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Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer 2016 Outdoor Retailer Trade Show: Ultralight Gear of Interest



By Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl

 UL Backpacking (this article)
 Food


Most of the gear found at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show is conventional gear that shows up in outdoor stores six months later. But most conventional gear is getting lighter due to the incorporation of lighter and stronger materials. It’s an evolutionary process, and when gear gets light enough to meet our lightweight and ultralight standards we include it in our Show coverage. As you might expect, the majority of gear we feature from OR is in the lightweight category, and the list of ultralight gear is shorter.

However, a lot of ultralight gear comes from the big gear manufactures – shelters, hammocks, sleeping bags and pads, insulated clothing, rainwear, windshirts, gaiters, to name a few. Herein we report our ultralight gear findings, in no particular order, from the summer 2016 OR Show.

Please note the following:
Items covered will be available for purchase in spring 2017, unless noted otherwise.
Weights are for a men’s size Medium, unless noted otherwise.

Its been a long time since Big Agnes last introduced an ultralight sleeping bag, but the new Big Agnes Flume UL 30 sleeping bag is worth waiting for. It’s insulated with 12 ounces of 850 fill-power down enclosed in a 7-denier shell with a 2/3-zipper. The weight is 22 ounces and cost is $470. Big Agnes uses a combination of baffling methods to hold the down in place. A warmer version also coming out is the Hitchens UL 20 weighing 27 ounces and priced at $530. These look to be well designed bags with cutting-edge materials, ample dimensions, and honest temperature ratings.

The new Nemo Spike 1-person and 2-person tents are floorless and trekking pole supported, and weigh just 15.5 ounces and 26 ounces, respectively. The fabric is 40-denier silicone coated ripstop nylon. MSRPs are $230 and $300. They did not have the tents on display, but we were able to take a photo of a page from their workbook.

Sea to Summit, which has well thought out products in nearly category will be introducing the Sea to Summit Ultralight Hammock which weighs just 5 ounces without straps and costs $89.

An addition to Sea to Summits sleeping quilt line is the Sea to Summit Ember EBIII Quilt filled with 750 fill-power down and rated to 14F. Weight is 27 ounces and MSRP is $299.

The Sea to Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pads have become very popular because of their lightweight and comfort. For spring 17, STS will add an Extra Small size, which is 50 inches long, weighs 10.4 ounces, and will cost $89. While the Thermarest XLite Short is a bit lighter, some hikers may like this one better because of its comfort. 

In our past OR coverage we have reported on some very lightweight but minimally breathable emergency bivies from Adventure Medical Kits. For spring 2017 AMK is introducing the AMK Escape Pro Bivvy, which is claimed to be “super breathable” and reflect 90% of body heat, which makes it more than an emergency bivy. Weight is 8.5 ounces and MSRP is $125.

More ultralight sleeping bags coming out in spring 2017 are the Marmot Phase 30 and Phase 20 Sleeping Bags, weighing just 17.6 ounces and 23.3 ounces respectively. The bags are insulated with 850 fill-power down, have a full-length zipper, and 60 inches of shoulder girth for the regular length and 62 inches for the  long version. Prices are $399 and $459. A women’s version of the Phase 20 will be available, weighing 29 ounces (that’s 5.7 ounces heavier, which I assume is mostly down, so much warmer, but fits to only 5' 6").

Some years ago The North Face Flight Series was ultralight gear, then it changed, and now its back. For spring 2017 we will get TNF Flight Series Fuse Jacket, which will be a sub-4 ounce rain jacket. The spots in the jacket (Fuse-Form Venting) are cutouts in the fabric covered with their DryVent PU waterproof-breathable membrane, which saves weight and increases breathability. The jacket has water-resistant zippers, one chest pocket, and attached hood. MSRP is $250 (not cheap).

Also from The North Face is TNF Better Than Naked Jacket, which is a windshirt weighing approximately 2.5 ounces (our estimate since they did not have data). It features FlashDry fabrics, stitch-free seams, and body-mapped venting. Notice the openings in the side seams to catch breezes while running. MSRP is $120.

