Best Gear from Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2018

Each year (sometimes twice a year if we’re feeling froggy) The Trek hits up Outdoor Retailer, the industry’s largest trade show. This semiannual event showcases new gear, major industry players, up-and-coming brands, outdoor organizations, and more.

Aside from the newest and coolest items, OR also shows what the industry is doing in terms of upcoming trends. We saw an increased focus on sustainable production, with everything from an expansion of Adidas’s Parley line (which uses ocean plastic as product components), to Sunski aiming to build their sunglasses frames entirely with recycled plastic by 2020. Nearly every company we met with had a sustainability story for this season, an important trend considering manufacturing these goods contributes to the waste cycle and carbon output, harming the spaces we are recreating in. The focus on more eco-friendly manufacturing processes, recycled materials, and the repaired-gear initiative is something we can always get behind.

We also saw a renewed focus on the affordable end of the backpacking spectrum. Sierra Designs displayed several heftier tents for under $300, while Osprey put emphasis on more affordable (and heavier) packs that incorporate some higher-end design elements. The Rook 50 (3.5 pounds) and the Ren 65 (retailing for $165), are distinct shifts from their thru-hiking centric packs from last year. 

After three days of gear talk, lots of walking, and trips to the Darn Tough ice cream machine, here are the coolest things we saw in Denver.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite

Thru-hikers’ favorite lightweight sleeping pad just got lighter. The regular length weighs 8.8 ounces, and the short a measly 6 ounces. This shaves 3.2 and 2 ounces off its NeoAir Xlite companions. Their press rep did caution me that the material is more fragile than the Xlite and thus would require more caution with use, namely a soft surface and/or quality ground cloth.  The R-value of the UberLite is also just 2.0 compared to the NeoAir’s 3.2, which means cold sleepers may want to stick with the the Xlite during the cooler shoulder seasons. –Zach

BioLite Headlamp

These fit just as nicely on people’s heads as they do on mannequin heads.

BioLite is known for their creative off-grid light and heat sources, but have stuck firmly in the car-camping realm until now. (Think wood-burning stoves, solar-powered string lights, etc). For spring 2019, they’re getting deeper into the backcountry with their first foray into a smartly designed, ultralight headlamp. This is meant to feel like a headband, integrating the slim light and housing into a wide, stretchy band. With 320 lumens and weighing less than 2.5 ounces, this is a little powerhouse. It comes with a red light, strobe, flood and spot settings, and dimming capabilities on flood and spot. The only thing we’re concerned about is the relatively short battery life on the brightest setting (just a few hours) and the fact that unless you’re carrying an external charger, you’ll have to be in town to charge this as the USB port doesn’t have an option for batteries. However, it’s incredibly comfortable, and when I jumped up and down wearing it (#science) there was no bounce at all. Available spring 2019; retail will be $50. –Maggie

Altra Lone Peak 4.0

Altra Lone Peak 4.0

Altra’s latest version of the Lone Peak is included on this list not because there are any major innovations, but because it’s too popular among thru-hikers not to include.  The upper is slightly more flexible, the lugs are more aggressive, and the colorways are better (opinion, but factually correct), but overall it looks a lot like the 3.5s. It’s bound to be a slam dunk as Altra seems to be tweaking the areas that were drawing minor gripes, but not rocking the boat too much as to alienate their passionate base. Also worth noting is the Timp 1.5, which I think will eventually overtake the Lone Peak as a thru-hiker favorite, as it’s an even more comfortable (spacious) fit, with more cushioning. The midsole features a bit more stretch and the outsole boasts better grip (like the Lone Peak), but overall this trail runner looks very similar to the previous model, which is a good thing. –Zach

Granite Gear Blaze 60

AT hikers have been longtime fans of Granite Gear’s Crown VC and Crown 2, and the company is touting their upcoming Blaze 60 as being optimized for PCT and CDT hikers. It boasts a large-capacity, accessible main pocket sized to fit a bear canister, and will comfortably carry heavier loads for long water carries. The hip belt and shoulder straps are built with dual-density foam, helping GG give this pack a 50-pound load rating. The Blaze features an injection-molded back sheet, which means the panel doesn’t have a uniform width, but more heft at necessary points, and shaving grams where flex and durability isn’t as much of an issue. The removable brain, roll-top closure, stretchy front panel, numerous compression straps, and generous side pockets (you can fit TWO Smartwater bottles in each one!) round out this sleek design that continues the trend of simplified, large-capacity packs with careful feature inclusion. Zach isn’t sold on the zippered exterior access pocket, but I think the more organization the better. Available spring 2019; retail will be $269. –Maggie

