What's Next For Outdoor Adventurers

"Writer, photographer, adventurer" Berne Broudy explores the latest in outdoors-tech innovations

Eco-friendly tent poles, retracting rudders, nano-fabrics, kinetic-core harnesses; PopSci takes a look at all the future tech you need to rough it. Check out the exclusive photo tour.

Smart Belay Device
As ropes get thinner, traditional self-locking belay devices, like Petzl's Grigri, can slip. Mammut's Smart Belay device locks automatically in case of a fall, like the Grigri, and it can handle ropes from 8.9 to 10.5 millimeters. The true beauty of this device is that it has no moving parts and is totally intuitive. To release it, you pull up on the lever, not down, which is instinctive in the case of a fall. It's for climb and lower only, not autoblocking for anchor clipping.© Broudy/Donohue Photography
Kick Axe
Gerber wowed us with a folding camp ax. Called the Kick Axe, it's strong enough to chop wood and pound tent stakes, but the whole thing folds up into its own handle. They barely let us see it, as it won't be out until 2010, so we weren't able to determine much about the locking mechanism or its mechanics at this point, but we're first in line to play with it when the design is final.© Broudy/Donohue Photography
Brunton Lantern
LEDs are becoming more and more advanced, almost by the day. Brunton is using one of the latest in its new Lamplight 360, a $40 lantern that can be hung or used as a flashlight. Where other lanterns have used multiple LEDs and/or reflectors for 360 degrees of light, this one's got just one 360-degree LED light.© Broudy/Donohue Photography
Black Diamond Harness
Black Diamond introduced a new line of climbing harnesses; they've got what they are calling Kinetic Core Construction. What that means: a tri-laminate liquid crystal polymer fabric, also found in NASA spacesuits, is sandwiched between layers of taffeta, making the Ozone, Aura, and Chaos models more comfortable than any other harness ever made and among the sleekest and lightest harnesses out there, according to Black Diamond. It has foam padding and extra breathable and soft fabric that goes against your skin too, but the big news is the lightness, compactability, and strength of this harness.© Broudy/Donohue Photography
Osprey Pack
Osprey's Exos packs all have extremely lightweight flexing aluminum struts that make up the entire pack frame: light but strong. The internal flex strut provides tension and structure for the peripheral aluminum, while mesh suspension in a tension back panel means the pack can actually carry a load. All the packs in this series (34 liter, 46 liter and 58 liter) weigh under 1 kg. And the frames look cool in iPod white.© Broudy/Donohue Photography
Wearable Hydration
Camelbak released a wearable hydration system. It's a reservoir encased in a base layer that's wicking, breathable, and washable. The Camelbak Racebak is designed like a pack, using compression material to hold the water reservoir close enough to your body to prevent sloshing, but not so tight that it interferes with your ability to breathe. It holds 72 ounces, with insulation on both the hose and the back-facing, so water stays cooler, and you stay warmer.© Broudy/Donohue Photography
Green-Anodized Poles
Tent guru Jake Lah, who developed the DAC Featherlite NSL poles, the first and only poles that use mechanical polishing -- rather than a toxic cocktail similar to tear gas -- to bring heat-treated aluminum back to its original sheen, has now developed and implemented a system to mass-produce those poles. This spring was their first release, in a Big Agnes tent. Now they will start springing up industry-wide in tents, and companies making everything from trekking poles to carabiners are approaching Lah to apply the same tech to other products.DAC Featherlite
Epic Track Master Plus Rudder
Epic kayaks already use a unique system for steering. The rear lower hull of their boat is the rudder. In the past, that rudder has been small. But paddlers wanted more steering ability for bigger water. So Epic increased the size of the rudder, and made it manually retractable, but also spring-loaded. So, if the rudder strikes something when it is underway, the rudder slips into the hull as it strikes the obstacle, and then falls back down once the obstacle has been passed. It's a sleek system right in line with Epic's extremely clean designs.© Broudy/Donohue Photography
Nanomatrix Fabric Treatment
Japanese manufacturer Toray has a cool new product, an fabric odor control treatment that that can be applied to cotton or synthetics, but they won't tell us much about it besides it's made from chemicals (incredible!), it's applied with nanotechnology (which means at the microscopic level), and it lasts for at least 80 washes, but might last for more. So, if and when we learn more, we'll let you know. And if you smell and don't want to, look for this in about a year.Toray International