A new type of garment from Patagonia is the Patagonia AirShed Pullover, which weighs just 4 ounces and is claimed to function as both a baselayer and midlaryer. This one is a little hard for me to wrap my brain around; it seems like more of a baselayer, a very light one at that. The fabric is 20-denier nylon, the same as the face fabric used in their Nano-Air jacket. It has lots of stretch and is abrasion-resistant. MSRP is $119.

Also from Patagonia is a new lightweight hooded rain jacket called the Patagonia Stormracer Jacket, weighing just 6 ounces. The W/B technology is Patagonia’s H2No, a 2.5 layer construction. MSRP is $249.

For men only. You are probably familiar with the MyPackage “Keyhole Pocket” technology, which provides for men what a sports bra provides for women. For spring 2017 they will be introducing the MyPackage Running Short (held at the top of the photo) with the same technology. This would eliminate for wearing anything under the short. A version with an attached running tight (lower part of the photo) will also be offered. MSRPs are $80 for the short and $85 for the short+tight.

CAMP, the climbing gear company, has provided us with several ultralight gear items to feature in the past. This time we found the 3.3 oz/pair CAMP Mini Gaiter. The ankle height gaiter is made of a stretch fabric with a Cordura tab at the toe where the gaiter hook is attached. It has a tough Hypalon underfoot strap, which will eventually wear out from hiking (but not from skiing), but it can easily be replaced with Velcro patches on the heel of the gaiter and shoe. MSRP is $40, available now. I previously reported on the CAMP Crystal Gaiter, which is a very lightweight tall gaiter for hiking.

The popular lightweight Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum Tent will get the HV (High Volume) treatment, increasing its volume 20%. The 1-person version will have a trail weight of 1 pound 7 ounces ($500), and the 2-person version will weigh 1 pound 10 ounces ($550). The Platinum version uses 7-denier fabrics, which accounts for the higher cost. This tent has an end entry (which reduces weight), compared to the Copper Spur’s side entry. Normally I would put a double-wall tent into the lightweight backpacking category, but this one is light enough to slip into an ultralight gear kit. 


 UL Backpacking (this article)
 Food

11 comments:

  1. I suppose that, since you are hear, reading this, Ultra Light Gear is what interests you, right? Well, I can also suggest checking out this article I found a few days ago, and it talks about the best Ultralight Sleeping bag models available on the market: http://hikingmastery.com/top-pick/best-ultralight-sleeping-bag.html

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    Replies
    1. Spamming all the web, huh?

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    2. that website is crap, it 100% marketing for sub-par products which are not even UL and are mostly low quality crap he is trying to advertise ....hiking and UL is not just a way for you to make money John C. Porter, some of us actually believe in it

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Nothing UL about the bags in that article. Puzzling...

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  2. Will - I purchased my 1st lightweight pack, an Elemental Horizons, based on a review you submitted on BPL. Really happy to find you here, providing the best unbiased reviews and information about lightweight backpacking on the web. The lightweight community appreciates your heavyweight efforts. Thank you. Russ W

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome, nice to receive a compliment once in awhile.

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    2. You're welcome, nice to receive a compliment once in awhile.

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  3. Thanks for the info! A few of these items are now in my gear set after learning about them here (then waiting for them to be released).

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  4. Outdoor products include a wide variety of product categories. Typically the categories are not dominated by major manufactures and inventors with innovative products have a good chance of getting their products on the market. The drawback to the industry is that retailers are small and each category tends to have smaller trade shows. The industry does however have some key specific trade shows that can be helpful if you serve a market segment that has a major show. The good news is that independent sales reps are prevalent in the market and they sell to both large and small retailers. Inventors with a strong product category have an excellent chance to set up their own rep networkhttp://bowhuntingus.beep.com/

    ReplyDelete