I had a few other "wow!" moments at OR—not including the Molé Negro at the Red Iguana, a wonderful Mexican restaurant about a half-mile from the Salt Palace Convention Center that has become my must-get-there destination when in SLC.
One came in the infamous tent hall that's put up each year to house those unlucky OR participants who are too new or too obscure to merit space in the Salt Palace proper. Over the years the tent has gained considerable cachet due its air of anarchic invention and camaraderie of the damned. I ducked in there for 20 minutes and was rewarded by spotting what might be the first serious pop-up tent to gain mainstream acceptance. It's from a little New Hampshire company called Nemo. The tent, called the Gato, looks a lot like a traditional pole-supported tent—until you push what appear to be the pole sleeves and it dawns on you that these are air-filled chambers rather than poles. Inflation is easy with a light foot pump, and the tent is up in less than a minute. And, these are serious tents—Nemo's founder, Cam Brensinger, had a previous gig designing space suits. We couldn't duplicate 60-mph winds at the show, of course, but the air chambers on the tents (which can be replaced in case of rupture) seem to offer plenty of stability without the risk of a broken pole. The Gato and four other Nemo tents are slated for release next year. They'll be pricey, however—in the $600 range (www.nemoequipment.com).
Fortunately, not everything has to be expensive to be good, or interesting. During another short break, I wandered past a booth for Armored Outdoor Gear. They were selling something called the Ratsack Cache Bag—a pouch made of a fine stainless-steel mesh with a two-inch hook-and-loop opening. Put food in it, hang it, and rats, mice, raccoons, and other varmints can't get to what's inside (bears can, although the mesh may deter them as they'd have to work to break in). The Cache Bag also can be used to secure cans of liquid refreshment—I'm thinking beer—when it's dunked in a cold stream to achieve proper drinking temperature. All in all, very clever. A 2,500-cubic-inch bag sells for $40 (www.armoredoutdoorgear.com).
What else? More than one can imagine. After all, OR is really three trade shows in one—a huge camping/hiking/outdoors show, a big climbing-gear show, and a paddling show. I had the notion of trying to walk every aisle and logging the time needed to make the transit, but was too busy looking inside booths. I'd guess an hour-plus at a brisk walk might do it. Following are just some of the products that caught my eye in amongst the orgy of spangly outdoor ware.