- Buyer's Guide
Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017 :: Recap Part I
It was a bittersweet moment as I flew into the valley, knowing this would be the last Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City. And that was what the rest of the week felt like; a mixture of excitement with a little bit of disappointment stirred in. This time, Carryology brought a dynamic duo, plus we had some industry friends along for the ride. We saw lots of activism, some real innovation, loads of quirkiness, and plenty of low-ABV beer. Read on as we lead you through what the top carry brands had to show.
While not a bag company, BioLite has branched out tremendously from the CampStove that put them on the map. They are still focused on bringing lighting and power to off-grid scenarios and whether that means a village in Africa or #vanlife nomads, they had all the bases covered.
The star of the show was the SolarHome 620, which includes a solar panel, three lights, and a control panel that provides an MP3-compatible stereo, charging for mobile devices. The lights are all energy-efficient LEDs with dedicated on/off switches and one of the three even has a motion sensor. Again, this would be great in any scenario where light is just needed for an evening and can charge during the day.
In addition, we also got to see their new NanoGrid series which consists of a base station, hanging string lights that can be infinitely expanded, and the PowerLight Mini which has really cool edge lighting, taking a cue from fiber optics. Lastly, they put their own spin on portable battery packs, producing three sizes with quite a unique look.
A raucous party was going on in the Black Diamond booth, complete with a live band featuring an upright bass, when I had my appointment. This made it difficult to check out the bags in person, but luckily BD is only introducing six new trail packs for Spring 2018. Actually, for next year, they are revamping their whole day trek series to make things more cohesive.
Starting off with the most full featured of the bunch, the Nitro comes in both 22 and 26 liter sizes. This is the high end of their day trek packs and comes with water bottle straps, swing warm hipbelts, and ice axe compatibility. The 26L will be priced at $150.
The Bolt comes in just the 24L volume size and it is the little brother to the Nitro. It shares many of the same features, but at a lower price point.
The Magnum will be available in both 16L and 20L, for shorter trips, and has a simple belt, as opposed to the beefier ones we saw with the Nitro and Bolt. Lastly, the runt of the group, the Bbee 11 is made for fast runs and quick ascents. It’s priced at $50 and represents the entry level pack.
All packs are hydration compatible but do not include bladders. They all use Black Diamond’s open-air, high flow back panels and are constructed out of BD’s own version of Dyneema.
The big story for Salt Lake City locals Cotopaxi is their wildly successful Allpa travel pack which raised over $1M on Indiegogo. The pack comes in two colorways, black and blue, and is 35L. The exterior is a TPU-coated 1000D, with 1680D ballistic paneling. The bag is carry-on compatible and has carry handles on all sides, and all the straps can pack away to avoid any snagging during transport.
The bag has a butterfly splay open feature for easy packing and unpacking, with a mesh panel interior on one side and a large main cavity on the other. The mesh side allows you to see all the contents while offering separation.
“The big story for Salt Lake City locals Cotopaxi is their wildly successful Allpa travel pack which raised over $1M on Indiegogo.”
Compression straps on both sides keep things nice and compact. The back panel has an air mesh material to keep things cool and can support a 15″ laptop in the compartment. What’s great is the bags also come with the Batac 16L daypack in Cotopaxi’s Del Dia colorway, which is to say, every bag is different. This packs flat so it’ll serve as your city/daypack while the Allpa is your base camp.
I’m personally really excited to try this system out. While the weight might be a little higher than comparable one-bag solutions out there, I think the system as a whole and the size is really attractive.
The 119-year-old German backpack brand introduced four full lines of completely new bags, or at least revamps of existing bags.
The Futura series uses the new Sensic Back System which provides maximum ventilation while transferring up to 70% of the weight to the hip fins. The Futura Vario feature the VariFit slide for easy one-touch adjustment. The bags are all hydration compatible and come in 17 sizes including women-specific and extra long models. They range in price from $120 to $230.
The Aircontact Lite bags are designed for long treks. They feature an open-cell foam back for ventilation, and an adjustable X-frame to transfer weight to the hip belt. Speaking of the hip belt, it’s a dual density hip belt that is stiffer on top to promote weight on top of the hip, and softer on the bottom for comfort. There are plenty of external straps for axes and poles and of course they are hydration compatible. The Aircontact Lite bags come in 6 sizes and are priced $190 to $220.
The Speed Lite series light/fast packs were revamped for 2018. They are lightweight with the largest size (32L) weighing just 870 grams (under 2 lbs) and it’s meant for multi-day trips. Nine sizes are available ranging from 12L to the aforementioned 32L and are priced reasonably at $60 to $140.
Last but not least is the Race and Race Air series of bags. They offer maximum ventilation and comfort, thanks to the Aircomfort Flexlite suspended mesh back system. There’s lots of practical features like loops for bike lights, sunglasses attachment loop on the front strap for easy access during a ride, detachable rain cover, and 3M reflective elements. They are priced at $105 to $135.
The company that has kept my travel luggage organized for as long as I could remember has a few new interesting products for Spring 2018.
