Outdoor Retailer Summer 2017: The Best Gear On The Planet

The Best of Show Manual Outdoor Retailer Awards
Everste/Getty Images

Every six months the entire outdoors community descends on Salt Lake City, Utah for the ultimate tribal gathering of adventurers, product designers, athletes, and brands. From the latest in hiking boots and packs to innovative power and paddle technology, brands bring their new products for a huge collective launch. We spent the entire show scouring the convention center floor for the absolute latest and greatest new outdoors gear to fuel your next adventure.

Tecncia Outdoor Forge S Shoes with Best of Show
Image Courtesy of Tecncia

Best Technical Boots: Tecnica Forge and Forge S ($250+)

Taking the knowledge of fit and design from decades in the ski and alpine trekking world, Tecnica’s all new Forge line of boots are the first true game changing technology in footwear we’ve seen in years. Built around the simple mantra “Design, Fit, Versatility,” the Forge and Forge S feature a custom fit through heat mold materials – the first hiking boot of its kind. The molding process takes about twenty minutes, and through two steps you will make a footbed that molds to your feet, and then customize the boot (both models feature heat mold material at the heel, ankle and arch of your foot) to your foot shape. This molding process makes both the leather and synthetic material versions fit perfectly right out of the box. Expect to see the Forge line in specialty outdoors retailers early next year. – Written by Austin Parker

Hydro Flask Unbound Series Soft Cooler Pack Best of Show
Photo Courtesy of Hydroflask

Best Cooler: Hydroflask Soft Cooler Pack ($275)

Hydroflask has long been a staff favorite at The Manual from everything from IPAs to espresso. Taking their knowledge of insulation to larger coolers, the new Unbound Series of soft coolers will be a big hit with campers, beach goers, and paddlers alike. The welded body features fully waterproof zippers, extra insulation at the top and bottom, and will stand free on its own – freeing you to root down in it for that last can of beer, which of course will be ice cold even after a long day at the beach. – Written by Austin Parker

Columbia Omni Shade Image by Mark Going Columbia
Photo Courtesy of Mark Going/Columbia

Best Apparel: Columbia Omni-Shade

Sunburn and dehydration are our two biggest enemies whether we’re on the trail or at the beach. Columbia’s new Omni-Shade  material aims to combat both those problems. Reflective dots are applied to every piece in the collection that not only block UV rays, but prevent your skin from absorbing heat from infrared wavelengths. The result is less sweat, no sunburn, and getting to spend a longer time in the sun. It works, too. Our brother site Digital Trends field tested the new gear in Mexico earlier this summer. – Written by Austin Parker

Biolite Solar Home
Image Courtesy of Biolite

Best New Technology: Biolite Solar Home

From portable lighting to campfire cooking, Biolite is one of our favorite innovators in the outdoors. Their new Solar Home kit promises to bring portable power and light to the masses. Whether you need emergency back ups around the house, want a classy solar lighting solution for basecamp, or are building the perfect adventure rig for vanlife, this little solar panel, controller and lighting kit is an amazing solution for small form, off-grid living. – Written by Austin Parker

 Roka Kona Sunglasses
Image Courtesy of Roka

Best Sunglasses: Roka

Roka is a relatively new brand focused on “performance design” primarily for triathletes. While we’re not taking on Ironman competitions anytime soon, we did really like their sunglasses line, especially the Kona. The sunglasses feature high-strength, impact-resistant Carl Zeiss vision lenses and are scientifically engineering for a snug fit (again, these are meant for elite athletes). However, the island-inspired design is an easy transition from beach to bar without breaking a sweat. The best part is, the entire package weighs less than an ounce. – Written by Geoff Nudelman

VIVO Bloom Shoes Best Of Show
Image Courtesy of VIVOBAREFOOT

Best Environmental Product: VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra 3 Shoes

VIVOBAREFOOT have long been a favorite minimalist shoe brand of ours. Their new collaboration with Bloom though, could be a serious change of direction for the entire industry. Using Bloom’s algae biomass harvesting program, they have been able to make the first sustainable alternative to EVA foam in footwear. The result, the new Ultra 3 shoes, returns 57 gallons of clean water to habitat, and is a net carbon sink, as the dead algae used in manufacturing of the foam sequesters carbon out of the water and air where it is harvested. The Ultra 3’s are not just comfortable, they deliver a positive impact for our planet for every pair made. – Written by Austin Parker

outdoor retailer summer 2017 awards nemo chogori tent with award v2
Image Courtesy of Nemo

