It's not all shoes and tents from the companies who hawk their goods at the huge outdoor gear show. These innovations are offbeat, but we (mostly) like 'em anyway.
While walking the floor of the Summer Outdoor Retailer show last week, I saw some pretty weird gear ideas come to life.
Now, I've studied enough history to know better than to say any of these ideas are bad (the first Teva sandals were a hard sell, and Yvon Chouinard made his first synthetic fleece out of material used in toilet seat covers). They're just, um, different.
So, without casting any judgment, here are my five oddball OR picks for this year.
8-Hour Energy Patch
The 8-Hour Energy Patch is a latex patch laced with B vitamins, green tea extract, taurine, guarana, and a "dehydrated form of caffeine” that equates to a quarter-cup of coffee, according to the company. Directions suggest you use two patches to get the eight-hour boost.
Yes, this could be amazing for ultra-distance athletes looking to avoid an upset stomach while still getting their caffeine kick. But personally, a nicotine-patch-like product that provides doses of plant-based ingredients through my skin freaks me out.
Chapul Insect Bars
We've known about "cricket flour" in energy bars for a while now, but it's always interesting to check out these bug bars when we see them. Chapul—the first company to offer cricket bars, started in 2012 and currently offers three flavors: Aztec, Chaco, and Thai. The bars are made from all-natural ingredients, including ground-up crickets, which boost the protein and vitamins in each snack. In fact, Chapul's crickets contain twice the protein as beef and as much vitamin B12 as salmon, according to the Utah-based company. Plus, harvesting and eating crickets have very few negative environmental impacts.
This is actually pretty cool and a good option for anyone who can't tether their pup to a tree. PetAnchor is a nine-inch screw made of plastic and stainless steel that gives dog owners a solid spot to tie their animal (up to 125 pounds). Bonus: Your dog won't get tangled around a tree. PetAnchor is also nontoxic, a nice feature if the animal connected to it likes to chew.
When I first saw Sport Suds Washing Machine Cleaner, I immediately went on the defensive. Am I so nasty, as an active outdoors lover, that a specific product has been developed to cleanse my washing machine of my adventure funk? But after finding the Ontario-based company's biodegradable, hypoallergenic, low-sudsing detergent designed to unclog the pores of waterproof breathable materials, I calmed down—and went to smell my washer.
Yumbutter GO! struck me as weird in the same way my favorite Wes Anderson movies strike me as weird (that is, different and awesome). The company combined nut butters with chia, hemp seeds, and other natural ingredients and packaged the energy fuel in reusable six-inch pouches with squeeze nozzles. This makes the stuff easy to pack, and it's rich in protein and omega-3s. The Madison, Wisconsin–based company follows a "Buy One, Feed One" model, which means with the purchase of every snack, Yumbutter donates an equal portion of food to someone in need. The company claims it's helped feed more than 15,000 children so far.