With war looming on the horizon and consumers already cutting back slightly on travel, travel manufacturers are justified in feeling cautious about the future. The Travel Industry Association has projected a 5 percent increase in 2003 sales to $560 billion, but the group's Cathy Keefe admits that if the United States goes to war with Iraq "all forecasts are thrown out the window." To deal with a potential downturn in sales, manufacturers are diversifying and developing lines that serve dual purposes -- day-to-day use as well as on-the-go travel. Winter Market was light on new product, but a few highlights made their presence known.
Eagle Creek -- Definitely building upon serving dual purposes, Eagle Creek expanded its 24/7 line collection, which replaces the Matrix line for fall 2003. For the line, the company created pieces like the Work Space, a traveling office daypack; the Transport daypack with 360-degree expansion to store all the extra goodies we pick up on trips; and the Minimum, a 750-cubic-inch daypack that holds the small stuff like a camera and guidebook for out-and-about exploring. Eagle Creek's Core luggage collection has two new pieces: the Expandable 24 and the Commuter Suiter. The wheeled Expandable 24's main compartment expands 3 inches for 10 percent extra capacity, has a "book" style opening and Pack-It front pockets to accommodate the Pack-It System. The Commuter Suiter is carry-on size and has updated organization pockets and a back pocket that secures it onto the handle of wheeled luggage. Lastly, among the new offerings in the Point A luggage line for the younger urban traveler is the Mobile Office. This wheeled bag has organization pockets that hold everything your desk does -- from your laptop to notepads to a stapler.
Ex Officio -- Ex Officio is on a layering mission -- with a company emphasis on expanding its base-layer and mid-layer lines. The base-layer line has two new weights: the Syphondry for sweaty activities and the Micro Stretch fleece for colder weather. In the mid-layer line, the company is playing with a new honeycomb fleece texture, which, it says, circulates air during higher aerobic activities to allow body heat to escape without compromising the garment's insulation. On the outerwear front are the Barometric Tweed and Barometric Dobby jackets for men and women tramping on a trail or getting a pint in a pub. The jackets are waterproof/breathable, have a Teflon fabric finish for stain resistance and Ex Officio's trademark interior travel pockets system. Unlike the Tweed, the Dobby has a detachable hood and is a nylon/polyester blend.
High Sierra -- For 2003, High Sierra has replaced its A.T. Gear line with the ATN (Adventure Travel New) collection. The redesigned line offers luggage and fully padded cargo, boot and snowboard bags for snow-sport enthusiasts that are water-resistant, made of 1,200-denier Duralite, and have a new suspension system that is supposed to absort weight by the positioning of elastic bands on the backpack or shoulder straps.
JanSport -- JanSport's luggage line remains status quo except for the addition of the Gear Bag, a small carry-on bag that can attach to wheeled luggage handles. A couple of new accessories popped out at us. The Shower Quarters is a toiletry kit designed for those traveling woman who pooh-pooh the tiny travel bottles and insist on taking along their "big" products. The bag fits regular-size hair-care products like shampoo, conditioner or hairspray, as well as a full-size hair dryer. It looks like a lunch bag with a U-shaped zipper on the front. The unisex Shower Adobe has been modified to offer more space and has a hanging mesh compartment that can be detached for use in the shower. Two new categories for fall are the Solo line with one strap backpacks and messenger-style bags, and the Shock Shield line, a laptop bag series with protective cushioning for computers.
Royal Robbins -- Royal Robbins debuted the new Sydney travel group for women, with garments made of a double-knit blend of polyester, nylon and spandex. The line seems to have all the properties travelers need in their on-the-road apparel -- easy care, minimal wrinkling and shape retention. Available styles in black or chamois are a dress, jacket and pant. The waterproof/breathable TravelLite jacket for men and women is made of ripstop nylon, has a DWR finish and taped seams. Retailing for a mere $99, it also folds up into a pocket and becomes a travel pillow. Now that's double-duty for you!
Swiss Army -- Swiss Army has ended its licensing agreement with Tropical Sportswear International and will chart its own course in design, sourcing, sales and marketing for its men's travel apparel line. Selected jacket styles for fall come equipped with a compass and mini light, as a result of partnerships with Brunton compasses and Innova lights. The company is considering a full women's collection for 2004. In travel gear, Swiss Army tweaked the E-Motion 360 collection by enhancing the swivel handle on the 22-inch, 24-inch and 26-inch Trek Pack Plus wheeled bags. The handle continues to rotate 360 degrees, but now can be locked into place to prevent tipping on uneven terrain. A redesign of the bag's interior space has increased capacity on the 22-inch and 24-inch by 33 percent, and 10 percent on the 26-inch.