The Best Outdoor Gear for 2018, Highlights from Outdoor Retailer

Backpackers.com — It was our first year at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. For those not in the know, this is the largest gathering of outdoor professionals in the U.S. It consists of synthetic-clad designers, marketers, PR teams, journalists, photographers, retail buyers, and founders traipsing around the inside of a giant convention center for four days.

The purpose? To debut new outdoor gear.

We walked the show, met with brands, and got a sneak peek at everything that’s coming out in 2018. We happened to choose a few clutch pieces of gear we loved, too.

Best Outdoor Gear of 2018

Klymit Armored V stock Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018Klymit Armored V

Klymit is best known for its unique Body Mapping technology. They tend to think outside the box, and the Klymit Armored V is in another shape altogether. Mimicking the baffle pattern of the popular Klymit Static V, the Armored V is a pad that will not pop.

Klymit Uses SuperFabric, comprised of 300,000 individual scales — yes, you read that right — on the underside of the pad. Rocks, sticks, glass, even knives will have trouble getting through. They didn’t invent the fabric, but are the first to apply it to the bottom of a sleeping pad.

While most backpackers won’t need such a rugged pad, we appreciate the engineering savvy.

Klymit-Armored-V Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The bottom of the Klymit Armored V, taken at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Best for:

Specs:

  • Weight: 2 lb 7 oz
  • R-Value: 1.6
  • 50D Stretch Top, 100D armored nylon SuperFabric bottom
  • Retail Price: $199.95

Available September 2017


Vargo Titanium Dig Dig Tool as Tent Stake Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The Titanium Dig Dig Tool as a tent stake. It’s a trowel too. Image provided by Vargo, All Rights Reserved.

Vargo Titanium Dig Dig Tool

Vargo is a small brand best known for its titanium products, like pots and pans. It also has pulse on the long-distance, lightweight backpacking community, who like multifunational tools and use specialized trowels these days. (Yes, to bury your poop).

Combine these and you get the Titanium Dig Dig Tool. It’s a titanium trowel and tent stake rolled into one easy-to-grip package. The main highlights are a ridged bottom that can cut through roots, an 8-inch length which is how long a cat hole should be according to Leave No Trace, and a top that makes it double as a seriously durable tent stake.

We dig it.

Vargo-Titanium-Dig-Dig-Tool Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The Vargo Titanium Dig Dig Tool at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Best For:

Specs:

  • 1.25 ounces (36 g)
  • 8.1 inches (20.5 cm) x 1.7 inches (4.4 cm)
  • $24.95

The Titanium Dig Dig Tool went on sale in May of 2017, but it’s too cool to leave off this list.


Sea to Summit Alpha Cookware Stock Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The full Alpha Cookware series. Image courtesy Sea to Summit.

Sea to Summit Alpha Cookware

Sea to Summit creates fun gear that works together. They are one of those companies with a nifty solution for nearly every camping woe, best known for their dry sacks, collapsible cups, and unique sleeping pads.

They debuted a handful of gear at the show, but what caught our eye was the Alpha Cookware series. You may be familiar with the X-Pot, a collapsible cooking pot that redefines the space your cook gear has to take up. While the X-Pot series is great, it’s pretty heavy.

Alpha Cookware doesn’t collapse, but it is super light. The Alpha Pots use a hard-anodized alloy and have a polished interior, while the Alpha Pans use an “advanced, PFOA-free, Halo® non-stick surface”.

There’s a lot of cookware out there. This set drew our eye for a few reasons:

  1. Not titanium, yet very light. The material is much better for cooking than titanium, yet it’s still super light. We’re not sure how they did that.
  2. Nesting. True to Sea to Summit form, the entire set nests and can be bought in mix and match fashion.
  3. Easy lock handle. The handle is nice, locks the lid, and seems sturdy.
  4. Affordable. Also because no titanium is used, the price point on these bad boys is really reasonable.

You can learn more about the Alpha Cookware series on the Sea to Summit website.

Sea-to-Summit-Alpha-Cookware Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The Sea to Summit Alpha Cookware setup at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Best For:

Specs:

  • Alpha Pot 1.2L, 6.6 oz, $34.95
  • Alpha Pot 2.7L, 9.6 oz, $44.95
  • Alpha Pan 8″, 8.6 oz, $34.95
  • Alpha Pan 10″, 11.8 oz, $44.95

Alpha Cookware will be available in Spring 2018.


