Outdoor Retailer Show: Backpacks to the Future 

Minimalist gear, helmet cams are highlighs of Outdoor Retailer show.

click to enlarge WINA STURGEON
The twice-a-year Outdoor Retailer show is a blend of science fiction and crystal ball. The science fiction comes from nifty new inventions for an industry constantly prodded to find more ways to allow people be more extreme. The crystal ball of products tell the future: This is what you’ll next be wearing, carrying into the wilderness or using for hydration. This year, the biggest news is a new area for the average action fan: the homemade reality show.

First, the OR show always has some kind of overall theme, however unintended, that speaks of coming trends. The 2010 summer show did not disappoint. The theme, one you’ll be seeing in stores next summer, was minimalism. Even Everest-level protective clothing was lighter in weight, with thinner and more advanced insulation, designed so that adjusting the fit with snaps and pull ties was easier and more functional than ever. The mountains will fall before this stuff rips or wears out.

Most of us aren’t in the market for that level of extreme weather protection, but there’s much more longevity in this season’s minimalist ethos. It touched even the smallest items, from eating utensils that packed down to sturdy, small, near-weightless containers, to shoes consisting of little more than strategic straps that could be custom fit and weighed just ounces, yet actually offered boot-level support and toe protection.

The increasing number of footwear styles showed another coming trend: the blurring of the line between city and wilderness. These airy hiking/running/sport shoes could easily be worn in an office. Unlike the previous prestige of screaming “I’m an outdoors person,” the new trend is for products that go from wilderness to office without missing a beat, looking cool everywhere and showing that you’re stylin’ in any environment. For example, some of the newest backpacks are no longer shapeless rectangles that cause you to awkwardly bump your back into everyone around you. The new stuff is thinner and looks sleek, almost like a well-designed briefcase/laptop combo that flexes close to your back. Zips are outlined in tough leather, making it easy to locate the zip pull. This is the new trend that will be replacing the bulky backpack.

Another trend that’s been around for a while but is now peaking is the crushable piece of lightweight gear that folds up into its own small pocket. I purchased a backpack that, when unfolded, can carry everything I’d normally fit in a purse or backpack or carry to a picnic (in other words, it holds a lot), but packs down smaller than a tennis ball, sealed by its Velcro pocket. Mine is thin nylon, but there are actual soft suitcases, crushable sleeping bags that use air for insulation, jackets and windbreakers that pack down to ounces of nothing. Such stuff can be stored in small carry-ons, which makes it a high-tech answer to the ever-increasing baggage fees on airlines.

But the biggest news of all is that now anyone can make their own reality show. Helmet cams are the new big thing—cameras that fit on your helmet, but also your bike, your kayak, even your dog’s collar. “Go Pro” was one of the OR show’s biggest sponsors, while the lesser-priced “Epic” lets anyone record their adventures for little more than $200, including mounts. Those are only two of an exploding group of manufacturers who will be selling helmet cams by next year.

The mounts and cases are ingenious—from the clear waterproof case for swimmers and divers, to the suction-cup mount for a temporary hold, to the strap that fits through the vents in bike helmets to the “elbow” that allows you to bend the mount to any angle for the shot you want. There are even extra helmet mounts, in case you and a friend want to take turns videoing each other. You can download your video onto YouTube (cameras come with a USB cable), select stills to send to friends and be the star of your own reality show. The cams are easy to use and are inexpensive enough to tempt even the most casual adventurer. If I had to pick any OR show trend that will be a commonplace item in the near future, the helmet cam wins, hands down.

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About The Author

Wina Sturgeon

Bio:
Wina Sturgeon is an outdoor adventurer and a Salt Lake City freelance writer.

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