Earlier this summer, we made our annual pilgrimage to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. This is the immense, international expo where most of the world’s leading outdoor gear brands come to show off their latest wares—and give us a peek at what’s coming. Sprawled throughout the Salt Palace, we got to check out tents, packs, stoves, apparel, footwear and every new trail and camp accessory you could possibly imagine—and probably a few you couldn’t!
This year’s show was a bit melancholy, being its last appearance in Salt Lake City. After residing in Utah for the last 20 years, the show is moving to Denver due to Utah’s aggressive actions against public lands. But we’re excited to go to Denver next year. It will be a welcome change of scenery, and an opportunity to hit some new trails before and after the expo. In the meantime, here are just a few highlights from this year’s showcase.
New Ultralight Packs!
In the last couple years, we’ve been happy to see mainline backpack brands branching into the ultralight realm to appeal more to long-distance hikers. This year we got the Granite Gear Crown2 and Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor—two great packs we really enjoyed taking for a spin. Next year we can look forward to a few more ultralight entries from two more favorite brands. Osprey will be giving us two new UL packs. The Exos/Aja 58 UL AG (m/w) packs incorporate Osprey’s unique—and frankly awesome—anti-gravity harness, and the Levity/Luna 60 UL (m/w) is a minimalist model that weighs in under 2 pounds! The other is Gregory, who is introducing the Optic 48/58 and Optal 45/55 (m/w) packs, each weighing in just over two pounds, and at an under-$200 price point.
Tents and Hammocks and Bags, Oh My!
Every year, there’s always new and updated items to check out. Mountain Hardwear is introducing the Pathfinder 2 and Vision 3 tents. The former is a lightweight, symmetrical model that sets up in a snap; the latter offers a unique front-back, 2-door design with a convertible fly. From Big Agnes, we’ll be getting the 2-door, ultralight Tiger Wall UL, and from Sierra Designs, the Sweet Suite and Studio models, both in 2- and 3P sizes. It looks like we’re also getting some sweet, new hammock options from Sea to Summit, Big Agnes and Therm-a-Rest. And, of course, there’s a few innovations in sleeping bags. Mountain Hardwear will release the Ghost Whisperer 900 UL bag, and NEMO is incorporating new temperature-control thermo-gills in their spoon bag series.
By now, you wouldn’t think there’s that many ways to improve hiking apparel—but they always find a way. One of our favorite new items is the Cool Core “Crush-It” Shirt. Its high-performance, chemical-free fabric construction makes it feel like hiking with the AC on! We’re also pretty excited about the Saxx Quest 2.0 performance boxers. Guys, if you’ve never hiked in Saxx, you gotta try it. We were also excited to see—and get a couple samples of—the new Smartwool Indestructible Hiking Socks. We’ll certainly be putting that claim to the test. One of our favorite new jackets comes from Outdoor Research with the Interstellar, a hybrid soft-hardshell constructed of stretchy, super-breathable AscentShell. The other is Sierra Designs‘ 3-ounce Firefly!
What’s on the Menu
Of course, roaming the aisles of OR works up an appetite. It’s a good thing there’s so many samples of snacks and camp foods available to keep us fueled up. From some of our favorites, Maine-based Good To-Go is introducing a new Chicken Gumbo, with just the right amount of heat, and Alpine Aire is expanding their line of tasty snack mixes. A few new discoveries include Trailtopia, specializing in a selection of gluten-free meals, Gorillygoods, makers of some pretty tasty chocolate-fruit-nut clusters, Organic Prairie, with a selection of all-natural meat snacks and jerkies, and Dharma Bar, with organic, gluten-free, vegan snack bars formulated for optimizing balance, endurance and recovery. Watch for more info on these and other new food items in our next Trail Food Taste-Off.
Standing for Public Lands
While OR is largely about showcasing new gear, it also focuses on issues that affect the places we like to play. With our public lands in the crosshairs of a development- and extraction-obsessed administration, this was a good opportunity to send a loud-and-clear message about the importance and value of public lands. Lead by the Conservation Alliance, more than 3,000 show attendees and vendors—including us from PCT: Oregon—marched to the Utah state capitol and held a rally in support of public lands. We were joined by rallies in several other states, including two here in Oregon, in Bend and Medford. It’s going to take all of us to stay active in the fight to preserve our wilderness areas and public lands, lest we lose them! Support the PCT and public lands here.
This is just a brief snapshot of our trip to Outdoor Retailer this year. If you’re interested in more photos and highlights of what we saw in new hiking gear, click on over to our Instagram page. We’ll be putting many of these and other items to the test in the coming months and will be posting our reviews in the spring and summer of 2018, as items become available. In the meantime, watch for our last few reviews on 2017’s favorite gear selections in the coming weeks.