NEMO STARGAZE LUX HUMAN RECLINE Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The NEMO Stargaze Lux in action. Beer not included. Image courtesy NEMO.

NEMO Stargazer Chairs

NEMO is best known for innovative design and specific application. Their tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads are typically designed for the weight-conscious backpacker and come with ingenious features.

At Outdoor Retailer their backpacking gear was on full display, but so was their car camping gear.

The Stargazer series is a new kind of camp chair. It’s a combination of a rocking chair (at least it feels like one), a comfy seat, and on the higher end models a supreme cup-holding device. But the clutch feature is that it rotates backwards, allowing you to assume a “gazing at the stars” position. We gazed at the ceiling of Salt Palace, and man was it comfortable.

These are pricey, but NEMO gear often is. If you want a camp upgrade, check it out.

NEMO Stargaze camp chairs Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
All three Stargaze camp chairs at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Best For:

Specs:

  • Stargaze Recliner Low: 5 lbs 3 oz., $169.95
  • Stargaze Recliner: 5 lbs 11 oz., $179.95
  • Stargaze Recliner Luxury: 6 lbs 12 oz., $219.95

The Stargaze camp chairs are available from NEMO October 1, 2017. They will be in online retailers in January 2018.


Black Diamond BD.dry StormLine Shell StockBlack Diamond BD.dry

Black Diamond had a number of new products on tap for Outdoor Retailer, but the most promising one is BD.dry, a proprietary waterproof membrane. This membrane competes with the likes of GORE-TEX and eVent, but is developed and used only by Black Diamond in a few new lines of rain jacket.

Many brands have something similar, but what stood about about BD.dry was the feel in its FineLine and StormLine rain shells. They combine waterproof breathability with a ton of stretch. In touching the two jackets Black Diamond on display we were impressed with the stretch and lightweight feel — it was clear they would be excellent for active pursuits.

We’ll see how well the technology does when they’re released, but the price point on both jackets is highly competitive.

Black-Diamond-BD.dry StormLine and FineLine Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The StormLine and FineLine rain shells with BD.dry at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Best For:

Specs:

  • FineLine Stretch Rain Shell: 9.8 oz, 2.5-layer, $129
  • StormLine Stretch Rain Shell: 11.2 oz, 2.5-layer, $149

The BD.dry technology and the accompanying rain jackets will be available Spring 2018.


Western Mountaineering Nanolite and Astralite Quilts

For those into ultralight backpacking game, quilts are the rage. They are lighter than sleeping bags but do roughly the same job. Western Mountaineering is regarded as the premier manufacturer of high-end down sleeping bags, and they’ve heard the call of their ultralight fanbase.

Yes, Western Mountaineering debuted two ultralight, high-end quilts at Outdoor Retailer. Meet the Astralite and the Nanolite.

Western-Mountaineering-Quilts Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The Western Mountaineering Nanolite (blue) and Astralite (neon green) at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

These quilts aren’t entirely revolutionary, but Western Mountaineering rarely debuts a new product, let alone a whole new type of product. We can’t wait to see their take on this growing alternative to sleeping bags. The specs listed below are for the prototypes they debuted at Outdoor Retailer — final specs, including price and overall performance, could change for the final product.

Best For:

Nanolite Specs:

  • Rated to 38°F
  • 11 oz (312 g) total weight, 6.5 oz (184 g) fill weight
  • Offered in 5’8″ or 6’4″
  • $330 MSRP

Astrolite Specs:

  • Rated to 26°F
  • 16 oz (454 g) total weight, 10.5 oz (298 g) fill weight
  • Offered in 5’8″ or 6’4″
  • $415 MSRP

The Western Mountaineering Nanolite and Astralite will be available in Spring 2018.


Snow Peak BBQ Rod Stock Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018Snow Peak BBQ Rod

You probably associate Snow Peak with ultralight backpacking. Titanium stoves, cups, sporks — all with a fairly high price tag. But did you know the Japanese company has a huge range of camping and lifestyle products, most of which have not made it to North America?

The Snow Peak BBQ Rod is one of those nifty camp items. They debuted the BBQ Rod at Outdoor Retailer, and while it is slightly silly, we couldn’t help but highlight it. Who doesn’t want a durable fishing rod to cook weenies and mallows on?

