With more than 1,000 brands and an untold quantity of new products launched, the twice-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show can be overwhelming. But last week in Utah I met with dozens of brands, demo'd equipment, and scoured the show floor for three days straight. These items below, my ordained "Best in Show" award winners, represent some of the greatest new outdoor gear coming to market for 2014.
* Solar tent: Like a mini solar-powered home, a tent from Eddie Bauer, called the Power Katabatic, offers a sun-soaking array on top of its roof. Power outlet plugs are inside, letting you recharge a GPS unit or iPhone in the deepest woods.
* Fuel cell power: The Hydrogen Reactor from Brunton uses small, screw-in fuel cells to make electricity. Oxygen and hydrogen are the initiators to the clean, electron-grabbing process, which outputs the same quantity of power as 30-plus AAA batteries.
* Panorama tent: The Optic 2.5 tent from Mountain Hardwear has a unique design with an open architecture that includes adjacent doors. You can enter from the side or one end. Unzip both doors to convert the tent to a 180-degree open design that offers an immense view.
* Watch face app control: View and control phone apps on a watch face with the Magellan Echo. The watch connects with Bluetooth wireless signals to a phone and lets you control music, exercise, and GPS apps.
* Affordable hard shell jacket: This waterproof hardshell from Columbia, the Men's EvaPOURation Jacket, was among the best bargains at the Outdoor Retailer show. At $99, it competes with jackets that cost twice as much and offers comparable features and breathability.
* Tote-a-boat kayak: The Oru Kayak has an origami-like design, employing a corrugated polyethelyne skin. You can fold it up and check it on a plane. At a river or ocean destination the $1,095 kayak unpacks to reveal a full size, 12-foot kayak that weighs just 25 pounds.
* Insta-wash portable laundry: Dirtbags take heed. This dry bag product has an integrated hard scrubbing area to work a smelly shirt clean. You add a piece of clothing, water, some soap, and then you knead and scrub to make fresh again.