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Outdoor Retailer Soon-to-Be-Released Gear Report

Sea to Summit’s new air mat is able to hold up 200 pounds of Allgood, wins best in show
Sea to Summit’s new air mat is able to hold up 200 pounds of Allgood, wins best in show

All right, gear junkies: eat your heart out. Here’s a sneak preview of the gear we will see on the shelves in the next few months–well, at least the stuff that ultralight hikers may be interested in.

Best of Show

Another key design advantage is the 10 second blow up/10 second blow down of the air mat.
Another key design advantage is the 10 second blow up/10 second blow down of the air mat.

Sea to Summit sleeping mat. The thru-hiker industry standard for sleeping pads, the Cascade Designs Neoair, has finally met its match. The ultralight version of this sleeping mat (the sales guy corrected me strongly when I called it a “sleeping pad,” ensuring me that it’s more like a MATtress than a pad) weighs in at 12 oz. Using “mattress technology,” the mat does not use baffles, but instead pockets that warm under you as you sleep. These pockets also prevent “bottoming out” even for bigger side sleepers. Supposedly, the pocket system are puncture resistant and all around stronger than baffles (yet to be seen). Another key advantage is their stuff-sack blow up system takes 10 seconds, and 10 seconds to deflate (this is going to be HUGE when hikers are trying to motivate themselves to get up on a cold AM, and to get moving quickly). The part that blows me out of the water, though, is the price point:  $99—significantly less expensive than its competition.

Runner Up

The new NWAlpine Eyebright!
The new NWAlpine Eyebright!

NW Alpine breathable cuben fiber rain jacket: Improving on the already awesome design of the NW Alpine Eyebright jacket, this new model uses a fabric that is stronger and easier to seam seal (not that I ever had any problem with longevity even when bushwhacking). The best part is that it’s $150 less than the previous version, putting it in the same price range as other high-end breathable cuben fiber shirts, like Z-packs, but with a more form fitting and tailored design than its competitors.

Other Cool Stuff:

Sierra Designs double sleeping bag: I’m not sure what the weight was on this design (or whether they’re even making it or it was just a marketing gimmick), but this double-bag sure was good for a laugh at the show.

Name those famous hikers!
Name those famous hikers!

Petzl’s New Ice Axe: Although not the lightest UIAA approved ice axe on the market (the 8 oz CAMP Corsa is the thru-hiker standard), this ice axe is damn near close in weight, and has a significantly more aggressive looking axe. I’m not sure on the weight, but let’s put it this way—Tomo from Hiker’s Depot—the world’s only brick and mortar ultralight store—was interested.

Go Motion Sternum strap trail running light: Designed to reduce shadow blockage and keep night hiking light sources centered on you walk, this “headlamp” that actually goes on your sternum strap, could be a revolutionary design. As an avid night hiker, I’m hoping to try one out and see how it works.

Altra Lone Peak 2.5: The go-to shoe for the long distance hiking community is coming soon in a  waterproof water-resistant material. Altra is well-aware that waterproof gear has a bad name—and with good reason—because no one wants to be walking around in Vapor Barrier stuff unless being sweaty and clammy is better than losing a toe to the cold. To address this issue, Altra teamed with a proprietary fabricmaker to create the first shoe with this particular water-resistant breathable material. It works so well that I watched Golden, one of the founders of Altra, pour a glass of water on the shoe and the contents completely rolled off. I can’t wait to take the Altra Lone Peak 2.5 on the trail and see how it breathes and holds up to snow, rain, and water.

Montrail: Bad news for lovers of the hiker standby from the early 2000s: Montrail has nothing but running slippers in their line up for the next year. No trail running shoes. No hiking shoes. Zip. I know there are a few hikers out there who still love their Montrails. Call me biased, but maybe this is just a sign you should check out the Altras.