Snow-Peak-BBQ-Rod Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The Snow Peak BBQ Rod on display at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Best For:

Specs:

  • 3.75 lbs (1.7kg)
  • Steel and Bamboo Construction
  • $39.95 MSRP

Columbia Solar Ice Short Sleeve ShirtColumbia Omni-Shade Sun Deflector

Everyone knows Columbia. They make stellar outdoor and casual wear and pride themselves on a heap of in-house, proprietary technology created in advanced laboratories. Most of this tech falls under the “Omni” moniker, such as Omni-Wick and Omni-Heat. Each piece of tech is infused in Columbia gear, mostly clothing, and makes that gear do something special.

The newest tech that Columbia debuted at Outdoor Retailer is Omni-Shade Sun Deflector. This features small dots that reflect sunlight away from the body and clothing, thereby keeping the wearer cooler. These dots use titanium dioxide, a reflective and durable compound found in sun block, to deflect the sun.

Sounds like magic, right? It kind of is. And it’s a bunch of small circular dots on your clothing, making the line a fashion statement, too.

Omni-Shade Sun Deflector comes out on a number of Columbia lines, and what we saw at the show looks excellent. We’re most excited about the Solar Ice Short Sleeve Shirt, which is your basic hiking shirt. It’s completely covered in these dots.

Columbia-Omni-Shade-Sun-Deflector Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The Omni-Shade Sun Deflector line at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

The only downside to the tech is that it’s not cheap — the Solar Ice shirt will run you roughly $75 at retail. But Columbia is known for solid discounts, so keep an eye out.

This tech and the clothing line will be available Spring 2018.


cotopaxi-allpa-35l Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018Cotopaxi Allpa 35L

If you haven’t heard of Cotopaxi yet, it’s time to get familiar. The stylish brand is redefining cool, comfortable, and essential backpacking gear. Backpacks and clothing is what they’re most well-known for, but they’re getting into sleeping bags and tents these days too.

The newest edition to their line is the Allpa 35L. Meant for adventure travel, this backpack can store your laptop, clothes, and other travel essentials while fitting into the overhead compartment of an airplane. It looks good, is durable as hell, and has built-in organization.

It’s not exactly new — the Allpa 35L has been on Indiegogo since May of 2017, and has been funded over $1,000,000. Yeah, you read that right. We’re not the only ones who think it’s a sweet pack, but we got to confirm that at the show.

Cotopaxi-Allpa-35 pack Outdoor Retailer best outdoor gear for 2018
The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L pack next to a few other packs at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Best For:

Specs:

  • 35 Liters
  • 3 lb 7 oz (1.5 kg)
  • 1000D polyester and 1680 ballistic nylon paneling
  • $170 Retail Price

The Allpa 35L is available for purchase on Indiegogo and shipping in select batches.


hydro flask unbound series soft cooler packHydro Flask Unbound Series Soft Cooler Pack

If you’ve had anything to drink from a water bottle lately, you probably know Hydro Flask. They are synonomous with vacuum insulated, piping hot (or icy cold) beverages and have a huge array of cups, bottles, and growlers.

At Outdoor Retailer they debuted an exciting new product — The Soft Cooler Pack. Part of the Unbound Series, this pack opens up an entirely new market for the company, who has so far stuck to bottle-based items. Coolers are a new game, and Hydro Flask is hitting it hard.

What we liked about the Soft Cooler Pack is how useful it seems. It’s a real backpack meant for keeping things cool, but it’ll work as a regular backpack for just about any beach day, picnic, or festival. It’s not that heavy by itself (2.5 pounds) and uses bomb-proof materials in its construction. There are pockets for storing dry items, but mostly it’s one long chute.

Only downside is cost. At $275 you won’t grab another cooler or backpack for a while.

hydroflask-underound-series-soft-cooler-pack
The Hydro Flask Unbound Series Soft Cooler Pack at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Best For:

Specs:

  • 22 Liters. Enough for a few six packs, or a fully day’s worth of food and gear.
  • True Access Top is panel loading and makes things really easy to reach and clean.
  • Waterproof seams, heavy duty zippers, and 820D exterior fabric.
  • Stands up by itself.

The Hydro Flask Unbound Series Soft Cooler Pack launches January 1, 2018.


Opsrey-Levity 45 stockOsprey Levity and Lumina Ultralight Backpacks

Osprey dominates the backpack industry through a combination of comfortable designs, clutch features, and phenomenal customer service. They also tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to innovative design, and the new packs debuted at Outdoor Retailer are eye-catchers.

