Twice a year the outdoor industry convenes on Salt Lake City, Utah to showcase the latest innovations aimed at the backcountry enthusiast. The summer event held each July typically serves as the launchpad for the majority of the industry’s big product releases, but the winter show is not without a few fun surprises. For this year, it seemed like the little things had the biggest impact. After spending three days walking the floor and speaking with dozens of brand representatives, it was apparent that the overall outdoor industry is thriving.
We have featured the LifeStraw before on the Portal. Its simple two-stage design makes it an effective and inexpensive tool for backcountry travelers of all types. Able to remove harmful waterborne pathogens, it also improves water taste promoting more consumption. Now available in a stainless steel model, it is more durable than the original. LifeStraw also recently released a gravity fed filtration system designed to produce large quantities of potable water. www.lifestraw.com
Primus is releasing a new two-burner stove that looks promising for the overland traveler. With a slim design, wood accents, it has a refined aesthetic and what appears to be superb performance and features.
Han Wag Berlinger
We love few things more than a nicely made boot. The Han Wag Berlinger with full leather lining and stitch-dow construction will eventually wind up on our feet. Deceptively light and made of the highest quality leather, they are premium boots.
Grand Trunk Travel Accessories
I first met John and Kevin, the founders of Grand Trunk, years ago when their product offerings were few and basic. As their brand has grown, so too has their level of innovation and quality. Their new line of travel accessories are feature rich, well made, and have that adventure inspired aesthetic we have come to love. www.grandtrunk.com
I have always associated Snow Peak with the extraordinary. Their newest lighting solution is designed to maximize the most of a fuel can by burning the residual fuel many people leave unused. When paired to a new fuel can it can burn for up to 15 hours.
Yeti Stainless Steel Rambler Bottles
For years the best coolers wore Yeti badges. Last year they expanded their catalog to include soft coolers and stainless steel tumblers. They are expanding that stainless offering to include three new insulated bottles. Look for a more comprehensive review of their Rambler bottles in the weeks to come. www.yeticoolers.com
New fabric technologies only come along once in a few years. Columbia just released a new line of technical layers with a unique proprietary fabric that does not require the addition of a water resistant coating on the exterior. Called Outdry, this technology allows them to create what they say is the world’s first fully waterproof down jackets.
Sea to Summit Basecamp Sleeping System
As many of you know, I am fan of the StS brand and everything they do. Last summer they introduced an innovative sleep system designed for maximum versatility. The bag has a host of features like pad-keeper straps to keep the bag and pad connected. The bag also has a zipper track around the entire bottom of the bag. Both sides can be unzipped to create a lower bag layer and a top comforter. For ultra-light trips, the user can employ just the top layer. Look for a full field test by summer. www.seatosummit.com
If you’re looking for the best selection of pillows, and the best pillows–period–look no further than Sea to Summit.
Could it really be possible that one of the better finds in a massive trade show was a fork and spoon combo? I think so. Emberlit, the maker of one of the best selling compact stick burning stoves, is soon to release their own flatware that has a unique attribute. The two pieces can be joined to create a useful pair of tongs. www.emberlit.com
Big Agnes / Goal Zero Tent Systems
Two of our favorite brands teamed up to add maximum convenience to camp life. The new Goal Zero powered tents now offer a useful lighting system and power charging solutions. It seems like a gimmick, but having used their LED light system, the MtnGlow system, I have to say it really is great. www.bigagnes.com
Platypus Meta Bottle Filter
Most bottle filters are little more than attempts to enhance the flavor of water by pushing it through a charcoal filter. Platypus, one of the many holdings by industry leader Cascade Designs, is far more than a flavor maker. The Meta bottle is a proper filter capable of removing all of the pathogens that threaten the traveler in any environment. Even better, it is packaged within a collapsable bottle. The filter can process up to 1,000 liters before requiring the replacement of the $30 filter element. www.cascadedesigns.com
FlowFold Wallets and Bags
I like all gear, even the little things like lightweight and indestructible wallets made with ripstop nylon sail cloth. For those who want the thinnest and lightest wallets available, look no further than FlowFold. Made in the USA, they are also dirt cheap. www.flowfold.com
Stanley Beer Stein
You don’t need it. You really don’t. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one, or many. Insulated with the traditional thumb lever to raise the lid, the latching beer stein from Stanley is a must-have item. Available later in 2016, this will be one of the biggest hits of the year.
When BioLite stoves first appeared, it was easy to dismiss them as a kitschy gimmick. They have since then earned a sizable following with their two main stoves. Both are stick burners which employ a fan to amplify burning efficiency. One includes a USB charging port. Now they offer a cool little LED light for use around camp, or even as a bike lamp. www.biolitestove.com
Few brands have as much to offer the overlander as Osprey of Southern Colorado. With packs and bags for everything from bikepacking to airline travel, they continue to release new and exciting products every season. Look for a full review of their packs and luggage this spring.
It was just two seasons ago when we first reviewed a Helinox chair. At that time it was the only product on offer from the brand, one distributed by Big Agnes. The Helinox line now includes a large variety of chairs, tables, and three beautiful sleeping cots. Look for a full review of Helinox products throughout the year. www.helinox.com
White Wing Label Luggage
A newcomer to Outdoor Retailer, White Wing has been around for a few years. Makers of rugged bags for military applications, they have expanded into canvas and leather luggage and it is absolutely gorgeous stuff. The prices were impressively low for the level of materials and craftsmanship on offer. Many will appreciate that they are made in America. If you need a new bag for 2016, give them a look. www.whitewinglable.com
Hydrapak Stash Bottle
If you have a need for a water reservoir or collapsable bottle, it is tough to beat a Hydrapak. Their new soft bottles have clobbered anything the competition has to offer. Incredibly durable, easy to use and compact, I take my Stash bottle with me wherever I go. www.hydrapak.com
Suunto Ambit Series
Our Overland International team has tested the Ambit series since before their release to the public. We even included a full review of the Ambit 3 in the upcoming issue of the Overland Journal Gear Guide. The latest models have a smaller, slimmer watch body with increased features and a simplified user interface. In the months to come, they will release a model specifically designed for the adventure traveler. www.suunto.com
Princeton Tec Helix Lanterns
One of the most impressive products of the show was the new Helix lantern series from Princeton Tec. The line includes a model with Bluetooth connectivity allowing it to be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. The silicone globe provides a soft and even glow and the built quality is impressive. I may have found by favorite camp accessory for the year. www.princetontec.com
Goal Zero Venture Chargers
The modern overlander has big power demands. Whether charging smartphones, cameras, or GPS units, these little charging packs are an increasingly essential part of our travel kits. The new Venture series has excellent power storage and useful features. Look for a comprehensive review of the Venture chargers in the coming weeks. www.goalzero.com
Thomas Bates Footware
Tucked away in a small corner of the show was USA-based Thomas Bates. Makers of premium footwear, they had a number of shoes and boots ideal for overland travel. Although only a small percentage of their footwear is made in the US, the quality is superb. Look for their footwear to hit the market later this year.
It was an impressive show once again. The greatest discovery was an even deeper appreciation for how the overlanding and outdoor audiences intertwine. Vehicle dependent travel is becoming an ever greater component to backcountry travel of all types. We can’t wait to see what is to come over the next year.