ROAD TEST

Roughing It, Smoothly

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

The fashion world may have New York's Bryant Park, but each August, the travel outdoor-gear industry lays claim to Salt Lake City. At the Outdoor Retailer summer convention, manufacturers unveil the latest apparel and accessories, hoping to see their designs at destinations where rough wear is de rigueur. Amid thousands of products, it's easy to become overwhelmed and go back to your old Boy Scout sleeping bag. So we sussed out six standout items that'll make you all the rage on your next active adventure. -- Nathan Borchelt

1. WHAT: Sierra Designs Verde Sleeping Bag (800-635-0461, http://www.sierradesigns.com; $179)

WHY WE LIKE IT: Almost every manufacturer was trumpeting its eco-conscious approach to gear production, but Sierra Designs' Verde is the first sleeping bag to marry post-consumer recycled materials (coconut husks salvaged from the food industry and activated carbon from used water filters) with an all-organic treatment process known as Cocona. If you're prone to night sweats, the bag's recycled-polyester lining wicks away moisture, dries fast and won't retain a hint of odor. The recycled PrimaLoft insulation keeps you warm in temps that drop to 20 degrees. Available in November.

2. WHAT: Inka Pen (303-449-2576, http://www.writeanywhere.com; $15)

WHY WE LIKE IT: Simple and compact, the Inka Pen will write anywhere -- wet or dry, low or high altitude -- at any angle. The pen, which fits into a waterproof, stainless-steel barrel, has a pressurized ink cartridge that allows it to scribble in any environment. Unscrew the back end and -- surprise! -- you have a no-scratch PDA stylus.

3. WHAT: Eagles Nest Outfitter's SingleNest Hammock (828-252-7808, http://www.eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com; $49.95)

WHY WE LIKE IT: The simple functionality and array of add-ons make the hammock a favorite among lounge lizards. The 18-ounce, woven-nylon hammock for one assembles in five minutes, supports up to 400 pounds and collapses into a self-stowing sack the size of a softball. With such accessories as a rain tarp and bug net, you can swap your tent for an above-ground bed. Two-person version also available.

4. WHAT: Ergon BD1 Cycling Backpack (323-656-2788, http://www.ergon-bike.com; $149)

WHY WE LIKE IT: For road or mountain bikers, the BD1 is the backpack equivalent of a Posturepedic mattress. The bag's hard plastic frame evenly distributes the weight to your waist and shoulder (vs. your spine and back muscles), and an ingenious ball joint that rests between your shoulder blades allows impressive maneuverability. Extras include space for a hydration bladder, a compression strap large enough to accommodate a helmet and a rain cover concealed in a small pouch.

5. WHAT: Westcomb iMirage Jacket (604-420-8964, http://www.westcomb.com; $449.95)

WHY WE LIKE IT: An iPod integrated into a ski jacket is itself not a revelation, but the fine touches -- flexible elbows, swooped-back hem for flexibility, waterproof/breathable laminate -- separate the iMirage from its brethren. The iPod slides into an interior chest pocket and syncs up with protected control buttons on the left sleeve. However, treat the iMirage as a glove-friendly solution to long lift lines or rides -- not the right to rip down the mountain raging to Metallica.

6. WHAT: Spot: Satellite Personal Tracker (408-895-8338, http://www.findmespot.com; $149.95, plus $99 for one year of service)

WHY WE LIKE IT: Unlike most GPS units, this simple and smart gadget lets you do more than just send an electronic distress call. In addition to the standard 911 function, the emergency device sends pre-written text messages, along with your GPS coordinates, to a roster of people via text message or e-mail. The bright-orange weatherproof instrument also has a help function that lets you contact local rescue facilities about less urgent injuries. The best part? Mere mortals can afford the price. Available Nov. 1.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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