The Levity and Lumina line of backpacks are built for the Ultralight Backpacker. As we heard the product designers say during a showcase, “These are built for the backpacker who makes their own stove, cuts their toothbrush in half, and sleeps under a tarp.” That’s the most extreme case, but Osprey is clearly designing for the thru-hiking ultralight movement, which is rapidly growing.

These packs take the classic Osprey design and make it as light as possible. While they aren’t the lightest packs on the market, they are extremely light for packs that have robust suspension, padding, and multiple organizational features. The Levity is the men’s specific version, the Lumina is the women’s specific.

Osprey-Levity-Lumina
The Osprey Levity 60L backpack at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Best For:

Specs:

  • Lumina and Levity both offered in 60 and 45 Liter capacities.
  • Levity/Lumina 60 weighs 1.83 pounds, has a load range of 10-30 pounds, and costs $270.
  • Levity/Lumina 45 weighs 1.76 pounds, has a load range of 5-25 pounds, and costs $250.

The Osprey Levity and Lumina backpacks will be available Spring 2018.


Jack Wolfskin Sierra Trail Jacket men's stock
The Jack Wolfskin Sierra Trail Jacket, a mens active shell with Texapore Ecosphere.

Jack Wolfskin Texapore Ecosphere

Those of you rooted in the U.S. outdoor market may not know Jack Wolfskin — they are a German-based outdoor company and, in Europe, have a reach that can be compared to The North Face. The company is increasing its presence in the U.S. market in a big way, and at the forefront of this push is Texapore Ecosphere, the first 100% recycled waterproof breathable membrane. That’s the membrane used in rain jackets to both repel water while letting air escape from your body heat. Gore-Tex, eVent, and other proprietary technologies dominate this market, but none of them claim to be 100% recyclable.

Jack Wolfskin uses a zero-waste approach when manufacturing Texapore Ecosphere. The company has put this membrane into 11 styles of new jackets, five of which are for “Active Outdoors”, six of which are for “Everyday Outdoors”. These jackets also use 100% recycled outer fabric and a 100% recycled lining, which are created from up-cycled post-consumer plastic bottles.

Jack-Wolfskin-Texapore Ecosphere
Some of the Jack Wolfskin Active Outdoors rain jackets with Texapore Ecosphere at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Environmentally friendly practices are arguably the most popular and growing selling point in the Outdoor Industry right now — how can we enjoy our natural environment if we don’t protect it, right?

We’re stoked for two reasons. One, we can’t wait for this juggernaut to come full swing into the U.S. market. Two, a fully recycled waterproof membrane is just one more step to eliminating the huge amount of waste created by manufacturing outdoor products.

The Texapor Ecosphere membrane can be seen in these new jackets, which debut in Spring 2018 in the U.S.


ENO-Tandem-Fuse-2 stockENO Tandem Fuse Hammock System

Eagles Nest Outfitters — ENO for short — is one of the more popular hammock-manufacturers on the market. They make comfy hangs for back- and front country excursions, and are constantly diversifying an array of add-ons for hammock lovers everywhere.

At Outdoor Retailer they debuted the Tandem Fuse Hammock System. This is basically a small aluminum bar that ties two hammocks together so that they hang side by side. It’s simple, it’s effective, and people who want to hang near each other (all of us, basically) will love it.

It also allows two hammockers (not a word, we know!) to hang from the same tree, which makes setup in tough places much more convenient. It’s not terribly expensive ($29.95), so for groups that have invested in hammocks it will be a no-brainer purchase.

ENO-Tandem-Fuse-1
The ENO Tandem Fuse system in action at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017.

Best For:

Specs:

  • Tube made of DAC aluminum that weighs 9.8 ounces.
  • Carry bag included.
  • Costs $29.95.

The ENO Tandem Fuse hammock system will be available January 2018.


All in all it was a successful show, and the state of the outdoor industry is rock solid. Get excited for 2018, folks!

Affiliate Policy: We support the hours that go into our reviews and testing through affiliate commissions on purchases made through links in this article. These don’t effect the outcome of our reviews or selection of gear.

Daniel Zweier

Daniel Zweier is Editor-in-Chief of Backpackers.com. Beyond orchestrating the daily flow of Backpackers.com, Daniel writes surrealistic short fiction and novels, adventures into the backcountry and abroad, surfs, reads, drinks tea, and obsesses over gear. A lot of gear. Visit his website if you want to learn more about his authorial pursuits.

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