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Most Innovative Gear: 2017 Digital Trends Outdoor Awards

most innovative outdoor gear awards

All season long, we camped, backpacked, paddle boarded, and hiked our way through the Pacific Northwest to find the best new outdoor gear for the first annual Digital Trends Outdoor Awards. After pushing each contender to the limit, we crowned our favorite products for Cooking, Sleeping, Trekking, Recreation, Unwinding, and a special award for Innovation. And we’re giving away one of every winning product, so enter our contest!


Innovation as it relates to the outdoor industry wears a number of different hats. For something like a backpack, innovation might look like a smarter design, such as the addition of a secret compartment or a strap setup capable of evenly distributing weight. For a mountain bike, it might mean a new material for extra strength and lighter weight. While advances like these are certainly welcome, we dug deeper to find gear that fully typifies inventiveness in the industry. To do so, we sifted through a variety of creative outdoor gear from dozens of companies to answer the question, “how can innovation make the outdoors more enjoyable?”


Thermacell Backpacker mosquito repeller

Though the products we tested from GoalZero and MSR proved beneficial to our camping experience — the Yeti 1400 power bank and


, respectively — Thermacell’s

Backpacker Mosquito Repeller

 has innovation mastered perfectly. As its name suggests, the Backpacker actively repels mosquitoes and does so in a lightweight, minimal package. Capable of burning up to 90 hours on a single 4-ounce gas canister, even the longest of camping trips can remain bug-free with this device.

Perhaps its best feature is the fact it doesn’t just defend against armies of annoying bugs across a small patch of one’s campsite, instead, it sets up a 15 by 15-foot area of protection. This proved especially useful during our testing, as it allowed us to move the Backpacker all over our campsites, creating bug-free zones wherever we moved to. It’s worth pointing out that the device doesn’t work instantaneously as it requires a few minutes to set up the parameter.

The Tech: Backed entirely by its own unique technology, Thermacell’s Backpacker Mosquito Repeller leans on a natural repellent to ward off annoying insects. Thermacell infuses its repellent mats with alletherin — a synthetic version of the repellent found in chrysanthemums — which activates when exposed to heat from a butane canister. By directing the canister’s heat toward repellent mats inserted on a metal grill on the device, it’s capable of emitting the chemical into the air, thus establishing the 15- by 15-foot area of bug repellent. Additionally, its integrated Piezo starter, which uses high pressure electric charges for ignition, requires just one or two clicks to begin directing the heat.

Adding to its versatility is that Thermacell designed the Backpacker for use with traditional butane/propane gas canisters, meaning we didn’t need to hunt down a hard-to-find fuel source. Many camp stoves require this same fuel, so chances are high anyone who even casually camps should have one of these already present in their kit. We used the same canister over several trips, which made it even more cost-effective than it already is; Thermacell sells the Backpacker Mosquito Repeller for just $40.

most innovative gear Thermacell Backpacker mosquito repeller
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Because it’s compact and lightweight, it’s not out of the question to bring the device on backpacking trips. We used it primarily for car camping outings but considering the fact it weighs a feather-like 4 ounces, it shouldn’t be confined to these kinds of excursions. Furthermore, the replaceable bug mats — which the gas canister helps heat to create the bug-free parameter — didn’t take up much space, fitting perfectly in any side pocket or Dopp kit we brought along.

A no-brainer for anyone who hates swatting bugs out of their face while camping, Thermacell’s innovative Backpacker Mosquito Repeller easily made our camping trips more enjoyable, and became an instant staple of our quiver of gear from the moment we started using it.

Runners up

Make sure to check out all the winning products for Cooking, Sleeping, Trekking, Recreation, Unwinding, and a special award for Innovation. And we’re giving away one of every winning product, so enter our contest!

Videos and photography by Dan Baker/Digitaltrends

Rick Stella
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