Gossamer Gear backpacks didn't start off with snazzy names. They started off with the founder, Glen Van Peski, fiddling around with some homegrown models, searching for the perfect balance of light and functional.
"I would hike along with my buddy, Read Miller, talking about packs and how to make them lighter and more functional," Glen explains. "I named the first one I made the 'G1.' It was kind of a joke. We had no idea anything would come of my homemade contraptions. The 'G' was just the initial of my first name."
As Glen continued his attempts, the names followed–G2, G3, and so on.
"Finally by the fourth version, word was getting out on the early internet," Glen continues. The G4 was the model that launched the company he called "GVP Gear" at the time. "As my personal pack weight continued to decrease, I created the G5. And, when Ryan Jordan of Backpacking Light thought that was too heavy, I created the G6."
The G6 was so light that Glen said it "seemed like a mere whisper of a pack." Thus, the G6 was quickly renamed the Whisper. But, how did we get to the names of today's fleet of packs? And, what happened to the Whisper? Read on for all of this goodness–and more!
Murmur 36 Hyperlight Backpack
The Murmur backpack is 8.2 ounces of barely-there badassness. But, why is it called the Murmur? Well, the Murmur was Glen's Whisper model, but with side pockets added. The side pockets made the Whisper just a little "louder," so, reasonably, the Whisper became the Murmur.
Mariposa 60 Backpack
When Glen undertook a re-design of the venerable G4, the working model name was NextGen, as it was supposed to be the next generation of pack. As Glen began looking for a production name, he turned to good ole Google to search for light-related names. "Mariposa" popped up in his searches, Spanish for "butterfly." With the Mariposa backpack feeling light enough to take flight while you're on the trail, the name fit.
Photo credit: @cody.mathison
Gorilla 40 Ultralight Backpack
Grant Sible joined Gossamer Gear as its President in 2005 when Glen decided to bring in an equity partner so he could move out of having such an active role in the company. In 2002, Grant had thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail with a 40-liter backpack. Grant's trail name? You guessed it–Gorilla! Lightweight, but surprisingly durable, the Gorilla backpack is suitable for shorter trips, or hikers who know how to crush it in the minimalism department.
Silverback 50 Backpack
When rough terrain calls, the Silverback backpack answers. Crafted from resilient Extreema fabric and free of exposed mesh, the burly Silverback lets you slip through dense brush snag-free. It's essentially a beefier, load-hauling version of the Gorilla, a more mature, distinguished member of its tribe.
*Teaser! The Silverback is moving even further up in its ranks with a radical set of updates coming to you in mid-November. Keep your eyes out for this wild one.
Kumo 36 Superlight Backpack
Gossamer Gear is honored to have positive business partnerships in Asia and a strong fan base for our gear in Japan. "Kumo" is Japanese for "cloud" and also shares a kanji with "spider." The word "gossamer" is often used to refer to spider-web-like materials, those that are both light and strong. The name "Kumo" captures the essence of the Kumo backpack, while giving a nod to our great friendships across the Pacific Ocean.
Brand Ambassador, Ryan Sylva, has a knack for wandering his own paths. One of these paths connected the Arizona Trail, Hayduke Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, and Moab-ABQ connection. He called this the Vagabond Loop, and to him, hiking this loop was about more than getting additional trails under his belt–it was about a way of life. The Vagabond daypack can hack it on the trail, but the secure zippered top closure, inner stash pockets, and tote handles make it urban/office ready, too. It can travel with you anywhere your soul decides to move you. It's an everyday bag with a nod to the dirtbag lifestyle.
More to come!
Read this far and are still wondering what ever happened to the Whisper? Well, we'll let you in on a little secret–it's coming back later this year! We're also getting excited about our upcoming Texas collection, a nod to our Austin home that will launch with the Lonestar and the Ranger. Oh, and there might be a camo Kumo and maybe even a "murse" (what?) coming down the line, so make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to be in the know as all of this goodness becomes available!
The Grand Canyon is my favorite place of all - the more I see, the deeper appreciation I have for this Wonder of the World. I am currently working on traversing the length of the Canyon in sections. The Colorado River through the Canyon is 277 miles long, but once I'm done I will have hiked over 600 miles.
Photo: Redwall Overlook - Tanner Trail
The extra miles are from weaving in and out of side canyons, hiking in and out for access, and changing from one layer of travel to another. To date, I've completed 71 river miles. One of my favorite parts of this project is that there are often several routes to choose from, depending on what my preferred line of travel is and what I want to see. So the first step is deciding which route to take.
