The Best Gear Of Outdoor Retailer (Part 1)

SD Backcountry Bed W lo

As many of you know, I spent the better part of last week at the Outdoor Retailer gear convention in Salt Lake City, an event that I like to call “Gearvana.” Over the course of three-and-a-half days, I saw lots of great new gear, some not-so-great stuff and some things that were just downright silly. But all in all, it was another good show with plenty of innovations coming in the months ahead. Here is a taste of some of the things I saw that really caught my eye.

New Direction For Sierra Designs
Sierra Designs has been making excellent outdoor gear for a very long time but in recent years their product line has gotten stale, uninspired and massive in scale. At OR they announced a new direction of sorts, nuking their entire catalog and going back to the start. The result are a new line of lightweight backpacking tents, attractive performance apparel and new sleeping bags that are built for convenience and comfort. One of those sleeping bags is even completely zipperless, integrating a built in comforter that seals up the bag as needed. It is a mummy-bag with 800-fill waterproof down that won’t be nearly as constraining as others of its kind. It looked so comfortable that I recommended that the company start designing a two-person version ASAP. Once you see it, you’ll probably want to snuggle in it.

Customizable Sandals From Keen
It has now been a decade since Keen hit the outdoor market with their iconic Newport sandal and over the years that shoe has continued to improve and evolve. Soon however you’ll get to build your own version of the Newport by going online and customizing it to your exact specifications. A new website that is set to go live in the next few weeks will let you select from a dizzying array of colors and apply them to nearly every aspect of the show. Keen reps said there were more than 65 million possible combinations, so the chances of you actually running into someone with the exact same sandal are pretty low.


Switch Eyewear Introduces New Styles
Last year I was very impressed with Switch Eyewear’s innovative design that allowed you to swamp out lenses as needed for various times of the day. The lenses and frames use powerful magnet to stay firmly in place and allow endurance athletes to use a single pair of glasses for the length of their competition or training. This year, the company has made some subtle but important design tweaks to improve the over all experience, while also introducing some great new frames to integrate the lenses into. The result is more options and a refined product that is even better than the one I so favorably reviewed after last year’s summer OR.


Osprey Goes Ultralight With New Packs
I spent some time in the Osprey booth checking out their great new line of packs that are designed to be lightweight and move fast. Chief amongst them was the new Exos series which will come in 38, 48 and 58-liter sizes. These packs are incredibly svelte with the largest tipping the scales at a mere 2.5 pounds. Still, Osprey didn’t scrimp on features or comfort as the packs have some of the best and most innovative shoulder straps I’ve seen. The company also debuted a new small, ultra-lightweight 6-liter pack designed for trail runners with lots of nice features as well. The Rev line of packs will debut in the spring and are extremely high on my “want” list. I was impressed by the integrated smartphone holder built into the shoulder strap that protects the device while on the go but also grants easy access as needed. 

Snow Peak Mola Headlamp
I’m convinced that the designers over at Snow Peak are zen-master mad scientists. They come up with some of the simplest and coolest designs around, leaving you scratching your head as to why someone hadn’t thought of their ideas sooner. One example of this is the new Mola headlamp that is due in the spring. The Mola puts out 90 lumens and weighs a mere 2.5 ounces, but the most innovative thing about it is that it has a built-in accelerometer that will adjust the light’s angle based on where you are looking. Glance upwards and the beam will automatically sift and additional ten degrees up. Look down at a map or to tie your shoes and the headlamp will adjust accordingly. It is a simple, yet very effective, design that I’m sure will spark imitators in the headlamp space.

Adventure Earbuds From  Yurbuds
Outdoor athletes who enjoy listening to their music will be happy to hear that Yurbuds is introducing a new line of earbuds specifically to meet their needs. The new designs are rugged, sound great and have been ergonomically tweaked to be more comfortable and fit better. They also feature a set of handy magnets integrated into the back of each earbud so that you can connect them and hold them in place when you’re not listening. As a recent convert to Yurbuds, I found the new designs to be very nice and I’m looking forward to putting them through their paces when they become available in a few months.

This is just a small sample of my favorite gear that I saw at OR. I’ll share more of my “Best of Show” over the next few days.

Kraig Becker