Report from the Outdoor Retailer – What We Liked

Imagine you’re at a mall on the weekend before Christmas and all the crowds around you are fit, driven, and over-caffeinated. That’s pretty much the scene at the Outdoor Retailer at the Salt Palace convention center. Thousands of vendors and tens of thousands of buyers, managers, and working media types (like me) are meeting. It’s easy to be overwhelmed.

Among the offerings, there are a lot of technical pieces (specialized climbing rope, specialized paddle boards, specialized watches, specialized phone chargers, etc., etc.) bright, snappy clothing, and the latest on how to bring domesticity into the back country. We managed to whittle through the morass and find some excellent (and perhaps overlooked) products:

Good to Go – this Maine-based company, led by an accomplished and adventurous chef, takes the same ol’, same ol’ out of camp meals.

Pull Start Fire – taking the wishing and finger-crossing out of campfires, even in the rain.

Rite in the Rain – notebooks and writing implements that work, even in the rain.

Duckworth Wool – wool from Montana, crafted into fabulous clothing in North and South Carolina. We’re verrryy keen on this new company. Review of their Vapor t-shirt coming soon.

Benchmade – we found some female-friendly knives from this Oregon company. Review coming soon.

Green Goo – natural salves from this women-owned Colorado company. We love their Travel Packs, which come with lip balm, first aid and pain relief salves, and bug spray.

Adventure Medical – We love their Me and My Dog first aid kits. An essential for your barn, truck, or camper.

Bullfrog – horse riders sweat, too! We dig their sweat-resistant, sunscreen/bug repellant combination lotion.

And it was fun to visit with Bullfrog’s celebrity kayaker Nick Troutman, too. Read more at UtahOutsider. 

Klean Kanteen – this company sets the bar for doing the right thing in a complicated market. It’s a B Corporation and is especially innovative and transparent. “We adhere to the triple bottom line: People, Planet, then Profit,” said one representative at the OR. Aside from that, we love their new colors and kits. Check out there starter Coffee Kit here. 

Stanley – the company’s Switchback mug gets the prize for no-spill, no-drip To Go mug. It’s also pretty easy to clean between uses.

OsanaBar – a new, awesome-smelling, mosquito repellent soap that works! The company also has an excellent charitable arm. It supplies soap to communities threatened by malaria, the sometimes deadly disease carried by mosquitos.

LL Bean – the Maine company continues to introduce fun, tough, not-your-gramma’s clothing. The colors and fabrics are perfect for us horse riders. We love their Back Cove Heathered tee, their Luna jacket, and their Whisper Lodge flannel. 

Whisper Lodge flannel shirt from LL Bea

OR Swan Song in Salt Lake

Videographer outside the Salt Palace

Last month, we headed to the Outdoor Retailer, held for the last time at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.

Why was this the final episode of a decades-long run, drawing tens of thousands to Utah and generating millions of dollars for the city?

Utah politicians have been pretty outspoken in their pro-industry, anti-environment efforts, in particular their interest in turning control of public lands over to state hands and rescinding the designation of national monuments. In turn, the outdoor industry, led by companies like Patagonia, Black Diamond, and Polartec, has essentially said, ‘if we come to Utah, we’re complicit in their efforts.’

Read more about that here.

Nonetheless, we welcomed the chance to visit with vendors and especially remind them that horse owners and riders are part of the outdoor recreation world, too. Read a High Country News op-ed on this here. 

Highlights:

Inspiring words from former Sec. of Interior Sally Jewell

At the Outdoor Industry breakfast, held at the Salt Lake Marriott across from the Salt Palace, we heard from heavy hitters: former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (in her first public appearance since leaving office), Montana Governor Steve Bullock (a possible 2020 US presidential candidate), as well as outdoor rock stars, Alex Honnold (who earlier this year became the first to free solo Yosemite’s El Cap) and Cedar Wright (fellow climber and adventure filmmaker).

The ballroom was decked out like a political convention, with 50 tall placards placed all around the space. They announced the outdoor recreation impact for each state. In total, the industry reels in $887 billion and 7.6 million in jobs annually. Check out this interactive map here.

It’s clear the industry’s come a long way from even a few years ago, when former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt implored this same Salt Lake Palace gathering to get its proverbial act together. 

For me, personally, it was a nice opportunity to mix with the cool and powerful, sure. But it was also a reminder that the horse community needs to do a better job at being here as a stakeholder. As they say, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

Find out what products we liked.

Read more about Duckworth, the Montana wool company.

Hobnobbing with celebrity kayaker, Nick Troutman

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