Food & Drink

Better, Lighter, Faster

This locally made outdoor gear boasting high-tech fabrics and sweet features is a must-have for spri

By Seattle Mag April 5, 2012


This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Seattle magazine.

Seattle’s Outdoor Research, which just turned the ripe old age of 30, is blazing new trails with the introduction of the 13.5-ounce Axiom jacket ($375), the company’s first shell that uses Gore-Tex’s most breathable and waterproof stretch fabric, Active Shell. And for adventurers who don’t have time to change before hitting the bar, the Termini shirt ($65) bridges the gap between casual style and technical function. Only in Seattle!


Runners and fastpackers alike will appreciate Outdoor Research’s new Helium II, ($150), a 6.4-ounce redesign of an OR favorite that is lighter and more breathable than its predecessor. Add a pair of ultralight Ultra Trail gaiters ($45) and you’ll never get swamped again. Extreme paddlers might want to get ahold of the new Force 9 Sombrero ($75), an ultra-burly version of the company’s signature product, the Seattle Sombrero rain hat.

To celebrate its 125th anniversary this year, Kent-based Raleigh has released a tricked-out version of its award-winning Revenio road bike. Advanced ergonomics paired with a carbon-fiber frame and high-end components make the new Revenio Carbon 3 ($3,000) a steal compared to similar bikes in its class. Skinflints can derive many of the ergonomic benefits of the Revenio line without breaking the bank by opting for an aluminum-framed version with basic components ($720).

Backpackers looking to save weight and money won’t be able to pass up REI’s new Quarter Dome tent. Available in three sizes; the one-person model has been rejiggered for 37 percent more headroom than its beloved predecessor. Silicon-treated ripstop nylon flys cut weight and create built-in vents and vestibules. A new perimeter fabric blocks wind, and the lightweight DAC NSL aluminum combi-poles are integrated to simplify setup. Campground and family campers will also appreciate REI’s upgrades to its Kingdom tents. All three sizes (four-, six- or eight-person: $379–$529) have roomy interiors, including zippered divider walls to customize the living space—think: kids get their own room. And now, each one connects to a growing collection of accessories, including zip-on garages and vestibules. Sturdy hubbed-pole assemblies ease setup, while multiple interior pockets and hang loops keep everything within reach.

REI’s new Flash backpacks feature tubular aluminum perimeter frames, bottom-zip accesses for deep-down items, precurved foam shoulder straps and mesh-covered foam backs to boost airflow. The 3-pound Flash 62 ($189) offers a 62-liter capacity and organizational features that most fast and light models in its weight class lack. This gear almost makes the thought of hauling 45 pounds through the woods and up steep slopes seem like a breeze. Almost.

REI designers thought of just about everything a Northwestern backpacker could want in a rain jacket in creating the new Kimtah ($239, men’s and women’s). Its eVent fabric and zipper “garages” keep water on the outside, yet the lightweight jacket still breathes with the best of them. Smart details include hand pockets positioned for easy access even with a backpack on, an adjustable brimmed storm hood and cuffs with snow-resistant rip-and-stick closures. With the Kimtah, you can’t blame the weather for slowing you down.

Also new from REI are women’s sleeping bags that balance warmth, weight and wiggle room in designs contoured to the female shape. The 24-degree F Lyra ($169) and the 35-degree F Divine ($139) feature synthetic fill, while the 19-degree F Serrana ($239) and 1-degree F Habanera ($299) keep things toasty with down. A step up for female adventurers on the fast and light path to glory is the new 22-degree F Joule ($339), which shaves size and ounces by using 800-fill power down, and features a waterproof/breathable shell, anti-snag zippers, differentiated hood drawcords and zip chest pockets for stowing essentials. Since girls can’t have all the fun, REI is also unveiling two new 800-fill down mummy bags for guys—the 19-degree F Igneo ($329) and the 7-degree F Magma ($379)—which boast similar high-end features and lightweight materials.

Western Avenue’s Contour recently unveiled its latest wearable action-sports video camera, the ContourRoam ($199.99), which features an all-in-one power/record switch that can be engaged easily even with bulky gloves on and is waterproof down to 1 meter, meaning it can record your surfing or kayaking exploits without worry. (Divers can purchase a case that extends the Roam’s usage to 60 meters below.) Like its much pricier big brother, the Contour+, the Roam shoots stunning 1080p HD video and captures a 170-degree field of view.

First Ascent, the technical and climbing gear line from Bellevue-based Eddie Bauer, is stepping up with a brand-new line of expedition-worthy gear designed locally with input from top mountain guides such as Ed Viesturs and Peter Whittaker. This spring, First Ascent debuts a new four-season, two -person-plus expedition tent worthy of alpine ascents and anything else world-class or backyard adventurers want to put it through. The Katabatic tent ($599) has the same footprint as competitors’ models but features more vertical walls, giving inhabitants more head space (and 48.5 square feet of room). Its neon yellow exterior and bright blue floor make it easy to find at night while also serving to keep spirits buoyed when waiting out a blizzard.

