Outdoor Retailer Summer Market '08: Travel gear trends not slowing despite weaker market

Rising fuel prices, higher-priced plane tickets and a weak U.S. dollar have disrupted travel plans of many Americans in 2008. More people skipped their summer getaway, opting for vacations not far from home or even choosing a "staycation" where they either stayed home or took only day trips near home. Despite the gloomy predictions, travel gear makers came to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market packed with new product for spring/summer '09 in all areas, from travel luggage and packs, to shoulder bags and trailers, to accessories and much more.
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Rising fuel prices, higher-priced plane tickets and a weak U.S. dollar have disrupted travel plans of many Americans in 2008. More people skipped their summer getaway, opting for vacations not far from home or even choosing a "staycation" where they either stayed home or took only day trips near home.

A survey commissioned by Travel Industry Association and Ypartnership Travelhorizons in July, said one in seven (14 percent) American leisure travelers said they had taken a staycation during the past six months. And, of the more than 2,200 U.S. adults surveyed, 9 percent said they are planning a home-based vacation during the next six months.

When asked about the reasons for their anticipated staycation vacation, respondents stated "gasoline prices are too high" (61 percent), "travel in general is too expensive" (44 percent), and "am cutting back on discretionary spending" (43 percent).

And it looks like traveling by air will continue to take its share of hits. The Air Transport Association of America expects Labor Day travel to drop by 5.7 percent this year, as rising airfares and schedule cuts keep travelers from booking getaways that require air travel. It projects 16 million paying passengers will fly globally on U.S. airlines -- down from the 17 million passengers during the same period last year. The projection includes a 6.5 percent drop in domestic travel and a 1 percent increase in international travel.

In addition to higher airfares and tighter schedules, the ATA said travel is being discouraged by higher energy prices, which have left consumers with less money to spend.

"We expect airplanes to be less full and skies to be less crowded this Labor Day holiday," said ATA President and CEO James C. May in a statement. "Economic uncertainty and the heavy hit from sky-high energy prices mean that many vacation and business travelers are choosing to stay closer to home -- if they go at all."

Despite the gloomy predictions, travel gear makers came to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market packed with new product for spring/summer '09 in all areas, from travel luggage and packs, to shoulder bags and trailers, to accessories and much more.



Travel collection debuts


This Summer Market was THE show for wheeled luggage debuts with at least four companies rolling out new lines, including Deuter, Timbuk2, Sherpani and Lowe Alpine. Perhaps people are just getting tired of the growing array of helpful electronics weighing on their backs.

Maybe it was the excitement of celebrating its 110th anniversary, but venerable German pack manufacturer Deuter decided now was a good time to launch a line of technical travel luggage to the U.S. market, telling SNEWS® the new collection was a natural extension for the company. Its goal is to create a line of products for the modern traveler company representatives told us.

The Traverse 30 and 80 (MSRP $239-$329) are on the elegant end of the luggage spectrum with Deuter styling thrown in. Both come with reinforced corners, bomber wheels and organization pockets. The Traverse 30 also meets the size specs for carry-on luggage. The Ascent 80 and 110 rolling duffels (MSRP $299-$349) are the big boys of the group with a 4,900- and 6,700-cubic-inch capacity, respectively. And what pack company can resist making a travel backpack? Deuter's two slim-shaped Quantum travel packs (MSRP $229-$249) feature the Vari-Quick back system, load-bearing aluminum frame and anatomically formed hip belt. Made of ripstop Polytex/Duratex, they have dual access main compartments -- through the lid or via the U-shaped zip at the front -- and a removable daypack. www.deuterusa.com

Timbuk2 said its goal is to make airport travel as quick as possible with its decidedly Timbuk2-looking travel line made up of two wheeled bags, five shoulder/duffel style bags and a backpack. Accessories include the in-flight case for travel electronics, travel wallet, clear zip pouch and a set of small bottles in a Ziploc-style bag. Most bags are black with blue, red and green panels.

