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Outdoor Retailer 2018: Editor’s Choice Gear Picks

Outdoor Retailer is a trade show held every summer where outdoor gear manufacturers come together and show off the gear they plan to bring to market in the upcoming year (2019). It’s a very social event where you get to catch up with old friends, drink a lot of beer, and try to figure out what the most promising new products will be. My focus at these shows is to look for new gear that I can use on my own trips and adventures and that I think my readers will benefit from knowing about.

Editor’s Choice

There were hundreds and hundreds of outdoor gear manufacturers at the Outdoor Retailer trade show this year and I met with many of them to see their 2019 offerings. The following products are the cream of the crop in my opinion, representing a variety of needs and price points. You should expect to see many of them featured in SectionHiker’s detailed gear reviews in the coming year as they come to market. I won’t formally recommend them until I get to test them, but they all look very promising.

Tents and Shelters

Key Trends: Material science innovations continue to drive gear weights lower and lower in the tent and shelter category. Some brands have embraced the new materials, while others have been slower to adopt them until manufacturing costs fall or the real world durability of new fabrics and structural materials is better understood.

Big Agnes' Carbon Tents have Dyneema Rain Flies and Carbon Fiber Poles
Big Agnes’ Carbon Tents have Dyneema Rain Flies, Nylon and Mesh Inner Tents, and Carbon Fiber Poles

Big Agnes made a splash with the introduction of the new ultralight “Carbon” line of tents made with Dyneema rain flies, nylon and mesh inner tents, and carbon fiber poles. While the weights of these tents is outstanding, you’ll probably need to tap into your trust fund to buy one.

Model Trail Weight Price
Fly Creek HV 1 Carbon 16 oz / 454g $799.95
Fly Creek HV 2 Carbon 18 oz / 510 g $849.95
Tiger Wall 2 Carbon 25 oz / 709g $999.95
Tiger Wall 3 Carbon 30 oz / 850g $1,199.95
Scout 2 Carbon 11 oz / 312g $699.95
Onyx Tarp Carbon 8 oz / 227g $499.95
Flower Wall Bivy Carbon 6 oz / 170g TBD

Big Agnes Bikepacking Tents have short tent poles that are easier to pack on bikes
Big Agnes’ Bikepacking Tents have short tent poles that are easier to pack on bikes, with more functional stuff sacks.

Big Agnes also introduced ultralight bikepacking versions of the Fly Creek HV UL 1, Fly Creek HV UL 2, Copper Spur HV UL 1, and the Copper Spur HV UL2. The key innovation in this series are tent poles that have a maximum segment length of 12 inches, making them easier to pack in bike frame bags or panniers.

The Eureka Solitaire AL weighs 2 lbs 10 oz and costs just $99.95
The Eureka Solitaire AL weighs 2 lbs 10 oz and costs just $99.95

Eureka will be introducing a more durable version of the iconic Solitaire Tent ($99.95) that will include more durable aluminum poles instead of the fiberglass ones sold with the Solitaire today, which have a history of breaking. Weighing 2 lbs 10 ounces, the Solitaire AL is a spacious bivy style tent with a mesh roof that can be used for stargazing on cool nights. I reviewed the Solitaire 1P on a few years ago and think it will be an even better entry-level backpacking tent with the new aluminum poles.

NEMO Rocket 2 - 22 oz
NEMO Rocket 2 – 22 oz

The NEMO Rocket 2 is a two person ultralight, single-wall tent for two people with dual vestibules. Abundant side mesh helps cut down on internal condensation while high sidewalls and a deep bathtub floor provide enhanced weather protection and increased head room. The tent is made using the same conventional Silnylon/PU 7d and 10d fabrics on the NEMO Hornet UL double-wall tents.

MSR has eliminated seam taping in the Hubba Hubba NX and has a new bug bivy for use with tarps
MSR has eliminated seam taping in the Hubba Hubba NX and has a new bug bivy for use with tarps

The 2019 MSR Hubba Hubba NX will include Easton Syclone tent poles which are more durable and resilient than the aluminum poles previously included with the tent and less prone to breaking than carbon fiber poles. MSR has changed the way they sew the Hubba Hubba’s fabric seams, making them waterproof without the use of seam taping (which breaks down with use and exposure to sun), thereby increasing the tents effective lifespan. MSR also introduced a 10 oz mesh inner tent/bug bivy for use with a tarp, but it has an unusual door orientation, so I’m not sure whether it will be that convenient to use. But that’s why we test gear, to find out.

