Every summer the outdoor industry gets together to show off their latest products and innovations for the next season — and every summer we drool over the best climbing, hiking, and outdoor gear money can buy. If you spend hours researching your next ultralight backpacking kit purchase, geek out over climbing shoe rubber, or spend late nights planning your next backcountry camping trip, the Outdoor Retailer show is a mecca. We were on hand to scope out the best gear for this fall and next spring so you can be first in line when the time rolls around.
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5.10 Team VXi
5.10 is known for having the stickiest, most durable rubber in the climbing world. When we first saw the VXi advertisements touting a softer, lighter rubber, we didn’t quite know what to think. Every other company right now is focusing on making the stiffest shoe they can. A quick demo on the bouldering wall made us believers. The new Mi6 rubber is soft enough for excellent proprioception feedback on the wall — and so flexible and sticky that we stuck to toe holds we wouldn’t normally give a second look. The soft upper’s Velcro closure and hybrid shape add comfort to a shoe that should be on every climber’s gear list. Look for them later this fall.
Eddie Bauer Solar Power Katabatic Tent
If you’ve spent any time bagging alpine climbs in the last couple of years, you’ve probably seen Eddie Bauer’s Katabatic tents at more than a few base camps. The bomber construction survives any nasty conditions, and with a testing ground ranging from Denali (no, it’s not, and never will be McKinley) to the Himalaya, its reputation is well earned. This year’s Katabatic tent boasts integrated solar power thanks to a collaboration with Goal Zero. You’ll be able to power all your mission essential gadgets via USB and 12V ports as you head up the mountain — so you can Instagram and tweet every moment.
Nemo Cosmo Air Lite
Nemo Equipment is a small, New Hampshire-based company that has been quickly building a loyal following in the backpacking community. (We took a look at their innovative Spoon sleeping bags earlier this year.) At OR we previewed their new Cosmo Air Lite pads. At just one pound, the Air Lite packs into a very small package — perfect for the ultralight thru-hiker. Three inches of loft and an integrated foot pump blow uncomfortable backpacking foam
board mats out of the water. If you want to sleep in comfort on your next backcountry adventure, the Air Lite is your best bet. Look for them at Nemo and with retailers soon.
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 800
The first thing we noticed about the new Backcountry Bed 800 was the complete lack of zippers. This seemed strange, but after climbing in, the tradeoff of extra space won us over. The oversized opening at the top is covered by a very large integrated comforter. The bag is also extra wide at the shoulders and hips, letting you comfortably roll around without feeling like you’re completely restricted as many mummy bags do. The addition of Sierra Designs’ DriDown insulation and a sleeping pad sleeve round out the best features of this inventive bag. Look for it in the Sierra Designs spring 2014 lineup.
Helly Hansen Odin Moonlight Jacket
We had a chance to sit down with Oyvind Vedvik, Helly Hansen’s lead product designer for the Odin collection, to get a preview of the brand’s new mountaineering and ski apparel. If you’re looking to climb higher and ski further than you have before, the new streamlined pieces that Oyvind’s team put together are your backcountry passport. The Moonlight’s features — 2.5 layer Hellytech waterproof membrane, taped zippers and seams, and pockets to stash the essentials — don’t get in the way of your mission; everything about the jacket was designed to function both loaded under a pack during the technical climb up and while you’re bombing the descent. The athletic fit is perfect for mountaineering, alpine and nordic skiing and trekking. Paired with the Odin Guide Light Pant ($160), the line will turn heads both on and off the mountain.
Mile High Mountaineering Switch and Salute Packs
No matter where you go or what you’re carrying, it seems that the piece of gear you need will always be at the bottom of your pack. Most pack designers try and solve this with a short side or front zipper; it works, but you’re still digging through your gear. MHM’s solution, the Snake-Loader zipper, is the best take on this problem we’ve seen yet. The main zipper runs along the top panel, down the side of the pack, and curves back towards the front. you can open a portion of the pack anywhere you need to, or even unzip the entire pack into a flat unloaded mat. With space to stash mountain biking or climbing helmets, a unique adjustable suspension and hip belt, and a couple sizes to choose from, we can see these packs easily becoming the most popular day pack on the market.
La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Boot
The Trango Cube had us stoked to see some new designs. Seamless upper? It’s the only boot out there with a one-piece upper design. Performance on rock and ice? The exclusive “One” sole that La Sportiva and Vibram developed is crampon compatible and shaves precious ounces while maintaining durability. The TPU welded lacing system also shaves weight while allowing for more insulation. At only 24 ounces per boot, the Trango Cube set a new standard for high altitude travel. Expect them to hit the market in time to train for your spring assault on the Grand Teton or Rainier.
Kelty Trail Logic
It seems that no matter how well you pack, the cylinder-shaped stuff sacks that have become ubiquitous with hauling tents, pads and sleeping bags create too much dead space in a good pack. Kelty’s Trail Logic collection is a radical departure from this “stuff it where it fits” paradigm. The PK 50 pack ($200) is zipperless (yeah, we thought it was weird too, but no zippers means lower weight and better water resistance) and features cube-shaped compartments for everything you’ll need. Likewise, the TN 2 tent ($250) and PDsi pad ($80) pack in to nearly flat, rectangular bags, maximizing space saving. An 800-fill DriDown sleeping bag ($250) rounds out the lineup nicely and saves weight while keeping you warm in any environment. If you’re looking to get into backpacking, or to just update your current gear, this spring 2014 collection will get you on the trail with room to spare for some campfire gadgets.