Outdoor gear continues its slow but steady trend to higher tech,with minimalism still a strong influence. Human nature is to carry as many tools as possible (as pictured to right), but those tools continue to downsize.
In my view, electronics are perhaps the most important part of the trend. As our civilization testifies, electricity powers and empowers us. We take that into the backcountry in the form of headlamps; cameras; music players and more. As this evolves, we need more available power.
We get more electrons by carrying batteries with higher power density, such as lithium, as well as using photovoltaics where possible. Beyond that, we’re hoping to eventually see some sort of smaller fuel cells that work for outdoor recreation such as backpacking, and provide power to weight ratios that obsolete everything else.
I’ve been watching what Brunton is doing in this area, as they’ve got a nice line of battery packs and associated solar panels which are quite packable for human powered travel.
A new company at the show, Trail Charge, has also entered the backcountry PV arena with a very durable though heavier system. Their panels, bedded in polyurethane, are practically indestructible. More, they’re in a soft case system that folds out into a rigid unit you can orient at the optimum angle to the sun. Worth a look if you want an efficient and hardened system.
|Trail Charge PV system is modular, the panels are useful for a variety of applications. Too heavy for short backpacking trips, but they’d be perfect for longer expeditions or base camp use.|
Beyond electricity, how about some other cool stuff to vibrate your minimalist bone?
|Who would have ever thought they’d come up with a folding helmet? Yep, here you go. The sides slide up, and the back folds in. Stows in your pack no bigger than a large ham sandwich. We want one.|
|What’s in the bag? We’ve asked for a truly lightweight shell to wear over our softshells in the even of extra severe weather. That’s what is in the stuffsack — a waterproof fully hooded hard shell from C.A.M.P.|
|It’s called the “Magic Jacket.” Weighs about 117 grams, clips on to your climbing harness like a draw or fits in you pack like an extra Power Bar. Must have.|
Other lightweight news from CAMP: Their “lightest harness in the world” now has a buckle so it won’t fall off when not under tension. Excellent! Oh, and we liked their team randonnnee racing pack with the towing strap. I can think of some people I’d like to hook up to with that…
After elbowing my way through what seemed like all of the 20,000 people at OR, I stopped by Cloudveil for a hit of mountain clothing culture. Their latest minimalist peice is the BPM Jacket, which is said to combine the feel of a softshell and the performance of a hard shell. This thing looked really good, so another thumbs up from us. Well get a few in testing ASAP. By the way, Cloudveil is set to keep supporting WildSnow.com, so that’s a whole famly of thumbs up!
|We’ll close today with the craziest thing seen (pictured above). But it just might work. These guys are making fabric insulation that fills with user controlled amounts of argon gas, thus providing optional levels of insulation depending on how far you inflate. This could potentially allow you to have one jacket or sleeping bag that worked in everything from mellow to sub-zero temperatures. We’re told that a few major clothing labels are working on incorporating this into product, so look for it. Should be interesting — but carry a spare gas cylinder in your repair kit! (Might be best for mountain biking, as you can inflate your jacket — or your tires.)|