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First, a confession: I am not a gear expert. In fact, this was only my second Outdoor Retailer show, so I can’t speak to the multi-year trends or the evolution of product lines. But I am a rabid outdoorsman, a millennial, a professional influencer, and my fresh perspective on All Things Gear is why SNEWS hired me as its gear reporter for this show.
Coming into this space as someone who is heavily influenced by streetwear, I’m looking for products that address style and functionality, are extremely unique, or that just make me stop in the aisle and ask “what is that?”
After scouring the show floor for three full days, these 10 products rose to the top of my wish list.
10 cool gear finds
Nextoptic DoubleTake [$1500; nexoptic.com]
This cool gadget—a merger between a rugged digital binocular and a telephoto lens with the brain of a smartphone—is definitely my favorite item on this list. An integrated dual lens system can go from 2.5x to 10x optical zoom in an instant. Its processor enables state-of-the-art digital features such as image stabilization for easy targeting, and real-time, high resolution panning — all viewable through a 5-inch high-def LCD display. It allows you to capture spectacular 12 megapixel images and lifelike 4K video. It also comes with enhanced low-light performance. Internal WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth allow for remote use and sharing live on your social platforms. It’s rugged, water resistant, and lightweight. In a nutshell, the DoubleTake is exactly the kind of gadget I’d use all the time: for scouting rapids and rivers, getting the lay of the land from atop a cliff while backpacking, and wildlife viewing.
Fjällräven Bergtagen 38 [$240; fjallraven.us]
The latest product in Fjällräven‘s Bertagen family is a 38-liter mountaineering and ski backpack designed for tough ascents above the treeline. The pack has a strong focus on durability and comfort; it’s built with Fjäll’s proprietary Bergshell fabric, rugged ripstop recycled nylon. It’s waterproof (thanks to a TPU laminate on the back), and highly abrasion-, snag-, and tear- resistant (maybe troll resistant, too.) The unique birch wood frame, top lid, and hipbelt are all removable to trim weight.
FIX Manufacturing Roundhouse Belt [$50; fixmfg.com]
Mom, if you’re reading this, this is what I want for my upcoming birthday. It looks and functions like a regular belt, but it’s way, way better. Hidden inside the buckle is a legit mini tool kit. You can choose from three different kits: one aimed at skiers with an emergency file that sharpens edges at a perfect right angle, one for cyclists with a chain repair tool, and one for skateboarders that can score and cut new grip tape.
Speaqua The Barnacle Pro [$65; speaqua.com]
I love life on the water as much as I love good tunes, but it’s a gamble every time I bring one of my speakers on a canoe trip. This apple-size speaker breaks the mold on several fronts. First, it’s truly waterproof and it floats. It can actually play music while completely submerged (but for best results, float it face-up). Second, it doesn’t rely on Bluetooth connectivity. Instead, the Speaqua has an internal song storage of 8GB (or roughly 2,000 songs) and a dual pairing feature so you can sync two speakers at once. The rechargeable battery runs for about 5 hours. You can also hang it, clip it, or stick it anywhere using a variety of included mounting options.
Amundsen Sports Fjorcord Skislacks [$399; amundsensports.com]
It’s a garment-dyed stretch cotton velvet corduroy ski pant with a distinctive retro-ish look. But it’s not all good looks, there’s function baked in: a Schoeller 3-way stretch water-resistant panel in the butt keeps you dry and comfy on the ski lift, insulated padding on the knees provides warmth and protection to the friction prone area, and Kevlar reinforcements protect the cuffs from ski edges and crampons. The Amundsen rep said that skiing in these soft, supple pants is like skiing in pajamas, which sounds pretty awesome to me.
Flaxta Continuous Goggle [$180; flaxta.com]
These are the comfiest goggles I’ve ever tried on. But comfort is only part of the story. These goggles come with a Zeiss spherical double lens that is souped-up to enhance peripheral vision with Flaxta’s own Enlight Technology, which filters visual information and boosts contrast, allowing for faster reaction times and a safer ride. This Scandinavian company is one to watch. It recently introduced a game-changing helmet technology that measures and records brain impact during falls. Read more about it here.
CAKE Kalk& [$TBD; ridecake.com]
Whether you’d use it for commuting to work, getting around town, or for hitting the trails, this is one product that everyone I spoke with is coveting. CAKE, maker of high-performance off-road motorbikes, has launched its first all-electric street legal bike: The Kalk&. The bike is the definition of style and simplicity—ultralight (around 150 pounds), quiet, pollution-free, and super easy to ride (there’s no need to clutch or change gears). “But how fast can I go?” The company says 62 mph (to keep up with highway speeds). CAKE says it will be releasing the final specs, availability, and price when the bike drops this spring.
Seirus Bandit Series Combo Hinged Headliner [$40; seirus.com]
Fend off frostbite in the coldest of temps without the perennial goggle fog with this smart accessory. The 4-way stretch fleece hood fits under any helmet and combines the function of a hat, face mask, and scarf all in one, sealing out bad weather and integrating with any goggle design for all day nose and cheek coverage. A magnetic seam lets you easily unsnap the facemask for easy pull-down mouth access and a rear hole for easy ponytail pull through. I sure wish this was apart of my kit when I braved the subzero temperatures in Minneapolis for three years.
POC Sport’s POCito VPD Air Vest + TRAX [$300; pocsports.com/us]
As someone who’s led outdoor expeditions for children, this is one item that caught my eye. It’s a ski vest with built-in padding for spine protection, and TRAX technology that lets you keep track of the child’s location via an app on your phone. It even warns you when your little one is in a potentially dangerous situation and helps locate them quickly if they’re immobile or unconscious.
Element x National Geographic Skateboard Collection [$55; us.elementbrand.com]
These skateboard decks are almost too pretty to skate on. The result of a partnership between Element and Nat Geo, they aren’t necessarily decked out with the latest skate technology, but they’d sure look great hanging on any wall. A portion of the profit will go to sending kids to skateboard camps, as well as supporting the National Geographic Society’s work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation, and education.