- Buyer's Guide
Outdoor Retailer :: Winter Market Recap
Once again, and this time five members strong, Carryology converged upon Outdoor Retailer to unearth the best carry of the year. OR, as most know it, is where new products are discovered, products acquired for sampling, materials picked over and high-fives thrown around like dollar bills at a strip club. OR, for anyone involved in the outdoors industry, is where buyers from nearly every outdoors shop in the US (and abroad) meet with companies, and where designers and product developers meet with materials and hardware suppliers. The talent pool at OR is so stacked that if the Great Salt Lake were to swallow the Salt Palace convention center, the wonderful world of outdoor gear would cease to exist.
So it is with this in mind that we descended into Salt Lake to mine the most magnificent caravan of Carryology curiosities.
It’s always nice to see some classic bags at OR. The folks at Duluth Pack welcomed us with their characteristic mid-western friendliness. They clearly have a lot of pride in their products, each being signed by the sewer. You rock, Carol!
Topo seems to be a brand defying the industry expectation. I love a company who makes a simple pack that you can take hiking or live day-to-day out of without being either too urban or too tech. Their popularity continues to grow – a bellwether of customers seeking durable, simple products that will stand the test of time. As new products in the line tend to gear more toward functionality, expanding beyond their pared-down patterning, the tenuous balance of their simple roots begins.
Everyone I talked to kinda freaked out a bit when they found Alchemy Equipment. Rarely have I seen products so stellar right out of the gates from a new brand. This New Zealand brand jumped into Outdoor Retailer with both feet, stealing the show. Veilance by Arc’teryx comes to mind, yet feels more humble and less ostentatious than the fashion-forward product. Subtle patterning cues carry over from their clothing line, and expertly craft the oft-sought balance between form and function. Expect to hear a lot more from Alchemy in the future on Carryology.
We love the folks at Mystery Ranch. As a carry geek of the highest order, a visit to Mystery Ranch is always awesome. They get it. They understand materials like few other companies in the industry. Their quality control is unrivaled. Their products are well considered, smartly patterned and expertly crafted. Keep your ear to the ground for an exciting announcement coming from these folks. Some products at the show were under media embargo! I want to tell you! I really do!
Check out the massive Flight Monster Duffel, designed for the needs of Wildland Firefighters, but would be a great fit for those who need a stunningly overbuilt and wildly versatile 100L duffel.
Also check out the Java. A new daypack from the Ranch. I expect this 21L urban pack will make waves with the EDC/office set, particularly in the Midnight colorway. I know I want one.
Ski packs apparently went full euro this year, and loud colors were on parade at Outdoor Retailer. We haven’t seen this much fluorescent since the 1990s. Featured here is the Rescuer 30 and 32, designed for skiing with easy access to emergency equipment.
The ReForm Collection from Incase really caught our collective eyes. The brand sourced Ecoya Brand fabrics, which are post consumer plastic bottles then solution dyed – lending a wooly look that was easy on the eye. I personally loved the combination of highlighter yellow and grey in this series. It simply worked whereas many other brands attempted this balancing act and failed miserably.
Incase also developed a system of carry for the GoPro and Sony Action Cam markets, building cases which not only organize and protect your stuff, but do so in a sleek, sexy way. Yeah, I said sexy. I want a GoPro just so I can demo this kit.
I ran into the folks from Peak Design everywhere. On day one, founder Peter Dering witnessed the sad state of affairs with my “round the neck” style carry, and offered one of his “Slide” camera straps as a replacement. I took him up on the offer, and had a better show because of it. As a Carryologist, I was disappointed in myself for not knowing better, or seeking a better way. For this, I will receive 10 lashings.
We poked into KAVU to say hi, as their offices are right down the street from where I live in Seattle. They toured us around their booth a bit, and pulled out these crazy patterned sling packs, with straps made of 4 soft adjacent ropes, adjustable with a standard SR buckle. They mentioned it was their bestselling Paxton Pack – and despite the seizure I had after taking this photo, I think if the wild colors had a place, it would be on this bag.
Okay, I have to say I was bummed to miss perhaps the biggest carry scoop at OR Summer 2014 with the Osprey™ Atmos™ and Aura™ series packs. The treat is the AntiGravity™ suspension design, which floats the load off your body by a clever combination of fabric tension and a nifty frame; so there is Air™ between your hips, back and shoulders and the pack. Super neat, and not nearly as cool as seeing it and wearing it on your own. It is like Occulus Rift™ for your back. Game Changer™. Also featured is the lightweight Exos™ 38 and 58L packs.
Gregory, if you’ve heard the news, was recently sold to Samsonite. Since being purchased by Black Diamond only 4 years ago the pack maker continues to expand their offerings.
