EVENT: Summer Outdoor Retailer 2012- Wrap Up

-Exploring Elements 2012 Summer OR Coverage-

The Summer Outdoor Retailer show is a massive show with over 1,400 vendors displaying products that you’d find in your local outdoor store. Gear in such categories as; camping, climbing, paddling, apparel, footwear, etc… are all well represented. Many suppliers of all the little things that go into making this gear, think fabric, buttons, buckles, shoe rubber, etc… are also in attendance.

All coverage from the show on ExploringElements.com is from the perspective of an adventure sports athlete who loves to overland and get outdoors, me! There is no way to show you everything at the show, but I’m going to try my hardest to share all the really cool stuff that you might be interested in:) There is lots of fun stuff from my live coverage of the show that can be found on Facebook (ExploringElements) and Twitter (@ExplorElements). For the daily reports check out the following links:

Summer OR 2012: Open Air Demo

Summer OR 2012: Thursday

Summer OR 2012: Friday

Summer OR 2012: Saturday

(Sunday’s coverage is wrapped up in this wrap up report.)


Adidas Outdoor– Hydro Pro & JawPaw Pro

The new canyonering, Hydro Pro, and watersports bootie, JawPaw Pro, from Adidas look to be quite well sorted for kayaking. The rubber seems to be of a soft sticky compound and the style is second to none. The bulk of the sole might be an issue with big feet like mine and small boats, but I’d love to test that theory. I think Adidas is going to be a bigger and bigger player in the outdoor industry over the next few years and they have been showing quite an interest in paddle sports for some time now.

Astral Buoyancy– Brewer, Green Jacket & YTV















Astral’s big announcement is a whole line of new footwear. Currently the Brewer model is available and features Stealth rubber, the stickiest stuff you can get for wet rocks. Keep an eye out for the other sweet kicks in the line this spring. They also revamped many of their vests, with the Green Vest getting some sweet new features and color schemes. The YTV replaces the Willis and Bella models with its simpler and lighter weight design.

MTI Adventurewear– Voyager


MTI released the new Voyager PFD designed to be uber simple to use and work great with rec and touring boats. It features a high back, simple zipper alignment tabs, information pocket and large zipper pulls. This is going to be great for the older crowd with less dexterity that wants a comfortable and functional vest to get them on the water and keep them safe.












Level Six– Emporor & Ace


Level Six owner Tyler Lawlor shows off the new companies Emporor dry suit. This is a super stylish suit that is basically a combination of the Reign drytop and drypants. The other big news from Level 6 is a whole new line of skirts. The top of the line models feature a new ribbed and stretchy rand that should quite effectively keep the water out of your boat and help prevent implosion. The top of the line Ace deck also includes an implosion bar.











Kayak Distribution


Kayak Distribution is the umbrella company for a number of paddle sports brands that include; Riot Kayaks, Boreal Designs and Beluga Accessories. The company is also the distributor for Zegal Marine and Tahe Marine kayaks in North America. Mark Hall, formerly of Delta Kayaks, heads up the sales team at Kayak Distribution and has a big job ahead with over 150 models now under his stewardship. Expect big things from this company as they have the money, infrastructure and industry experience to quickly gain market share. One of the big pushes at the company is materials innovation as can be seen through the use of cork and steel mesh in association with composite fibers to create lighter and more durable kayaks.







Adventure Technologies– Touring Paddles

AT paddles have revamped their entire line of touring and rec paddles. The new line has new blade shapes, center joints and some flashy colors. Simplicity is the theme of the new line with two main blade shapes and each of the glass and carbon paddles coming in straight and bent shaft option. The center joint is quite a simple latch style design that allows for length and offset adjustment.

Kuhl– Mutiny


The new Mutiny short for spring 2013 is a stylish design that mixes hardshell and sofshell fabrics to create a techy, durable and functional garment. The color scheme is a bit of a departure from the earth tones that Kuhl is known for, but it is available in dark natural colors as well. Besides, I really like this sporty color combo!








