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Highlights of the Summer 2012 Outdoor Retailer Trade Show – Gear of Interest to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpackers

By Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl, Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors My wife Janet and I had the opportunity to peruse the OR Show as guests of Gossamer Gear (see our companion article “Gossamer Gear Hosts Tribal Gathering in Salt Lake City for Outdoor Retailer”). We have covered the Show several times before for Backpacking Light Magazine, so we basically know the drill on how to identify gear of interest to UL and LW backpackers, and provide the basic information they want. For readers not familiar with OR, it’s a huge trade show where outdoor gear manufacturers showcase new gear in the production pipeline that will be available soon, in this case for Spring 2013. Representatives from local outdoor stores attend the show to see what’s new, place orders, and hob-nob with friends in the industry. For small gear manufacturers (like Gossamer Gear), it’s an opportunity to source materials for new products in the design process. The show also attracts a lot of media representatives who report on the latest and greatest.

The Summer OR Show has about 3000 booths and 25,000 attendees. This area is mostly footwear.

Please note that OR is dominated by big companies that typically manufacture a full line of outdoor gear, which is mostly conventional gear but also includes a growing amount of lightweight gear, and some ultralight gear as you will see below. Most of the small companies that make ultralight gear cannot afford the cost of a booth at OR, but they are also there to see what’s new and join in the fun. With that intro, we will present our roundup (in no particular order) of new technologies and gear that we believe will be of interest to LW and UL backpackers. All of the products described will be introduced in spring 2013 unless stated otherwise.

GE Energy Introduces New eVent DVL Technology and Fabric

In the high stakes waterproof/breathable fabrics competition, we will soon have new lighter eVent fabrics utilizing eVent Direct Venting Lite (DVL) technology. eVent DVL waterproof fabric is an unlined laminate that features a protective print applied directly onto eVent’s proprietary waterproof ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene) membrane. The print—a repeating web of outlined triangular shapes—provides a durable protective screen for the membrane. The eVent membrane, with its millions of tiny pores, allows “direct venting” of the body’s heat and moisture through the fabric, yet is waterproof from the outside. The eVent DVL membrane is laminated to lightweight face fabrics for use in jackets, pants and other products. The technology in eVent DVL waterproof fabric improves upon the performance of what are commonly called 2.5-layer fabrics.

Two new hardshell rain jackets utilizing eVent DVL fabric are the Rab Maverick Jacket (left, about 13 ounces), which has hand pockets and a rollaway hood, and the Westcomb Focus LT Hoody (right, $279, 6.9 ounces, available Fall 2012) which has one chest pocket and a conventional hood. The latter one is a full sized jacket, meaning its not shortened or very trim fitting to save weight.

Easton Mountain Products Showcases New Cubic Tech and Easton Carbon Fiber Technologies in a Prototype Ultralight Expedition 2P Tent

The Easton Ultralight Expedition 2P prototype features a hybrid eVent/Cuben Fiber waterproof/breathable canopy and doors, removable Cuben Fiber vestibules, and Easton carbon fiber poles and stakes.

At the Easton booth we feasted our eyes on their Ultralight Expedition 2P prototype tent made of Cuben Fiber, a waterproof/breathable eVent-Cuben Fiber hybrid laminate, and new carbon fiber poles. The weight is 2 pounds 9 ounces, and the tent has two doors and two vestibules (which are detachable). With a floor area of 28.7 square feet, the tent is roomy enough for two sleepers, with extra space in the vestibules to stash gear within reach. It’s a single wall tent (double wall on the vestibules, so it’s a hybrid), and the X-pole support is external, attaching with clips. Note the large high vents. If you want to know the price you probably can’t afford to buy it (its $1800). Note that the tent is a prototype and the details will likely change, or the tent may not go into production at all. We were especially intrigued by the eVent/Cuben Fiber laminate in the body of the tent (the area within the “X”). Looking at it, it appears to consist of a thin face “fabric”, the ePTFE membrane, and criss-crossed Dyneema fibers bonded to the inside. We visited the Cubic Tech booth to ask for a fabric description, and they provided the following the next day via email: “Cubic Tech is pleased that Easton’s design team elected to build this state-of-the-art tent using our materials. During development of the tent we worked closely with Easton’s designers to produce fabrics that met both the technical and aesthetic goals of the project.  We look forward to additional opportunities to expand our presence in the outdoor market by satisfying the growing demand for and fueling the growth of light weight durable products. Cubic Tech’s CTF3 ™ waterproof breathable and non-breathable materials employed in this tent are representative of our lightest Dyneema® reinforced two directional non-woven Cuben Fiber® laminates.  Please visit us at www.cubictechnology.com for additional information about our products.” Well, that doesn’t say much, which is not surprising since they are very proprietary. In any event, we are pleased to see these technologies appear, and look forward to seeing them used in more lightweight outdoor gear.

