2009 Editors’ Choice New Gear Awards
April 29, 2009
Filed under Feature Stories
Hundreds of new outdoor products are flooding the catalogs and retail shops this year, with more brands and a wider selection of goods than ever before. From among this torrent of great new gear, we’ve selected a few choice pieces of equipment. There are plenty of hot new products out there, but each piece of gear highlighted here is in some way relevant to the family camping lifestyle, and is fresh, different, better, or just incredibly useful. These qualities have made them our 2009 Camping Life Editors’ Choice award winners.
EUREKA! GRAND MANAN
Half dome tent, half outfitter wall tent, that’s the new Grand Manan. Best yet, it’s a simple two-pole setup. The walls rise straight up from the floor a full 12 inches before they meet the sloping dome-style roof, offering more usable floor space next to the walls than in a traditional dome tent design. Roll-up sides on the fly and large mesh windows on the tent’s sides deliver superb venting, two D-shaped doors offer easy access, and large vestibules provide plenty of dry exterior gear storage. Two sizes, 7 (3 person) and 9 (4 person), are offered. MSRP: $340 (7). Eureka!: 800/572-8822; eurekatent.com.
This turned out to be one of our favorite new family size tents for three reasons: two separate sleeping compartments divided by a common entry area, interior roominess (the center peak height is over 6 feet), and a generous helping of backpacking tent-tech construction features. Four DAC DA17 aluminum poles firmly support the Shiro, two large entry doors offer access to the center room, and two zippered inner doors provide entry to the side bedrooms. Two models, 4 and 6 (person), are available. The Shiro 4 offers 70 square feet of total floor space. MSRP: $550 (4). Kelty: 800/423-2320; kelty.com.
REI ZONK +25 SLEEPING BAG
We like the Zonk +25 kids sleeping bag because it offers the same protection and features as REI’s adult-version Zen 25 sleeping bag featured in our annual Gear Guide issue. The mummy-style Zonk features REI’s own Z-Baffle construction, which combines two insulations to maximize heat retention and contributes to better shell and lining support. Its contoured hood, face muffler, roomy footbox, ground-level seams and full-length draft tube help retain body heat while keeping out cold drafts, and its water-resistant rip stop nylon shell is durable, abrasion and tear resistant. Some nice extras include a special pocket in the bag to stuff with extra clothing and use as a pillow and an exterior chest pocket for easy reach of small items. MSRP: $100. REI: 800/426-4840; rei.com.
COLEMAN LED QUAD LANTERN
The LED Quad is four lanterns in one, and there’s nothing else like it. As a whole, the lantern’s output is a bright 190 lumens from a total of 24 LEDS. Each of the four panels (eight LEDs each) can be easily removed and used as a personal lantern to find your way back to the tent after the campfire or to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The panels are powered by their own NiMH batteries when detached; and are recharged by the main lantern’s batteries when connected. Eight D-cell batteries in the base can run the whole show for two or three days. MSRP: $70. Coleman: 800/835-3278; coleman.com.
PRIMUS LED CAMPING LANTERN
Another lighting product we found worthy is the mid-sized (8 inches tall) LED Camping Lantern. Powered by three D-cell batteries, it features a nine-LED array that puts out 36 lumens of clean white light, and a built-in conical reflector to spread that light evenly. The lantern is rubber coated, stands up on its own base, and has a wire bail for hanging. It’s water resistant; offers low, medium, high, and flash settings; and will run for days on one set of batteries. MSRP: $30. Primus: 307/332-0901; primuscamping.com.
THERMACELL INSECT LANTERN
This company offers a line of portable, butane-powered, area mosquito repellent devices, and has recently introduced its Mosquito Repellent Patio Lantern. The new Patio Lantern not only provides protection from biting insects, but ambient lighting for the campsite, and is powered by four AA batteries. The Mission-style inspired lantern has a wrought iron look with a frosted globe, and the lantern offers two brightness settings. A small butane cartridge inside heats a replaceable mat permeated with allethrin, a synthetic copy of a natural insecticide. The vapors created form a 15×15-foot bug-free zone for up to four hours. The light switch is located on the base of the lantern. MSRP: $30. ThermaCELL: 866/753-3837; thermacell.com.
Maybe it’s because we love our java, ever more so on a cold morning in the mountains, or maybe it’s just the novel idea of a home-size drip coffee maker built for rugged outdoor use and fired by propane or butane. No matter, the BrewFire is our got-to-have-it award winner this year. Durable ABS and stainless steel construction, 8-cup capacity, and auto shut-off safety features are highlights. The coffee maker can run on a standard 1-pound propane bottle or 4- to 16-ounce butane canisters, and will have a pot brewed before you can cook the bacon. MSRP: $160. Brunton: 800/443-4871; brunton.com.
MSR FLEX 4 SYSTEM
It’s not often that cookware gets us excited, but the Flex 4 System offers family size cooking capacities with anodized or non-stick surfaces and a space-conservative mentality. The entire system nestles into a package that measures less than a cubic foot. Included with the 5.3-liter dual handle hard-anodized aluminum pot (ideal for camp spaghetti) and 3.2-liter nonstick pot are two strainer lids, a gripping pot handle, four deep dish plates, and four 12.5-ounce insulated stainless steel mugs with lids. Mugs and plates are in different colors for easy user identification. MSRP: $160. MSR/Cascade Designs: 800/531-9531; cascadedesigns.com.
