- Buyer's Guide
Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017 :: Recap Part II
As OR 2017 rolled on, the Carryology crew pressed ever deeper into the depths of the Salt Palace Convention Center to get a glimpse of the newest offerings in the world of carry. We walked through endless booths. We dodged countless bits of marketing swag (okay, we took a bit). And we kept up this frantic pace on a mixture of burritos from the Mountain Hardwear booth and beer. But we didn’t stop there. We met designers in back alleys, looked over prototypes out of the back of trucks, and flipped through product images in the back of smoky bars late into the night. So here we go, the second half of the best carry at OR 2017.
While not a bag company, AustriAlpin hardware decorates some of our favorite bags. There’s also a growing movement in the Carryology community to see how many of AustriAlpin’s Cobra buckles can be sewn onto one bag (current record at 9), so we had to swing by the booth.
While the original Cobra buckle is still going strong, it’s getting a makeover with additional colors. The orange and various shades of green look very sharp. Recognizing that the size and price of the original Cobra buckle is overkill for most bags, AustriAlpin is also rolling out a more ‘fashion’ orientated buckle. It’s the same buckle mechanism but at a much smaller size, price (~$7.50 wholesale), and a whole range of anodized colors.
We came to the CamelBak booth for the purified water fountains they had on hand and stayed for the impressive range of bags to comfortably carry this water.
Taking their bestselling Fourteener and Sequoia backpacks, CamelBak has redesigned them from the ground up. Aside from a host of practical features there’s a new compression system CamelBak is calling ‘waist belt wings’. Basically it’s a system that will simultaneously tighten and compress your pack and hydration bladder in order to keep the bags tight against your body as the volume decreases throughout a hike.
The Nano Vest is an ultralight vest (150 grams) for runners. For being so small, the Nano Vest can carry 2 liters of gear and 1 liter of water. It also boasts a slick way to stow trekking poles while on the go.
The most durable bags we say at OR have to be CamelBak’s new K.U.D.U. and T.O.R.O. packs. Designed for mountain bikers, these bags include a back panel protector, sternum protector and hydration bladders. If you’re going light, the back panel protector can be worn without the rest of the bag.
Dakine came to OR with three new collections of bags that will appeal to everyone from the hardcore adventurer to the hardcore partier.
Things start off with the updated Cyclone Collection. There’s a host of bags here from backpacks to board bags all designed with burly Cordura ripstop fabric and meant to get wet. The 60L Duffel has a two-way purge valve for compression or flotation. The Wet/Dry Pack has a waterproof pocket just to hold a wet wetsuit.
Among the trends we saw at this year’s OR was the resurgence of fanny packs (though the politically correct name is now lumbar or hip packs). Dakine was debuting their Hot Laps series, three lumbar packs aimed at bikers. They feature hydration bladders on the larger packs and a ton of convenient pocketing.
Recognizing that the last thing you want is a warm beer, Dakine’s Party Block series not only has insulated softshell coolers, but also a shoulder belt with Velcro coozies (think the Rambo belt but with beer). The Party Block 28L comes in a sharp camo colorway and features 1” thick closed cell foam lining to keep those 18 (!) cans cool. Party on.
For carry-heads, the Dyneema booth was like a candy shop. Dyneema, the manufacturer of the superpower-esque textile of the same name, had a number of packs and gear on display that featured various Dyneema weaves and composites. Among them a North Face jacket, packs from Hyperlite Mountain Gear and Saint motorcycle jeans.
We noticed more and more companies at this year’s OR starting to incorporate Dyneema weaves into their bags. Or at the very least, designers from said companies sewing one-off bags with Dyneema that turned heads. Carryology Senior Editor David Vo was even spotted trying to barter his first child for a green Dyneema daypack.
Behind The Dyneema Project, Dyneema’s targeted collaboration program, we’re excited to see how Dyneema continues to find its place in the wider outdoor industry.