The wheeled Checkpoint (MSRP $250-$275), available in 22-inch and 25-inch sizes, has a bike-inspired custom chassis with removable skate wheels and custom shovel handle designs. The single tube aluminum chassis is anodized to match the center panel color. Each available in two sizes, they also have internal shoe pockets, internal compression and felt-lined internal secret pockets. The aptly dubbed Suitcase (MSRP $225) reflects its name and holds three to five days worth of clothes. It features a detachable laptop section, a zippered back "Ninja" pocket for quick loading and unloading of electronics at security checkpoints, internal map pocket, luggage pass through, removable padded shoulder strap that works on both the main bag and the detached business section. www.timbuk2.com



Sherpani, known for its sport and life bag collections for women, debuted the six-piece Eco Recycled luggage line after receiving numerous customer requests for it, the company told us. The value-priced line is made from 67-percent recycled materials and features the distinctive Sherpani style. Ed Ruzic, president of Sherpani, said, "With this new collection, I believe we've brought the same fresh energy to the luggage category, and the timing is perfect."

Among the pieces are two expandable wheeled bags (MSRP $199-$249), wheeled briefcase (MSRP $129), duffel (MSRP $99), tote (MSRP $69) and cosmetic/toiletry case (MSRP $20). Of note is the Hemisphere, its larger wheeled bag at 25 inches with 5,500-cubic-inch capacity. With 360-degree expansion, it has a wide-mouth opening, a large mesh divider inside and shoe pocket. Sherpani's taking a chance on colors and in addition to black, also offers rhubarb red, sea mist green and palm yellow. www.sherpani-bags.com

By adding a travel line, Lowe Alpine’s Bruce Franks told us the company is now hitting all its customers' needs. Pieces in its wheeled line are called Take Off, while travel packs are Travel Trekkers. Luggage in the Take Off line has outer "clamshell" pouches, which a daypack can slide into and be clipped in, as well as high-grade aluminum framing and 360-degree access to the inside and hideaway harness system. The Life Support travel accessories line features a broad range of travel necessities, including the toiletry Wash Bag. www.lowealpine-usa.com

Morphing bags

They might not look like much when they're all scrunched down, but convertible bags are one of the handiest travel and around-town accessories available. They can be stowed in a purse, backpack or on a keychain, then folded out to hold souvenirs, dirty laundry, even groceries. Kiva has been a market leader since early 2002 with its convertible tote, sling, duffel and pack that folds down to the size of a small key chain-sized pouch, while Granite Gear has offered its own totes made of techy fabrics since 2005. Looking to capitalize on their obvious and growing success, various companies debuted their own version of these mini-wonders.

Folding into a 3-inch by 3-inch zippered pouch, Timbuk2's Hidden Series (MSRP $20-$28, www.timbuk2.com) included a backpack, a tote and what they called a "brown bag," because it looked a bit like a basic brown paper shopping bag. Available in a bunch of funky colors, they're made of 90-percent recycled PET ripstop.

Sea to Summit's Ultra-Sil bag (MSRP $17.95, www.seatosummit.com) is made of Siliconised Cordura and tucks into a tiny pocket sewn into a seam inside the bag. The company said it's held as much as a 285-pound load (employee Jimmy served as the guinea pig).

On a slightly different scale is Overland Equipment's new Calistoga natural canvas tote (MSRP $25, www.overlandequipment.com), which collapses down but not nearly as small as the others. Inspired by origami folding techniques, the sides of the two-handled Calistoga stay rigid when open and the flat bottom keeps contents upright. When not in use, it folds flat for easy storage.

Keeping the bugs at bay

Relatively well-known in ExOfficio clothing, Insect Shield is spreading its insect-repelling properties this summer into other categories, including travel accessories. Insect Shield offers invisible and odorless protection against various bugs using permethrin. Treated apparel is reputed to last through 70 washings, and on gear for 25 washings or six months of constant exposure to weather -- and it’s backed up by EPA approval. We had some ExO apparel on one of our testers in Alaska, braving onslaughts by mosquitoes for a week this summer and we’ll let you know how he fared in an upcoming review at www.snewsnet.com/reviews.

Cocoon was taking advantage of the Insect Shield technology in no less than eight products. Known for its travel sheets and bag liners, Cocoon designed the Insect Shield Safari Bag, a lightweight bag that can be used on its own or slid over a travel sheet, mummy liner or sleeping bag for increased protection from biting nasties. The bags (MSRP $28-$80, www.cocoonusa.com) come in three styles sized for adults and kids and a variety of fabrics, including silk, Coolmax, Egyptian cotton and regular cotton. Cocoon's debuting Safari line with Insect Shield also included a wrap, bug net, nightwear, scarf, sarong, socks and gloves.