Kelly, from Nat Geo, modeling the new maps
Kelly, from Nat Geo, modeling the new maps

National Geographic: This February is rolling out maps of two new areas: Paria Canyon and Grand Staircase/Escalante—two awesome places to visit in Utah on your next traverse of the Vagabond Loop.

Most exciting discovery this year is Nat Geo’s strong interest and dedication in making maps for long distance hikers. OR 2015 rolled out the John Muir Trail mapset. This is the first full and complete Nat Geo map set that is put together like a book. It’s a pretty brilliant idea considering I’ve bought the JMT map set at least three times because I always end up losing a page :(.

The new JMT mapset includes all the maps, elevation profiles, databook, and resupply for the trail, all for 3.3 oz and $14.95
The new JMT mapset includes all the maps, elevation profiles, databook, and resupply for the trail, all for 3.3 oz and $14.95

The whole booklet weighs 3.3 oz and has 48 pages of maps on Nat Geo’s waterproof, resistant paper. It also includes elevation profiles and a databook (!) and resupply locations. In essence, this $14.95 map set not only is less expensive than its competitors, won’t have you lose pages, but also will be the only resource you need. Oh yeah, and just to make sure you know that it’s made for thru-hikers, it was made by one of us: our own Sierra expert Justin Lichter.

Best yet—this summer, Nat Geo is rolling out a similar style map set for the Appalachian Trail! It’s going to come out in sections by state just in time for southbounders to use ‘em. If the AT maps look anything like the JMT maps, let’s just say they’re so cool, you may want maps for the AT.

Allgood and I rocking out on the ice in the new Kahtoolas
Allgood and I rocking out on the ice in the new Kahtoolas

New Katoohlas Microspikes: To be released this hiking season, this thru-hiker must-have just got lighter and better designed. The full microspike is down to 12 oz for a medium pair and the nanospike (which is advertised as a runner, but I was still shocked at how well it worked on an ice block) comes in at 8 oz for the pair. The spike itself has been redesigned with the toe bar positioned to reduce slippage (which had been a problem in the previous model, especially, I noticed, when covering terrain with ice and post holing). I’m very optimistic about the new microspike and can’t wait to try it out!!

Allgood loves the ultralight pillow
Allgood loves the ultralight pillow

Sea to Summit pillow: A new ultralight inflatable pillow that is so light, that an ultralight hiker said “Wow, I might even start carrying a pillow now!) This uses a soft material on the outer and looks more durable than other ultralight pillows, which are pretty infamous for popping after a few weeks. Depending on the model, weights range between 1.8 and 3.0 oz.

Tenacious tape in Sasquatch shapes!
Tenacious tape in Sasquatch shapes!

Tenacious tape: Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more innovations in gear repair, Tenacious tape developed several cool new products slated to roll out this spring. First, and most exciting for thru-hikers, are stretch patches, which allow gear repair for fabrics that require a little elasticity, such as silnylon tents or stretchy pants. Tenacious tape is also coming out with a mini-repair carrying container for easy on-trail transport.

Tenacious tape tattoos
Tenacious tape tattoos

Super exciting for trail runners, night hikers, and anyone who carries a bear can is the new reflective tape. Now, when the bear comes and rolls around my bear can for a while, I’ll be able to shine my headlamp around and find its reflection. Lastly, and perhaps the most fun of the new products, are tattoo gear repear in fun shapes like Sasquatch.

Swiftwater by Crocs: Realizing that most thru-hikers switch over to their Crocs for creek crossings, this summer, the lightweight campshoe company is rolling out a new hybrid campshoe/water crossing shoe. These shoes keep most of the lightweight nature of the Croc for camp shoe, while adding on a more secure attachment over-foot system and a more aggressive sole for dealing with slippery rocks. These should be rolled out this summer, but unfortunately, won’t come in the awesome colors shown here.

Allgood with a Hydrapak hydration system.
Allgood with a Hydrapak hydration system.