Things start off with the Morphus International Carry-On. The Morphus has been in the line for a while but what’s new is the size is now international carry-on compatible (just 0.5 inch difference). They also took everything they learned from the first release to improve this new iteration. The concept is from one bag, comes two. The front bag zips off the framed roller and essentially becomes two carry-on bags. If you don’t pack the front bag fully, it’ll even fit under the front seat on your flight. It’ll retail for $329.
The new special edition Cargo Hauler is made with X-Pac sailcloth. The fabric also has Kevlar embedded for increased tensile strength as well as reinforced handles. There is a new pocket on the inside of the lid and the bag can be carried as a backpack. It only comes in one size, 60L, and will be $199.
The Global Companion Travel Pack which tries to improve on the 40 years of Eagle Creek Travel Packs. The problem they were trying to solve with this one is access. Usually you have to get in top load or front load, which makes it hard to get stuff at the bottom. This new pack has a full butterfly opening. It’s available in a 40L carry and 60L checked size. The 40L comes with a separate shoe compartment with water-resistant fabric, organization, a stash pocket for a jacket, sunglasses pocket on top, storm flap on the bottom to prevent water from leaking in, and a 17-inch laptop compartment with pass-through access to the main compartment. The 40L also comes with an attached rainfly, while the 60L comes with a separate “check-in” rainfly that basically self-contains the whole bag and straps into a clean package. They are $159 and $229 respectively.
Finally, the Packables line was redesigned with a new lightweight fabric. The line includes a day pack, duffel, and tote and now packs down smaller and lighter.
If you’ve been to Outdoor Retailer recently, you’ll know that the Swedish brand Fjällräven has one of the sweetest booth setups around. This year was no different and we were invited to go through their new bag releases, high up above the Salt Palace convention hall floor, in their crow’s nest. It was one of the few reviews where we were seated and had relative privacy. We were shown a new tote that comes in two sizes as well as three bags celebrating the company’s history with Greenland.
Totepack No. 4 comes in both wide and tall sizes and is a great everyday bag to haul groceries, baby gear, a yoga mat and clothes, or your laptop and documents for work. It is made with Fjällräven’s famous G-1000 material and can be waxed for waterproofness. Both models are 19L and can be carried in either tote or backpack style.
Fjällräven was part of the Greenland expedition and to celebrate the 50th anniversary, they released a line of apparel and bags. The first bag we’ll cover is the Greenland Top. It comes in two sizes, large (38L) and small (28L). Again, it’s made with G-1000 and features metal hardware, a top drawstring closure, laptop compatibility, and a quick-access front compartment. They’ll retail for $120 and $150.
Next up is the Greenland Zip Backpack which is a little smaller than the Greenland Top. It also comes in two sizes, 16L and 23L, and will be priced $90 and $100. Pretty straightforward features here – padded laptop sleeve, double top carry handles, and padded shoulder straps for comfort.
Last but not least, now what’s a Fjällräven celebration without the classic Kånken. The Greenland Kånken just improves on a good thing with a leather logo, Scandinavian handle and burlier design. The 16L pack will retail for $100 and will come in a variety of colorways.
One of the biggest showings this show, for me, was Hydro Flask with their Unbound Series of soft coolers. Traditionally known for their insulated water bottles, Hydro Flask is entering the soft goods world and while the apparel is mildly interesting, what really caught everyone’s attention are the two new soft coolers. The 22L Soft Cooler Pack and 24L Soft Cooler Tote feature their new TempShield Soft insulation and Advanced Thermal Mapping to keep food and drinks chilled for 24 hours.
“One of the biggest showings this show, for me, was Hydro Flask with their Unbound Series of soft coolers.”
The coolers have thick insulation on the top and bottom where they found that the most cold is lost, while keeping things light and comfortable in the middle portions. Welded Aquaseal zippers mean no leaks in or out of the coolers. Both styles feature dry storage areas, tear and abrasion resistance, and can free-stand on their base. They will retail for $275.
This American knife company from Oregon has some of the most loyal customers and like most EDC’s, they want to carry their multitools with them anywhere. By now, you’ve probably heard of the story of how Leatherman president Ben Rivera tried to bring his Wave into Disneyland but security wouldn’t let him. This led him to creating the Tread. It’s been a great seller for Leatherman but customers were clamoring for two changes – first they wanted a smaller and narrower Tread. Second, for those wearing wrist watches, they hated having two bracelets on their wrist. They asked Leatherman to combine the two.
Leatherman came through with a small unit, called the Tread LT. It’s 20% lighter than the standard version, still comes with nine different tools, and is still TSA approved. It’s priced at $175.
The second request, the watch, was a lot harder to accomplish. You can’t simply hook up a Tread to a watch because the torque that’s applied when using the Tread tools often resulted in damage or failure of the watch component. They were finally able to overcome the obstacles with the Tread Tempo. It mates a Tread bracelet with a Swiss-made timepiece, utilizing a Quartz movement. It comes in two colors (silver and black) and both come with a sapphire crystal watch face for hard wear. It’ll retail for $575.
A lot of buzz had already formed around the Osprey booth before OR even started. They were coming off a high from their European trade show, so the Outdoor Retailer attendees knew what to expect.
