For four days in August, 45,000 people converge at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Show. This year, I joined the throngs winding through cavernous hall after hall filled with the latest equipment for outdoor adventure — backpacking, climbing, SUP and much more. My goal? To find a few innovations among the colorful aisles that So Cal hikers, backpackers and outdoor adventurers could benefit from.
There are thousands of exhibitors, most with hundreds of products. My goal is to cover less about what colors you’ll see in the stores in 2015, and more of the really unique and interesting outdoor product ideas out there. Here are a few of the more interesting products I found.
Sierra Designs Tensegrity Tent
Sierra Designs has been coming out with some outstanding innovations like the zipper-less hybrid Backcountry Bed. Now they have introduced the Tensegrity Tent — an ultralight shelter in one- and two-person models that leverages your trekking poles to cut down on the weight.
The Tensegrity 2 Elite pictured here is a mere 2 lbs., 2 oz. (trekking poles excluded). This non-freestanding design uses just seven stakes. It has two doors and a separate gear closet so getting in and out of the tent is a breeze. The gear closet panel can be pitched low in inclement weather, up high for a shady area, or rolled up and out of the way for star-gazing on clear nights.
The Tensegrity is a new model coming in 2015, and I look forward to field-testing and writing a detailed review this when it comes out.
Portable power in the backcountry has focused on solar, and there was plenty of great solar companies like Goal Zero at the ORShow. But solar also has it’s limits. For optimal charge, you’ll need bright sunlight, limiting its utility at night, in cloudy weather or heavily forested areas. So I was curious to hear about PowerTrekk’s portable fuel cell technology that allows you to generate power with water. Sounds cool, right?
The concept is cool, and worth keeping an eye on, but not really practical for backpackers quite yet. myFC PowerTrekk uses a small amount of water and an activator packet to generate electricity. The device has built-in storage, and one cycle will generate enough power to give one smartphone a full recharge.
The device itself weighs 8.4 oz. You can optionally charge the built-in battery from a USB port before you hit the trail, so you start out with a full charge. The packets to generate a charge run about $5 a pop — making it a very pricey option for all but emergency situations.
I can see one possible scenario where this might make sense to hikers. If you are going to carry spare power anyway, you can use this as your battery and only use the fuel cell capability as a last resort. For SoCal hikers, solar will likely remain a better choice.
Pat’s Backcountry Beverages
There’s nothing better than a well-earned cold beverage after a hot, dusty day on the trail. I remember finishing the John Muir Trail, sitting outside the Whitney Portal Cafe eating a burger and drinking a cold beer. Nothing better.
Pat’s Backcountry Beverages is bringing that experience to the backcountry. Yep, you can actually make carbonated sodas and beer miles from the trailhead. We had to check this out.
The system uses a specially designed bottle that can handle the increased pressure of the carbonation process; an activator that produces the carbonation; and a variety of concentrates for sodas and beers. You take cold mountain water (be sure to purify or filter as you normally would), add the concentrate and in about four minutes, you have a carbonated beverage.
How is it? We tried the Black Hops ale and it delivered a solid craft beer taste. Put another way, this tasted great, even without hiking 12 miles first. Imagine how it would taste out in the backcountry! I aim to find out next month on our backpacking trip into Kings Canyon National Park. Stay tuned!
Pat’s Backcountry Beverages has five gourmet sodas (which I’ve heard also make great mixers) and two beers (with more on the way).
The goTenna is a product that really caught my eye. Many of the bigger hikes and backpacking trips we do take us into areas where there’s zero cell phone coverage. goTenna provides a way for you to stay connected to others in your group using your smartphone and a small, lightweight antenna. You can send and receive text messages as well as see your friend’s location on an offline map — all with no data connection. In fact, it works even with the phone in airplane mode.
goTenna isn’t yet available yet, but if all goes well will be shipping in December. This has great possibilities for hikers and backpackers, but also for groups traveling abroad, who can use this to stay connected and locate each other without data activation or expensive roaming charges. Really cool.
I’m hoping to give you a hands-on review this fall.
The ORShow in Hindsight
This was our first trip to the Outdoor Retailer Show, and it was a lot to digest. There’s too much for two people to see, and I’ve chosen to share just a few of the product highlights.
We also got a chance to meet up with other outdoor bloggers and social media friends like Columbia #omniten members Adam Nutting, Joshua Riggins and Kristie Salzman; David Tyler from Yonder; and others that we’ve known only online, as well as join in the #HikerChat event hosted by TETON Sports and American Backcountry on Saturday.
The icing on the cake? All of this came with the backdrop and beauty of Utah. We had a chance to explore Zion National Park and hike up to the top of Angels Landing, and soak in the varied and beautiful scenery of the state.
Got a question about next year’s gear? What you like to see or hear more about? Let me know in the comments below!