Like all national trade shows, Outdoor Retailer attracts tens of thousands of attendees and more than 1,000 exhibitors showcasing their wares, from powder skis to waterproof fabrics to novelty koozies. The main activities on the floor involve relationships between the supplier-buyer and the marketing-media — that’s where we fit in — with lots of other informal business happening: athletes meeting with sponsors; entrepreneurs trading ideas for future projects; people sneaking in to pinpoint free swag; dogs mingling with other dogs; and just generally industry folks who attend twice a year getting together to trade ideas and talk about the state of all things outdoor, before putting in some time on the snow at the local resorts around Salt Lake City, which hosts OR.
Rather than just bring you the usual “best products of OR” story that we’ve done in the past, this year we decided to focus instead on the general trends in the industry and point to some important examples from our favorite brands. If you want the five-word overview of Winter Market 2016, it’s “ski touring and fabric innovation.” If you’re in the market for something deeper, read on — and if you were at the show and think we missed something mission-critical, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional reporting by AJ Powell and Zach Mader.
Learning About the Great Outdoors, Indoors
And Shaking More Hands Than Trump, Clinton and Sanders, Combined
An Abbreviated List of Brands We Were Excited to See: Adidas Outdoor, Allied Feather and Down, Arc’teryx, Atomic, Avalanche, Avex, Berghaus, Big Agnes, Biolite, Black Diamond, Blizzard, Blundstone, Brooks Range, Buff, Canada Goose, Carhartt, Cascade Designs, Columbia, Cotopaxi, Dakine, Danner, Darn Tough VT, Deuter, Dynafit, Eagle Creek, Evolv, Filson, Fjällräven, Goal Zero, Gore-Tex, Granite Gear, Helly Hansen, Hydroflask, Ibex, Icebreaker, Industrial Revolution, Iron & Resin, Julbo, Keen, La Sportiva, Lifestraw, Mammut, Marmot, Merrell, Miir, Montane, Montbell, Mountain Hardwear, Mountainsmith, MSR, Mystery Ranch, Nau, New Balance, Nudown, Ortovox, Osprey, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, Pendleton, Petzl, Primaloft, Royal Robbins, Rumpl, Salewa, Salomon, Saucony, Scarpa, Scott, Sea to Summit, Sierra Designs, Smartwool, Smith, Snake River Farms, Snow Peak, Sperry, Stanley, Steripen, Sunski, Superfeet, Suunto, Tecnica, The North Face, Toad & Co., Topo Designs, Traeger Grills, Under Armour, United by Blue, Vasque, Volkl, Wild Country, Wolfgang Man & Beast, Wolverine, Woolrich, Yeti, Zamst.
Snacks Consumed: If you try to see that many individual brands over the course of three days it leaves very little time for a civilized lunch, and since the food vendors at the Salt Palace Convention Center serve a menu of hot food roughly on par with 7-Eleven, you’ve got to pack in whatever you want to eat. Between the three of us we ate six bags of The New Primal grass-fed jerky (paying $42 for dried beef stings, incidentally) and nine of their spicy beef sticks, which we lifted from their booth (thank you!), a bag of apples, nine energy bars of assorted provenance, one pound of mixed nuts and, okay, a fairly decadent sushi lunch at The Naked Fish.
An Editor’s Game Plan: The convention center has 515,000 square feet of exhibit space and 164,000 square feet of meeting space — more in the summer, when the convention opens up to include three outdoor pavilions — which amounts to a place that you can walk across in about five minutes if you hustle and know your route, which is a lot more manageable now that OR has an app that maps your way from booth to booth. Some editors and writers will try to schedule their meetings in just one section of the convention center at a time, but walking the floor a lot allows you to bump into old friends and colleagues, which is what OR is about, at the end of the day.
When Can I Get This Stuff? Although there’s plenty of gear on display at OR that is currently available, most of what we’re looking at is for the Fall 2016 season, which means you can start looking out for the gear at the end of summer.
One Last Thing Before We Get Started on the Gear: Like all trade shows, OR is as much about the ancillary recreation as it is what happens inside the Salt Palace. For media, this all falls into roughly three buckets: 1) events and dinners; 2) skiing and snowboarding at Brighton, Solitude, Deer Valley, Snowbird, Alta, Park City, etc.; and 3) cruising Tinder, where most of the profiles during the show either say LDS or OR, two very different prospects indeed. We checked the first and second boxes, with the undisputed highlight being a party bus of a journalists in which one person, who will remain unnamed, danced on the stripper pole with his shirt open wearing a motorcycle helmet.