Kicking things off are the new Levity/Lumia packs. Osprey has always had Ultralight packs but now with the help of their own lightweight fabric called NanoFly, they have entered the Super Ultralight category. They come in two sizes, 45L and 60L, and weigh 1.76 and 1.83 pounds respectively. Think about the bags out there that weigh under 2 lbs and what that feels like to carry a load in, for long distances. What do you have to give up in terms of features and comfort? From what we saw, Osprey answered: not much. The pack has an actual (ultralight Airspeed) suspension, uses an Exoform harness, and a lumbar that pushes into your back and wraps around your waist for support. It’s made from Osprey’s proprietary fabric called NanoFly, which is like their version of Spectre or Dyneema, and it’s mated to a 30D silnylon underneath. It includes a top lid and side pockets. There is a men’s and women’s specific version in two colorways and two sizes, costing $250 and $270 and dropping in January 2018.
Besides that, there were some updates to existing bags. For example, the Exos was the last bag in Osprey’s backpacking line to not have a women’s specific version. They are finally fixing that with the Eja. Adjustments were also made to the hipbelt to make things easier to adjust and repair in the field. The lumbar rack was also taken from what they learned developing the Levity. This is a pack for someone who wants to carry 25-35 lb loads.
“Osprey has always had Ultralight packs but now with the help of their own lightweight fabric called NanoFly, they have entered the Super Ultralight category.”
Lastly, the Aether/Aerial line was updated with AG tech on top of the custom-molded hipbelt. And a removable day lid was added to round things off.
The company best known for keeping your belongings safe is back with a new line that keeps your things safe while you play in the water. The mission of Pacsafe has always been to allow customers to enjoy their travel but not be encumbered by worrying about security. With the popularity of dry bags and water activities, Pacsafe saw an opportunity to combine the two and came up with the Dry Series. The bags are constructed with high-frequency heat welding and fitted with high-frequency sealed seams and YKK water-repellent zippers.
The most heavy-duty of the bunch is the Dry 15L Travel Safe. It has a rolltop closure, and can convert to a backpack. It comes with a custom designed marine lock which is a combination lock that is stainless steel and water resistant. It’s been water tested to IPX6. Next up is the 25L backpack featuring Pacsafe’s Roobar locking system, with a wet/dry separation on the inside.
Then there is the 36L beach bag/tote which seems perfect for carrying all your gear to the beach for a surf outing. Again, you’ll find the Pacsafe locking system and wet/dry separation inside. Lastly, a small 4L Dry Stash Pack is perfect for a tote or just carrying your hotel key card, wallet, and phone for a trip down to the pool. You can secure it around the lounge furniture while you take a dip.
Initially Pelican’s philosophy was to design tough cases and the customer could decide what to put in them. Now, they’ve changed their mindset and are taking a more prescriptive approach to things, creating cases that are designed for particular uses. Pelican had backpacks before, but they were really just the hard cases with straps tied to them. For Spring ’18, they partnered with a design firm to come up with the Pelican Mobile Protect series. For the series, Pelican wanted to focus on the extreme traveler, someone who is on the road often and is hard on their gear. They wanted to preserve the brand ethos of protection, but also address comfort and organization.
First up – the backpacks. They feature 1000D nylon canvas that has been DWR coated, YKK PU-coated zippers, a suspended laptop sleeve, and one-piece EVA back panel and shoulder straps. Pelican believes that by reducing stitch points, they eliminate a source for wear and tear. What makes it a Pelican case is the ballistic nylon coated EVA pods on the bottom and corners, to protect against impact. It comes in 20L, 25L, and 35L and has a lifetime guarantee.
In addition, the MBP (Mobile Protect Duffel) line comes in 40L and 100L sizes and features shoulder straps for backpack carry, heavy reinforced bartacking for strength, a weather flap instead of coated zippers, and laptop support.
Both bags will be dropping early 2018.
New for Topo Designs Spring ’18 is the Core Pack. It is a great starter pack for their line, with expandable water bottle pockets, easy access to organization pockets and a U-shaped opening. There’s a dedicated laptop sleeve, and it comes in red charcoal, khaki, black, and olive. It’ll retail for $119 and will be available in March. The Mountain Pack is also refreshed. It’s gotten quite a bit bigger. The side water bottle pockets were updated to be more streamlined. It was also given a larger flap pocket.
There are lots of new colorways in the Rover. The Y-Pack ($79) is also getting new colors but also new water bottle holders and padded straps. The story with the Y-Pack and Core Pack, as well as a few others, is Topo is moving some production to Vietnam. This allows them to add more features to the bags and reduce costs, which is passed on to the consumer as savings. Most of the packs will still be made in Colorado.
The Mountain Duffel has been available in the 60L size but now they are introducing a 40L size as well, which will be available in the Fall. The Classic Duffel will now be available in X-Pac as well. Speaking of X-Pac, expect to see a lot more use of the material across their lines. The Klettersack will be available in black X-Pac in the Spring.
Lastly, a new collaboration with Danner featuring a black Horween leather lower and a matching boot. Both will have co-branded labeling.