Outdoor Retailer Has Wrapped. Here’s What You Missed on the Last Day.
Our final wrap-up from the show floor in Denver
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Aaaand, that’s a wrap on the 2022 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show. As attendees trickled in to hit their last meetings and squeeze in just a few more booths, conversations were upbeat. Coffee queue congratulations were plentiful coming off of last night’s fourth annual Innovation Awards ceremony, where 14 winners were crowned by an independent judging panel for their game-changing outdoor products and services.
Underscoring the awards was a buzzy kind of energy that had seemed muted until then. With each company that made its way to the stage to thank its collaborators, mentors, and pioneers, it was as if the spark we all crave from OR—that celebration of outdoor innovation that fuels the industry—grew brighter and brighter. But beyond the product recognition, attendees were reminded of the progress we’ve made in reimagining how we perceive and interact with our outdoor spaces. In fact, The Outdoorist Oath, a movement to promote social justice in the outdoors, is the first nonprofit recipient of Outside’s Gear Up Give Back initiative (which, pardon our brag, was one of the Innovation Award winners.)
Outdoor advocate and environmentalist Pattie Gonia, one of The Oath’s founding members, summed it up: “It’s been amazing to see people’s reactions to The Oath and to see their excitement in feeling that they can be a part of this, and that they really have a banner to stand behind the work they do in so many corners of the outdoor advocacy space. People are finally seeing that the tides have shifted to individuals needing to take action and shape the future of the outdoors. We’re grateful for the chance to bring The Oath to spaces where we can meet people where they’re at and help them succeed.”
With that, we bring you our final rundown of the show.
Cool New Products
E-bikes that help conserve wildlife: The Sweden-based OR Innovation Awards winner Cake introduced its new line of solar-powered AP (anti-poaching) electric bush bikes ($8,500–$11,500), which come in motorcycle, moped, and outback patroller models. Quiet, durable, clean, and efficient, the bikes are designed to tackle off-road missions for intrepid explorers, with a healthy dose of city functionality for zipping around town. The clamp-on frame design allows a mix-and-match approach to accessories (baskets, bags, and racks), and the juiced-up bike batteries also serve as portable power sources for your devices in need of charging. Three percent of every AP purchase goes to the Southern African Wildlife College, a conservation training institute in Kruger National Park. “We can see that our bikes are really [serving] a good cause in a place we don’t usually work with bikes,” says Klara Edhag on Cake’s marketing team. “Using electric bikes instead of combustible bikes for anti-poaching activity is amazing for us. We can see we’re [doing] something good in a bigger scope.”
Rab’s first line of ski packs: Rab’s new Khroma line of packs harnesses the durability and lightweight of Spectra without the big price tag by combining Cordura on the sides and back with a rugged Spectra front panel. The layup is streamlined and simple with all components and straps girth-hitched rather than sewn on, so users can customize without taking to scissors. Packs range from 25 to 38 liters ($200-$225) and come in two styles: ski and alpine climbing.
Notable New Exhibitors
Retro ski-wear with an eco-conscious twist: It was the full-body watermelon ski suit that first caught our attention. UK-based snowsports and swimwear brand OOSC Clothing made its OR debut exuding cheeky fun that translates to the hill without sacrificing functionality. “My cofounder and I used to buy these [vintage] suits on eBay; they weren’t waterproof and they weren’t breathable and they smelled like ass,” says OOSC’s Aaron McLaughlin. “We decided we could make them better.” Not only better (think: mega waterproofness, taped seams, and magnetic closures for easy glove handling), but more responsibly: More than 50 percent of every OOSC ski suit ($350), jacket, and pair of snow pants is made from recycled plastic bottles, and everything is shipped in biodegradable packaging. “It’s not a gaper-day thing; it’s an all-season-long thing,” McLaughlin says, noting that online sales in the U.S. have been growing 200 percent year-over-year and now comprise nearly a third of the brand’s online revenue. “That’s why we’re here. We want to meet more stores to spread the love and make the customer journey a bit better until we can get a warehouse over here.”
An easier way to tote skis: “The Chuck Bucket” is described by its creators as “what would happen if a roof box and a hitch rack had a baby.” The idea is simple: It’s a trailer-hitch rack that’s easy to toss skis or snowboards (or golf bags, camping gear, etc.) into. No more climbing on top of your car to take out and put away your gear. The bucket fits eight pairs of skis or four snowboards, and is on pre-sale now through Kickstarter for $249. Planned retail when it launches outside of Kickstarter is $420.
Hot Takes from the Show Floor
Appreciation for OR’s diversity efforts: “The entire marginalized community was very well represented in having different people being able to share their stories and voices,” says Necota Staples, cofounder, with his wife Sonya, of Staples InTents, an entity which documents and shares their overlander and adventure-travel lifestyle. Adds Sonya: “For a lot of people [representing] brands, they want to come here to sell. But I think if they took a step back and looked at what Outdoor Retailer is, everything that it stands for, and really [immersed] themselves in some of the [sessions] and not just focused on selling, I think they could have gotten so much more out of it.”
The power of discovery: “I run a motel gift shop and my son is a fly fishing guide who sells gear,” says Liz Furman of Black Bear Inn in Dubois, Wyo. “I found an amazing African boot company [here at the show], Jim Green. They look really well made, thick-soled, and the price point is great. I would never have known about this brand and that’s why I come. Even though there are so few vendors here, there are some good ones.”
A vision for future shows: “We have to take the words ‘trade show’ out of the equation and really think about what a community event looks like,” says Nick Sargent, president of SIA. “‘Trade show’ has such a negative connotation. It speaks of yesterday; it doesn’t speak about tomorrow. We need to be thinking about how we can come together as an industry tomorrow with no walls or barriers. Look at what happens at the Sea Otter Classic. It is a must-attend event. It’s outdoors, it’s full of great panel discussions, great educational moments, and a powerful sense of community.”
A louder voice for minority business owners: “My biggest reason for still coming to the show are people of color,” says Anthony J. Clark, a photographer with The 16,000 Studio in Denver. “The BIPOC community is here. Outdoor Retailer has historically been that show to not really give the proper attention to a lot of our advocates who want to be on this floor, who want to get in touch with these major companies. [Now] it’s way more welcoming. You’re seeing way more people feeling comfortable about who they are and where they fit in. At a smaller scale, [the show] is giving so much room to minority owners to come in and make an introduction.”
Lesson of the Day
Dismantling silos is the key to climate justice progress: Climate change. Environmental justice. Policy. Advocacy. Accessibility. Diversity. Indigenous perspective. Inclusion. Partisanship. These are a few themes OR explored this year over a lineup of extracurriculars featuring a diverse range of experts, legislators, and thought leaders. It all culminated in today’s Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) panel highlighting federal climate-related initiatives like Justice40 (which funnels 40 percent of federal climate and sustainable transportation investments to disadvantaged communities) and America the Beautiful, a.k.a. 30 by 30, which aims to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.
Bottom line: intersectionality. When we examine the Biden administration’s pending Build Back Better Act, we can confidently say that these problems, solutions, ideas, and goals do not exist in silos. To truly tackle climate change, we must discuss racial inequities. To pursue environmental justice, we must figure out how to bridge the political gap between left and right. To preserve the outdoors, we must change business operations. “We have a climate crisis, a nature crisis, a Covid crisis, and a justice crisis,” says Angelo Villagomez, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and an indigenous conservation leader. “We can’t deal with those one at a time. We have to deal with them all together as one world, as one issue.”