Nobody does heritage packs at OR quite as well as Filson. And while their bags boast top-of-the-line heritage material, this comes with a high price point. Recognizing this, Filson is releasing a host of new bags sewn with a ballistic nylon instead of their traditional wax cotton or tin cloth.
“Filson is releasing a host of new bags sewn with a ballistic nylon instead of their traditional wax cotton or tin cloth.”
The profiles are still unmistakably Filson and are available across a line of backpacks and duffels.
We’ve always got our eyes on Granite Gear after awarding them an ‘Innovation Award’ at OR a few years ago. The team from Minnesota is coming out with a collection of five packs all hand-sewn back in Minnesota.
The Daywalker, Clipper and Crux are solid daypacks that can be used on the trail and taken back into the city. Then there’s a pair of duffels that can be worn as backpacks. All feature rock solid construction and have a nice heritage touch. We’re digging the subdued colorways and understated style of this series.
With a booth featuring a beer cave, we spent a good amount of time talking shop with the team from Mountain Hardwear. They’re releasing the Multi-Pitch Collection, a line of climbing bags that were perhaps the most dialed-in bags we saw all show.
“Mountain Hardwear are releasing the Multi-Pitch Collection, a line of climbing bags that were perhaps the most dialed-in bags we saw all show.”
There are four packs, ranging from a chalk bag to a 40-liter ‘Station’. The way these bags can be laid out and accessed while fully loaded with gear had us drooling. They’re all decked out with super durable ballistic nylon and abrasion-resistant TPU and are just begging you to rough them up. Even for the non-climbers, the obsession that the Mountain Hardwear team designed into this series is impressive.
The team from Montana was in top form at OR with some great-looking new bags and a host of updates to existing bags. The stars of their booth were the new Terraframe and Hover packs.
The Terraframe line are bags with entirely new suspension systems designed to comfortably carry serious loads. The idea is that the bag adjusts to carry large, heavy loads next to your back instead of awkwardly lashing them to the exterior of your bag. The frame and harness are really well engineered, really in a league of their own.
The Hover Pack is a clever bag designed to not only minimize points of contact between the bag and your back, but do so in a way that doesn’t take away from the carrying capacity of the pack. There are some serious frame stays that effectively direct the levitating load down to your hips. Trying on this bag, it felt ridiculously comfortable and minimal despite being 50 liters.
In addition to a number of smaller daypacks, Mystery Ranch is set to release a line of roller duffels. The Mission Wheelies clock in at 40, 80 and 130-liter sizes. The wheels on these rollers are legitimately off-road. There’s a flexible molded shell along the bottom of the bag and 1000D Cordura fabric on the top. If there happened to be a tornado at OR, I would run and hide in the 130-liter Wheelie, it’s that tough.
Thule had a full line of new bags and updates to existing lines. Lots of good stuff here. Starting off with their new AllTrail series, we liked the way this line of outdoor backpacks was geared to the casual backpackers. Nothing unnecessary or complicated about these bags, and lots of accessories to adapt the pack to your needs. The hipbelt can be fitted with seven various accessories including a camera pouch and hiking pole holsters.
On the hydration front Thule introduced the Vital pack, a lightweight pack aimed at bikers. It’s available in three sizes and features some well-designed access points. We really liked Thule’s ReTrakt hose return system – basically a magnet on the hydration hose and shoulder strap to ensure that you have no problems with floppy hoses.
Finally Thule updated their Subterra luggage line. There’s a series of new colorways, sizes and solid travel features. One in particular had us wondering why this hasn’t been done before. Thule’s putting magnets in their luggage grab handles. This allows you to quickly unzip your bag and get inside without needing to unbutton any handles. Travellers rejoice.
File this one under ‘backroom dealing’. We met the Tortuga crew to discuss a prototype of their backpack at an undisclosed location post-OR. The bag is part of their new Homebase collection. It’s a bag that’s meant to serve for nomads who have a few home bases scattered across the globe. The material is super lightweight, the build is rock solid, and we’re stoked to see this bag released.
