- Buyer's Guide
Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015 :: Recap Part I
Bursting from downtown Salt Lake City, Utah another rendition of Outdoor Retailer has hit. As usual, Outdoor Retailer is a behemoth of a trade show - and the largest for the outdoor industry. Over the course of four days nearly 50,000 exhibitors, buyers, designers and media geeked out over the freshest and most innovative products the industry had to offer. We here at Carryology hit Outdoor Retailer hard, following an itinerary that saw us weaving between the massive exhibits of the big boys to impromptu secret meetings behind booths to peep new bags. To keep up with the frenetic pace of Outdoor Retailer (OR) we made sure to allow ample time for frequent stops at local watering holes to keep our pens writing and mouths jabbing. This is what’s happening in the outdoor carry scene according to the 2015 Outdoor Retailer.
Two rules at OR.
1) Stronger and stronger caffeine is needed as the week rolls on, reaching unhealthy proportions by Friday.
2) Always take coffee from a man in a top hat.
The coffee from the guys at Cafe Mugshot allowed the Carryology crew to continue holding semi-intelligent conversations with the fine folks from the carry industry from sunup 'til sundown.
Few bag lines in the industry are as distinct or focused as those from Boreas. The team of designers that Tae Kim has assembled are really killing packs geared for the adventure traveler (check out the #adventureunknown hashtag). Building on previous lines we’ll be seeing two new packs for the Super-Tramp suspension system, a travel duffel/backpack in the 50-liter range, and a number of new colorways for existing bags. New for this year are a handful of small bags packable into themselves, and a line of bags geared for a more casual or business version of #adventureunknown featured in subdued browns and grays but definitely still rocking the Boreas vibe. Did we mention they’re killing it?
Though none of us in the Carryology contingent are anything close to rock climbers or alpinists, we all thought about giving it a go just to have an excuse to use the new Black Diamond bags. Though some unreleased bags prevented us from taking any close-up pictures at the booth, if you’re a climber or alpinist you’re in for a treat.
However, the selection of small packs and totes still had us drooling.
A good talk with John and learning of the extensive prototyping capabilities that Arc'teryx has in-house has got us excited for what’s coming down the pipeline.
At the back of the Arc'teryx booth lies perhaps the most secretive, but coveted spot in all of OR - the Arc'teryx LEAF product line.
Carryology will be going Mission Impossible at next year's OR to infiltrate that room.
"...the extensive prototyping capabilities that Arc'teryx has in-house has got us excited for what’s coming down the pipeline."
Gregory is going to score big points with the carry tribe by releasing a number of packs from their Japanese lines into the US market. Our accountants have advised us that the money saved by not having to buy a plane ticket across the Pacific is best spent on those bags.
Working on their much lauded Baltoro pack, Gregory has pulled off an integrated solar panel design quite nicely by sewing a Goal Zero device into a top flap. Definitely one of the smoothest integrations of a solar panel we’ve seen.
And finally, if you find yourself running through an airport more than a trail, the new Aspect line is a solid offering of bags designed to make your jaunts that much smoother.
"Gregory is going to score big points with the carry tribe by releasing a number of packs from their Japanese lines into the US market."
Great time talking with the guys at Roark about their first three bags, the Runner, the Mule, and the Smuggler. The bags, designed by Roark and manufactured by their buddies at HEX, “will scare your mother and inspire your darkest expeditionary desires.” Sounds intriguing. We also found out that the vats of distilling snake wine were not merely for show.
The distinct aesthetic of Topo Designs didn’t miss a step at this year's OR. New packs across their lines. In response to the popularity of their Woolrich collaborations, they’ve decided to stock two Woolrich colorways on the klettersack and duffel.
The collaborations that Topo Designs have pulled off in the past are pure beauty. Fans of Topo Designs can rest assured that there are even more collaborations in the pipeline. Check out this upcoming one with sandal maker Chaco.
