Gear Geek: 3 New Innovations and A Rousing Call to Action

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Gear Geek: 3 New Innovations and A Rousing Call to Action

If you listen carefully you might be able to hear the nonstop rambling of thousands of gear folks talking about waterproof laminates, midsole construction, and the latest and greatest in smart whatever echoing from the fluorescent-lit hallways of the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City—where the Summer Outdoor Retailer show hits during the first week of August. In preparation for that avalanche of new products (or…new-ish products?), let’s hone in on a few new, noteworthy advances in the travel and outdoor scene.

1. The Transit, $264; 2. Utility, $214; 3. Refuge Duffel, $189; 4. SkyRise, $999 and $1,349; 5. SlimShady, $259; 6. REI Camp Bundle, $199; 7. OutDry Extreme ECO jacket.

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).

Showers Pass Introduces Your Next Go-To Bag

Born in the demanding environs of NoCal and the Pacific Northwest, Showers Pass has made some of the most bomber cycling apparel and bags ever since they hit the scene in 1997. But now travelers should take note of the three new bags in their new Cloudcover line. All are made of 840 denier ballistic nylon with welded seams and waterproof zips—armor robust enough to keep everything inside bone dry. The Transit ($264) and Utility ($214) backpacks also come with four red LED beacon lights integrated into the grommets on the sides and backs of the packs—ideal for cyclists, but perhaps less so for a globe-trotter. Travelers, meanwhile, should gravitate toward the Refuge Duffel ($189) as the new go-to do-anything, survive-anywhere bag. Inside, find three main storage compartments, a removable central divider, a large mesh pocket with key clip, and two water bottle nylon pockets. It also comes with a fold-out waterproof changing mat so you can stay out of the mud while changing kits—or safely swap outfits in a less-than-sanity shower stall.
Showers Pass

Yakima Raises the Sky

This spring, Yakima will expand their car rack empire to include their first rooftop tent, the SkyRise. Suitable for car-camping, festival-going, and weekend road-tripping, the tent will come in two sizes (two- and three-persons at $999 and $1,349, respectively), made of 210D nylon that's up to 50 pounds lighter than conventional canvas roof tents. Better still, it installs without tools, securing via Yakima's SKS locking system—you just need a base rack on your vehicle. The tent includes mesh panels for ventilation and star-gazing as well as a 2.5-inch high-density foam mattress. And it folds into a secure, low-profile unit that stays anchored to the racks when you're ready to hit the road. They're also releasing the SlimShady ($259), a car-top awning that provides 36 square feet of shade, ideally suited to shelter a gathering at the nearest ski resort parking lot, concert tailgate, or backcountry foray.

REI Wants to Get You Outdoors

The retail giant reinvented their line of backpacks last spring, streamlining the sometimes-confusing world of outdoor gear into products tailored to fast escapes into the woods (the Flash line) or for more chill journeys that don't make you sacrifice comfort as part of the experience (the Traverse line). Now they're leveraging their formidable resources to help everyone get out and camp, whether than means car camping, beach camping, backpacking over a long weekend, or pitching a tent to go biking or paddling. The list of resources includes detailed packing lists as well as tips and advice from REI experts and customers. They're also offering a limited-edition REI Camp Bundle, which includes an REI Dome 2 tent, a self-inflating sleeping pad, and a sleeping bag for a VERY reasonable $199.

Columbia Sportswear Ditches the PFCs

Earlier this summer Columbia—one of the few outdoor companies that continually pushes the question of what's possible in outdoor and travel goods—unveiled what could be a game-changer in environmentally friendly outdoor product manufacturing. Up until they unveiled the OutDry Extreme ECO jacket, pretty much every rain shell in the industry used PFCs, a compound that allows the fabric to repel moisture. Unfortunately, PFC's durable nature also means it doesn't readily break down, and has been found to be bio-accumulative in animals and humans. But the ECO doesn't use ANY PFCs—without sacrificing any moisture protection; first Columbia figured out how to make a waterproof/breathable two-layer jacket by making the protective membrane durable enough to sit on the jacket exterior (the OutDry Extreme shell line). Then they figured out how to extract the PFCs from that membrane (the ECO). The all-white shell is also dye-free, saving more than 13 gallons of water typically used during the process, and are constructed of 100% recycled fabric. So far testers have reported that the jacket performs just as remarkably well as the other OutDry Extreme jackets. Will this process overtake Columbia's entire line of waterproof/breathable apparel? Probably not—the process is spendy; it's more akin to a concept car. But it's an encouraging development, one that should inspire other manufacturers to take up the challenge to do the same. It drops in December of this year.