Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Outdoor Retailer Show, Winter 2013 Report!

The bi-annual Outdoor Retailer Show (OR) in Salt Lake City, Utah is like a SHOT Show for all the other outdoor gear you can think of. While SHOT Show focuses on guns, knives, archery, law enforcement, military and hunting equipment, the OR Show features gear related to hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, skiing, and the like. In other words, it's huge!

Just as SHOT Show was overwhelming, so was the OR Show. What made OR even more difficult though, was having to explain what "bushcraft" was. Apparently, I must have been the first bushcraft blogger to attend an OR Show, because many people looked at me like I had three heads when they read my press pass which said "bushcraft." So I ended up having to keep repeating a "speech" about what bushcraft was several hundred times before the show was over. I found that people got the idea the quickest when I mentioned it was similar to the "Man vs Wild" or "Dual Survival" shows. Once they had an idea of what it was, most people seemed really interested.

Attendance-wise, OR was smaller than SHOT Show, but it still had over 20,000 attendees and filled two floors. No celebrities were in attendance, but it was populated by all the interesting people who invent, design and test the outdoor gear that bushcrafters, backpackers and outdoorsman hold so near and dear to their hearts. I think what I enjoyed most about OR was being able to talk directly to these designers and offer feedback. 

Many of the CEO's and Marketing Directors of these outdoor companies were also present, and it was fun to chat with them about what bushcrafting is and why it's becoming an important consumer market. Most were completely unaware of this growing movement, so I was lucky enough to be able to give my perspective to the leaders and PR people of heavy-hitters like Marmot, North Face, Mountain HardwearOutdoor ResearchColumbia Sportswear, Cascade Designs and many more. There was an overwhelmingly positive response, so I hope to see this translate into more bushcraft-friendly gear from major companies in the future.

Me with the crew from Liberty Bottleworks- these guys are hardcore patriots and proud of the fact that their bottles are 100% US made. Definitely some cool guys to hang out with!

Kerri Dellisanti of Cascade Designs, showing me MSR's new 2013 Reactor Stove System (look for our review this summer).

Me with George Chevalier of Princeton Tec, holding a cool new Princeton Tec Vizz 150 Lumen Headlamp that will be released in the Spring (check back for our review in a couple of months).

Sean Leslie of Outdoor Research. Check out the review we did on Outdoor Research's Mt Baker Mitts last year.

I ran into Julia Kalthoff (CEO of Wetterlings Axes) again. Looks like I was smoking wacky bushcraft weed or something, what the heck!

Justin Roth from Petzl showing me a very trick new Tikka RXP headlamp that automatically adjusts brightness to light conditions, and has a built-in red LED to prevent loss of night vision.

Besides keeping my eye out for cool new gear that bushcrafters might like, I was on the look out for more made-in-the-USA gear. I'm happy to say I ran into five more companies that make some or all of their products in the USA- Hanz Legendary Extremity Wear (waterproof socks and gloves), Adventure Medical Kits (their new space tarp is 100% made in the USA), Smith Optics, Princeton Tec and Stormy Kromer. I definitely plan to include them in our upcoming reviews and articles.

Cascade Designs, which includes the MSR and Therm-A-Rest brands, has been manufacturing their stoves, snowshoes and sleeping pads/mattresses in the US since the 1970s -- show them your support!

I also got to meet some fellow bloggers/journalists at the show, including Matt Minich of Bootprints.com, and Cameron Ownbey of Seattle Backpackers Magazine. Turns out that Cameron reads and enjoys some of our blog posts-- very cool! I'd also like to say a special thanks to Alex from SOAR Media for his help and advice on navigating my way around OR!

More cool stuff

Below is the Helle Knives\Wetterlings exhibit. Apparently there is great interest from mainstream retailers to start carrying Swedish axes and Scandinavian bushcraft knives, according to Matt Huff at Sport Hansa (Helle USA) and Julia Kalthoff of Wetterlings. Note how thin the display is after retailers came and snapped up their samples!

Julia Kalthoff chatting with Steve Norris of Hennessy Hammocks

Paracord bracelets seem to be all the rage these days. There were several paracord companies present, including Bison Designs from Longmont, Colorado, that has an interesting selection of bracelets which include survival tools woven into them, like fishing string, hooks, mini-firesteels, etc.

The crew from the Dr. Scholl's Footwear exhibit didn't have anything bushcraft-related, but they were a riot to talk to! They were really interested in what I do here at RMB, so I gave them some Colorado pitchwood, which they were excited to try out when they got back home. Thanks again to the Dr. Scholl's crew for putting a smile on my face that day!

Final thoughts.......

Just like the SHOT Show, the Outdoor Retailer Show was overwhelming and delightful at the same time. Being able to meet so many people who've devoted their lives to providing the best outdoor gear is something I'll always cherish. It was also an honor to be able to introduce the concept of what we write about to many who are influential in the industry, and I hope this will ultimately lead to wider knowledge and awareness of the wonderful skills we call "bushcraft."

For more information about the Winter OR Show, visit their website at: www.outdoorretailer.com/winter-market