STERIPEN FITSALL FILTER
The new FitsAll Filter water particulate remover is a multipurpose three-piece unit that works on various small- to wide-mouth bottles to use as collection, filtration and purification containers. The cup, funnel and 4-micron filter cartridge can be used as a set via two methods: pour-through and immersion. Users can also substitute the filter cartridge with the SteriPEN Journey LCD and Classic water purifiers to use with the cup and funnel. The cup can fit on the rim of Klean Kanteen and Gatorade-type bottles, and fits tightly inside wide-mouth water bottles. MSRP: $15. SteriPEN: 888/STERIPEN; steripen.com.
This personal location finder falls in the less-is-more category—a change from the current multitasking GPS handheld units. Its sole function is to track your steps and guide you back to your original destination on an easy-to-read screen. Equipped with a self-calibrating digital compass and a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, users operate the unit through two buttons that enable them to mark a spot and label it as “home base”, “car” or “wherever”. BackTrack then guides the user with directional arrows and distance estimations. Other perks: the unit is weather-resistant, operates on two AAA batteries, and fits in a shirt pocket or can be worn with a lanyard (good for kids). MSRP: $70. Bushnell: 800/423-3537; bushnell.com.
It delivers just the right basics: pliers with a wire cutter/stripper, combination serrated blade, screwdriver hex bits, and a bottle opener. The Zilla-Tool’s single plier lever is spring-loaded for easy release, and this tool doesn’t have to be unfolded before the pliers can be used. Its 3-inch spear point high-carbon stainless steel combination serrated blade opens quickly, with the assistance of a “flipper” that also acts as a guard when open. The tool (closed) is 6.5 inches long and weighs 7.5 ounces. A Zilla-Tool Jr. (5.25-inch handle/2.25-inch blade) is also new. MSRP: $45 (Zilla); $40 (Jr.). Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT): 800/891-3100; crkt.com.
DEUTER KANGA KID
This is a good combo: Marry a daypack with a child carrier and you have the KangaKid, which offers 1850 cubic inches of volume and offers Deuter’s Aircomfort System for maximum ventilation between the user’s back and the pack itself (no sweaty backs). The 4-pound, 6-ounce pack has a 33-pound carry capacity, and turns into a five-point child carrier by opening the yellow-tabbed zippered compartment. It’s an excellent pack for a dayhike with a little one, and you don’t loose any space in the storage compartment. Its ballistic/duratex/polytex material makes the daypack strong yet lightweight, and abrasion and tear-resistant. A sun roof for the KangaKid is sold separately. MSRP: $150 ($30 for sun roof). Deuter: 303/652-3102; deuterusa.com.
COLUMBIA HOT SHOT SHELL
This men’s shell, part of the company’s premier Titanium line for all-weather protection, offers two good Columbia features available in many of its apparel pieces: Interchange System compatibility, which enables the jacket to zip together with other pieces such as full zips and vests, and the company’s own OnmiTech fabric that keeps water from penetrating the jacket, but allows perspiration to escape. Available for women as the Forest Flip Rain Jacket ($115), the Hot Shot also has a durable water repellent finish (DWR) and offers a security pocket and media pocket. MSRP: $185. Columbia Sportswear: 800/547-8066; columbiasportswear.com.
LORPEN TRI-LAYER SOCKS
Spain-based Lorpen caught our eye because its Tri Layer Technology socks are made using three layers of synthetic and natural fibers that help feet stay cool and ventilated, but also comfortable and protected. Available in hiking and multisport designs for this spring and other styles for fall, the sock’s first layer is made of the synthetic Coolmax fiber that helps move moisture away from the skin and on to the second or middle layer, Tencel. This natural fiber made of Eucalyptus wood pulp directly absorbs the moisture to the inside of the fiber, which also helps prevent bacteria growth. The final layer, made of nylon, makes the sock resilient and long lasting. $15 – $17. Lorpen: 416/335-8200; lorpen.com.
MERRELL MORPH JACKET
Versatility is the main feature of this Morph jacket, available for men and women (pictured) in late August. Made from a reversible nylon and microfiber polyester jersey fabric, the men’s version can “morph” into 18 different wearable options, while the women’s version offers eight different options. From a bolero to a shell jacket to a vest, you have it all with the Morph. Both versions have zip-off, reversible sleeves and are water-resistant. The men’s version comes with a reversible hood. So go crazy and create your personal look by zipping off, reversing and configuring. MSRP: $130. Merrell: 800/789-8586; merrell.com.
A good night’s sleep is often elusive in the outdoors, but the Ventra Down Comforter just may be your ticket to slumberland. The 40-degree F rated comforter is filled with premium 650-fill down, and features dual draft collars that weigh down the sides and keep the Ventra wrapped like a taco shell around your body. A footbox pocket keeps feet tucked in. It’s also great for keeping warm around the campfire. Two sizes: regular and large. The regular is 78 inches long. MSRP: $200 (reg.). Therm-a-Rest/Cascade Designs: 800/531-9531; cascadedesigns.com.