Emerging Gear

Ahead of the curve, cutting-edge, and to-be-released gear.

Emerging Gear: Outdoor Products This Week

A peek at emerging products, culled from crowd-source sites like Kickstarter, PR campaigns, and industry scoops on the sometimes cutting-edge, sometimes quirky world of gear design.

Geologists’ Compass

It costs nearly $800 and is built for professional geologists. However, we as map/compass geeks can’t help but give the Brunton Axis a curious glance. The unit “was invented by geologists for geologists” and is designed for geological measurements with a dual-axis, hollow-hinge design that “allows for intuitive, efficient, accurate measurements of planes, lines, bearings, and vertical angles.” Made in the USA.

Patagonia Goes Neoprene-Free

Patagonia’s entire line of wetsuits is now neoprene-free thanks to its Yulex material, a natural rubber that can stand in for the petroleum-based industry standard. It works in water temperatures from 32 – 75 degrees, Patagonia notes, and will be seen in 21 full-length wetsuits for men, women, and kids. From the brand, “Neoprene is nasty stuff, but for a long time we had no alternative.”

Tent Doubles As Hammock

The Crua is a funky all-in-one sleep system. It can be set up on the ground as a tent or hung as a hammock. It has a built-in insulated air mattress and detachable sleeping bag. The body is hydrophobic ripstop nylon and bug mesh with an aluminum frame. Total weight is 6.95 pounds and it starts at $270.

Self-Driving Luggage

The “fully autonomous smart suitcase” Cowarobot R1 wheels itself along at 4.5 mph, staying within arm’s reach using optical, sonar, and “cliff-detection” sensors to avoid obstructions. It’s like a first-gen R2D2, reportedly capable of going up 15-degree grade with 12.5 miles of battery life. The autopilot carry-on won’t come cheap; after its IndieGogo campaign, it will retail for $700.

‘Green’ Fire Starter

UCO’s new fire-starter is as green as it is effective. Made from sugarcane by-product. The SweetFire uses an otherwise-discarded waste material for a long-burning fire starter. Each pyramid burns for seven minutes, giving you plenty of time to goof-up and re-set your blaze. $6 for a box of 20.

Crowd-Invested Running Shorts

We had a chance to try out the Wolaco North Moore compression running short. The young company, launched in 2013, jumped into the Crowd Investment market, along with tent-maker SlingFin. The shorts are standard, but sleek (read: leave little to the imagination), with pockets that reliably keep your cell phone, keys, and wallet stationary and stowed. Best of all, the products are 100-percent American made. $45 and up.

Self-Follow Drone

The Staaker is designed to be your “own personal cameraman.” The company touts it as the first “artificially intelligent, multi-mode, auto-follow drone.” The foldable unit flies up to 50 MPH and can follow the user at different angles and distances thanks to five modes. Pre-order now for $1,195.

Cordless Earbuds With ‘Limitless Battery’

The “only truly wireless ear buds” individually plug into each ear and provide a soundtrack to your activity for up to three hours. Hardly limitless, but the ELWN FIT stakes its name on the wearable wraparound charger that extends the buds’ life up to 6.5 hours. Every pair of the $189 water-resistant buds comes with an impressive 48 attachments for anyone with hard-to-fit ears.

The Everything Tarp

Kammock released a simple but dynamic rain tarp called the Kuhli. The 20-oz. ripstop tarp has 16 guy-out points that allow you to reinvent its configuration, from “picnic mode” to “storm mode” to “awning,” and more. Fully waterproof, the Kuhli is a modern nod to the real days of roughing it when a lean-to was your shelter for the night.

‘Ultimate Bike Bell’

The “ultimate bicycle bell” actually has the features to back up its name. The handlebar-mounted electronic gadget has various sound settings, from casual alert to blaring siren, and regulates volume based on ambient noise. It has eight LED lights to make you visible, a navigation system that syncs with a phone, and a 200-hour battery life. What’s more, the Shoka bike bell aggregates data from other Shoka users by monitoring their speed and bell usage to suggest safer routes.

Tree Mounted Gym

The Pullup & Dip is made for every time you’ve been out camping, looked up at a tree, and thought, “I wish this thing had bars or handles so I could blast my tris.” It may look silly, but the travel-friendly, miniature home gym is already past its Kickstarter goal. For $328, you can own the 18-pound stainless steel bar and brace set that wraps around trees or poles.

USA-Made ‘Cross Bike

Low Bicycles’ mkii puts American-made aluminum on the cyclocross starting line. The 7005 aluminum alloy frame is custom-drawn and butted (and double pass TIG welded) in San Francisco. The frame is designed for use with disk brakes and has internal shifter and brake cables. The frameset sells from $2,450.

‘Smart Shoe’ Pod

The MilestonePod aims to simplify app-based running metrics. Whereas smartwatches and heart-rate monitors often require a steep upfront investment, the Pod will set you back just $25. The waterproof disc weighs 13 grams and affixes to your shoelaces. The company lauds that it requires no charging, though its battery retires after six to eight months. A cheap alternative to monitor running data like foot strike, calories burned, distance, cadence, pace, shoe mileage, and more.

Lock-Brand Bike Lights

Bike-security mainstay Kryptonite expands into bike lights this month. The Street Light Series are USB-rechargeable units for the front and rear of a bike. Five models are coming soon and the company notes “with our knowledge of the security category, we are positioned to become a leader within lights as our focus remains a rider’s primary safety AND security needs.”

Kachula 2.0 Travel Blanket

Coalatree released the Kachula travel blanket in 2014, and we love it. Made from technical fabrics, it packs small and is perfect for everything from picnics to hostels in foreign lands. The Kachula 2.0 is an upgraded edition, with reinforced snaps, double-sided zippers, and a detachable hood. It’s a nice upgrade on the old-school blanket on Kickstarter now from $50.

Massive Outdoors Sound

Use it judiciously, but for big sound in the outdoors the ECOXGEAR EcoBoulder ($250) offers a 100-watt Bluetooth speaker for “backyard parties, beach days, tailgates, and camping trips.” Its 8-inch full-range speaker, 3-inch tweeter, and 8-inch passive woofer give unparalleled outdoors audio in a speaker that is waterproof (fully submersible!), has UV-protected housing, is dirt/dust proof, and even floats.

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