16 Cool, Mostly Bike-Related Things From the Outdoor Retailer Show

Gear Shoes

With nearly 800,000 square feet of outdoor awesome, the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market exhilarates and exhausts.

Imagine an outdoor store ten times the size of your average Costco, jam packed with the latest and greatest for camping, paddling, fishing, trail running, yoga, hiking, climbing, and, yes, cycling. Unlike your average Costco, it’s full of mostly fit, pretty darn good looking people…I mentioned the yoga part, right?

Now throw in some demo areas with climbing walls, paddling pools, and fly casting ponds. If you’re envisioning a mega REI on steroids—granola-fed, organic, natural, gluten-free steroids of course—you’re getting the gist of what the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show looks like.

Positioned ahead of the Eurobike and Interbike cycling trade shows, “Summer OR” as its casually called, brings nearly 30,000 attendees and some 1,300 exhibitors to Salt Lake City each August. And while we generally get the skinny on new bike stuff at the cycling trade shows and press launches, Mtbr sent me to OR in search of gear that crosses-over. Stuff like bikepacking essentials, sports electronics, and base camping setups, as well as relevant technology and trends in fabrics, apparel and materials. What follows, in no particular order, are some things that piqued my curiosity…as well as blatant pandering to bacon and beer lovers. Take a look and see what you think.

1. Brunton’s pocket-sized Hydrogen Reactor a portable power game changer

The portable Brunton Hydrogen Reactor brilliantly makes energy from water and air using lightweight interchangeable Hydrogen Cores.

As all manner of devices—smartphones, tablets, GPS and the like—make their way to the backcountry, the need for dependable portable power has grown exponentially. And while portable solar emerged as a cleaner, greener alternative to disposable batteries a couple years ago, Brunton’s new hydrogen-based solution might just be bigger than the sun.

At about the size of a pack of flashcards, the 146-gram Brunton Hydrogen Reactor generates energy by creating a reaction between ambient oxygen, and hydrogen stored in small, lightweight, rechargeable cylinders called Hydrogen Cores, according to product manager Ryan Perry. Energy transfers from the Reactor—essentially a fuel cell—to the device via USB cord just as if it were connected to a reserve external battery or wall charger. For a sense of capacity, each Hydrogen Core stores enough energy to fully-charge an iPhone six times, and users can carry any number of the 100-gram cylinders to fit their power needs.

A bikepacker on a week-long trip, for instance, might carry five or six cores to keep a GPS, USB water purifier, and camping lamp charged, while a single core would likely suffice for a weekend trip requiring just-in-case power.

More mundanely, I wish I had one right now to get my tablet out of the danger zone as I type away in an overcrowded airport with few outlets. The point being, this thing has some real potential for the great indoors as well.

Unlike solar, a hydrogen system is not dependent on bright sunlight and can do its thing under cloud cover, in the rain, and even in total darkness.

When a Hydrogen Core is spent, it’s recharged with a machine called an H2O Hydrolizer which is about the size of an electric pencil sharpener, and looks like one too. Simply pour in water, turn on the machine, and it extracts hydrogen, storing it in solid form on materials inside the cylinder core. The $300 charger can be purchased for home use, though Brunton envisions a system similar to propane tank exchanges where retailers can refill or exchange Hydrogen Cores for a small fee–anywhere from free to $5.

The Hydrogen Reactor itself retails for a reasonable $150 and includes two charged Hydrogen Cores. Spares are available for $15 a pop. The pricing seems reasonable even before you factor in Brunton’s U-Proof Promise, an unconditional repair/replacement policy that kicks in even if it’s your fault. brunton.com

2. Sea to Summit’s tiny tent a perfect pick for bikepacking

Despite a pack size slightly larger than a Nalgene bottle, the ultra light Specialist Solo sports roomy proportions when assembled.

Packing up just a smidge larger than a Nalgene bottle, Sea to Summit’s feathery, 625-gram Specialist Solo might just be the ideal bikepacking tent. Despite its diminutive pack size, the $429 aluminum-poled Solo boasts 14.5 square feet of well-proportioned floor space and a respectable 3.9 square foot vestibule. The optional 94g Tyvek groundsheet adds durability to the ultralight package and seems like a wise addition. For $70 more and a “penalty” of 220 grams you can get the Specialist Duo two-person version which adds nine square feet and another door. Sea to Summit also makes a full line insanely light compression sacks, sleeping bags, dry sacks and kitchen items perfect for bikepacking. seatosummit.com

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About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry that landed him at his current gig with Santa Cruz bicycles. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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