Easton Technical Products– Full Metal Jacket

SUPER light tent stakes. By using their arrow construction technology Easton has designed a tent stake that only weights in at 5.5 grams. They do this by encasing carbon fiber in an aerospace aluminum sheath. At about $7 a stake you really need to be counting each and every gram in your pack to find the value, but I must admit I want some!

Cricket Trailer

 This is a small light weight adventure trailer that is designed by a former NASA engineer. You can see the aerospace influence everywhere with a laser-cut skeleton and aluminum composite walls. If you want a base camp that you can tow with just about any vehicle this is the ticket for your next adventure.

Humless– Sentinel Solar Package


The Sentinel Solar Package by Humless is a silent, safe, clean and portable lithium based silent generator. With the solar kit you can charge the generator fully in 8hrs of direct sunlight. The unit has 12v, 110v, and USB outlets for all your mobile power needs. Weighing in at 40 lbs, with a battery shelf life of 10 yrs or 2,000 charges and can stand at the ready for over a year without needing to be recharged the Sentinel is always ready when you need it.











GoalZero– Guardian 12v Solar Recharge Kit


GoalZero is bringing to market late in 2012 the Guardian 12v Solar recharging kit, a charge controller and solar panel system designed to charge batteries that are found in all your big motorized toys. There will be two versions released with both retailing for under $200. This might be the battery back up, charge everything, solution that overlanders have been looking for at a great price point.








The SUP market was hotter than ever at this year’s show. There have been lots of acquisitions and changes in ownership among many of the companies in the category and there where a ton of new guys trying to find their niche as well. For sure the hot tickets at the on water demo day was the MANY SUPs available to try. You could also find dedicated SUP products in just about every paddle sports company booth at the show.










Solar Everything:


Solar panels are finally coming to maturity, where the price has come down and the efficiencies have gone up. You can now find them on flashlights, backpacks, lanterns, iPhone cases, key chains, etc… They also are now available in rigid, semi-rigid and flexible designs making their applications almost endless. You will see more solar energy technologies in your outdoor gear in 2013 and well into the future.






GPS Training Computers:


























There is now a GPS enabled training computer for every athlete on just about every budget. Many of the newer high-tech models are designed to have functionality across sports. I was impressed with the value that Timex was offering in their new lineup, amazed at the size, functionality and style of the Suunto Ambit and astounded by the sheer volume of functions available on Magellan’s Switch Up and Garmin’s fenix.











Hydration is key to be successful at all adventure sports and the industry is always coming up with new and innovative ways to deliver water to the human body while being able to perform at maximum capacity. The Geigerrig bike system is quite interesting as it allows you to get pressurized water hands free and without carrying the water weight on your person. There where also MANY new handheld and hydration vest/backpack designs at the show. Stay tuned for a comparison review of the running specific hydration vests here on Exploring Elements in the future.

Kayaking Shoes:

5.10 WW Paddling Athletes


It seems like every few years everyone realizes at the same time that there is a big demand for quality paddle sports footwear that just isn’t being serviced properly. This year NRS, Astral, and Adidas Outdoor all showed off sweet new footwear for 2013 designed specifically for kayaking and paddle sports. I really look forward to testing these new footwear options to see how they stack up against the re-crowned champion of watersports footwear 5.10, with the release of the Water Tennie last year.



WW Kayak Outfitting:


Outfitting in kayaks is something that is always being refined in order to have better instant comfort which translates into shelf appeal to customers and hopefully better boat performance, but that is not always the case. Pyranha in particular stepped up this year fixing many outfitting issues that have plagued the brand in the past and developing a high-end carbon seat for their new carbon Jed playboat. Dagger and Wavesport also stepped up their game





Rescue PFD:

Kim Russell modeling the new Kokatat Optimus Prime


From completely new platforms to highly refined classics 2013 is shaping up to be a good year to get yourself a high quality Type V Resuce PFD. The new designs that I found at the show include: Kokatat’s Maximus Prime, Salus’s Proto, NRS’s Zen, and the redesigned Astral Green Jacket. I look forward to seeing how these new options stack up against the vests in the WW Rescue Vest Shakedown.







