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Outdoor Retailer Roundup: Knives, Solar Chargers, and Dog Gear

Day 2 for this Reader Reporter featured upgrades to popular knives, solar chargers, and doggie gear.

by: Donovan Brooks, Backpacker Reader Reporter

Goal Zero Sherpa 50
Goal Zero Sherpa 50

High-Five Friday was a gear filled dream for this Reader Reporter. I spent the majority of the Day 2 at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market checking out electronics, and finished it off at the Ruff Wear booth seeing some of their redesigns. Here’s the skinny on the new and improved:

Solar Panels - Goal Zero & Wenger
Goal Zero is releasing some new batteries that are smaller and more streamlined. The Sherpa 50 incorporates the inverter that used to connect via cable and dangle around. It now has an incorporated laptop charger, and due to the new mixed metal polymer battery, weighs less and is half the size then the previous model. It takes about 8 hours to charge it in prime sunlight, and carries 50 watt hours of power. MSRP: $249.99; weight: .9 lbs.; available early summer 2012.

Wenger is also getting into the solar game with three models of panels and two batteries. Focusing on being light, compact, and easy to use, Wenger is calling their new panels “Portable Power Solutions.” With three different models (2.25W, 4.5W, and 6.75W) these panels are versatile and even have optional lights. Batteries come in either 2200 mAh or 5000 mAh. Look for these in early Summer 2012. Weight: 12.3 oz, 17.5 oz, 23.2 oz (for the 2.25, 4.5, and 6.75 W panels respectively, all weights include battery). MSRP: $180, $270, $340 (or the 2.25, 4.5, and 6.75 W panels respectively).

Knives - Wenger Again
Wenger is also introducing a Blackout line of knives. These babies are beautiful! Instead of going with the flat black, tactical look, Wenger went with a shinier look. The best of these are the Blackout EvoGrip 10 and 63. Even the toothpick and tweezers are black on these models, and the EvoGrip is fantastic. It practically sticks to your hand. Release: late March 2012; Weight: 1.9 oz, 1.2 oz (for the EvoGrip 10 and 63, respectively); MSRP: $89.95 (EvoGrip 10) and 59.95 (EvoGrip 63).

GPS - Suunto Ambit

In the GPS and heart rate monitor world, Suunto is introducing the Ambit (short for “ambition”). This device is worn like a watch and looks like a watch, and does a watch’s job, but then so much more as well. The Ambit combines a GPS, heart rate monitor, altimiter, compass, thermometer, barometer--plus it just looks cool. It recharges via a USB cable and the battery, depending on usage setting, will last up to a month. Release: late Spring 2012; MSRP: $550 without heart rate belt, $600 with HR belt.

For the Pups - Ruff Wear Headwater Collar
Ruff Wear is re-introducing the much beloved, but long unavailable Headwater waterproof collar. Every owner of a water-loving dog wanted this collar. It doesn’t stink when wet, and it looks good. After fixing the issues that caused the recall, Ruff Wear is ready to send these to stores around early Spring of this year.

Ruff Wear has also made some modifications to their extremely popular Palisades Pack. They’ve simplified the bladder system, taking away the tubes and going with a flat bladder instead. In addition, now you don’t have to remove any of the pack items to get to the bladder. The drain holes have been improved and relocated to the very bottom of the pack, and the pack unclips from the harness easier now. Ruff Wear has also put a stay clip on the pack to minimize flapping, and has moved buckles so that they are lower profile and easier to repair. And the real kicker -- the pack is now 30% lighter. This redesign should hit shelves in the Spring, as well. MSRP: Headwater Collar: $29, Palisades Pack: $129.95.

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