When you’re one of 20,000 attendees scouring the more than 1,000 vendors for the latest and greatest products that will be coming out in 6-8 months, a day at Outdoor Retailer is exhilarating and maddening at the same time. I’m always on the hunt for cool travel and outdoor gear to feature in my annual holiday gift guide. I search all year long for items then go and road test them myself multiple times before I’ll share in that guide.
Here’s how I spent a day of meetings every 30 minutes at the Outdoor Retailer (OR) and Snow Show in late January. I started with a well-known sandal brand. Teva has been around since 1984. They have a sleuth of boots and shoes beyond just the iconic sandals, which are getting an update this year with the woven part being made of all recycled material along with new styles dropping in spring and early summer. For price points, sandals and shoes range $75-150 and boots $150-200. My mouth dropped with they told me their waterproof tall boots are under $200! I was also a fan of the lace up Anaya bootie available in the fall for $160. A couple of other shoes I added to my wish list are the Ember moc, Grandview and Gateway. Ember mocs are coming out in new colors, including the shearling ones. They are perfect for traveling through airports and easy double as slippers for nights in hotels. Plus, they pack down extremely well taking up minimal space in your luggage. The Grandview GTX is a hiking shoe with a sandal like fit launching this month. The new toe box design has extra space to disperse downhill pressure and save your toes! They run $175 are definitely on my list to try for hiking season this summer. The Gateway is a great option for the traveler on the go who like me wants to hit the trail while traveling. It’s a light hiker/urban explorer which should take you from canyon to street. They’ll be available for $100-110 in the fall, along with the new Ember styles ranging from $75-140.
My next stop was Outdoor Research. Based in Seattle since 1981, a key feature of the brand is being waterproof. New this year is a collaboration with Arcade Belts for sleek and durable bib and glove straps. I liked the sleek styles of the Carbide collection for gloves, bibs and jackets which are perfect for backcountry or resort, especially spring skiing. A key feature for me is the inside zipper pocket is done in a bright color like red or turquoise making it easy to find when you’re out adventuring. I can’t wait to try out a pair of the new Carbide gloves next ski season as they’ll be the first gloves with an elasticized wrist cinch. For the colder days at resorts, the Tungsten Jacket has warmer insulation. I’m not normally a flannel gal, but Outdoor Research’s Feedback Flannel Hoody caught my eye. I was also drawn to the Tundra Aerogel slip-on booties ($69-89), probably because they use the same insulation that used in astronaut suits. That totally tapped into the space geek in me! There are new Tundra Aerogel socks coming out in the fall. Being a meteorologist and lover of the night sky, my favorite for what’s coming out in in fall is the jacket with a star pattern inside, mittens and booties in the same pattern. The Warli Sky Collection is one that gives back with 5% of the profits from the collection going to the Warli Tribe in Maharsahtra, India. It’s a unique partnership with Roots Studio, which works with rural artists to bring their creations to the global economy.
I did a quick stop to check out what SCARPA has coming out later this year. It’s crazy how light their boots are getting. The F1 LT weighs just 990 grams, making it SCARPA’s lightest alpine-touring boot. I was super interested with the Rush Mid GTX ($179). It’s a trail shoe inspired by trail-running but with protection of a light, waterproof hiker. It could be a great travel sneaker and hiker all-in-one. I thought the Spin Ultra GTX ($169) with its Gore-Tex Invisible Fit looked pretty snazzy too. I’d love to hit the trail in either!
I fell in love with Royal Robbins last year while hiking in Yosemite, even blogged about how I became a fan of the brand in a hike. Since then I’ve become an even bigger fan wearing the clothes for traveling and hiking from Switzerland to Chile. The two things I’m most excited to see the brand launch this year are jackets and socks. They’re debuting seven new jackets this year including ones that pack into a travel pillow, backpack or tote bag. Crazy cool, right? No more tying the rain jacket around your waist, when you can simply turn it into a sleek tote. As someone who is a mosquito magnet, I’m a big fan of the bug barrier in some of the brand’s clothing. At Outdoor Retailer, I was thrill see to Royal Robbins is launching a line of hemp socks with insect shield. Bug barrier for me ankles and feet – yippee!
I like to meet with some brands that I know nothing about. This show, Sealskinz was one of those new brands to me, even though the UK company started in 1987. The flagship product is waterproof socks with a waterproof membrane. It’s 3-layer waterproof protection that fits like a single layer. They have all weather waterproof socks for activities like camping, golfing, cycling, and even commuting. They also have cold weather and extreme cold weather waterproof socks. Why had I not found out about these before? So need these for snowshoeing and other winter activities, along with a couple of pairs of the all-weather ones for my hiking adventures in summer that involve crossing streams, fishing and more. They already have an extensive line of waterproof gloves, but the waterproof all weather insulated glove coming out in the fall caught my eye. They’re not only waterproof, they’re windproof, breathable and lightweight.
