For anyone who ever thought going into nature meant escaping the world of stuff and buying more stuff then you haven’t been to the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Convention in Salt Lake City.
If there’s ever a place that made you feel you didn’t have enough possessions to make your outdoor excursions more enjoyable, it’s the 95,000 square feet of products stuffed into the Outdoor Retailer this year.
This four-day celebration of every doodad, gadget and gizmo connected with the outdoors attracts retail buyers from around the world. They converge on the capital of Utah some 30,000 strong like hornets among 1,600 exhibitors, some of which erect massive two-story structures on the exhibit floor. This is where deals are made, relationships are forged and fabric is verified.
After a few days walking among the madness, you become overwhelmed by a dizzying number of paddleboards and kayaks, far too many headlamps and enough cellphone charging methods to satisfy a prepper for the next 100 years.
We have emerged from the chaos clear-headed, or as much as we attempt to be about what were the most compelling products. Trying to categorically say these are the best products at the show is truly impossible. So we’ll say this: The following are the top 11 things that especially caught our eye.
Danner Mountain Light Cascade
Taking a bow to the women's outdoors market, Danner has introduced the Mountain Light Cascade. This American boot company based in Portland, Oregon has been creating iconic hiking boots since 1932. It’s Mountain Light boot for men has represented the American outdoorsman like no other footwear. The Mountain Light Cascade, otherwise known as the soloet, was donned by Reese Witherspoon in the film Wild. MSRP $360
Gerber Strong Arm Fixed Blade
For a knife that’s strong and made in America look no further than the Gerber Strong Arm. Manufactured in Portland, Oregon, Gerber is a trusted a name in knives and the Strong Arm is no exception. An alternative to the hot-selling Bear Grylls Fixed Blade, the Strong Arm is perfect for any bushcraft needs, and it’s made-in-America tough. MSRP $86
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Kit
Goal Zero is best known for its Yeti portable line of battery packs. They also offer a variety of lightweight solar panels that can be strung from a backpack or tailgate. Their smallest, most compact design for backpackers is the Goal Zero Switch 8 and Nomad 7 Kit. Providing 8 watts through the flexible solar panel, the Nomad 7 battery dispenses 8 Wh. MSRP $90
BioLite Camp Stove
Not often does a product come along as innovative as the BioLite Camp Stove. This unique stove transfers thermal energy from a fire into electricity that power can charge an electronic device or support a fan beneath the stove that stokes the fire. MSRP $129
Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry
There were tons of portable lanterns at the show this year, but one that caught our eye was the Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry for several reasons. It’s design allowed the light to compress into a tight package. There were no buttons to accidently turn on and drain the battery. It could hang or be raised off the ground very easily. And the honey comb feature easily dispersed the light. Overall, this light is a winner. MRSP $109
Garmin VIRB XE
New from Garmin this year is an action camera with bragging rights. The Garmin VIRB XE not only provides crisp video from a mountable camera that’s waterproof, but it also tracks your location and heartrate. Bringing an action camera, fitness tracker and GPS together in one unit, this device produces a video that overlays your vital statistics, making it the perfect camera for bragging rights among friends. MSRP $400
The LifeStraw utilizes a hollow fiber membrane, a technology found in kidney dialysis machines and other medical equipment. The LifeStraw filters out bacteria and protozoa. Just stick the straw right into a water bottle or straight into a stream. New this year is the LifeStraw Go attached to a water bottle so all you have to do is tilt and drink. No boiling required. MSRP $35
Carhartt Rugged Flex
Those who wear Carhartt are often as tough as the cloths on their back. A trusted brand for hard workers in rugged conditions, Carhartt has taken things a step further with its flame resistant Mount Rugged Flex Gene denim pants. Carhartt teamed up with Mount Vernon company, which already makes flame retardant clothing, to incorporate Carhartt Flex material for an indestructible pair of jeans.
