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North Hills Monthly

Trending Camping Gear More Comfortable, Environmentally Conscious

Feb 28, 2019 05:19PM ● By Kathleen Ganster

More people are camping than ever before, according to the 2018 North American Camping Report, an independent study supported by the Kampground of America, Inc. (KOA). More than 6 million new families have started camping since 2014 in North America, and campers today show a greater representation across all ethnicities and ages—including more millennials than ever.

The percentage of campers who report that they camp more than three times a year has also grown by 64 percent since 2014. That’s a lot of campers.

“Many families and friends are feeling the crunch of time, increased screen time and just an overall lack of quality time to which camping is a solid and sometimes simple solution,” said Chris Kaminski, co-owner of 3 Rivers Outdoor Co.

Catering to these growing numbers is an increasing number of outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturers. New materials, new designs and new technology means new camping equipment—just in time for the upcoming 2019 season.

Kaminski just returned from the 2019 Outdoor Retailers Show held in Denver and shared some of the newest trends. “The outdoor industry as a whole is welcoming more and more people into the outdoors, and as a result, has been trying to lessen the ‘roughing it’ factor,” he explained. “This means better food, roomier tents, lighter yet warmer sleeping bags and better entertainment.”

One area the industry has focused on is clothing. “I think one of my favorite new innovations for this year has been the collaboration between Rab (a clothing and equipment manufacturer) and Pertex (a fabric company) to create Infinity Weave,” said Kaminski.

Most down jackets are made with stitching that runs horizontally across the garment, and while the stitching works to keep the feathers in place, the stitching lines themselves can be a weakness in the material. Infinity Weave removes the need for stitching as the fabric is pre-woven in the manufacturing process.

“This makes the shell lighter and more wind resistant—with about 1,000 less holes—and more water resistant,” said Kaminski. “It can currently be found in the Rab Microlight Summit jacket, which I personally own, and I think it is amazing,”

While in Colorado for the show, Kaminski took a side ice climbing trip and can attest to the jacket’s warmth for those who may undertake similar outdoor activities. “The Infinity Weave is lighter, stronger and moves amazingly; it performed extremely well,” Kaminski said.

He also liked a new product from Primaloft Bio. “Primaloft Bio is a synthetic insulation manufacturer that has just released the first completely biodegradable synthetic fill. Once placed in a landfill, Primaloft claims that the material will biodegrade in less than 400 days,” he said.

Since many outdoor folks are environmentally aware, that is important.

“Similar to Primaloft Bio, United By Blue released B100, a mix of recycled polyester and bison fur, which is taken as a biproduct of the meat industry,” said Kaminski, adding that United By Blue is a clothing company that removes a pound of waste from water for every product sold.

And new technology is not just limited to clothing.

“There have been some new ideas and innovations coming out lately that are amazing,” said Kaminski. “One example is the MSR Windburner stove series. It functions just like a Jetboil or other stove system, but uses radiant heat instead of an open flame. This makes the stove windproof and gives it faster boil times.” 

Kaminski also tried the new stove on his recent trip. 

“It works very well in nasty conditions. I made breakfast at my camp site in 5 degree weather and didn't experience any issues just quickly boiling water,” he said. 

With more hikers taking to longer trails such as the Long Trail in Vermont and the Appalachian Trail, another popular development is lighter gear. “The classic thru-hikers motto is ounces are pounds and pounds are pain. With this in mind, gear companies are responding with crazy light equipment,” said Kaminski. “Big Agnes is introducing a new tent this spring called the Fly Creek HV1 Carbon that weighs in at a staggering 21 ounces with a rain fly.”  

The new product brings a high price tag, though. “Sadly, price and weight have a very inverse scale, so as gear gets lighter the price gets higher,” he added.

Car camping families can take the comforts of home in other forms.

“We carry pots and pans by Primus that would rival a good stainless steel kitchen set, super plush sleeping pads by Therm-a-Rest that are nicer than many motel beds, and down quilts and sleeping bags that deserve a place in your bedroom,” Kaminski said. “Put all of your gear in a Big Agnes Big House Deluxe—a family car camping tent—and you are looking good.”

Whatever level of camping, there is no reason to stay inside this summer.

“Being able to smooth out the camping experience for the not-so-hardcore camper is getting more people outside and letting more families and friends enjoy the great outdoors,” said Kaminski.