OR's new Waterproof Breathable stargazer and Interstellar Bivies have U-shaped zippers for ease of access and Delrin rods to increase headroom and livability.
OR’s new Waterproof/ Breathable Stargazer and Interstellar Bivies have U-shaped zippers for ease of access and Delrin rods to increase headroom and livability.

Outdoor Research has overhauled their entire bivy product line while introducing two new waterproof/breathable bivy sacks called the Interstellar Bivy (19.9 oz, $275)  and the Stargazer Bivy (18.5 oz, $259) that have U-shaped zippers for ease of access. The weight of the Helium Bivy ($179), originally introduced in 2014, has dropped from 18 oz to 16.8 oz, while the Alpine Bivy ($250) has dropped from 32 oz to an astounding 21.5 oz.


Key Trends: It’s amazing how many new backpacks are introduced every year or improved and updated. The availability of light weight packs continues to grow and more manufacturers, including Mountain Hardware and Exped, have started making packs with Dyneema DCF. But the biggest trend that stands out in the backpacking world is the widespread introduction of women’s-specific backpacks by many new manufacturers, including Mystery Ranch and Granite Gear. Take note: unisex backpack sizing is dead-on-arrival.

The new Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 has a max load rating of 50 lbs and is available in men's and women's-specific models
The new Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 has a max load rating of 50 lbs and is available in men’s and women’s-specific models.

Granite Gear unveiled an impressive upgrade of the Blaze AC 60 Backpack, with an entirely new injection molded framesheet that gives the pack an impressive 50 lb load rating. The pack has an adjustable length hip belt and adjustable torso length so you can dial in a perfect fit. It has a removable top lid than can be attached to the front of the pack and used as a large chest pocket, a rear zipper that provides full interior access, and large hip belt pockets. The new Blaze AC uses a custom 210 Robic Nylon UHMWPE triple gridstop in high wears areas, making it Granite Gear’s most durable backpack to date. The pack is available in multiple torso ranges raging from 15″ to 24″ for men and ranging from 15″ to 21″ for women, including women’s specific shoulder straps and hip belts. The Blaze AC 60 pack weight ranges from 2.9 to 3.1 lbs, depending on the size.

Mountain Hardwear and Exped have new Dyneema climbing packs.
Mountain Hardwear and Exped have new Dyneema climbing packs.

In addition, Mountain Hardware and Exped announced two new Dyneema (DCF) climbing packs. The Mountain Hardware Alpine Light Backpack is a full-on climbing and winter sport backpack that will be competitively priced in 28L ($270), 35L ($330), and 50L ($350) sizes. Fit is unisex, but there will be multiple torso sizes available. Weights are currently unavailable. The Exped Whiteout is more of a minimalist alpine pack, with a roll-top, two external daisy chains, and a small zippered pocket. The Whiteout will be available in 35L, 45L, and 55L sizes weighing 24.5 oz, 28 oz, and 30 oz, respectively.

Mammut has a new adjustable-length backpack called the Trion Spine Pack, intended for trekking and mountaineering, which has dual pivot points at the hips and shoulders that can move independent of one another and helping you to climb or hike more efficiently. A stabilizing rod connecting the two ends of the frame dampens any excess movement, providing a very stable carry. The Trion Spine will be available this spring in men’s and women’s specific version in 35L, 50L, and 70L sizes.

Sleeping Bags, Quilts, and Pads

Key Trends: Sleep system components keep getting lighter and lighter, finally rivaling those made by the ultralight cottage manufacturers in the sleeping bag and quilt category. In addition, the first version of an industry-wide sleeping pad R-value measurement standard has been ratified and will soon be an ASTM International Standard. Participation by key retailers, including REI, will likely force major sleeping pad manufacturers such as NEMO and Big Agnes to start labelling their sleeping pads with R-values instead of temperature ratings by 2020, increasing consumer confidence, and providing a basis of comparison between sleeping pad brands.