This summer, Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) added Insect Shield to select hammocks to offer protection from mosquitoes, ticks, flies and fleas. Weighing in at 18 ounces, the SingleNest hammock (MSRP $75) fits inside a pouch about the size of a softball and holds up to 400 pounds. The DoubleNest hammock (MSRP $85) adds two more feet of width than its single brethren and allows room for one, two or three people -- any total up to the 400-pound limit. It's 22 ounces and packs down to the size of a grapefruit. www.eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com

And, what could be more natural than a Buff multi-purpose scarf and head or neck wrap with Insect Shield? Retail price is $27.



Here's a rundown of what other industry companies have in store for travel gear for the summer '09 season:

Arc'Teryx: The folks at Arc'Teryx told us they don't design anything unless they have a decidedly unique spin on it. They must have had something to say about messenger bags as they debuted their first-ever at Summer Market called the Mistral. Available in three sizes, the Mistral 8, 16 and 21 (MSRP $99, $129, $149) have a roll-open top rather than a big flap front opening, as well as a supportive framesheet and an EVA-lined bottom. The 16- and 21-liter bags have a cushioned laptop compartment. Arc'Teryx's Blade daypacks, also available in three sizes, have fully suspended laptop holders, accessory pockets, including a concealed passport/ticket pouch, and fleece-lined top pockets to protect electronics. The Blade 30 (MSRP $200) can double as an overnight bag with a two-way compartment styled as a suitcase. www.arcteryx.com

Bushnell: When you're traveling in an unknown place, it's always nice to have a little backup. Bushnell's new BackTrack (MSRP $60-$70) is a super-lightweight GPS unit that offers the bare bones in personal location. It stores and locates just three waypoints, providing distance and direction back via a high-sensitivity SiRF Star III GPS receiver. It's weather-resistant and has a self-calibrating digital compass. Its compact round shape makes it easy to stow in a pocket or purse and will come in handy when you wander the streets of Prague or Tokyo at night trying to find your hostel. www.bushnell.com

Eagle Creek: Eagle Creek told SNEWS there's a demand for large capacity, lightweight bags that are aesthetically interesting, especially among the kids of baby boomers. Its new Deviate line tries to hit multiple points with touring and travel backpacks, as well as wheeled luggage and duffels with backpack strap systems. The Truist touring packs have a narrow profile, backpack suspension system, which is meant to move with the torso and evenly distribute the weight, and the majority of the packs weigh in under 5 pounds. For packing access, they have a full front panel, zippered/drawstring top and zippered bottom compartment. The packs also have a central lock point that secures all the main entry points into the bag with one lock. The Truist is available in five sizes and includes a women's model. On the wheeled side, the Twist bags are available in two sizes and come with a zip-away fixed backpack suspension system. For the weight-conscious, the new Swerve wheeled duffel is 5,800 cubic inches and weighs in at 8 pounds, 4 ounces. www.eaglecreek.com

High Sierra: High Sierra's upgrade of the Level luggage line is aptly named Next Level. Part of the line is the NL2148, a carry-on expandable wheeled upright (MSRP $170), with the company's Flexoshell Feather-Lite compression molded back panel, which protects the bag's contents without adding weight. It also has the Built-EVA Feather-Lite foam structure, which helps maintain the bag's shape while also minimizing weight. www.highsierrasport.com

Lafuma: The main compartment of Lafuma's new Origami duffel fully unzips for flat storage. Made of ballistic polyamide, it's available in small, medium and a large version with wheels. And this one is for the ladies: the Naia travel pack in three sizes has gel inserts in the shoulders and hipbelt to make carrying heavy loads more comfortable. The main compartment has dual access -- from the top and also the side like a suitcase.

It has removable toiletry cases and a zip-off lid, which morphs into a purse. www.lafuma.com

JanSport: Harking back to its roots, JanSport's new Heritage Series is a modern re-issue of some of the company's original silhouettes that were released from 1969 to 1980. The 13 different styles and colorways sport an original JanSport woven label, weathered Cordura and nylon fabrics, antique brass metal zippers and seatbelt webbing. We like them all in their quirky originality, especially the Captain America daypack (MSRP $55) with U.S. flag graphics and the leather-bottomed Buckaroo backpack (MSRP $150). www.jansport.com

Kelty: Kelty's new Everyday line of packs and bags for women (MSRP $60-$80) can translate well from an urban setting to travel abroad. With an earth-tone palette, they're made from 60-percent recycled polyester fabric, vegetable tanned leather, and custom aluminum hardware adapted from classic Kelty designs. The Saunter (MSRP $80) is a messenger-style shoulder bag that features 1,000 cubic inches of storage space, a front organizer panel for small items and internal sleeve sized for files or a laptop. www.kelty.com

