The OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, turned 18 years old this year. In that time, it has grown from a regional European products fair – emphasis on German-speaking countries – to a bustling, globally oriented show with hundreds of product launches and attendees from 91 countries.
Partly due to its mid-July timing – this year, July 14-17 -- the show (www.outdoor-show.com) has become the launch pad for the coming season. And this year was no exception. SNEWS always prowls the aisles for intriguing companies and products not, or not commonly found, in North America. We do find our share. But along the way, we get a sneak preview of what will debut at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market – this year about three weeks later, Aug. 4-7.
Although the product launches may be the first globally at Friedrichshafen, the true whiz-bang showings for some non-North American-based companies – think Lizard, Salewa, Treksta or Hilleberg – still occur at Outdoor Retailer. And since most readers will either see those products in Salt Lake City – or read about them in SNEWS or the SNEWS-powered OR Daily paper (www.snewsnet.com/ordaily) – we’ll take you through some more European-centric brands and highlights.
One trend that seemed to be hitting its stride – pun intended – is speedhiking. A year ago we called it a manufactured trend at its debut (click here to see that July 19, 2010, SNEWS story). For four companies highly involved in Nordic walking, one wondered if Deuter, Leki, Lowa and Meindl didn’t come up with speedhiking to fill the coffers as Nordic walking growth stabilized. This year we found out speedhiking (www.speedhiking.de) was intended to attract a more active crowd to the mountains – those enticed by something more than a gemutlich saunter, but less than an intense, intimidating mountain run. The goal is to combine nature and mountains with physical activity for what is now, perhaps sadly, also an increasingly sedentary and overweight population.
The four companies decided to come together on the push. And although Lowa and Meindl could be considered competitors, “United we stand,” a spokesman for one company told us. “We don’t run, but we walk – only faster,” he added.
Euro product highlights
Onto the products – we opened umbrellas (crossed our fingers we’d avoid the seven years of bad luck), sipped coffee, curled up on sleeping pads, and even nibbled a backcountry fondue. (Note: If products are not sold in USD, we only report the prices in Euros since a directly translated currency rate would not be accurate if it were sold in the United States.)
Blunt umbrella – One may think that an umbrella is an umbrella, with only size, materials and perhaps colors being options. Blunt Umbrellas taught us otherwise. These amazing pieces out of New Zealand take the eye-poking danger out of rainy days and allegedly will withstand gale-force winds. The tips aren’t tips but almost like mini-spreading umbrellas spreading inside pockets when opened, and the ribs are floating to give the support the top needs when you need it with the forces to snap them. The infrastructure remains light but looks hard as nails. EUR 55 (XL size, EUR 65) www.bluntumbrellas.com
Euroschirm – An umbrella-maker with super lightweight models has taken its hands-free pack-and-umbrella system from a year ago and come out with a simple hands-free carrying system. Think backpack without the, well, backpack. The umbrella is attached to the front shoulder strap, leaving the user able to use his or her hands for cameras, dog leashes, strollers, kids’ hands, walking sticks or whatever else may be desired. EUR 60 www.euroschirm.com
Grower’s Cup – We’ve seen brew-in-a-bag coffee and it wasn’t a pretty picture for true coffee lovers, as we are at SNEWS. So we approached the crowd around the table at this Danish company skeptically, to say the least, as reps were pouring coffee out of a bag. But once we heard the gushing rap by coffee maniac and founder Ulrik Rasmussen, we knew we had the real deal here. Rasmussen had been working on the product for eight years, he said, and has refined brew-in-a-bag that a connoisseur will appreciate, using the likes of Nicaragua, Ethiopia, etc. Yes, it’s GOOD. One bag makes three cups. Just pour in boiling water. EUR 2.25 www.growerscup.com
Haglofs – A little more than a year after its acquisition by Asics (click here to see a July 12, 2010, SNEWS story and here to see a September 2010 conversation with Asics and Haglofs about the future), Haglofs of Sweden is already tapping into its parent’s resources. New for example was a line of sandal models – open-back flip-flop-like, semi-open, and a more protective closed toe – with 15-percent cork soles in a relationship with Sole footbeds and a cushioning EVA sole technology from Asics. Still embedded in the outdoor world of shells, backpacks and hiking boots, CEO Nicolas Warchalowski noted the company was not going into running shoes … yet … and left that interpretation up to us. www.haglofs.se
