- Buyer's Guide
Outdoor Retailer Carry Awards :: Summer Market 2017
Every year, Carryology hands out three awards at Outdoor Retailer. Each year, we change the actual awards handed out. You may recall our trophies complete with backpacks from last year, or plaques from years prior. For the final OR in SLC, we had some tastefully laser carved and cut wooden panels made up. Like before, we have three awards – Rising Star, Most Innovative, and Best in Show.
Unlike previous years where a team of half a dozen of us would decide on the three winners with nearly full agreement, we knew after Day 1 that this would be a real challenge. There were hours of debate and we roped in Mike in Australia to get his thoughts as well. What was the problem? I think it has a lot to do with how long R&D cycles take. The amazing things we saw in previous years had just made it to market now and it takes time to come out with real winners. That is not to say that there wasn’t anything impressive. This is the best of what we saw.
Rising Star – Hydro Flask
Internally, this award is known as the brand that is the Rookie of the Year. We don’t have a specific age ceiling, but usually 1-2 years is where you’ll find previous winners. However, it’s also reserved for brands that are entering a new market, creating a product that is new to them or outside their comfort zone. That’s what is happening here with Hydro Flask. The Bend, OR company is known for their expertise in vacuum insulated bottles. I didn’t think they’d ever create a soft cooler but once I saw it, it was an obvious and somewhat natural progression.
The new Outbound Soft Coolers have Hydro Flask written all over them. They are sleek, concentrate insulation on where it matters most, are comfortable to hold and can actually be carried.
Most Innovative – Mystery Ranch
If there was a company that could probably win an innovation award year after year, it’s Mystery Ranch. The team of dedicated design gurus out of Bozeman, MT were eager to show off not one but two new suspensions this year. First, the Hover Pack addresses the problem of back ventilation in a unique way. The unique curved frame means the pack literally hovers off your back, with the only contact/support points being the harness, yoke, and hip belt.
Next up is something that’s not entirely new for Mystery Ranch, but is new to the outdoors space. MR took their successful Terraframe, developed for hunters, firefighters, and the military and adopted it for an outdoor pack. The main pack is able to separate from the frame and additional gear (think hunted game, rafts, crash pads) can be carried in the cavity. In this “overload” mode, everything is secured with straps. What’s also really unique is the way the frame stays actually rise a good 4-5 inches above the shoulders, with the load lifters attached to the top.
Best In Show – Mountain Hardwear
We spent a good twenty minutes with Mountain Hardwear designer Robert Hollister where he meticulously walked us through the Multi-Pitch collection. Developed during the week and tested on weekend climbs, the collection seems to have every little detail figured out. For material choice, they went with TPU on the front and top for easy dragability and high abrasion resistance. The sides and bottom are rocking 840D ballistic nylon.
The front is formed with a structured tubular A-frame which serves as a top handle as well as clip points for carabiners and straps. Really innovative features like a water bottle/stash pocket that is hidden until you deploy it from its zippered home, or zippers oriented in a certain direction to avoid accidental openings while being pulled up a mountain, are some of the things that left us impressed.
Our awards are never for products, but for the whole brand showing and this year Mountain Hardwear really encompassed a Best in Show company. Besides their pack game, they had strong showings in men’s and women’s apparel, technical jackets and pants, and tents and sleeping bags. I cannot stress enough how big of a difference the Mountain Hardwear of today is compared to even 2-3 years ago. They are an outdoors company, reborn.