Touring Paddle Center Joint:

It seems like every company has come out with a new center joint for 2013 on their touring paddles. H2O, Aquaboud and AT all showed off their new systems this year and I know Core has a new system for next year as well. Some designs turned out better than others, but in the end only time will tell how each system holds up and reveal the pros and cons that they’re sure to have. Easy adjustment and a durable joint are the keys here.









Randed WW Kayak Skirts:


This is the year of the randed kayak skirt with softer rubber and internal fins to grip the inner cockpit combing. Seals has had the Pro Rand for years with a soft rand and single fin design. Now IR and Level 6 have both redesigned their top of the line skirts to utilize these quality design features to create drier, easier to put on and harder to implode spray skirts.










WW Boats:


This is a good year for new WW kayak designs! Both the creekers and playboaters are going to be happy in 2013, while the river runner boat set will have to wait a while longer for something new. The new playboats are the Dagger Jitzu, Jackson All Star and Pyranha Carbon Jed. The new creekboats are the Jackson Karma, Pyranha Nano and Wavesport Recon. If you’re into cross over style boats the new Wavesport Ethos is probably worth a look as well. I’m itching to get these new boats out on the water and find the right craft to refresh my personal quiver and of course write more comparison reviews for you:) Check out the HUGE Creek Boat Review to see what these new boats are up against.



Materials Development:























Materials innovation is where everything is going to advance performance, durability and open new frontiers in adventure sports. Everything from bonding eVent to cumen fiber for tent walls, using cork and steel mesh in kayak hulls, adding Super durable coatings to the bottom of river SUP boards to using SPF rated hydrophobic yarns in technical clothing were shown at this years show. This is where the industry is headed and I can’t wait to see what the materials of the future bring.



Outdoor Retailer is a gathering of like-minded people who have decided to try to make a living following their passions. In the end the experience of attending OR is all about catching up with old friends and meeting new ones along the way. The show floor is mostly for getting down to business and making it worth the HUGE expense and effort required to attend the show, especially for all the exhibitors. Around 5pm when the beer starts flowing at many booths most business comes to a halt and people start to prepare for the evening of business dinners and after parties that is sure to follow each night.

Beer thirty at OR started at 5 each day this year.

The first Annual CK Awards was a star-studded event with top names on all sides of the paddle sports industry represented in force. Huge congrats to all the very worthy winners.

The highlight of my time at OR this year was the Congo: Grand Inga Project movie premiere. There was more expedition WW talent in that theater than the rest of the world combined! The energy of the film and of the people in attendance was amazing. You MUST watch this film! Big congrats to Steve Fisher and boys for pulling it off.

The Congo crew Ben Marr, Rush Sturgis, Steve Fisher & Tyler Bradt party it up after the premiere. Well deserved reason to celebrate. Did I mention that you NEED to see this film!!!

I look forward to playing with a ton of new toys and tools over the next year and sharing those experiences through quality unbiased product reviews on this website. I look forward to catching up with old and new friends again next year, if I dont’ catch you on the road before. Please don’t hesitate to stop and say hi when you see the Exploring Elements Sportsmobile roll through a town near you.


See you on the road/river/mountain/ocean/trail…,

Bryon Dorr


PS– I want to give a personal shout out to David Priddis for helping make all this coverage possible throughout the show. He was an amazing asset in getting all the photos and info needed to cover the show to this extent. David is currently driving around the world and is an avid outdoor adventurer. We met at the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest back in March and instantly became friends due to our shared passions of kayaking and overland travel. I’m glad that I was able to talk David into joining me for the Washington Overland Rally and Outdoor Retailer Show on his travels through the US. A huge thanks also has to go out to ExOfficio for inviting David to the show and getting him a badge as their guest. Be sure to follow his crazy adventures around the world at: Walkabout2408.com.

David enjoying a chat with sea kayak legend Nigel Foster

Zodi Instant Hot Showers. David excited to finally be able to take hot showers while on the road. Love the Sportsmobile in the booth banner:)

David picking up his new Trak folding sea kayak for his RTW trip. I think this boat is going to get a ton of use in central and south america, as well as Australia next year.

(All Photos by Bryon Dorr & David Priddis)

Please leave comments below about what you think of the products being featured and the stories from the show being told.

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