Winter Outdoor Retailer 2016

Winter Outdoor Retailer is the annual little brother to the Summer show. While it doesn’t quite have the energy that the massive outdoor industry gathering has each summer, it does give companies the opportunity to communicate with their dealers, distributors/reps, sourcing clients and ambassadors on a more intimate level, all under one roof each winter. Winter Outdoor Retailer 2016 saw an estimated 22,000 attendees and more than 1,060 exhibitors, an equal number of attendees as 2015, and a 19% growth in exhibitors.

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Besides all the gear, the Outdoor Retailer show is also about sharing and discussing industry trends.

The real story from Winter Outdoor Retailer 2016 is the trend towards an urban and/or classic camp style in outdoor gear. The hip/cool/urban style, with muted colors and a soft design aesthetic, has now fully ingrained into the outdoor industry, now leading the look and feel of gear from the most mundane lifestyle pieces all the way to the most technically advanced pieces of adventure gear. While this trend has provided some extremely timeless designs, I have to admit that I miss the days when technical outdoor gear was full of bright colors and bold patterns. Much of the outdoor industry is now about lifestyle, versus real hardcore outdoor adventure. In the end, this is a great thing for the industry, as it expands its reach and provides more funding for advancements in technical gear for hardcore users.

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The on mountain demo day, the day before the indoor show, is always a good way to get to experience some of the latest gear from the top companies.

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Huge shout out to Utah Mountain Adventures for putting on free 2+ hr intro to backcountry skiing tours. I was able to demo some top gear, get some quality guided instruction and have my first backcountry skiing experience.

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Earning your turns is quite fun! Great workout and a quality group activity.

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It is also much easier to find fresh turns when you earn them yourself 🙂

The show also showcased a bunch of big advancements in materials technology. There was everything from; rubber that has incredible grip in extreme cold environments, synthetic fibers woven into natural wool to create amazing comfort and temperature regulating fabrics to waterproof breathable membranes that are extremely flexible, which provide full freedom of movement and the need for less layers in extreme weather. Many of these new technologies have been integrated into classic timeless designs to create a new generation of staple outdoor gear that every adventurer should have in their quiver. Another trend in materials, and one I can get behind, is the trend towards carbon fiber being cool again, and I’m talking about real carbon fiber used to reduce weight and increase stiffness of products, not faux carbon looking design elements. The future is bright for being more comfortable, safe and capable in extreme environments, as big advancements in material technologies trickle down into the outdoor gear industry.

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Lots of shoe testing stands around the show that highlight new rubber compounds that increase traction on wet and or icy surfaces.

There are lots of hot new products hitting the market in 2016. While there were only a few truly revolutionary products, there were lots of small impressive product advancements to discover amongst the many exhibiting companies. I highlighted the most impressive new product offerings for 2016 here:

OutdoorX4 Winter OR 2016

 

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When you get the outdoor industry together they tend to get a little wild and have quite a good time. Shot skis at the Stanley booth during the on mountain demo day.

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Happy Hours at the end of each day on the convention show floor are a time to hang with industry friends and the start of real business getting done over adult beverage for the rest of the evening.

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Some happy hours are better than others. ExOfficio always puts on quality ones, that include good drinks and great speakers. Here Andrew Evans, digital nomad for National Geographic, talks about a life of travel.

Below are a few more items that I found interesting at the show, for a myriad of reasons. I’m pretty sure a number of these products are going to find their way into my gear quiver in 2016, or more importantly replace older gear, as storage space in my tiny home on wheels, the EEXP, is always at a premium.

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The Fat Bike revolution is in full swing these days! Polaris now offers an electric pedal assist Fat Tire eBike that has a range of about 15 miles of hard riding, which is limited to 20 mph. The bike retails for between $2,500-$5,000, depending on options.

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Lens technologies are advancing quickly in the goggle and sunglass worlds. Revo now offers a “photo chromatic digital polarized plus” lens in their Echo goggle. In laymen’s terms that means the lens changes its tint based on ambient light conditions, reduces glare off snow/water and at the same time allows you to read your favorite digital device, like your smartphone.

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Another interesting goggle lens upgrade showcased at Winter OR 2016 is Zeal’s Automatic+ lens, which is great in low light, with an 18-35% yellow tint.

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Howies is a well-established outdoor clothing brand in the UK, and are finally bringing their quality innovative wares to the US retail marketplace. I’m very impressed by the diversity of advanced materials that they integrate into all of their products; from winter coats, cycling jerseys and jeans, to everything in-between. Keep an eye out for this company to make an impact on the US outdoor clothing market over the next few years.

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Loki keeps refining their transformer like versatile apparel offerings. The new Midgard hoody will offer less bulk in the mitten/glove/wrist setup, packs into a more useful and lightweight backpack, which is integrated into a pocket, and only retails for $120.

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Loki Midguard in backpack mode.

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Astral keeps expanding their footwear offering with quality new pieces. The new Donner and Tinker (seen in the front row of the pic) offer a more weather resistant version of their Aquanaut shoe. The company has also acquired the use of the famous Lotus Flower design, which many whitewater paddlers will be very familiar with.

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Sanuk has teemed up with Coleman to bring some classic camp patterns to their comfy footwear line. The camp vibes are strong this year at Winter OR!

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I have been using Spenco slide sandals for many years now, and LOVE them! They are crazy lightweight, pack small for transport and are insanely comfortable. They have now upped the slide sandal game again with the Thrust Slide, which is still very light while offering a sculpted memory foam footbed. They will retail for $70 and be available in March.

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ExOfficio has brought some urban style, with lots of technical fabrics and features, to their quality line of travel and lifestyle apparel.

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A prime example of this is ExOfficio’s new Teplo ¼ Zip Sweater, which is made of Tencel fabric, offering water repellency, moisture wicking, quick drying, odor resistance, wrinkle resistance and is super soft. It will retail for $130.

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Popular Mechanics does a vehicle build each year, and this year they did an overland/car camping style Dodge Ram. Was cool to see a roof top tent on the show floor, but sad to see it setup so poorly.

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Here is a bonus creepy mannequin pic. Do we really need outdoor stores with mannequins taking selfies of themselves???

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I used my Peak Design camera accessories the entire show to keep my camera close at hand. Carrying my camera with the Capture system on my Lowepro camera backpack strap got a lot of people asking about it. Great system for event photography.

If you missed the top gear from the show be sure to have a look at the article I did for OutdoorX4 here:

OutdoorX4 Winter OR 2016

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