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Gear Reviews

The Best Gear From Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2019

We scoured the largest outdoor industry trade show in the world—here are the most innovative products.

Every summer, gear companies descend on Denver to show off their latest wares on the floor of the Colorado Convention Center. As usual, the BACKPACKER team hit the showroom floor last month in search of the coolest products that will be released in 2020. From ultralight sleeping bags to a first-of-its-kind trail running vest, here’s the best of what we found.

LOWA Explorer GTX

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For years, LOWA has been known for high-quality, durable boots (we gave the Renegade GTX Mid an Editors’ Choice Hall of Fame award in 2018). Now, the company is introducing lighter, faster, updated versions of their most reliable products. The Explorer GTX has tried-and-true features like a Vibram Megagrip outsole and a mid-cut cuff, but also boasts modern touches such as a softer, lightweight midsole package made with DynaPU and a thinner toecap to reduce weight. It will also be available in a non-Gore-Tex version.

Klymit Maxfield 4

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Klymit is an expert on sleep systems, and is well-known for making great camping pillows, blankets, and pads. And now, their first-ever foray into tents seems like a logical progression. The Maxfield is roomy enough to comfortably house a group of four, but at just over 5 pounds isn’t so heavy that you can’t take it into the backcountry (it actually ranks among the lightest tents for its size). And, at $500, we’d even say it’s a bit of a steal.

Rab Phantom Pull-On

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No, this isn’t a typo: Rab’s newest waterproof shell weighs only 3.2 ounces. Jackets that light are usually just windshells, but the Phantom has 2.5-layer Pertex Shield fabric to fully protect you from precip. It packs down small enough to fit in your palm, and its sternum-length zipper helps dump heat. We can’t wait to test its breathability on high-effort days (if we can find it in our packs, that is).  

Black Diamond Distance 4 Vest

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For fast-and-light days with a ton of vert, Black Diamond has engineered a vest that solves an age-old conundrum: To pack poles or not to pack poles? The answer now is: always pack ’em. The Distance 4 features a first-of-its-kind, over-the-shoulder pole carry system that is easily accessed on the go by releasing a bungee cord and pulling the poles over your shoulder and out of their holders. So, you can stow them or break them out without ever stopping. The Distance 4 also has plenty of handy storage pockets for hydration, snacks, and other essentials. 

Mountainsmith Zerk 40L Fastpack

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The Zerk combines all the best elements of a running vest (like easy access to snacks and water via roomy shoulder-strap pockets) with the benefits of a multiday pack (a roomy packbag, padded mesh back panel, and a wide webbing hip belt that will help you schlep up to 30 pounds). Designed in a partnership with long-distance hiker The Real Hiking Viking, the Zerk perfectly balances weight and small features to save you big time on the trail.

La Sportiva Saber GTX

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When La Sportiva enlisted the help of search and rescue teams to help design the Saber GTX, it set out to create a boot inspired just as much by trail running as by trekking. The result: The Saber is light (just over a pound per pair), stable (a TPYU rear stabilizer increases heel support), and it’s good-looking (obviously). A mix of leather and breathable mesh on the waterproof upper adds to this boot’s split personality.

Rab Mythic Ultra

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Pick it up, and it’s obvious the Rab Mythic Ultra is crazy light. What might not be as obvious: It’s among the warmest sleeping bags in its weight class, period. The Mythic is made of a brand-new material that has titanium-coated fibers; while the coating doesn’t add any additional weight, initial testing found that it adds about 10 degrees of warmth in a 32-degree bag. The Mythic Ultra will come in 32°F and 20°F versions.

SOG Seal XR Folding Knife

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Whether you’re cooking dinner, assembling shelters, or building a fire, you need a burly and trustworthy knife. And SOG has debuted a knife—the Seal XR—that deserves those accolades. With the XR crossbar closure, the Seal XR offers the safety and packability you want from a folding knife, but it can handle the extreme pressure that a much bigger, fixed-handle knife can: During internal testing, the closure and blade maxed out at 2400 pounds of pressure, and, according to SOG customer service representative Alec Taylor, “we decided that was enough.”

Nemo Sweepstake

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We’ve all done it: Returning back to camp in the dark, tripping, and hitting the deck thanks to an unseen guyline. The Nemo Sweepstake is out to change that, with glow-in-the-dark sliders that light up to warn you about potentially hazardous obstacles. The sliders also double as built-in cleaners that remove muck and dirt by scraping down the shaft of the stake.