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Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2018: Recap Part II

by , August 3, 2018

As Outdoor Retailer 2018 rolled on, we pushed ever deeper into the Colorado Convention Center to get the details on the latest world of carry. Throughout three days of the show we battled the Denver altitude, high blood pressure from seeing too many good bags, and sore shoulders from all the swag for the Outdoor Retailer Awards.

Before we dive into the goodies, a couple of observations from this year’s show. First, more and more kickstarted brands are making an appearance. Whether this is Peak Design, who launched (and funded) a new bag on Day 1 of the show, to smaller brands such as Boundary Supply who we caught up with for some out of booth dealings, it’s awesome to see this infusion of new brands into the scene.

Second, there were numerous Carryology logos dotting the convention center floor. Award recipients from the annual Carry Awards, such as Mystery Ranch and Pelican, had emblems denoting bags that the Carryology Community had collectively voted on. The Carryology contingent at the show was also doing our best to dish out fresh-off-the-press Carryology patches (keep an eye out for how to get one). It’s great to see this community growing.

Third, this year’s show had the biggest emphasis on sustainability of any show yet. In many ways Patagonia led the charge (and the push to move the show from Salt Lake City to Denver) with not just new sustainable textiles, but also spearheading legislation here in the U.S. to for instance grow hemp. Additionally lots of textile suppliers were touting less water-intensive coloring processes (cheers Cordura) to material made from plastic bottles, factory waste, and even algae biomass. Very cool to see such an emphasis taking hold on many levels at this show.

Finally, there seemed to be more parties at the show than ever before. Whether this is simply a welcome party for OR moving to Denver, or just the regular Denver party scene remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, carry brands can get down. With that said, here’s part two of our Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2018 roundup.

Pelican

Pelican came to the show with an array of hard and soft carry goods. Their insulated cooler line is expanding with new colors and sizes. Their much applauded Pelican Air line has also been updated with some sharp-looking colorways.

While Pelican is perhaps most known for hard luggage, they are just now getting into soft goods. Along with their Mobile Protect backpack (official Sixth Annual Carry Awards nominee), they’re expanding to include two sizes of duffels. In true Pelican fashion, the laptop protection on these bags is second to none.

Gossamer Gear

Gossamer Gear wowed us on the show floor with updates to a couple of their most popular backpacks, the Vagabond, Kumo, and Silverback. While the packs more or less remain the same, the team at Gossamer Gear has been working to develop a new series of super lightweight textiles, weaves, and colorways which look really sharp. We’re excited to see these hit the market and the trail.

Dakine

Celebrating their 40th anniversary, Dakine is dropping a new line which pays homage to their original headquarters in the Cannery Building in Maui. I’m personally hoping to have this much swag when I turn 40.

Rounding out their updates are a new Decent Duffel which is lined with an actual tarp and some additional bags in their Cyclone welded construction collection.

OtterBox

One of the things we love about Outdoor Retailer is the chance to talk with designers and hear about their process designing the bags we’re seeing. Case in point is the new Yampa dry duffel from OtterBox.

The duffel itself packs a whole lot of goodies and will definitely be on our radar, but what really made this bag stand out was hearing how the designer made a raft out of four of these duffels and rafted down a river just to test the durability. He was in one piece at OR which sounds like a successful bag review to us.


“The designer made a raft out of four of these duffels and rafted down a river just to test the durability.”


WANDRD

We’ve recently seen WANDRD on Carryology with a small collection of good-looking travel bags. At the show the team had the Prvke and Hexad on display for us to ogle, along with some good-looking new products in the works that we swore on our favorite backpack we wouldn’t talk about.

North St. Bags

While at OR we dig meeting with smaller brands such as North St. Bags because we get to hang with the founder and see their personal bag choice, which is always carry candy. Curtis was rocking their new Weekender Backpack, which is handmade in Portland and really dialed in for a week of traveling.

What’s more, we got ahold of a coveted North St. OR survival kit – one of their Pioneer 12 hip packs, decked out with essentials to get us through the week (i.e. whiskey, Advil, and syrup from Vermont). But really, the colorway alone on this bag would have gotten us through just fine.

Yeti

Yeti continued to impress with their uber-durable cooler line and expanding carry line. Building on the success of their Panga submersible duffel, they’ve now got a 28L Panga backpack, complete with the same zipper used on hazmat suits. There’s a smaller, waterproof pouch with an awesome magnetic opening, and a cooler that now has wheels.

