Gear Innovation: Dry feathers, UV light and New packs

I love it when new technology makes life on the trail better. Being a mom who lives on a pretty tight budget, I can’t afford to buy something that doesn’t work for me or my family. I always try to keep in mind too that when it comes to survival, your gear can make the difference. Thank goodness the human race is full of creative people who are always finding ways to make gear lighter, easier to use, warmer, or more effective so that everyone can get out and enjoy my favorite place on earth, the woods. Here are a few new and exciting options that might be a good fit for you…

Packs with an ErgoActiv frame suspension (like the Black Diamond Octane):

On these packs there is a 3D ball pivot connecting the hip belt to the pack. The shoulder straps are also connected to each other under the hip belt and are free moving from arm to arm. The idea behind this technology is to allow the pack to be more of an extension of your body rather than an attachment.

I tried one of these on at EMS during my great search for a new and lighter pack. It was suggested by an employee that had just used one on her last backpacking adventure. While the pack they had didn’t fit me well in other areas, I found the freedom of movement it allowed to be very promising.

I can see some possible drawbacks to this design but Black Diamond is primarily a hardware company so if anyone can work the kinks out, they certainly can. I think we’ll be seeing more of this technology in the future.

Ultra Violet Light used for Water Purification (like SteriPen):

Here’s the condensed version of what was meant to be some quick research into the safety of this purification method but turned into an “OMG! My chosen form of chemical purification is not enough!”

UV water purification is not new technology itself, it has been killing germs for a hundred years, and it is used by many cities to purify public water. More recently it has come into fashion for back country use. It works by attacking the DNA of bacteria and parasites, causing them to be unable to reproduce. The EPA even recognizes UV lights ability to render the most nasty, chemical resistant germs inactive, like Giardia and Cryptosporidium which can really make you sick on the trail.

Drawback, it needs line-of-site access to the offending creatures to work, so it must be used with a water filter. The little buggers inside the dirt floating in your water bottle will be shielded. This makes me nervous because my filter broke on my last backpacking adventure, leaving me with nothing but chemical drops and bandanas for filtration. Some people don’t even think water filtering is necessary at all but with my history of stomach trouble I prefer a little backup.

DriDown Insulation by Sierra Designs:

I haven’t often used down feathers when backpacking, even though they offer better warmth to weight ratio than synthetic fillers, because in rain they can present a problem. If down gets wet, it loses its loft and doesn’t keep you warm. With DriDown though, the individual feathers are covered with a water resistant coating. According to the company, it even dries faster after getting wet. Sierra Designs has just started offering it in both sleeping bags and jackets. The few reviews I was able to find seem to be promising. This is great news for those hikers looking to shed some weight without shedding safety.

These are some of my favorites but what new gear has got you excited? Or do you dream of inventing something new to solve your current trail frustration? Maybe Hot Mamas or someone reading this can help. Post here or on our facebook page if you have questions or want to share your favorite new piece of equipment. Our thoughts are with those of you facing Hurricane Sandy, stay safe and dry, and for everyone else…happy hiking!!

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