As we noted in our product trends story on Aug. 17, 2009, most of the talk at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market was about the announcement of a new paddle show. But that didn’t mean the equipment and gear companies weren’t showing off their wares.
In our first paddlesports trends story on Aug. 17 (click here to see that story), we covered boats including kayaks of all kinds and canoes, as well as paddleboards. Today, we take a look at trends in all the other stuff a paddler needs from paddles and PFDs to apparel and accessories.
Astral Bouyancy introduced the Camino (MSRP $108.95), a PFD featuring the Air Escape design, which uses mesh panels that allow air to flow and also elevate the PFD away from the body. This started with the V-Eight in 2008 and it’s their best selling SKU. The folks at Astral have also noticed that seatbacks on kayaks are getting taller, so it launched the Nova (MSRP $88.95), which has a foam and open mesh on the back designed to reduce the bulk of the PFD and allow plenty of airflow. www.astralbuoyancy.com
For about three years, Kokatat had not been selling its Ronin Pro PFD in the U.S. due to issues with UL standards. Basically, it was almost impossible for U.S. manufacturers to meet the standards for type V vests, but U.S. manufacturers worked diligently to get the standards changed, and the Ronin Pro is once again available. www.kokatat.com
MTI re-thought the way its dog PFDs were designed, moving away from the cape style, which the company felt did not put dogs at the proper angle in the water to move most effectively. The new Underdog PFD (MSRP $34.99-$39.99) puts the flotation under the belly of the dog (rather than the top of the dog’s back) and has a separate foam neck collar. A handle on the neckpiece provides a place to attach a leash. Though it costs MTI $1,500 to get the UL labs to approve a new fabric color (there are issues with color degradation due to the sun), MTI is launching several new PFD colors to help increase sales. “In a recession we need to spark the impulse to buy,” MTI’s Lili Colby said. Look for less mango and more bright yellows, blues and reds, as well as PFDs in green, turquoise and white. The company has also introduced a women’s-specific PFD for kayak fishing. The PFDiva F Spec (MSRP $119.99), like the PFDiva, is designed specifically to fit a woman’s body, but is fully outfitted with all the loops, pockets and lash tabs you’ll ever need, plus an eight-compartment tackle box. www.mtiadventurewear.com
NRS has introduced its first rodeo-style PFD, the low-profile Ninja ($119.95), which has an interesting split front panel that not only allows the PFD to wrap more easily around the body, but also serves as a hand-warmer compartment. www.nrsweb.com
Stohlquist uses pre-curved foam to improve the fit of its new rescue vest (MSRP $200). One interesting aspect of the vest is that the shoulder areas are reinforced with nailcloth to resist abrasion while portaging. www.stohlquist.com
Mysterioso has begun producing pieces for stand-up paddle boarding, including paddleshorts (MSRP $52) that sport a water bottle pocket in the back that can be reached easily. It also introduced a wicking bottom and top combo for paddle boarding in colder weather. www.mysterioso.com
Level Six continues to introduce technical fabrics to core paddlers, and for 2010 it’s offering the Conceptual softshell jacket (MSRP $149), which has slightly distressed look, and is really designed to be more of a casual piece of outerwear. A relatively thick softshell, it’s windproof and made with 98 percent polyester and 4 percent spandex.
You know, a drysuit doesn’t have to look boring, and the new Level Six Poseidon suit (MSRP $760) is pretty sharp, with curved and sweeping trim outlining bold blocks of fabric at the arms, knees and ankles. Plus, it’s a fully-featured suit, including waterproof and breathable nylon socks with soles made of Cordura. www.levelsixinc.com
Hey, Vibram isn’t the only company focused on people’s toes. The NRS Sasquatch Water Shoe (MSRP $40) made of 3mm neoprene has toe cutouts so you can splay your digits for added comfort and stability. Another cool new product from NRS is its Rogue (MSRP $34.95), a taped glove made of 2mm neoprene. It’s waterproof and warm, but not bulky, so it won’t limit your dexterity. Responding to consume requests, the company also created the Boundary Sock (MSRP $40), a waterproof neoprene sock that goes over the calf. We also liked the new Expedition Drysuit (MSRP $950) because it has internal suspender, so you don’t have to tie the arms around your waist if you want to lower the top portion of the suit. Good idea. www.nrsweb.com
Paddles and accessories
AT Paddles has introduced an all-carbon version of its Ergo T4. Weighing only 27 ounces, the new Ergo T4 C paddle is about 8 ounces lighter than the previous model, and it’s made with linear carbon, as opposed to checkered carbon, which must be hand-woven, so the retail price ($299) is not astronomical. Linear carbon was also used to reduce the weight of the AT4 paddles by 8 ounces. www.atpaddle.com
Yakima’s new Even Keel boat rack has saddles that flex to prevent damage to the boat hull. And the price is right—with, the saddles, and tie-downs it’s only $99 retail. www.yakima.com
Thule has rolled out its own version of the foam block rack, and it retails for $80. One other thing—kudos to Thule for the sharp redesign of its packaging -- photo to right. It’s more straightforward, showing the rack on a car so consumers can visualize what they’re getting, and here’s something clever—a blank, square space on the box for a shipping label. www.thuleracks.com
A throw bag is a throw bag, right? Well not anymore. Liquid Logic’s Speedloader (MSRP $59) is designed so that the bag can be opened wide so it’s much easier to feed in rope. Then, you can cinch a drawcord to close the bag quickly and secure it with a Velcro-type closure. www.liquidlogickayaks.com
Another great accessory in the Legacy family of brands is the Watertrail Telescopic Handle Folding Head Weigh Net (MSRP $149). OK, yeah, this thing is in dire need of a better name, but it’s way cool. Basically, its’ a collapsible fishing net that includes a weight scale, allowing you to weigh a fish while you’re holding it in the net. www.watertrailgear.com
Surf Tech introduced new paddles, with some models made of 100 percent carbon materials and other made of 50 percent carbon and 50 percent fiberglass composite. Each has a 12-degree bend to push water more effectively, and they retail between $200 and $300. Also cool is a new coil leash (to keep your leash out of the water) with a super durable urethane cord and top-quality parts and construction. www.surftech.com
The SNEWS® team of seasoned reporters covers a trade show to seek out product highlights, indications of a trend (to a product category, a company or 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.