By Aubrey Volger
In an industry that spends an incredible amount of time and money on designing, building and testing technical gear, it’s been a challenge to meet the demands on pricing in the children’s market.
Companies struggle to provide a similar quality at a price point consumers expect for smaller customers. Outdoor parents understand the need for technical gear and want the same for their offspring, but it’s difficult to justify higher dollar purchases during growth spurts. At Outdoor Retailer Summer Market (ORSM) 2015, we met a few companies finding ways to provide quality that’ll last the runs of hand-me-downs, and at a lower price point.
Chaco is among the first to lend high quality technology from its adult line to offerings of mini gear. Pulling from their famous Z Sandal, the brand started the children’s line with the Z/1 Kids (single strap) and ZX/1 Kids (double strap). New for Spring/Summer 2016, Chaco expanded options by introducing the Kids OutCross, which features the same amphibious design as the grown-ups’, with a durable closed-toe cap for protection, open sidewalls for drainage and ventilation, and the aligning support and comfort of Chaco’s Luvseat Pu footbed. Barefoot construction means it can be worn with or without socks, and a semi-collapsible heel means they couldn’t be easier to get on and off.
Also known for durable and playful footwear for kids, Keen is combining the technology of their adult shoes with the imaginative attitude of kids through the new Encanto collection. Vibrant colors meet the quality and protection you’d expect from an industry leader of footwear. Their expertise on providing support for tiny feet lead to the new Encanto Rainboot 365 for boys and girls, which offers an all-season choice of fit, durability and versatility.
Deuter also caters to younger age groups, in its Kid Comfort Air and Family Pack lines. This year they complete the collection by introducing the new Pico Bag designed for five and six-year-olds. The new Pico bag is built with the same quality construction Deuter puts into the pack line for Mom and Dad. With a goal to introduce little ones to the trails at early ages, Deuter aims to provide a range of pack sizes to grow with the kids.
Disc-O-Bed, makers of ready-to-go sleep systems for disaster relief and troop deployment, brings the new Kid-O-Bunk, debuted at ORSM. This is a durable mobile sleep solution tested to hold up against the destruction standards set by youth ages seven to twelve. The Kid-O-Bunk uses the company’s patented lock-in disc system in a no-tool assembly kit that can be configured as a bunk, sitting bench or two single cots, and does not require a mattress. Through the company’s success with Disc-O-Bed, they are able to release the Kid-O-Bunk with the same durability of the Diso-O-Bed at a price to match parental budgets.
Companies like La Siesta, a German brand that branched into the U.S. in 2014, takes quality one step further and designs products specifically for growing minds. Their token Joki hanging nest stimulates self-awareness and the development of the brain. Researchers have found a close relationship between sense of balance and increased capacity to focus, read, write and do mathematics. “Hammocks and hanging nests reach kids directly at the core of their spontaneous movements and lead to playful and self-initiated movements that supports their development,” said Dr. Dieter Breithecker of the German Federal Institute for the Promotion of Posture and Movement.
With a goal to advocate for kids to play outdoors and ride bikes, Strider goes beyond the task of providing high quality gear through their Strider World Championship series and annual donations to the special needs community. This year, the world’s leading manufacturer of children’s no-pedal balance bikes, has created a new “How to Balance and Ride” Train the Trainer Curriculum known as Strider Camp. This turn-key kit and lesson plan, complete with five sessions of hands-on learning, fun and instruction, makes it easy for Strider Dealers, Educators, Park and Recreation programmers or any parent to teach balance and riding skills to groups of toddlers or young children of all abilities.
Understanding the importance of hydration in active little ones, Lunatec enters the industry with the Aquabot. Reselling with Nalgene bottles, the Aquabot is a playful water bottle. While there are small parts on the bottle making it not safe for children under three, the Aquabot is an easy to use, easy to clean water bottle that will keep the kiddos drinking water all day.
Another outdoor name making a transition into the Kid’s category is Icebug — the Swedish shoe brand challenging the style and function of footwear technology in the outdoor space since 2001. Now for the first time, Icebug will debut a children’s boot for the F/W 2015-16 season.
The Myoko BUGweb GTX, $169.95, features the same durability and technical traction found in its parent models. Fleece insulation lines the boot for maximum warmth for tiny toes, while double Velcro adjustments make for easy on and off transitions. The durable rubber sole, compatible with Icebug’s optional BUGweb device, offers perhaps a never-before-seen traction in a children’s snow boot offering.
The market for outdoor gear and apparel will increasingly include younger, smaller users. As brands adapt to serving this group, the debate over affordable pricing will continue to wage, with the hopes that it is possible for young outdoor enthusiasts to have quality offerings that take into account the process of growing up.
If you know of other high quality, affordable products for the active kid, email us at SGBMedia@SportsOneSource.com.