We geeked out about the design of this rolling cooler and found out that it’s engineered so there is no through axle on the wheels. The reason being that a through axle would generate friction, which in turn would heat up the cooler, which in turn would warm up your beer. Cheers for keeping our beer cold, Yeti.

Thule

To all the travelers who carry a hiking backpack on their back while simultaneously carrying a smaller bag on their front, Thule has got you covered. Their new Landmark backpack for adventure travelers is a genius design that gives you two bags in one, with a beefy suspension tying the two of them together.

If hard rolling luggage is more your style, well Thule has that sorted too. With their Revolve line, Thule is making their first foray into hard luggage, which we’re excited about. The luggage has a tamper-proof zipper, wheels that absorb bumps, and because they’re Thule, they have tested this luggage to the same test standard as their roof racks. Super impressive!


“With their Revolve line, Thule is making their first foray into hard luggage, which we’re excited about.”


The North Face

The big thing we saw at The North Face this year was their Dyno carry line – basically picture four backpacks with some of the most dialed-in and adjustable suspension you can imagine. These bags have been in design since 2016 and pick up where the Prophet Pack from last year left off.

After trying these bags on, I’ve got to say that they’re some of the most comfortable bags I’ve ever worn. Very good stuff.

Mystery Ranch

An annual OR favorite of ours, the team from Montana wows us year after year with the craft they put into their bags. The big one for this year is the Glacier pack, which according to some of their designers is the best carrying pack they’ve ever made.

It’s got their new Astral Frame embedded in it, and was part of a wider overhaul of suspension system that was the result of a super detailed study of how their bags wear. I find myself adjusting my calendar in order to find a week to go into the wilderness to play with this bag.

Timbuk2

In lieu of a booth at the show, Timbuk2 decided to hire a team of bicycle pedicab drivers to ferry people from the convention center to their Denver showroom. “Fitting” I thought as I was whisked through the streets of downtown Denver.

Timbuk2 unleashed a torrent of new bags this year. So many that I had to ask about the sanity of their design team. In all seriousness though, the entire range of new bags look awesome. There’s the Authority pack which is an office-friendly day bag, the Sacoche Sling, which was actually brought over from their Japanese market, a small line of luggage affectionately known as the ‘Never Check Collection’, and a soft cooler that was still wet from the party at the store the night before.

Atlas Packs

We met up with Atlas to dive into their Atlas and Expedition packs and get the lowdown of how Atlas Packs came to be. That’s for another article but needless to say it’s an awesome story that will make you want to grab one of their bags, a camera, and start shooting.

After playing around with these bags, it’s easy to see how Atlas Packs have emerged onto the scene so quickly. I ended up taking one of these bags home with me and was able to fit camera gear and all of the OR swag into it. As anyone who’s been to OR knows, that’s a serious carry potential.

Hydro Flask

Even though we met at 11 am, the team at Hydro Flask was kind enough to supply beer in order to test out their new Cooler Cups. Along with the Cooler Cups, Hydro Flask has a range of new mugs, bottles and tumblers coming out which play very nicely with a miniature version of their Unbound Coolers.

After doing laps through Hydro Flask’s booth, it’s clear that they’ve got not only some of the best drinkware/drink carry options at OR, but also the best colorways.

Mammut

After a few days at OR, even the most hardcore, bag-loving Carryologist will tell you that there’s a lot of the same stuff. That’s why when we descended upon the Mammut booth we were blown away by what they had in store for us.

Their flagship is the new Trion Pack which boasts one of the best suspension systems not just at the show, but that I’ve ever come across. But what really stood out was how Mammut embedded a near field communication (NFC) chip (think the same technology as Android or Apple Pay) into the shoulder strap of the bag. The chip is paper thin and can be scanned to provide warranty and repair information, as well as sport specific instructional video and even access to some specific Mammut trip planning services. We’re really curious to see how this evolves.


“Mammut’s flagship is the new Trion Pack which boasts one of the best suspension systems not just at the show, but that I’ve ever come across.”


As the exhaustion that only working a trade show can bring began to sink in, we ducked out to some of the extracurriculars of Outdoor Retailer. After another successful rendition of Product Underground, a small Snow Peak hosted dinner with a wine truck trucked in from Portland, and parties hosted by just about every outdoor brand, we managed to pool the carry insight we had gleaned over the past few days to decide upon the 2018 Outdoor Retailer Carry Awards.

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