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Experts Say This Is the Most Innovative Outdoor Gear of the Year

A panel of outdoor industry vets just honored these 16 awesome, clever and inclusive new items.

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Every January, hundreds of brands gather to showcase all the new outdoor gear and apparel they've been working on at Outdoor Retailer, the largest outdoor trade show in North America. Not this year, though. As #pandemiclife continues, the winter 2021 edition went online.

Nevertheless, the show's organizers assembled a panel of judges to determine the most innovative products among the thousands on display. Thirty-four finalists made the cut, but only 16 took home a win, including one that earned the designation as Product of the Year. Here's the scoop on the winners.

ZOLEO Satellite Communicator

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What if your smartphone had service literally everywhere? That’s the promise of this adventurer’s dream device, which seamlessly extends your coverage all over the globe and automatically routes messages using the lowest cost network available. No wonder it claimed Product of the Year honors.

Price: $199

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Ascend Performance Materials Acteev Protect

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Meet what might be the ultimate face mask material. Lab tests have shown that, when added to polyamide 66 textile fabric, germ-fighting Acteev technology deactivates SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and other pathogens including H1N1.

Price: $15

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Bern Hudson

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This safe and stylish helmet is designed for urban commuters. It boasts MIPS, an integrated LED light, U-lock-friendly reinforced vents and a lower price point than Thousand’s similar Chapter.

Price: $120

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Decathlon/Quechua 2-Seconds Easy Tent

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We were stoked about this tent the second we heard about it, and it only takes twice that long to set up. Thanks to a clever design, all you must do is tug two pull cords to bring it life.

Price: $199

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Dovetail Workwear Maven Maternity

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Thanks to durable stretch denim and Beyond Bellyband tech, the first ever American maternity workpant is comfortable, functional, flexible and versatile. In other words, it’s perfect for women who garden, hike, ride trails and so much more.

Price: $99

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Extreme Motus Emma X3

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This all-terrain wheelchair features large, low-pressure tires that can tackle grass, gravel, rocks, sand, snow, mud and even float in the water. One of the most inclusive products on this list opens up access to National Parks and so much more for wheelchair users.

Price: $4,049+

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Goal Zero Yeti 1500X Portable Power Station

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Kiss gas generators goodbye with this lithium-ion battery-powered solution. An all-new 2000W AC inverter and seven different port options enables you to fuel damn near anything — and even recharge with Goal Zero’s portable solar panels.

Price: $2,000

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Helly Hansen Odin Infinity Insulated Jacket

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As we noted in a recent piece on Helly Hansen’s Elevation Infinity Shell Jacket, the brand’s latest breakthrough is Lifa Infinity Pro, a waterproof-breathable membrane and exterior fabric without any chemical additives. This jacket boasts that tech too, along with the second-to-none performance pedigree of every Odin-emblazoned release.

Elevation Jacket Price: $750

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Houdini Mono Air Houdi

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A simple zip-up fleece in appearance, the Mono Air Houdi uses a new fabric from Polartec called Power Air Light to keep microfibers from shedding during wear and washing. The little pockets that trap them in place also trap warm air, providing real warmth in addition to the feel-good kind you get knowing that wearing it is helping mitigate a severe environmental problem.

Price: $200

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JP Outdoor Co. CoPilot Carrier Pak

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JP Outdoor's idea of a hiking pack-baby carrier combo includes a built-in changing station, a cooler compartment, removable food and clothing bags, a place for diapers and a 15-inch laptop sleeve.

Price: $135

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Optimus Gemini

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Dedicated cooks want dual burners, even while camping. That's the promise of the Gemini, though it separates itself from other high-output stoves with its uniquely compact form. The setup swaps the typical briefcase design for collapsible legs that also serve as cooking platforms.

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Mammut 9.5 Crag We Care Classic Rope

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Mammut, the Swiss company that pioneered climbing rope innovation, is adding a layer of protection to the critical safety gear. It comes in the form of a sheath made of yarn leftovers from rope production, and it aims to reduce waste and environmental harm. As a bonus, the recycled sheath looks pretty damn cool.

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NexTex TurboDry

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Moisture-wicking is a key component in all active apparel. NexTex's new TurboDry fabric tech aims to make it better by mimicking tree roots' moisture management systems. TurboDry doesn't use chemical coatings to do it either and can function with recycled and natural fibers, the use of which is now prevalent in outdoor apparel.

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Sawyer Tap Filtration System

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Sawyer brings its wilderness-tested filtration to the tap in a compact cylinder that removes nasty things like bacteria, protozoa, cysts and microplastics from water. It'll be perfect for overseas travel, once we're all doing that again.

Price: $39

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Scarpa Mojito Bio

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Scarpa's rugged footwear is typically known for standing up to all imaginable abuse, but it built the Mojito Bio specifically to break down. The entire shoe is biodegradable with a bamboo-based upper and laces, a sugarcane-derived midsole and a natural rubber outsole. The box it comes in is made of recycled cardboard, too.

Price: $179

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United By Blue COVID-19 Grocery Delivery Program

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When the pandemic forced United By Blue to shutter its cafe-equipped stores, the brand pivoted to turn them into grocery distribution centers. Leveraging its relationships with local farms, co-ops and restaurant suppliers, it created a new business model that worked for both it and the surrounding community. A health insurance company even got on board to get the system to work for high-risk individuals, bringing them PPE and home goods in addition to food.

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