Also new from First Ascent this spring is the innovative Alchemist 40L ($199), an ultralight backpack that converts from 40 liters of storage capacity to 55 liters with the unbuckling and reconfiguring of a couple of straps. Climber Melissa Arnot tested the pack extensively on Makalu and Everest, and now brings it with her everywhere she goes. Alchemist-enabled climbers and backpackers can stuff the 4-pound pack full of 55 liters worth of gear for the haul up to base camp, then unload and cinch down to 40 liters for summiting or day hiking. The expedition-worthy pack comes with an integrated removable bivvy pad, compression rods, a hydration sleeve, a quick-release tool carrier exterior gear organizer, and an EVA molded belt and back. It just may be the only pack you’ll ever need. 

First Ascent’s Karakorum sleeping bag line includes Rainier-worthy, mummy-style bags that feature tough 20-denier Pertex Endurance shells. The –30° and 0°F bags ($499 and $379) come with 850-fill goose down.

Whether you’re on a sleek carbon ride or your old beater bike, keep your stuff dry and look good doing it with a swanky new bike bag from Seattle-based Detours. On the Sodo handlebar bag ($78, in black or herringbone), two large padded and zippered pockets keep essentials protected, while the TPU-coated waterproof lid keeps contents dry. A quick-release attachment system and attached shoulder strap combine to make taking the Sodo and its contents with you while off-bike a breeze.

Meanwhile, the new Georgetown Dry pannier ($105, black) is a workhorse that’s not afraid to get wet. Designed with a TPU-coated roll-up top closure, this dry bag opens into a large-capacity main compartment. A four-point attachment system offers peace of mind that your valuables won’t slip off when you least expect it.

Cascade Designs has a raft of new products launching this spring. The new MSR Nook tent ($399.95) offers plenty of space for two in a compact package designed to fit into cramped backcountry campsites. The interior volume of 48 cubic feet with a 38-inch interior peak height allows two campers to sit up side by side and weighs in at just over 3 pounds.

Cascade Designs’ new Therm-a-Rest four-season NeoAir XTherm ($189.95) utilizes a layered design that reflects heat back toward the user’s body and reduces convective heat loss to the ground, making it the warmest mattress in the NeoAir collection.

Those who still prefer the self-inflating foam-filled air mattresses Therm-a-Rest is known for might want to consider picking up one of the company’s retro-styled 40th Anniversary Edition sleeping pads ($129.95). While the bright yellow pad with the old-school logo might make it look like a throwback, the pad features an updated cutting-edge design, including lighter-density foam, soft-grip bottoms and a glow-in-the-dark valve, ensuring an even better night’s sleep than its revolutionary predecessor four decades ago.


Cascade’s new MSR MicroRocket stove ($59.95) packs small—it fits inside an insulated MSR mug—but burns big, boiling a liter of water in three and a half minutes. You’ll never be without a hot cup of tea and the delights of a freeze-dried dinner.

For the technology-assisted adventurer who won’t leave home without his iPad, iPod or iPhone, here’s a new essential: Cascade Designs’ SealLine iSeries cases ($29.95–$34.95), which are tested to withstand submersion in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. They feature urethane windows for full touch-screen capability, so you’ll never get rained out of Words With Friends.


Meanwhile, mountain riders are jazzed that Raleigh’s sister company Diamondback is now putting its game-changing Knuckle Box suspension system into its 29–inch-wheel Sortie mountain bikes ($2,600–$3,800, depending on components). Knuckle Box helps riders get extra oomph over small bumps, more travel as needed and greater overall stability. Also new from Diamondback is the carbon-fiber Podium 7 ($7,000), a race-worthy road bike weighing in at only 14 pounds, 6 ounces.

Wallingford’s own Pow Gloves (, which specializes in designing and producing specialty gloves for winter sports, biking/cycling and golf, is offering several new models this spring. Cyclists looking for an all-purpose, full-finger glove should check out the Skinny gloves ($25), which feature an extremely stretchy microfiber palm and backhand to facilitate breathability. Mountain bikers won’t cry a river in new Mob gloves ($50), which feature carbon-fiber knuckle overlays to protect precious hands during an “endo.” On the golf front, Pow was really thinking Pacific Northwest in designing the Cascade[bold?] ($40), a thick leather golf glove for colder days, as well as the Rainier ($28), a thin leather glove that actually grips the clubs better when wet.

From SoDo’s own Filson, tried and true since the Klondike Gold Rush, comes a new jacket that blends old-school style with new tech: The Oregon Trail jacket (men’s and women’s, navy or tan, $295) is the first Filson product constructed of a new 6-ounce cotton “oil finish” cloth that provides wind/rain protection, breathability and that signature Filson look—without the need for waxing.



Check these websites to find out where to buy gear from these local companies:

Cascade Designs, SoDo; 

Contour, Western Ave; 

Detours, Downtown Seattle; 

Filson, SoDo; 

Eddie Bauer, Bellevue; 

Outdoor Research, SoDo; 

POW Gloves, Interlake Ave; 

Raleigh America Inc., Kent; 

REI, Kent;


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