Hydrapak: These hydration bladder system seems to have some clear advantages over what hikers have been using for years. This hydration bag has a baffled water system, so when it rides against your back, it won’t slouch or bunch as you drink water. Best yet, you refill the bag by taking off a lock meaning that it has the world’s WIDEST refill opening ever. For those who use a hydration tube, it comes with a quick lock which means it’s easy to take off the tube at night if you need to remove it to prevent freezing at night. Although the sales person ensured me this design has been around for 12 years (apparently, it’s popular with cyclists), this is the first I’ve seen of this potential competition to my beloved Cascade Designs Platypus.

POD models the new ultralight frisbee
POD models the new ultralight frisbee

Ultralight Frisbee: For those who get into camp and just want to play a little ultimate, the 0.8 oz Frisbee folds up nicely and comes with a weight penalty that even Glen van Peski wouldn’t object to (well, maybe). Ok, so this isn’t a standard competition weight Frisbee, but good for a few trail laughs at the end of the day. Watch this video of POD and Disco playing with it in their house after OR:

Trail Logoed stuff:

CDT Point 6 socks
CDT Point 6 socks

Hey, guess what? Gear companies are starting to love on the long trails. Here’s a few new items that are going to be logoed with our favorite confidence markers.

Point 6 socks CDT, AT, PCT socks: Point 6 socks is based in Steamboat Springs and was created by the founders of Smartwool after they decided they wanted to create a more mission-oriented sock company. These awesome made-in-the-USA trail-logoed socks look really cool and benefit the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Pacific Crest Trail Association. They’re designed to hold up to a thru-hike, but I’m going to save mine from the sand and mud and keep it for stylin’ in town.

Vapur bottles: These lightweight water or (who are we kidding) wine carriers are logoed with the CDT logo. Because nothing says 100 mile resupply through the desert like packing out some Chardonnay.

Woolrich CDT, AT, and PCT blankets: These beautiful loomed in America wool blankets are works of art. These blankets are slated to come out to the consumer in October, but Woolrich was pre-selling the first run of these hand-signed, hand-numbered blankets. A certain founder of an ultralight gear company may have purchased one for each trail. The perfect gift for any trail lover or to get someone who loves the trail. Proceeds go to the trail organizations.

Woolrich dedicated a whole booth to long distance trails. She-ra, Swami, Czech, Jabba, and I are peddling CDT wares for a good cause.
Woolrich dedicated a whole booth to long distance trails. She-ra, Swami, Czech, Jabba, and I are peddling CDT wares for a good cause.

 

Beer tubes: Mountainsmith is creating a canned beer caddy that is good for infinite jokes. Watch out in June when you can purchase a CDT logoed beer tube!

POD and the beer tube. PC the Trail Show
POD and the beer tube. PC the Trail Show

 

Stay tuned for updates of new FOOD announced at Winter Outdoor Retailer in the next blogpost!

Hiker Trash Take on Outdoor Retailer trade show, Get Chased by Bear

 

Thru-hikers at the Outdoor Retailer pose with a very hungry bear
Thru-hikers at the Outdoor Retailer pose with a very hungry bear

Yesterday wrapped up the bi-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, an industry-exclusive 22,000 attendee gear-fest of sales, marketing, and all-night partying. This year, we saw the largest hiker contingent yet—I counted at least 17 thru-hikers (including one “Boulder-based extreme adventure athlete”)—each there to not only work sales and market products, but to help promote the word on trails.

Continental Divide Trail Coalition volunteers running a booth at Outdoor Retailer. (The CDT Woolrich blanket is visible in the background)
Continental Divide Trail Coalition volunteers running a booth at Outdoor Retailer. (The CDT Woolrich blanket is visible in the background)

This year was the first show with semi-live coverage from podcast superstars, the Trail Show. The podcast recoded two nights—the first night with Gossamer Gear founder and ultralight guru Glen van Peski, and the second night, with as many thru-hikers as possible and representatives from the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West and Continental Divide Trail Coalition director, Teresa Martinez. Be sure to watch out for when those episodes go live (we recorded for FOUR hours, so there are going to be at least a few). Expect crazy stories from the show, hiking, and news from your favorite hikers.

