The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 30: Winter OR 2006

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

Your favorite gear outfitter goes shopping for you a year in advance. Backpack Gear Test is there too, to check out next winter's gear. This week on The WildeBeat; Winter O-R two thousand six.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number thirty.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE SERGEANT: When you go shopping at your favorite outfitter, do you wonder how they decide what to stock their shelves with? Twice a year, they probably wind-up at the Outdoor Retailer's Expo, called the O-R Show for short.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: It was kind of a sensory overload, I felt like a kid in Toys-R-Us for the first time. All of the brand names that you're familiar with are there, and they have everything that they're making sitting out on walls. And in their booths you can just go down these aisles, one after another after another, and it's just booth after booth with all the gear you can imagine. It's just a giant room, full of gear, and everyone there seems excited to be there. So it was quite a festive atmosphere. People were having a lot of fun doing what the love to do.

STEVE SERGEANT: Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd is a moderator for Backpack Gear Test dot ORG. Along with other volunteers from BGT, she went to the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City along with fifteen thousand other exhibitors and attendees. The exhibitors are companies, large and small, that make anything you're likely to find at an outdoor store. The attendees are buyers and owners from the places you shop for gear. Day one of the show was an event called the backcountry basecamp.

JERRY GOLLER: The Backcountry Basecamp's sole function is that you get to play with the gear. It's at a ski resort at the end of Big Cottonwood Canyon. It looked like there were probably thirty or thyirty five manufacturers there. So you can actually go up on the slopes, and ski down, snowshoe up, sled down, so forth and so on. And it gets a little bit bigger each year.

STEVE SERGEANT: Jerry Goller is the founder, and editor-in-chief, of Backpack Gear test dot ORG. He's noticed a continuing trend in the kinds of things shown at the O-R Expo.

JERRY GOLLER: Looking like you go into the outback has become popular. Obviously there's significantly people that do not go into the backcountry than there are that do go into the backcountry. So manufacturers are obviously going to produce more gear for the front country people than they do for the backcountry people. And I'm all for it, to be quite honest, 'cause I suppose one could make a case that the front country people are paying for the development of some of the exotic materials and designs that eventually we get in the backcountry as very advanced gear. And it's not even eventually. We frequently get it first, to establish the trend. I think they're paying the freight to be quite honest.

STEVE SERGEANT: Rebecca, Jerry, and Steven Nelson wandered the expo floor, and reported on the products that caught their interest.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: The Heat Factory makes some really clever accessories for the chemical hand warmers. Such as socks that have little pockets on them, where you can stick the chemical hand warmer or toe warmer. They also make gloves with these pockets, and my personal favorite was a pair of Super Feet insoles that had a slot in the middle of them, so you could actually slide one of these warmers into the ball of the insole.

JERRY GOLLER: Jet Boil brought out a family cook kit and basically part of it was a fairly good-sized pot, about a seven and a half inch pot, with a heat exchanger built into the bottom of them, like their pot for the conventional Jet Boil. We were very excited about that and subsequent testing proved, it is an outstanding snow melter. It is an extremely efficient addition to any stove, and it will work with any stove.

STEVEN NELSON: I saw a lot of new pack designs out there. First off, from Arcteryx, they have a new line of packs they call their A-two line, or A-squared. And what's unique about these is that they use a who new line of fabric and seam technology. The fabric is urethane coated, and the edges can be bonded together using heat and pressure, so there is absolutely no stitching in these packs whatsoever. And you end up with a pack that's completely air and water tight. I think it's a pretty intrguing technology and we'll probably see a lot more of it the future. The packs looked very durable and they felt great. I picked them up and they're extremely light for the size and volume of the packs and the number of features that they have. Another manufacturer where I saw some interesting things was Osprey. They have a new line of women's packs. One is called the Ariel. And these have kind of an intrguing mesh back panel that has a large space in it that would allow air to circulate, it has two titanium struts in there, and also you can put your hydration bladder in there if you'd like to use it for extra space. Mountain Hardware, which has come out with a new line of packs, the Exodus line; they have metal rods and struts all around the outside of the suspension including one that goes around the back of your neck almost like a yoke. The idea on the packs I guess is to provide additional stability and load carrying ability. They're fairly heavy, five to six pounds for a thirty five hundred to four thousand cubic inch pack. It was certainly intriguing to look at it and try it on, but I'm curious who the real audience for that pack is going to be.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: We met with Pacific Outdoor Equipment. They're coming out this year with a kid's pad, and it's a self-inflating pad, and it's got cute little designs that your kids may appreciate. Of course it's smaller and lighter weight, so it's perfect for a small pack that a kid might be carrying on the trail. They're also coming out with a new self-inflating sleeping pad with two, sort-of rails on the side. They're tubes that blow up a little bit thicker than the rest of the pad. So people who tend to slide around a little bit may not slide off this kind of pad as easily.

STEVEN NELSON: Kahtoola, which is known for some lightweight crampons, now has a hybrid snowshoe-crampon-boot system. There's a snowshoe deck that can be attached to a set of crampons you can use eitgher with your own boots, or with a neoprene overboot that has the crampons integrated into it. So kinf of an interesting idea for mountaineering where you're going to be wanting to switch between the flotation of a snowshoe and some maybe non-technical crampons for going over steeper or icier areas.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: I don't know about you but I'm a big fan of good coffee in the backcountry, but it's really hard to make a good cup. Usually I wind up using those tea-bag type coffee bags. Well, Java Juice is a higly concentrated coffee that you mix with hot water. And it comes out tasting great. I didn't realize it was actually a concentrated coffee when I first sampled it.

STEVEN NELSON: There's the new Ursack with the aluminum liner that is conditionally approved now for use in some of the areas where you weren't allowed to have the Ursack at all before -- the central Sierra.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: Ice Breaker, and they have some very impressive wool clothing. And one of the things that struck me was on the last day of the show, there was a line down the row for this Ice Breaker clothing. It's obviously very well respected by a lot of outdoor enthusiasts.

STEVEN NELSON: One last comment just on what was and wasn't at the show, I didn't see any truly new innovative tent designs and I actually didn't see that many tents out at all. I didn't see a lot of innovation in that area.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: And finally one of the last companies we talked to is called Injinji socks. They make athletic socks that have individual fingers for all of your toes. So the idea is that they help prevent blisters. Well I've been wearing a pair around and so far I'm surprised at how comfortable they actually are.

JERRY GOLLER: This was sort of an unusual show in that although it was by far the largest, I didn't really see all that many things that were new. I mean truly new. But a number of them seemed to be incremental advances on existing ideas. There were no startling new materials, nothing really that jumped out at me.

STEVE SERGEANT: Backpack Gear Test will make arrangements to distribute gear from these and other manufacturers to their pool of volunteer testers.

JERRY GOLLER: Everybody assumes that our biggest problem is getting gear to test. Actually, that's ther easy part. Manufacturers throw way more gear at us than we could ever, ever get tested. We desparately need qualified testers. So if you'd like to test gear, if you would like to give back to the community, if you would like to help others with their gear selections, if you would like to influence the gear that's going to be coming out in the next tewo to three years, you should come on board. We need you!

STEVE SERGEANT: Please remember that the opinions expressed are those of the individual reviewers, and are not necessarily those of Backpack Gear Test, or The WildeBeat.

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Next time -- A Freeheel Skier's Festival.

The Wildebeat is produced by Steve Sergeant for Effable Communications. Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Please see our website for ways to support future editions of The WildeBeat. Contribute your comments to webmaster at wildebeat dot net, or call our comment line at 866-590-7373.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number thirty. Thank you for listening.

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