Day one and two of the Outdoor Retailer show are always a blur of appointments and gear conversations. But by day three -- today -- we've had a chance to compare notes about the top innovations and new products we're seeing. The list of stuff that we want to test right away is always three or four dozen deep by this point in the the trade show, and that's narrowed down from literally thousands of new tents and sleeping bags, backpacks and bivys, new camp foods, clothing, and gadgetry galore.
Here are a few of the finds we made today as we wandered from booth to booth.
The Brunton and Gerber booths were filled with snazzy new knives and solar chargers, but what really caught my eye there was an everyday product at a great price -- an aluminum water bottle for $9.95. Now that we know about BPA, we're all looking to trade in our Lexan bottles for options that won’t leach chemicals into our drinks. Aluminum has become a popular choice: It's tough, won't corrode, and can be recycled. So I was psyched to see an aluminum Brunton water bottle (in a cool muted orange color) for half the usual cost of the competition. Best of all, it has a wide mouth top, just like your favorite Lexan bottle.
And while I was poking around Brunton, I found a nifty new foldable camp ax. It might not be for everyone, but a lot of us still like the warmth and mood of a crackling campfire. When the ax is closed, it looks like an oversized folding knife, with the sharp edge of the blade folded inside the handle. The nice Brunton folks gave me a demo, unfolding it like they were unwrapping a present, each piece clicking into place, until voila -- they handed me a rigid-feeling ax suited for pounding tent stakes with the blunt side or for chopping camp wood with the sharp side.
On the other side of the convention center floor, I learned something new today about a product that has been on the market for a long time: Helly Hansen’s Lifa baselayer. It floats! That’s not significant in itself; it doesn’t float so much that if you fell out of a kayak it would keep you from drowning. But the fabric is totally hydrophobic—water hating—so much so that it won’t absorb water and sink. In fact, water will bead up on it. That translates to excellent wicking performance. Helly had a neat display in a giant fishtank in their booth. It was so busy today, I didn’t get back to take a picture before they kicked me out and closed the trade show hall, but I’ll get back there tomorrow to capture the visual.
Waaaay over in a separate hall, a tiny new player from New York called Raw Revolution gave me some samples of their delicious raw-food bars to sample. Yum. They’re gluten-, wheat-, corn-, soy-, trans-fat-, cholesterol- and refined sugar-free for those of you with allergies, but the clincher here is the rich taste and excellent moist texture. The bars come in flavors like cashew agave, chocolate hazelnut, and tropical mango, and when you pop the wrapper you find a dense, soft, chewy cake with the occasional crunch, seed, or raisin. Our crew sampled a bunch of bars, and the unanimous call was a thumbs-up, with special praise for the chocolate raspberry flavor. The bars go for $1.99 each, and company reps tell us the shelf life is a full year, a great accomplishment (if true) for a raw food bar.