For this week-long solo trip, I hiked from the Nankoweap Trail on the North Rim to the Tanner Trail on the South Rim. I had a couple of options after descending Nankoweap: the river route, which is what the Hayduke Trail uses, or the Horsethief/Butte Fault Route. Each had its challenges.
The river route sounds like it might be a stroll along the beaches, but in reality it is often a thrashfest through shoreline tamarisk and thorny mesquite and acacia, combined with travel on the rocky slopes above, contouring in and out of countless small ravines and drainages. The Horsethief/Butte Fault option was more strenuous and logistically challenging due to having to climb and descend numerous passes and a dry camp, but has unique geology on a historic route. Both routes require a boat shuttle across the river (or a packraft if you're so inclined).
Photo: Thumbing a ride across the Colorado River
The Butte Fault, which contributes to the depth of Grand Canyon, creates a weakness in the layers that allows travel behind a series of buttes and side canyons. This route was used first by Native peoples, then by rustlers moving their stolen horses from one rim to another, and also by miners and cowboys. I used to work as a river guide and had floated by the river route over 20 times, plus I'm a huge geology, archaeology, and history geek, so I chose the 41-mile Horsethief/Butte Fault Route.
Photo: Kwagunt Butte shows the uplift of the Butte Fault
All the research, permits, and a shuttle fell into place and I started my hike at the upper Saddle Mountain Trailhead on October 16th. The Nankoweap Trail is billed as the hardest named trail in the canyon, due to its 6,000-foot descent and exposure. There are spots on the trail where travel is between a cliff and a sheer drop and others where the trail is thin, steep, exposed, and covered in ball-bearing gravel. After my night at Nankoweap Creek, I was off-trail until I reached the Colorado River on day 4.
Photo: Saddle Mountain Trailhead
Photo: Edge of the Kaibab Plateau
Photo: First glimpse of the inner Canyon
Photo: Nankoweap Trail
Photo: Nankoweap exposure
Photo: Butte Fault
Photo: Thin trail in the Bright Angel Shale
The Horsethief/Butte Fault Route ascends and descends the fault line through a series of six side canyons: Kwagunt, Malgosa, Awatubi, Sixtymile, Carbon, and Lava/Chuar. The climbs and descents ranged from 500-1,600 feet each. It was a fun puzzle to pick a line of travel in and out of each one. I spent my next night at Kwagunt Creek, temperatures were in the 40's at night and the 80's during the day, any hotter and I would have had to take the river route instead.
Photo: Nankoweap Creek
Photo: Nankoweap camp sunrise
Photo: Hiking up to the Nankoweap-Kwagunt divide
Photo: Tilted Supergroup Strata
The next morning, I loaded up with nine liters of water for a dry camp. Nine liters added twenty pounds to my Mariposa, but as long as I took regular breaks with it off, it wasn't too uncomfortable. The star of the show this trip were my LT5 trekking poles, I couldn't imagine it without them. The terrain was often steep and loose and with the extra weight in my pack, the poles helped to keep me stable.
Photo: Nine liters of water -ouch!
Photo: Looking back at Nankoweap Butte
Photo: Off-trail Terrain
Navigation was made a bit easier by the fact that I could study the next line of travel while coming down the opposite side of the canyons. I only made one mistake, turning left too early coming out of Malgosa Canyon and ascending a steep and loose chute that put me above the saddle I was aiming for. A sketchy traverse got me to where I needed to be to continue. I passed a historic coffee pot on the route before spending night 3 in Awatubi Canyon.
Photo: Artifacts from Ancient Travelers
The next day, I had 4.5 liters remaining and had eaten most of my food, so my pack was quite a bit lighter. I had friends place a bucket cache at the Colorado River for me so that I didn't have to carry the full week's worth of food on top of all my gear and water for a dry camp. It was overcast and cooler which helped on the climbs. The Butte Fault creates a spectacular bending and uplift of the layers, it was one of the most interesting parts of the Canyon I'd been to so far. This is what I love about the place, you could explore every day for the rest of your life and never run out of amazing sights to see.
Photo: Hiking up to Awatubi-Sixtymile Saddle
I hiked in and out of Sixtymile Canyon, reaching the saddle with the East Fork of Carbon Canyon and my first views of the South Rim in days. The familiar buttes and temples were a welcome sight. There was a small piece of historic trail construction on the descent down Carbon.
Photo: Views to South Rim from Carbon Saddle
Photo: Historic Trail Construction
Several bypasses to avoid steep pouroffs in the bed of the drainage were required, typical Grand Canyon. Eventually the obstacles ended and it was just a pleasant walk in a streambed. I picked up a river runner trail between Carbon and Lava/Chuar Canyon and reached the Colorado River around 2:30 in the afternoon. My concerns about water were over!
