Sure, “Faster, Higher, Stronger” may be the Olympic motto, but at Outdoor Retailer Summer 2019, it was all about “Lighter, Smaller, Sleeker.” Booth after booth lured our wandering eyes with new products that shave weight, save space and appear as streamlined as humanly possible.
And it’s not just hype. From a kayak that folds into a suitcase and a tent that weighs less than a pound to a backpack that compresses to the size of an egg and tripods and camp stools no bigger than a water bottle, these items deliver on their promises. No wonder they dominate our list of the top 12 stars of the show.
There are outliers of course: custom trail running shoes (sweet), a super-cool lunch box (no joke) and a gorgeous pocketknife (naturally). But in the end, all 12 Editors’ Picks are unified by a common goal: making getting outside and adventuring smarter, easier and more fun than ever before.
Additional contributions by Tanner Bowden, Meg Lappe and Steve Mazzucchi.
We were at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Show 2019 and covered the show extensively. To see all of our product coverage, not just our award winners, you can head: here.
Tecnica Origin trail Running Shoe
When Tecnica released its in-store custom-fit Forge hiking boot last year, we loved it so much that we named it the best available. This year, it came out with a low-cut hiking shoe called the Plasma and, after more than six months of testing it, we named that the best hiking shoe available. We were surprised to learn that in 2020, Tecnica will build its heat molding tech into a trail running shoe, but we weren’t surprised that it’s awesome, too. Like the hiking shoes, the Origin will come with a footbed and upper that’s moldable through an in-store process that takes roughly 15 minutes. We’ve already put some miles on a pair in the mountains around Boulder, CO, and can attest that it’s pretty damn good.
Peak Design Travel Tripod
Peak Design has a habit of taking elements of a product — the adjustment hardware on a camera strap, for instance — and making them better in a way that makes you wonder why nobody did so before. That’s what it did with just about every piece of the Travel Tripod, which, unlike the other items on this list, is available for purchase now on Kickstarter. There’s a lot to love about the Travel Tripod, but here are the highlights: latches to extend the legs (instead of annoying twisting knobs), a single adjustment ring that releases the ball head to move in all directions, a quick-release button for mounting and removing a camera, a built-in smartphone mount. Oh, and its construction makes it smaller than any other DSLR-capable travel tripod we’ve seen, too (it’s about the size of a tall water bottle).
Unnamed Oru Kayak
The main idea behind Oru’s kayaks is accessibility. Inspired by an article that he read in The New Yorker, founder Anton Willis set out to make a boat that he could keep in a tiny San Francisco apartment. He succeeded; Oru’s four current models all pack up small enough to fit into the trunk of a sedan or the back of a closet. But the company’s upcoming model, which is as yet unnamed, transforms from a boat to a box that’s nearly half that size. That’s thanks to a new folding pattern (the first time Oru has deviated from the original crease pattern) that also makes it much easier to put together. Also, Oru’s cheapest kayak to date costs $1,299, but the company is aiming for less than $1,000 for the new vessel, which will help more people get out on the water. Oru plans to launch the new kayak later this year on Kickstarter.
Patagonia High Endurance Kit
This five-piece kit consists of a short, pant, jacket, vest and pullover to help you handle any terrain or weather the trails bring. The Endless Run Short has three pockets built into the sides and back, so you don’t have to worry about your cell phone and gels bouncing around. The Airshed Pro Pullover (shown above) dries quickly and features dual zippers along the quarter-zip opening to help with venting. The Slope Runner Endurance Vest will hold all the soft flasks you can carry, and its fully adjustable internal compression system makes for the perfect fit. A three-layer construction makes the Storm Racer Jacket a burly choice for the trails — if there are any flash weather issues, the waterproof emergency shell is your hero of the day. When the weather really does turn, pull on the Strider Pro Pants to help protect your legs and stay warm. Unsnap at the ankles to pull off in one motion.
Yeti does what Yeti does best: overhauls a product you likely don’t think about all too often and gives it the Yeti treatment. The Daytrip is a lunch bag to end all lunch bags. Yeti knows insulation — and the aptly named coldcell flex will keep food safe all day whether you’re hitting the beach, enjoying the river or hiking. There are two closure points: a ‘thermosnap’ magnetic one and then an adjustable grid, so you can fold it down as much as you need to eliminate air inside (which warms everything up). And once you’re totally satisfied from the perfect packed lunch, the bag folds down flat, so you can throw it in the bottom of your pack. Thanks to the food-safe interior and smooth exterior, the bag is easy to clean, too.
The Day Trip has Yeti’s premium price point to match — one lunch bag will go for $80, but you’ll likely never have to buy another one. Pick one up in a navy, grey or river green in 2020.