YETI, best known for the insulated cooler, is getting into the carry game. They’re debuting the Panga duffel, a fully submersible beast of a bag that’s available in 50, 75 and 100-liter sizes. It’s decked out with a Hydrolok zipper, all-metal hardware and handy interior pocketing. As YETI puts it, this bag is nothing short of a waterproof fortress.
“YETI are debuting the Panga duffel, a fully submersible beast of a bag that’s available in 50, 75 and 100-liter sizes.”
Matador was impossible to miss thanks to a large gong frequently being gonged in their booth. Adding to their line of super-packable bags is a 28-liter backpack with hydration bladder. The bag is affectionately known as The Beast and packs down smaller than a Nalgene bottle.
Somewhere nestled in the back of the Salt Palace Convention Center is the Cordura booth, the textile manufacturer that 95% of the bags at OR are sewn with. Stepping into their booth it’s always impressive to see not only the sheer number of textiles on hand but also new fabric technologies being developed.
We’ll hold off on detailing these technologies and instead will wax poetic on two bags Cordura designed with The North Face to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The bags are based on original North Face designs and feature hardware from all of the original supplies. As Cordura puts it, ‘they got the band back together’ for these bags. Bonafide carry candy.
Timbuk2 came out swinging at OR. They not only had the most new bags on display at OR, but some of the most complete lines. Their bags were divided between four lines – heritage, urban mobility, travel and bike. Sharp colorways, super reflective material (for the bikers), and lots of accessory bags really impressed us. We can’t touch on every bag but we’ll mention a few that caught our eyes.
Take the Mission Sling. It’s an 8L-10L sling/hip bag that was designed with music festival goers in mind. It’s got extra-large pockets and zippers if your vision is blurry and can easily fit a small jacket or blanket.
Or look at the Wander Pack. It’s a 40-liter travel backpack that is aimed at one-bag travelers. There’s tons of accessible pocketing, a full line of packing cubes and gadget holders available, and it’s designed in very sharp colorways.
Finally there’s the Circuit Sling. While this bag would be a solid messenger bag as is, what really caught our eye was the material this bag is made with. Timbuk2 took reflective material and laid it beneath a coarse nylon weave. The result is that the entire bag lights up when a light shines on it.
We also got wind of a recent collaboration Timbuk2 did with…Froot Loops. Yes, apparently this limited-edition backpack has swapped a laptop sleeve out for a cereal box holder and the material of the bag is printed with the image of Froot Loops being poured from a box. Carry Candy. No pun intended.
Another OR backroom special. Gami is the newest bag brand at this year’s OR. It’s an evolving collaboration between members of the Alite and Boreas teams that is experimenting with origami-inspired bag designs. The Gami is their first release and is an interesting approach to an expanding duffel.
The folding design of the bag is meant to carry from work to the gym to travel through a clever expanding system. The Gami bag is currently live on Kickstarter.
The North Face
The North Face continued to push some really solid expedition packs out at OR. The flagship was the Prophet 100L. Yes, for anyone needing a 100L pack, the Prophet has got you covered. Highlights include a Dyneema weave for the fabric, a waist belt and hip belt that can be adjusted with one hand while still wearing the pack, and uber-compressible pockets all in a very useable form. It’s an impressive pack and the large photo of a grinning Conrad Anker behind the display only made the bag seem more badass.
Along with some updates to their climbing packs, The North Face is also rolling out the Prophet in a few more traditional sizes.
It’s also worth noting that The North Face is releasing an entirely new line of urban packs in the near future. No amount of bribery could convince them to give us any more details.
Running on fumes (the beer tents had long ago closed) and dangerously close to a carry overdose, we stumbled out of the Salt Palace into the fading light glimmering through downtown Salt Lake City. However, before our OR 2017 buzz ended we had some hardware to dole out. Stay tuned for the 2017 Carryology Outdoor Retailer Best in Show Awards…