- Buyer's Guide
Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2016 Recap
The who’s who of the outdoor world once again converged in beautiful and cold Salt Lake City, Utah for Outdoor Retailer (OR). The Winter show is bit different than the Summer show with mainly Fall/Winter gear on display, less vendors, and a smaller crowd which made it easier to power through the massive Salt Palace Convention Center floor. For me this was the third of three tradeshows (CES and Agenda) in three days, but I couldn’t resist the urge, despite my aching legs to see what was new in the outdoor world. Armed with my camera, small notebook, and pen and highly caffeinated from the free java that was pouring at various booths I set out on a solo mission to attack the show and provide the latest and greatest for the carry community.
Let’s kick things off with a company responsible for changing the carry and apparel industries - CORDURA®. The durable material has been used for everything from packs to jackets and more - through the company’s close to 50-year history and with the milestone anniversary not far off the company is ramping up to showcase even more innovation.
Many brands can thank CORDURA® for their product, especially in the carry world. Brands such as Mystery Ranch, Porter, Topo Designs, Burton, The North Face, Manhattan Portage and the list goes on and on. The heritage brand expressed how important their relationships are valued from the mill through to the supply chain and ultimately to the consumer. To share the stories behind the product they have started a video series titled, “Meet the Maker,” with the first video surrounding the story of Dana Gleason, the founder of Mystery Ranch and who has been using CORDURA® fabric since he started designing and manufacturing packs in 1975, and was one of the fabric’s first champions. If you haven’t seen this video be sure to check it out.
I was given a bit of insight into the next series of videos, “Meet the Mills,” which will give an inside look to the mills behind the process of manufacturing the various products. I was also able to get a closer look at the apparel that they are putting out, which was only started four years ago. The company has been working on natural wicking technology, denim, bio-nylon, fleece, flannel, and even the strongest ballistic nylon in the world which will be unveiled with their, “Less Suck”, campaign in the new year. With a dedication to producing quality products that enable and inspire others I’m excited to see what the future holds for the company.
Continuing to impress with their collection of packs and apparel, Alchemy Equipment showcased their Winter 2016 apparel line and packs. The apparel line was both fashionable and high-performing with some styles out now and the rest to be released in September.
Following up to the award-winning AEL008 carry-on is the brand spanking new AEL012. Due out in March, the anticipation for this 40L one-bag travel solution is sure to build with the same features as the AEL008, but with the inclusion of a substantial harness and super comfy suspension. This beautiful design was one of my favorite packs of the show.
"Following up to the award-winning AEL008 carry-on is the brand spanking new AEL012."
Osprey are known for their innovative packs and have made some big updates to their Sojourn and Meridian Series. Let’s start with the new deployable Highroad suspension that takes cues from their award-winning Anti-Gravity suspension. The shoulder harness and hipbelt easily and quickly deploy when portability is needed while traveling. The wheels are large for easy rolling, yet sit outside the frame of the body for comfort when on your back. What separates the two are the optional sizes, with the Sojourn available in three sizes including an 80L, 60L, and 45L version and the Meridian in a 75L and 60L version. Aside from the organizational offerings and design, the Meridian also includes a detachable daypack.
Perfect for the winter season is the Kamber and Kresta line of packs built for backcountry ski and snowboarding adventures. The Kamber is built for males, while the Kresta is the brand’s first female-specific offering with a more tailored fit. Each includes an avalanche safety kit pocket with easy-to-find zipper, large pockets to accommodate large shovel blades, and dry pocket access to keep gear dry and warm and most importantly separate from wet gear. A nicely thought out design feature makes it easy to access the dry compartment even while skis or a snowboard are attached to the pack.
"...the Kresta is the brand’s first female-specific offering with a more tailored fit."
For more everyday use, I found the new Portal Series commuter packs to be on point. They provide plenty of compartments for gear and gadgets, comfortable harnesses, and even a protection pocket for electronics or sunglasses.
Bikers aren’t left out as the Radial and Momentum Series have received a complete redesign for Fall 2016. A ventilated back panel design helps with the dreaded back sweat while riding. The stretch load lifters add tension to adjust to your riding position to help with heavier loads and provide more comfort. Both also feature items built for riders including a raincover, LidLock to store a helmet, and reflective details. The Radial has a cool feature with an integrated kickstand that keeps the pack standing upright when not in use.
The Bay Area-based brand held back no punches with their showing of bags. There were several collections on display, most with a focus on commuters.
The TBH, short for “To Be Honest”, collection consisted of attractive and functional design that had some great color combinations. Coated Cordura nylon is used to increase the weather resistance for cyclists, while each pack was outfitted with multiple access points, internal pockets, and bike-friendly extras such as vista loops. I particularly liked both the Tuck and Vault from the collection.
The Tuck has a very simple and clean exterior with a roll-top enclosure, along with extensive internal organization to keep things properly placed. The military green with black and the navy with military green were very pleasing to the eye.
The Vault’s main feature could be the contrast colored zipper dead smack in the center of the pack. The bag is available in two sizes, 22L and 32L, and in multiple finishes including polyester, coated, and facet. The low profile design also features multiple access points and reflective zipper pulls.
