Gems Among the Weirdness

The so-far coolest stuff I've seen at OR
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The so-far coolest stuff I've seen at OR

O.K., enough whining about the OR Show. It's still decidedly surreal though. I just walked past two miniature chihuahuas wearing wallet-sized doggie packs. Then there was a pair of willowy models wearing grass skirts and coconut bras. I think they were advertising coconut-based fabric, but the message somehow got lost. Right now I'm sitting in the press room, a rare spot of refuge. I think it's the only spot in this entire convention center where you can find a horizontal place large enough to set down a coffee cup and laptop. Just behind me, mechanical trout swim frantically around in a blow-up pool. I can fish for them with magnets and win a prize.

It's all fascinating, in a sociology kind of way, but I know what you really want: You want to know what's the coolest stuff I've seen. Up front here, I'm pretty selective about my gear lusts. The coolest new sandals and hippest-this-year lifestyle clothes bore me. The little widgets are always fun, until you get them home and realize you still haven't played with your new coffee mug or multi-tool in a year. So I tend to get excited about shoes, packs, sleeping bags, tents, and technical clothing. And here are the treasures I've come up with. There are even a few widgets.

--Acteryx Arrakis 65 (liter) backpack. Ultralight styling, simple, supportive...and waterproof. Go ultralight in bad weather, and swim your gear across a river while you're at it. Way ab-original.

--Brunton Solar Gadgets. Solar power goes really portable...and durable too. The Brunton Flex is a combo solar panel and storage battery with a 2000 milli-amp hour capacity. The Brunton Solo 3.4 is a quarter-pound storage battery with a 3400 mAh outpout at 5.5-volts. The days are fast approaching when a 7-ounce solar panel/battery setup will charge your laptop, iPod, headlamp, gps and digi cam - reliably.

--Osprey EXOS packs. Mega lightweight backpack meets uber supportive frame. About time.

--Therm-A-Rest Neo Air mattress. A 14-ounce, 2.5-inch thick, air mattress with super comfort and the insulation value to handle cold weather. Credit two layers of air cells, separated by an aluminized baffle. The idea is simple, but apparently the manufacturing wasn't.

--New Balance 1201 boots. Core fabric-leather hiking boots that guys can get in widths from B to EEEE, and women can get from AA to EE.. If you have disgustingly normal feet, this is not big news. For the rest of us, it's huge.

--There are suddenly lots of ightweight, single-axle sports trailers out there, so you can drag your kayak, mountain bikes, and a huge pop-up tent behind the Prius. They look way cool. Better than an RV. I'll dig more into them for a future post.

OK, off to meet with The North Face to view their gi-normous selection of gear. More updates later. --steve howe