<a href="www.thetrailshow.com">The Trail Show</a>, a podcast dedicated to the motto “Less Gear, More Beer” made an appearance as Working Media at the gear-centric trade show. Photo courtesy the Trail Show.
The Trail Show, a podcast dedicated to the motto “Less Gear, More Beer” made an appearance as Working Media at the gear-centric trade show. Photo courtesy the Trail Show.

This year was the first time I’ve walked the show floor where exhibitors generally knew what a “thru-hiker” or “long distance hiker” is. Thank you, Oprah Winfrey and movie and book Wild! Vasque strongly advertised their Thru-Hiker Syndicate and expanded their program to the PCT, while Point 6 Socks featured special AT, PCT, and CDT-logoed socks at the front of their booth, and Woolrich dedicated a whole booth to beautiful wool Triple Crown logoed blankets. It was almost as if gear companies realized there was this whole new group of users or something…

While OR has frequently been strongly focused around climbing and skiing celebrities, hikers are now getting some recognition in the industry. I can’t help but wonder if there will ever be a day when the exploits of some of my favorite hikers become as common to hear about in general media as other outdoor athletes.

In the next few days, I’ll be pumping out articles about the Outdoor Retailer show on these topics:

-Cool new items to-be-released on the market this spring

-New hiking, energy, and outdoor food to be released this year

-General trends in gear

-The role of women in the outdoor industry

Stayed tuned and check back to learn more about what happened out the Outdoor Retailer show…from a hiker’s perspective!

Former Secretary of the Interior and Conservation Hero Bruce Babbitt at Outdoor Retailer

Former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, is a conservation hero. An Arizona native and former governor of that state, the 800-mile long Arizona Trail travels across part of his ranch.
Former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, is a conservation hero. An Arizona native and former governor of that state, the 800-mile long Arizona Trail travels across part of his ranch.

For conservation policy geeks like me, a true highlight of the Outdoor Retailer show was the chance to see former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, speak at the Conservation Alliance breakfast. The Conservation Alliance is an organization funded by outdoor companies to protect the places where we recreate. For many years, CA had difficulty recruiting Babbitt, who served under the Clinton administration and is responsible for protecting areas such as Grand Staircase National Monument, creating the National Landscape Conservation System, and reintroducing the wolf into Yellowstone. Finally, today he spoke in front of 300 industry people to call for radical change from both the Obama administration and the Outdoor Industry.

Although not the most charismatic speaker, Babbitt’s speech gave the audience an insight into his sharp mind. Throughout his speech, he analyzed strategies the Outdoor Industry can take to make an otherwise ineffective Congress care about wild areas.

Babbitt called out Utah Governor Herbert and strongly criticized the Transfer of Public Lands Act, a bill that will “dismantle the BLM, scale back the Park Service, and remove 9 of every 10 acres from the Forest Service.” The bill, if passed, will move public lands from federal management to Utah state level management, including Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge, and Grand Staircase.

The former Secretary also criticized academics who support the Transfer of Public Lands Act. Several researchers have used economic evidence to argue that there are benefits of moving land from federal control to private oil and gas companies.

Specifically, Babbitt condemned these studies for leaving out evidence that outdoor recreation provides an economic benefit. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation is a $646 billion industry. Yet Babbitt lamented that the Commerce Department, politicians, and the academics who wrote pro-Transfer Act reports, do not realize the size and power of the industry, and thus, have not been pushing to conserve land.

The speech ended with a call for the Outdoor Industry to have their voice be heard, and also for President Obama to take advantage of his lame duck period to conserve more land. In response to Obama’s most recent conservation moves—including the protection of the Montana Front Range (which benefits the CDT viewshed) and the San Gabriels and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (which benefits the PCT viewshed)—Babbitt replied, “We haven’t got that far. It’s not really that impressive.”

