As in past years, SNEWS® makes an effort to cruise the aisles at the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, looking for stand-out products and companies that we don’t know in North America.
This year we again found a few items and brands worth mentioning for one reason or another. Some you may know from past SNEWS® reports, some have limited distribution either as a company or of the single product, and some are just dabbling their toes into the U.S. market.
We of course also saw a lot of product debuts from U.S. companies there, but those we have or will cover in reports coming out of the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market as appropriate or if worth a mention. In fact, quite a bit of what you see in our OR reports we first previewed in Germany at the OutDoor show, including GoLite, Osprey, Mountain Hardwear, Arc’Teryx, Patagonia, Outdoor Research, Timberland, Inov-8 and The North Face, among many many others.
Since we don’t want to be redundant, we have chosen only a select number of companies or products to mention here that you either would not see in the United States or would have to work very hard to find. Much of what we call out, we find, ends up being picked up by a U.S. distributor so be forewarned that any of these could be coming to a booth at next year’s show!
We walked past the Badari “booth” three times before we realized it was actually a booth. It was in a roped-off area on the tile floor next to a café and we thought it was some kind of oddball fashion exhibit or something. Nope, Badari is a Germany-based, German-made line of travel apparel for men and women that from a company that has thought pretty long and hard about the needs of a traveler when it comes to lengths, pockets, fit and aesthetic. We loved the skirts and pants that had sleek tone-on-tone low-profile zippers – no clunky flaps that SCREAM zip-off, but rather zippers that added subtle lines that really became part of the design. One skirt had three length options, same with a women’s and men’s pant. A polo shirt had a zip-off collar – may seem small but that could add a whole new dimension to a look and allow someone to not feel as if they are wearing the same dang shirt nearly every day. A travel jacket, men’s and women’s, had so man pockets we couldn’t start to describe them all, yet it didn’t come off looking like some bulky photographer’s vest with poofy pouches all over the place. The line, with its technical fabrics and performance touches, is somewhere between fashion and outdoor. And that’s not a half-bad place to be. www.badari-sports.com (German only, but good pictures if you don’t sprech it)
You know microfiber seamless tubes that morph into whatever you want. You know caps. You know neoprene visors. But put them all together and what do you get? Chaskee Headwear that includes visors and hats and scarves that tell an entire different, but still casual and cool story. www.chaskee.com
Hard to just walk by a booth with a dark, almost futuristically-lit display that showed backpacks apparently floating in air. Intrigued, our team wandered in. Funky but cool is the way to describe the look, with the suspension featuring a ball-joint to attach the shoulder harness to the pack, which itself is quite light. The idea, we were told, is to create a pack that even when loaded feels 50 percent lighter because the body can move freely in any direction with no increased pressure on the shoulders. The company started making bike grips, and has since expanded into bike gloves and backpacks. It is worth noting that Oakley's first product was a bike grip too. Is Ergon destined to replicate Oakley's successful transition from grips, this time with packs? Time will tell. www.ergon-outdoor.com.
THE powerful retailer in Germany, Globetrotter is expanding its reach into web TV with its new 4-Seasons website, to be live the end of this year. Already the retailer has an outdoor cable TV program called 4-Seasons. At a press conference and demo at the OutDoor show, Globetrotter officials showed out the “IP-TV” programming that allows viewers to literally be IN the experience, to feel the climber fall, the paddler splash, the hiker get pounded in a rainstorm. At the same time, viewers can click on buttons to get information about the product, location or program and, if interested, can click directly from the programming to the globetrotter.de website to peruse the shops or buy something. In addition, the site will offer video-on-demand programming with news broadcasts, how-to-use gear tutorials and get other product advice. All of this can be done seamlessly, linking back and forth from the program, to news, to shopping, to product advice and back again. Of COURSE, there will be “sponsoring” opportunities. What company wouldn’t want their gear used by those in the videos? Although all in German, a holding page is now live at www.4-seasons.tv.
