You know it’s time for another Outdoor Retailer show when South Main Street in Salt Lake City is populated by fat bikes, single-wheeled skateboards and tan people with good beards. And so it was. We had boots on the ground at the Salt Palace Convention Center for the summer 2014 edition of the biannual product show for retailers, manufacturers and other industry insiders. There was sheer tonnage to see: evidence of a booming SUP market, fine dining for camping and enough dog products to turn your hound into a diva. Of everything we touched, tasted and saw, this gear stood out most.
Timex Ironman One GPS+
Timex has made significant waves in the news already with a smartwatch released on the first day of the show. A collaboration with Qualcomm and AT&T, the Ironman One GPS+ has standalone wireless connectivity, so you can send and receive messages without bringing your phone. It also stores music, tracks basic running metrics (and HRM with the strap, included at this price) and has a novel “find me mode” that sends out a help signal to predetermined contacts in case of emergency.
The SOG Zoom was actually out before the show, but since we covered the Flashback in last year’s GP100 as the fastest assisted-opening blade on the market, we thought an update was in order: the Zoom is faster. The spring-assisted blade is made of AUS-8 stainless steel, the case is hard anodized machined aluminum, and in the version pictured (the mini) the blade is 3.15 inches long.
Big Agnes Tumble 2 mtnGLO
Big Agnes launched a new line of tents at the show called mtnGLO, which refers to a proprietary lighting system built right into the tent. The Tumble 2 is a lightweight two-person tent that lights up with integrated LEDs made possible by a partnership with Joey Energy. The power source is the Joey T55, which comes in a weather- and abuse-proof case and charges from the wall or a USB port.
Vargo Ti-Arc Cuben Fiber Backpack
Pennsylvania-based Vargo is on a mission to make ultralight backpacking gear — and they use titanium to do it. The Ti-Arc, an external-frame backpack with a titanium alloy internal and external frame, the latter including a lumbar plate positioned for support, was out last year. This year Vargo introduced a front-loading cuben fiber version. It has fewer storage options than the nylon version, but it’s virtually indestructible, and there’s room to mount additional gear on the frame below the bag.
Brooks-Range Lt. Breeze
What we first noticed about the Brooks Range Lt. Breeze is how good it looks: its color options are super-rich red, blue and yellow. But there’s also some innovation packed into the 5.5-ounce 20d nylon jacket. Fleece dots line the inside of the nylon, providing a touch of insulation and keeping it from sticking to your skin when you sweat.
Sea to Summit Sleeping Mats with Airsprung Cells
Sea to Summit added a line of 22 sleeping mats to its portfolio of outdoor gear. The major innovation is “Air Sprung Cells”, air chambers created by a dot-weld pattern that allows them to operate independently from each other. That means when you shift your weight the air doesn’t all squish out to one side. In the Comfort Plus version of the mat, there are two layers of air chambers for more comfort. The Comfort Plus mat packs down small and weighs in at 21 ounces.
Stanley Vacuum Coffee System
Stanley has sold vacuum bottles for years, but this year they’re introducing a vacuum coffee system, with a lid that separates into two cups, dry storage for coffee ground and an integrated pot and press — all of it wrapped up in vacuum-insulated 18/8 stainless steel. It will be available in 1-liter and 500ml sizes.
Keen continues to innovate in footwear. We’ve already covered the Uneek (which also launched at OR, officially), an ultra-comfortable, form-fitting sandal made with two pieces of cord and a sole. The Gorgeous, named for Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, is a 2mm neoprene booty meant for cold weather adventures in the water. Like Uneek, it also has a novel closure system that wraps around the entire foot and ankle with a single piece of webbing.
Black Diamond Pipe Dream 45
If you’re looking for a cragging bag that doubles as a place to sleep, Black Diamond’s Pipe Dream 45 is right in your wheelhouse. Made of 840d nylon and 1260d ballistic nylon, the Pipe Dream has 45 liters of volume for hauling gear and wraps up with a three-point closure system. When you get to your destination, just remove the lid and unfold the bag into a pad to relax on.
Ruffwear and Kurgo Dog Gear
It wouldn’t be an Outdoor Retailer without significant real estate dedicated to gear for dogs. Two brands that stand out to us are Ruffwear and Kurgo. Ruffwear introduced the Load Up Harness, a dog seatbelt that meets federal safety standards for crashes, keeping your hound safe but depriving her from the bliss of sticking her head out the window. Kurgo’s Step-N-Strobe boots are probably nicer than your trail runners, complete with synthetic leather uppers and outsoles, ankle cord closures and LEDs that’ll make you wish you hadn’t tossed your original LA Gear kicks.