Of course, this is easy for the man behind the most expansive land protection record of any presidency to say. Yet, Babbitt believes that places that we recreate can and should be protected: “Public lands aren’t just the West. They’re national lands owned by all of us as Americans.”

Babbitt’s talk started and ended with a standing ovation. As hikers, we often don’t busy ourselves with the politics behind our trails and treasured landscapes. Yet, as an outdoors person, I was exceptionally honored to sit ten feet away from one of the powerhouses of conservation who makes my adventures possible.

First Timer’s Guide to Outdoor Retailer

 

Continental Divide Trail Coalition volunteers running a booth at Outdoor Retailer. (The CDT Woolrich blanket is visible in the background)
Continental Divide Trail Coalition volunteers running a booth at Outdoor Retailer. (The CDT Woolrich blanket is visible in the background)

As we speak, the long distance hiking community is taking over the Outdoor Winter Retailer Show. Many of us are working with trail non-profits and companies like Woolrich, Point6, and Mountainsmith that are sponsoring long National Scenic Trail-centric gear. Others are representatives of outdoor stores and are busy buying gear as part of their job.

I’ve been going to OR back in the days when Trauma was the only other long distance hiker coming. Although I’m far from a veteran at this event, here are a few tips I wish I had known the first time I’d walked in here:

1)      The show is huge! There are 21,000 people coming to Winter OR, and Summer OR can get to be as 40,000.

The crowds flock to the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City to see the newest gear
The crowds flock to the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City to see the newest gear

2)      But everyone here is here for a purpose greater than just getting free schwag. You have to apply months in advance, and they review to make sure the only attendees are here for business.

3)      So if you’re looking to create a sponsorship or help a non-profit, unless you’ve set up a meeting, to expect to stay out of the way until the end of the show when exhibitors have already made their sales.

4)      Since business comes first, there’s a hierarchy of badges here. Exhibitors (gear companies) are here to make money, so retailers (gear stores) are getting first dibs for their attention. Media is the next desirable badge, and non-profits are towards the bottom.

Outside OR
Outside OR

5)      But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun early in the show. Be sure to use Wednesday to get the lay of the land.

6)      It’s a maze in here, so be sure to get your hiking map or to download the app.

7)      But all that hiking around the show floor will get up your hunger and thirst. So be sure to stay hydrated.

Maple Bacon soft serve from Vermont Darn Tough’s booth. Photos thanks to Renee Patrick.
Maple Bacon soft serve from Vermont Darn Tough’s booth. Photos thanks to Renee Patrick.

8)      Luckily, there’s lots of food and drink around. Just check the back of the OR Daily magazine for locations. You can usually get a meal for the cost of a donation to a good outdoor cause.

9)      Or, if you’re here as media, a sales rep, or a retailer, food and drink can be found in the Press Room, Rep room, or Boy Scout Room.

10)   But if you can wait until 4 pm, there’s plenty of drinks to be had a dozens of Happy Hours. We hikers usually like to visit Happy Hours that support the trails.

11)   If you’re trying to find your friends at the end of the day, know that running the OR app and just being in the conference center can really drain your phone battery. Bring your charger!

12)   And then head out to the infamous Outdoor Retailer parties.

 

Congratulations! You’ve survived Day One of the four day event. It’s going to be a wild ride!

 

Do you have any tips for going to big conferences?

Tina Fey’s modeling advice for outdoorspeople

 

Liz Thomas crossing South Hill Street toward the corner of Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.
Liz Thomas crossing South Hill Street toward the corner of Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.

In Tina Fey’s Bosspants, the comedian dedicates a chapter to how being a Vogue cover model is nothing like anyone would like to believe. She doesn’t get to keep the clothes, heck, the clothes doesn’t even fit her (she describes how they squeeze her into a too small designer dress and then don’t even zip it up).

