Outdoor Retailer: Green Scene Wrap-Up

The Outdoor Retailer show is over, the booths are packed up, and now early samples start rolling in so that we can get the goods out in the field and out all the new products to the test. A big focus for me at the OR show was learning about what is new on the “Green” front, what companies are doing to reduce their carbon footprint, their toxic emissions, their overall impact on the planet. They tell us that you’re not asking for tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, headlamps, stoves, technical clothing and boots that are sustainable, earth friendly or “green. Regardless, lots of the companies that make the gear that you use to have the best experience in the woods are changing their ways…

So lots of the buzz around the show was reducing (things like packaging), reusing and recycling. More and more companies are making the move to using recycles polyester, including North Face. Now its classic and iconic Denali jacket is made from recycled soda bottle and other plastic, and each jacket now uses 33 lb CO2 and .83 gallons of gas less than before. Helly Hansen had a very sleek looking eco collection, called Eko Lab, that will hit stores next month. We’ll be testing out some of the Eko Lab jackets in cold and rainy conditions later this fall to see how the waterproofing holds up. Teva tells us that they got rid of the silica packs in their shoe boxes to reduce waste, and they’re sending out their flip flops in biodegradable corn bags that can be tossed into your compost bin. Pacific Outdoor is now making a sleeping pad (the Peak Oyl) with a recycled polyester cover and foam made from 40% palm oil. They’ve also got a sweet new commuter bike pannier for all of you who are now commuting by bike and leaving your car home in the garage. It holds shoes, shirt, pants, laptop, and all those folders you took home to work on, and it’s called the Commuter Pannier. Also on recycled, Dakine is making a new series of bags from 100% recycled poly. They’re called the Project Blue bags, and $2 of every purchase goes to the Surf Rider Foundation.

We finally met Jake Lah at the Outdoor Retailer show. He is the behind the scenes guy when it comes to tents. Lah came up with a way to make tent poles so much less toxic. To get them shiny again after they’ve been heat treated, poles are typically treated with something akin to tear gas, which is not good for the environment nor for the people who work in the factories where tent poles are made. Lah figured out a way to use brushes to achieve the same shiny aluminum pole that had previously only been achievable with toxic chemical treatments. Big Agnes was the first to use them this year, but now many tent companies will use these new poles (called DAC Featherlite NSL poles) in their tents.

This is a lot of what is currently happening in outdoor gear. Companies are trying to figure out how to do better, be greener. And they aren’t even always sure how to tell you about what they are doing, or if you care. So if you do, ask questions when your shopping, contact the companies that make the gear you love and let them know what’s important to you, and keep reading Backpacker. We’re committed to helping you know more about the impact of the gear you buy.

Now I get to hop on the phone to start calling in samples of all this great gear so we can test it in the field!

—Berne Broudy, Green Editor