(This story was updated on 6/29/2023.)
The first day of Outdoor Retailer Summer kicked off with a busy show floor, education sessions, and networking events at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah.
About 700 brands were participating at the show, with about 200 of those new to OR.
To get a pulse on what new products the brands are offering, The Daily walked the show floor and spoke with exhibitors from Pelican Sports, Jetboil, Liberty Mountain, Lowa Boots, GCI Outdoors, KAVU, Jack Wolfskin, Asolo, Garmin, and Komperdell.
(See photos of the exhibitors at OR in our slide show below. All photos by The Daily.)
Pelican International has focused on two main areas for new products with its Pelican Sports brand.
First, the company is trying out new colors for its hardshell kayaks.
“The launch of a brand-new color palette will revive the energy in the category and make it feel fresh and new,” said J.S. Belanger, director of product management for Pelican International. “We like to mix colors to give the kayaks that vibrant multicolor feeling.”
Second, Pelican is dedicating more resources to inflatable kayaks. About two years ago, Pelican International acquired Advanced Elements, a leader in the inflatable kayak space.
“We’ve integrated them into the company,” Belanger said. “That’s allowed us to use their ability to create higher-end inflatable kayaks and bring them into more affordable pricing.”
Those entry-level kayaks, the iSeek 100 and the iEscape 110, range in price from $300-$400 at retail.
Jetboil’s Genesis Basecamp System, a compact, foldable two-burner stove, isn’t necessarily a new product. But the rise in popularity of overlanding and van life has brought more demand for products of its type, leading Jetboil to push the Genesis harder.
Jetboil is traditionally known as a market leader in the backpacking single-burner gas stove market.
James Denhalter, brand evangelist for Jetboil and sister company Eureka!, said the company is considering a brand relaunch for the Genesis product this year.
Denhalter highlighted Genesis’ features, including how the clamshell design allows it to fold in on itself, then pack into a 5-liter pot. It retails for about $400.
“Our audience, especially the overlanding community, has really backed it,” he said. “In the last eight months, there’s been a huge surge in demand, and people are loving it.”
Along those same lines, brand distributor Liberty Mountain has recently become the exclusive distributor for Primus stoves, which is also well-known for single-burner backpacking stoves.
David Mitchell, brand manager for Liberty Mountain, also highlighted the Primus Alika double-burner stove as one of its more exciting new products. It retails for $279.
“They’re a whole lot sleeker, a whole lot easier to clean when you’re car camping, overlanding, van life,” he said. “There are a ton of features that help you cook like a gourmet chef in small spaces. The whole overlanding market has exploded in the last few years. And these products are good for that.”
Lowa Boots has been making hiking boots and shoes for a while now. In fact, the brand is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year.
The brand recently introduced new all-terrain running shoes last November, and started delivering them to stores at the beginning of June.
“That’s a huge departure for us as a brand,” said Peter Sachs, general manager at Lowa.
These shoes use ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) construction, a first for the company. The rest of Lowa’s products use polyurethane midsole constructions.
The other first: Lowa is manufacturing these shoes in Vietnam. The rest of its products are made in Europe.
Sachs said the company spent three years developing the trail shoes.
“We tried to put some of the attributes that we put into our traditional boots and shoes into these,” he added.
That means designs to reduce weight, but also durability against abrasion when hiking around rocks, logs, and whatever else might be in the trail.
They come in a variety of colors for both men and women and range in price from $160-$190.
“The reception so far has been super positive,” Sachs said.
At GCI Outdoor, they’re proud of a cooler top table that will be new for this fall.
The table mounts on the sides of a hard-sided cooler similar to an Orca or a Yeti. It’s foldable and compact.
According to Justin Elza, sales manager at GCI, the table is heat resistant. The accessory features include a cutting board and a paper towel holder. It will retail for about $200.
“It’s going to revolutionize the tabletop world,” Elza said. “It’s going to change that dead space above a hard-sided cooler.”
KAVU is featuring a new women’s rope sandal that founder Barry Barr said the company has been working on for at least two years.
The sandal is artisan-made in Mexico with a rubber sole infused with coconut oil. Barr envisions it as a “sidewalk hiker” or a date-night sandal. It comes in two styles and three colors and retails for $75.
“They’re just something different,” Barr said. “We’re really excited about them. If it goes well it could be a fun new category because what KAVU does is sell fun.”
Jack Wolfskin is touting the sustainability component of its new Highest Peak jacket. The three-layer jacket is a windproof, waterproof shell.
“But the most exciting part about this jacket is it has a huge sustainability update in 2024,” said Lily Denehy, account manager at Jack Wolfskin. “It will be made from 100% recycled textile waste, both the membrane and the fabric.”
Denehy said the ultimate goal is to push the industry forward on sustainability initiatives and evolve beyond using materials made from recycled plastic bottles, a common practice. The jacket will retail for $239.95.
At shoe company Asolo, the newest and most exciting thing for the brand is a new family of products called Tahoe.
That product is more of a fast-packing shoe, which is a departure from Asolo’s history of providing footwear mainly for extended-use backpacking.
Bill Lockwood, general manager for Asolo’s North American division, said the company defines fast packing as wearing a pack ranging between 25 and 65 liters and overnighting. Not a day hike, not a trail run.
“One of the biggest distinguishing factors that we use to differentiate between a trail runner and a fast-packing product is really the outsole package,” he said. “We find that a lot of trail running shoes that are on the market are aggressive outsole packages on a road product.”
Asolo’s Tahoe Mid GTX men’s boot retails for $200.
Garmin was featuring the Epix and Fenix series of watches. Those were announced May 31. With the Epix, Garmin now offers 42 millimeter, 47 millimeter, and 51 millimeter watch faces.
Natalie Miller, media relations specialist for Garmin, highlighted the “beautiful” displays and the battery life of the Epix series.
The Fenix has been around for about 10 years.
“It’s kind of a flagship multi-sport GPS watch,” Miller said.
What’s new is Garmin added a flashlight, which makes the watch great for running in the morning and at night or for setting up camp. The other feature is that they’re solar-charging. Prices range from $899 to $1,000-plus.
Hiking and ski pole brand Komperdell was featuring its foldable and collapsible FXP poles. According to owner Thomas Roiser, the poles are part of a new series which have fewer pieces and less weight.
“Basically everything folds,” he said. “Getting smaller, faster, and lighter pack size.”
The poles pack down small and when you deploy them, they deploy on their own, Roiser said.
“It’s the fastest deploying out there,” he added. “Super simple, super easy to use.”
Happy with Start to Show
This year, OR took a new approach to the floor plan and layout of the show in an effort to improve the user experience for retailers and buyers, which is paying off, according to Sean Smith, acting show director for Outdoor Retailer.
“So far the show has been off to a great start here on Day One,” he said. “I really like the way the floor is laid out. I think it’s contributing to great flow and good energy.”
Smith commented on how the industry is facing significant challenges, including a glut in retail inventory, while at the same time data shows overall participation in the outdoor industry is up.
“At the end of the day, we think it’s important for brands and retailers to meet in-person to talk about those issues,” Smith said. “But even more importantly, we still have new people coming into outdoor recreation. We have all those new customers that came in during the COVID-19 pandemic. And we need to work on retaining and keeping them excited about being outdoors.”
Bart Schaneman can be reached at email@example.com.