043: Trends in Backpacking

Today on The First 40 Miles, learn about the upcoming trends in backpacking gear. Then, on The SUMMIT Gear Review, the headlamp that illuminates without a lot of complicated button pushing. Next, the Backpack Hack of the week will show you how to sleep like a baby. Then, we’ll wrap up the show with very little humor and a bit of trail wisdom.

Show Notes: Episode 043


  • About Outdoor Retailer 2015
  • In Salt Lake City at the Salt Palace and Pavillions
  • Retail buyers, Media, Manufacturers all in one place
  • Learned a lot about upcoming gear, new features, and trends
  • Great ideas that fuel The First 40 Miles for months to come

The Top 5 Trends at Outdoor Retailer Show

High Quality Food on the Trail

  • Organic, Ancient Grains, Superfoods, Grass–Fed Beef, Real Food
  • Creative, Exotic, Flavors
  • More outdoor brands going into the food business

Adjustable Torsos on Packs

  • Means that fixed torso length is becoming maybe a thing of the past.
  • It also means that packs will be more re-sellable, since size doesn’t matter
  • Thule will come out with adjustable torso packs

Outdoor Gear vs Outdoor Lifestyle

  • Nearly every established brand has created a line of lifestyle gear
  • This gear is for two types of people: Brand Loyalists +People Who Want to Look Like Outdoors People
  • Beware of lifestyle gear, because it may not have the technical specifications that will make it good for all your backpacking adventures
  • Lightweight and performance materials are often sacrificed for looks

Tons of Vintage Design Influences

  • Some of these brands have been around for long enough that they have designs that are cool again.
  • The designs from 40 years ago now have been updated with performance fabrics

Gear and Food for Four Legged Backpackers

  • People want to bring their dogs on trips for companionship and safety
  • Meal replacement bars just for dogs
  • Dog packs, lightweight gear, shoes, just for dogs
  • Rabbit jerky (with the hair) just for dogs

SUMMIT Gear Review™: UCO Comfort-Fit Headlamp (A-120)


  • Neoprene head band, so it’s comfortable without sacrificing weight
  • The battery pack is in the back, in a slim little pocket
  • Has a simple band around the head, with not cross band over the skull.
  • No slipping issues
  • The lens is on the front and there’s a stylized ziz-zag wire to the back
  • UCO did a great job with styling, giving faux leather, and canvas look
  • UCO, est. 1971, had a fun time giving this that heritage throwback look
  • Again, technical gear with a fun vintage feel


  • Light can be tilted down, to almost a 90 degree angle, not quite.
  • If you twist the light to the right, you feel a click: RED Night Vision Light
  • Twist to the left and you get a dim light that can go up to 120 lumens
  • It goes seamlessly from dim to bright…and it starts out dim so you don’t ruin your night vision.
  • At max light output it glows 120 lumens


  • 3.6 ounces or 101 grams


  • 3 AAA batteries
  • The case that holds the batteries is within a little canvas pouch
  • Velcro type closure on it is the newer style of hook and loop which is a lot less likely to snag your nice performance clothing or wool base layers



Head lamp for dummies: simple to use, comfortable, lightweight, well-designed, and it does what I need it to do. Shine.

Backpack Hack of the Week™: Dollar Store Fleece Blanket

My simple solution, was to wrap my full stuff sack in a Dollar Store fleece blanket. You can find these on the baby aisle, and they’re the perfect size.

It not only muffled the crinkle of the stuff sack, but it also kept my face warm.  If you’re lucky you may even find a blanket with an embroidered elephant or a moon with a hat…

You Might Be a Backpacker…

If you remove the oxygen absorber from freeze dried foods just to save a few grams.

If you think getting fired from your job is actually an invitation to sit around a fire.

If you’ve ever eaten a package of cold rehydrated potato flakes after a full day of trekking because “getting out the stove was going to be too exhausting.”

Trail Wisdom

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”

-Unknown (Not Andy Rooney quote)