Outdoor Retailer Summer Market '05 Trends: Fitness and hydration

The SNEWS® team of editors got a good workout racing around the trade show floor over the course of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends for fitness and hydration products.
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The SNEWS® team of editors powered by caffeine, chocolate and beer (not necessarily in that order), ducked and weaved around the trade show floor over the course of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned when it should have been. We're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned, we were either too hyped up on caffeine to see you, we didn't think your product stood out sufficiently, or we started drinking beer too early in the afternoon -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on trends and new products for fitness and for hydration:

FITNESS
Fitness is a rather loose term to use for product at an outdoor show, and one that perhaps elicits some "ouch" responses from attendees who may feel they aren't in the fitness business. But when you're looking at balance boards, yoga mats or pedometers, fitness it is, and customers for those items are coming into outdoor stores. Either you sell it or the big box down the street does.

Confluence even soft-launched an indoor kayak fitness program that is geared not only for non-paddlers for fun (think health clubs) and for developing more interest in paddling, but also at paddlers who may actually consider that sport-specific training could make them better at what they love. Watch for a full story in SNEWS® on this program in early October.

Fitter International with its array of balance and stability products has been coming to Outdoor Retailer for about three years. At first, says General Manager Bill Robson, show attendees would look at them askance. Not anymore.

"People are starting to get it," Robson said about how this kind of fitness training can make people better at their activity and keep customers uninjured. "New people are asking about it now."

Well, one exception: Robson said he talked to a couple of young paddlers who looked at him funny and said, "I just want to paddle." To that, Robson shakes his head and figures they'll be back when they do get hurt and can't "just paddle."

Fitter International -- Aside from all the normal balls, boards and cushions (the booth is always the show's playground with more smiles and giggles than a lot of other booths), Fitter introduced its Xco Trainer -- tubes of various lengths and weights with a sand-like product inside that moves around. When you move the tube sharply in different directions, you create imbalance and "reactive impact" with the delayed soft impact of the moving granules shifting. That helps better train muscles and core dynamically (MSRP, $50-$65, depending on size).

Gaiam -- A specialist in yoga and other mind-body exercises (it sponsored well-attended Budokan classes on two mornings of the show), Gaiam showed some workout kits and gear -- although we're not sure the outdoor crew is quite ready for a hula hoop workout or kit called Yoga Burn. Still, the Scooby Doo yoga mats, balls and kits for children are colorful and great grandma and parent bait for holiday gifts. Gaiam also bought Real Goods a few years ago and is now finally incorporating the product into its brand -- look for things like a winding cell phone charger (get a few minutes of talk time for a couple of minutes of winding), solar-charged gear and rechargeable items. The rack of Real Goods in the Gaiam booth was a bit of a test, we were told.

Highgear -- Although a specialist in all kinds of super technical altimeters and other electronic gear, Highgear has grabbed the fitness-oriented market for electronics by the horns. Its pedometers are highly reliable and look great, and the first ones introduced this year sold so well, the company is expanding the line with a slightly lower-priced series called Via (MSRP, $15-$30) with pendulum step counters. Still super classy looking, they are to be at retail in October. The company is keeping its Fitware series with computer chips. Also coming are more heart-rate monitors (to be at retail in December) under the Pulseware line that have sleek curvy lines and run the gamut from small ones aimed at women (the "mini" has finger pulse sensors and no chest straps with an MSRP of $85) to larger models -- the Duo has the option of either a chest strap or a finger pulse for a suggested retail of $125.

HYDRATION
Those with an interest in getting you to carry and drink more fluids are realizing there are little different ways to attract new customers, including women, and that designs in reservoirs and carriers/packs can make a huge difference in attracting new clientele.

CamelBak -- It introduced a HydroTanium reservoir with a lifetime warranty, certainly meaning it stands behind its durability. Available in 70 and 100 ounces, the reservoirs will retail for $28 and $30. As the company says, "women need 100 ounces of water too," so it updated its Isis pack from 70-ounce capability to 100 ounces ($80). The company's plush Velvetex lining on straps stop chafing if a women is wearing a tank top or sports bra, and it has a new women's-specific harness and, to accommodate the users of today's era, a pocket for either sunglasses or the seemingly omnipresent MP3 player.

Gerber -- Not necessarily known for hydration, Gerber's real point of differentiation is its semi-rigid reservoirs, for which it bought the rights to the design for the launch. They are the first blow-molded reservoirs, are dishwasher-safe and Teflon-lined and can hold both hot and cold fluids easily. Nine different styles of packs (relatively traditional and all unisex) to choose from can hold either 70 or 100 ounces.

Nathan Human Propulsion Laboratories -- With a hydration division now under the leadership of Ultimate Direction founder and former owner Bryce Thatcher, Nathan has gone headfirst into a line that is impressive on first showing. Packs and carriers have a bit more structure with foam bottoms and insulated carriers. Plus, several have removable pockets to add user customization -- to carry more or not if you take them off. A 20-ounce bottle has a nifty sturdy finger loop that has a tiny latch incorporated so it's a bit like a 'biner; not only can you clip the bottle onto packs and bags, but also use the finger loop to yank it more easily out of bottle carriers. It's about time someone did a ThermalDraw ($20), with a neoprene sleeve incorporated into the hand holster to either keep the hand warm or keep the water cold (depending on the carrier's needs!). A new women's line has four items with hip belts that are canted and in nice colors without being too frou-frou. One of the hallmarks of all Nathan's new packs is a two- or three-way harness that helps snug a pack to you to keep it from swinging around without the need for encumbering waist belts.

Ultimate Direction -- This company still has a small selection of its hard-core product for adventure races and ultra runners but has significantly increased its offerings in the last couple of years in fashion and lifestyle items, including yoga and street and including designs with outrageous colors and even flowers. Seems somebody had stayed up late nights with too much coffee on some new designs all named things like Java and Roaster….The Roaster is a bag with a feature any traveler would love: The flap over the top also has a top zipper so you can access the insides quickly for retrieving a computer as you go through security. The Volt is a one-bottle system that includes a lot of urban-use pockets for cell phones, MP3 players and the like. Super cool is the tube clip ($10) that is retractable: Attach your nozzle to your waist or pack strap or wherever you want and just pull it with a ziiiiiip to your mouth for a drink, then let go and it returns to its resting place.

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