Heritage, quality, versatility, brand story, younger consumers…these things have not changed for outdoor industry manufacturers this year. What has changed is that the economy has continued to improve along with consumer optimism and the real estate market; manufacturers are becoming more self-aware and the marketplace even more competitive; and technology has rendered the outdoor product landscape almost unrecognizable from 10 years ago. Here are just a few highlights that garnered chatter in the aisles at the annual Outdoor Retail Summer Market the first week of August.
With innovation dating back to 1994 when Philip Curry founded Lotus Designs – acquired by Patagonia in 1999 and later discontinued – his new company Astral, born in 2002, has rediscovered its roots, almost literally, in the lotus flower. This flower design once distinguished Curry’s PFD products for Lotus Designs, and will make a comeback to the new brand in Spring/Summer 2016. During the process of designing a new women’s flip flop, the Rosa, set to hit retail shelves in the spring, Astral did their research to see whether anyone held trademark rights to the unique flower design. The search showed the symbol was up for grabs. Now an integral part of the new Rosa, the flower symbol is embedded into the brand’s proprietary G Rubber bottom, leaving the mark wherever Astral wearers journey. Curry, Astral president, said about the integration of the flower logo: “We’re excited for what it could be. It connects people in a special way.”
Body Glide, known for its non-greasy anti-chafing sticks for endurance athletes, brought to market a muscle pain relief balm, Relief, $6, alongside its new sunscreen balm. When applied to sore muscles, strains and even bruises, Relief causes the skin to heat, enabling faster recovery. What makes it unique is the easy-to-apply stick, so you’re not dipping your fingers into gelatinous goo and accidentally rubbing your eyes. A hint of citrus helps mask the menthol smell, which comes across mild as opposed to a cloud of “hey everyone, I’m sore!”
Eagle Creek, the long-standing go-to for travel luggage, added a new duffel to accompany its heritage No Matter What Duffel. The Cargo Hauler Duffel is made gnarlier and even more rip-resistant by a process that takes a new water-soluble coating that allows for a lighter denier fabric. This construction makes the Cargo Hauler stronger with less weight. Offered in four sizes and five colors, $89-$119, the Cargo Hauler will be available February 2016. SGB sat down with Eagle Creek’s North American Key Accounts Manager Gabe Artalejo, who said the duffel is one of the brand’s claim to fame, and continues to be a top selling product. For the new Cargo Hauler he said, “Consumers may assume thickness equals durability, but we broke the rule on this one.”
Ascent Solar‘s Enerplex is giving the portable solar power market a run for its money with lighter, lithium-ion battery technology and flexible, lightweight solar panels. Its key products for Outdoor Retailer Summer Market were the EnerPlex Generatr Y1200 and the EnerPlex Commandr XII panel system. The Generatr, $1400, is a lightweight, portable 1200Whr large format battery ideal for campsites, vans, power outages and other outdoor power needs.
The unit only weighs about 40 pounds and will keep phones, tablets, laptops and even mini fridges powered for days. It uses a lithium-ion battery that promises to be not only lighter but more efficient. SGB is looking forward to further testing of this product, so stay tuned for an in-depth overview from the field. The company says it takes 10 hours to charge fully from the wall. The counterpart Commandr is a rugged, weather-resistant, made-in-Colorado solar charger with an output of 19 watts, made with a proprietary flexible plastic solar panel boasting “the highest power-to-weight ration on the market” and also functioning in ambient light conditions. It has a USB output that will charge any small device directly. Ascent Solar is the company that pioneered the process of making solar panels on flexible materials and EnerPlex was their opportunity to come to market for outdoor consumers in a smaller, meaningful way.
Farm to Feet, the “100-percent American” sock brand, decided this year at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market they would focus on bringing one new product to the outdoor community, showing the new Damascus Elite Hiker, $17-$21 – a technical hiking sock with no seams, strategic venting and cushioned panels. An SGB writer and running specialist tested a pair of Damascus Lightweight crew socks on a nine-mile jaunt one morning before the show to find the high cut provided great compression on her calves, the top-arch cushion prevented soreness from shoes, her feet never overheated and the wool material never bunched. On top of that, the circular knit construction in the toe made the closure actually seamless.