Last week we reported on a few of the major trends in evidence at the bi-annual Outdoor Retailer convention, the perfect storm of gear madness. Now let us hone in on a few specific products that may change the way you travel in 2016—or at least make it a whole lot easier.
1. Dakine Brightwood Vest, $140; 2. Osprey Meridian and Sojourn Packs, starting at $300; 3. Snow Peak Mini Flame, $40; 4. Vibram Arctic Grip, prices vary; 5. Ibex Dyad Cowl Neck Sweater, $185; 6. Outdoor Research 3D Fit Gloves, starting at $99; 7. Arc’Teryx Procline Carbon Boot, $1,000.
Photo: Michael J. Slezak (JW), CC-BY
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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Your standard travel pillow may make a long-haul flight more comfortable, but after you arrive, the damn thing is either swallowing space in your pack or dangling off your bag line as an awkward appendage for the entire trip. Dakine's Brightwood Vest fixes that. It'll keep your core warm on the way to the tarmac, and dry, thanks to a waterproof coating. Once you board the plane, you can stuff the vest into a back pocket that's shaped like a neck pillow. Then transform it back into a stylish vest when you reach your destination.
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Rolling bags with a hidden backpack harness aren't new, but they often fall into the quagmire between the two types of bags—not light or agile enough to wear on your back, or not burly enough to roll properly. Osprey aims to change that with two new pack lines. The Meridian packs have a nominal harness zipped into the back panel for situations where you need shoulder straps in a pinch. Say, climbing three flights of stairs to your hotel room. The Sojourn line (pictured), meanwhile, uses the same award-winning Anti-Gravity backpack harness found in their trekking packs to provide some serious support in situations where you anticipate hauling the pack on your back almost as much as you will roll with it. The Sojourn comes in three sizes, starting at 45 liters, and the Meridian comes in two, starting at 60 liters.
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Snow Peak's Hozuki and Mini-Hozuki lanterns won us over long ago, but now the Portland-based company has come up with another way to add atmosphere to the backcountry while also solving the issue of what to do with nearly-empty stove fuel. The Mini Flame attaches to the fuel canister with a simple twist, and the glass-encased flame can be adjusted for optimal mood lighting. Duration will naturally vary based on how much fuel remains in your older canisters, but a full canister will burn the Mini Flame for 75 hours.
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The company best known for the five-toed shoes introduced a truly promising new sole technology this January. Dubbed Arctic Grip, this new rubber claims to grip to ice—and it works. Certain lugs in the undersole are endowed with a proprietary treatment that grips on wet, slick, cold surfaces, while another series of lugs that change colors when temps dip below 32 degrees. This tech will be available exclusively in shoes from Merrell, Sperry (pictured), Hush Puppies, Saucony, Wolverine, and CAT Footwear. Here's hoping that the standard Saucony sneaker they used to demo the soles at the show will also get Arctic Grip in a the future. A casual sneaker that sticks to ice would be awesome.
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This sweater may not pack in a lot of new tech—just the tried-and-true benefits of travel-friendly merino wool. But the new Dyad Cowl Neck should strike the sweet spot for fashion-forward femme travelers, especially considering it's reversible. Ibex is also working with Noble Denim, a small-batch clothes maker with outlets in Cincinnati and Tennessee, to release a pair of jeans made of 60% merino. So there's that.
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Rather than just introducing another spin on the traditional winter glove, Outdoor Research decided to rethink the way gloves are made, pioneering a new fit technology that based the glove design not on a traditional two-dimensional model, but on a three-dimensional solution. Their in-house lab started with taking molds of the human hand and then draping fabrics onto the models to see how the patterns changed shape in different hand positions. The new "3DFit" promises much more dexterity than previously possible. It'll be available in four models.
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Okay, this one won't appeal to everyone, but if your definition of travel includes serious winter alpine exploration, here's the boot you will covet. The Procline combines the skiability of an alpine boot and all the classic features of a ski mountaineering boot. It took three years to develop and contains three (!) patens, including one that removes the need for two buckles on the lower part of the boot. The two-piece upper cuff has two carbon supports on either side, allowing for unparalleled lateral movement (23 percent medial, 12 percent lateral) as well as 75 percent vertical rotation. And for us mere mortals (read: those who aspire to a bit of side- and backcountry access from the lift), keep your eyes out for the new Techica Cochise, entirely revamped and available in four models for men, and three for women.