CiloGear has been a brand we’ve been following for a number of years now, and have simplicity on their mind at all times. They work hard to minimize waste material, and are known for the exclusive use of the amazing combination of woven and non-woven Dyneema. While you can spend as much as $1500 on their Ultimate Mountaineering Pack, more humble material options bring a smaller version of the bag, the WorkSack, down to $182. All for a product made in Portland, Oregon from mostly American-made materials. Rad.
Filson had a few tricks up their sleeve for this show. The brand it seems has been wrestling with avenues of growth while maintaining the reputation of durability and construction they are known for. We were baffled by some design choices with their waterproof collection, such as the cheap poly webbing and shoulder strap positions – and the whole thing didn’t seem in step with their line. On the other hand, a canvas “maximum legal carry-on” piece hit the mark for today’s traveler’s needs, and the new nylon backpacks could very well give the Fjallraven Kånken a run for its money.
Patagonia vexes me a bit, but I’ve sought and received answers to some of the questions I have about their product. Why would they re-release some of their old packs from the Chouinard days and not use leather lash tabs? Turns out, Patagonia won’t use leather in their products except their shoes. Oh, an exception is made for an item from which the material may provide exceptional strength? How about a lash tab then? Well, not so fast. Wolverine, the company making the shoes for Patagonia, has dumped the manufacturer of the Ventura, California company’s shoes – Patagonia’s footwear line has been cut to zero. Now, where were we?
One of my favorite things to do at OR is run over to Timbuk2 to chat up Greg Bass, Director of Product and Design for the brand. Of all the companies attempting relevance with their target demo, Greg’s vision is leading the industry. Every product resonates with me because they seem to hit their design objectives so square-on.
New stuff from them includes the Impossible Collection, a combination of technical elements from the Especial Collection merged with the more classically oriented Distilled Collection. While I think the trampoline frame is a little messy on the messenger bag, I loved the Fidlock buckles and unique leather flap.
Also featured is an update to their now ubiquitous Especial messenger bag, featuring mitering on the flap for ease of access while wearing it, plus a host of other details.
Dakine came to the show with a showroom packed with new carry. I found a couple pieces I really liked, including an update to the Heli Pro, which I’d love to put head to head vs. the original one that gave the brand its carry cred for hardcore skiers. Does the new one continue that legacy, or are they trading on the past? Criticism sandwich time: Great colors! Use better materials! You guys are always stoked to see Carryology, and we like that.
We can’t wait to come down and visit you in Hood River!
TNF has a booth the size of a Walmart, it must have cost ten million dollars. I never got the grand tour of the place, but I did catch the awesome new ABS modular avalanche bag system they launched. The bag mates with any pack you want to travel with in the backcountry, so long as it is over 12L in volume. You unpack it from its carrying case and strap it to the pack of your choice, pull on the leg loops which are used in lieu of a secondary waistbelt, mate the shoulder straps to the ones on your pack, set up the pull-handle and you’re off. Basically.
I want to try jumping my bike into a lake and inflating it in the air, and I’m still not sure why.
Most of OR was packed with bags that looked like this…
And this. Bright colors that smacked of the part of the 1990s that never happened.
Crux is a new company making mountaineering packs with a blend of Cordura and Kevlar – the US importer John Campbell is an old-pack junkie and enjoys making reproduction vintage alpine packs. A man after my own heart. Featured here is their AK line of packs as well as their MAG (urban) series of carry.
Quadcopter carry sling roaming the halls
JanSport is excited this year, and more excited yet to see us come through their doors. The Alameda, California company has been making strides toward bettering their quality and image.
There was a lot to see at JanSport, and I hope to see more in the future. They’ve been keeping busy with collaborations such as the Jansport x HippyTree collab, and I particularly enjoyed the LRG (Lifted Research Group) collaboration utilizing fabric supplied by Dimension Polyant. The material was also used on their collaboration project with International Mountain Guides under the Guide Series name. We liked the alternate hip belts, it makes the pack more versatile for different types of use, which is what it’s all about. This pack might have logos which are perfect for professional athlete use, but, for me, they are WAY TOO MUCH for normal branding.
Thule is at a point where they don’t constantly need to explain why/how they are making packs – and I’m sure they are excited about that. I understand how people don’t immediately make the leap, but get it. It is all carry after all. The question simply becomes what/who is carrying it.
Here is the Thule Upslope 20. I like the side access zipper, it’s clever without being cheeky.
Bravo EVOC. These packs look great. Having done a road test on the FR Enduro 16 way back in 2013, I know to keep an eagle eye on their products. It makes me happy that they are starting to make waves over here in the old U-S-of-A. My comments about the Guide Series JanSport packs apply here too. TOO MUCH BRANDING. Screening your logo 50 times on each bag doesn’t make it a pattern. Your packs are awesome already, guys! This looks like…too much.