Photo: Micro Chicken in the Carbon Canyon Narrows
Photo: Hiking to Lava Chuar
I located my bucket cache with my food for the next three days and some treats like coconut water and a can of mandarin oranges. I kept my eyes peeled for boats, I needed a ride across the river so I could continue my journey on the south side. It was a spectacular sunset and I spent the night doing light painting and enjoying the sounds of the rapid.
Photo: Lava/Chuar Sunset
Photo: Party Lights!
On Day 5, I waited for a boat that never came. It was surprisingly enjoyable - I had enough food and water to wait and made the most of the day. My own personal beach in the Canyon.
After waiting 44 hours on the beach, I finally spotted boats at 10:30am on Day 6 and enthusiastically waved them over. I was so happy to see them and they were curious about where I'd come from. I rode through the rapid and got dropped off on the beach. The rafters took my bucket and my garbage out with them, they were the first people I'd seen since noon on my first day. I hiked the Beamer Trail west to the Tanner Trail and connected my line.
Photo: My ride across the Colorado River
Photo: I'm on a Boat
The hike out was awesome. Tanner Trail was fancy compared to the terrain I'd been on. I took most of the day, taking several really long breaks, and savoring every last second. I reached the rim feeling strong, fulfilled, and grateful that I have the ability to take on such an adventure. Each piece of the traverse brings its own challenges, and the rewards are spectacular.
Photo: Top of the Tanner Trail - success!
Off-Trail Grand CAnyon Gear List
Photo: Grand Canyon Horsethief/Butte Fault Gear
|Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 (medium with hipbelt)||32.7|
|RikSak 17 packable backpack||5|
|Shoulder Strap Pocket (Large)||1.5|
|Trash compactor bag liner||1.5|
|Gossamer Gear The One||22||Carried, not used - I slept under the stars|
|Titanium tent Stakes (6)||1.8|
|Gossamer Gear/Klymit 3/4 length inflatable pad||12||No longer available|
|Gossamer Gear Thinlite Foam Pad||2.5|
|Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 degree||29|
|Exped pillow UL (Large)||2.1|
|Large Polycryo groundsheet||3.6|
|Snow Peak Gigapower Stove||3.7|
|Gossamer Gear Bamboo Spoon||0.5|
|Snow Peak Titanium pot (not pictured)||5||MSR pot in photo|
|Ursack||6||Lots of mice and ravens in Grand Canyon|
|Hydration||Dry camp required lots of carrying capacity|
|Platypus 4L gravity filter||11.5|
|3L Platypus hoser||3.8|
|Platypus shutoff valve||0.2|
|2L Platypus (2)||2.6|
|Personal Hygiene (Glasses, soap, toothbrush/paste, mirror/brush)||4.5|
|Toilet Kit (Deuce of Spades, TP, hand sanitizer, wipes, baggies)||4|
|First Aid Kit (list below)||12|
|Trail Toes (anti-chafe)|
|Band-Aid Blister Bandages|
|First aid cream|
|Band-Aids (multiple sizes)|
|Needle and thread|
|Medications (Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Pepto-Bismol, Immodium, Allegra, emergency Percoset)|
|Clothes||Temperatures ranged from 40-80 degrees|
|Thrift store skirt||7|
|Columbia Fleece tights||6|
|Shorts to wear under skirt||2|
|Columbia Fleece pullover 1/4 zip||5|
|Marmot Precip rainjacket||9.6|
|Gloves for brush||2|
|Thrift store button-up shirt||3|
|Injinji liner socks (2)||2|
|Darn Tough long socks||2|
|Knit warm hat||1|
|Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (hooded)||7|
|Xero Z-Trail camp shoes||9|
|Garmin InReach Explorer||5|
|Sony A6000 camera with 16-55mm lens||16.5|
|Anker rechargeable battery (PowerCore 13400)||10.7||Night photos take lots of battery|
|Iphone 5S with LifeProof Nuud case||4.5||Used Gaia for mapping and GPS|
|Sansa Clip Mp3 and earbuds||1.5|
|Black Diamond Spot Headlamp||3.2|
|LED camp lights||4||Campsite lighting and photography|
|Extra camera battery, lens cleaning kit, extra SD card, USB cords||4|
|Gossamer Gear Umbrella||8|
|Gossamer Gear LT5 3-piece trekking poles (2)||9.2|
|Tripod||12||For long-exposure night photography|
|Gossamer Gear Swiss Army knife||0.8|
|Notebook, pens and maps||4|
|Cuben Q-Storage Sacks (small and large)||0.5|
|Micro Chicken, my faithful adventure companion||0.1|
|Total (oz)||311.2||19.5 lbs.|
|Columbia Just Right Pants||9||Pants for off-trail, skirt for on trail|
|Stonewear Sun hoodie||8|
|Dirty Girl Gaiters||0.5|
|Altra Olympus (size 10)||24|
|Injinji liner socks||1|
|Point 6 socks||1.5|
|Sunglasses from Target||0.5|
|Patellar Tendon straps (2)||2|
|Total Worn (oz)||52.5|
|Total worn and carried (oz)||363.7||22.7 lbs.|
What is a thru hike? Technically, it's a long distance trail end-to-end. The preparation, itinerary, and experience, however, is completely up to each individual person.