Before I’d done a lot of hiking, I thought that the ladies I saw in the outdoor gear catalogs were just rugged looking models, but it turns out (at least if I’m showing up in print) that at least part of the time, the outdoor industry uses real people in their ads.

Yes, a lot of the big companies, especially the ones who make “lifestyle clothing” are hiring real models to look hot in their products. But as a long distance hiker, no one is investing that kind of money in models, and instead, they’re getting real people who really use their gear.  As I join a crew of GG ambassadors headed to do a photoshoot in the canyons around Moab this weekend, here are a few things I’ve learned about being (perhaps the most ironic term ever) a hiking model:

 

Liz Thomas hiking through the Grand Central Market in downtown LA. Since 1917 the largest open-air market in Los Angeles.
Liz Thomas hiking through the Grand Central Market in downtown LA. Since 1917 the largest open-air market in Los Angeles.

1)      No one is doing your hair or make up. Bummer. Because I really wanted to look hot in this photoshoot, and instead, I look like I’ve got about a week without a shower (yes, I know that’s true but…)

 

2)      Wear brightly colored clothes-they show up better in the shots

 

3)      Bring a full backpack-because, a partially filled pack looks 20 pounds heavier , extra dumpy on camera

 

4)      Bring an extra change of clothes. When I did the photoshoot for Brooks Range, I brought a couple outfits, and we tried out what l what looked best on camera.

5)     Be prepared to walk back and forth A LOT. When Kevin Steele got his first page shot for the article in Backpacker, I walked an LA downtown crosswalk at least ten times. Meanwhile, he laid down in the center of traffic to get the angle on the shot he wanted. It was worth it—the photo turned out awesome—but there were certainly some extra miles made that day.

6)      Know a lot of shots that were taken will never see the light of day: Sometimes, you’ll take 100 shots from 15 different angles of that one mountain—and it will never make it to print or the web. I have yet to have a photographer get an awesome portrait shot of me, but a lot have tried.

7)      After the shoot, be sure to credit the photographer and use photos only with permission: People taking photos are artists, which means that a lot of them are starving and struggling. Be sure to send them some future customers by acknowledging and recognizing their work.

 

Are you a photographer or have you taken a lot of outdoors photos from people? What tips would you have for hiking “models”?

Pioneering the Chinook Trail

 

Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and I at Rowena Point looking out over the Columbia River Gorge
Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and I at Rowena Point looking out over the Columbia River Gorge

This full version of this story originally appeared in the ALDHA-W Gazette Winter 2015 issue

This summer, I joined with ALDHA-W President Allgood Whitney LaRuffa, his hiking dog, Karluk, and Triple Crowner Tomato Brian Boshart to pioneer the Chinook Trail, a 300-mile horseshoe traverse of the Columbia River Gorge in Washington and Oregon.

The Chinook Trail was dreamed up in the 1980s by Ed Robertson and Don Cannard, but until now, no one had ever hiked it. The route connects National Recreation Trails, National Historic Trails, and a National Scenic Trail (the PCT) to provide hikers with a trail that incorporates some of the CDT’s route finding challenges in a Pacific Northwest setting. The two termini are just 45 minutes from a major airport and a city jam-packed with ALDHA-W members (Portland), making transit to and from the trail simple and trail magic from friends quite likely.

I found one of the joys of the Chinook Trail to be experiencing abrupt ecosystem changes—within 150 miles, we went from temperate rainforests to dry grasslands to 5,000 foot tall alpine peaks to nearly sea level at the Columbia River. The four of us explored forest, ranchland, a Native American reservation, the dry and tumbleweeded Oregon Trail, and the fertile Hood River Valley, which abounded with wineries and pick-your-own apricot, cherry, and blueberry farms.

With a never-before-done route, what looks fun on a map doesn’t always translate to a pleasant-to-walk adventure. Now, having completed the trip, Allgood, Tomato, and I are eager to gush about the good times we had together and encourage others to walk the Chinook Trail.

This story continues in the ALDHA-W Gazette Winter 2015 issue…