During tough financial times, travel expenditures are the first to go and the last to come back. In 2001, the travel industry was hit with a recession and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, followed by the war in Iraq in 2003. Some sectors of the economy may be sputtering back to life, but travel companies only anticipate a slight increase over 2003. Nevertheless, when we visited with travel-oriented manufacturers at Summer Market, we found them ramping up for future prosperity. For the first time, Jansport's travel line has what the rest of the company's divisions have -- a category line manager, designer and developer. Eagle Creek wiped the slate clean and rebuilt its entire travel pack collection for the new generation of graduates ready for a European backpack adventure. And accessory maker, Pacsafe, set in motion a new re-branding strategy, consolidating its product line and streamlining packaging. SNEWS roamed the halls of the Outdoor Retailer trade show to offer highlights of what caught the attention of our editors:
Aquis -- If you haven't checked out Aquis' microfiber towels, you've been missing out on a great product for urban or backcountry travel. Unlike other quick-drying, fast-absorbing towels on the market, this one has a soft, smooth hand. New for the company is its line of gift sets, just in time for the holiday selling season. The Aquis Adventure Travel Kit can be used by jetsetters and campers alike, and includes a microfiber towel, Head to Toe bodywash and Aloe Citronella lotion in a drawstring mesh bag. Aquis' Kristel Hayes said the company is working on other kit prototypes based on feedback at Summer Market.
Cocoon by Design Salt -- Turning a passion into a vocation is the dream of most entrepreneurs, and Joseph Strum is no different. His extensive travel experience led him to design "sleep gear for adventurers," which includes technical sleeping bag liners, lightweight sleeping sacks, down pillows and lightweight sleepwear. New for spring 2004 is a Coolmax Travel Sheet that adds eight degrees of warmth as a sleeping bag liner. Or you can simply use the sheet alone as a sleeping bag in warm climates. Weighing in at 22 ounces, the Coolmax fabric allows the sheet to be highly breathable, move sweat away from the body and dry quickly -- handy attributes on a tropical getaway. The company also debuted the 3-ounce Travel Down pillow with 700-fill arctic goose down in a nylon shell.
Eagle Creek -- Eagle Creek recognizes that today's travel experience isn't what it used to be, so the company has redoubled its efforts to develop smart travel solutions. First up, the innovator of the travel pack went back to the drawing board and re-worked both the Explorer and Continental series, streamlining designs and beefing up suspension systems. The Explorer series is designed for journeys far from urban settings. Two models include the 3-in-1 Travel Shell, which converts from a security cover to a rain cover to an extra duffel. The Continental series targets 20-something travelers on a budget and features a women's-specific Continental Journey travel pack with ergonomically contoured shoulder straps and hip belt. Lastly, to deal with nosey security personnel, Eagle Creek introduced "clear packing" to its Pack-It System. See-through soft plastic allows easy identification of contents in its folders, cubes, sacs and compressors.
Ex Officio -- Ex Officio brought travelers the Baja shirt, convertible pant and travel underwear. The last stop on its clothing odyssey -- travel sleepwear. The five-piece line for women includes a long-sleeve tunic, cap sleeve top, capri pant, short and robe. The tops are made of quick-drying Bi-Micro Jersey fabric (65 percent polyester/35 percent rayon), which is treated with Aegis Microbe Shield finish to fight bacteria and odor. The fabric also weighs only 4 ounces a yard. The bottoms are made of Oasis Cloth (80 percent rayon/20 percent polyester), which has a soft peach finish, is wrinkle resistant and hits the scale at a mere 3.5 ounces per yard. Tops come in solid colors like burnt orange, green and khaki, with matching bottom colors in a palm print.
Jansport -- Jansport has a full travel staff onboard, and they've been keeping busy producing the new five-piece All Terra line of wheeled bags, duffels and travel packs. The 32-inch and 26-inch wheeled GearLogic suitcases feature a new 5-in-1 packing design offering travelers tons of flexibility. Use the split main compartment with a gear bin, or the large duffel and gear bin, or small section with large duffel, orâ€¦well, you get the idea. They also come with a removable wet/dry bag, locking retractable handle and inline skate wheels. The Borneo travel pack has S-curved Airlift shoulder straps, a dual density hipbelt with stabilizer strap, detachable daypack and a handy wet/dry compartment.
