There’s a clear hierarchy at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. Of the 1,415 exhibitors who have gathered for the four-day Salt Lake City trade show, a few industry behemoths dominate the convention center floor. Buyers and journalists politely jockey for position at the Ar’teryx and The North Face centers, while small booths manned by one or two people—often reading books—can be buried in the crowds.
OR is the largest summer gathering of outdoor industry professionals in the U.S. Each year, more than a thousand companies make the pilgrimage to Salt Lake to debut new products and show off current line-ups.
Our week actually began on Saturday, covering the toughest 50K in the U.S. Yesterday, Day 1 of OR, we traversed the convention center floor for about 10 hours, beginning to get a sense of the most review-worthy new products on display at the Salt Palace.
Here are a few. Ten pieces of gear that have piqued our curiosity, from Salmon’s top-of-the-line S-Lab running shoe to Petzl’s new big mountain ropes.
(And no, we won’t be handing out any “Best New Gear” awards, because “Best” isn’t determined on the floor of an air conditioned convention center, “Best” is determined by beating the hell out of a product, repeatedly, in the mountains, on the water, and over the trail.)
1) Running shoes. Running shoes stole the show as far as we were concerned, both on the more minimalist side of things and the more maximal side of things.
Salmon’s new S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra is even lighter than its predecessor, and is another member of the lower-drop “Sense” family that emphasizes reduced weight and heightened trail feel. The Sense 3 Ultra will be available in stores early next year.
2) Petzl had so much success selling their ropes in the U.S., they decided to roll out brand-new ones for next year (all named after dance). Popular ropes like the Fuse and the Dragon Fly won’t be back—they’re going to be replaced by ropes like the 9.2mm Volta, a multi-standard, ultralight rope for classic mountaineering, and the 8.2 Salsa half rope for multi-pitch climbing. All the new ropes will be available January 2014.
3) Petzl displayed its “reactive lighting” Tikka RXP headlamp right across from the ropes Wednesday. The Tikka has a sensor that adjusts the power of the beam depending on the ambient lighting you’re in. It’s also got a constant mode—for those times you’re commuting on a bike and don’t want the light to dim whenever a car approaches—and a red mode.
4) Ok, you might never be able to buy these boats, but they are worth noting. They’re lightweight, stiff competition play boats designed for some of the top paddlers in the world (e.g, the current freestyle world champion, James Babington, is paddling the Dagger Jitsu shown in the background of the photo below). The Wavesport Mobius is a new design that will go to market in 2014, minus the carbon and the kevlar. Both boats weigh about 20 pounds, about eight to ten pounds less than a regular plastic play boat.
“They’re show pieces here, but they’re used for high-performance competition,” says Dagger Whitewater Chief Designer Mark “Snowy” Robertson. “They’re light but they’re also very stiff, so in terms of the dynamic movement around the wave and the hull, they’re got a lot more rigidity in what they’re doing. The moves that the athletes are doing, they snap much faster and the performance on a wave is going to be that much more rapid.”
Right now they’re exclusively for team athletes, but Robertson says the companies are thinking about commercial applications.
5) Our fifth selection might have been the most exotic-looking thing we’ve seen at the show. Vasque Footwear plans to roll out the Shape Shifter Ultra next year, a unique running shoe with treads that supposedly flex around the roots and rocks you run over, and an upper that’s stitched to the sole. The running shoe will be the first shoe in Vasque’s line to use “shape shifter” technology, but the company plans to start using it in their hiking shoes.
6) From the exotic to the more subtle, Scarpa is remaking the Techno, due out spring 2014. There aren’t any major changes, (the last is the same for both the current Techno and its 2014 successor), but the new version will focus more on “performance” with slight changes in construction and material.
7) Thule rolled out its new line of Chasm duffle bags, which come in multiple sizes, at this year’s ORSM. The bags have well-placed zippers that let you see the contents without completely opening the top and shoulder straps that let you carry it like a backpack.
8) Magellan unveiled its brand-new Echo running watch at OR Wednesday. The watch, which essentially acts as an external display for your smartphone, syncs with the phone and works with many training apps. It’s a watch to wear even when you’re not training, the company says. The most basic version will retail for just under $150 when it goes to stores later this year.
9) Icebreaker has designed a whole new wardrobe of active apparel for runners, and they’ve expanded their travel/lifestyle line this year. The Departure SS Shirt caught our eye — it’s a great-looking merino wool shirt that feels a whole lot like cotton. And granted, the Merino Departure Shirt isn’t specifically intended for mountain biking (it will retail for $135 and is marketed as outdoor/city-style apparel), but we wonder whether this natural fiber shirt will compete with synthetic mountain bike jersey like Club Ride’s Vibe.
10) Mountain Equipment showed off its good looking Firefox jacket at OR this year. According to the company, the new version of the best-selling jacket now uses tougher fabric across the shoulder and arms. (And we’ll let you know—we’ll be taking the Firefox with us in two weeks on our August review trip.)
Gore-Tex Active technology isn’t brand new, but improving upon the toughness of piece made with Gore Active is a move that makes good sense. And besides, look at the thing? Just because the shifts in tech might be subtle, doesn’t mean the colorways have to be.
On that note, we’re going to get back at it. Stay tuned…