The SNEWS® team of editors armed with maps and GPS (was this show big or what?) ducked and weaved around the trade show floor over the course of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned -- we do know you love your company's product, really. However, we're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned we either didn't think your product stood out sufficiently or we started drinking alcoholic beverages too early in the afternoon to see straight and missed you as a result -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on trends and new products for travel luggage, gear bags, shoulder bags and accessories:
Monitoring the comings and goings of the $703 billion travel industry, the Travel Industry Association (TIA) was optimistic heading into this summer travel season (June, July and August) anticipating nearly 330 million people would take a trip during that time -- a 1.4 percent increase in leisure travel over last summer.
TIA said that air travel would be stronger than auto travel this summer, rising about 3 percent over last year. But auto travel would still hold its own, accounting for about eight in 10 summer leisure trips.
Travelers are becoming increasingly interested in ecotourism and volunteerism vacations that focus on local cultures, volunteering, personal growth, and helping the natural and culture environments of the places they visit. According to the Ecotourism Society, the ecotourism industry has seen a 30 percent growth each year for the past three years.
The "Ideal American Vacation Trip" report from TIA and American Express asked 2,500 vacation travelers about their travel habits in 2006. What is the typical American vacation trip? Approximately 124 million Americans took a vacation in the past year, amounting to 55 percent of the adult population, with the typical traveler taking three trips per year, the report found. On average, the typical household spends $1,500 on a vacation trip and travels 1,200 miles from home.
And, weekend travel is more popular than ever, according to a separate study from TIA which reported that half of all U.S. adults -- nearly 103 million -- take at least one weekend trip per year. Almost 30 percent of Americans have taken five or more weekend trips in the past year, and 35 percent of all weekend travelers say they've taken their children with them on at least one weekend trip.
Compared to five years ago, day trips and weekend trips appear to be more popular today than trips lasting about one week or longer. Forty percent of weekend travelers report they are taking more day trips or weekend trips (38 percent) today than five years ago, TIA said.
It added that interest in longer trips lasting more than one week seems to be declining -- 43 percent of weekend travelers claim they are taking fewer long trips than they did five years ago. And, 42 percent of weekend travelers make last-minute plans and select their destination within two weeks of their trip.
Travel luggage, packs and duffels
Airport travel can be harder on your gear than any trek through the mountains. A host of companies have been tinkering in R&D labs to create the next generation of the toughest travel luggage, packs and duffels destined to survive the baggage handlers at JFK, LAX and points beyond. And no Summer Market show would be complete without a few new companies entering the travel market fray, including Samsonite, Crumpler and Mountain Hardwear.
Always on the leading edge of travel organization, Eagle Creek's new Exploration System Collection (ES2) features the new and redesigned ORV series of trunks and gear bags. Designed for organization of bulky, oversized gear and clothing, the ORV pieces feature zip-up padded panel dividers, easy-to-clean compartments and the company's exclusive Helix fabrics, which are reportedly lighter and yet just as durable as a Cordura of the same denier.
The Take 2 ORV Trunk 28 with wheels has a full-featured gear bag attached to a water- and dirt-resistant gear bin for two separate organizational sections for clothing and gear. The two sections can be separated into two bags to quickly reduce baggage weight and size -- ideal for check-in at the airline ticket counter. Another notable was the Double Down ORV Gear Bag with compartments ideal for ski poles, snorkel gear or fly-fishing equipment.
Eagle Creek has also cleaned up the look of the Tarmac series giving it a more streamlined design and more internal organization, with features like a larger stow-away shoe box and a stash cache compartment for belts and other small accessories. The expandable main compartment space on the Tarmac 22, 25 and 28 (MSRPs $275-$330) has 15 percent more packing space. New to the line is the Tarmac Plus One (MSRP $275), a lightweight carry-on with zip-off daypack.
Patagonia tweaked a few pieces in its travel line, including the MLC carry-on suitcase, which now comes in a wheelie version. It has a butt cover for the wheels when the backpack straps are deployed (nothing worse than wheels stripes on a nice pair of pants or a dress) and a compartment for a laptop, but it loses some space because of the wheel bar. The company’s Guidewater watersports duffel is half waterproof compartment (think the Black Hole bag) and half mesh compartment to dry clothes out.