A company from Sweden we have written about many times before, we are going to do it again. Founders Peter and Eva Askulv are very concerned about the environment and what our products do to it. In fact, if you go to their website, at this time the home page tells you, “Don’t buy a jacket unless you really need one.” Well, how about that from a company that makes its living selling outdoor jackets and gear. This year, the company did an amazing thing: It introduced a fluorocarbon-free DWR jacket – the first one in the world we were told. It’s called the Noatun and it has the company’s Cutan-branded membrane. The current version on the market has eight carbons, Peter Askulv said, and it is like other jackets “poisonous.” By late summer, it was reduced to four and is just “less poisonous,” he said. By next summer, the Noatun will be fluorocarbon-free. He said it took the company months of being turned down by suppliers who said it was not possible. “They didn’t understand how important it was,” he said. Finally, they convinced a supplier to do it but the result is still quite expensive – EUR 530, which in the current market would be USD $730. “It’s not cheap,” he admitted. But he sees it as just the start. He’s just heard another supplier will have a fluorocarbon-free fabric and once the availability increases, so will the cost decrease. SNEWS® will be reporting more on this matter. Meanwhile, take a look at the company: www.klattermusen.se. The company also won another Outdoor Industry Award at the show, this one a Bronze indeed for the Noatun.
Looking for perhaps the next trend or growth area, Mammut has taken the company's rope and webbing expertise and turned it into a product specifically for slacklining. At OutDoor, Dean Potter, now a Mammut-sponsored athlete (at least in Europe), demonstrated the new product by crossing between two buildings in the expo grounds on a Mammut slackline suspended 6 meters (just under 20 feet) off the ground above the courtyard filled with people and outdoor exhibits. The slackline features sheath-core construction and two surfaces – one, a smooth side for tricks, and the other with a rough side for grip. Mammut's Slide Bloc buckle provides for the tensioning security. There were plenty of gawkers during Potter's shows several times daily, and slightly fewer willing to get on a much lower (two feet of the ground) slackline set up for playing. www.mammut.ch
No, it doesn’t really walk around but you can walk around with it then pop it out of its little tote bag, extend the legs (if you want) and plop down your behind for a little rest. A small, family-run company out of Sweden, founder Lars Andersson has a quick wit and a sometimes non-politically correct sense of humor, but his Swedish accent somehow still makes you smile. He has two patents on the tripod stool – the way the legs tie together and the telescoping ball joint where the three legs meet and flair back out. What we liked was how you didn’t have to telescope the legs, allowing you to sit on a shorter stool to work on a bike or in the garden. They will run more than the cheap-o ones at Big Box stores – three heights, 18-14 inches, run USD $80-$100. celebrating his 10th yearin business, Andersson was just reaching out to a U.S. distributor who he hopes will help him get further into the market. Expect a review from SNEWS® quite soon. www.walkstool.com
Cheeseburgah, cheeseburgah, cheeseburgah….
When one heads into the backcountry, sometimes food cravings strike – for example, salty handfuls of chips (not crumbs), a non-melty chocolate bar, a really good gin and tonic with ice… A cheeseburger? Yeah, sure, makes sense…. This was the big introduction from a Swiss company called Trekking Mahlzeiten (Backpacking Meals, loosely translated) at the OutDoor show in mid-July in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
We’ve actually written before about Trekking Mahlzeiten, the market-leader in central Europe for freeze-dried and other backpackers’ foods. Two years ago, the company introduced a powder for red wine. Just add water and, voila, a red liquid that is, as the company put it to SNEWS® at that time, “in the direction of red wine.” (Click here to see our story.)
Now being introduced were cheeseburgers – no, not hamburgers, but a cheeseburger -- in a pop-top can about the size of a large tuna can that will give you about 375 calories worth of energy. SNEWS® ambled up to the booth at OutDoor and sweet-talked the company into a little taste-test with a couple of representatives from Outdoor Research as guinea pigs since its booth was across the aisle. After about 10 minutes, a burger on a plate appeared. It actually looked like a burger, although the lettuce and tomato must have been hidden under the bun. The bun looked pretty nice and we saw a dash of red that must have been ketchup…
“It’s better than I thought,” said Alex Kutches, of Outdooor Research, holding his quarter of burger daintily between a thumb and forefinger as might a tiny petit four at a tea party.
“It’s sort of salty, but not bad,” said Todd Walton, OR marketing manager, nibbling gently as his piece of cheeseburger. “The cheese is good.
“I tasted the pickle,” he added. “The bread is surprisingly good.”
“It’s way better than a White Castle,” Kutches added.
If you are desperate in the backcountry, the burger was dang good, the tasting team concluded. The bread was actually yummy (comes from a bakery, which actually was where the idea for a canned burger came from, we were told), and the saltiness would be divine on a trip. Now, only you can decide if you are willing to pay EUR 4.70 (about USD $6.50, depending on the current exchange rate). We may chose to stick to jerky and tuna and get a REAL burger when we’re back. www.trekking-mahlzeiten.de