For a few days last week I was in in Salt Lake City for the semi-annual Outdoor Retailer tradeshow, where there were a dizzying number of new, updated, and proven old products for hiking, camping, running, climbing, and paddling. The focus of the summer show are items that will hit store shelves in Spring 2016.
Long-sleeve Pack Polo
Regular readers will recognize this shirt from previous posts (this one and this one). It’s my go-to for 3-season backpacking in the West: the warp knit polyester fabric offers exceptional air-permeability and abrasion-resistance, and the long sleeves and high collar protect my skin from the intense sun. The SKU was sadly dropped from the 2015 line-up, but due to some internal and external urging, there’s been a commitment to keep it in the line for 2016.
If you live in the shady East or Northwest, instead consider the Short Sleeve Pack Polo, currently available.
While other manufacturers continue their pissing match over whose rain gear is more breathable, Sierra Designs has taken a decidedly different tack. The simple truth is that no waterproof/breathable fabrics are sufficiently breathable to keep pace with a backpacker’s rate of perspiration, especially in warmer and more humid conditions.
The comfort of Sierra Designs rainwear instead relies on airflow: hip belt velts, chaps instead rain pants (with the crotch protected by long jacket lengths), and always-open underarm vents protected from precip entry with an awning. Most of the current line — including the UL Trench (my favorite), Elite Cagoule (now in 3-layer fabric), the fully featured Pack Trench, and Elite Chaps — is being carried over into 2016, with some refinements. A Storm Poncho and slick-looking Pack Anorak have also been added.
Retractable rain flies on single-wall tents
Many single-wall tents are condensation-prone due to lack of airflow through the shelter. Oddly, the airflow allowed by many designs is least when you need it most: during a storm, when ambient humidity is high. Mid-shaped single-wall tents are especially bad — to protect what’s inside, the doors or vestibules must be zipped shut, leaving just narrow venting strips at ground level. Sierra Designs addressed this problem in 2014 when it overhauled all of its shelters: by having overhanging sidewalls and/or awnings, ventilation and storm protection is not an either/or feature with the Tentsegrity, Flashlight, Lightning and Flash collections.
For 2016, three SD tents — the Flash 2 and 3, and the new Nightwatch — will offer an enhanced ventilation option, via a Retractable Fly that can be rolled back in nicer weather, making them even more condensation-resistant than they are in normal storm mode.
Let me be clear: these bags are heavy and bulky, and not nearly as optimal for backpacking as the award-winning Backcountry Beds. But the super generous sizing and attractive price points (starting at $199) make them perfect for outdoor camping when the effort to transport them is inconsequential, e.g. car camping and front country backpacking. There will be a solo version, plus two 2-person models including a Queen.