Outdoor Retailer, a biannual gear convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, looks really glamorous from the main floor. The multiple thousand-square-foot booths, heaps of swag, free beer, and ubiquitous GoPro videos pumping dub step and high action footy can hypnotize you like a Vegas casino.
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This is not the case in the Pavillions, a series of three tents across the street from the West entrance to the Salt Palace convention center. The AC didn't cut it today in the 100-degree heat, and while the booths still have a relatively high production value, you can't shake knowing that you are in a tent across from the big show. This week, I will be looking through the Pavillions and various outlying booth nooks to find my favorite gear and to catch brands that would usually be off our radar, as well as reward the hardscrabble entrepreneurs that have made it here.
This is Greg Kennedy's second time at OR with his company Tactical Lighting Solutions—they make modular $35 - $39 flashlights that can accommodate a dizzying amount of different lighting options and colors. Kennedy started Gear Heads retail store in Moab in 1998 and invented his main product, the Lazerbrite, because he wanted a modular light and it simply didn't exist. "In the flashlight world there are headlamps and handhelds; this modular flashlight is the first in the world," says Kennedy.
In late 1999 he went to a patent lawyer with an LED light zip-tied into a toothbrush holder to get the point across of what they wanted to patent. Tactical Lighting Solutions now holds seven patents. Having a booth at Outdoor Retailer takes a big hit on Kennedy's budget. "I wear ten hats and don't have a marketing budget," says Kennedy.
The finished product is a little funky looking, and is frankly overwhelming unless you familiarize yourself with its different uses. But, it is extremely light, can take the place of wasteful glow sticks, and is made right here in Utah. Regardless of how often I would use it, when I looked at how excitedly Kennedy zipped from use to use on his invention, I want to support him.