Best Tent: Nemo Chogori Tent

Nemo’s tents are designed from the floor up with livable space and protection from the elements in mind. The all new Chogori is a their new flagship 4-season expedition tent, and will protect you in the absolute harshest weather on earth. We expect to see this tent pulling serious duty in places like the Himalayas and Denali National Park. – Written by Austin Parker

outdoor retailer summer 2017 awards osprey levity pack v2
Image Courtesy of Osprey

Best Pack: Osprey Levity Pack

We’ve carried Osprey packs from the tallest peaks in the Tetons to the beaches of Thailand. One thing they get right on every single pack from backpacking gear haulers to light day packs is comfort. The Levity ultralight pack is no exception to this. Built for dedicated thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers, the Levity is sure to be a favorite on the Appalachian and and Pacific Crest Trails when it hits the market early next year. – Written by Austin Parker

outdoor retailer summer 2017 awards smartwool phd approach crew sock v2
Image Courtesy of Smartwool

Best Socks: Smartwool PhD Outdoor Approach Sock

Last year Smartwool collaborated with famed mountaineer Conrad Anker on a sock built for the worst weather, highest altitude, and coldest temperatures on the planet. As much as we love their Outdoor Mountaineer Sock, unless you’re planning on extreme winter travel, it can be a little overkill for the average user. Taking the lessons learned from it, the all new Outdoor Approach is built for serious hikers and trekkers. Whether you’re hiking in to Everest Basecamp, hitting a serious thru-hike, or just out for a quick pre-dawn scramble up one of the Flatirons, these are the absolute best socks for outdoors pursuits. – Written by Austin Parker

white boots
Image Courtesy of White’s Boots

Best Heritage Brand: White’s Boots

White’s Boots has flown largely under-the-radar while amassing an impressive heritage in the American logging and firefighting industries. The White family began producing boots in 1853 in West Virginia, eventually migrating west to Spokane, Washington where all of their footwear has been produced for the last 90 years. “White’s Reserve” marks their first real foray into lifestyle boots with a stunning lineup of chukkas. Each boot is hand made in the White’s tradition and built for decades of wear. Although the price of entry is steep (around $500), these are a lifetime investment. Full American leather and impressive construction means these boots’ quality is second-to-none. The boots are available for pre-order through the company and will hit select stores later in the year. – Written by Geoff Nudelman

Image Courtesy of Bripe

Bripe: Coffee Brew Pipe

An ultra-convenient and innovative piece of cooking gear hailing from Costa Rica, the Coffee Brew Pipe – otherwise known as the portmanteau, Bripe – is as easy to use as it is compact. Developed by Tim Panek and Craig Hall, the Bripe is a single shot coffee brew system capable of whipping up a tasty shot of coffee in a matter of minutes. Lacking the bulk of most coffee gadgets intended for camping, this device is nothing more than a small silver and copper pipe outfit with a cork handle that users heat up using a companion lighter. With its integrated temperature gauge, the Bripe allows anyone to brew coffee to its perfect temperature (185 degrees Fahrenheit) before enjoying it right from the pipe’s built-in straw. What’s most impressive is that the entire brew process takes less than just three minutes. Furthermore, because it packs easily into a companion carrying case, the Bripe should have no trouble fitting snugly into a backpack, offering backpackers and car campers alike the ability to keep their kit lightweight. – Written by Rick Stella

hydra lite
Image Courtesy of Hyrda-Light


For most flashlights, dunking them in water is the best way to short circuit the device, thus rendering it useless. For the Australian company Hydra Light, however, its similarly named range of Hydra-Light products thrive when exposed to water, actually using the liquid to function. Debuted at Outdoor Retailer this summer, Hydra Light’s innovative HydraCell technology activates after being dunked in water for roughly 10 to 15 seconds. Once activated, the HydraCell then powers lanterns and flashlights for upwards of 250 hours as the water actually hydrates the battery to create an electric current. A fascinating new technology, it’s not hard to recognize the positive benefits a Hydra-Light flashlight would have in developing countries or its impact on the environment due to its ability to reduce the number of dead batteries produced annually. This is the definition of innovation. – Written by Rick Stella

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