Lighter, faster, sleeker has been the design mantra for most companies in the outdoor industry for several years now, and there is no sign that is going to change anytime soon. However, those products that fill the camping accessories niche appear to be adding a slight twist to the fast and light mandate. While many accessories featured at this year's Outdoor Retailer Summer Market -- from lighting to cookware to electronics, etc. -- are indeed lighter and sleeker, they are also designed to serve an ever-increasing variety of functions and needs. Call it more with less. These multi-function, integrated hybrids may be a response to an economy that demands the most value and utility out of every product.
Brunton's marketing director Jason Kintzler told SNEWS®, "I think many consumers are looking for added value in the things they're investing in and versatile, multi-functional products speak to these sensibilities."
"Simplicity, integration and 'livability' all go hand in hand," added Mike Glavin, director of sales and marketing at GSI Outdoors.
Other trends SNEWS editors found in this category include continuing growth in solar technology and power storage/generation, pared-down but more user-friendly electronics, and all manner of contraptions to make the campsite more "livable." And of course there are plenty of new items in the "Why-didn't-I-think-of-that?" realm.
"Why didn't I think of that?" is exactly what the Mammut Ambient Light headlamp attachment will make you say. This snap-on, ultra tough (you can stand on it and it won't break!), frosted plastic cover instantly converts any of three different Mammut headlamps -- the Lucido T1, TR1 and TX lite -- into a tent light or lantern. The "lens" diffuses the beam into a soft spread of light sufficient for reading in the tent, cooking, playing cards, etc. The lens comes in a package deal with the minimalist Lucido TR1 (four LEDs, two power settings) for $45, or can be sold alone for $11. www.mammut.com
Similar exclamations abounded last year when Coleman introduced its Quad lantern, and it will follow that up with the new XPS LED Duo next spring. Like the Quad, but much lighter and more portable, this new lantern is composed of removable "flashlight" panels -- two this time around, each with a rechargeable 1.5-hour battery -- that can be easily plucked off the base unit individually for a quick run to the bathroom or tent, without leaving your camping partners in the dark. The $50 lamp, which puts out 96 lumens for about 75 hours, takes four D batteries, and a rechargeable 6-volt pack is optional. www.coleman.com
Building on the success of its earlier MYO headlamp, Petzl's new MYO RXP takes the same basic lamp and makes it programmable to personalize to each user's specific needs. The $99 light still has a tilting lamp, three power settings (plus flashing), and its signature feature -- a lens that can be flipped into place to soften and spread the beam for reading, bike repair, etc. But now the three power settings can be programmed according to the user's needs. There are actually 10 power settings from which any three can be set; so for instance, you can set a 10 (l40 lumens, 50 hours) for a rocky run, a 6 for when the trail smoothes out, and a 1 (8 lumens, 95 hours) to read the map. And these can be changed any time for a different activity. Plus, the first eight settings are regulated, so there is minimal fade in power until the batteries are almost dead. www.petzl.com
And for those who find outrunning a headlamp's diffused beam is more than frustrating, Black Diamond introduces a very smart solution -- the Sprinter headlamp ($80). With a headlamp beam that the company says is optimized for running with narrow focus illuminating the path ahead for up to 50 meters, this promises to be a go-to light for nocturnal trail running and road running adventures. It even comes with a rear-mounted red LED light for safety that can, thankfully, be easily turned off when a runner is behind and pleading for mercy. www.blackdiamond.com
Nothing makes even the most spartan campsite more "livable" than a great cup of coffee. And Brunton's new Flip-n-Drip, which will retail for $45 and is light enough for backpacking, looks to be a perfect alternative to the French press. This all-in-one kettle, drip coffee maker and 16-ounce mug makes one mug of coffee at a time: Just boil the water, pour the grounds into the enclosed filter (which pops in between the kettle and double-walled mug), flip it over and wait. In about 10-12 minutes total, voila -- a nice cup 'a joe! And, of course, the mug and kettle, made of BPA-free aluminum, function separately too -- even doubling as a shaker/strainer for a fireside martini. www.brunton.com
The all-in-one trend is also well represented in Coleman's appropriately named All-In-One Cooking System. This combo grill/griddle/stove (MSRP $99) cranks out 5000 BTU on propane power, and neatly nests all three surfaces under its clamp-down lid for storage. It's relatively small -- there's just enough room for two small (or one large) pots on the 100-square-inch oval cooking surfaces -- but it's versatility and sturdiness make up for that. And the company tells us it'll cook anything; there's even an optional crock pot/slow cooker insert for soups and chili, for an additional $39.
