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The snow's melting here in Utah, and we at KÜHL's headquarters are daydreaming about treating ourselves to new camping gear and gadgets for the 2019 season. It's part of our job description to see what other outdoor adventure companies have been releasing over the past year. Or at least, that's how we justify the time we spend kicking tires and testing out new doo-dads.
Here's our short-list of stuff our staff are excited about using this year. Three are upgrades to our favorite outdoor products, and we've thrown in two of our brand-new outdoor clothing lines to show that yes, we really do work hard, even when our minds are in the mountains.
Bears? Cougars? Rattlesnakes? Yeah, whatever. They're nothing compared to mosquitoes, the world's deadliest animals on Earth. Finally there's a solution to keep them at bay. The MR450 is a buffed-out version of the insanely popular MR150 model, and more portable than their stationary, lower-maintenance backpacker unit. You decide where your priorities stand; all three are among several of Thermacell's effective anti-mosquito and tick products.
The other portable models have holsters, and Thermacell might release one soon for the MR450, but in spite of its wearability it doesn't work unless it's lying face-up on the ground, a table, or a rock. You might as well stow it in your pack or cargo pants pocket until you need it, but when you do, it's just a matter of turning it on and setting it down.
This is a great product for bank fishing, and hunters report that the scent-free pads don't raise alarms with game animals.
Set it up at the center of camp for a 15-foot radius "dome" of skeeterless bliss. Weather might affect the "safe" zone's range, and at least one of our "field testers" have bought multiple MR150 units (same working range as the latest models) for overlapping base camp coverage. Expect 12 hours of relief on one fuel cartridge, but change out the pads every four hours. The refill cost might add up—the original package sells for less than $35 and comes with everything you need to get you through that first half-day of insect Armageddon—but malaria's kinda spendy, too. There's a one-year, 100% satisfaction guarantee to get you over the "should I try it?" threshold.
Just like your favorite iPhone or Android device, REI makes improvements to the Half Dome design almost yearly. The latest made it into Backpacker Magazine Editors' Choice 25th Anniversary Hall of Fame in 2018. What makes this model an ideal two-person tent is this: Two people actually comfortably fit in it without either being smashed against dewy fabric, or having to climb over one another for middle-of-the-night nature walks. Vertical walls and spacious vestibuled exits on either side make access easy, and the large footprint reduces the likelihood that somebody's going to be pushed down a steep bank the second day on the trail.
The "naked" tent is all about ventilation, bug protection, and stargazing, and the storm fly is exactly what you want for diverting rain away from the tent bottom while allowing moisture to escape from a vented peak. Set up the Half Dome with a simple, color-coded and hubbed pole system, and pack it up for an overall weight of five pounds, five ounces. It's a three-season tent, which means you can get out there now, and stay out until the snow starts to stick this fall.
"Woo-hoo! Kevin remembered to bring a roll of paper towels!"
"Nope. That's my raft. Step off, Karen."
The names may change, but we guarantee that conversation's going to go down somewhere this year. Kokopelli's latest ultralight packraft is available now, and they roll up so small, they'll make your sleep pad look like your grandma's featherbed.
This is a packraft, so it's going to be bare-bones. Still, Kokopelli squeaks just the right features into a 5.2 pound package: Durable, reinforced Kevlar floor, inflatable, backless seat to lift you off the bottom, four strategically-located D-rings for stowage, a repair kit, and compression straps. There's even an inflation bag to air up your boat without the bulk and weight of a standard pump.
Pick out a four-piece paddle and other Kokopelli accessories to round out your kit, and get ready to leave your trekking buddies on the shore for some high-altitude paddling solitude.
We were tempted to review high-lumen tabletop lanterns that double (triple?) as cook stoves, pack llamas, and satellite internet uplinks, but then we remembered how much these highly-portable, water-resistant, and super-handy E-TRENDS LED hanging lights caught on among our staff and friends over the past couple years. No need for 'biners; just hook them to your tent ceiling or on a branch by your groover for just the right amount of (adjustable!) light—up to 150 lumens. Each "bulb" is about the same size and weight as an old-school 60-watt incandescent, and ships with three AAA batteries, an unbelievable five-year warranty and 45-day money back guarantee. All this for less than five bucks a bulb, and available in multi-packs.
You need to get into these pants. Lightweight, designed for comfort and ease of motion, and built with UPF 50 sun protection, KÜHL's 2019 line of men's technical pants are already garnering rave reviews. It's no wonder; the clean designs make you look more than respectable when you're brunching with Mom, and the gusseted crotch, micro-chamois interior waistband, and four-way stretch soft shell fabric won't hold you back on an afternoon bouldering session. On the trail, they'll keep you cool and dry after an accidental dunking or strenuous hike on a hot day.
If you're not yet sold on the SILENCR series' anti-chafing, sun-blocking, moisture-wicking protection, then imagine hanging out in tick and mosquito country without the discreet draw cord cuffs featured on the ROGUE products.
You're definitely going to want to have a look at the SILENCR shorts and convertible pants, too. Our outdoor clothing outlasts both trendy backcountry fashion and big-box quality. You'll only have to rehaul your outdoor wardrobe once with KÜHL.
Made from the same proprietary rip-stop REFLEX SOFTSHELL material as the men's SILENCR series, KÜHL women get their own comfortable, breathable, moisture-wicking pants with four-way stretch and UPF 50 sun protection. Each style comes with two deep front pockets, two back pockets, and two thigh zip pockets; on the HÖRIZN SKINNY pant, the latter are pleated, cargo-style pockets. On the STRAIGHT pant, the left side-thigh stash has a flatter profile with vertical access; the right is a discreet, slide-in pocket that's perfect for a smartphone or compass.
Both designs have a standard-rise waist with articulated construction and a variety of colors to mix-and-match with KÜHL's wide selection of women's outdoor clothing.
Like you, we play as hard as we work, no matter the season. If you haven't had time to chart your next adventure, there's no point in being all geared up with nowhere to go. Check out our Born in the Mountains blog for destination inspiration and technical tips, and share with us your own reviews of our new-fave outdoor products!