Every week, we bring you five gear-related stories, from all over, that you won’t want to miss. Here are this week’s highlights:

The North Face Hopes Virtual Reality Will Sell Hiking Gear

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As reported by Chicago magazine, this week The North Face debuted a new tool in select stores in Chicago, New York and San Francisco: virtual-reality helmets that allow shoppers to watch (in close proximity to racks of hiking gear) a three-minute, 3D video of some of our country’s best outdoor spaces, such as Yosemite and the Moab desert.

“Any big brand is trying to figure out how experiences in the real world can make a visit to a store a different experience than you can deliver online,” Eric Oliver, Director of Digital Marketing at The North Face, told Chicago. “[Virtual reality] is the most visceral or emotional or impactful way we’re trying to augment our in-store experience.”

Read on …

The Future of Women’s Running Brand Oiselle

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In another look at how brick-and-mortar gear shops fare in the time of the almighty Internet, earlier this week Outside magazine examined the decision of women’s athletic apparel maker Oiselle to open a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle this summer. It’s a significant step for a company that started in 2007 as a little-fish sports apparel company in a big pond of competition with the likes of Nike and Under Armour.

Given Oiselle’s 100-percent annual growth rate in the past four years, Outside asks, “Can Oiselle, a brand built on inclusivity and that underdog image, maintain that identity as it becomes a dominant player in women’s workout apparel?”

Read on …

The Ultralight Gear That Survived 2,650 Snowy, Muddy, Rugged Miles

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Earlier this month, Justin “Tramua” Lichter and Shawn “Pepper” Forry became the first people to successfully thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail in winter. The Reno Gazette-Journal recently talked to Lichter about the gear they relied on to make it through their incredible journey — which included not only hiking, but also, at times, snowshoeing and skiing too.

Perhaps most amazing of all, Lichter and Forry did not carry a tent. Rather, they relied on a tarp-like shelter from Mountain Laurel Designs. They also switched out packs for the High Sierras in order to accommodate more food and avalanche equipment as well.

Other picks: a compact alcohol-fueled stove, many waterproof pieces of apparel, Nutella, and inner and outer down sleeping bags and quilts from Montbell, Katabatic and Mountain Laurel Designs.

Read on …

Backpacker Magazine’s Best New Backpacks of 2015

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Backpacker offers a peek at 18 of their favorite new packs for this year, ranging from daypacks to multi-day packs, all reviewed in the field by 164 different testers.

The Osprey Atmos AG/Aura AG and the Gregory Baltoro/Deva took home Editors’ Choice honors.

The roundup also offers “field tips” for choosing the right backpack, and a selection of trends in 2015 including smart pockets and tech tools (e.g. the Kelty Capture 25 features a detachable iPhone/camera sleeve, while the Thule Guidepost 65 includes a waterproof front pouch that fits an iPad) and greater opportunities for customized fit.

Read on …

Travel Alberta Experiments with Digital Trails on Instagram

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Skift.com reports that tourism board Travel Alberta is experimenting with new ways to use Instagram to disseminate photos and information about popular hikes in the Candian province. One main account, @instahikes, serves as an index for five other sub-accounts devoted to various hikes.

“Each hike has local photographers who are avid trekkers and Instagrammers who document their experiences flush with official information from the parks about the trail, tips from parking to what gear to wear, and natural markers found along the way,” reports Skift.com.

The @instahikes account has already amassed nearly 3,500 followers.

Read on …