The SNEWS® team of editors armed with maps and GPS (was this show big or what?) 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 -- we do know you love your company's product, really. However, we're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned we either didn't think your product stood out sufficiently or we started drinking alcoholic beverages too early in the afternoon to see straight and missed you as a result -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on trends and new products for first-aid, survival and water-treatment products:
Apparently, the spray-on hand sanitizer was an idea whose time has come. No less than four companies are now offering these handy devices that retail for a few bucks. Since it is likely that more backcountry visitors get sick from inadequate hygiene than from drinking contaminated water, these convenient sprays really are a good idea. No matter which one an outdoor store carries, this is excellent item to put by the cash register!
Adventure Medical Kits – The new line of blister preventatives and treatments (MSRP $6-$10) are nicely packaged and should compete well with Spenco. We wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the new SOL Survival Paks (MSRP $25) are sold as gag gifts, since few people will read the fine print (Survive Outdoors Longer) and assume it stands for the better-known acronym. While AMK has sold insect repellent sprays for years, the new wipes should prove popular for their convenience and reasonable cost; a box of a dozen wipes sells for $4 with DEET and $6 with DEET-free bug juice. Their hand sanitizer spritzer ($4.50) is one of the few that doesn't use alcohol. www.adventuremedicalkits.com
Atwater Carey – The tiny PocketPak Sanitizer Pen (MSRP $2.50) gives about 70 sprays of alcohol mixed with a deodorizer. Unlike the other sprayers, this one can be refilled so customers could use it for insect repellents or other liquids from bigger containers they have on hand, but as of now, Atwater Carey tells us it has no plans to provide refill materials…which is too bad and as such, leaves us wondering, "Why not?" www.atwater-carey.com
Carey & Company – Much to the chagrin of the folks at Wisconsin Parmacal (owners of Atwater Carey), Phil Carey has re-entered the first-aid kit business. The employee-owned company enlisted the expertise of Bill Forrest and Dr. Howard Donner to design a line of 11 first-aid kits for outdoor enthusiasts. Now that Outdoor Research is out of the market, there is room for another brand of first-aid kits that emphasize quality components. Stores will find the kits are well merchandized and competitively priced. SNEWS® was particularly impressed with the "Media Warrior's Survival Kit," which included a bandage, blister patch, breath freshener, Vitamin I, a bottle of tequila and a detailed discussion on Utah liquor laws -- OK, so these aren't for sale, but Carey sure knows the way to garner media attention…free tequila. www.carey-and-company.com
GoReady – One of the first spray-on hand sanitizers, this line greatly expands next season and gets an improved dispenser. In addition to the sanitizer, there is a 30 SPF sunscreen, three versions of insect repellent and a combination repellent/sunscreen that will retail between roughly $3 and $6. The compactness and convenience of the packaging, plus the well-known branding of the Sawyer repellent being used, make it likely that the hardest thing for retailers will be keeping them in stock. www.goready.com
Katadyn – Recognizing that treating water is only half the battle when it comes to backcountry health, Katadyn will also offer Klean, an alcohol-free hand sanitizer, antiseptic and antifungal spray. In addition to hygiene, this can also be used for treating cuts and rashes. It will retail for $5 as a spray and $7 as a foam. www.katadyn.com
MSR – The new E-Wing (MSRP $80) is a portable one-person emergency shelter tarp made of sil-nylon (i.e., silicone impregnated nylon) that can be rigged in multiple ways. What makes it remarkable is the factory packaging that compresses the tarp into a dense cylinder smaller than a beer can. Of course, like a space blanket, once deployed it will never again reach such compact dimensions, but it does come with a stuff sack and should last indefinitely. www.msrcorp.com
Outdoor Products – It was hard to miss the Safeguard display in the Outdoor Products booth due to its bright yellow sign. However, the black cubes themselves may be hard to locate in an emergency, which is what they are designed for. The Safeguard cubes (MSRP $80-$300) are modules -- first aid and shelter, tools and gear, food and water -- that can be combined into different packages. These are not intended for field use, but can be carried in vehicles and kept at home for disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes or Republicans winning the White House in 2008 -- we're kidding…sort of. www.outdoorproducts.com
SPOT – Personal locator beacons have been on the market for over a decade, but their limitations in technology (only sending out a distress call with no information and a vague location) and high cost (upward of $600) have hampered their acceptance. The new SPOT Satellite Messenger, made by a division of Globalstar, solves both problems with the ability to send pre-programmed messages and an accurate position based on GPS. The portable device (8 ounces) will retail for only $150 but requires a $100 annual subscription (plus $50 more if customers want a cool tracking feature enabled). When released in October, if it performs as promised, this could become a must-have item for many backcountry travelers who go beyond the range of cell phones. Expect a more detailed SNEWS® review once they are available for testing. www.findmespot.com
Z-Medica – These new high-tech blood-stoppers are distributed by Adventure 16 and should be included in any serious first-aid kit. The QuickClot Sport comes in two sizes (MSRP $10 and $15) and uses zeolites (essentially hydrated aluminosilicates found in some volcanic rocks for those who skipped Geology 101 in college) to rapidly stop severe bleeding. This technology has saved numerous lives in combat and is now being packaged for outdoor users. Unfortunately, the dressings are too expensive to include in commercial first-aid kits. But it is an excellent add-on sale for savvy retailers. The company also offers a version with silver to prevent infections ($19 and $30), which would be ideal for expeditions in remote areas, but likely remains too costly for shorter trips. www.z-medica.com
The word is finally starting to get around that iodine might not be the best chemical option for treating water. According to independent research by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine (http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/WPD/Default.aspx), no forms of iodine are likely to be effective against giardia and cryptosporidium.