GORE-TEX Surround Casual
Following the success of its waterproof Surround trail shoes last year, GORE-TEX has come out with its Surround Casual. The trusted brand in waterproof and breathable fabric teamed up with W.L. Gore & Associates to create this stylish city shoe for all seasons. Due to the breathable GORE-TEX membrane your feet will stay warm and comfortable in wet conditions and cool in the summer. MSRP $190
Celestron Elements ThermoCharge
One of the coolest products we found this year is the Celestron Elements ThermoCharge. This handheld device serves as a flashlight, hand warmer and a charging device all-in-one. Stick it in your pocket and have a renewable hand warmer. New on the market is a redesigned look that’s more sleek and efficient than its predecessor. Coming soon from Celestron is a hand-warming flashlight, which also charges electronic devices. One grip on this and the heat just courses through your body. MSRP $30
Light My Fire Swedish Fire Steel
The Swedish company Light My Fire centers all their products around the campfire. That includes unique sets of camping utensils, containers and fire starters. One of their most unique devise is the Swedish Fire Steel. This easy-to-use fire steel produces a spark that can light a tinder bundle. Great for survival kits or as a general backup, and embedded in the steel is a whistle, so it saves space in your kit. MSRP $25
Brunton Ember 2800
There were lots of portable power devices. Everything from the size of a lipstick container to a cigarette pack to a full-size car battery can be used to store power on-the-go. One of the most interesting solutions is the compact Ember 2800, which not only holds enough juice to r-power your cellphone or camera, but it contains a built-in solar panel. MSRP $50
Kopateli Nirvana Packraft
If there ever was a product that spelled adventure it’s the Nirvana packraft. Squeezing into the size of a sleeping back, these lightweight rafts can be brought to life with an inflation sack. $725
Pau Hana Big EZ Angler
There were a ton of stand-up paddleboards and fishing kayaks at the OR show this year, but only a few combined both. One that does it the best is Pau Hana’s Big EZ Angler. With a big flat deck that’s lighter weight and easier to maneuver than a kayak, the Big EZ gives fishermen a bird's eye of the water with the comfort of being able to stretch their legs. MSRP $1,600
Yeti Rambler Colster
There are beer koozies and then there are super beer koozies. The engineers at YETI Coolers have taken the koozie to the next level with its spece-engineered Rambler Colster. Using a thermolock gasket and double walled vacuum-insulation this device takes keeping your beer cold to extreme levels. Never again will your hand be cool and your beer warm. Never again! MSRP $30
LED Lensor XEO headlamp
There were a lot of headlamps at the Outdoor Retailer show. But one that stands out for its sheer power and versatility is the LED Lensor XEO. A division of Leatherman, LED Lensor produces a range of headlamps with the XEO being the top of the line. With 2,000 lumens that go to 300 meters and two adjustable LED light bulbs, this headlamp will throw light into the darkest corners. MSRP $330
In the world of water filters, a lot has changed in recent years. With the advent of hollow fiber advent, which had previously been used in the medical community, the need to boil water has been virtually eliminated. The Renovo Oasis utilizes this technology in a unique way by incorporating a filter into common water bottles. With this adaptable design, the Renovo Oasis does not require a pump and is easy to use. The company recently launched a kickstarter campaign to begin production.
Evernew Appalachia Set
When it comes to camp stoves, there were lots to choose from. One that especially caught our eye for its simplicity and light-weight construction was the Evernew Appalachia Set. It combines a traditional Swiss Army alcohol stove with a titanium design that’s completely self-contained within a coffee mug. This super-light camp stove and a small amount of fuel is all you need for comfortable camping. MSRP $150
Mountain Equipment Kinesis Jacket
One of the most trusted names in mountaineering recently won an award from the American Alpine Institute for its Kinesis jacket. With a lightweight down jacket, the Kinesis is everything you need in a mid-layer jacket. MSRP $259
Timbuktu Custom Prospect Pack
Based in San Francisco, Timbuktu produces fully customizable, locally made messenger bags. The Prospect Pack line of bags are one of many offered by the company, but certainly its most unique. Choose from design details and fabrics to create the perfect bag for you. MSRP $134