In trade shows, as sometimes also in life, the small and offbeat often have the power to make a person stop and take that second look. We've done our share of about-faces as we scurried down trade show aisles trying to see everything, hoping to glimpse a product that makes us come to a screeching halt, exclaiming, "Wow, I've never seen anything like that before." The recent Outdoor Retailer Summer Market show didn't disappoint. We also saw many of these items the week prior at the OutDoor show in Germany.
Remember, we sometimes put some new and cool items in category-specific reports so don't miss our range of post-show stories from Summer Market and OutDoor including travel, tents, packs, apparel and accessories. A few call-outs to those new-and-cool things already mentioned in various stories go to Sea to Summit's TravelingLight line of traveling and luggage organization, Light My Fire's left-handed spork, Mammut's Ambient light add-on for its headlamps, ClikElite's new line of camera packs and bags, and Vibram's new FiveFingers Bikila running "shoe." Also check out a solar ashtray and cigarette lighter (really) and the beer-flavored drink power (yes, really!) we found at the OutDoor show in Germany.
Of course, we can't name them all -- as much as we'd like to -- but for this article we look for stuff that is just a tad unusual or perhaps a bit odd, aside from also being new -- of course, we know that "new," "cool" and even "quirky" are in the eye of the beholder. So behold the following that merited a turn of the head -- if not a complete double take.
At Columbia Sportswear, which boasted a splashy new booth to signal the end of its hiatus from the show, fun mixed easily with innovation. A case in point: the PFG Offshore Run and Gun Board Short (MSRP $75), complete with a French fry motif, ketchup-inspired red grommets, and a bottle opener in the pocket. Oh, and the shorts also offer Omni-Shield advanced repellency, Omni-Shade UPF 30 sun protection and a zip security cargo pocket. Something about the fries and ketchup theme that we found to be a giggle indeed.
On a more technical note, Columbia's new fast and light Mobex pack -- which springs directly from the company's mandate to develop more meaningful product for the outdoor specialty market -- manages to tweak the rules of both design and fabrication. It looks a bit like a teeny tent for your kid's dolls attached to your back. The Mobex name derives from mobility and flexibility, and the pack's design, the company said, was sparked by the demands of adventure racers. It will not collapse and sag in on itself when not filled to capacity because of the tent-like criss-crossing poles. To be sure, it's not vacuous but has an internal shelf that creates compartments to keep items readily accessible. The Mobex is available in small, medium and large sizes, and retails for $80, $100 and $120, respectively. www.columbia.com
In keeping with consumers' demand for versatility, Merrell Apparel offers the Lenia 7-n-1 travel bottom (MSRP $89). We were boggled by its apparent transformer-like ability. It converts to skirt-over-pant, skort, pant, shorts and capri options. The garment is made from Merrell's Opti-Wick fabric that provides moisture management as well as 50+ UPF sun protection. Other benefits include a bulk-reducing engineered waistband, low-profile zip hand pockets on the pant, and a hidden secure pocket on the skirt. Now if we can remember how to get it from one style to the next…. www.merrell.com
Speaking of versatility, the MC2 Food Storage System (MSRP $16) from Innate is a totally new take on on-the-go food transport. The bottom of the container is made of stainless steel, and its lid is a flat, food-grade silicone that will expand in pop-out style into a microwave-friendly bowl. Hm, bet you could just take the lid for a quick bowl too. www.innate-gear.com
Cascade Designs introduced its Platy SoftBottle with a rather sexy curvaceous shape and a splash of bright colors. Pack your bottle filled for a hike or run and when it's empty -- voila! -- it flattens. Conversely, pack it empty for airport travel sans fluids, then fill it once you cross security. Choose half-liter or full liter, regular caps or bite-valves, for $7.95-$12.95. www.platy.com
Introduced at OutDoor but also shown at Outdoor Retailer, Industrial Revolution has a new UCO Stormproof Match that claims to be windproof, waterproof and stormproof. Light it and it won’t go out for 15 seconds, even if you get it wet. “It seems low-tech but people want them,” said Steven Llorente, sales and marketing director. MSRP $3.99 for one box with 25 matches, $5.99 for a two pack, and they’re available by November. www.industrialrev.com
Fox 40, which specializes in outdoor and marine safety products, made noise at the show with its new Fox 40 Sharx whistle (MSRP $9.99). Because the whistle has no pea, there are no moving parts to freeze, stick or jam, meaning that it shouldn't fail. It is also ergonomically designed, can be submersed in water, and is self-clearing. The Sharx is available in multiple bright colors -- for those fashionistas among you -- and, with ease, can generate 125 decibels, which can be heard more than a mile away. Granted ,we didn't try for 125 decibels for fear we'd blow out eardrums. Still, this makes it suitable for paddle and outdoor sports, and a particularly effective safety item for kids. www.fox40world.com
Speaking of a different kind of "pea," GoGirl by FemMed Inc. aims to help women stand and deliver when it comes to taking bathroom breaks. According to the company, the feminine urinary device (we resisted a snicker when we heard that's called a "FUD") is made from medical-grade silicone, at about 5-6 inches will fit in a purse or backpack, and can either be disposed of or cleaned for repeated use. A bag for storage or disposal is included. (MSRP $6.99 single-pack; $18.99 three-pack.) We wondered about having to carry the thing around after … um … use, as well as about how you'd use it more than once if you'd already used it. Then there's the matter of more garbage for the landfill. So why not just indeed stand and deliver? www.go-girl.com
Of course, trade shows and all of the related travel can be an exhausting enterprise, which made the discovery of the inflatable TravelRest pillow (MSRP $26.95) all the more appealing. Unlike typical horseshoe-shaped, neck-wrapping travel pillows, the TravelRest has a long, slender, curved shape that extends from your shoulder down the front of your body to support both the head and body. The pillow is designed to attach to any seatback for added stability, or can be used alone. As an added bonus, it rolls up for easy storage. www.travelrest.net
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 email@example.com.