Handpresso – It looks like a fancy MOMA-esque bicycle pump but it’s a coffee press. The French company has been selling the press itself since about 2009 but decided to bring it to the outdoor market this year. “We thought, ‘our users are here,'” a spokeswoman said. You pump the handle to build up about 230 psi (about 25 strokes), then add hot water and a standard coffee pod to the “bubble” at the end (a new version takes ground coffee), and let it brew out into your cup. Less water, stronger espresso. Voila, mon ami, un bon café! USD $99-$129 www.handpresso.com
Hanwag – Germany-based mountain bootmaker Hanwag introduced a system that will allow retailers to customize lasts – and therefore boots – for each customer. Users stand on the compact 3D-scanning platform in special socks and allow their feet to be scanned. The digital model that results lets Hanwag make the person a personal last. Cheap? No. about EUR 800 for the process, but then the customer has the last saved for them for any other select Hanwag footwear. It takes just a minute and the product will take up to about six weeks to manufacturer. Retailers will rent or buy the equipment, and retailer margins will be similar to other boots, we were told. www.hanwag.de
Jack Wolfskin – Part of the continued light-lighter-lightest trend, the German King Kong of a company (just sold to Blackstone in late July), had its own 3,925-gram (8.6-pound) system of “wardrobe and bedroom” designed to fit into a 30-liter pack. The package includes a full-zip sleeping bag, one-person double-walled tent, sleeping pad, shell and fleece. www.jack-wolfskin.com
Klattermusen – Continuing its recent move into lighter-weight yet durable and functional spring-summer products, Swedish Klattermusen introduced the Mithril jacket of sleek, bomb-proof reinforced Kevlar. It’ll withstand the roughest brushes with rock (“75-meter screams on your favorite slab, anyone?” the press release said), yet looks sleek enough for a cup of coffee in town. Very water- and wind-resistant. EUR 411 www.klattermusen.se
Maloja – You had to go looking for Maloja (“Mah-low-yah”), although once you saw the large rustic, barn-like structure in the courtyard – and knew what was inside – it was easy. Its first time dabbling its toes in the outdoor world, the seven-year-old German company is a combination of bike and fashion with a touch of Swiss Alpine farmer aesthetic. Got that? The apparel consists of everything from technical bike jerseys, shorts and bibs, to fashionable knit sweaters and tops. You find Alpine themes in screen prints that include Edelweiss flowers, gingerbread huts and cows. It’s hard to put your finger on its appeal, but for the right audience it’s a draw, for sure. www.maloja.de
Tatonka – A full-line German company, Tatonka found some attention for its new X Vent backpack carrying system, available in two lightweight packs, the Vento 25 (960 grams or 2.1 pounds) and the Skill 30 (925 grams or 2 pounds), “with built-in air conditioning,” the company said. The X-shaped fiberglass rods keep the pack’s mesh panel back away from the user’s pack and resting on the hips. You can adjust the tension in the rods for varying degrees of spacing and even release them if you prefer the pack on your back. The mesh back panel is not the first of its kind, but the packs had a sporty, sleek look in spiffy colors. www.tatonka.com
Trek n’ Eat – What would Katadyn Group-owned Trek ‘n Eat (formerly Trekking Mahlzeiten) be without a unique backpacking food product every two years? We’ve seen red wine powder in 2005, a cheeseburger in a can in 2007, and powdered beer in 2009. None are currently in the line with stricter European alcohol regulations affecting the continued production of both the wine and beer. The hamburger still has an unrequited cult fan base, with videos and gushing reviews all over the web. Now we have a product that will likely last: powdered Swiss cheese fondue, in the photo, right, being tasted on the first day of the OutDoor show by company Chairman Adrian Schmassmann, left, and sales manager Toni Brandi. Not bad, all agreed, especially for a backcountry treat (EUR 7.50). Schmassmann suggested adding a little Kirschwasser or brandy to liven it up. You go, Adrian! www.trekneat.com
Vingetorix – A startup from Switzerland debuting at the show, Vingetorix calls itself “outdoor meets citywear” – and that’s for sure easier to pronounce than the name, which still has us stumbling (“Veen-guh-tor-ex”). Its two products (yes, just two) are a men’s jacket and a women’s jacket, but its stock-in-trade is the highly water-resistant, breathable, 100-percent organic cotton exterior that the company says is the densest cotton ever woven (“made in Switzerland” from yarn-spinning to assembly). It claims to be 100-percent carbon-neutral with a fluoro-carbon-free coating. EUR 600-700 www.vingetorix.ch