Exceptional equipment doesn't just happen, its often the result of years of refinement and redesign, incorporation of new technologies and looking at problems in a new way. Before any product gets to launch it needs to be rigorously tested in the real world by real users. It needs to have durability built in and still function in severe conditions.
Design, Manufacture, Test, Repeat.
Here we take a look at our pick of the new products launched this season, focusing on the key categories that protect us, feed us, keep us warm and keep us going on our adventures.
New BIG AGNES tents
The Copper Spur range has been updated. Copper Spurs are already a worldwide classic, for Spring 2020 they have new lighter but stronger fabrics, additional zippers on doors to allow canopy pitching with trekking poles, new storage inside and better, more muted colours. All this extra at virtually no increase in weight (the Copper Spur 2 has increased from 1248grams to 1268grams according to our scales).
Big Agnes have also introduced a solo version of the Tiger Wall series, significantly lighter than the Copper Spurs the Tiger Walls offer a simpler pole structure to save weight but still have steep side walls and large doors.
Finally, if you want lightweight with convenience the new Salt Creek tents will blow you away, three entrances of different styles offer the ultimate in flexibility with only a relatively small weight penalty.
New HILLEBERG tents
The Anaris is the new tent from Swedish manufacturer Hilleberg and is a big departure for them, a 'trekking pole tent'. To save weight the tent has no poles and is pitched using your own trekking poles, it has an enormous amount of space and Hilleberg's legendary durability. Designed to be flexible in use you can pitch just the outer flysheet, or roll the inner back completely for a warm weather option.
New VAUDE tents
For 2020 Vaude have introduced 'Seamless' technology to some key tent models - this unique process bonds the seams making them absolutely waterproof and significantly more tear resistant. Seams manufactured in this way also gives the tent a smoother shape. The three 'seamless' models are also produced in an environmentally friendly manner, that means they're manufactured using energy-efficient, resource-conserving methods – without problematic substances. Also working conditions are notably controversial in the textile industry. Vaude ensure fair wages and good working conditions – whether in Germany, Europe or the Far East.
New RAB sleeping bags
The new Mythic Ultra series sleeping bags from Rab have already won the UK Industry Awards best product for 2020 (Sleeping category) due to their use of titanium coated filaments to construct the liner fabric which reflects back heat towards your body adding significantly more warmth for virtually no weight penalty. The bags already feature superlight outer fabric and industry leading down quality together delivering a 0C comfort rating with a bag weighing just 394grams. A second bag rated to -8C and weighing just 606grams completes the range.
New THERMAREST sleeping bags & quilts
Thermarest's updated Corus Quilts won us over simply because of the attention to detail in design, using box wall construction with a shaped footbox and oversized sides the Corus is very well thought out. Its filled with hydrophobic down too so its performance will be maintained longer in damp conditions. Cleverley Thermarest have gone for 650 fill power down which has kept the cost remarkably low.
Also newly updated from Thermarest are the Questar series of 650 Fill down sleeping bags. Technical designs with thought given to zoned insulation and sized to allow a variety of sleeping positions. The 650 Fill power down means that the Questars can be offered at very keen price points so if the budget is tight they are an excellent option.
New SIERRA DESIGNS sleeping bags
If you are looking for something a bit different then the Sierra Designs Cloud 800 series of sleeping bags are a radical redesign of the traditional sleeping bag. Firstly these bags are zipperless, preferring a quilt-type overlap which allows you to get in and out easily enough but also allows you to sleep more naturally, with your covering loose or pulled tight around your face.
Add to this major innovation a foot vent and pad sleeve and you have a very interesting alternative to the traditional mummy bag - great for people who don't like being zipped up.
New EXPED rucksacks
Exped have updated their ultralight backpacking rucksacks, the Lightning series. Already a best seller and key product the harness system has been considerably beefed up making it more comfortable and capable of carrying heavier loads. The fabrics have been updated as well, they are more waterproof and more durable, as well as being more environmentally friendly. We like the changes, especially as there is no weight gain over the previous model.
Exped have completed a major overhaul of their lightweight trekking packs, the Thunder series. If the Lightning packs are for people counting the grams, the Thunder packs are the slightly heavier packs with many more features to keep you organised. Like the Lightning packs the harness system has been considerably beefed up making it more comfortable and capable of carrying heavier loads. The fabrics have been updated as well, they are more waterproof and more durable, as well as being more environmentally friendly. We like the changes, especially as there is no weight gain over the previous model.
It would be remiss not to mention the new Exped Impulse daypacks, if a rucksack was a piece of art you'd be looking at these in your local gallery! Well designed and well put together with a full feature set for the city or fellside.
New GOSSAMER GEAR rucksack
Gossamer Gear have launched their new 40Litre backpacking rucksack, the G4-20. Like all their packs its focused on ultralight backpacking and is the perfect size for outings up to a week. It only weighs 704grams and features Gossamer Gears ubiquitous padded sleeve backpanel, its crammed with features of real appeal to backpackers and is already attracting admirers.
New SIERRA DESIGNS rucksack
The new Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor rucksacks are a lightweight backpacker with a decent harness system and a full set of backpacker friendly features. One of its key features its ability to reduce in capacity in a way that doesn't compromise the 'carry'. This is an important feature on long trips where half the load might be food at the beginning of a trek, but by the end there will be hardly any.
New GRAM-COUNTER GEAR sleeping mats
Gram-counter Gear have produced their first sleeping mat, designed for those people on a tight budget, having said that the Crash Out mat offers a decent level of comfort and only weighs 332grams, which is a good weight for a full sized mat like this is. The RRP is just £60 which compares very well with other offerings in this category - it doesn't have any insulation so its designed to be used in the summer - or combined with their new Evazote foam mat for extended use.
The Evazote mat is a thin foam mat which offers very little by way of comfort but does offer some insulation, hardcore ultralight backpackers may use it on its own but we recommend it's combined with other mats to extend their performance range. Teaming it up with the Crash Out mat gives you a flexible, lightweight system at a low cost.
New THERMAREST MATS
Most of the changes in Thermarest mats this Spring are simply a valve change - so while the mats are listed as new the only difference is that they now have the 'WingLock' valve which is designed to increase airflow making it faster and easier to inflate and deflate although some reviewers have found the valve to be 'over-engineered'.
New SEA TO SUMMIT mats
Looking at the list of new mats for 2020 there are a lot of Sea to Summit included, however the mats haven't changed - STS have changed the packaging slightly to reflect the new R-Value measure and they've given the mats new part numbers etc.. So, no change, the key mat for us is still the Ether Light XT range with the truly excellent 'Pillow Lock'.
New EXPED mats
Exped have entered the closed cell foam sleeping mat market and have produced three models which are very keenly priced. Not known for comfort we've nevertheless been impressed by the Flexmat Plus.