When I stopped at Helle Knives, I couldn’t take my eyes off the beautiful craftmanship in the handles of these knives made in a small factory in a tiny village in Norway. I loved the pattern of the curly birch used in some of the handles. As I was looking at the knives, I chatted with the third-generation family co-owner. Svein-Erik told me the wonderful story of leather, wood and steel born out of his Norwegian heritage that goes into the knives that are really works of art. The knives go through up to 48 phases in production. There are 25 employees in the village of 500. It can take a day just to make a handle of curly birch, pine or some other wood. The blades are extremely sharp. Each knife is unique. Each one is special. Not only did I become a fan of Helle in that one conversation, I now really want to go to the tiny village in rural Norway.
I’ve been a huge fan of Obermeyer skiwear since my first Colorado ski season of 2010-2011. Walking into the booth I was immediately drawn to the Americana ski onesies. I also loved the 80s theme bright colors and some cool patterns, including a floral on black puffer. I was really intrigued with Obermeyer’s continued push into lifestyle wear, or other items you can wear off the slopes from fall through early spring. The leather looking, but not leather Ellie trench and the Hazel waxed jackets with jersey lining are not only lightweight options for cooler day, but standouts to me in what we’ll see later this year. I also loved seeing 100-year-old Klaus Obermeyer get interviewed by Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley.
United by Blue is just a cool company. For one, it’s an outdoor brand based in Philly, very unusual in the outdoor industry. Second, they take the bison fiber that would normally get discarding in ranching industry and turned into insulation or yarn. They use other sustainable materials like hemp too. Third, for every product purchased, one pound of trash is removed from oceans and waterways. To date, that equals over 2.2 million pounds of trash. On my immediate wish list is the Bison Ultralight jacket with the brand’s BisonShield used in the insulation. Basically, it’s a really warm lightweight puffy jacket perfect that will keep you warm even if temperatures drop into the teens. Plus, it packs down into a pocket so you can use it as a travel pillow. They’re adding a hood on the already cool jacket. They have an extensive line of “Everyday Reusables” ranging from straw kits to meal kit in price points of $15-58. I immediately thought those would make great gifts. A trend in their bags coming out this year is more muted colors. The bags are made from recycled plastic. They have mini packs and new roll tops coming out in the fall. The weekenders and duffels are my favorites. Not being a flannel gal, I totally flipped for their Sherpa lined flannel jacket and a flannel shirt with shades of turquoise and coral, in what struck me as a Navajo pattern meets flannel design. They gave me a pair of bison socks to try, which I’ve been putting to great use in the recent snowy cold snap Denver has been in. They are so cozy! For the pet owner, United by Blue has a line of pet gear.
Fjallraven is the backpack you see everywhere with the name you can pronounce. It’s a Swedish word meaning “arctic fox.” Here’s how it’s supposed to said: Fee-All-RAH-Ven, which a Swedish accent of course. An easier way to say it: F’all (like y’all) Raven (like the bird). Their headquarter of the Americas is located in Louisville, Colorado, and I’m stoked because they’re opening a flagship store in LoHi, my neighborhood, this summer. The Kanken (pronounced conch-en) bag is Nordstrom’s best-selling handbag. The iconic backpack is so popular one is sold in the United States every 60 seconds and ever 11 second globally. What will be new for fall will be the bag in a sustainable material by upcycling leftover wool that would normally get discarded in the manufacturing process. The grey wool and red plaid are stylish and sustainable. The company was founded in 1960 with a backpack as the first product. Another brand staple became the Expedition Down jacket, which came out in 1974. The new twist on the vintage style coming out this year is it’s being constructed using ethically sourced fully traceable down and recycled materials. I also love the bright colors it’s coming out in. Don’t even get me started on the beautiful sweaters too. Guess I’ll have lots of shopping to do when the store opens in Denver in June.
Something that’s been topping my travel clothes wish list is pajamas that don’t take up some much room in my carry-on. When I walked into the Chill Angel booth, I hit the jackpot. This company out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado is only three years old. The pieces are made from ultra-high-quality merino wool, which is anti-microbial, so you can wear the pieces multiple times without them getting stinky. Merino wool is also temperature regulating since it absorbs moisture then evaporates it. It’s the only fiber that insulates when you sweat. As I was looking at the jammies, I realized I could easily wear the tees under a cardigan or jacket. I typically get hot and sweaty bolting through the airport then freeze on a plane. I can’t wait to wear one of the tees on a travel day, then pair with the cute jammie boxers or joggers for bedtime. This line started out sleep focused on helping the hot sleeper, but it’s transitioning into a line that’s great for sleep, lounging and travel. I can’t wait to road test a couple of pieces in the near future. More lounge and travel focused pieces like a cardigan are coming out in fall.
That’s how I spent a day at Outdoor Retailer. There were other great finds in the multi-day trade show. I’ll be sharing some more in the weeks and months to come as I gear test things. Look for more blogs coming in the Go Gear section.
Author Jennifer Broome loves finding and road testing the latest outdoor and travel gear, in particular gear made from sustainable or recycled materials. As the perpetual traveler in carry-on and backpack, she’s always looking for gear and clothes that are multi-functional and multi-purpose.