When I first began hiking New Zealand's 1,800 mile (3,000 kilometer) Te Araroa, I viewed it like a sport. Each day I would physically prepare myself for the journey ahead, calculating the number of kilometers and monitoring my productivity. But somewhere along the way, it hit me: thru-hiking is not measurable. There are no rules, guidelines, or how to's. There's not even a finish line or trophy. There is literally no one person you are supposed to compare yourself to out on the trail. The journey is your own. Once I was able to breathe the freedom of thru hiking, the uncertainty of the wild took hold of the reigns. Only then did Te Araroa (Maori translation: The Long Pathway) reveal its magic.
This revelation didn't come instantaneously, it slowly marinated in my soul over 160 days of putting one foot in front of the other. These were my 10 phases of thru-hiking, step by step* :
1. A dream is born
It could be that one place you've always wanted to explore. Or as simple as closing your eyes, spinning a globe, and placing your finger on the unexpected.
For me, New Zealand was always a mysterious wonder - two tropical, yet alpine, islands in the middle of the ocean. When my routine life started to feel like autopilot, I had a crazy thought - what if I did the exact opposite? If my day job was the epitome of predictability, what would be the exact opposite? When I combined my curiosity for New Zealand with a completely unfamiliar challenge of a thru-hike, my Te Araroa dream was born.
2. And then you realize you have no experience
If there was a Facebook status for thru hiking it would be "It's Complicated". Even though you're only concerned with the essentials - food, water, and shelter - it's surprising how challenging those things can be when you resort to traveling by foot. When you wake up it's imperative to scope out the day's water sources, assess your food supply, check weather, and where you'll stay that night. It's absolutely overwhelming, especially when you're a newbie and can't believe you have five months of this madness.
But when you finally assemble your pack, tie your boots, and hit the trail, one deep inhale of nature reconnects you with the beautiful reality ahead: you never truly know what to expect out there.
3. So you dare yourself
What happens when you shed yourself of all forms of identity? The clothes you wear, job you have, car you own, house you rent - even your surrounding friends and family - these things all give you purpose and meaning. And that can become familiar, secure, comfortable. Now imagine stripping yourself of all of that, packing a bag full of only the necessities and depending on your own two feet to travel an entire country. There's nothing to judge you on except your character. Completely vulnerable, this allows the purest version of you to come alive. Step by step you collect moments instead of things, and these experience push you further into the unknown.
4. And the dream starts to become a reality
Sun rises. Wake up. Drink coffee. Eat breakfast. Turn on podcast. Summit a mountain. Walk a ridge line. Eat lunch overlooking a lake. Make new friends. Hike and talk. Talk and hike. Scope camp spots. Set up tent. Filter water. Eat dinner. Sun sets. Read. Write. Sleep. Repeat.
5. But it's a lot more unpredictable than that
Most days you get lost. It could have been the nature of Te Araroa, the way Kiwis in New Zealand intended it, or it could be long distance trails in general, making you guess at every turn. Getting lost is usually the first unpredictable thing that happens, and it's not the greatest feeling.
6. Then you realize - sometimes you have to get lost to get found
Once you do find your way, it almost always ends up in something valuable - a new friend, better path, or even a detour worth seeing that you otherwise wouldn't have.
7. Suddenly time starts to fly, but at the same time it stands still
There's a saying amongst long distance hikers that goes "days feel like months, and months feel like days". It seems irrational, but to us out on TA, it made complete sense. Time is warped on a thru hike. It seems as though each day lasts forever - surrounded by nothing but nature, left alone with your own thoughts and the simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other. From the luxurious smell of coffee over sunrise, through miles of varying terrain, and setting up camp as the sun sets, time seems infinite. I can remember days where I had multiple highlights - some on top of mountains, others through river beds. But then, once you've finally gotten a hang of this elusive experience called a thru-hike, and you know your individual rhythm of the backcountry, it all seems like it's coming to an end far too quick.
