Bill S offers his point of
view on Day One (July 21) of Outdoor Retailer.
(Publication of this blog was delayed a few days due to poor internet access at OR.)
The official opening of the OR Show is the Industry
breakfast on day one. Mostly this is a cheerleading session about how great the industry
is doing. Well, yes, compared to the rest of the economy, the outdoor industry
is doing pretty well, largely because people are turning to places closer to
home, involving family, and to a large extent seeking solace in nature. Readers
of Trailspace have known this peace in the outdoors, so it is no surprise.
But on to the products. Early on, I went by the Leki booth.
Several new things were here, namely the new SpeedLock, an interesting variant of
Black Diamond’s FlickLok. There are several significant differences, among them that the
clamp (a fiber-reinforced resin) clamps directly onto the next smaller section
of the 3-section poles, rather than the split-tube design of other lever-type
locks. The poles are slightly heavier than Leki’s twistlock versions, plus the
SpeedLocks do not have shock absorbers (the rep said “yet,” implying they are
working on a setup that will work satisfactorily with the SpeedLock. There is a
women’s version, called the Cressida, which is lighter, thanks to using smaller
diameter tubing in all 3 sections.
The training section of the Leki website (www.leki.com) has been expanded. Not
surprisingly, many of the points made there about proper use of poles (number 1
– use two poles!) are ones the more knowledgeable Trailspace contributors have
emphasized in the forums.
I met Alicia at the CamelBak
booth to view their “real” packs (designed for pack uses as opposed to being
designed primarily as a hydration pack) plus the Velobak (at left), the cyclists’
version of the Shredbak.
We also saw Camelbak’s new ultraviolet water purifier
system. This is designed around the 1-liter version of the Camelback bottle.
The battery life is long enough for either the lithium cell or rechargeable
version to be practical for extended backpacks.
One of the more interesting products is an improved version
of the GoPro helmet camera. Well, at this point, “helmet camera” may be a
misnomer for this tiny technological wonder. I have a GoPro a couple of
generations back that I have used climbing, skiing, bicycling, and hiking. Mine
does standard definition TV plus still photos and interval photos.
version (due out in stores in October at $299) does full 1080p HD, plus slow
motion at a slightly lower resolution. The lens is more wide-angle, which makes
the demo ski movie (made by US Ski Team members in their summer training camp
on Mt Hood) really fantastic.
The sound has been much improved as well, with an
optional wireless mike setup to give high quality sound. A big reason for the
sound improvement is that the GoPro normally resides inside a waterproof
housing, which tends to muffle the sound. The battery life has also been
improved (required by the high demand of HD) by using a rechargeable lithium
battery. The limit is mostly set by the 32GB SDHC cards currently available,
around 1.5 hours.
I stopped by the SuperFeet booth to see what is new and
found that the old standby “green” is still there, but joined by a veritable
rainbow of colors. The rep admitted that part of this is marketing, but there
are real differences in the footgear people are using footbeds in these days.
For most Trailspace readers using hiking, skiing, and mountaineering boots,
trail-running shoes, and other outdoor footgear, the green remains the
standard. They work for me, as I have noted many times.
Integral Designs continues to improve their products. There
is an interesting new bivy/tent, the Wedge. It is a comfortable 1-person
bivy/tent or for two small or very friendly people. The fabric is eVent, which
should be very good for a bivy shelter. But, they still do not plan to make the
tents out of eVent, thanks to the problem of fire codes in certain states (such
as my state of residence, California – Hilleberg does not sell in California due to
the same rules).
The Wedge is 2.9 pounds and uses a crossed 2-pole design
similar to their Mark tents, which should stand up well to snow loads. Keep in
mind, though, that it is designed as a bivy, not a full tent.
In my brief stop by the McNett booth, I noted that they have
expanded their gear repair line. A notable addition is Tenaceous, a tape
intended for emergency tent fabric repair. It comes in a container rolled up
(not folded, a source of repair failure), and can be removed cleanly when
returning home where a more permanent repair can be made. Silfix and the Field
Repair Kit are glue-on repairs, with each type aimed toward particular fabrics.
Tenaceous comes in colors — no more silver duct tape, which leaves goo that
makes permanent repairs difficult.
They have also introduced Revivex Air Dry,
for temporary short-term renewal of DWR coatings. It does not replace the
regular Revivex, but as a spray-on is intended for a quick renewal. Since it is
in a pressurized canister, though, you
can’t take it on a plane to your hiking trailhead (say to the opposite coast or
to a European camping vacation). McNett has continued to expand the section of
their website devoted to maintenance and repair of gear, at the same link that
has been posted on Trailspace: www.mcnett-outdoor.com/Repair-Guide/122.aspx
The most interesting new product of the day’s rounds was the
introduction of the new version of the SPOT emergency locator beacon cum
messaging device. In my report of emergency locator devices a few months ago on
Trailspace, I listed a number of needed improvements with SPOT.
Most of those
are present in the new version — smaller, lighter, more flexibility in
non-emergency messaging, better user interface (easier to locate most-used
functions, harder to send false emergency signals, more positive indication of
GPS reception and message transmission), and most important, much improved
sensitivity for the GPS functions and reliability of the message relay.
blog, there is not enough space to list the technical details for achieving the
performance improvements, but suffice it to say that SPOT has taken advantage
of the very rapid improvements in GPS receiver technology. The reduction in
size required smaller batteries — now AAA lithium replacing the former AA
lithium. Battery life is now 112 days on standby, eight days sending tracking
signals, and six days SOS signaling (formerly called “911”). SPOT still will
float and withstand immersion to 5 meters underwater.
Modification of the
antennas now allows improved functionality when the unit is not in the
perfectly horizontal position. The track signal now will include the most
recent track locations as well as the current position, which will make
tracking more reliable. Trailspace hopes to run a series of tests in the next
couple of months. The new version of SPOT is expected to be available in
stores in the fall.
NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski points to Everest on a photo taken from the space shuttle.
As a part of the SPOT introduction, SPOT featured a couple
of their “ambassadors.” Les Stroud of “Survivorman” fame and Scott Parazynski, a NASA
astronaut who has performed several space walks and has summited Everest, were
available to answer questions about their uses of SPOT. Scott’s presentation
included a number of slides of his successful Everest summit.
interest to me and to the MacLeays was that we each had several acquaintances
and friends in common with Scott — sometimes it is a small world indeed!
There was more at OR, lots more. But space (and time to blog and
read) says, that’s enough for now.