The annual Outdoor Retailer Summer Show kicks off this week, and gear makers from around the world are debuting the new products and innovative ideas for gear slated to hit shelves in time for next year’s summer adventures.
After preview peeks at many of the innovations, the Gear Institute team identified a few worthy of the 2019 Best New Gear Awards. Here are the winners this season:
Peak Designs Travel Tripod
The idea of tripod is to hold something unmoving and steady, so perhaps it’s no surprise that tripod design has not moved forward in decades. Peak Designs changes that with the biggest innovation since the introduction of carbon fiber and lever-lock legs decades ago. The Peak Designs Travel Tripod features angular legs that, when closed, fit together like slices of pie in a tin. Tight with little negative space in the compact position. When extended, though, the carbon fiber legs are incredibly strong and stable – we tested a preproduction sample found it perfectly suited to a full-sized dSLR sporting a big telephoto zoom lens. The Travel Tripod features a unique integrated ball head – Peak Designs Capture Clip mounting plates click in effortlessly – that is compact but incredibly function. In short, the Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod finally moves tripod design out of the mid 20th century solidly into 21st and beyond. $599 ($399 aluminum legs)
Black Diamond Camalot Z4
What? Another camming device line from Black Diamond? This seven-piece line solves an age-old problem for crack aficionados. A patent-pending RigidFlex stem performs the magic, creating a single stem cam that stays rigid in hand to aid placement but morphs into a flexible stem upon trigger release, preventing walking. Additionally, stems on the larger cams flex uniformly in all directions, while stems on the smaller sizes resist buckling under hard trigger pressure. The head widths mimic the old Camalot C3’s, but with sandblasted lobes for improved grip. Sizing starts at #0, BD’s smallest cam ever, and ranges to .75. MSRP: $70 across all sizes.
Though stove engineers have experimented with a variety of configurations and shapes over the years, no one has come up with a backpacking stove as sleek and compact as the Firestick. Primus engineers created a canister stove with a unique silhouette that fits into the smallest pack pocket and weighs just 3.1 ounces, but which delivers 8500 Btu of power at the click of a piezo ignitor. When folded, the stove is a slim cylinder measuring just 103mm by 36mm. Primus’ innovative approach provides stable pot support, as well as wind-protection for the burner, from a seemingly simple fold-down design. Though it comes in both titanium and steel versions (3.7 oz), the Titanium Firestick is the way to go: Just $30 extra trims more than half an ounce, and kicks up the durability of the stove. $120 titanium, $90 steel.
Nemo Dagger Porch (3P)
Big vestibules on backpacking tents aren’t new, but Nemo’s latest take on designing that type of extra living space is a novel approach to extending your backpacking home. The Dagger Porch 3P opens up the vestibule space, turning it into a covered porch rather than an enclosed entry way. A separate pole supports the Porch structure, making it stable and secure. Nemo’s Dagger series of tents have earned critical and popular acclaim, but the new Dagger Porch takes that series to a new level, making it a backcountry home suitable for hosting social gatherings. Available in 2- and 3-person versions, the Dagger Porch 3P is our pick for best backpacking home for social hosts. At just 5 lbs, 4 oz trail weight, it is well under 2 pounds per person pack weight. (2P version is 4 lbs, 12 oz). $699 for 3P ($599 2P)
Snow Peak Kojin Grill
Snow Peak has earned a reputation for designing elegant outdoor gear, and their new Kojin Grill continues this trend of engineering artistry. The Kojin Grill is a packable all-purpose cooker capable of operating as a barbeque grill, an outdoor over, and a portable smoker, all at the same time. Made from stainless steel, the Kojin’s collapsible cylindrical body features two charcoal trays to create multiple heating zones. The Kojin’s roasting rack will hold a full chicken for roasting over smoke chips, and grilling grates support a variety of vegetables over grilling coals. The Kojin packs flat for storage and transport. $730
Big Agnes Torchlight Sleeping Bag
Outdoor gear designers have engineers lots of different “quiver-of-one” products over the years. Products that were meant to meet the needs of a wide range of users and uses. But until now, sleeping bags have resisted that trend. For 2020, Big Agnes offers the Torchlight Bag which promised to be the first fully customizable bags. The Torchlight utilizes 850-fill DownTek insulation in a design featuring zippered side panels. Open the panels to expand the snug mummy bag into a semi-rectangular configuration. In mummy set-up, it’s a cozy 20ºF cold weather bag. With the panels open, it’s a comfortable airy bag suitable for warmer nights throughout the summer. Best of all, the zippers can be fully or partially opened, allowing users to completely customize the fit and comfort. At 2 lbs, it’s not light, but it promises to be incredibly versatile. $399.
Uncharted Supply Company’s Rapid Raft
With thousands of remote lakes scattered throughout the wild country, backpackers have long sought the perfect packable raft. Ideally, a backpacker’s raft is lightweight, compact, and durable. The new Rapid Raft from Uncharted Supply Co. promises to be all that. The company engineers say they designed the Rapid Raft to meet a military request for a raft suitable for rapid deployment and repacking. The Rapid Raft features a patented design that allows inflation in less than 45 seconds without the use of any tools. The raft weighs just 3 lbs, packs to the size of a large (1.5 liter) water bottle, and can support up to 400 lbs of load. $400.
Tecnica ORIGIN Customized Trail Running Shoes
Running shoe designs focus on doing one or more of a number of things: reducing weight, increasing running performance, or providing improved cushioning during the stride. But designers have overlooked one key element of shoe reality: every runner is different. Lumbering 200 lb runners end up in the same shoe models as slim 135 lb striders and 165 lb joggers. All too often, that means one (or more) runner is getting a shoe that isn’t well matched to their weight, stride, or style. To address this issue Tecnica created their new-for-2020 ORIGIN Running Shoe – the first trail running shoe with a customizable fit. The concept introduces a completely new design approach to the running shoe category, based first on the anatomy of the consumer and then by utilizing a proprietary in-store thermomolding process. The end result promises to deliver all trail runners the same intended level of performance and ideal fit, regardless of gender or body characteristics. Price TBD
Ecco leather’s new DriTan™ technology
Recognizing that the process of tanning leather consumers huge volumes of water, Ecco engineers invested a great deal of time and effort into the development of new processes to curb that water use. The result, unveiled this week, is Ecco DriTanTM technology. The processed developed by the Ecco engineering team uses proprietary tanning agents to preserve the leather’s natural collagens without the use of added water. Instead, the unique tanning process uses the water already in hides in the curing process. The resulting leather is reportedly indistinguishable from traditionally tanned leather in terms of quality, characteristics, stability, and lead-time. Besides saving huge amounts of water, the technology also considerably reduces the number of chemicals used and lowers the wastewater production. DriTan™ saves approximately 20 liters of water per hide – the same amount that every human needs to live on each day. Annually, DriTanTM processes could save 25 million liters of water. The DriTanTM leather will be featured in 2020 models, including both Women’s and Mens ExoHike boots.