Fortunately, chlorine dioxide water treatments have proven effective against both, plus it tastes better and by many accounts is easier to use (Potable Aqua iodine tablets excepted).
Filters still have their place and, thankfully, new improvements for next season particularly featuring hollow fiber technology, will breathe life back into the category. The UV treatments are also superb in areas with clear water, but they become far less useful and easy to operate when the water is murky.
Cascade Designs – The new Platypus CleanStream Gravity Filter system (MSRP $80) can filter a gallon of water in less than three minutes. The disposable hollow fiber filter doesn't tend to clog, even with dirty water, and is rated for roughly 375 gallons. The kit includes two well-marked Platypus bladders that hold 4 liters. In fact, this system proved to be a show-stopper both at OutDoor in Germany and Summer Market…for good reason. It's cool! While unrelated to water treatment, the upgrade of the entire Platypus line with superior plastics and design is a welcome improvement. www.cascadedesigns.com
Katadyn – With all the talk about chlorine dioxide tablets, it's worth pointing out that Katadyn has been selling the Micropur MP1 tablets for several years now. And while there are several companies selling sport bottles with filters built in, the Exstream models are still the only ones that claim to remove all the bad guys, including viruses. www.katadyn.com
McNett – When McNett introduced the AquaMira chlorine dioxide treatment system almost a decade ago, many were skeptical and stuck to their old iodine treatments. The two-part liquid is now regarded as one of the best methods for treating large quantities of water. Next year, AquaMira tablets simplify the process further for smaller quantities (1 liter at a time). A 12-pack will retail for $8 and a 24-pack for $13.50. Also new is an inline filter, the Frontier Pro, with a bite valve for use with hydration bladders that will retail for only $20. The company will also offer a Sport Bottle filter (MSRP $10) that attaches to the straw on the Camelbak bottles. However, both of these filters will only remove objects 3 microns or larger, so while they will remove giardia and crypto, the filters remain ineffective against bacteria and viruses without also adding a chemical treatment to the water either before or after filtering. www.mcnett.com
MSR – OK, the new HyperFlow Microfilter (MSRP $100) uses the same hollow core filter as Cascade Designs' version -- no surprise since it's the same company. But this hand pump has a flow rate of three liters per minute and it only weighs 8 ounces. It's also smaller than any of the company's previous filters and it can be back flushed. The new AutoFlow Gravity Filter (MSRP $80) is essentially the same as the Platypus CleanStream, except it comes with more durable but heavier bladders and the outlet hose fits on Nalgene bottles or Dromedary bags. www.msrcorp.com
Potable Aqua – Likely seeing the writing on the wall, the brand best known for easy-to-use iodine tablet water purification is now offering chlorine dioxide tablets. A 20-pack has an MSRP of $10 and a 30-pack goes for $15. www.potableaqua.com
Prismedical – We saw this gravity-feed filtration system at last summer's Outdoor Retailer show. Back then, the technology looked great, but these folks came from the medical world and didn't know how to market to outdoor consumers. Well, they're back and have figured out the selling side of things finally too. The Triton M system is modular, so consumers can choose to use the hollow fiber main filter (with a prefilter), a carbon filter to remove tastes and chemicals, and a deionization filter for heavy metals and other nasties. It can be configured to drink directly out of a hydration bladder or for use in camp as a gravity-feed system. The various configurations will retail between $40 for basic water treatment and $115 for a complete gravity system with two 3-liter water bags and all the modules. www.prismedical.com
PUR – The new Purifier of Water treatment is similar to a system used by the military called Chlor-Floc. It is a chlorine-based treatment that has coagulating and flocculating agents that quickly cause particulate matter to settle out. Each package treats 2.5 gallons of water in just 30 minutes against bacteria, giardia and viruses, but the water needs to be filtered if crypto is suspected. A box with six packets will retail for $15. A kit with three packets, two folding plastic jugs, and some accessories will retail for $30. This system makes sense for use by groups who don't want to spend $800 for a Katadyn Expedition filter or wait for gravity feed systems to deliver. Of course, thinking about images of Hurricane Katrina will convince many to keep a kit around the house too. www.purwater.com