This year’s Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show was one of high energy and meaningful innovations. Versatile, fashion-forward technical gear built to transition seamlessly between urban and outdoor environments was an overarching trend that carried on from the past four shows — even some of the big boys took notice and played along with the trend. Ultralight gear designed to help outdoorsman go faster and farther was also popular. For the first time, big brands like Mountain Hardwear and Big Agnes used Dyneema in the construction of their gear (a material typically only used by small garage brands). Sustainability remained a growing trend in the space with more brands using recycled materials and pushing environmentally-friendly messaging.
Over the course of three days, we met with over 150 of the best brands in the outdoor industry and saw, without exaggeration, over a thousand products. Here, we narrow it down to just ten. These top products caught our eyes through innovation, advanced materials and superior design, and made us excited for the outdoor industry and the year ahead.
While a select few pieces below are available for purchase now, most of the gear featured here will be available for purchase in 2019.
Nike Trail Terra Kiger 5
This was Nike’s first trip to Outdoor Retailer, and the sportswear giant did not disappoint. The brand brought its grassroots Trail team to the show (along with its camper van), to show off the new Terra Kiger 5. The shoe features a similar upper to the previous Terra Kiger; the innovation on this version comes in the sole. The Terra Kiger 5 features the same foam compound as the seriously-hyped Nike Epic React, in a trail-ready configuration. While we have yet to run in these and put them to the test, if the bright and retro colorway is anything to go on, these will be Nike’s best trail shoes yet.
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 Carbon
The Fly Creek UL 1 Dyneema is the lightest, semi-freestanding tent that Big Agnes has ever made. It weighs in at only one pound thanks to the use of ultralight Dyneema, a material that has an incredible strength to weight ratio that’s used mostly by innovative garage outdoor brands. We’ve praised the use of Dyneema extensively in the past, and it’s exciting to see a bigger brand like Big Agnes put Dyneema to good use. To make the tent even lighter, Big Agnes also employs the use of carbon tent poles. The tent is shockingly light and is sure to please even the most discerning of weight weenies.
Peak Design Travel Line
Peak Design started in 2011 with a single camera accessory. Now it makes straps, backpacks, totes and more — many of which have set funding records on Kickstarter. Its latest product is a 45-liter bag called the Travel Backpack. As with every Peak Design product, versatility and customizability are at the heart of the pack. It has access points on the back, sides and top, and handles for carrying on every side. Its shoulder straps and hipbelt tuck away. Smaller highlights include theft-deterrent zippers, a concealed passport stash pocket, a soft sunglasses pocket and a compression snap system that brings the bag down to 35 liters when its full capacity isn’t needed.
The Travel Backpack is part of Peak Design’s new Travel Line, which is an ecosystem of products that are designed to be best in class on their own but also function cohesively as a group. There’s a tech organizer, a wash kit, packing organizers and camera cubes. Unlike the other items you’ll find on this list, all of Peak Design’s new products are available for pre-order now on Kickstarter and are slated to arrive to customers before the holiday season. As of writing, the campaign has already garnered 1.7 million dollars, which is well over its $500,000 goal.
Therm-a-rest Uberlite Mattress and Vesper 32 Quilt
We couldn’t bring ourselves to give the Editor’s choice to just one of these products, and they are designed to be used together, so we gave it to both of them. Together, the Vesper 32 quilt and Uberlite mattress weigh less than two cans of beer without sacrificing on comfort. The Uberlite is the lightest pad that Therm-a-rest has ever made, and employs a unique inner structure and outer baffling to improve comfort and insulation. The Vesper 32 quilt is stuffed with 900-fill down and will easily replace your mummy-style sleeping bag. There’s no zipper or hood (thus saving weight), and the clips on the back allow you to keep your sleeping pad in place under the quilt.