8. In the end, you realize it's only the beginning.
Thru hikes take you out of your element and catapult you into uncertainty. How you choose to react decides more than how you approach the trail - it echoes down the road into other facets of life. Not having water for hours at a time, making a wrong turn that adds on unnecessary miles to your day, crossing a dangerously high flowing river, not having maps on you, unintentional night hiking - at the time I may have cursed those tough moments, but they're just as much a part of my experience as summit dance celebrations, partying in towns for resupply, staying at a backcountry hut for an entire zero day (no hiking day), meeting Trail Angels who fed us and brought us into their homes as if we were family, and eventually walking my way to the most southern point of New Zealand.
McKenzie and her Mariposa Backpack
handling uneven terrain
9. Then you have to get back to the real world.
10. And you wish you were still out there, on the trail, living the simple life.
*As noted above, these phases were my personal experience and could be completely different for someone else. What is your journey?
This article was written by McKenzie Barney, Executive Producer at Comfort Theory. "Comfort Theory New Zealand" the latest short film, premiered on Outside Television October 2016. Head over to comforttheory.com to view the trailer! For more from McKenzie Barney and Comfort Theory, check them out on Facebook and Instagram!
On the weekend of January 16th, the tentatively named "GG Jamboree" took place. Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors from all over the country descended on the town of Moab, Utah for a weekend of hiking and camaraderie. Gatherings like this have happened in the past, but never before has such a large and diverse group been drawn to a single event. Our itinerary would take us to the canyons, craters and arches of two national parks. After a Friday evening of hugs and handshakes, we all hit the sack to rest up for the following day's hike.
After breakfast on Saturday, the GGTA's drove to our first trailhead of the weekend. Trail Ambassador Will Rietveld would be our fearless leader on all of our hikes this weekend, and today he was taking us to Jeep Arch.
We began by walking through a culvert pipe and following some railroad tracks to Gold Bar Canyon. After following the canyon for a bit, we arrived at the arch. Under the Jeep-shaped hole in the rock, we used the opportunity to take photos of each other, the desert landscape, and the distant La Sal mountains before continuing to hike.
After a break to shoot some promo videos and scramble on some rocks, we continued on to a cliff, which provided breathtaking views of the La Sals and into Arches National Park. The trail then led us down Culvert Canyon and back to our cars, where the group then split up to do some smaller hikes to Delicate Arch, Corona Arch, and Balance Rock.
On Sunday, Will led us into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Our goal for the day would be some ancient rock art at the end of the Peekaboo Trail. Hopes were dashed when the frosty slickrock trail became too slippery to traverse, although the braver among us did give it the old college try. Not all was lost, though! We had a blast scrambling along the canyon rims and playing on the various boulder formations. Once we were satisfied that enough of the canyon had been explored, we hiked back out to the trailhead and began discussing the most important topic of the day: Dinner.
Our Monday morning began with a drive into Canyonlands National Park's Island in the Sky District. The road climbed steeply to the top of a 6000-foot plateau, where we would find our trailhead. Today's itinerary would eventually take us around and into the crater known as Upheaval Dome, but first we trotted out to an overlook, which have us a great view into the crater. An informative sign presented two theories on the crater's formation: a meteor strike or a salt done upheaval. There were also a few among us who weren't ready to discard the possiblity of UFO activity.
The trail slowly wound down and around the crater's edge before turning into a fun rock scramble to the bottom of the canyon. From here, many of us opted to take a side trail into the very center of the crater. The rock formations inside Upheaval Dome were beautiful, and the black "desert varnish" on the red stone walls around us created a breathtaking panoramic view.
Upon returning to the main trail, we wove around the bottom of the canyon, following the wash as it continued to circumnavigate the crater. Then, the time finally came that we had to make the steep 1500-foot ascent up the canyon walls. The trail was steep and challenging, but spirits remained high. At the end, it was unanimously decided that Upheaval Dome was our favorite hike of the trip.
Tuesday meant that our intrepid group of thru-hikers, peakbaggers, ultra runners, and weekend warrior hikers would have to part ways, but not before we went on one last, short hike. Will led us up the Portal Trail to a beautiful vista overlooking the town of Moab and the Green River. We took our last photos, gave our last hugs, and all wished that the trip didn't have to end.
Never before had I hiked with such an experienced, adventurous, and friendly group of hikers. I found a whole hiker family on this trip, and I hope that it won't be too long before our next reunion.
This post was contributed by Trail Ambassador Dan Bortz
Yep, its time for the Winter 2013 Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in Salt Lake City, UT, and the Gossamer Gear gang is there. As mentioned last summer, Gossamer Gear will be publishing highlights of each OR Show under the Blog/Buzz section in our newsletter. We will focus on gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers – useful lightweight gear, new technologies and trends, and things of general interest.
