The Outdoor Retailer 2016 Summer Market was a chance for some of the biggest manufacturers in the business to show what is new in the outdoor gear industry. Read Seattle Backpackers Magazine Editor’s picks and get the inside scoop of what’s to come.
If you have never been to the Outdoor Retailer exposition,”OR” for short, then you can’t imagine the sheer size and volume of gear, clothing, and accessories available. Being an OR virgin, I had not anticipated what I would find when I went to Salt Lake City for my first OR experience. What I found was both inspiring and a little overwhelming as marketing and marketers attempted to define and shape the outdoor experience for profit.
The floor space at OR is mostly segregated by company size. Large, or well-funded, companies have exhibits on the main floor. Smaller companies, or companies that don’t want to spend the cash, have booths in pavilions adjacent to the main convention center. This bifurcation of the industry seems like a natural place for me to segment my Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s picks. This review will focus on gear found on the main convention floor from mostly larger companies. Since there is just way too much gear to conduct a comprehensive review, I will focus on gear that stood out as exceptional or unique.
Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks
Multi-Day Backpacking Packs. Arc’teryx Bora AR50. This pack is large, solidly constructed, and built to carry heavy loads a long way. The revolutionary RotoGlide moving hip-belt allows the hip-belt to twist as your torso twists and moves up and down as you stride or ascend steep inclines. The durability of the hard-plastic components is still suspect and needs testing, but the concept is revolutionary and could improve balance while reducing fatigue and lumbar and hip discomfort. No other pack on the floor was thinking that far out of the box.
Mountain Hardwear continues to make the best expedition mountaineering pack on the market. The South Col 70 OutDry Backpack is substantial and build to take a beating that only crampons and ice axes will give a pack. The pack uses innovative OutDry construction that bonds a durable waterproof membrane to the main compartment so that your gear stays safe and dry in even the wettest conditions. The pack keeps all the convenient features that mountaineers have come to expect and rely on. My favorite feature is the outside reinforced crampon stash pouch. This pouch allows me to quickly stuff my crampons into a pocket without fear of punching a hole through the pack, a simple design that has yet to be copied.
Osprey leads the industry in versatile lightweight packs for trekking, day hikes, or trail running. Osprey showcased a new ergonomic line of multi-use packs designed to be better fitting and functional on the move. Osprey packs are full of features like Bio-Stretch technology, the Ergo-Pull hip belt, and the Airspeed suspension and spacer mesh harness system that will keep the load stable and comfortably positioned off your back while assisting in ventilation. Many packs also include an integrate rain cover. Osprey has a large selection of packs for all occasions, I recommend finding an authorized dealer and taking the time to find the right fit and features for what you like to do.
The best tents on the convention floor were made by Hilleberg. Forget the more well-known tent manufacturers, Hilleberg makes the most bomb-proof, best designed all-season tents in the consumer market. The tents are relatively lightweight and easy to put up, even in a storm. The integrated rainfly allows you to pack-up the tent under the fly keeping the tent and you dry. I also encourage you to take the Hilleberg challenge and try to rip a swatch made from the tent material. The swatches are cut nearly in half and you are challenged to try and rip the fabric further…good luck.
Outdoor Clothing Systems
Nobody makes, or markets, an integrated outdoor clothing system like North Face. From base layer to parka the North Face Summit Series uses high-tech material and design that ingeniously integrates each layer into a performance system. Other expedition clothing companies attempt to integrate layers as well, but North Face simply does it better, and more importantly, they knew how to display it at the expo. The Summit Series at the expo was on active manikins showing each layer as it would be combined and used in the outdoors. Other manufacturers left the clothing on racks making it difficult to identify how the clothing systems worked together. It may be only marketing savvy, but give it to North Face for helping customers understand how the clothing system is integrated into the activity.
Garmont is entering the U.S. market again with an innovative line of hiking and climbing boots. The boot design breaks new ground with unique anatomical construction for greater comfort and performance. Bigger toe boxes and heel lock technology add to comfort and the Intelligent Flex System accommodates natural forefoot flex and shin mobility. Check out the entire line of hiking boots and fast hikers, Garmont has much to offer your outdoor pursuits.
Next week be sure to catch Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s picks for the smaller innovative outdoor companies that are changing the industry.