- Buyer's Guide
Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015 :: Recap Part III
Following on from Part II of our Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015 recap, we're right back into the action with a host of exciting highlights that will get carry fans buzzing...
The Osprey booth was a little crowded but the hardwood floors and interesting display walls (with perforations) really fit well with the vibe of the company.
The spotlight was definitely on their AG (Anti-Gravity) technology, which has garnered many awards, including one from us. They feature it prominently on their Atmos/Aura series bags and from now, all Atmos/Aura bags will come with AG standard. They are also pushing the AG technology into other packs such as their baby carrier (Poco Plus available Spring '16) and a daypack. We tried the Atmos on and it honestly felt like there was nothing on you. The hipbelts hug your waist and the bag feels like it's floating off your back. Apparently, it took the founder ten years to perfect.
Cycling packs the Manta and Raptor have small updates. We also saw the Volt/Viva packs which have 6 inches of adjustability, allowing Osprey to sell just one size. Do-it-all packs Kestral/Kyte are perfect for skiing or hiking.
One of my favorites, the Flap, has some updates with expandable sides for water bottles and a single strap on front, as opposed to the dual straps. Finally, their travel luggage has some updates, including a roller with shoulder straps and a detachable day bag for when you get into the destination city.
The Pacsafe booth had a quiet, calm demeanor and was almost entirely enclosed with only a few narrow exit lanes. They introduced us to three new products. The first is the Venturesafe X which is an outdoors/hiking pack. It features their exo-mesh, smart zippers, and RFID pocket. These are all classic Pacsafe materials but we think what sets the Venturesafe X apart is it's one snazzy-looking pack.
Next, the Travelsafe X is a small (15L) pack that works as a safe insert. It can be used alone but is meant to sit inside the Venturesafe for added protection. Finally, the Ultimatesafe Z is a portable safe meant for lock and leave in situations where your hotel or hostel may not have a secure lockbox. It features a padded compartment for 15" laptops.
Rounding out things are their urban commuter range and camera bags, all of which feature Pacsafe's patented security mechanisms.
The North Face
TNF set up one of the most attractive and largest displays at Outdoor Retailer. They had numerous tents set up in faux campsites, colored lights, and music.
In addition, about a fifth of the display was dedicated to promoting the film Meru, about climbing the namesake mountain. While The North Face didn't sponsor the movie, they made numerous custom pieces for the athletes so their goods are prominently displayed in the film.
This was one of the coolest meetings of the show. We were taken upstairs to a private showroom, replete with their own wi-fi network and snacks. This was the first time in the show we felt we could relax, put our bags down, and just have a discussion about the products, instead of hurriedly rushing through things.
They opened with a focus on their technical packs. We checked out the Fovero, a large, load-carrying pack with an adjustable torso, trampoline back panel, and OPTIFIT. Note: the 70L version doesn't use the trampoline paneling.
We briefly caught a glimpse of the Terra, which is a base level, entry pack.
Next up is the Banchee, a sub 4 lb bag, again with trampoline suspension. They were able to get the pack stable even up to 50 lbs and it maintains this stability even while running. An angled water bottle holder and tool loops for poles or hammers round out the features.
Next was probably one of the coolest names for a bag encountered during OR - the Cragaconda. As you can imagine, this was specifically made for cragging. It lays flat and has a load top, taco feature, and reinforced carry handle.
The Shadow is a stripped-down, fast and light pack. It has webbing for extra reinforcements on darted areas and a really interesting outline and silhouette. You can tell the design team really got to let loose on this one.
"...probably one of the coolest names for a bag encountered during OR - the Cragaconda."
Now that the advanced bags were out of the way, things started getting real interesting. The next bag they wanted to show us was the Base Camp Duffel. Now, we're sure this bag is familiar to our readers. As it was told to us, and this might not be entirely accurate, but something like 1 in 500 Norwegians own a Base Camp Duffel. That's how popular they are, and how much a part of the carry quiver for some countries. Did you know the Base Camp had not been redesigned for 15 years? Why fix something unless it's broken, right? Well, a little site called Carryology posted a head-to-head comparison between TNF Base Camp and the Patagonia Black Hole and the latter edged out the win. This lit a fire under the pack and travel team and the product manager challenged them to address the issues while keeping the price and weight the same. They pulled it off and even shaved a bit of weight off. Here's some features:
- Exterior stow/dirty clothes pocket to keep things separate
- Quick-access side and end pockets, depending on size
- Shoulder straps updated; no more duffel straps
- Two side handles
- Wide buckles to prevent twisting, more like a backpack
- Honeycomb ID privacy window
- New packaging, less waste; redesigned hardware to not require packing/padding during transport and storage. Reusable strap from packaging
- Molded nylon zip pulls
- $100, $145
- Special editions with pretty cool graphics for the Base Camp's 30th anniversary, coming soon
Whew, that was a mouthful. Pretty awesome to see that our little corner of the internet has some real impact, and customers are the ones who will benefit.
Last, but not least, we took a look at their daypack line. You might be surprised at how much their casual backpack lines account for their total business. Remember, you might buy an expedition pack once in your life, but a student might get a new school bag every year.
