Unconventional Gear

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I’m home from Salt Lake City and the Outdoor Retailer trade show, where an overabundance of to-be-released outdoors gear can make heads spin. Some of it expected, some of it useful, some of it will likely flop. Here’s a “Top Five” list of gear that’s a little peculiar, but caught my eye as having potential in the outdoors world. Most of it will be available in the fall, so yes, this preview is a tease for all of you who want the gear now. But some of it is worth the wait. —Ryan Dionne

5: Brunton Flip N’ Drip Coffee Maker — It’s as easy as the name implies. Brunton’s Flip N’ Drip Coffee Maker is the backpacking coffee addict’s dream. Just boil water in the integrated stainless steel carafe, attach the reusable filter and drinking mug, and flip it.

Brunton Flip N’ Drip Coffee Maker

In minutes, you’ll have yourself some piping hot brew. The entire contraption, which is about 11 inches long and 4 inches in diameter, weighs 1 pound — a marginal addition to any coffee-lover’s pack. It’ll be available in February for $60.

4: CamelBak PowderBak — When debuted last year, the CamelBak ShredBak was sometimes compared to a bra with a hydration bladder on the back. The same idea is back, but this time as a mid-layer vest with a bladder. CamelBak made that necessary improvement for it’s 2010-11 product. But it’s still a concept that’s up against massive competition — traditional hydration packs.

CamelBak women’s PowderBak

The PowderBak has a baffled, low profile 72-ounce bladder that sits in a pocket on the back of a wicking mid-layer. It’s designed to keep your water close to your back and prevent it from freezing in extremely cold weather. The ski/snowboard-oriented PowderBak will be available in September for $100.

3: MontBell Half Sleeve Jacket — Cross a business-casual button-up shirt with a down jacket and you have MontBell’s unique Half Sleeve Jacket. The jacket is an 800-fill down insulating layer made for climbers and mountaineers who need some warmth around their core without overheating.

MontBell Half Sleeve Jacket

As the only gear of its kind I’ve seen or heard of, I was taken aback. But the button-up (or snap-up, rather) “shirt” that packs into a roughly 4-inch by 6-inch stuff sack, has potential. And it weighs just 5.6 ounces. The Half Sleeve Jacket launched in September for $130, but it’s out of stock and won’t be available again until next September.

2: Ivar backpacks — Though they’re designed more for students and daily commuters, Ivar’s line of backpacks incorporate a funky slanted series of inner slots to keep gear separated and evenly distributed. The packs, potentially perfect for bike commuters, are said to keep the load from bunching at the bottom of the pack.

Ivar backpack with slot storage

Each Ivar has enough pockets for everything from file folders and notebooks to laptops and pencils. One, the Annex, also has the messenger pack style that’ll help you fit in while riding with urban hipsters. Some packs are already on the market while others, like the $100 Annex, will be available by fall.

1: Teva Illum — Ever wish you had a flashlight strapped to your shoes to keep from tripping at night? Me neither. But someone at Teva decided to do just that with a pair of flip-flops. The company is being innovative and I give it kudos for that. The Illum flip-flops, which come in men’s and women’s synthetic and leather options, have a small LED light attached to the fabric near the big toe.

Teva Illum flip-flops

The 10-lumen light on each foot shines enough to keep you from tripping or stubbing your little piggies. And it swaps out with a faceplate if you don’t want it there. Because it’s footwear for the beach, Teva made the keychain-sized lights waterproof to three feet for 30 minutes. The synthetic and leather Illum flip-flops will be available in April for $50 and $60 respectively.



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