While many bags we saw at OR were water-resistant, Ortlieb boasts waterproofness as standard. Some great new commuter packs and a line of travel duffels. Also catching our eyes was a bag that weaved 3M reflective thread into their stitching which we’re told literally lights up the bag at night.
Just as we tip our hats to Boreas for outfitting the adventure traveler with gear, we’ve also got to show some love to Tae Kim’s other bag company, Alite Designs, for all they’re doing to design for more leisurely outdoor adventures. Outfitted with a full campsite and boasting the comfiest packable camp chairs at all of OR, the Alite Designs booth proved to be an oasis for a weary Carryology crew on multiple occasions.
The majority of Alite gear is designed with car camping or leisurely afternoons in a park in mind. Boasting some really cleverly designed coolers, chairs, and mats that emphasise packability, simple functionality and comfort, we were tempted on more than one occasion to ditch OR for a local park to put some of these products through “testing”.
This year Patagonia refrained from releasing any new packs, instead focusing efforts on updating their travel duffel line and adding new colorways on their heritage packs - some of the best we’ve seen at OR.
For those who fish with a fly, Patagonia has some updates to their line including inverse MOLLE.
Much like the climbing industry it’s always exciting to see the hyper-specific bag designs that evolve when catering to a niche market.
"Patagonia refrained from releasing any new packs, instead focusing efforts on updating their travel duffel line and adding new colorways on their heritage packs - some of the best we’ve seen at OR."
We unexpectedly ran into Man-PACK founder Aaron Tweedie as we were leaving OR. As a big fan of EDC and a successful veteran of both Kickstarter and ABC’s Shark Tank, Aaron has designed an insanely comfortable and versatile pack to scoop up all of your EDC. Keys, knives, wallets, notebooks, glasses, and even a concealed pistol have all got a spot in the Man-PACK.
There was no mistaking Cotopaxi’s booth at this year's OR thanks to an actual llama posted up in front of it.
Their bags didn’t disappoint either, highlighted by four new packs. A pack constructed with scraps from the production factory, with all colorways left up to the discretion of their sewers, a 55L backpack, a climbing-specific pack, and a travel pack.
We were digging the travel pack even before the Cotopaxi crew began to regale us with tales of multi-week treks through Europe with only this bag.
Now in its fifth rendition, tickets for Tae Kim’s exclusive Product Underground have become highly sought after. Leading up to OR, the Salt Lake City cops reported busting up a number of underground rings scalping Product Underground tickets. In front of OR bag nerds could be seen trying to sell the top packs in their collection for an invite. Carryology editor Mike Knispel was even spotted bartering his first son for tickets. Luckily at the last minute, Carryology legend Taylor Welden procured four golden tickets. Carryology was in.
The sharp crack of hundreds of cans of beer from the crowd welcomed Tae Kim and Julie Atherton, of JAM Media Collective, as they introduced the theme of this year's Product Underground, “Give It Up”. Five speakers laying it all out for the audience on “when they let the ship burn.” Sally McCoy, President and CEO of CamelBak, kicked things off with a Letterman Top 10 list on “reasons you should definitely let it go.” Davis Smith, Founder and CEO of Cotopaxi, then took us on his rollercoaster ride from conventional business school to unconventional Cotopaxi. Tom Stewart, Co-Founder of Sunski, in comedic form detailed starting a company selling salsa bowls out of his parents' house to a Kickstarter campaign for sunglasses. Alyssa Ravasio, Co-Founder and CEO of Hipcamp related an incredible story of simply attempting to streamline booking camping reservations to suddenly taking on an evil monopoly. And finally, James Curleigh, President of the Levi’s brand. All we’ll say is if you ever have the chance to see this guy speak, do it. Between the seemingly constant beer runs courtesy of Tae Kim and the customary shot of whiskey each speaker took on stage it was an awesome atmosphere by the end of Product Underground.
Stay tuned for Part II for even more OR goodness and the winners of the second annual Carryology Outdoor Retailer Carry Awards.