Gear Junkie got an early look from a few companies, including the splay of unique products here. This equipment, most of which will not be available for months, is a peek at some of the more innovative items you’ll see on the shelf at outdoors shops in 2012. —Stephen Regenold
DIY Headlamp Design — Form often comes second to function in outdoors products like headlamps. But with its Spectrum model Princeton Tec has built an online customization tool to let you click and pick from a palette and virtually colorize a lamp’s head-strap and its six parts. Princeton will build each custom headlamp in its New Jersey factory and ship direct to consumers for illuminated adornment outside. If you’re at the OR Show next week, there will be a launch party on Saturday, Aug. 6, (booth 15001) for the Spectrum headlamp and its DIY site. Otherwise, the micro-site and the Spectrum light will be available for consumers in September.
Pedometer Games — GeoPalz products are pedometers specifically designed for children. The little devices attach to a kid’s shoe, wrist or belt to record forward progress all day long. Motivation for activity is increased via the device’s tracking system, which converts kids’ steps into points redeemable at the GeoPalz website for prizes. Available this fall for $25.
Short-Sleeve and Waterproof — Banking on the theory that runners won’t care if their lower arms get wet, Gore Running Wear will soon ship this short-sleeve jacket. The top, model name X-Running GT AS Hooded Jacket, is made of a waterproof fabric touted as Gore’s most breathable to date. It comes with a pair of removable arm-warmer sleeves for pulling up to the elbows if the weather is bad. $299.99.
CamelBak SUP Line — Made for the rising sport of stand-up paddling (SUP), this pair of “technical drinking vests” offer stash pockets for gear, a slot for an inflatable PFD, and, of course, a CamelBak reservoir and drinking hose. There are reflective patches on the vests for increased visibility if you’re paddling near dark. The vests, called the Molokai and the Baja LR, comes to market in February of 2012 and will cost $100 and $120 respectively.
Do-All Dog Tow System — It’s called the Omnijore, and this “ultimate joring system” made by Ruff Wear is built for any dog-pulling activity. This includes skijoring, of course, but also bikejoring or canicross, which is essentially running with a tug up front from your dog. Offshoots extend to esoteric dog sports like “mountainboard-joring” as well (see image below). The system comes with a dog harness, a human hip-belt, and dynamic towline. It will ship in October for $149.95.
Bug Jacket — Columbia Sportswear will unveil its Bug Shield Mesh Jacket, a $90 mesh top that has an insect-repellent treatment embedded in its fibers to help keep bugs at bay. Airy and made almost completely of mesh, the jacket is designed for hot-weather use in some of the buggiest places on the planet. (Think Minnesota in June!) There’s a hood, a zippered pocket on the chest, and a draw-cord hem on the bottom to seal the jacket off from mosquitoes looking to fly up your shirt.
Flamethrower Flashlight — OK, so it puts out white light instead of fire. But the TK21 flashlight from Fenix is a six-inch torch that can put forth a blinding beam. The spec sheet says its brightness is 468 lumens. This means the little light can shoot a beam a few hundred feet and ignite distant objects like they’re seen only in the day. But the kicker is its run time: The 5-ounce flashlight is spec’d to put out this big beam for almost two hours straight (1 hour, 50 min.) on a set of two CR123 batteries alone. Available now for $95.
Whacky Watch — This glam watch from RumbaTime is being marketed to the outdoors world as a “three-in-one accessory” that offers time and custom emergency personal identification information written inside the wristband. The third feature is a “contactless payment” chip that lets you load up Visa credit and carry virtual money around for use at vendors equipped to handle this new form of transaction. “No more having to carry cash and ID while out on a run or at the beach,” the company touts.
Backpack Bike — “Hike up the mountain, and bike back down.” That’s the claim with this foldable, carry-able scooter made by Ortovox. It has no pedals and no seat, only foot-pegs to stand on when you ride. The gravity-required scooter (official name: “Ortovox Mtn Skyver”) folds into its own backpack for up-mountain travel, converting in seconds on top for a wheeled descent back down. Starts at $1,200. (Gear Junkie’s full preview article on this product is here.)
Tripod Multi-tool — Alongside its knife blade and driver bits, the new Steady multi-tool from Gerber will feature a fold-out screw mount that fits standard camera bodies. Attach your camera and fold out the Gerber tool’s two arms — the unit is now a functioning tri-pod for self portraits, group shots, and long-exposure night photography. $65. (Gear Junkie’s full preview article on this product is here.)
Two-Way GPS — Treading in uncharted technological territory between a satellite phone, a GPS unit, and a SPOT device, an upcoming product from DeLorme promises two-way communication via satellite-based signals. The DeLorme inReach device is a small unit made for use with the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w GPS device or, most impressive, smartphones that run the Android operating system. You can type in a message in the wilderness via one of these devices and then it will wirelessly pair with the inReach to send a satellite communiqué. The kicker: The inReach will send and receive text messages outside of cell phone range. (The “receive” half of the equation is the big deal here, as most devices in this genre are one-way communication disseminators only.) You can send an email or a text message, and also upload to sites like Facebook and Twitter. (Gear Junkie’s full preview article on this product is here.)
Magnet-Based Carabiners — They won’t be available to consumers until July 2012. But this week Black Diamond Equipment announced an unusual and potentially game-changing piece of gear for climbers. The RockLock and GridLock Magnetron carabiners will use “magnetic fields” instead of screw gates or spring-loaded sleeves to lock shut. The company touts the ‘biners as “more secure versus other spring-locking mechanisms on the market” and “a stronger and more reliable system than possible with springs.” (Gear Junkie’s full preview article on this product is here.)
—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.