Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014, SNEWS is previewing some of the top trends and new products you’ll see at the trade show and Open Air Demo in Salt Lake City, Aug. 5-9. You can access all these articles and more in our O.R. Daily Day 0 edition.

As the playing field of lighter, more functional and multiple-use performance apparel levels out, brands are turning to hyper-engineering to further set their products apart, especially in terms of comfort.

It’s no longer enough to say a product is light and versatile. Technical trappings now need a little extra something to catch the consumer’s eye.

Many big-name brands that make hardgoods already have the high-tech labs and engineering know-how in their arsenals, so it’s about time that they begin to transfer that same drive for ingenuity and invention to the apparel side, rather than just leaving it up to the ingredient brands.

Meanwhile, popular labels with a history in softgoods are going a step further by experimenting and rethinking their best-selling fabrics with new blends or chemistry.

Smaller labels have upped their game, too. Many have embraced the competition and nimbly moved around the big guys with creative pieces of their own. The result is a slew of distinctive products that work to further satisfy customers and set each brand apart.

>> The North Face’s FuseForm technology is engineered to put specific yarns where they’re needed, all in a single piece of fabric that is then origami-folded into seamless pieces. It debuted at Winter Market and will expand into the spring/summer season with three more jackets, including the FuseForm Dot Matrix (MSRP $199). The jacket’s dot appearance comes from a blend of nylon and polyester, providing a lighter weight and a softer price point.

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>> Winter is easy — add more layers. Summer, on the other hand, is a bit trickier in apparel — you can only strip down so far. The challenge is creating pieces that feel as if they hardly are there. Brooks-Range’s Lt. Breeze wind jacket (MSRP $149) has a standard lightweight nylon shell, but inside it’s lined with diamond-shaped dots described as both “spongy” and “fleece-like.” During intensive activity, the dots work to keep the jacket from clinging to the skin, creating a comfortable microclimate and eliminating annoying clamminess.

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>> Merino wool has enjoyed a surge in popularity due to its natural sourcing, breathability and odor control. Still, mention “wool” when it’s hot and humid out, and customers tend to balk. Challenge accepted at Icebreaker. For Spring 2015, it’s introducing a new type of “cool wool,” blending merino with cellulose-based Tencel, another naturally sourced product known for its lightweight breathability. The blend its Cool-lite Strike and Spark tops (MSRPs $90) retains about 40 percent less heat than regular merino.

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>> Focusing on backpackers’ needs since its reboot of the brand last year, Sierra Designs debuts the Elite Cagoule (MSRP $109) an ultralight, zipperless, affordable rainwear pullover that’s meant to be donned quickly when the weather takes a turn. It has a longer, almost trench-coat length to prevent wetness and chaffing in sensitive areas. While that doesn’t exactly channel Humphrey Bogart, it’s still designed to have a slick mountain aesthetic. The jacket also includes hipbelt and underarm awning vents to help moisture escape, even when wearing a backpack.

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>> For those cooler spring/summer aerobic alpine pursuits, Outdoor Research looks to strike a balance between keeping wearers warm and protected, yet dry on the inside from perspiration. Its Deviator Hoodie (MSRP $185) pairs Polartec’s highly breathable Alpha synthetic insulation with a mesh lining, providing warmth and wicking.

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>> Joining the movement of blending fabrics for maximum comfort, ExOfficio’s TriFlex Hybrid shirt (MSRP $95) combines its Dryflylite and Sol Cool fabrics. As the name suggests, Dryflylite is both lightweight and dries fast, while Sol Cool features Icefil technology, which has cooling xylitol mixed in the fibers — the same chemical found in birch trees and mint gum. The Sol Cool is body mapped in key sweat areas.

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>> Another piece for cooler spring temps comes from Canada Goose as the traditionally winter brand debuts its first spring technical collection for 2015. The Trenton Jacket (MSRP $525) incorporates Tri-Durance Softshell fabric with two-way stretch, breathability and water resistance. The back and hood feature its proprietary Tri-Durance Hardshell, which has four-way stretch, making the jacket flexible and ideal for higher intensity outdoor activities.

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These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out much more new and trends in the O.R. Daily, Days 1-4, published live at the show, and available digital format each following day of print on SNEWS.