Known for its fishing vest, packs and accessories, the folks at Fishpond (www.fishpondusa.com) were astute enough to realize that anglers and fly-fishers need receptacles to carry said gear. What sets apart its eye-catching line of travel luggage and gear bags is the unique, autumnal color combos that include mustard, rusty nail, moss green, crimson and steel blue with accent webbing. (You'll always find your bag on the conveyor belt at the airport – that is unless everyone else decides to opt for these bags too). New for spring '08 were six ballistic-nylon, rolling duffels (MSRPs $229-$349) in varying sizes from the 35-inch Stampede down to the 21-inch carry-on Lariat -- each with two compartments to separate clothes and gear. Fishpond also has a full line of gear bags for fishing reels, flies, waders, boots and rods.
Touted as being lighter than competitive models, Osprey's SpaceStation 100 (6,100 cubic inches) and SpaceStation 140 (8,500 cubic inches) rolling expedition duffels have an oversized base compartment with bellows divider, StraightJacket compression, one external side wet/dry pocket, two additional external side pockets and six grab handles. Retailing for $219 and $249, they will also have a larger 18-inch wide base High Road Chassis.
After successfully introducing a tight travel luggage collection last year, The North Face has added more pieces and streamlined the look of some to be more suitcase-like for business traveler sensitivities, such as the new Sidetrack 21 and 25 wheeled luggage.
Apparel makers aren't the only ones thinking of uses for PET fabrics made of recycled plastic bottles. Mountainsmith dipped a toe in the waters last year with two models and for 2007 has expanded its use of recycled materials significantly. It has 35 styles of packs, bags and luggage, and estimates that it's saving more than 4 million bottles from the landfill. Mountainsmith said it is committed to the use of U.S. plastic bottles for recycling fabrics in the future and hopes to have its entire line made of recycled materials in the future. Among the recycled pieces, it debuted four Travel Trunks (MSRPs $55-$90) made of 450-denier recycled PET body fabric and 1,000-denier ballistic nylon reinforcements in sizes medium to XXL. Also new for the company, but not of the recycled ilk, is the Covert XL travel duffel (MSRP $199) with a detachable daypack.
On the decidedly unique side, Sandstorm (www.sandstormkenya.com) started in Kenya as a manufacturer of premium safari tents and has expanded into travel bags, accessories and ladies bags made of cotton canvas and specially tanned cow and camel hides with solid brass fittings. Pieces are designed and handcrafted in Kenya following safari-grade specification and remind one of "Out of Africa." Canvas and cowhide travel bags retail between $220 to $345, while a limited selection of the same bags in camel hide retail between $600 to $800.
After 97 years in the luggage business, Samsonite previewed various technical and lifestyle pieces from its new outdoor sub-brand, Samsonite OutLab, at Summer Market. Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and an explorer in his own right, has joined as brand ambassador and will be providing additional R&D input as he puts the pieces through the paces on his international adventures (click here to listen to a SNEWS® Live podcast interview with Fabien). Launching in January 2008, the five collections will be available in a variety of styles including daypacks, outdoor backpacks, laptop backpacks, duffels, wheeled duffels and messenger bags.
Designed for more extreme outdoor travelers, Samsonite OutLab's Sloth collection uses SuperFabric brand materials that are reputed to make travel gear water- and slash-resistant. The X+III Series is a collection of functional and durable technical bags and packs made with lightweight, abrasion-resistant materials for getting off the beaten track. Inspired by a turtle's protective fortress, backpacks in the Tartaruga collection are made from plates of strong, but lightweight fabric called Curv, which are joined together by flexible strong bridges of rubberlike Hytrel. The MOAB (Mobile Outdoor Active Bags) collection is made up of hybrid packs offering a rugged hard shell bottom with a soft top for a casual and sporty lifestyle combination. Described as tough and stylish, the Median travel gear collection is for outdoor sports enthusiasts and urban explorers.
