From "smart" flashlights to mega-size shoes, the Outdoor Retailer trade show, held last week in Utah, is a twice-annual look at the latest in gear. Here are a half-dozen items that caught my eye.
- Power from flame: A stove-type product, the Candle Charger from FlameStower, lets you heat water and charge a phone in the wilds. The unit uses heat from a candle or lighted Sterno canister and converts it into electricity. You plug into the stove with a USB cord to charge up a device, and the extra heat boils a small pot of water on top. ($75; available this spring)
- Mega-boots: Hoka is known for its big-sole running shoes. This coming fall the company will ship a mega-boot, its TOR Ultra Hi WP, which will give hikers an ultra-cushioned midsole to absorb the trail. Its upper is made of leather and nylon mesh with a waterproof membrane to keep feet dry. The boot comes with a mega price tag, too, at $230.
- Pizza in a pack: Sugar and fruity flavors reign in the energy-food category. Next month Clif Bar will ship something new with a savory energy gel line, including a pizza flavor and one made from sweet potatoes and sea salt. The pizza flavor is comprised of tomato, carrot, and quinoa, all pureed with spices. I tried it at the trade show and can attest to its unusual but good, subtle pizza flavor.
- 'Smart flashlight': An intelligent flashlight may sound boring. But Fogo is a light source, a GPS device, a two-way radio, and more... all packed into a handheld aluminum cylinder. Its beam, at 1,000 lumens, is a piercing spotlight. A built-in compass, accelerometer, and LED screen on top to control the unit set it apart as something new. ($TBD)
- Big flame: The category of camping matches rarely sees big upgrades. The Titan Stormproof Match by UCO is something new with an oversize build that includes 4 inches of strike-to-light flammable material. It burns extremely hot for 25 seconds, and the matches are water-resistant, making starting a fire in the backcountry almost guaranteed. ($10 for a box; available this summer)
- ‘Fat tire’ footwear: Another go at the "mega" footwear category comes from Under Armor. The company's outrageous Fat Tire GTX was designed for hiking or running on “the sloppiest singletrack around,” Under Armour cites. Its huge outsole is equipped with “tire rubber” from Michelin, and the shoe upper is waterproof with a Gore-Tex membrane and a Boa closure to cinch them on tight. ($200; available in fall 2015)