- Buyer's Guide
Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015 :: Recap Part II
In Part I of our Outdoor Retailer recap, you heard from some great brands including Boreas, Topo Designs, and Cotopaxi. Plus, we told you about a special evening where 350 of the industry's finest gathered to hear five CEOs talk about "Giving Up". In the second half of our recap, we're going to look at the rest of the brands we spoke to, plus give you an idea of some of the trends we noticed while roaming the massive Salt Palace Convention Center floors.
As you read our recaps, keep an eye out for trends that we spotted at this year's Outdoor Retailer: packable duffels, backpacking packs with removable tops that convert to sling or waist packs, very simple packs used for grocery-getting or yoga classes, simple hydration packs for music festivals and outdoor venues, Carry awards displayed at booths, different types of adjustable harnesses (both shoulder and waist), and a nod to the environment.
Let's start things off with a bang. Alchemy, a brand founded recently by Campbell Junor, formerly of Macpac, pulled no punches when it came to their OR showing. Their booth, located in the center of the special Venture Out portion of the center Pavilion, was definitely a hot spot with media (like us), buyers (saw Moosejaw there), and apparently even designers (spies?) hovering around.
The booth had a very clean aesthetic, not unlike their clothing and bags. Lots of dark grays, wood, and steel and intense spotlights on the items being showcased.
The duo representing the brand had a number of new offerings including packs and clothing. Of course, we were keen on just the carry stuff. The one that caught our eyes the most was the Convertible Satchel known simply as Travel Pack #12. It's (roughly) a 40L masterpiece that is based on their carry-on but converts easily into a daypack. Some notable features include stowable straps, carry-on sizing, and a shoulder sling. The coolest thing I saw was a little strap you can use to pull out your laptop, instead of reaching in with your big paws.
Their take on the weekender duffel with waxed cotton and compression straps was on point as well. We won't tell you how long this small team took to put together this Spring '16 line but let's say it's both scary and amazing. Keep an eye on the blog and you'll see how much we are digging their stuff.
This iconic Swedish brand was founded in 1960 by Åke Nordin. You probably recognize them for one iconic bag: the Kånken.
Turns out, there's so much more to the brand. Fjällräven had an absolutely huge display on the main floor of OR. They even had a second storey where a tailor was making gear repairs. The ambiance of the booth was one of forested outdoors complete with lots of foliage and exposed wood.
The pack that really caught our interest was the Kaipak. It's made of a mixture of cotton and polyester (G1000), infused with their own blend of beeswax and paraffin, giving the pack waterproof properties without harsh DWR chemical treatment. We were blown away by all the sustainability and environmentally-conscious design and production decisions Fjällräven has made. They aim to have all their packs made of sustainable materials by Fall 2016. Apparently, this type of eco-thinking has been in their ethos for a long time now and they have just been doing the "right" thing without much publicity or fanfare.
Another cool feature in some of their technical packs was the use of bamboo stays (instead of aluminum), to add rigidity in the back panel. This not only looks cool but speaks to their goal of sustainability and natural materials.
The next pack we checked out was the High Coast which also lacked a top, similar to the Kånken. It comes in two sizes: 18L and 24L. We also saw the Raven, which is coming out Spring '16 and is poised to potentially replace the Kånken. It comes in three sizes: Mini (15L), 20L and 28L and I definitely could see this usurping the reigning champion. It's a classy-looking backpack that will have wide appeal.
The Bergans booth had only one entry which produced more of a room instead of booth feel. After a bumpy start, we were able to get a walkthrough of their most exciting products.
The Helium pack, weighing just 1 kilogram, blew our minds. It is a fully adjustable pack with a molded hip pad, and uses the SPINE ®ADJUSTABLE frame system, pivotal hip belt, load lifters, and quick-release buckles.
The SPINE System, which is not new but still awesome, uses a spring steel double helix suspension to stabilize the load as you walk/run.
We were told that Bergans' design principles followed the real "Norwegian mentality" which is to find simple solutions to problems and stop right there.
"...Bergans' design principles followed the real "Norwegian mentality" which is to find simple solutions to problems and stop right there."
We also took a look at the Trollhetta and Glittertind packs which are more substantial than the Helium but still reasonable in weight.
CamelBak's booth was massive, complete with multiple serve-yourself water stations, which provided much needed relief with all the walking we did. We spoke to their design director as well as one of the product designers and they walked us through their Spring '16 offerings.
First up are their cycling packs, specifically geared towards the MTB market. The Low Rider is a lumbar integrated hydration pack. It offers a low center of gravity and is meant to mainly carry the bladder; the entire top part is removed. It'll retail for $75. Next up are the Skyline/Solstice packs and they feature 3L lumbar water carry, 10L total capacity, light armor carry (requested by customers), tool roll, and closed cell foam padding for comfort. It comes in at $130.
