A week ago I was in Salt Lake City for the bi-annual Outdoor Retailer Show which is the outdoor industry trade show that has over 20,000 people at it and showcases items either on the market or due to come out in the fall of 2015.
The show is massive filling the entire Salt Palace Convention Center, and every hotel room in the town.This was my third time attending the show in the past 12 months, and each time I am amazed by just how big the outdoor industry is and how is shifting to more of mainstream audience then it was on the past. Beside the selection of major name brands and their gear, there is also a wide array of lifestyle products found throughout the show spanning the spectrum of blankets and bedding for your home to hipster clothing and “outdoorsy” things to make your “glamping”, whatever that words means, even better.
I attend the show with a purpose, to help connect with companies that support ALDHA-West and try to gather companies to donate gear for our fund raising raffles. I work the show and promote the organization that I lead and also educate companies about long-distance hiking, thru-hiking etc. Along with these duties I also spend some time connecting with companies whose gear I use and communicate with them on what I like and don’t like. This has led to more than one long-term relationship in the past for me and for ALDHA-West, the old adage work hard, play hard rings true at this show.
This show was extra special as a whole crew of thru-hikers were at the show for various different reasons. The list included “Swami”, She-ra”, “Snorkel”, “Czech”, “Disco”, “POD”, “P-Mags”, “Anish”, “Bobcat”, “Jabba”, “Nabor-J”, “Sweet Potato”, “Cookie Monster”, “Gorilla”and few others. This is a big showing of hikers for this event, when I went to the summer show 6 months ago there were 4 thru-hikers there in total, so thanks to the Wild effect hikers are actually getting recognized as athletes and thru-hiking is becoming a normal phrase heard at the show.
The highlight this year besides this great group of hikers, and the free soft serve maple ice cream cones with bacon bit sprinkles at the Darn Tough booth (which I ate many of in place of buying meals), had to be Friday nights road show taping of The Trail Show Podcast. I have listened to every episode and it was great to get to see the crew in action recording a show, but even better than that was each of us there had a chance to participate in the show and wax poetically on trail tips, hiking stories and oh yeah beer.
Outdoor Retailer is always a good time for connecting with companies and the major players of the outdoor industry, but after 4 days you might feel like you were just at an REI used gear sale with no way to exit. I am sure that eventually even OR might start to feel like my business travel did in the past, fun the first few times, but in the end it’s work no matter how many free: beer cozies, lip balms, stickers, sample size products, beers during happy hour, and free cream cones (ok lets’ be honest I’ll never tire when it comes to free ice cream), in the end I am there to work the show and work it I did.
If you want to read more about the gear that I saw there here are two great blogs by friends I recommend
Liz “Snorkel” Thomas new gear review can be found here http://www.eathomas.com/2015/01/27/or2015gearreport/
Gossamer Gears Blog on the show by Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl can be found here http://gossamergear.com/wp/gear-love/winter-2015-outdoor-retailer-trade-show-gear-interest-lightweight-backpackers-new-technologies-new-products