Nemo Rocket 2-Person Tent

nemo rocket 2 person
Nemo’s newest non-freestanding tent has the potential to become a player in the thru-hiker world. The Rocket 2-person tent weighs 22 ounces with the T-bar pole, which sets up in the center of the tent. It weighs just 19 ounces if erected instead with trekking poles (sans T-bar). This is the way I envision most backpackers using this, as the centrally placed T-bar pole seems somewhat awkward, especially if the tent will be used by only one person. It’s primarily a single-wall tent, with a mesh interior near the vestibule designed to provide the ventilation of a double-wall tent. At just 19 ounces, the tent offers a lot of living space with 21.4 square feet.  The Rocket 2p will be available for spring 2019. –Zach

Big Agnes Tiger Wall Platinum; Fly Creek HV Carbon

Tiger Wall Platinum (minus fly) on display at the insanely busy BA booth.


Fly Creek HV Carbon with that sweet, sweet Dyneema fly.

This is a huge year for Big Agnes tents. Long the most popular freestanding (or semi-freestanding, if we’re getting into semantics) tents for long-distance hikers, they’ve upped their game once again with updates to their hugely popular Tiger Wall and Fly Creek. For spring 2019, the Tiger Wall Platinum 2 will clock in at 1 pound, 15 ounces, an extraordinary weight for a freestanding tent that will likely have other brands scrambling to compete. They’re also getting into the Dyneema game for majorly increased durability. Spring 2019 will also see the Fly Creek 2 HV Carbon at 1 pound, 2 ounces, built with the durable (and expensive) Dyneema. BA’s Dyneema-built tents will run between $850 and $1,200, putting them far out of reach for many hikers. However, for ultralight hikers who like the ease of a freestanding tent, the idea of not being as concerned with tearing the fly (RIP my Copper Spur Platinum) might be worth it. The Tiger Wall Platinum and Fly Creek HV Carbon will be available for spring 2019, with the Tiger Wall Platinum retailing at $550, and the Fly Creek HV Carbon retailing for a cool $850. –Maggie

Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20-Degree Sleeping Bag; Vesper 20-Degree Quilt

Thermarest Hyperion 20 degree sleeping bag

thermatest vesper 20 degree quilt

Zach forgot to take a photo of the Vesper Quilt, like a dummy, so here’s a stock photo.

Hold the fort, Therm-a-Rest is soon to be a major player in the high-end sleeping bag and quilt game. The Hyperion sleeping bag and Vesper quilt offer minimal features, 900 fill down, and narrow designs which amount to a very light 20 and 19 ounces (respectively) for their 20-degree rating.  The Vesper temperature and weight specs are very similar to that of the uber-popular Enlightened Equipment. To boot, the down uses Nikwax Hydrophobic treatment to make it resistant to wetting out. –Zach

Alchemi Labs Desert Hat

Alchemi Labs Desert Hat

alchemi labs sun hats.

This one is not new, but it’s new to us. The Alchemi Labs line of sun hats uses radiant barrier technology and the same materials utilized by the space industry to protect astronauts from solar rays.  The hats claim to block 99.8 percent of UV rays and reflect up to 80 percent of the sun’s heat waves. The Alchemi Labs Desert Hat would be the ideal sun accessory addition for long-distance treks through the… wait for it… desert. –Zach

Salomon Odyssey Triple Crown

Salomon Odyssey Triple Crown

Salomon’s spinoff of the popular Odyssey Pro is geared specifically at thru-hikers… as you may have guessed by the name. The Odyssey Triple Crown is lightweight—9.7 ounces for women, 11.6 ounces for men—and features a wider toe box, perhaps inspired by Altra’s ascension in the long-distance backpacking world.  The mesh uppers appear highly breathable and are reinforced with a flexible TPU frame. Also worth noting is its color scheme, which is pure fire.  The Triple Crowns will be available in early spring 2019, just in time for thru-hiker season. –Zach

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