The thing that really stood out for us were the women-specific features. They actually had a focus group at work and measured women's spine heights, body heights, back curves, shoulder widths, etc. and charted them. They were able to create a pack with thicker shoulder straps, ladder locks curved to prevent hitting elbows, and softer materials. We think that more companies should think about women-specific packs, because quite simply, our anatomies are all different.
"The thing that really stood out for us were the women-specific features."
Kudos to The North Face crew for innovating and pushing the envelope even while being such a large outdoor machine.
Incase was rocking a really modern-looking booth in one of the Pavilion tents. They were the only booth, that we could recall, that decided to put half their collection behind glass. Before you jump on our bag photography, we did the best we could. Sorry about the reflections. The booth had lots of glass, clean white paneling and shine. Definitely very Incase.
There's not much new here, mostly updates to colorways and accessories but let's go through it. First, an action camera pack, this time collaborating with pro surfer Kelly Slater. As you can imagine, this is primarily focused towards watersports. Slater picked the exterior patterns. The theme of this release is accessories. We saw a number of cases to hold GoPro's, batteries and accessories. What's cool is they float and all fit nicely into the KS Pro Pack.
The DSLR pack didn't get much of an update but there were a few new accessories. First up are lens cases coming in four different sizes. Also, neck and wrist straps that are simple affairs made of leather and utilize the same quick-release strap attachments. Apparently, the kit will come with different-sized ends so you can loop it through your digital point and shoot or giant medium format camera just the same. A memory card and lens cap slip round things out.
Their iPhone case line, SYSTM, is simply updated with new colors while their Travel line gets the edition of their Ecoya fabric, in gray and black colorways, to add a little sustainability flair to things.
Incase knows their brand identity well and their new products keep the message consistent.
Thule had an absolutely huge display, and it reminded us of being in a mall store. On one wall alone they had roughly a 10 x 10 display. Just a massive operation! We checked out a number of bags.
The Stir 25 is a lightweight and minimalist bag. It features a 3/4 raincover and a bottom cover which combine to provide 100% water resistance. It's made of 210D with 210D laminated webbing and the torso is adjustable. The 35L weighs 2.2 lbs.
Next, we were shown the Versant Pack, which comes in 50, 60, and 70L sizes. It offers a lot of adjustability through the hips and torso. You're able to turn the top of the pack into a sling bag, which is a cool feature, but not something we haven't seen before.
We didn't spend too much time with this San Francisco favorite but the team all agreed that there's a new face to the messenger bag company. They still have their bread and butter: the three-panel messenger bag, but half their showing was a more grown-up side.
Their booth was large and had bright lights, large walls with hanging bags, multiple tables to chat, and even a dedicated tailor station where custom bags were being sewn up.
Overall, what we are seeing is use of more luxe materials (cotton, leather), and very subdued and minimalist branding. Their Especial Messenger is still rocking the Fidlock connectors and we'd like to see more of that in other bags. Scratch that, we'd like to see more Fidlock in the industry in general. Magnets are so attractive.
This is one of the small amount of EDC coverage for this event. We spent almost four days doing just bag coverage, so it was impossible to get to every booth and product category.
For Leatherman, of note is the Tread. As you may recall, this was introduced at SHOT Show as a test and the response was overwhelming. This caught the Portland, OR company off-guard and they had to scale back the publicity to get their production up to snuff. They are nearing full production and the bracelet tool will be available soon. Speaking with their PR and the president of the company, I learned some interesting things. This all may not pan out, so take them with a grain of salt.
- Some things you might see in the future
- Narrower bracelet as an option
- Attachment kits to attach to G-Shock, Apple Watch, Pebble, etc. watches
- Choose-Your-Own custom version on the website. Pick just the tools you want.
- Smaller links to allow for as little as 1/8th inch adjustments
- Custom tools for cycling, snowboarding, etc.
- The final design is not much different from the prototype developed when CEO Ben Rivera invented it after his multi-tool was removed on a trip to Disneyland
- The original steel had to be changed because it was not water and abrasion-resistant enough
MindShift, a division of Think Tank Photo, had a small booth in the third Pavilion. While they are most known for their Rotation180 packs, they had something different to show us at OR. The FirstLight Series features their first non-rotating pack and is made for the expedition photographer. This is a large pack, meant to carry everything you might need in the field. It features an 11-point torso adjustment with 2.5-3 inches of adjustment. It uses two large parallel strips of Velcro to prevent slippage. It has multiple tripod carry options with an optional accessory that allows for horizontal carry. It comes standard with side suspension to fit one or all three legs. The FirstLight is available now.
MindShift also were showing off their DJI Phantom case, which uses the traditional removable and Velcroed walls as dividers and a soft exterior, rather than the hard cases drone owners are used to.
Lastly, they had a series of GoPro accessory cases and interestingly opted to make them simply pouches, rather than using molded foam. The pouches are all made to stack which makes slipping them into a pack easy.
The MindShift guys were keen on saying people don't know they have a problem until we show them a solution. We hope to see more exciting things from them in the future.
"...people don't know they have a problem until we show them a solution."
This booth was located on the third floor, in an area that is primarily for materials and hardware manufacturers.
Material ConneXion is an interesting company. They have locations in many major cities and their buildings act as materials libraries where companies and people can come to research and learn about materials.
They also have materials scientists who can help people figure out what material is best for them. Access is on a membership basis.
While we were visiting their booth we saw some cool examples, like washable cow leather, and a replacement for neoprene.