A week and a half ago I attended the Outdoor Retailer Show, with former SEAL Mark DeLisle. The "OR-SHOW" is hosted twice a year at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City - 17min from my house. There is a summer show and a winter show.
Designing new styles for apparel seems to be mundane, especially after just a few years ago when nearly every manufacturer began sewing patterns that were better gussetted for the knees, crotch, elbows, seat...etc. Wearing softshell/hardshell pants and jackets feels like they were tailored made just for you - it's truly amazing.
The race to develop and design the next cutting edge gear seems to be slowing down in regards to new sewing patterns, but speeding up for new textiles and fabrics, something I am oddly drawn too and could easily find myself becoming overly-passionate about.
Known as the "Largest Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in North America" The Outdoor Retailers Show Winter 2014 hosted 1,055 companies from The North Face and Under Armour to the most random mom & pop manufacturers from around the globe. The show truly is amazing. The diversity of the products spans from Apples that are freeze dried to Zippers used on $800 jackets.
The 5 most impressive products I found this year.
BioLite BaseCamp Stove.
A couple years ago BioLite created a lot of noise at the OR-SHOW when they showed us their CampStove. It's a wood-burning stove that has a thermo-electric generator attached to the stove, capturing the natural energy and converting it to electricity so that you can charge any device through a USB port that is built into the thermo-electric generator. The BaseCamp is new for 2014 and is a slightly larger version of the CampStove that achieved its full inspiration from the HomeStove. Any stove that sustains self-reliance without the need for gas is always high on my list of need-to-have.
GiegerRig Water Filtration System.
Mark and I stumbled into Bob Geiger working a tiny booth jammed with awesome hydration packs. The fact of the matter is that Bob has made a hydration pack that comes in various shapes and sizes for any activity, and a tactical series for LEO, Military or guys like myself who can not understand why MOLLE webbing is not prerequisite to every pack. The GiegerRig is uniquely as dynamic as Bob himself.
The bladder comes with an attachable filter that connects between the bottom of the bladder and the hose - Genius! I am a huge believer in the minimalist philosophy and this rig helps to save space and weight. The bladder has the ability to open completely for cleaning out the inside and is dishwasher safe. Toss in the pressurized pump for good measures and GiegerRig has literally developed the most versatile hydration pack.
Here is a cheesy informercial-style video with Bob doing an excellent job explaining the GiegerRig system.
I am always excited to visit the Arc'Teryx booth. When it comes to cutting edge design & textile/fabrics none do it better than Arc'Teryx. Recently, they have moved into the "Law Enforcement & Armed Forces" space. I Really am speechless. So I am going to let you watch their LEAF video is awe and flip through the gallery below, over and over... and over.
Black Diamond Halo JetForce Avalanche Air-Bag
The backpacking world has long since been perplexed on how to develop gear that could be a life-saving tool in the event you find yourself being chased down by a raging avalanche of death.
The JetForce Avalanche Air-bag is exactly that, an air-bag that functions by virtue of a rechargeable battery that is simple to activate and runs a small fan that deploys the airbag and continues to pump bursts of air for one minute, which after the initial 60-sec you can manually pump air into the 200-liter balloon by pressing a button located on the shoulder strap. The balloon inflates approximately 33% more air than other avalanche bags. Since, there are no canisters, like similar air-bags, it makes the HALO JetForce TSA approved. The pack can be inflated four times before you need to recharge the batteries, which is great for practicing and terrible in real life... how were you involved in four avalanches? Better question - how are you still alive?
The Halo pack was made popular when Popular Science dropped a sneak peek. I was able to find this demonstration video of the Halo that was given at the Black Diamond booth thanks to GoOut Project. BD does not have this on their site, but it was stated that MSRP is $1,100.
SealSkinz WaterProof, SandProof Breathable Socks
Out of all the products at the OR-SHOW the waterproof socks were the most astonishing! Made with a patented triple layered fitted fabric design. Wearing SealSkinz was literally an unbelievable experience. I was able to slip a sock over my hand and forearm, dunk the sock into a water tank (next to a girl standing in the tank with the SealSkinz socks on). It was impossible. I squeezed, pressed, punched, stretched... anything to get water inside the sock. The socks were 100% waterproof.
I pulled my hand out and while the sock was dripping off water my hand was perfectly dry. The girl in the tank, stepped out, pulled the socks off with the same results.
The first layer is a merino wool "blend" that wicks away sweat and keeps your feet warm. The second layer is the "membrane barrier" that is waterproof, but allows sweat molecules to pass through. The third layer, or outer-layer is your first line of protection against the elements of nature. The key to staying dry and warm is the semi-continuously bonding of the 3-layers, with the membrane acting as a one way road - letting sweat out, while keeping water out as well.
SealSkinz offers a 2-year warranty. They have socks, gloves and hats. And are often used by the British SAS and individual elite warriors of the U.S Armed Forces.
There were literally thousands of products from the best brands. I could write for days on the new apparel that Black Diamond, Arc'Teryx, Montbell, Mountain Hardwear, Patagonia are developing and releasing. The same for CamelBack, Mountain House, Katadyn and Optimus Stoves... all of which are amongst my favorites. But this year I am going to go with SealSkinz as the most impressive product for 2014. There are a lot of ways to cook food, build fires, and set up shelter and there are hundreds of options for staying warm and dry, but one question always remains; when the worst case scenario happens - what is the fastest, simplest and safest way to stay alive? And to help answer that boding question I'm recommending SealSkinz socks.
I hope you will comment and let me know what products are your favorites and what you think about the ones I selected for 2014.