Technology is transforming every aspect of our lives, making it easier to follow a winding hiking trail, helping us swing a baseball bat more accurately, and keeping us in touch with our friends even as we get away from it all. For the first annual Digital Trends Outdoor Awards, we aim to spotlight and reward the many companies embracing tech and spearheading this revolution.
To do this, we stepped out of the office and onto the mountains, rivers, forests, and trails of the Pacific Northwest to field test a variety of gear designed to not just alter your experience outdoors but to improve it. Be it a footwear company’s dedication to understanding exactly how the human body moves or a phone case brand’s commitment to designing the bear-proof cooler of the summer, outdoor innovation and technology doesn’t fit one definition but features a wealth of benefit.
So as we traversed the beautiful state of Oregon this summer, we pondered the perfect gear to complement our adventures and improve our time spent outdoors. After a week-long trip to Mt. Hood’s beautiful Lost Lake Campground, we officially crowned the best of the best as Digital Trends Outdoor Awards winners. Here’s what we discovered.
A stove packed to the brim with 21st-Century features, BioLite’s CampStove 2 brings technology to the campsite in style. By burning sticks and twigs, the stove allows you to easily forage for fuel, and its patented thermoelectric generator turns waste heat into electricity. It delivers a continuous supply of USB power while cooking, and banks any excess power in its built-in 2600 mAh battery.
An integrated fan pumps fresh air into the fire, allowing for a cleaner, hotter burn. You can set the speed on the onboard LED dashboard, which also displays the amount of battery power stored, and the strength of the fire. The included grill was also sizeable enough to cook either four burgers or six hot dogs, making it a solid option for larger groups.
Camp stoves come in every shape and size, but none come as packed with useful tech as BioLite’s updated CampStove 2.
Read our full impressions of 2017’s Best Cooking Gear.
Tent technology has come a long way in the last decade. Many of today’s best options weigh no more than a few pounds, yet they remain as durable as ever. One of the companies leading this charge is the Colorado-based brand, Big Agnes, which designed our favorite tent of the summer: the Copper Spur HV UL2. Manufactured out of Big Agnes’ proprietary double ripstop fabric it’s not only one of the most lightweight and durable tents we’ve tested, it’s one of the most livable.
What truly sets the Copper Spur apart from the crowd is its integrated mtnGLO LED lighting system, which provides the perfect amount of light for getting into a sleeping bag at night, rummaging through a duffel bag, or playing a game of late night Rummy. With three brightness settings, the setup won’t blind your neighbors, either. Big Agnes also makes life easier with several easy-to-reach pockets that we liked for storing the next day’s clothes, or a phone — it is 2017, after all.
Its durable construction, LED lighting system, and spacious interior made Big Agnes’ Copper Spur a worthwhile camping partner all summer long, and our favorite piece of sleeping equipment.
Read our full impressions of 2017’s Best Sleeping Gear.
Field testing outdoor gear all day makes for some tiresome feet, but Danner’s Mountain 600s hiking boots kept us comfortable throughout. A rugged and durable boot, the Mountain 600s proved time and again that technical outdoor footwear doesn’t have to look outlandish or kill your feet.
Part of Danner’s Performance Heritage line, the boots combine classic styling with innovative lightweight construction. The Italian rubber company Vibram helped Danner design an outsole with pliable flex lines, a wide surface area, and adaptive lug patterns, giving the Mountain 600s incredible traction on everything from slick logs to mud.
Rounding out this impressive boot is Danner’s own waterproofing protection, which remains lightweight while still providing superior water protection. You can snag it with a full-grain leather upper or its unique new suede, but each style of Mountain 600s is built to charge the typically wet Pacific Northwest and keep your feet dry. No wonder they were our favorite piece of trekking gear this summer.
Read our full impressions of 2017’s Best Trekking Gear.
Stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) are a fun way to spend a day on the water, but transporting an enormous board remains a dilemma for most car owners. Enter fully inflatable SUPs and the company leading the charge, Red Paddle Co. All summer, we rode Red’s 10-foot, six-inch Ride MSL SUP, finding ourselves constantly wondering how an inflatable board could perform so well. Turns out, the answer lies within the tech.
We’ll spare you the excruciating details, but Red’s Monocoque Structural Laminate — or MSL — process allows it to use less glue and get more precise results, creating a lighter, better board. The new process also allows the SUP to achieve a higher level of stiffness at lower pressure levels, while dramatically improving its durability and performance.
A dual-cylinder pump makes it easy to inflate the board in minutes, and an integrated fin provides a high level of stability and control when you’re on the water. Red Paddle Co’s 10-foot, six-inch Ride MSL is everything you’d want in a stand-up paddleboard — without the dreadful price tag.
Read our full impressions of 2017’s Best Recreation Gear.
After spending a day putting gear through its paces, one piece of equipment that allowed us to truly relax around the campfire was OtterBox’s Venture 45 cooler. A rather unorthodox outdoor company, OtterBox’s first foray into the cooler space is a knockout.
The cooler’s two-part polyurethane insulation allows it to keep ice cold for a staggering 14 days. It’s no gimmick: We toted the cooler with us on rafting and camping trips where temperatures reached triple digits – and it never lost its cool. The Venture also boasts silicone and polycarbonate seals and latches, which help with its durability and proved much more comfortable than a typical rope handle.
To top it off, the entire Venture line is certified bear-proof when combined with OtterBox’s Lock Kit, meaning it would take a Herculean effort for anything to break in. For keeping our beverages safe and ice cold, OtterBox’s Venture 45 became a staple of our summer relaxation.
Read our full impressions of 2017’s Best Gear for Unwinding .
All of our award winners use technology to improve existing product categories, but what about the innovators blazing entirely new trails? When we set out to crown the absolute best of the best, we set aside an Innovation award for a piece of gear that was unlike anything we’d ever seen, but that proved indispensable in the field.
We found it: Thermacell’s Backpacker Mosquito Repeller.
A tiny contraption that fits easily into a side backpack pocket, the device utilizes a synthetic version of the repellent found in chrysanthemum flowers, alletherin, to ward off unwanted insects.
Just screw the device onto a small, 4-ounce canister of butane, which fuels the heating element needed to activate the repellent mat. As it releases alletherin, the Backpacker establishes a 15- by 15-foot perimeter of bug repellent for up to 90 hours on one canister. Perfect for placing around a group of tents, a camp fire, or anywhere you congregate while camping, Thermacell’s Backpacker Mosquito Repeller kept us (mostly) bug-free all summer and became a staple of our kit the moment we started using it.
Read our full impressions of 2017’s Most Innovative Outdoor Gear.
Editorial Lead: Rick Stella
Videos/Photography: Dan Baker
Contributors: Brandon Widder, Tyler Hogstrom
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