Carey Kish field-tested gear from a variety of retailers this year. Clockwise from upper right: Naturehike, Hiker Hunger Outfitters, BlendJet, KUIU, Natural Urges, Phunkshun, Kahtoola and Voited.

Over the course of this busy year of day hiking, backpacking and RV camping on the long and winding road to cobbling together the next edition of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, this hiker has a had an opportunity to field test a variety of cool, new outdoor products.

Here is a brief overview of some of the items I found useful and recommend for the trail and campsite. They might well be good choices for your own gear closet, and make nice holiday gifts for outdoorsy friends and family to boot. Have a look-see:

The Kahtoola RENAgaiters feature a durable instep strap, extra-protected connection points and side zippers. Carey Kish photo

Kahtoola RENAgaiters. Kahtoola’s reputation for quality and performance (think MICROspikes and crampons) continues with the RENAgaiters, which help keep moisture and trail debris out of your hiking shoes, but with several new twists. The durable and replaceable instep strap is warrantied for 1,000 miles and its connection points are extra-protected from wear. Side zippers make getting them on and off super easy, and the stretchy nylon fabric is light and water repellent. $60 mid-height, $50 low.

Phunkshun Versa Headband. Phunkshun helps you do the hot weather/trail exertion wicking thing in style with its Versa Headband, which comes in a range of fun and funky colors and styles (think flamingos, avocados, pineapples and many more). Made from recycled material (plastic bottles) and a special moisture management yarn, with these eco-friendly headbands you can look cool and stay cool while doing good. $17.

KUIU Kenai Packable Gloves. With a name like Kenai (Alaska), you’ve got to figure these gloves will keep your digits toasty in the frosty Maine winter weather. And you’d be right. The stretchy outer shell is windproof and water-resistant, and the palm has a grippy silicone print to keep your trekking or ski poles firmly in hand, but it’s the high-loft Primaloft insulation that really makes the grade on these warm and comfy gloves. Super light at 3 ounces, they compress into a little mesh storage bag. $79.

Naturehike Cloud UP 2 Ultralight Camping Tent. Naturehike has been producing quality, reasonably priced outdoor gear for over a decade, and the new Cloud UP 2 Ultralight Camping Tent is a great addition to its lineup. The unique opposite rotation cross hooks make connecting the tent body to the poles a one-handed snap. The tent material is light, durable and weatherproof, as is the matching attachable footprint, which adds additional moisture protection while preserving the tent floor. The Cloud is wilderness-ready at just under 3 pounds and $225.


Trail-ready at just under 3 pounds, the Naturehike Cloud UP 2 Ultralight Camping Tent is lightweight, durable and weatherproof Carey Kish photo

Voited Packable Rain Poncho. Generously cut to fit over both you and your backpack, this bombproof poncho will keep your gear dry while you enjoy some added breathability in inclement weather. Made from recycled polyester fiber (plastic bottles) and treated with an environmentally-friendly coating, it features a storm visor, shaped hood, bat sleeves and two zippered stash pockets. Just under 9 ounces, the poncho packs into its own self-contained pouch. $89.

Go Soap Hand Wash Sheets. This product by Natural Urges of Bath will help you get the proper hygiene job done right on the trail. Each small, thin package contains 50 sheets of natural hand soap made with plant extracts. Remove a sheet, add water and rub in your hands to lather up, then rinse off and dry. Voila! Clean hands, pure and simple. And since the sheets dissolve, there’s nothing to dispose of. $5.

BlendJet. Billed as “the original portable blender,” the BlendJet 2 isn’t made for the trail but rather the trailhead, or better yet, your drive-in campsite, where you can create cocktails, smoothies, shakes and other refreshing drinks at the end of a fun day outdoors. One hour of charging is enough for 15 or more blended concoctions. The BlendJet is a fun complement to any car camping outfit. $50.

Hiker Hunger Outfitters Summit Hoodie. This moisture wicking, quick drying hoodie checks all the boxes for year-round duty as either a base layer or mid-layer. The micro-grid fleece provides serious protection against the cold and damp while offering good breathability during heavy exertion. The sleeves feature thumb holes and mitts to keep your hands warm while the fitted hood will help keep the heat on in your noggin. Just under 13 ounces. $65.

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is an award winning member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. His latest book, “Beer Hiking New England,” will be out in print in March. Follow more of Carey’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram @careykish

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