10 Outdoor Gear Trends To Watch In 2017

From intelligent drones to “levitating” tents, the future of the outdoors industry is nothing if not unique. These trends and observations were culled from trade shows, industry events, and from R&D labs as a peek at what’s upcoming in outdoors gear.

Tents will get off the ground

From vehicle-mounted rooftop tents to enclosed, hammock-like shelters, sleeping outdoors is more elevated than ever. Rack behemoth Yakima announced entry into the rooftop-tent realm for 2017, bringing the longtime-niche category into the mainstream.

Drones will follow and film

Your own personal film crew? A new genre of camera-equipped drones that track their owner while skiing, biking, or running become a reality soon from a few brands. One example, appropriately named the Staaker, is touted as “artificially intelligent” enough to auto-follow (and film) anyone at up to 50mph.

Boots will stick to ice

A new rubber compound, Vibram’s Arctic Grip Sole gives “up to three times better grip” on wet ice surfaces. We tested a prototype last winter, and the technology works. Wolverine debuts the new kind of sole this fall in its Crossbuck FX Ice+ boots. Look for Arctic Grip on multiple brands in 2017.

Your T-shirt will cool you

So-called “cooling shirts” have been around. But next year materials giant Polartec has a new take with Delta, a fabric that has hydrophobic and hydrophilic fibers to disperse moisture and increase airflow. The shirt gets cooler once wet (from sweat) and was impressive in my pre-release test. (See full review.)

Outerwear to get more ‘eco’

From a PFC-free (and dye-free) jacket line by Columbia Sportswear (review here), to the first mass-market wetsuit (by Patagonia) not made of neoprene, brands big and small continue to invent and push for ecologically-friendly materials and manufacturing processes.

Climbing gear gets safer

The key safety piece in climbing, the belay device, gets an upgrade for 2017 from a few brands. Most notably, the Wild Country Revo has a new “bi-directional” auto-locking design to make belaying almost foolproof.

‘Inflatable’ hammocks will be everywhere

Dutch brand Lamzac popularized a new kind of outdoors seating, dubbed “inflatable hammocks.” The air-filled couches were omnipresent at recent industry events, with more than a dozen companies involved in manufacturing and perpetuating the odd, cushiony trend. (See our full review.)

B-corps gain steam

Patagonia is the industry poster child for the benefit corporation (b-corp) designation, which entails a company legally committing to supporting environmental and humanitarian causes. Brands as diverse as Wylder, a women-focused startup, and energy-food maker Yumbutter are jumping aboard the b-corp ship.

Synthetic insulation (still) aims at down

The brand Primaloft and other insulation brands have long produced fluffy white stuff that traps warm air and mimics down in jackets and sleeping bags. For next year, another major player, ALLIED Feather & Down, after years of R&D, will leave its goose feathers out of the picture and introduce LOFTECH, which it claims to be the first synthetic to “truly mimic the structure of natural down.”

You will run with a Power Meter

Wattage, output, and power meters were formerly bike-culture nomenclature. But new technology is bringing power meters to runners. Though it’s existed for a couple years, 2017 will see devices from brands like Stryd and RPM2 enter the mainstream.

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