After making the rounds through a few Outdoor Retailers, one thing I've noticed is that some of the coolest gear is from manufacturers that I'm not familiar with. The big name manufacturers will be all to eager to bore one to tears with extensive, drawn-out information on the new zippers on their sleeping bags or additional compartment in their flagship backpack, but sometimes the most interesting new gear comes from someone else. A lot of times it's not the most flashy or expensive gear, it's just an innovative solution that makes sense.
Seattle Sports is one such company I wasn't familiar with going into this year's OR, but I'm glad that I stopped by to check out their booth as they offer a variety of innovative camping, paddling and general outdoor gear. Here's some of my favorites.
This is the product that first attracted me to the booth. In a world of trendy, overpriced non-BPA and aluminum water bottles, this simple bottle offers a few features that should prove to be quite handy. The bottle separates into two pieces, which serves several purposes: it allows you to put ice cubes in despite the narrow mouth, makes for easier cleaning that doesn't require a brush and allows the bottle to double as a camp cup, potentially eliminating a piece of gear from your pack. Isn't getting the same convenience with less gear what it's all about? Additionally, the H2Duo features flow-through threads on the lid that allow you to loosen the lid and pour water out without needing to completely take the lid off. The H2Duo is still under development and is expected in stores by December at a retail price of $19.95.
An excellent, multi-functional solution for backpackers or boaters, the Versa Tank is a 3L water bladder that has multiple attachments allowing it to be used as a hydration pack, camp shower and water filtration system. It features a slide-off, open-mouth design that makes for easy filling and cleaning. Attach a hydration tube with bite valve, shower attachment or in-line gravity filter to the screw-off valve on bottom and use one pack for all your water needs. The Versa Tank is colored black, like most solar showers, to attract sunlight and quickly heat the water. Don't worry: when using the pack for hydration, it will be tucked away in your backpack, so it won't cause your drinking water to sizzle any more than normal. The only downside is that the three liters only provide about a minute and a half of showering; however, that's certainly better than not showering at all. This will be available January. It will retail for $14.95 Versa Tank itself and $24.95 for the Versa Tank Multi-Task, which includes shower attachment and bite valve.
Introduced last year, the ActiveTrax is another extremely versatile offering. On the surface, it is a self-powered iPod dock that draws power from both manual cranking and solar energy. Look a little closer and you'll find that it also contains an AM/FM/Weatherband radio and can serve as a USB charger for your iPod or other USB-compatible devices. Throw the 11.2-ounce speaker dock into your backpack and have a campsite radio for the backcountry. One minute of charging gets about 20 minutes of playback. Retail price is $40, or $50 for the Deluxe model.