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Outdoor Retailer Show Wrap-Up

by , August 9, 2011

Carryology contributor Taylor Welden has been busy in Salt Lake City over the weekend, catching up with the latest and greatest from the outdoor industry. We asked him to select a few carry related highlights from the Outdoor Retailer summer show…

Taylor: Wow. That was a lot of gear and a lot of carry. As I sit here in writing this in my hotel in Salt Lake City on Sunday now after the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show has finished up, for the first time in my life I can say I am experiencing full on gear overdose effects… and I’m a full on gear addict.

Regardless, I’ve got to do my job and share my experience. So here are my insights from OR 2011…

This weekend I met countless amazing people within the outdoor industry, some who were previously strangers to me, some colleagues and clients who I’ve only emailed and spoke with over the phone before, and some individuals who I’ve been hearing about for years. Overall the community in the outdoor industry is extremely open, down to earth, and fun-loving (though I must admit I was surprised to find that Arc’teryx wasn’t the friendliest booth at OR, but their products were certainly lust-worthy. I’d still love to give the Naos or the Arrakis a solid Carryology Road Test review (hint hint)).

Granite Gear continues to impress, and they do it quietly, humbly, and in their own cool unique way. Their refined pack features and their tasteful color choices show they know what they’re doing (now that they’ve been doing it for 25 years) and that they don’t care about the “me too” rat race of the competition’s hiking backpacks out there filling store shelves.

I own one Granite Gear pack, it is wildly comfortable and I’m sure the new one I buy (shown in photo) will feel just as phenomenal on my next hiking trip / overseas backpack trip. Carryology readers note, I recommend their packs with full confidence. Their collection of full-featured lightweight hiking backpacks are easily within my favorite top 3 in the entire industry. Simple, durable as nails, feature-driven packs with a strong growing cult following. The tactical collection they showed was my favorite product family/collection at OR, and shows some brilliant problem solving for seriously tough applications. Read up on what goes into their military packs, there is way too much to list on here.

As mentioned, there was quite a a lot of “me too” packs at the show, especially in the hiking sector (which as you can imagine, was the largest). One brand who is also creating their very own fresh stance and products in a sea of similar products is Mile High Mountaineering, based out of Denver, CO. They are going after the hiking/snow market, and these relatively newcomers (2+ years so far) are doing it well. They put out some of my favorite unique looking and well functioning packs at OR.

Their hiking packs are simple, effective, bold, with solid suspension systems, and they have some nice graphic application of the model names on the exterior (Helvetica Bold Condensed if I’m not mistaken?).

One of their new snow packs had a ‘snake mouth’ zippered access to the large main compartment. This allows the user to easily access every cubic centimeter of the internal volume of the pack. Plus they said the pack could lie flat for a type of makeshift ground mat.

Hardware/Fasteners/Zippers: The two, and not surprisingly, best companies making the best hardware are Duraflex and ITW, no surprise here. Nylon/acetate construction, impressive test numbers, some interesting solutions coming out for webbing management and closure/attachment. The zipper awards belong to YKK and IDEAL Fastener Corporation, but not in that order. YKK has some time-tested and proven durable zippers with some cool new aesthetic treatments that I personally can’t wait to experiment with and to spec out for prototypes. But for me, IFC may have just barely surpassed YKK by a zipper-tooth this year after reviewing several durability testing results, but time will tell. I imagine this race wil be a tight one for years to come.

Fabrics: Cordura wins. But then again I’m biased, and so are many others, for good reason. 1000D Cordura nylon fabric is still the industry standard for the toughest stuff out there, it’s here to stay for a while. There were also quite a bit of companies utilizing “nano technology” fabrics this year, boasting their water repellant and stain repellant properties (the honey and ketchup repellant display was quite convincing of the fabric’s performance). Regardless of the high cost of these materials, I predict we’ll be seeing a lot of these materials showing up in lots of different applications in the next few seasons. Once more products and larger brands begin to use these materiasl, the fabric cost per yard will be driven down as the textile plants will be making more and more, eventually making these fabrics much more common to see.

Booth: Good work Columbia Sportswear, your booth was the overall winner for layout and design for me, and the competition was fierce. The booth was open, intriguing, had nice music and comfortable seating, in a great location, the elements didn’t detract from the products while maintaining their own presence, it displayed the products in a bold fun fashion, and the best part… it was welcoming for all to enjoy, to browse, or just to relax some tired feet.

Now that I’m heading back to Austin, it’s time for the fun part, testing for Carryology Road Test…s! Three new gear reviews coming your way…

Mike at Triple Aught Design generously hooked me up with their Fast Pack EDC (in black), some accessory pouches, and patches. After reading great things about TAD’s gear and drooling at their images for some time now, I can’t wait to finally see one of these amazing packs in person when it arrives via post.

Jamie at the CamelBak booth provided me with a serious military tough H.A.W.G. backpack (in black) to put to through the test. I’ve got some things planned for this one, and the 100+F temps will absolutely make the 3L of water it accommodates greatly appreciated. I’m thinking military pack/rucksack Road Test shootout, what do you think? I’ll see what I can do about rounding up some more military packs.

Last and certainly not least…. I kept seeing THULE backpacks walking around the aisles (attached to humans) at OR, going down the sidewalks of SLC, and even spotted two of them at the industry party on Saturday night. I had to learn more about this pack, and being a huge THULE roof rack fan, I was admittedly lusting after it. I found the smart-looking THULE booth and Mike provided me with a Crossover 30L / TCBP-1 (in black… do you spot a trend in my color preference yet?) to review. It’s a solid pack with some fun features, and I’m looking forward to testing it out, starting tomorrow morning on my flight home.

OR 2011 was a blast, see you all at the next one.

Late add: We now even have 5.11 Tactical sending me their RUSH 24 backpack to review with these guys. I can’t wait to compare some amazing EDC/Tactical packs all together.

  • http://www.sygyzy.com/ David

    Great review Taylor. I want to go to OR next year! Looking forward to your reviews, especially from TAD.

  • http://taylorwelden.com Taylor

    I probably should’ve mentioned, the RUSH 24 that 5.11 Tactical is sending me… is also in black.


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