Last of the cycling packs is the Palos, the first MTB waist hydration pack. It holds a 1.5L bladder, with 4L total volume. Interestingly, the hose wraps around the waist and is secured with a magnet. This keeps the elbows and shoulders free for maneuverability.
The next pack we saw was Arete. It happened to be the first one we saw of its kind that day, but by Day 3, this was clearly a trend for OR 2015. The pack is a lightweight ruck that is meant to be used by travelers and at music festivals. It has an urban vibe to it and according to CamelBak, these types of bags are the fastest growing segment. Think Coachella instead of Leadville. It is reversible - turning from a reservoir sleeve to a lightweight hydration pack. The 18L version holds a 1.5L bladder while the 22L version holds a 2L one. It will retail for around $65 and $80.
Next up is the Recon series, their military-inspired urban packs. The Carryology crew were pleasantly surprised at how nice the Quantico and Coronado packs looked. Really clean lines and not like anything we've seen from CamelBak lately.
Interestingly, the packs are not reservoir based; instead they employ a pair of interior sleeves to hold bottles. They use authentic military materials (which is just a fancy way of saying nice materials and hardware). They can hold a tablet, and can fold flat for easy access and packing. The nylon is a 420 material but feels and looks surprisingly soft and supple. There is plenty of internal organization. The two names refer to two sizes, the Quantico being the larger of the two bags, and retail pricing is $130 with a $30 premium if you want the special camo version.
Finally, we went to see the packs some of the US armed forces are using on the field. These packs are huge but remember, they were designed to be worn by soldiers with full body armor on. The most interesting part of the new packs is the removal of the traditional MOLLE panel. They were able to get double digit percentage weight savings by switching over to a new panel that has the slits laser cut. Another advantage is this keeps the camouflage intact, instead of it broken up with strips, which defeats the whole point of camo. Finally, it's NIR compliant.
For us, the Arete and Recon series were the most appealing and we can't wait to get a closer look at them!
We won't say much about Granite Gear, but it's not for lack of innovation or technology. We simply didn't spend much time there.
The darling of their display was of course the Lutsen Series with the RE-FIT A.C. Frame, designed by Michael Meyer and his team. It features molded air channels that work with the foam back panel and stretch mesh to keep your back cool and dry. The whole system works together so nicely; we were really impressed.
They also had a full gamut of stackable luggage (i.e. daypack sliding into the rails of a roller) and packable duffels. Nothing we haven't seen before but worth mentioning if you're in the market.
By far one of our favorite brands, the guys from Montana really brought it this year. They occupied a really simple and small booth, just around the corner from industry giant Arc'teryx.
We had a nice long chat with the crew and you could not ask for a nicer group of people, truly excited about what they do. Everything looked amazing and if you're like us, you're going to love the new colorways.
As it was told to us, the pendulum may have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction. We like the change though and don't worry, there's no question that the MR DNA runs strong in the new offerings.
Let's kick things off, shall we?
First up is the Pitch, a climbing-specific pack, ranging from 17-55L. To save weight, they used a lighter material in areas that did not require much strength or abrasion resistance.
Next, we focused on the urban line. Finally! Mystery Ranch has gone EDC!
We saw the 3-Way Briefcase, most of you will be familiar with it, named as such because of the three ways it can be carried.
It comes in two versions - expandable and not. The former has two pockets. Really simple, but snazzy and perfect for the office.
Next is the Street Fighter and its bigger brother the Gun Fighter. Both were available on the US site, but didn't catch on. Interestingly, their Japanese distributor had great luck with them and suddenly Americans are clamoring for them, so for the new season Mystery Ranch is bringing them back. The Street Fighter features waterproof zippers, and a bottom MOLLE attachment (which is really for show). The Gun Fighter has more functional MOLLE on the sides, different padding, and a Stick-It front pocket designed to hold a shed layer or a cycling helmet.
The Java is a play on the 3-Zip design and the design was inspired by Japanese businessmen traveling on the subway, with not much room around them. There are, admittedly, a bunch of zippers, but the idea is to give you access no matter how little space you have.
The Urban Assault is a clean and slim daypack rocking the infamous 3-Zip. It has fixed harnessing and no yoke, to save on weight.
Finally, we checked out the Booty Bag, which is a no-frills simple and light bag that can be used for anything from yoga classes, to hauling fresh fruits and veggies from the farmer's market.
Since everyone at the Ranch knows how to sew, they often make their own bags and everyone was essentially creating the Booty Bag, so they decided to bring it to market.
There were other new bags that we didn't get around to but we've told you about the ones that most excited us.
Stay tuned for Part III to discover more great offerings on the carry horizon as we delve deeper into Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015...