New gear at Salt Lake City’s Outdoor Retailer show point to two trends when it comes to the outdoors: elegance is coming to the outdoors; and the outside is coming inside.
This doesn’t include ‘glamping,’ the recent fad of designer tents, personal sherpas and other luxuries for an expensive stay in the wilderness. Instead, the new trend of ordinary yet functional elegance is exemplified by GSI Outdoors’ polished aluminum goblets, where the elegant unbreakable stem unscrews, is placed inside the goblet, then fastened tightly over the top, taking up little space in a backpack.
This year’s luggage and backpacks offered the same theme. Near invisible buckles and latches, lightweight with no dangling straps, and engineered to allow a lot of room to carry your stuff, while never looking bulky. New products have never looked so sleek.
The bi-annual four-day event, with summer and winter ‘markets,’ is the largest show of its kind in America. Manufacturers big and small occupy more than a solid city block of vendor’s booths, selling their latest products to shop owners from around the world. In fact, to see how fast technology is evolving, compare one OR show to the next.
There are more products rolling out that are energized just by sunlight, as well as a growing line of brighter, smaller night lights, like the solar Waka Waka, which is the size of a pack of playing cards, has the big glow of a lantern, and with a USB port to charge your phone or other device.
Fabric technology is evolving as well. Drirelease is a synthetic fabric that wicks away sweat, dries nearly instantly when wet, and offers total odor control. The comfortable fabric is used by major manufacturers such as Columbia, Addidas, Oakley, Fox Racing and more.
Small and organic companies had shop owners lining up to order products for next year’s spring season. Elemental Herbs has a zinc-based sunscreen that goes on clear and contains only organic extracts, no hydrogenated oils or alcohol. Joshua Tree Lip Balm, made of bees wax and cocoa butter, comes in different long lasting tints, including a shimmer look.
Another trend is growing from its first appearance last year: the outdoors coming indoors, allowing small entrepreneurs to bring their own invented product to market, where it does surprisingly well. The Pocket Disc, for example, offers a new model of a flexible Frisbee that can be played with in small breakrooms or halls.
Even entrepreneurs who have no products to sell are making money. The bird conservation group Earthwings had booth vendors frantically bidding to rent their tame Eurasian Eagle-owl, Bubo. Any vendor booth Bubo and his keeper, Eric McGill, appeared at, gathered big crowds.
Some old standards can’t be improved upon. Over a decade ago, I purchased a hammock by Byer of Maine (www.ByerOfMaine.com). The sturdy metal frame still looks new. The hammock itself is so easy to attach to the frame and take off the frame that I just bring it indoors when I’m done lolling in it. It too still looks new, unfaded and unfrayed.
The outdoor industry, like the rest of life, offers growing entertainment options to customers. Prism Kite Technology sells unusual and highly engineered small kites which can be flown from a balcony or even used as indoor decorations. Ruffwear, which wholesales products for dogs, has a line of fun toys, collars and packs for four legged friends.
In addition, the number of helmet cam manufacturers continues to increase, so everyone can afford one to entertain their friends on YouTube. However, GoPro still holds the market for quality helmet cams, and the introduction of its new (and free) CineForm Studio editing software, will probably help the company to retain its market lead. A free editing application will soon be offered as well.