After two years on the drawing board, the always-daring Crumpler out of Australia debuted three wheeled suitcases named after classic house designs -- Period Charmer (carry-on), Moch Tudor (medium) and Free-standing Edwardian (large). Adhering to its whacky, very Crumpler-esque styling look-wise, the pieces feature water-resistant, 900-denier polyester outer shells, custom molded bottoms, large zip access for easy loading, neoprene stretch panels, multiple internal and sidewall pockets, and an easy-access, side-loading laptop pocket. The sticking point may be the prices: $400 for the carry-on, $475 for the mid-size and $560 for the large. Crumpler told SNEWS® that it's shooting for the U.S. traveler who "spends money and wants something different." Although one Asian buyer told Crumpler at the show that price is no object in Japan, we still say, "good luck with that in the U.S., mate."
Mountain Hardwear has anointed 2008 as "The Year of Gear" and kicked it off with the launch of a travel line. Designed by the same product manager for its gear, the company told us, "Why not travel with your favorite brand?" Pieces are stealth black, made of the same non-toxic HardWear tarp found in its Expedition Duffels, with gold stitching details. For now, the line is limited to a wheeled bag in two sizes, various daypacks and a messenger bag, but has room to grow. The Juggernaut 85 and 115 wheelies (MSRPs $285-$325) have 16-inch steel axles that hold skate wheels securely to the frame, pull-out handle with molded grip, beefy zippers, removable inner pocket and accessory pouches, and separate collapsible compartment for dirty shoes or wet clothes.
Concerns over high gas prices weren't as prevalent as last year -- as long as prices hovered around $3 per gallon. Survey responses from both TIA and AAA noted that the majority of consumers expected to see high gas prices this summer, but were taking it much more in stride than in the past. But if it hit $3.50 a gallon, all bets were off. Nearly a third of survey respondents said they would cancel their trip if the national average reached that point. Luckily, it doesn't seem to have been the case as industry companies banked on folks hitting the highway.
Out at the pre-show demo, SNEWS® talked to companies that are rethinking how we haul our gear. Sylvan Sport and Let's Go Aero are merging the concepts of a pop-up camper with a "backpack on wheels," creating trailers that combine a fold-out shelter with a lightweight method for hauling bikes, kayaks, canoes and other outdoor gear.
Founded by Thomas Dempsey, Sylvan Sport's Go trailer (MSRP $7,500) blends the expertise of designers from the outdoor, bike and RV industries. Weighing in at 700 pounds, the Go has an all-aluminum frame that pops up vertically to different heights for open travel mode or camping mode. It has a Control-Tilt Cargo deck for easy loading of an ATV or boats, and is compatible with various rack systems. In the front, it has 24 cubic feet of waterproof gear storage -- a portion of which is lockable. Additionally, the company partnered with Kelty to design the included (and very nifty) tent structure that sleeps up to four, with removable bed panels to convert the sleeping area into a living or dining space.
Not quite as slick-looking as Sylvan Sport's offering, the GearWagon 125 (MSRP $3,500) from Let's Go Aero looks like a rather non-descript box on wheels when closed and more reminiscent of a pop-up camper when opened. It is a full-size pickup bed with load-bearing endgate with 125 cubic feet of capacity to haul luggage, bikes, camping gear, even ATVs. The GearLodge tent enclosure transforms the wagon into a micro-camper that sleeps two.
Companies like Kelty and Mountainsmith are continuing to help road warriors hit the open road with a trunk full of organized gear.
Mountainsmith has expanded its modular system for storing, organizing, packing, and transporting gear to include the Basecamp Travel System designed to accommodate weekend camping essentials. The freestanding Hauler with a tuck-away shoulder strap system holds four different sized cubes. One slim, long cube holds a sleeping pad or tent. Two one-quarter cubes protect cooking gear or small camping essentials. Sleeping bags or outerwear will fit in the full size horizontal cube. Other features include a zippered lid, bright yellow fully weather-resistant lining, side-access haul handles, a front flat pocket, compression straps and tie-down loops.
Kelty has also added to its Basecamp Storage On-the-Go line which is designed to make travel and campsite organization easier and address the evolving needs of hardcore or more casual outdoor enthusiasts. Among the new offerings are the Picnic Hauler (MSRP $80), which carries one insulated, PVC-free cooler Binto for cold storage and one regular Binto for dry storage; the Pop Duo (MSRP $60), part cooler and part pantry with a fold-out prep table in between; and the Roly 6 and 12 (MSRPs $20-$28), mini soft-sided coolers that can carry six or 12 soda cans. Additionally, Kelty has added a line of furniture -- chairs, recliners and tables -- that complements its Basecamp collection and share the same attributes of ease of use, innovative design, low weight and durability. All the furniture is designed by Kelty's R&D team, and retailers told the company that they liked being able to get all their stuff from one vendor.