Gerber Compleat Tool
The Gerber Compleat tool is one of those products you look at and wonder why it has never seen the light of day before. It has a fork, spoon, dual-edge spatula and a multi-tool that opens bottles, packages and cans and peels veggies. The four pieces all slide together easier than a piece of Ikea furniture and come apart slightly quicker. When all the pieces are bundled together, it’s no bigger than the paper face mask you get at the theater for 3D movies. Flip the fork or spoon around, slide it back in with the spatula and you have tongs to pick up corn, bacon, hot fruit desserts or pancakes right off the hot grill. It will retail for $25 in four colors: silver, shiny deep green, black and bronze.
Black Diamond Deploy Wind Shell
Black Diamond’s Deploy Wind Shell takes lightweight outdoor clothing to a new extreme. The windproof outer layer is really light — 48 grams to be specific (that’s roughly 1.7 ounces, and about the same weight as a golf ball). Black Diamond achieved such a mark by working closely with material manufacturers. The fabric is a five-denier nylon made by Toray Japan that’s exclusive to Black Diamond, and the zipper is YKK’s Super Lightweight Zipper, which is 40 percent lighter than any other available. The Deploy packs down easily into its own pocket, which is small enough to go unnoticed in most other pockets you might have on your person.
The North Face Griffin Backpack
For 2019, The North Face is overhauling its gear-haulers. At the top of the new line is the Griffin, a trekking backpack available in both 65- and 75-liter volumes. The Griffin looks like many other long-distance packs (except for its futuristic white hue) but is loaded with smart and innovative features designed to make walking far with 50+ pounds on one’s back a more enjoyable experience. The hipbelt pivots, the back panel can be raised or lowered without taking off the pack and tension can be adjusted with a single strap above the right shoulder. This system is called Dyno Carry, and it’ll automatically adjust over the course of a trail day to evenly-distribute weight as it shifts.
Parts of the design behind the Griffin come directly from instructors at the National Outdoor Leadership School. Backpacking is at the heart of the school’s curriculum, and the instructors know what a pack should and shouldn’t do, perhaps more so than any other group.
Norrøna Bitihorn Alpha Hoody
Norrøna is a Scandinavian brand you’ve likely never heard of, but it makes clean, high quality, beautifully-designed outerwear that rivals that of Arc’teryx. The brand is on its way to the US for a full launch (it was previously only available on Backcountry), and with it comes the Bitihorn Alpha Hoody. The Bitihorn is a versatile, breathable jacket that features Polartec Alpha Direct insulation. It’s perfect for fast and light peak bagging excursions. The jacket has a handful of smart built-in features like a balaclava and an integrated waist gaitor that allows it to be tucked in while still providing an untucked look.
A year ago, Tecnica, one of the most well-known ski boot companies in the world, announced that it would begin to make hiking boots. In the months since then, its first boot (a fully-customizable model called Forge) has been an enormous success. We’ve done some walking in it, and even gave it our Editor’s Choice Award for the best hiking boot. Now, Tecnica is expanding the line with a low-cut hiking shoe called Plasma. It features the same hallmark that makes Forge awesome: heat-molded customization. That means a perfect fit and no break-in period.
We were able to pick up a sample of the hiking shoe at Outdoor Retailer and can confirm that the fit process (which is the same as with the Forge) is easy, and the results are excellent. Our pair put up with hours of walking on lightly-carpeted concrete flooring — look for a full review on the shoe and how it handles time on the trail early next year.
Plasma will be available with Gore-Tex for $180 and without it for $150 in Spring 2019.
Benchmade 200 Puukko
At Gear Patrol we’re suckers for a quality, durable outdoor-oriented fixed blade knife, and Benchmade’s all-new 200 Puukko delivers precisely those attributes in spades. The Puukko is a Scandinavian-style knife popular in the outdoor and survival spaces, largely due to its flat spine, which is perfect for hammering into logs or striking with a flint. The Puukko also utilizes 3V steel (which is not stainless and therefore needs to be maintained), which is remarkably resilient and can handle intense use without breaking. The handle is made from a non-slip rubberized material that feels soft yet tacky in the hand. The 200 Puukko will be available this October.