Kiva -- When you hit the road and trunk space is a premium, Kiva's Rack-Lash System can offer the extra room you need. Its Giant and Titanic Big Mouth Xtreme bags come with the system, which allows the bags to be attached directly to a vehicle roof rack. On each side of the bag is a bungee cord weaved through daisy-chain style loops with marine grade locking snaphooks at either end. The bag goes on top of the rack, each end of the bungee placed under a rack rod, then hooked back to the bag. Bags come with a Splashguard cover to protect them when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
National Geographic -- From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, National Geographic's Back Roads Explorer CD-ROM has you covered. The new CD has topographic maps for all 50 states in one package, covering everything from scenic drives and tucked-away towns to hiking trails and outdoor recreation areas. Users can customize the maps and print them with desired routes, symbols, photos and notes. It's compatible with GPS units, and maps can be downloaded into any PDA. At $49.95, it's great to have on-hand for the holiday season. Also, National Geographic now has Topo! map CDs of every state for Mac OS 9 and OSX operating systems.
OneDerWear -- Tired of washing your skivvies in the sink while traveling? That's a thing of the past with OneDerWear's disposable underwear. Started by two women who came up with the idea in the break room of a Fortune 500 company, the underwear are available in men's brief and boxer, and women's bikini brief, classic brief and thong. Because its 100-percent cotton, they are biodegradable and handy for travel and camping. The underwear comes in a package of five, with each pair individually wrapped, and retails for $7.99 to $9.99 a package.
Pacsafe -- For 2004, Pacsafe is striving for a more positive brand image -- no more scaring the bejeezus out of customers that their stuff is going to get stolen when they travel. Its re-branding strategy includes a consolidated product line for its original mesh wire products, streamlined packaging with better consumer appeal, new ad and promo materials, new product labeling and a new tagline. "The new brand position better captures the adventurous spirit and character of our customers," said Sales Director Magnus McGlashan. "The tag line, 'When your gear's secure you can do more,' speaks to the positive aspects of travel instead of focusing on the possibility of theft." New offerings include the Daysafe daypack and Retractasafe cable locks. The 1,550-cubic-inch Daysafe has a slash-proof, stainless-steel mesh interior that is covered with fabric. The Daysafe has a lockable main compartment, and the bag can be locked to a secure fixture. The Retractasafe 100 and 200 cable locks feature a trigger release system to reel in the plastic-coated steel cable. The cable locks have a three-digit combination lock and weigh in at 1.75 and 3 ounces, respectively.
Princeton Tec -- Wherever you go, an indispensable gadget to have on hand is a reliable light, especially when traveling in parts unknown. Princeton Tec's nifty Eclipse2 builds upon the original detachable gate clip version with the addition of a hat clip. It may be small, but with the power of two lithium coin cells, the LED bulb can burn for 36 hours and has settings from low to high beam and fast and slow strobe. Plus, it's available in a number of trendy translucent colors.
Quixote -- Unlike the rambling misadventures of its namesake Don Quixote, this family-owned business has a clear mission to offer travelers and backcountry junkies a good night's sleep. Quixote produces pillows in small (11 inch by 14 inch) and large (13 inch by 17 inch) sizes with either Primaloft synthetic down or 550 fill goose down. The outer shell is a water-resistant ripstop, and for those softies out there, Quixote offers pillowcases in cotton, flannel and Polartec fleece.
Sea to Summit -- Sea to Summit is working to keep travelers warm and dry. In the warm department is the new Reactor sleeping bag liner made of Thermolite, a hollow-core fiber that provides high warmth for its weight and breathability. It adds up to 15 degrees of warmth to a sleeping bag or can be used alone as a warm weather bag. It packs into a 3- by 5-inch stuff sack. In the dry department, the Pocket Towel is a thirsty sucker, absorbing water easily and then drying quickly using ultra-fine microfiber fabric. Weighing in at 1.4 ounces, it can fit in a jacket pocket, toiletry bag or daypack pocket.
Swiss Army -- The new Nth Adventure Gear series is Swiss Army's foray into technical packs and accessories. With influence from a former Kelty designer, the Nth 4200 pack has an adjustable suspension system, metal grommets to run a cable lock through and secure, removable daypack and a fleece-lined pocket for a CD player. Its counterpart, the Nth 3200, meets the size requirements of airline carry-ons. A handy program Swiss Army is offering on select traveling bags will help users track down lost bags. The Swiss Guard Bag Tracking and Protection program offers global bag tracking of misplaced bags through a unique code and worldwide phone number on the bag's ID. Stolen or lost bags will be replaced by Swiss Army up to one year from owner registration.