On day 2 of our exploration of the aisles at the Outdoor Retailer show, we were given a thorough review of products coming from several different companies that are part of Cascade Designs. MSR, Platypus, and Seal-Line are all well-recognized brands in the outdoors industry, and for good reason. They produce top-quality products that meet the needs of outdoors people, and they also help set the pace for innovation by coming out with new designs each year that raise the bar higher for performance and versatility. And, from the number of new products I had a chance to view, they certainly aren’t sitting still behind the design desks. There were several new items we thought would be of interest that we talked about and got some pictures of to pass along to you.
The first items we got to look at were from Seal-Line. In all honesty, I personally haven’t had much time with Seal-Line products, though I know of their reputation and have always heard good feedback. So, it was educational for me to get a handle on their products, and there were a few that I added to my own shopping list. The first item is their series of E-Cases which has had a refresh done for 2010. These cases are can be used to protect your personal electronics from the elements with their urethane construction. They are Level 3 products for Seal-Line, so that means they are water proof for 30 minutes at 3 meters, and are floatable if accidentally dropped out of a kayak or canoe. As most know, I enjoy my electronic toys when I’m outdoors, so these cases go straight to the top of my “to buy” list because of their high protection and low bulk and weight characteristics.
Next up is Platypus’ new Soft Bottles for quick and easy hydration on the trail. The Soft Bottles are lighter weight than hard-sided versions, and they are available with either regular caps or their new Hyper-Flow caps which have a valve that you can bite to start the water flow. Once done, you simply give it a twist to make sure it’s locked and won’t accidentally open while stuffed into your pack or pocket. The Soft Bottles are available in either .5 liter or 1.0 liter sizes and are BPA free. Personally, I’d go for the 1.0 liter size since the cap or bite valve opening size are going to be constant either way. A couple of postive aspects for those of us in the states is that the Soft Bottles are made here in the U.S.A. and have a lifetime warranty. Aside from regular use on the trail or in camp, I can easily see another niche where the Soft Bottle has a lot of potential–that’s in packing emergency kits and serving as back-up containers out on the trail.
A lot of people like to make their own emergency kits, and there are quite a few that will include various plastic bags or containers to hold water. The Soft Bottles by Platypus are made for that specific purpose and would serve admirably in that capacity. Since they collapse when empty, you could easily carry several of them with you without adding hardly any weight or bulk. The advantage there is that if you do get into a situation where you aren’t familiar with the territory or the location of water sources, you can stock up on your water supply by filling the empty Soft Bottles to make sure you have plenty on hand until you get out of your tight spot. Remember the old rule learned by the operators in the military, “Two is one. One is none.” That basically means it’s always good to have a back-up or some redundancy in your kit. You never know what items could get damaged or lost on your adventures.
When we’re talking about products from the different brands of Cascade Designs, we certainly have to include MSR which is a well-recognized brand in the industry for its innovation and quality gear. And, there was no shortage of new gear from MSR on display at the Outdoor Retailer show. The first item by MSR that commanded my attention was their new Carbon Reflex 3 tent. This is a well-appointed, free-standing rig designed by MSR. It has enough room for three people to sleep comfortably. A big plus in my eyes is that the Carbon Reflex 3 has a door and a vestibule on each end of the tent. Since it’s designed to sleep three people, it’s a nice touch to have a way to enter/exit on either side of the tent. It’s also a design feature that encourages good ventilation as well. The Carbon Reflex 3 packs down to a slight 4 pounds and 7 ounces. Yes, that’s a bit more weight than the CR 1 or CR 2 models, but it’s a tent designed for three folks, not just one. So, the shared gear can be distributed throughout the group to lighten the burden for each overall. For a free-standing shelter that can protect three people from the elements, I think weight under 5 pounds is an excellent trade-off.
And, if you are traveling with a group and sharing that Carbon Reflex 3 at night, then maybe this next item might appeal to the group as well. It’s the new 2.5 Liter MSR Reactor Pot. It wasn’t too long ago that MSR came out with the Reactor design and its accessories. MSR has added depth to that accessory line by now offering a larger cook pot to work with the Reactor system. This cook pot is ideal for use in small groups (just like the Carbon Reflex 3) since it can shorten cook times for each individual and cut down on weight for the group overall since everyone doesn’t have to carry their own stove and pot on the trip. Because of their heat exchanger design, the Reactor system is a much more efficient cooking system and will save you in fuel costs in the long run. When talking to the rep for MSR, I was told that one can of MSR’s fuel will boil 15 liters on their Wind Pro system, but would boil 22 liters using the Reactor system. That’s about a 46% increase in fuel efficiency over a regular cooking system. The MSR Reactor system will pay for itself in time and then some. Something to think about.
As we get press release and additional information about the new products from these companies, we’ll be sure to pass them along.