Christmas in August. The outdoor community's favorite toy show. You can use either description when talking about the semi-annual Outdoor Retailers show, which arrived in Salt Lake City this week and sticks around until Sunday afternoon.
This convention, Utah's largest, brings to stage the newest in outdoor equipment, innovations, and even a few gimmicks, from the likes of The North Face, Sierra Designs, Wenonah, Mad River, Big Agnes, MSR, Brunton and hundreds of others. Oh yeah, there's an awful lot of partying going on, too, which no doubt raises more than a few eyebrows among Utah's generally staid LDS community.
For me, the show is a retreat from the reality of pounding out stories for clients and searching for new stories and new clients and an entry into a sort of dream world when it comes to figuring out what backpacking or paddling toys I want to add to my growing collection.
There's also some serious moments, such as today when the Outdoor Industry Foundation unveils an economic study analyzing the industry's impact on the U.S. economy. Scheduled to be on hand for that news conference is none other than Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. Should be interesting to see if he sheds any light on the National Park Service's Management Policies and the belief by some that, in their current form, they deny visitors enjoyment in the parks. Check back tonight or tomorrow and I hope to have a report on both.
Generating a measure of discord at the show earlier this week was the appearance of Hummer at the outdoor demo day at Willard Bay on the Great Salt Lake. Some thought it totally inappropriate for the gas guzzler to be allowed into the show, others countered that those who enjoy the outdoors need to find some way to get to the outdoors. The latter comment no doubt is true, but shouldn't the outdoor industry find a transportation mode that's a little friendlier on the environment?
After heading out into the field next week for some product testing and some R&R, I'll get back to you on some of the intriguing items I've looked at from Brunton, Big Agnes, Gramicci, MSR, High Sierra and others. Among the products I'm most excited about (and this is a sad, but telling, commentary) comes from Java Juice, a company that has come the closest in my experience to perfecting a product that allows us caffeine addicts to have a hot cup of coffee that tastes practically fresh-brewed in the backcountry.
So, if you'll bear with me for ten days or so, I'll get back into a more regular flow of posts revolving around the Park Service and gear for backcountry adventures.