Before the show, when things are a bit quieter, we visited the good folks at the Klymit World Headquarters in Ogden, UT to get better acquainted and tour their digs. Gossamer Gear CEO Grant Sible (left) and Chief Happiness Officer Michael Seals (right).
While in Utah for the Outdoor Retailer trade show last week we visited the World Headquarters of our friends at Klymit. They are manufacturing our new Air Beam Pack Frame for us, an accessory Gossamer Gear for their backpacks, and we wanted to see where the magic happens. We received a warm welcome and personal afterhours tour from Matt Maxfield, Gabe Rhoades, and Cory Tholl. Klymit makes a range of sleeping pads; many of them are really lightweight and body mapped for comfort and weight savings. These guys definitely think outside the box.
Inside we were greeted by Klymit’s friendly pit bull mascot and Chief Security Officer. On the wall in the background are some prototype pads Klymit made in the early days of developing their body mapped sleeping pads.
Here’s an example of Klymit innovation, the LiteWater Dinghy, a lightweight and less expensive pack raft (27 ounces, $199), modeled by design guru Matt Maxfield. I reported on it in my Summer 2012 OR coverage and it has been refined a lot since then. Klymit wants to redefine the pack raft in terms of the cost and versatility.
Winter OR typically has around 1000 booths and 20,000 attendees.
It's always fun and exciting to attend OR, where new outdoor gear and technologies are showcased two seasons (or more) before they show up in retail stores. The Gossamer Gear gang was there to see what's new and report back to our tribe.
Each OR show has some distinctive trends and breakthrough gear highlights. Otherwise, most changes in gear are evolutionary rather then revolutionary; new fabrics and new technologies are incorporated to update familiar gear designs. For the winter 2013 show, I would not say there was anything shockingly revolutionary, but (as usual) there are a number of notable trends and some standout gear, as I present below, in no particular order. All items will be available in fall 2013 unless stated otherwise. Click on the photos for a full size view.
Left: Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket; Right: Montbell Mirage Down Parka
For lightweight enthusiasts, the jaw dropper of the show was the new Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket (left), which features 1000 fill-power down and 7-denier shell fabric. It has a full height front zipper but that's it for features. The weight is a shockingly light 5.2 ounces. I was afraid to ask about the price, but was again shocked to find out its only $269. There are a lot of other puffy down jackets around with lesser credentials that cost a lot more. The same sentiment goes for the Montbell Mirage Parka (right), which features 900 fill-power down, baffled construction, attached hood, weight of just 12.8 ounces, and MSRP of $309 in fall 2013. Montbell will actually be dropping prices on some their the down clothing this fall, for example the Alpine Light Down Jacket will get a lighter shell to reduce the weight to 11.7 ounces and the price will fall to $175. These Montbell down jackets are a great value! Although most down garment manufactures have incorporated water-resistant down into their product lines, Montbell (and Western Mountaineering) have not embraced it yet.
The UK company Crux manufactures a number of ultralight down jackets, which will soon be available in the US.
One of the noticeable highlights at this show was the emergence of more and more ultralight puffy down jackets. Standouts are the entry of Crux products (a UK company) into the US market, which will be sold by Luddite Technology; their website will launch in spring 2013 for online sales. Their lightest jacket is the Crux Pico Top which features 900 EU fill-power down (970 US), weight of 6 ounces, and cost of $299. A range of their jackets is shown in the photo. Not to be outdone, the Western Mountaineering QuickFlash Jacket (less than 8 ounces, $295), will be a hoodless version of the Flash jacket; the new full featured Big Agnes Hole in the Wall (hoodless) and Shovelhead (hooded) Jackets will feature 700 fill-power DryDown in Insotect Flow vertical baffles and MSRPs of $220 and $250 respectively; The North Face SuperNatural Jacket features 950 fill-power water-resistant down, Pertex Quantum shell, and baffled construction; and the new full featured Sierra Designs Stratus Jacket (12 ounces, $249) is insulated with 800 fill DriDown.
Left: Polartec Alpha insulation; Right: Rab Strata Hoodie with Polartec Alpha insulation.
Another highlight of the show is the emergence of more and better synthetic insulations. Perhaps the most noticeable is Polartec Alpha (left photo), a new insulation which is promoted as the "first ever breathable puffy… allowing a free exchange of air and moving moisture away from the body". Garments that utilize this insulation, such as the new Rab Strata Hoodie (right photo, $225), feature a very breathable shell fabric; others feature body-mapped shell components. Other notable new or updated proprietary synthetic insulations include Mountain Hardwear's new Thermo.Q Elite, which is claimed to be 20% warmer than the competition; Montbell's improved ExceloLoft, which is a three fiber mix that rebounds its loft better and increases clo (insulation value) by 40% and reduces weight by 10%; and North Face's new ThermoBall which simulates down clusters and is claimed to provide the equivalent insulation of 600 fill-power down.