And, Kiva has created a POP display to demonstrate how its Big Mouth Rolling Upright and its elastic cord Rack Lash System work on any car roof rack. Along with an instruction poster, the POP mounts onto a wall so buyers can see visually how the system works.
Being on the go doesn't exclude being stylish. SNEWS® saw numerous shoulder bags, messenger bags, backpacks and purses that are handy for daily commutes or globe-trotting. Companies are still addressing the continuing trend of sporty chic lifestyle products for the woman on the go, as well as slimmer profiles in totes and purses and sustainable materials. While companies like Overland are making a concerted effort to target the 35-plus market (although we’re still not sure what that really means), others like Sherpani are saying to heck with ageism and are targeting their bags for active women from ages 18 to 95. Age, we say, is a state of mind.
With new owners onboard, Overland has compiled a team with backgrounds from Gregory, Timbuk2, Mountainsmith and The North Face. The product line has been scaled down from nearly 50 to 22 products with the desire to make every single product work. The new crew has adopted Overland's original logo created in 1981 and given major facelifts to best-selling staple bags like the Donner, Placer and Auburn. The new Cambridge tote (MSRP $80) tried to make carrying a laptop more comfortable with adjustable tote straps -- short for easy hand carry or longer for over the shoulder. It also has hideaway backstrap straps, a protective laptop sleeve and organizer pockets.
Timbuk2, Overland and Sherpani, as well as newcomer Haiku, have upped their commitment to the environment by using sustainable fabrics in select pieces.
As a follow-up to last year's purge of PVC from the line, pieces (messenger bags, totes and packs) in Timbuk2's new Grown collection are made of hemp and PET with buckles constructed of corn-based PLA resin. Overland's Eco-Tility three-piece line for women are sustainable hemp bags with soy ink prints and lined with organic cotton (MSRPs $55-$70), while the men's three pieces use non-toxic wax coated canvas, recycled rubber, recycled PET liners and recycled aluminum (MSRPs $95-$120).
Sherpani, maker of women's-specific urban/travel/fitness bags, introduced the new Natural collection "where nature meets fashion" in the line's various shoulder and messenger bags, purses, backpack and tote. The cotton canvas bags are made with non-toxic, eco-friendly dyes and non-toxic fabric coatings, and will ship with recycled paper hangtags. Part of the new collection, the Clover shoulder satchel (MSRP $27) is a compact, rectangular-sized bag with an adjustable strap that hugs close to the body and holds the essentials -- wallet, phone and sunglasses.
Shoulder bags in Haiku's Karma Neutral Eco-Collection (www.haikubags.com) feature unique appliqué and top-stitching details of flowers and leaves, and are made of renewable jute/cotton.
On the techy side, High Sierra launched two iPod-friendly daypacks -- the Groove and Audible (MSRP $69) -- with a BackBeat controller switch on the strap to use an iPod player control without taking it out of the pack.
New for Osprey is the Aero, a streamlined laptop briefcase (MSRP $49). Previously only available with the Slipstream, the Glide mobile laptop workstation (MSRP $69) is now available as a stand-alone piece.
While its products do well in the United States, Asia and Australia, Pacsafe's more stylish shoulder bags and backpacks have not appealed to the European set. To hopefully remedy that, it debuted the women's DailySafe Series of handbags and backpacks with decidedly Euro-ish brushed chrome logo buckle and various anti-theft features like slashproof shoulder straps and Exomesh Slashguard panels. We think, though, the company will have better luck getting dealers to buy into its new MeshSafe series of messenger bags and backpacks designed for laptops.
Still popular -- and admittedly very handy -- are totes, mini-duffels and backpacks made of lightweight material that compactly fold up into themselves when not in use. While Kiva, Equinox and Travel Hammock offer reasonably priced pieces, other companies --The North Face and Patagonia come to mind -- have gone a little crazy with techy fabrics that push the bags into the "would-I-pay-that-much-for-this" stratosphere.
What journey would be complete without a host of accessories to make life pleasant off- and on-the-road.