The NeoAir Uberlite only weighs 8.8 ounces (72" x 20") and has an R-value of 2
The NeoAir Uberlite only weighs 8.8 ounces (72″ x 20″) and has an R-value of 2. The crinkly potato chip layer has also been removed, providing a much quieter air mattress.

In sleeping pads, Therm-a-Rest introduced the new NeoAir Uberlite Air Mattress, which weighs 8.8 oz ($179.95) in a regular 72″ x 20″ size and just 6.0 oz ($139.95) in a small 48″ x 20″ size. The Uberlite has an R-value of 2.0, with 2.5 inches of cushioning. While the Uberlite retains the Triangular Core Matrix insulation used in other NeoAir mattresses, the crinkly (potato-chip) sounding mirrored layer has been removed, which will be a welcome relief for people who think the old NeoAir pads are noisy to sleep on.

The Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt is filled with 900 fill power RDS certified waterproof down
The Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt is filled with 900 fill power RDS certified waterproof down. A 32F, size regular, weighs under a pound.

Therm-a-Rest also has a hot new ultralight quilt called the Vesper 32F/0C & 20/F/-6V that is filled with 900 fill power, RDS-certified, Nikwax Hydrophobic Down. The Vesper 32 weighs 15 oz in a size regular ($329.95) and 17 oz in a size long ($349.95), while the Vesper 20 weighs 19 oz in a size regular ($379.95) and 21 oz in a size long (399.95). All of the Vespers have side baffles, a neckline draft collar, insulated footbox, and incorporate Therm-a-Rest’s ThermaCapture lining. They also include SynergyLink connectors to integrate with your sleeping pad to form a complete sleep system.

The Big Agnes Pluton is a 40F ultralight sleeping bag that weighs 15 oz
The Big Agnes Pluton is a 40F ultralight sleeping bag that weighs 15 oz

Big Agnes announced a new ultralight 40 degree sleeping bag called the Pluton ($349.95) that is filled with 850 fill power Downtek RDS-certified down and weighs in at 15 oz. It has a minimalist hood and a full-length, two-way zipper, so you can vent your feet if they’re too warm.

Other Notable Products and Updates

The Lifesaver Jerrycan is a water container capable of filtering 5282 gallons of water on one replaceable filter cartridge
The Lifesaver Jerrycan is a water container capable of filtering 5282 gallons of water per replaceable filter cartridge.
  • Sawyer will begin a sell a Micro Version of the popular Squeeze Filter in a few weeks. It will flow nearly as fast as the Squeeze, but has the benefit of dual-threaded ends for cleaning, connection to a gravity setup, and inline use.
  • The Lifesaver Jerrycan Water Filter (available today) is 4.9 gallon container with a built-in filter that can process 5,300 gallons of water, making it ideal for groups, emergency preparedness, and RV use. The Jerrycan filter removes 99.99% of viruses, 99.9999% of bacteria, and 99.99% of cysts. Once the filter cartridge is blocked, water will not pass through, so you’ll know when to replace it. A shower attachment is also available.
  • The Granite Gear Crown 2 60L gets an upgrade to its side water bottles pockets, which will be  slanted to make it easier to pull out and insert water bottles. The side pockets are also reinforced with solid fabric for increased durability.
  • Gregory will release new updated models of the Zulu and Jade Backpacks for men and women across a variety of sizes.
  • Mystery Ranch has rolled out a full line of women’s specific backpacks.
  • The Sierra Designs High Route FL 1 Tent has had a color revamp to match the other tents in the SD product line. The tent’s weight has also been reduced by 5 oz, to 1 lb 15 oz, bringing it under 2 lbs to encourage more thru-hikers to purchase it.
  • Sierra Designs will also offer an updated version of its original 800 fill power down Backcountry Quilt, renamed the Nitro Quilt in 35F (20 oz) and 20F degree (25 oz) options. Half bag, half quilt, the Nitro has a unique hood that folds away when not needed on warm nights.
  • Big Agnes has revamped their classic sleeping bag attachment system across the sleeping bag product line, making it simpler and lighter weight.
  • Vargo has entered the tent business with a new 2-person single wall, dual vestibule tent called the No-Fly 2P, weighing 2.6 lbs. The No-Fly is a freestanding tent with two interior poles that cross inside the tent’s roof and slot into the corners, providing a peak height of 43 inches for great livability.

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