Environfit is a new company producing spunbound polypropylene garments; this one is an anorak.
Envirofit is a new company that makes rainwear similar to Frogg Toggs and DriDucks. What's different, they emphasize, is their garments have a better fit, which also makes them a bit lighter. I noticed that the women's models in particular are anatomically contoured and as attractive as you can get for spunbound polypropylene rainwear. The lightweight standout for me was the anorak shown in the photo, which will have a storage pocket on the front. Weights were not available, but are expected to be a bit lighter than DriDucks; the prices will be about the same. The anorak in the photo for example will cost around $20.
Socks are getting hi-tech. Left: Darn Tough men's F5 Ski Sock and UL Cushion Sock; Right: women's versions of the same socks.
Socksare becoming more and more high-tech. Nowadays they are loaded with drying, durability, compression, and cushioning technologies much like the trail running shoes we love to use for backpacking. Typical features nowadays provide foot-mapped cushioning, ventilation, and durability, not to overlook the attractive designs. An example is one of our favorites: Darn Tough,who will introduce a new Ultralight Cushion Sock and F5 Ski Sock for fall 2013. Other companies are on the cutting edge too, like Point6, Dahlgren, and Fox River.
Nemo Canon -40F sleeping bag.
The new Nemo Canon -40F rated sleeping bag features 850 fill-power down, top zipper, waterproof-breathable shell, Stove Pipe breathing tunnel, zippered arm openings, Thermo Gill torso vents, and extra synthetic insulation in the footbox and hood. Guess how much it costs – if you guessed around $1000, you're right. They should name this one the Grand!
Left: Sierra Designs Cloud Airshell; Right: Montane Minimus Smock.
Lightweight rainwear is a very popular subject, so here is a reminder on new lightweight rainwear that will be available in spring 2013: the Sierra Designs Cloud Airshell (left, 4 ounces, $125)) is a see-through rain jacket. SD's new Illusion fabric in the Airshell is a waterproof/breathable two-layer polyurethane laminate that is seam taped. Specs are 4000 mm waterproofness and 15,000 MVTR breathability; by the numbers, that's adequately waterproof but not real breathable. SD clearly states that it should be "only worn when it's raining". The new Montane Minimus Smock (right, 5 ounces, $200) is made of Pertex Shield Plus. It will also be available as the Minimus Jacket (7.6 ounces, $239). The Minimus Pant will weigh 4.4 ounces and cost $165. Many hikers prefer a full height front zipper, but I personally like the smock design. Pertex Shield Plus is a polyurethane laminate claimed to be more breathable (20,000 mm waterproofness, 25,000 MVTR breathability) than comparable products, approaching the breathability of eVent.
These two jackets represent two contrasting philosophies regarding rainwear. Behind the SD AirShell is the philosophy "By their very nature, W/B shells offer limited breathability… you'll slowly get wet from the inside out. That's why the Cloud Airshell is designed to be worn only when it rains". Behind the Montane Minimus, made of Pertex's most breathable fabric Shield Plus, is the philosophy: a W/B jacket extends your comfort range, wear it as an outer shell to retain warmth and deflect wind, and wear it in the rain for greater comfort in damp conditions. Bottom line, the rainwear you choose depends on which philosophy you believe in.
Thermal enhancement technologies incorporated into garments, especially baselayers and socks, are becoming more and more common.
Thermal Regulation. Another noticeable trend is the expanding use of thermal enhancement technologies to all sorts of outdoor garments – socks, baselayers, midlayers, and shells. These materials, incorporated into the fibers or fabrics, or printed on the lining of a jacket, generate heat, store heat, reflect body heat, regulate temperature, cool you down, etc. Sometimes heat is simply called "energy" and the spin takes on metaphysical overtones. An example is Celliant technology: "Celliant is a technology that modifies visible and infrared light, recycling them into energy that the body can use more effectively. When Celliant is worn as clothing, or placed near the body (like in a bed liner or a blanket), it redirects this recycled energy back to the body increasing blood flow and tissue oxygen levels." An example application is the new Point6 Pulse sock collection for fall 2013; I was told that Celliant consists of 13 different minerals that are applied to polyester yarn, which is in turn spun with merino wool yarn into the socks. It traps heat and releases it later. Other manufacturers, notably Columbia, ThermoLite, Under Armour, 180s, and Terramar are using proprietary technologies of their own. I'm not saying that these technologies don't work, but in some cases their claims are protecting us from understanding the basic physics and chemistry, so it's difficult to evaluate them.