GSI Outdoors will add five new nesting eating/cooking systems to next spring's line, and two of them -- the Pinnacle Camper and Minimalist -- particularly stood out as great examples of compact but highly functional combos for two distinct situations. For family or car camping, the $120 Pinnacle Camper set fully outfits a campsite dinner for four people, with two pots, a fry pan, two strainers, and four each: bowls, plates, cups and insulated mugs, (along with sip-tops). The complete 3.5-pound set fits snugly into the 3-liter pot and can be carried in the included tote. The cookware in the Pinnacle line is all made from the company's highest-end, Teflon-coated, anodized aluminum. A lower price point Bugaboo line is also available. www.gsioutdoors.com
But GSI didn't forget the fastpackers. Its new, ultralight Minimalist set, at only 5 ounces, is a complete cooking/eating nest for one. Made from its proprietary "Halulite" hard-anodized aluminum, which the company claims is as light as titanium, but cheaper and better for cooking, this package includes a .6-liter pot, insulated sleeve -- which turns the pot into a mug/bowl -- pot gripper, dual-use lid and telescoping "foon" (GSI's word for spork). What sets it apart, however, is you can also store your 110-gram butane can and ultralight stove (sold separately) inside the pot, making this a true all-in-one setup.
Of course, even the best meal will be ruined by a visit from some of the local parasites, so a good water purifier is critical. And in keeping with the all-inclusive trend, CamelBak will release its All Clear water purifier/bottle combo this fall. The UV purifier light attaches directly to the screw top of the included 1 liter "Better Bottle," but can also fit most of its 63 mm opening bottles. Just fill the bottle with the untreated water, close the lid, turn on the light, and wait about a minute and a half (while tipping over occasionally), and drink. Two models are available, a rechargeable setup (MSRP $130), which it claims will purify 32-36 liters, and a non-rechargeable (MSRP $100), which should handle 70-90 liters. The bulb is reported to last over 8,000 cycles. www.camelbak.com
There's nothing "livable" about digging around in a freezing ice chest for a beer, so Coghlans came up with a simple solution -- the Cooler Light. For a mere $9, this compact light sticks under the top of the cooler, and illuminates automatically whenever the top is opened, and then turns off after 20 seconds. The acrylic, water-resistant lens spreads a soft light over the width of the cooler, and the replaceable battery will last up to three seasons of heavy use, according to the manufacturer. www.coghlans.com
Another clever little do-it-all device is the new Terrapod from Highgear. It calls this a "portable weather station," but it's even more than that: This $70 all-digital device has a 30,000-foot altimeter, thermometer, compass with rotating bezel, barometer with 12-hour weather prediction icons, and alarm clock. It even has a mini flashlight for map reading or a quick trip to the loo, and is water resistant to 30 meters -- all at a much lower price point than many equally spec'd wrist-top computers. The replaceable battery should last one to two years depending on use, the company told us. But it's the swiveling backpack clip that makes it so cool -- just flip the clip and the unit stands alone for the whole group to see. www.highgear.com
Finally, the definition of "livable" means different things to different people. And for some it must include their smartphone, gaming device or even a computer. And there are lots of solar chargers out there to keep the batteries loaded, but Brunton's new ReStore (MSRP $90) appears to be a standout. This "clamshell" twin-panel unit closes up into a beefy rubberized case for safe, water-resistant storage, and cranks out 1000 miliamps -- enough power to charge a cell phone in less than an hour. The unit's battery will fully charge in two to 10 hours (depending on sun's intensity). The USB port makes it compatible with most electronics.
The SNEWS® team of seasoned reporters covers a trade show to seek out product highlights, indications of a trend (to a product category, a company or the industry) or products that are new to the market. In our post-show reports, we do not write about every last piece of gear or equipment we have seen, although, promise, we have most likely seen nearly everything. Even if not in a show report, you never know how information may be included in a future report, trend watch, product review or story. If you have any comments or questions, please email us at email@example.com.