Whether it's to keep from sleeping on the sheets of some no-tell motel or to improve the thermal performance of your sleeping bags, travel sheets and liners from Cocoon, Sea to Summit and Travel Hammock have their place all over the globe.
Sea to Summit has rounded out its line with the Silk/Cotton Sleeping Bag Liner (MSRPs $45-$55). The two natural fibers blend together to produce a high-thread count liner that is silky soft and machine washable. For those tired of sleeping hot and cold in the same night, Cocoon has blended the best of both worlds in the Thermal Liner (MSRPs $55-$60), which is made of moisture-managing Coolmax fabric infused with temperature-regulating Outlast. For the go-light crowd, it debuted the ripstop-silk Expedition Mummyliner in three sizes: 3.9, 4.2 and 4.6 ounces (MSRPs $65-$70). Available in black for quick drying in the sun, it has a hood that cinches down tight around the face for maximum warmth and an attached stuff sack so it doesn't get misplaced.
Also for weary travelers was Travel Hammock's Silk Sleep Sack (MSRP $40) with waterproof pouch. When a bed or a bag aren't a sleeping option, the company revealed the next generation of its All Terrain Hybrid Hammock (MSRP $70), weighing in at 20 ounces, which can also do duty as a tarp, rain fly or tent footprint.
And what night's sleep wouldn't be complete without Cocoon's new AirCore Travel (MSRP $18) and Ultralight AirCore pillows (MSRP $25). Both feature an inflatable air core encased in synthetic fill with a twist valve, but the Ultralight version comes in at 3 ounces (compared to its 6.5-ounce sister) by using a lightweight urethane bladder and fabrics.
Once you're awake, it's time to clean up. The North Face added a kit called the Base Camp Travel Canister that looks like a cloth canister with a zippered opening and various loops for grabbing quick. Eagle Creek's new Pack-It She-She Set is a set of three zip-closed pouches (MSRP $25) for cosmetic organization and daily necessities, while the She-She Kit (MSRP $20) is a fill-zippered toiletry solution. Both are lined with stain-resistant Antron fabric. Part of its Basecamp collection, Kelty's Aqua Kit (MSRP $50) is a multi-talented toiletry kit that can hang from a tree, a car or in camp. It features an anti-microbial, 2.5-liter reservoir with easy-access water tap, work shelf and organizer pockets.
JanSport told SNEWS® that it's added a complete travel accessories collection that includes various packing cubes and folders, toiletry kits, etc., all in matching packaging for a consistent look when displayed.
In an effort to hit different price points, Aquis relaunched the AQ2 sports towel line in 2007 for price-sensitive customers. Towels in the AQ2 line (MSRP $12) are made of a terry material in a waffle weave and have simpler packaging than the company's higher-tiered Adventure towel line.
Tired of the cloth pouches it provided for the Adventure Travel Pack wardrobe getting lost on retailers' shelves, Contourwear has wisely co-marketed with Eagle Creek to use its Pack-It folder. The seven apparel pieces the company offers for its ATP fit easily into the folder, and then slide right into a messenger bag for carry-on convenience.
On a totally different note, Pacsafe debuted the TuneSafe 100 (MSRP $20), a secure iPod case made of ABS plastic with a slashproof vinyl-coated steel cable and a four-dial resettable combination lock. The design allows travelers to use the iPod as they normally would while allowing them to secure to a belt loop, backpack, etc.
Sometimes a good adventure isn't complete without a good journal to record the details. Companies like Nomad Adventure Journals and Rustico are providing stylish alternatives to composition notebooks:
Nomad Adventure Journals offers various themed journals (MSRP $9-$15) with logbook-type pages where details of a trip can be recorded. In addition to its weatherproof zipper case (MSRP $12), it has added a leather case with a snap closure (MSRP $14). Encouraged to come to the show for years, Rustico languished a bit in a far-off meeting room where its handmade journals were being showcased. Too bad its quality products didn't see more folks. Rustico uses handpicked top-grain leather, tanned in the United States, in its journals, photo albums, travel/passport wallets and other accessories. Best of all, they come in a variety of price points -- retailing from $9 up to the $50s. Both companies (www.nomadjournals.com and www.rusticoleather.com) offer customized personalization on products, such as embossing a company name or logo.
All this talk about bags, journals and campers makes us get the itch to get outta here. Darn, got more work to do.