Cocona Active Drying System.
The same story applies to moisture transfer enhancers. An example is Cocona, which is "natural active particles that have micro porous structures, that are incorporated into fibers, fabrics, polymers, and films. Cocona Active Particles have billions of micropores that create an enormous surface area. These Active Particles attract humidity vapor and absorb your body heat. This accelerates evaporation and breathability for maximum human performance and comfort." Cocona functions like the desiccant pack included with many products; it sucks up moisture inside the package and releases it when it's heated, which rejuvenates the pack to absorb more moisture. At the winter 2013 OR show, Cocona was promoting their Cocona Active Drying System based on their recent discovery that incorporating Cocona technology into apparel layers (photo) will increase the overall ability of the system to evaporate moisture, enhance clo by 50%, and extend the comfort range. The upshot is that we may see Cocona in more garments besides baselayers. Another example is Columbia's Omni-Wick-Evap, which is a substance printed on the lining of a waterproof-breathable jacket. The claim is "Omni-Wick EVAP's special compound disperses moisture across a broad surface area for accelerated evaporation. The result is that you're dry before you even know you're sweating." These performance enhancers (and others not mentioned here) are actually better explained and easier to understand than many of the temperature regulation technologies, but it will take lots of time-in-use to determine if they make a detectable difference.
Left to Right: Polarmax TechSilk, Micro h2, and Micro H2 baselayers.
Baselayers are getting packed with more and more technology, not to mention attractive styling. Since they are next-to-skin they are a very important garment in any aerobic endeavor and the foundation component of any layering system. Their primary purpose is wicking and warmth, and there are many ways to attain and enhance those objectives. First, they are constructed of many different fibers, combinations of fibers, and different thicknesses and weaves. They range from simple and inexpensive such as the Polarmax baselayers in the photo to ones that are body-mapped using different fibers and weaves in different body zones. Baselayers are also a perfect candidate for the technologies described under the previous two photos. Examples for fall 2013 are Terramar's ClimaSense line, which will consist of four levels of baselayers for different applications; and The North Face's Thermo 3D line, which incorporates their FlashDry moisture transfer enhancer plus body mapping. Overall, baselayers are not just polyester or merino wool anymore; rather they're hybrids and laminates of different fibers combined with the wonders of chemistry to make them perform better.
Left: OutDry membrane lining the inside of a backpack; Right: Mountain Hardwear backpack with OutDry, to be introduced in spring 2013.
A breakthrough announced by OutDry is awaterproof backpack, scheduled to hit the market in 2014. Presently a "waterproof backpack" is simply a drybag with shoulder straps added; and it typically does not carry very well and is cumbersome to access items on the inside. OutDry has developed a method to laminate its proprietary membrane to the inside of a backpack, making it waterproof the same as current OutDry footwear and handwear. The first products will be OutDry Mountain Hardwear backpacks with volumes of 105 and 70 liters in spring 2014. OutDry (owned by Columbia, as is Mountain Hardwear) says it will make the liner weight neutral and it will add about $20 to the cost of the backpack. There is a real need for a waterproof backpack, especially in the Pacific Northwest, and it will eliminate the need for a pack cover which really restricts pack access while hiking in the rain. Note that only the main pack compartment will be waterproof, they do not plan to add the membrane to the top cap and exterior pockets.
Esbit/Alcohol Stove System with heat exchanger.
Finally a heat-exchanger cooking system for Esbit or alcohol fuels. At the Industrial Revolution booth I found the Esbit/Alcohol Stove and Cookset with Heat Exchanger (10.9 ounces, $70), which is an integrated cooking system consisting of a 950 ml anodized heat-exchanger aluminum pot with lid and grip, pot stand, and alcohol burner. It's claimed to reduce boil time and fuel consumption by 30 percent. Everything fits inside the pot for packing, and a mesh carry bag is included. The weight can be reduced a bit if you substitute an aluminum alcohol burner for the included brass burner, however the included Trangia-type burner does have a nice simmer control feature and you can store excess alcohol in the burner rather than having to burn it out.
Steripen Ultra UV water purifier.
The Steripen Ultra (5 ounces, $99) for fall 2013 is the latest technology from Steripen. The new UV water purifier has a built-in Lithium battery that recharges via USP cable or A/C wall adapter. The tapered end allows treatment in any bottle. The Ultra treats one liter of water in 90 seconds.
Headsweats Super Duty Headband.
The Headsweats Super Duty Headband is made of Eventure Stretch fabric which stretches to fit almost any head. With a triple layer of their proprietary terry fabric sandwiched within, the Super Duty will handle the heaviest perspiration days. MSRP is $18.