With a shortened Outdoor Retailer Show this year and for other reasons, fewer friends headed to Salt Lake City to participate in the outdoor industry’s biannual meeting of the minds. This made for a mellower show, but no less interesting.
As in the last two Winter ORs, I skipped the All Mountain Demo – my first year it had been a major disappointment, as it seems disorganized and not worth the time. I did hear that this year went better, so maybe next year I’ll check it out and see how it goes. Might be fun if a big group decided to do it together.
Flying in early Tuesday morning meant I missed part the Outdoor Industry Alliance Breakfast and part of the show, but I saved on a hotel night and felt fresher coming from the airport. Nothing like sitting on a plane for 4 hours to start off the day easy. It wasn’t long before I met up with Josh of Raw Trails, a good bud from Utah – we spent pretty much the entire show walking around together, nice to have company. Day 1 highlights included seeing the new Popticals’ styles, meeting with American Outdoorsman (not affiliated with the show, but a very cool new line of apparel for sure), taking some time to walk through the Ballroom (so many cool little companies!), and finishing the day at the Sherpa Adventure Gear dinner – meeting up with Tanya of Wilderness Press, Shawn of Teton Sports, and Nepalese food, yum!
The Conservation Alliance breakfast is always one of my faves at the show, not only for the swag (thank you Hydro Flask!), but also for the inspirational speakers they usually have. Post-breakfast, it was time for breakfast, this time with Mountain Hardwear (a change from the normal lunch) – besides product introduction, they also took time to let us know about a new campaign, the Impact Initiative (more on that at a later date). On to Black Diamond (my first meeting with them and hoping to work together moving forward). Up next was the major highlight of the show, interviewing Andrew Skurka – pretty much a legend among the long trail community, he’s a great guy and has a new edition of his backpacking book forthcoming from National Geographic(interview forthcoming). In place of the MH lunch, we met with Vasque, LED Lenser, and Leatherman – Naked Fish Bistro is now Ikigai and, instead of sushi, lots of tasty non-fish Japanese food – hooray! (The new gear from the companies looks great as well, haha.) The days’ meetings ended with an overview and introduction to PrimaLoft, a company I knew for their insulation, though I never really understood how it worked – they are making great strides in reducing the impact their synthetic down has, which is a great thing. The evening ended at the Experticity Whiskey Mixer, always a fun event and a perfect way to end the day.
Final day, final breakfast – Camber Outdoors hosted Patagonia CEO Rosa Marcario, who spoke about culture and its impact on the industry. Definitely focused on women’s power, but some interesting tidbits nonetheless. Super cool way to start the day – meeting with MHM to see their new direct to consumer line of backpacks, with some great thinking about backpack design issues. Can’t wait to try the packs out! Up next was the most surprising product of the show for me, the Campfire Defender – not just a way to safely put out campfires, this is actually a fire management system that makes it easy to enjoy the fire a lot more. Product forthcoming so be on the lookout for a review. I’m not skiing these days, but the new Zeal Optics line of goggles makes me want to – they’d be perfect for snowshoeing in aggressive conditions as well, with an easy lens swap system inspired by garage doors (unique for sure). I’m pretty excited by Nau’s town to trail apparel, Primus’ new stoves, especially the car camping systems, and the pants from Fjäll Raven – crazy cool technical apparel perfect for hiking and snowshoeing (digging the down pants more than any others). Last up was Merrell, who continue on a direction that I’m pretty excited about. After a serious nap (I crashed hard at the hotel), it was back to the show to help Tanya of Wilderness Press break down their booth and then on to dinner – burgers at Crown Burger (still not a fan of their onion rings).
In general, I’d say it was a pretty mellow ORShow, which Winter Market usually is, but I still managed to hang out with friends, meet with some great people and brands, and walk about 18 miles over the 3 days, so decent exercise. Looking forward to Summer Market, and we’re in the early stages of planning a pre-show adventure a la UintasHike16, so the excitement is already building. It was a blast hanging out with Josh, Tanya, Shawn, Katie, and everyone else – hope to see more friends in July!