What’s on the way in travel gear? I just got back from the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market held each year in Salt Lake City. It’s a place where retail buyers come to see what’s new and different for the upcoming fall season and place their orders. For us media types, it’s a chance to get a sneak peak at what’s going to be hitting stores later.
Over on our sister Cheapest Destinations Blog I already posted a rundown on new trends in travel gear that you should go check out before or after reading this post. It’s all about light gear getting lighter, but basic materials costs driving up prices. Plus some buying advice and a rant about retro bags.
When covering this show, most gear and outdoor publications get all serious and dive into the technical specs for all the new wonder jackets and slightly changed backpacks. I’d rather cover those items here in detail later—the ones fit for normal travelers—after they hit the market. I saw three developments that might be true game-changers though.
1) Lightweight shoes that are not just for runners. We’ve had ultra-light running shoes for quite a while now, thanks to the barefoot running style craze. But now the technology is making it to the mainstream. The post I mentioned before has some very packable winter boots from Teva. The picture above has some ultra-light Nike running shoes on a scale—and a pair of comfy Rockport shoes that weigh less.
2) Treated down that repels water. I saw two companies talking about this process, where down is subjected to a microscopic polymer that repels water, before it goes into a sleeping bag or jacket. Sierra Designs is the one that’s leading the way on this and is putting the most marketing muscle into it. From what I saw at the demos, it really works.
3) More and better rechargeable devices. I’ve tried some solar chargers over the years with mixed results, but now I’m seeing some solar panel/battery combos that pack some serious juice, like enough to charge a laptop once or an iPad multiple times—after a few hours of sunlight. Plus there are more items hitting the market that can be charged via USB instead of having to deal with AA batteries. The SteriPEN Freedom is a hit already and as this year goes on you’ll see more flashlights, lanterns, and purifiers that plug and charge. I’m especially excited about a Camelbak bottle coming in March that has its own UV purifier lamp built in.
Bring on the fun!
Enough serious stuff. Here are some of the items that I found more interesting to take shots of than yet another waterproof ski shell.
Actually most of the gear that makes you smile is geared to kids, which means I think we all need to lighten up a bit. I mean how can you not smile when you see this backpack from MadPax? Or these fun mittens that look like bear paws (and have an opening where you can get your hand out to pull up a zipper) from Bear Hands & Buddies?
Okay, okay—I’ll put some photos of some serious gear to watch for on our Facebook page if you really want to know what’s coming to a store near you in six months. So go like us there and watch for pics the next few days.
Meanwhile, stay tuned the rest of 2012 as we review the best travel gear for your money.