Trends in outdoor gear this next year range from focusing on lightweight or ultralight technology to increasing brand visibility to improving sustainability and recycling efforts. It seems like camping and outdoor activities are now as much about the gear and technology as they are about immersion in the wilderness. This is a major reason why the Outdoor Retailer trade shows are massive events, with companies repping numerous countries in countless industries related to the outdoors. The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market happened in Denver this past week and 303 Magazine stopped by to check out what some Colorado-based companies are offering to outdoor enthusiasts in 2019.
Big Agnes started nearly two decades ago in Steamboat Springs when, according to their website, respected industry vets told them they were crazy to do so. They did it anyway, coming to market with a sleeping bag that was attachable to a sleeping pad — and it was a hit. Now, the company is making more than sleeping bags and two of their newest products are lightweight and easily packable tents.
The Carbon Fly Creek 2 tent — which won “Gear of the Show” at Outdoor Retailer — weighs only one pound and two ounces for a two-person tent. According to director of operations Chris Tamucci, “It’s one of the lightest tents on the market already. For 2019 we are doing this special carbon version with Dyneema fabric and carbon-fiber poles… it’s insanely light. The lightest tent in the room for sure.” Dyneema — formerly known as Cuben Fiber — is a patented material that doesn’t use weaving to hold together, but rather a special technology that allows for more tensile strength and low stretch while remaining waterproof.
Another tent that Big Agnes made for this next season is the Copper 2 Bikepack. Although this one weighs three pounds when packed, it has a few more bells and whistles than their lighter tents — a luxury that can be afforded when you’re traveling on a bike. “One of the primary things we did is shorten the pole set so that it can fit, when packed, between the handlebars of a bike,” Tamucci explained.
Tamucci also teased about an entire “carbon” series that rely on some of the concepts of ultralight backpacking, like converting hiking poles to tent poles and using the Dyneema fabric. With these advances in their gear, Big Agnes is proving that they want to stay ahead of the curve and will do so by taking cues from the hardcore Colorado outdoors people who supported them in the first place.
Sea to Summit
Though technically started in Australia, Sea to Summit has bases its North American operations out of Boulder. Their repertoire for gear includes cookware, camping and backpacking dishes, sleeping bags, pads, backpacks and more. For this upcoming year, the most innovative products that they’ve created are the new women-specific sleeping bags and the Nano Backpack.
There are a few new options for women when it comes to sleeping bags — two of which are the Flame I (12 ounces) and Altitude II (two pounds six ounces). Mary Butler, media relations for Sea to Summit, explained the new women-specific sleeping bag designs saying, “these have a vertical baffle system and we distributed the down more in the hip area and feet — where women feel the coldest — and made the bag slightly wider in the hip area and that width carries to the shoulders. The footbed has an additional insulating material so it gets really toasty. They’re also shorter than the man (or unisex) ones, and that allows for lighter weight bags too.” The Altitude bags also have a new specification for Sea to Summit where the free flow zipper allows for better ventilation. There’s a half zipper as well as the full-length zipper. The half zipper makes the bag more versatile and the clips at the top of the zippers allow someone to have free arms but still be zipped into the bag (to read or eat in very cold settings, for instance).
Sea to Summit’s Nano Backpack follows the trend of going ultralight but is made with any experience level of traveler in mind. Fitting in the palm of a hand, the Nano only weighs one ounce but can carry 45 pounds without ripping. It’s made with reinforced stitching, a low-profile, three-quarter zipper and doesn’t have adjustable shoulder straps. “The idea is to create a really lightweight pack that you wouldn’t leave behind on any trip,” explained Butler.
Another company based out of Steamboat Springs, Hala Gear started making inflatable stand up paddleboards (SUP) in 2011 thanks to founder and SUP athlete Peter Hall. Shortly after they launched, they patented a new kind of paddle — the Butterknife — that can be used for both kayaking and paddleboarding. This year, Hala continues their quest for new technology in paddle sports with the evolution of their double-stack technology. “Instead of one big inflatable area, the board is split into two different sections that deliver more stiffness once inflated,” Jimmy Hostetler of Hala described — and they’re still accessible via one valve so the inflation process is no more complicated.
Though Hala came to popularity with whitewater SUP athletes, they are now moving into the ocean surfing territory — an avenue that might seem counterintuitive given Colorado is a landlocked state. The Playita (nine feet) is one example of an ocean surfer board, with four options for fin placement and a fishtail. They will experiment with different shapes and designs before trying to take over the “California surf market” as Hostetler explained.
Last year the carbon series was launched and those continue this next year with new graphics. These boards are still inflatable — with a hand or powered pump — but a layer of carbon fiber material at the base allows for more rigidity, mimicking a solid board. Some other inflatable SUP boards on the market that use carbon for rigidity require putting in pieces (like rods or batons) after it’s inflated, but the Hala boards are fully integrated and can be rolled up with the rest of the board.
Kelty is no new player in the outdoor gear game — they’ve been around, and in Boulder, since 1952. So they have more experience than most when it comes to forecasting market trends and demands, especially with their headquarters in a locale where hiking is at least a daily occurrence. But they don’t require that their gear is taken too seriously — meaning they don’t focus too much on producing lightweight products or skimping on extras. Some examples from previous years are their 2016 Tru.Comfort double-wide sleeping bag (for you and a cuddle buddy) and various versions of shade tents that are great for festivals, picnics and beach days.