Mountainsmith: New to the collection for 2009 are the Discovery 26 mid-size wheel bag, Discovery 32 large gear hauler wheel bag, and the Bagavond, Roundabout and Cruiser urban commuter packs. The Discovery bags (MSRP $219-$239) have three-quarter zippered main compartments with access to the bottom compartment and interior mesh compartments, as well as have dual shafted telescoping handles, Hypalon skid plate, corner buffers for protection and inline wheels. The Boarding Pass wheeled carry-on has been redesigned for 2009 to coordinate with the Discovery bags. www.mountainsmith.com

Pacsafe: Continuing to rule the world of travel safety products, Pacsafe introduced 26 new products at Summer Market, including a business travel line (think briefcase sizing with and without wheels) and an expanded women's travel collection (wallets, purses and a sling backpack). A notable addition was the CamSafe camera shoulder bag (MSRP $80) for SLR cameras with Exomesh slash-resistant panels and strap, tamper-proof lockable zippers and zippered main compartment that opens close to the body for easy access and security. www.pacsafe.com



Patagonia: Patagonia, with a continued focus on using recycled or recyclable materials, has also organized the products according to day, travel or active use. The new MLC Dawn Patrol (MSRP $140) differs from the original MLC carry-on in that it has backpack straps instead of a shoulder strap and the addition of a wet-tray pocket that is vented and lined to separate wet and dry items. The Guidewater Duffel series has a big brother now -- the Max (MSRP $190) is sized at 5,620 cubic inches and is made of made of 47-percent 300-denier polyester -- and has a floating divider to separate wet from dry items. www.patagonia.com

Prana: Designed with the folks at Scapegoat (the technical apparel company Prana bought in 2007), Prana expanded its travel bag line with the Canyon rucksack and Vector backpack, a women's technical pack retailing for $80. www.prana.com

Rickshaw Bags: Inspired by the principles of the zero waste manufacturing movement, newcomer Rickshaw Bags has created a line of four messenger bags that strives to eliminate waste and be sustainable. The Zero bags are patterned in rectangles to fully utilize a width of fabric so no scraps are produced. And, to facilitate recycling, the bag is made of 100-percent nylon, including the fabric, webbing, plastic components and labels in the company's new San Francisco factory. Mark Dwight, Rickshaw founder and CEO, told SNEWS the line is the result of its efforts in sustainable design. "We took a three-pronged approach to this design: eliminate manufacturing waste, minimize the supply chain footprint, and make the bag from a single material," he said. They're available in a wide variety of color combinations and sizes small, medium, large and extra large (MSRP $40-$70). www.rickshawbags.com



The North Face: Branching our from just solid colors, The North Face added an eye-catching topo map graphic print, available in black or white, to a variety of wheeled luggage, duffels and toiletry cases. www.thenorthface.com

Topo Tent Trailer: RV maker Thor Industries has entered the gear-hauling trailer game with the Topo (MSRP $5,000), a combination gear trailer and pop-up tent that can be hauled by most vehicles. Once set up, the tent (designed by Cascade Designs) offers 80 square feet of living space and off-the-ground sleeping space for four in two sleeping compartments. On the road, the trailer can haul 300 to 400 pounds of gear, including bikes and boats. www.topo-tent.com



Victorinox Swiss Army:
Sometimes a knife casing holds more than just a knife, as evidenced by Victorinox Swiss Army's Swiss Flash. Fold out its implement and you'll find a 16 GB flash drive. You can pick from the TSA-friendly model with just the flash drive or get a version with a knife blade, nail file and snap-out flash drive (so you can carry it separately onto an airplane). (MSRPs $190-$244) www.swissarmy.com

>> Keep an eye out for our report coming soon on The New, The Cool, The Nifty and The Unusual since many items can cross-over into different areas and you may unearth products there that are great for travel also!




The SNEWS® team of seasoned reporters covers a trade show to seek out product highlights, indications of a trend (in a product category, at a company or affecting the industry) or products that are new to the market. In our post-show reports, we do not write about every last piece of gear or equipment we have seen, although, promise, we have most likely seen nearly everything. Even if not in a show report, you never know how information may be included in a future report, trend watch, product review or story. If you have any comments or questions, please email us at snewsbox@snewsnet.com.

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