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Cold comfort: Winter camping gear pushes limits

Intrepid campers willing to brave the cold — in some cases, extreme cold — will find plenty of new items designed to keep winter weather at bay this season. Designers are turning to heat-channeling construction techniques, enhanced versatility and smart details to boost comfort on cold, snowy trips.


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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Intrepid campers willing to brave the cold — in some cases, extreme cold — will find plenty of new items designed to keep winter weather at bay this season. Designers are turning to heat-channeling construction techniques, enhanced versatility and smart details to boost comfort on cold, snowy trips.

Amog the most unique launches: the Nemo Canon -40°F sleeping bag (MSRP $1,000), whose construction resembles a parasitic worm but packs serious warmth. At the rock-bottom temperatures it’s designed for, it’s more about survival than comfort, said North American sales manager Ben Saunders. Life-preserving features in the 850-fill down bag include a PrimaLoft-stuffed, extended “Stove Pipe” tunnel hood, waterproof-breathable shell and PrimaLoft-wrapped toebox. Arm zips allow the bag to be worn.

Two zippered “gills” on each side add venting and versatility, making it suitable up to a relatively balmy -20°F, and Insotect Flow vertical baffles conduct heat throughout the bag. Nemo eventually plans to complete the Canon line with -20°F and 0°F versions.


Nemo Canon

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Until then, less extreme winter campers can turn to bags like the Marmot Plasma 0 (MSRP $629), which also uses Insotect Flow vertical baffles to ensure even heat distribution. The 900-fill down bag has a slimmer cut than warmer-weather bags for more efficient heating and a lighter weight.

Klymit debuts its first insulated sleeping pad, the Insulated Static V (MSRP $90). The company says the 2.5-inch-thick, PrimaLoft-lined pad will take campers down to 0F comfortably. V-shaped air chambers fill the pad’s inner area for better muscle support, while square side baffles keep campers from rolling off. And like other Klymit pads, it uses a cutout pattern to save weight.

Versatility was the name of the game for several tent manufacturers who built tents tough enough for winter weather, but light and breezy enough for year-round use. Easton PR manager Shane Hutcheson called the three-person Torrent (MSRP $529) “an all-season, multi-sport tent.” An all-nylon canopy blocks snow and wind, but zippered mesh panels can be opened in fair weather. Two, 20 square-foot vestibules provide ample space for cold-weather gear, and a Y-shaped pole configuration provides more lateral stability in high winds. The Torrent also comes in a two-person version (MSRP $449).


Easton Torrent

The Brooks-Range Mountaineering Invasion (MSRP $570), a two-person, single-wall shelter, “was built with mountaineering in mind,” said brand ambassador Chris Wright, but covered vents enhance airflow in warmer temps. An exoskeleton pole structure keeps the interior dry during stormy setups, and poles lock together at junctions for added stability.

The niche hammock-camping market also expands this season with three new items from Eagles Nest Outfitters. The Vulcan Underquilt (MSRP $175) was designed “so hammocking can be a four-season activity,” said media and marketing coordinator Natalie Deratt. The PrimaLoft Synergy–filled quilt snugs up under a hammock to eliminate back drafts without compressing (like a sleeping bag would do) and keeps swinging sleepers comfortable down to 30°F. It pairs with ENO’s Igniter Top Quilt (MSRP $230), a partially deconstructed sleeping bag with a footbox down low but a blanket shape on top. And the Housefly Rain Tarp (MSRP $140) sits over the whole ensemble for wet-weather protection.

On the winter-cooking front, MSR introduces a 1-liter version of its popular Reactor Stove system (MSRP $170). “It’s totally windproof and great for high altitudes,” said Kerri Dellisanti, PR manager for Cascade Designs (MSR’s parent company). “And it’s awesome for winter because of how fast it boils water.” Also new from MSR: a hanging stove kit (MSRP $30) for big wall climbing and a coffee press (MSRP $20).

Winter travelers who snowshoe into camp can pick up the Huron Gaiters High (MSRP $59) from Outdoor Research. The snowshoe-specific design has a neoprene panel over the toes and around the back of the heel that pairs well with snowshoe bindings; the added warmth allows for snowshoeing in a lightweight boot or even waterproof shoes.

–Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan