As we ring in 2017, it is a great time to look back at how far we have come in terms of outdoor gear technology. Since Rainy Pass Repair is embarking on our 31st year of repairing and modifying outdoor gear, let’s take a look at some of the most significant innovations over the last 3 decades.

GORE-TEX® Technology

Although it was patented way back in 1969, GORE-TEX technology as we know it today really burst out on the market in the mid-80’s and set the standard for the many waterproof-breathable fabrics that are now ubiquitous throughout the industry. It is hard to imagine how we would stay dry in the snow, rain, and sleet without waterproof membrane technology, and GORE-TEX is still an industry leader in producing some of the best fabrics available.

Hydrophobic Down

Down garments first came on the scene in the early 1900’s and have grown in popularity ever since. Eddie Bauer himself patented the first down jacket in the 1940’s, producing them first for the US Air Force and later the general public. Down jackets and vests have been standard pieces of gear for anyone venturing into the coldest climates, but they do not perform well when the insulating layer gets wet. In the last few years, several types of hydrophobic down have entered the market and garnered rave reviews. Now you can enjoy the warmth of a puffy down jacket without worrying about getting caught in the rain.

GPS and Mapping Technology

Let’s just throw smartphones in the mix as well, because we all know that they are the real game changer here. Now, instead of picking over cumbersome, confusing and sometimes delicate maps, you can just download a map of the backcountry using apps like AllTrails or MapMyHike and have it ready in your pocket at a moment’s notice. GPS technology not only helps you find the trailhead, but it helps SAR find lost folks more efficiently, too.

LED Lanterns

I still have an old lantern that belonged to my dad which I love to use for later night summer parties in the yard. It weighs about 6 pounds and runs on D batteries. Thankfully, I don’t need to lug this antique with me when I camp because I have several LED lighting options with compact, rechargeable battery sources. REI offers a ton of options for LED lanterns in many different sizes and price points. My favorites are the inflatable lanterns- they fold up nice and small to fit in your backpack or glove compartment and provide lots of light for many hours in your tent on on your way to find a late night bathroom location.

Solar Chargers and Battery Packs

Not only can we now enjoy compact, long lasting battery packs and power banks, but we also have more options than ever to harness the power of the sun. Solar chargers let you spend more time off the grid without being totally disconnected from your gadgets. Wondering what kind is right for you? OutdoorGearLab breaks it down in this article.

Cuben Fiber Fabrics

Cuben Fiber fabrics (Dyneema) have changed the game for ultralight gear. These fabrics are super durable, super light, and gaining in popularity for gear such as tarp tents, replacing silicon-impregnated fabrics. Prices are still high, but there are some great cottage companies making innovative gear out of Cuben Fiber, so it is yet to be seen how this will change the ultralight outdoor gear industry.

What are some of your favorite gear innovations? Tell us in the comments!