Brace yourself, gear nerds: It may be summer outside, but inside, the spring gear is blooming.
Twice a year, Salt Lake City hosts the Outdoor Retailer show, where gear companies introduce new products to industry leaders and outdoor junkies. For four days, the Salt Palace Expo Center boasts the highest concentration of technical fabrics and lowest percentage of body fat this side of anywhere.
And it also has gear. Lots of new, shiny, wonderful gear.
The show provides a hint at what’ll be hot next spring. We got a sneak peek; here are some of our favorites.
* Arc’teryx Alpha FL climbing pack
Arc’teryx’s Alpha FL pack is made with N400r-AC² nylon 6 ripstop to be super lightweight and durable. The pack has a “taped, sealed construction that is virtually impervious to water, snow and ice. No fragility, lots of high performance,” reps say. The old top lid has been replaced with an extension collar and drawcord closure. The waterproof “RollTop” top folds inside the bag, increasing ease-of-use and decreasing bulk. Watertight front zipper pocket and outside bungee stash cords add storage and improve easy access to items. It comes in 30L and 45L sizes, weighing 21.5 and 24 ounces. The Alpha FL will have your back — and you’ll barely know it’s on your back.
www.arcteryx.com; $199 to $239
* Epic bar Paleo snacks
Nothing says “protein bar” like a bar made out of meat. Yes, meat bar. These gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free snacks are made with organic turkey and grass-fed organic beef and bison. Each bar has 150 to 200 calories, 11 to 14 grams of protein and pronounceable ingredients. They’re shelf-stable for up to nine months and contain organic cultured dextrose, a natural preservative. We love the bison bar with bacon and cranberry. While it looks a little like raw meat, it’s more tender and tastes way better than traditional jerky.
Epic creators debuted the line’s new flavor — lamb, currant and mint — at Outdoor Retailer.
www.epicbar.com; $34 for a box of 12
* North Face Mountain Athletics
New for spring, North Face’s Mountain Athletics line will include apparel “purpose-built to withstand the toughest workout demands of today’s functional sport-specific training techniques,” reps say.
Clothing, such as the Kilowatt short sleeve ($60) is designed with stretch paneling for better range of motion and reinforced, stitch-free seams to reduce chafing and hot spots. Gear includes North Face’s new FlashDry-XD, “the new standard in rapid dry-time and durability.”
Also in the line are the company’s Ultra Protection Series footwear, featuring minimalist Ultra Kilowatt ($120) with a Pebax plate, low-profile upper and Vibram outsole.
* CamelBak Forge travel mug
Tired of crying over spilled coffee? CamelBak’s new Forge travel mug will keep your drinks hot and your clothing dry.
“The self-sealing cap allows for one-handed, spill-proof drinking, while the lock open button provides an option for frequent sipping and the ability to vent and cool hot beverages,” the company says.
The double-walled stainless steel vacuum insulated bottle has an impact-ready cap and is car- cup-holder friendly.
www.camelbak.com; 12 ounces, $29; 16 ounces, $30
* OKO filtered water bottles
OKO bottles come in three levels of filtration — from “this water tastes funky” to a NASA-derived technology that kills bacteria. The ultralight polypropylene bottles are BPA-free and come in sizes from 550 milliliters to 1 liter. The company’s “Upstream Valve” returns any backwash back to the unfiltered section of the bottle. The OKO filters are designed for use with water only; use the bottle without the filter for anything else. The filter has a 100-gallon capacity and bottles are dishwater safe.
www.okoh2o.com; $23 to $25
* Coast rechargeable HP7R LED flashlights
Coast’s HP7R has a beam distance of up to 306 meters and a run time of almost eight hours, making it a great — and green — choice for a flashlight. This one uses the company’s Flex Charge Dual Power system, which works with AC, DC or USB power sources and includes a spare backup battery pack. It will also work off lithium ion and AAA batteries when you can’t recharge. Light options include 22 lumens, 201 lumens or a high-powered strobe mode. The 7.2-ounce light is water resistant and covered by Coast’s lifetime guarantee.
* GoMotion Synergy Hydration light vest
GoMotion’s new Synergy hydration light vest fixes our only gripe with the older Reactor model: lack of storage. The Synergy uses the same powerful 100-lumen Cree LED light, but has room for a 1-liter hydration bladder (sold separately). It also has a bungee cord stash space for jackets, hats and other extras, and adjustable sliders for perfect light positioning. High-visibility orange accents and silver reflective trim help you stand out in the dark.
* Mountain Hardwear Cool.Q Zero collection
Mountain Hardwear’s Cool.Q Zero — tiny dots filled with a sweat-activated cooling agent — lowers the temperature of the fabric and helps with wicking to keep you cooler. The company has incorporated their Cool.Q Zero cooling technology into several new pieces for spring. The CoolRunner T ($65) has Cool.Q Zero panels on the front and back and the CoolRunner Short ($65) has the Cool.Q technology built into the brief lining.
* Darn Tough running socks
Darn Tough introduced its line of running and biking socks at last year’s show, and this year introduces five new versions. Check out the no-show Mountain Top Light Cushion, the Fast Back Light Cushion — comes in no-show and quarter lengths — and the no-show Tab Ultra-light (shown, $14) run/bike socks. These American-made Merino wool socks feature flat jersey construction on the bottom and breathable mesh panels on top, and come with a lifetime guarantee.
Available: March or April
Still using a sandwich bag to keep your phone dry? Use the waterproof DryCase and rock out to your favorite tunes while swimming, kayaking or running in the rain without drowning your device. The vacuum-sealed pouch allows you to use the touch screen, make calls or use the camera. It’s bulky and not very attractive, so this isn’t a case for everyday use, but you will want it for days on the water. Tested up to 100 feet for an hour and comes with a neoprene armband that will keep the case afloat. Fits most smartphones.
* Hoka One One Conquest
Hokas get a little less ugly with the introduction of the Conquest, its first real road shoe. These neutral shoes have a 4mm heel-toe drop and slightly less of the company’s trademark supercushioned sole — 29mm at the heel compared to as much as 40mm on other Hoka models. With the Conquest, Hoka also debuts its new Rmat midsole material. Rmat, exclusive to new owner Deckers, offers great rebound and durability and is sticky for better traction, reps say. Rmat also plays a role in the company’s new water drainage system. The perforated midsole and strobel-lasted upper allow water to drain and air to move through, helping the shoes dry faster. At 11.8 ounces, it isn’t the lightest shoe on the road, but it’s no brick.
Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and our resident women’s gear destroyer.