Easton Full Metal Jacket Carbon Fiber Stakes

Previous attempts to produce a carbon fiber stake failed because scratches in the carbon created a weakness leading to breakage. Easton has overcome that problem by putting a thin aluminum sleeve over the carbon shaft. Each 6-inch stake weighs just 5.5 grams (4 grams on our scale), about the same as a Titanium stake but with much more surface area and holding power. A package of four stakes will cost $28. We assume Easton will throw in these stakes with their new $1800 tent.

Sierra Designs also Dazzles us with their Mojo UFO Cuben Fiber Tent

Several large companies are showcasing “concept products” and new high performance product lines to accomplish two objectives: 1) they want to establish themselves as a cutting edge company that embraces new technologies, and 2) they want to test the water on product acceptance. At the Sierra Designs booth, we found the Mojo UFO tent displayed like it was floating in air (actually it was suspended by several Helium balloons). The tent is a hybrid design with a Cuben Fiber shell, mesh inner walls, and external carbon fiber poles with clips. Weight is 1 pound 11 ounces for this two-person tent. The cost is coincidentally $1800.

Sierra Designs Cloud Layering System

The Cloud Layering System – consisting of the Cloud Windshell (a 6 ounce windshirt, $119), the Cloud Airshell (a 4 ounce rain jacket on the far left, $125), and the Cloud Puffy (a 12 ounce down sweater with 800 fill DryDown, $259) – has a total weight of 22 ounces. While all of the components are very nice, the standout is the Airshell, which is the first 4 ounce nylon rain jacket we have seen. The Airshell Pant will weigh 4.5 ounces. SD’s new Illusion fabric in the Airshell is a waterproof/breathable two-layer polyurethane laminate that is seam taped. Specs are 4000 mm waterproofness and 15,000 MVTR breathability; by the numbers, that’s adequately waterproof but not real breathable. SD clearly states that it should be “only worn when it’s raining”. We can handle that, but the key question is: “Is it truly waterproof so we can depend on it?” (Remember the original Isotope rain jacket? It wasn’t.)

Here’s Another Lightweight Rain Shell, the Montane Minimus Smock, Weighing Just 5 Ounces

The Minimus Smock (an anorak with a chest pocket, modeled by Matt Moore of Terra-Nova) is made of Pertex Shield Plus and costs $200. It will also be available as the Minimus Jacket (7.6 ounces, $239). The Minimus Pant will weigh 4.4 ounces and cost $165. Many hikers prefer a full height front zipper, but I personally like the smock design. Pertex Shield Plus is a polyurethane laminate claimed to be more breathable (20,000 mm waterproofness, 25,000 MVTR breathability) than comparable products, approaching the breathability of eVent. True, the specs are similar to eVent, but, as we know, the specifications don’t tell the whole story.

Sierra Designs Clo and Flow Bags Feature 800 Fill Power DryDown

The Dry Down technology (under various company monikers) is rapidly being integrated into the sleeping bag lines of several companies. Many companies see it as a no-brainer to adopt since it costs about $6 to treat 1 kilo of down and imparts water repellency to the down. There are a few holdouts waiting to see if there are any drawbacks to down expansion or longevity. For spring 2013, SD will introduce their men’s Clo and women’s Flow bags (the bags on the right in the photo) which feature 800 fill DryDown, vertical baffles, and a half-length zipper, in three temperature ratings (0, 15, and 30 degrees). The men’s 30 degree bag (actually its EN rated) will weigh 19 ounces and cost $400.

Big Agnes Introduces the First Zipperless Tent, the Fishhook SL2

The zipper is the weakest part of most backpacking tents; we cuss zippers that stick, and they eventually get dirty and blow out. Big Agnes came up with a door closure that uses tiny magnets at intervals around the perimeter, eliminating the zipper entirely. The magnets snap into place when they get close, so closing the door is easy and fast. The change is weight neutral. The Fishhook SL2 has two side entries with vestibules, uses the same fabrics as the Seedhouse series, and has a trail weight of 3 pounds 3 ounces (excludes stuff sacks and stakes).

Terra-Nova Introduces their Extremities Line of Handwear and Headwear for Spring 2013

Terra-Nova will give us more choices for lightweight handwear and headwear with the introduction (through US distributor Sport-Hanza) of their Extremities line in Spring 2013. An example is their Hot Bags (left), a synthetic insulated mitt with a lightweight shell, weighing just 3 ounces per pair. The Top Bags WP/B shell (right, 1.7 ounces per pair) fits over them. Another standout is the Ultra Glo Glove (not shown), made of cuben fiber and a wicking fabric; the weight is 0.7 ounce per pair. The Extremities line includes many other options too numerous to mention, and their light weight will have a strong appeal to weight conscious hikers.