Priumus Firestick Stove
At just over four inches long and weighing well under four ounces, the Primus Firestick is the sleekest canister stove we’ve seen. It’s barely noticeable when retracted, yet ferociously awesome when unleashed. The Firestick features a recessed burner to guard the flame, recessed air intake holes for maximum fuel efficiency and wide pot supports for optimal wind protection. And don’t let its sexy looks fool you — the Firestick pumps out a toasty 8,530 BTUs. There are two versions: steel and titanium (pictured), which is more expensive but also lighter and just a bit cooler looking. Either option makes for an excellent upgrade to any hungry outdoorsman’s food prep kit.
Big Agnes Scout Platinum 1P
This is the lightest three-season one-person tent we saw at OR. Built for backpacking and fast packing, the Scout 1P Platinum weighs just 13 ounces and packs down to 16 inches by 4.5 inches. What shocked us the most, and inspired this award, is that in most one-person tents, you feel like you have to army crawl to get inside, and once you’re zipped into your sleeping bag, you feel like you can’t move around at all. With Big Agnes’s Scout 1P, it’s different. There’s more space inside than we’ve come to expect in a one-person tent — and way more considering how much it weighs.
The base is seven feet long, with a width that narrows from 32 inches to 22 inches (at your feet). There’s a larger awning so you can store your gear outside the tent without fretting over rain or variable weather conditions; the silicone-treated nylon rip-stop material is waterproof, as are the seams. Your trekking poles work overtime to keep the “crazylight” tent anchored up front, and there are multiple built-in loops inside so you can hang a lantern or small light.
Rab Mythic Ultra
The breakthrough that allowed Rab to build a sleeping bag that’s 32 percent warmer but no heavier is in the liner. The interior of the Mythic Ultra is shiny — that’s so it can contain radiant heat loss — but unlike other garments and products that solve the same problem, the bag doesn’t get its sheen from a foil or layer of extra material. Instead, the liner fibers are coated with titanium at the fiber level thanks to a technology called TILT (Thermo Ionic Lining Technology), which won’t flake off or deteriorate over time. We expect Rab to incorporate TILT into other products further down the line (fingers crossed for a down jacket that has it).
Hillsound BTR Stool
Up till now, Vancouver, Canada-based Hillsound has been best known for producing affordable crampons and gaiters for adventurous outdoorsmen. That all changes with the amazingly light and compact Hillsound BTR. It weighs a mere 12.2 ounces and is just 11.4 inches long. But when you pull out the telescoping legs (which magically lockout thanks to PhantomLock technology) and unfold the mesh seat, you’ve got a 14.4-inch tall stool perfect for relaxing next to a campfire, at a Sunday picnic feast or, heck, in a crowded airport. Hillsound has also designed a slightly larger model that’s still only 13.7 ounces and 13.4 inches long, yet offers a more comfortable 17.7-inch tall seat. Both versions can support up to 265 pounds — and make relaxing at the end of a long hike so much more pleasant.
Hydro Flask Trail Series Ultra Light Bottle
You may be thinking, what could Hydro Flask possibly do to make its legendary bottles even better? The brand’s answer: make them lighter. Which brings us to the new 21 oz. Ultralight Titanium flask, which is 35 percent lighter than its stainless steel counterpart — and the lightest vacuum insulated bottle money can buy. You don’t sacrifice quality, either, as the classic double-wall insulation still keeps cold drinks cold for 24 hours (and hot drinks hot for six). As you might expect, the combo of weight savings and performance doesn’t come cheap: the new bottle will cost $100. If you’re not feeling that spendy, Hydro Flask is also releasing 24 oz. and 32 oz. Trail Series Lightweight bottles, which are 25 percent lighter than their inline counterparts and will retail for $45 and $50, respectively.
Black Diamond Cirrus 9 Pack
For $45, you can grab this light-as-a-cloud pack — aptly named the Cirrus 9 after the wispy ones. At just one ounce, this stuff sack compresses down to an egg-sized ball (as shown in the image), then expands to carry nine liters. It’s the perfect travel pack for when you don’t know exactly what you’ll need, or you want to stash an extra bag in case you buy too many souvenirs at the duty-free shop. A single zipper opens up to the main pocket, and the Splice Adjust shoulder straps — a Black Diamond innovation — are easy to tighten or loosen depending on your size and how much is stuffed in the pack. The pack will come in a black, light blue or grey in 2020.
Helle Kletten Knife
Throughout its 87-year history, Helle has primarily produced fixed-blade knives that Discovery Channel survivalist types might use to start a fire or build a shelter. The Kletten is explicitly not for that; with a 2.1-inch drop-point blade, it’s a pocket-friendly option that’s capable of handling the common tasks you might encounter during any given day. The Kletten is only Helle’s third folding knife and the most EDC-worthy of the bunch, but it maintains the brand’s heritage looks with gorgeous curly birch handles.