Outdoor Retailer Summer Market '08: Electronics are trimming down and getting style

Small and sleek. Two words that pretty much sum up the overall direction of outdoor electronics these days. Watches, pedometers, heart rate monitors and even new GPS units have been trimmed down to appear much more stylish than their predecessors. And thanks to modern technology, these devices don't have to skimp on features. In addition to improved aesthetics, we're seeing notable new takes on GPS units, including Garmin's introduction of a touch-screen unit, as well as Bushnell's new device for the novice.
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Small and sleek. Two words that pretty much sum up the overall direction of outdoor electronics these days. Watches, pedometers, heart rate monitors and even new GPS units have been trimmed down to appear much more stylish than their predecessors. And thanks to modern technology, these devices don't have to skimp on features. In addition to improved aesthetics, we're seeing notable new takes on GPS units, including Garmin's introduction of a touch-screen unit, as well as Bushnell's new device for the novice.

Bushnell created the Backtrack (MSRP $69) to ease people into the GPS world. The round, compact device is simple -- just a GPS and electronic compass with only two function buttons. The Backtrack allows you to log just three waypoints, so it's not designed for intensive wilderness travel, but rather something to steer back to your car. After you've logged waypoints, you just push a button and the screen provides distance and direction back to the first waypoint. www.bushnell.com

Delorme introduced the PN-40 handheld GPS (MSRP $400) as an update to the PN-20. A new 32-channel Cartesio chipset improves signal acquisition, while a new processor allows the screen to re-draw impressively fast. The PN-40 also has greater memory than the PN-20, with 500 MB of onboard Flash memory. www.delorme.com

Garmin's Oregon 400t GPS (MSRP $599) is certain to intrigue consumers, primarily because it has a touch screen rather than standard buttons. Sure, some consumers may be concerned about the screen's operation in the field, but there's no doubt that people have latched on to other handheld touch-screen electronics, such as the iPhone. The 400t is a real eye-catcher as well, with shaded relief maps you can view in 3D. It also appears to be very user-friendly, allowing geochaching enthusiasts to upload GPX files, so they no longer have to carry info printed out on paper. Another cool thing -- the unit allows wireless data transfer directly between Oregon units, or between Oregon and Colorado units, so you don't have to first sync up to a laptop. www.garmin.com

Go Pro realized that wide-angle shots really do make images appear more dramatic. Thus, the introduction of the Helmet Hero Wide camera (MSRP $190). Like previous Go Pro models, this 5 megapixel camera can be attached to a helmet, bike, boat, vehicle, whatever. Plus, it's waterproof and can shoot 56 minutes of video. www.goprocamera.com

Highgear launched a pretty neat Adventure Tool (MSRP $20) with seven functions to help keep you safe on the trail. The small, narrow device has LED lights, a floating compass, thermometer, electronic time display, a mirror, whistle and two arms that swing out to reveal magnifiers. Also, check out High Gear's new Axio Mini altimeter for women (or really anyone with smaller wrists, MSRP $125). It sports everything from a barometer to a hydration alarm and is available in attractive, pale blue and yellow colors. About the only thing this amazingly small device doesn't have is a compass. Those with small wrists, rejoice! www.highgear.com

And while we're on the subject of mini devices, also looking good is the New Balance Nduro Mini (MSRP $70). The rectangular watch housing is trim and sleek, while the guts of the machine are anything but skimpy. The Nduro has a 100-hour chronograph with lots of training memory. It holds training logs for best lap, average lap and total training segment times. Plus, there are multiple timer functions. www.newbalance.com

Origo actually received lots of demand for a watch that provides tide data, so this year it introduced the Tide Sail/Race (MSRP $150). Among its many features, it provides high and low tides, offers a countdown to the next high tide and low tide, and also projects future tides. It also has a professional sail timer that can sync with an official sail timer during a race. Origo also introduced two new pedometer watches, the WC-130 and WC 137 (MSRP $40). Each is jam-packed with about a dozen features, and the trim WC 130 is really the company's first watch sized for women. www.origowatch.com

Suunto's new X10 wrist-mounted GPS (MSRP $599) improves upon the X9i, offering better ability to track your location, particularly in rugged terrain and heavy foliage. It also promises 33 percent more battery life than the X9i. Of course, it includes typical GPS features, allowing you to record waypoints and routes, plus there is an altimeter, barometer, digital compass, thermometer, as well as the expected time and stopwatch features. And, the Suunto Track Explore software allows the user to move data between the watch and a PC, plus you can save routes in Google Earth. www.suunto.com

The SNEWS® team of seasoned reporters covers a trade show to seek out product highlights, indications of a trend (to a product category, a company or the industry) or products that are new to the market. In our post-show reports, we do not write about every last piece of gear or equipment we have seen, although, promise, we have most likely seen nearly everything. Even if not in a show report, you never know how information may be included in a future report, trend watch, product review or story. If you have any comments or questions, please email us at snewsbox@snewsnet.com.

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