The biggest news at this year’s Summer Outdoor Retailer show didn’t pertain to a particular product or innovation, but a new bias towards all things overland. I’ve been attending this show since the mid 1990s, and over the years have witnessed certain trends wax and wane, but the explosive influence in overlanding is an unexpected twist. At the root of it, the actual pursuit of overland travel is not experiencing an uptick in popularity as much as it is an acceptance of overland travel tools used to access the backcountry. Ask the show participants who they are, and you’ll likely get the typical responses. Many will say they are climbers, skiers, backpackers, or mountain bikers, but few will say they are true overlanders. That doesn’t mean they don’t drive a Sportsmobile, built-up Tacoma, or have a strong want for a rooftop tent or 10,000 pound winch.
As we walked the show this year, the overlanding vibe was felt at every turn. The event’s daily publication even featured a full article on overlanding and how it is influencing the market and the outdoor audience. Last year marked the first year we had seen a rooftop tent at the show, but this year Tepui, James Baroud, and Freespirit Recreation were on exhibit. One of the most significant launches at the show was at the Yakima booth with their latest project, a hyper-light rooftop tent.
When I walk the floor of the Outdoor Retailer show, I consider myself part of the outdoor industry tribe. They’re my people. I’m an overlander in the sense that I actually like the journey to the trailhead as much as the adventure that lies beyond. I don’t pretend I don’t burn gas or drive a vehicle. I’m stoked to see the outdoor segment is beginning to accept the automobile as a necessary tool in the pursuit of outdoor fun.
Yakima SkyRise RTT
Ever since the RTT started to gain popularity in North America, countless people asked why the typical tent weighed so much and why they didn’t employ modern tent fabrics. Yakima just launched their new SkyRise tent, and with it, an answer to that question. You can make an RTT with lighter materials and in doing so, bring the weight down to just 80 pounds give or take a few. It also has quick-release attachment points, a welcome innovation for those of us tired of banging our knuckles trying to remove a handful of nuts. At an MSRP of $999 it also hits the value proposition. Time will tell how it stacks up to the competition, but talking to the designers, who have ample experience in the traditional overlanding space, I think it will be a solid success.
I’ve been a fan of Yeti’s soft coolers since they first released the Hopper a couple of years ago. I’m not the only admirer of their soft-sided technology as the blatant knock-offs have been flooding the market. None of them compare to the quality of a Yeti, so I was excited to see them improve on their current offerings with the square shaped Flip. Built around a waterproof zipper, the Flip can hold a 12 pack and two Yeti ice blocks. All of us at the booth instantly saw the obvious application on the back of an adventure motorcycle.
Earlier this spring I got to put Jetboil’s two-burner, the Genesis, to the test. Over the course of a three week trip, it proved itself as one of the best such stoves on the market. It is however, bigger than some require, so Jetboil cut it in half and gave it the obvious moniker of––Halfgen. Propane fueled and packaged with Jetboil’s brilliant ceramic-coated skillet, the Halfgen is stable enough for a big 5-liter pot, is easy to clean, and packs small. Perfect for light overland travels and adventure riding, this will be a popular solution for many travelers.
Eagle Creek Luggage and Travel Accessories
Our editorial team does a ton of fly-and-drive travel. We’ve flown to Cambodia, Kenya, Iceland, Alaska, Colombia, Peru, Nepal, and a dozen other countries and come to appreciate the convenience of wheeled luggage. Eagle Creek has fully embraced the overland audience with a full catalog of travel bags and accessories aimed at rugged expedition travel. I love the idea of rolling my bags through the airport and then strapping them to the roof of a truck. Not to say duffels aren’t still the go-to for adventure travel, but I sure love things with wheels.
Last year MSR released the Guardian water filter, a system that might be the most advanced water treatment tool ever brought to market. The Trailshot, while not as comprehensive, is equally innovative. Designed as a personal water filter, it addresses the limitations typically afflicting devices like the LifeStraw and similar filters. Namely, the ability to only get water through the filter by drawing water into your mouth directly. The Trailshot uses a unique silicone balloon in the handle to pump water through the device. Drink directly from the top of the Trailshot, or use it to fill a bottle. It’s that easy. Genius. MSR also released an entirely new line of 4-season tents, which is a category of shelters that sorely needed an update.
Sometimes the coolest stuff at the show isn’t new, but 126 years old. Opinel, the inexpensive knife carried by nearly every rural Frenchman, is still going strong. Although they have a new line of high quality knifes with synthetic handles and modern features like built-in fire strikers, it is the classic wood handled knife that most people associate with the brand.
Although they’ve been around for decades in the marine and RV segments, Dometic is a relative late comer to the outdoor and overlanding world. That didn’t preclude them from being the first fridge brand to make it to the Outdoor Retailer show, where their products were a huge hit. I’ve been testing their 50-quart unit for the last two months and I have to say, I am wildly impressed. Stay tuned for a comprehensive review.
Ally Folding Canoes of Norway
If you know anything about canoes, you recognize the Ally brand as the expeditionary gold standard. These boats have plied every remote waterway from the Yukon to the Nile and Amazon. Ideal for the overlander with minimal storage or roof space, the Ally canoe is lightweight, rugged, and strong. I couldn’t resist getting my hands on an Ally canoe, so look for a full review by summer’s end.
Helinox Camp Furniture
I’ve been using Helinox furniture for several seasons now and consider their soft table as one of only a handful of tables that––doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s brilliant. Last year they made their smaller camp table even better with the addition of a hard-top. If you don’t know what to put on your Christmas wish list, this is it. And their new rocking chair doesn’t need much explanation. How cool is that?
Power solutions are a critical consideration for any modern traveler and EnerPlex is quickly moving to the forefront. With their advanced designs, unique features, and unrivaled quality, they’ve become the only brand I use. Their new solar panels are durable, powerful and unbelievably light. Unlike other manufactures still clinging to lead batteries, the EnerPlex systems are easy to portage, charge quickly, and pack a lot of power.
Tepui is rapidly becoming the most influential force in roof top tents. Earlier this year they announced their new hard shell tent which is the first to feature a full-strength roof rack. On the tails of that release, they presented another industry first with a soft-shell tent format that permits different shells to be swapped out in as little as three minutes. Users can select from mesh, waterproof and ruggedized shells to suit seasonal conditions. Pretty clever.
Han Wag Boots
Han Wag is a sister company to Fjallraven, a brand picking up steam within the overlanding audience. A few members of our team have been testing Han Wag boots over the last several months and have nothing but glowing things to say about the hand-made quality and top tier materials. For fall Han Wag is releasing a boot ideally suited to overlanding called the Patoja Mid. Stay tuned for a full review of that boot by late summer.
Sea to Summit
Aside from making some of the best outdoor gear in the industry, there’s another reason to like Australian-based Sea to Summit. Founders Tim and Roland own a fleet of overland rigs and love nothing more than to explore their outback backyards. For this year they expanded their successful folding cookware line, which really is brilliant. They also added more thickness and features to their fledgling line of sleeping pads. For those who thought their initial pads were too thin, how does 4-inches of comfort sound?
The Swedes love design and it shows in their line of stoves and camp cookery. Their new folding stove can be carried with the fuel bottles attached and stowed within the base and their new bamboo utensils not only look nice, but work well. Overlanders give a lot of attention to Snow Peak, but Primus is every bit as deserving of high accolade.
If you caught my recent round-up of camp lanterns, you probably saw my review of the BioLite Nanogrid system. This year the brand has expanded their line of area lights with three new products. Stay tuned for a review of their lights in the months to come.