We’ve been to the tradeshows, seen plenty of new, soon-to-launch products and have a good sense of what’s in store for the outdoor industry. Sure, tint-adjustable ski goggles and ultralight trekking packs are great, but our appetite for innovative new technologies and fun new things is insatiable. We want more.
We think about outdoor gear all of the time (it’s our job), and we’ve got a few ideas of our own. Some of these spare thoughts are certainties while others are wildly speculative; some are general suggestions, and others are highly specific. We live in the outdoor industry, and as members of its unpredictable, quirky, intelligent and thoughtful populace we reserve a right to shout our predictions and desires into the great void. Here is what we’d like to see from the outdoor industry.
New Materials: We’re going to continue to see innovative fabrics and material stories in a wider range of brands. Dyneema (and off-brand Dyneema) and synthetic spider silk are just the tip of the iceberg — keep an eye on Schoeller, Sympatex and others. —John Zientek, Associate Staff Writer, Style Desk
Everyday LJs: I’ve been a big cheerleader for the everyday use of long johns for the last two years. I’d like the outdoor industry to fully embrace the best-kept secret in winter layering. Give me some casual, stylish LJ’s for my everyday. —Chase Pellerin, Staff Photographer
Less Waste: I love shopping for outdoor gear online, but not the waste involved in the process. I want to see more outdoor brands utilizing in-store pickup, which is a great way to support local retail without running the risk of an item not being there when you arrive. But more importantly, I’d love to see retailers introduce a “minimal packaging” shipping option at checkout. Items often contain way too much packaging. Skip the plastic bag, spare me the bubble wrap, and send the invoice via email. —Caitlyn Shaw, Associate Audience Development Editor
Unobtrusive Tech: I’d like to see more technology integrated into every outdoor product, but yet still have an off-switch. One of the reasons I love getting outdoors is to escape all things screen-related, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want my hike/bike/run to go untracked. Similar to how Under Armour is integrating automatic tracking into its sneakers, it would be cool if my hiking boots did the same thing — and synced automatically with my phone/watch. What altitude did I reach? What was my top speed? How many breaks did I take? While I might choose to hide all of that or ignore it once I end the day, at least my watch will know I was active that day. —Meg Lappe, Staff Writer, Outdoors and Fitness Desk
Warmer Toes: I know that this is wildly specific, but I would love to see a snowboard boot maker use Primaloft’s Gold Cross-Core insulation in the toe of a snowboard boot (I’m looking at you Vans). Currently in use in L.L. Bean’s new Ultralight sleeping bag, Cross Core insulation is made from aerogel (the lightest insulating material on the planet originally developed for NASA). It’d be pretty simple to work it into the toe box of a snowboard boot to keep your toes nice and cozy on sub-freezing days without adding much bulk. —AJ Powell, Assistant Editor
Lateral Innovation: DPS, a ski maker, surprised everyone late last year when it virtually eliminated the need for ski wax with its new Phantom base treatment. It was an unexpected lateral move and a real innovation that has the potential to be, pardon the trope, game-changing. I want to see more. Brands and manufacturers — even the small ones — know more about their respective corners of the industry than anyone else. Imagine if an outerwear company developed a waterproofing technology that never degrades (instead of waiting for Nikwax or Gore to do it). Or even a bigger sideways move, like if Yeti, with all its durability prowess, developed super-strong tent poles. Yeah, Yeti should make a tent. —Tanner Bowden, Associate Staff Writer, Outdoors and Fitness Desk