Making its debut at OR was the Heist Collection, designed for the serious cyclist and inspired by military gear. Two material options are available, a spun polyester canvas in muted and classic colors and a durable 50D TPU. Also introduced within the collection is the Reflective series, with reflective striping enhancing the wearer’s visibility and safety.
Also displayed was the Lux Zip Pack and a wall of packs from the Agent Collection. The Lux Zip Pack featured a pull-out raincover not only for the bag, but also serving as a hoodie to drape over your head as you ride, complete with drawstring of course.
The Vancouver-based outdoor brand showcased their dedication to safety and innovation with the new Voltair. Sitting front and center of their booth was their avalanche airbag technology featured in the pack which has multiple deployment functionality, powerful inflation, and superior performance when you need it most.
The details set this pack apart and one feature that stood out is the bright red mechanical trigger, which is permanently accessible to quickly unlock and deploy the airbag. The pack is available in both a 20L and 30L size. The pack itself is surprisingly slim for what it contains inside. Lots of tech went into this pack and some notable features are the custom engineered impeller with a centrifugal blower for more pressure leading to more inflation performance, a 22.2V Lithium Polymer rechargeable battery, and I was told the system can continue to fill itself even with small tears or punctures that could occur during an avalanche. Impressive stuff.
"The Vancouver-based outdoor brand showcased their dedication to safety and innovation with the new Voltair."
They showcased some other gear that has been shown at previous shows and as always the totes and packs are on point.
Heritage brand Filson had a beautiful collection of packs on display. Like much of their product these bags are built to last. The choice of materials alongside the classic designs will leave the carry community wanting to add these to their personal stash. I know that I saw at least a couple that had me wanting to pull out my credit card.
Gregory strikes a balance in designs between both functional outdoor packs along with more stylish lifestyle packs. The focus of their booth was on the lifestyle side with three new lines, the Avenues, Explore, and Sunbird vintage collection. What we have known to love about Gregory is still found in these packs with performance and well-thought-out designs.
There was something for everyone and I especially was drawn to the Avenues collection and the IStreet pack. This would make for a great daily bag with high-end TPU textiles which are water resistant, a laptop sleeve, and tons of organizational storage.
I liked the balance without compromise that the Explore collection has. Plenty of options for sizes from 19L to 29L, not too big or too small, streamlined silhouettes, space and protection for all your gear and gadgets, along with water-resistant pockets.
The vintage inspired Sunbird collection took cues from their early 1970’s designs. As with many companies that have gone back in their archives, these packs received the modern day treatment utilizing premium canvas, including quilted paneling and laptop sleeves on both styles, the Tahquitz and Stinson. But what really stood out were the vintage earth tone colorways which is a nice throwback and homage to early outdoor packs.
For those still looking for outdoor performance coupled with some technology, the Baltoro, with integrated Goal Zero pack is a clear-cut winner in my eyes. Sleek design, ultimate comfort, and a ton of storage – what more could you want.
"For those still looking for outdoor performance coupled with some technology, the Baltoro, with integrated Goal Zero pack is a clear-cut winner in my eyes."
JanSport showcased two new lines that stood out with the Outside Line and the Digital Collection. The Outside Line is built more for the urban commuter than outdoor explorer, with features such as gadget organization, multiple pockets, and easy-access compartments.
The Outside Line standouts included the Iron Sight and the Hawk Ridge. The Iron Sight (pictured to the left) has a padded laptop/hydration sleeve with zippered back access and the Hawk Ridge (on the right) has a gusseted front organizer pocket and vertical zippered stash pocket. Both will be available in the Fall.
The new Digital Collection standout was the Recruit which can fit up to a 15” laptop, a tablet, and has an easy-access pocket for headphones. There is even a front exterior pocket for cord storage.
CamelBak had lots to get excited about with a range of products that would be great for daily use and for extreme outdoor adventures.
My personal favorite was the Quantico pack which was available in multiple colors, but I especially like the camo fabric option. Multiple pockets, plenty of organization, and style to boot make this a winner.
Sea to Summit
I briefly strolled through the massive booth, which must have had hundreds of products, but standing out was the collection of Dry Packs including the Flow 35L, Rapid 26L, and lightweight Sprint. Made of TPU laminated 210D (on the Sprint) and 420D nylon with fully seam-sealed construction, each pack looked solid enough to safely secure the most precious electronics and items.
The Flow 35L featured quick access to the main compartment through a top-loading roll-top closure with additional zippered pockets and even an easy-access hydration compartment. The shoulder straps and waist belt are ventilating and perforated for comfort and ergonomics. I could see this being ideal for both snow and water adventures alike and it was my favorite from the trio.
The Rapid 26L features deep mesh side pockets and a single welded Hypalon loop to attach a bike light and other gear.
The Sprint 20L was constructed to be lightweight without sacrificing strength or durability, weighing only 14oz. This would be a great pack for stand-up paddle boarding or other activities that require lightweight storage.
Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven focused on their Re-Kånken special edition pack, made from sustainable materials and design practices. Built from recycled polyester sourced from used water bottles, it takes only 11 PET bottles to create one of their classic-sized packs. Kudos to Fjällräven for their constant dedication to sustainability with their environmentally-friendly designs. Similar to their iconic Kånken packs, these are also available in an assortment of colors including a blacked-out version.
"Kudos to Fjällräven for their constant dedication to sustainability with their environmentally-friendly designs."
Many brands are turning to their past for designs that can be re-vamped and modernized. Mountainsmith has tapped their 37-year heritage to bring back some mid-90’s designs in their new Roots Collection. I was drawn to the use of CORDURA as well as the modern designs with organizational solutions for all gadget and tech needs.
It was a toss-up between the Wizard and Grand Tour as my personal favorite. The Wizard had a 15” laptop compartment, side compression straps, and included a MOLLE detachable interior travel bag that can be attached to the exterior of the pack for more interior space. The Grand Tour also featured a 15” laptop compartment, an interior pocket built to keep sunglasses safe, and an internal hydration sleeve with hose port.
Six styles in total will be released in the Fall.
The Southern California surf inspired brand showcased their new collection of packs. I’m a bit partial as I’ve been testing these packs out for about a month now and they have really come in handy. The Sett Travel bag is a great short trip getaway bag that features ample space and organization including a waterproof compartment and strap to convert the pack to a duffle bag. Similar in style and material is the Daley Camera Backpack with straps to carry a tripod or light stand, a removable camera tray with dividers, and a raincover.
What I was really excited about was their new IN+ERFACE apparel integration technology that was shown in the lightweight Ruger Parka. The jacket has a DWR finish to repel water and tons of storage solutions with internal and external pockets, but what really makes this jacket special is the design utilizing a backup battery to charge your phone on the go while the cables are hidden. Additional camera and memory card storage is also included in the sleeve for even more organization on the go. One other feature that makes this jacket special is the ability to remove the inner lining and swap it out with other insulators such as their technical fleece so you can go from the city streets to the mountains with just a change of the liner. I really see integrated tech apparel carry solutions growing in the next couple of seasons.
To be honest I only knew a little bit about the brand Cotopaxi prior to the show, but after speaking with their brand manager I left with a positive impression of both their company and their products. Cotopaxi is a benefit corporation that produces quality made goods that have a world impact. One example of their sustainable design practices is the use of remnant fabric. With the Luzon Del Dia product collection workers are given creative freedom to create the colorways of the packs using the repurposed materials and no two are alike. Such is the case with the Tarek backpack.
The packs are proudly made in the Philippines, which can explain the inspiration behind the red, yellow, blue colorway along with the use of the Philippines sun.
I also learned that each product is guaranteed to last 61 years, the average lifespan of a person living in the developing world. Cotopaxi packs come in various shapes and sizes. The Keta messenger bag was a standout. I liked the simple design for the daily commute along with the various compartments for internal organization. The weatherproof exterior had a nice finish to not only keep things protected and dry, but also looking good.
The Nepal is their flagship outdoor pack. Large to fill with all the essentials and then some for a long adventure, but designed to help alleviate the stress of the filled pack by spreading the weight throughout the entire shoulder straps.
Within the Venture Out section of the show, the Japanese outdoor brand Snow Peak displayed a sleek selection of packs that really caught my attention. The clean and minimalist aesthetic was apparent with the black on black colorway. Each pack was lightweight and had multiple pockets for organization.
The range in the new collection stemmed from street to the mountain, which is a similar approach to their apparel. I’m looking forward to seeing how this line progresses in the future.
Not only are new products being displayed, but also new brands are launched and one of those was Lander, who showcased a dry pack to coincide with their expedition inspired accessories. The pack grabbed my attention for its sleek simplicity and shape, which makes it great for both the beach and outdoor use alike.
I briefly checked out the Black Diamond booth to see the JetForce avalanche packs in person. The Utah-based brand showcased their award-winning packs that host a gang of features including their reACTIV suspension shoulder straps, a tools pocket, helmet holder, and tuck-away ski carry that still allows the airbag to deploy when needed.
By far the most colorful display of packs was found inside the Topo Designs booth in the Venture Out area of the show. The selection of brightly multi-colored bags livened up the space. Various models were spread out wildly throughout the display.
Standouts for me were the Klettersack, Mountain Rolltop, and Mountain Pack. Not shy to experiment with new materials, the Klettersack had a nice change of pace with a version available in a soft gray wool along with a version with an X-Pac exterior.
"Not shy to experiment with new materials, the Klettersack had a nice change of pace with a version available in a soft gray wool along with a version with an X-Pac exterior."
High Sierra showcased a new collection, Olmsted, inspired by their roots in Chicago and the city’s flag colors of red, white, and blue with the star. The budget-friendly bags ranged from $50 to $150 and had a very simple style offering. I believe these packs were designed with the student in mind as they have a bit more color and pattern along with the low price point, plus multiple compartments and laptop storage.