The new Zip and Zero backpacks come in 28, 38 and 48-liter daypack collections and a 58 and 68-liter backpacking collection. Mike Newlands, inventory planner for Kelty explained “people are saying that they want a bag where they don’t sweat through it. Zip and Zero packs have fewer points of contact.” There is only supporting material in the upper lumbar and shoulder area, but nothing in the middle of the back. “The reason we went with our different [liter] increments is that we wanted to include three extra liters for carrying beer! Because we all know the backcountry is better with a little beer.”
Kelty is launching new designs with many of their sleeping bags, tents and other products this upcoming year and that includes new outdoor blankets. These blankets are “the hot new thing” according to Newlands and Kelty provides a waterproof version in both a double-wide (BFF) and a tapestry size.
Alchemy Goods started in Seattle but then moved to Boulder — we know, another Boulder company — where they are continuing their mission of crafting purposeful and sturdy bags out of upcycled materials. What started as a way to use old bike tubes has now expanded to an entire collection of bags made with upcycled advertising banners, jeans and other “trash.” They call themselves urban streetwear, but the durability of the bags and the penchant for sustainability make these a wonderful choice for those who care about the amount of waste they produce and also for those who might beat up their bags more (with spontaneous adventures outside the city, maybe).
Part of Alchemy Goods’ business model is reaching out to companies to see what kind of material they throw out in large quantities. Through this tactic, they were able to receive a huge donation from New Belgium — hundreds of yards of old advertising banners made with high-quality synthetics and types of vinyl. This year, the newest line for Alchemy Goods is made with the clippings from Wrangler Jeans. So not only do these bags give new life to old materials, they are made with materials that are known for their structural integrity and weather-proof qualities.
OtterBox and LifeProof are owned by the same people and they earned their good reputation with cases that can keep any electronic gadget safe from water, shock from dropping or other extremes. OtterBox now ventures into soft cases for different gear, including coolers and daypacks. But this year, the Yampa Dry Bag is on everyone’s radar because it is a duffel bag with the same guaranteed protection they are known for.
Available in the coming year, the Yampa Dry Bags come in three sizes, 35, 75 and 105-liter. They are completely waterproof dry bags, with waterproof zippers and you can turn it into a backpack. According to Ryan McDonough of OtterBox, “the cavity space [in these bags] is true-to-size. A lot of competitors include the structure of the bag in those liter-calculations but we only include space you can put stuff into.” There’s also a truckbed lining that holds up to really tough abrasion, making the bags puncture-proof. To demonstrate that quality, one of their employees took the Yampa Dry Bag down a whitewater river on his kayak where it was exposed to incessant water, scraping against rocks and other debris and varying temperatures — but everything inside stayed dryer than the Colorado air.
OtterBox embraces all different outdoor pursuits, leading them to include the Realtree camo design for hunters, though the licensing for that special camouflage design costs a little extra.
Michael Mojica lives in Denver and is a mechanical engineer by trade and in his free time, he bags fourteeners. This, of course, is no spectacular thing in Colorado — but what sets Mojica apart is that he used his engineering mind to invent a new outdoor gadget. He actually quit his engineering job to pursue his invention and that is the firebiner.
“I put the fire in the biner,” Michael Mojica explained. “I was taking a mountaineering course in Golden and they told us to always have two forms of starting fire on you. And I didn’t have that ever so I went home and created the firebiner. It’s an everyday carry that I can fit on my keys.” The firebiner is a stainless steel carabiner with a screwdriver, a bottle opener, a little blade and the flint roller to spark flames. The tube with flint is replaceable as well and so once the approximately 2,000 sparks are done, the carabiner is still functional once you refill the flint.
Weighing in at only one ounce, the firebiner is a no-brainer when it comes to bringing it along on any trip, plus it holds up to 100 pounds so you can use it as a multi-purpose tool — though it’s not safe for climbing.
La Sportiva, like Sea to Summit, started outside of the US but headquarters its North American operations in Boulder. They’re traditionally known for their climbing shoes and gear — a result of their founders living at the foot of the Dolomite mountain range in Italy — but this year their newest gear focuses on hiking boots. The new Pyramid GTX and Hyrax GTX provide hikers with two options for footwear that is both waterproof and breathable.
What’s new about these hiking boots is not that they are waterproof — hiking gear has been using Goretex technology for years — but rather it’s the use of La Sportiva’s perforated outsole technology in conjunction with the Goretex. At the base of the shoe, perforated slots allow water and built-up moisture like sweat to gather and then be squeezed out. By taking away the excess water that gets trapped in the shoe, this technology saves many a foot from a debilitating water-induced blister. Corey Lowe, senior public relations account manager speaking on behalf of La Sportiva said, “Goretex does not breathe very well. What’s innovative or unique about these La Sportiva products is the perforated outsole. The outsole is perforated and so underneath the footbed, there is another footbed that’s a honeycomb shape and the spaces between those combs are where the sweat and moisture gather and then it pushes it out the sides. Typically Goretex is not breathable under your foot and usually, the footbed is too waterproof.”
The Pyramid GTX is a mid-cut boot and the Hyrax GTX is a low-cut one, both have Goretex surround technology and are fully breathable and fully waterproof.