Montbell Reclaims the Lightest Windshirt Title

The new Montbell Tachyon Jacket weighs just 1.6 ounces, and it has a full height front zipper. It’s basically a hoodless version of the Tachyon Anorack using the same 7 denier fabric with Polkatex DWR. MSRP is $109 (that’s $68 per ounce).

Nemo Introduces the Siren Quilt Featuring 850 Fill Down

Nemo is launching a full line of sleeping bags that are very innovative, but the one that should interest UL backpackers the most is the new Siren Quilt coming out in Spring 2013. It’s rated at 30F. The footbox area, which frequently gets damp from brushing against a wet tent wall, is insulated with Primaloft Synergy. The underside has loops and snaps to wrap it around a sleeping pad. Weight is 18 ounces and cost is $350.

GoLite Footwear Mountain Gecko is Lightweight and Svelte

An all-synthetic upper, high traction outsole, support and stability, minimal exposed seams, and light weight (10 ounces for men’s 9) are combined in the new GoLite Mountain Gecko for Spring 2013. It’s designed for light hiking and trail running, and has a 2 millimeter drop. Men’s and women’s models are shown in the photo. MSRP is $130.

Klymit Introduces a Lightweight Wide Sleeping Pad, the X-Wave

Many hikers prefer a wider pad, and finally a lightweight wide pad will be available from Klymit. The measurements are 25 inches wide x 48 inches long x 1.5 inches thick and the weight is 10.5 ounces. Klymit claims it only takes three breaths to blow it up, my wife can do it in one. MSRP is $99.

Klymit Cush for Your Tush(or whatever)

The Cush is multi-purpose – use it as a sit pad for one or two people (left), a pillow (right), a lumbar pad, or a sleeping pad (!). It weighs only 3 ounces and costs $20.

Klymit LiteWater Raft is Lightweight and (fairly) Inexpensive

The prototype we saw weighs 24 ounces, and the cost estimate is $225-250. We didn’t get the measurements, but you can guess them from the photo. The floor is mounted in the middle of the outside tube rather than the bottom, and the tube has only one chamber.

Outdoor Research Stamina Gaiter Weighs Just 1.8 Ounces per Pair

We wear lightweight gaiters most of the time when hiking. When worn over trail runners they are very helpful for keeping dirt, dust, debris, and snow out of our shoes, and our socks and feet stay a lot cleaner. One of the lightest we have seen yet is the Outdoor Research Stamina Gaiter at 1.8 ounces per pair. Note in the photo that it has four “unique mini-hooks” (actually they are bra hooks) on the front that will attach to a shoe lace, mesh, or even a seam. The rear has a Velcro patch that attaches to a mate you attach to the rear of your shoe. It also has holes for a traditional underfoot cord. The gaiters don’t have a zipper; you need to pull them on before putting on your shoes. MSRP is $35.

Sea to Summit Mosquito Net Shelter

We were intrigued by STS’s new Mosquito Net Shelter because of its light weight and the possibility of combining it with a lightweight tarp like Gossamer Gear’s Cubic Twin. The single person version weighs just 2.9 ounces and the double is 4.85 ounces, MSRPs are $43 and $53. It will be available with Insect Shield treatment for $7 more. The shelters don’t have a floor or entrance; you simply lift it up and get under it. Both require a loop on the center underside of the tarp, or a cord over a tree branch to suspend them. The corners can be staked out if you wish.

4 Responses to Highlights of the Summer 2012 Outdoor Retailer Trade Show – Gear of Interest to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpackers

  1. DavoColo September 14, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    Thanks for the roundup.

    Did you hear any talk about a wash-in Dry Down treatment for older down bags and jackets? I wouldn’t expect to see it soon, since companies can now charge a premium for the Dry Down technology. But when it’s widely adopted and no longer a differentiator, perhaps then such a product could be released as an added income stream.

    Or is the technology harder to apply than that? Do you have a sense of how down is treated to make it Dry Down?

  2. Rick Burtt September 14, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    +1 to DavoColo

  3. Will Rietveld September 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    DuPont has a product called “Teflon for down and feathers”, which is essentially the same product. Teflon, as you know, is a DWR treatment that is applied in a wash followed by heat. Its been around for awhile and has mainly been used in the bedding industry. I don’t believe its sold to individuals, and I don’t know of any other treatment available to make down water-resistant. The outdoor gear manufacturers buy their down already treated from big suppliers. Best, Will.

  4. kdub December 13, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    The Klymit LiteWater Raft looks like a product that should be made longer so i could use it as my sleeping mat as well. On hot muggy nights i could sleep on the water!

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