We're continuing to paw through our dog-eared notebooks to bring you more OR Summer Market coverage than anyone has ever offered before -- this week's tidbits focus on canoes, pets, stoves, lanterns and hydration packs. Please realize that this is not a "we're writing about everyone just because you were there" kind of affair. On the contrary, we're offering only highlights that grabbed our editors' attention as we perused the Summer Market show floor:
More Paddlesports -- Canoes That Turned Heads
Bell Canoe Works -- The big news this summer was that Dagger was bowing out of the canoe business, which created a lot of excitement around the Bell Canoe booth. Drawing lots of attention was the new Yellowstone River Touring canoe, which was actually designed to compete with the Dagger Legend. The Royalex Yellowstone, built to be very stable, should help Bell increase the brand's presence in camps and instructional programs.
For the performance-oriented boaters, Bell has introduced a new manufacturing process that shaves weight from its BlackGold boats (made with Kevlar and carbon fiber) as well as KevCrystal boats (combining Kevlar and gel coat). A new lamination process, called Lightning Tech, reduces the weight of boats by 13 percent. The only downside is that this process does sacrifice some abrasion resistance and UV protection.
Wenonah -- Wenonah introduced the new Escapade canoe, which could be described as a "tandem-minus." At 16 feet, 6 inches, it's the shortest of the Wenonah performance canoes and is designed to convert effectively from a tandem boat to a solo boat. The Escapade is available in four types of material construction, ranging in weight from 37 to 60 pounds, and retailing from $1,199 to $2,399.
Stoves and Lanterns Were Hot (we know, that's bad, we're sorry)
Not to put too fine a point on it -- was there a single cooler, more innovative, more likely to generate that crucial "ooh, I gotta get one of those" buzz products than the JetBoil from White Mountain? Well, OK, perhaps the MSR Miox was a close second, but still, nothing beat the JetBoil! We heard the buzz for days about this little wonder in a small booth over by the stairs and went by to check it our for ourselves and came away duly impressed. First, some details: Billed as a "Personal Cooking System," the JetBoil bundles a stove, pot/mug, insulating system and fuel canister into a package little larger than your Nalgene bottle. A patented Flux Ring heat exchanger directs all those BTUs where you want them -- the bottom of the pot. Surrounded by a neoprene-ish insulating system that comes with a handgrip strap which zips over the stove on the bottom (the better to retain heat when you're finished cooking). All fine and good, but what left our jaws literally hanging was watching it boil a cup of cold water in, get this, 30 seconds. Add the included cup lid, and you have just about all you need for a comfortable and ultralight backpacking trip in one small package. They're gonna sell a ton of these, count on it. ($80)
In other stove news, new show presenter Vaude, long a presence in the Euro market, brought along its bundle of wares including the Markill stove line. The Spider ($70) fires up dinner in up to 100 mph wind and temps down to minus 20 C, while the tiny 5.8-ounce Hot Rod ($50) showed it deserves a place in the ultralight and tiny market. This Piezo electric-starting titanium powerhouse cranks 9,000 BTUs -- plenty to warm your campfire stew and mug of tea, but folds down to just 3 by 2 inches.
The gadget geeks at Brunton added a few stove accessories worth noting. For starters, a stick-on Gas Gauge that works on any isobutane fuel canister -- neat idea and just $5 for a package of six. The CanStand locks around the base of an iso canister and gives it a stable base -- a plus for the many new snap-on top stoves around ($10). Finally, Brunton's FuelTool snaps on top of that same fuel canister and lets you use it to refill butane lighters and lanterns ($14).
Another nifty gadget from Brunton: the platinum-packing Liberty mantle-less lantern ($119). Running on standard isobutane fuel, the Liberty uses platinum mesh in place of a flimsy traditional lantern, meaning no more struggling to tie them on only to see them crumble. It has a Piezo electric starter, which makes starting it easy, and built in reflectors put the light where you want it. In short, the Liberty is light, small and does its job better than what was available before -- what more could you ask for?
We know we covered hydration earlier, but we overlooked several companies that unveiled new hydration-compatible packs at OR that were noteworthy enough to make it into our, well, notebooks -- sometimes it takes a coon's age to read our own writing! High Sierra is clearly making a play for the value market with its well-designed Fluid, with a hydration compartment large enough for a 2-liter water reservoir, a front organizer pocket and a rain cover stowed in the bottom -- $45 suggested retail. And, we almost drooled on our shoes when we got a peek at the Deuter Race X Air II, a 2-pound, 2-ounce pack with a 1,200-cubic-inch capacity and a 3-liter Source-Vagabond hydration reservoir -- one of the better hydration systems on the market. The pack is ideally suited for mountain biking and the suspension system provides one of the more comfortable and better ventilated rides around.
Woof and meow, although mostly woof
Pet beds, tents, packs, leashes and other stuff continues to be a fun part of Summer Market, especially when the companies bring their great pooches. Planet Dog wasn't around, and we were told by the company that its phenomenal growth has forced it to focus for a time on the pet and gift shows.
A new company was Uhlr Gear ("ooo-ler"). OK, not new but when the owner came in August '02 he admits he wasn't quite ready for prime time. This time he was (and he does win for the two cutest pups at the show who rolled their cute eyes at passers-by and created traffic jams). He has sleeping bags for the dogs, which all came about when he used to go hunting and the dogs would freeze or they'd try to crawl in their owners' bags. They even have waterproof thermal sleeves and can pack up pretty small. Also a hit were the tents, which collapse into carrying cases. They included a field camp tent for hunters' dogs and a backcountry tent for, well, the backcountry.
Ruffwear had new dog beds that looked so cushy and comfy we wanted to borrow one during the show for our own naps. Sizes small to large retail for $50 to $100. Also, a K-9 Overcoat II has quick-release buckles on the side so you don't have to search under your dog's belly, a fleece lining for warmth, and elastic under the belly to help it move with your dog. We would call it ergonomic, but that's maybe a bit too much ($40 to $60).
Cool Pooch had its combined human-dog water bottles, which were attention-catchers on the floor. Imagine a basic water bottle with a sort of funnel like thing on the top. Using a sipper straw, a human can pour water into the funnel-like dish so the pup can also drink. Pretty nifty really.
Abogear was launching its instant dog shelter and popping it up and down in the aisle over and over. Kind of big for adventures, it looked like it could work well for car camping, backyards and beach use.
Chisco had the perfect all-in-one dog lover Pet Pak filled with Fido's favorite things -- adjustable collar, collapsible travel bowl, ball toss toy and two leashes. All pieces come in Chisco's signature webbing accent trims.
And, last but not least, Life is Good -- known for its fun T-shirts -- decided that life had to be good for pups too. In a corner of the booth was a selection of leashes, collars and bowls for bowser. Of course their differentiation was color and fun graphics, such as a little drawing of a cute pup leaping in the air to catch a Frisbee. These are for the well-dressed and hip dogster.