With consumers spending more time planning their yearly vacation than on research to purchase their home, Eagle Creek told us retailers are focusing on travel again and as a result, travel centers in outdoor stores, like Backwoods, Adventure 16, and REI, are becoming core areas. Outfitters are reporting that their booking periods for trips are lengthening out to months instead of weeks as people gain confidence in the economy.
Light is right as outdoor-centric luggage makers shave off unnecessary ounces, and even pounds, on luggage and carry-ons. Airlines are cracking down and enforcing maximum 50-pound weight limits on checked luggage. Eagle Creek has been working to make its bags more spacious for a traveler's essentials, yet still weigh less. Its Tarmac ES 20 wheeled carry-on in the Exploration Systems collection tips the scales at only 7.5 pounds. Eagle Creek is not the only one focused on shaving weight. New in JanSport's travel line is a 20-inch carry-on that is ridiculously light at 5 pounds -- probably the lightest you'll find anywhere.
They're not the only companies with something new to tell. Here's a rundown of travel-related products that caught our editors' eyes and attention at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market:
Merrell Packs and Bags -- With a new branding message -- "Let's Get Outside" -- Merrell is promoting outdoor access to everyone no matter ability, performance level or lifestyle. In making the outdoors more accessible to everybody, it's also trying to appeal to more customers by widening its range of price point on its packs and bags line. The outdoor-enthusiast Outventure category has a new collection called Nomad with three new daypacks: the Pioneer, Rover and Ranger, retailing between $70 to $90. The urban-inspired Transit category now includes the Passport collection with 12 new styles and an emphasis on more women's-specific styles. Merrell said, "The increase in women-specific pieces is a direct response to retailer and consumer demand." Available at retail in September, there will be even more colors to choose from: topaz and olive in Nomad, and anthracite, olive, aurora, purple and chestnut in Passport.
JanSport -- Finally hitting retail in March, JanSport's Integration travel collection is designed for the younger recreational traveler with design features that look more linked to JanSport's outdoor heritage. Already on shelves since September, the Modus collection -- a more mature travel line designed to keep college grads interested in JanSport products -- debuted the 3-Way Bag. A vertical brief that goes all ways -- backpack, brief and shoulder bag -- it has an organizer pocket that'll make any techy gadget-head happy. The company has been surprised to see its copper color selling equal to black, and though not in the same numbers, its bright bubblegum pink hasn't done too shabby either -- and that's a frightening thought.
Mountainsmith -- Mountainsmith has hit the mother lode of success with its Road Trippin' modular system and debuted new additions to the collection at Winter Market. Among them is the Large Rolling Zip-Top Tote, which puts wheels and a handle on the standard zip-top tote bag that holds up to four of the ingenious little cubes. Also available now are the Deluxe Cooler Cube with a fold-down cup holder (fits a soda canâ€¦or a beer bottle) and mesh side pockets, and the Boot Cube which is double the size of two Basic cubes to accommodate ski/snowboard boots, hip waders or muddy work boots. Mountainsmith also showed three new winter rolling bag additions: the Headwall 2 Rolling Double Ski Bag, Highline Rolling Double Snowboard Bag, and the Gondola Rolling Gear Duffel. Hoping to be one of the premier camera bag companies, it overhauled its entire line.
Kiva -- Continuing on its convertible kick, Kiva debuted the Sling Vert Pack that's an over-the-shoulder sling bag that wears in the front. The front-wearing design allows users to keep it on at all times -- while driving a car or traveling on a train, and comes in three different sling styles that convert into a tote, pack or duffel. Kiva was keeping the lid on at least two patent-pending designs for at least another month or two. The company alluded to SNEWSÂ® that one of the products will be "a revolutionary change to backpacks and they will never be the same again." Ah, but seeing is believing.
Eagle Creek -- Eagle Creek told SNEWSÂ® its 2005 initiative is to make selling travel easier for its dealers with product and promotions. With a 50 percent to 54 percent margin, retailers will be happy to hear Eagle Creek is continuing to expand its accessories selection. It's added more luggage tag styles in bright colors so travelers can ID their bags easily on a crowded carousel. The new Search Alert Lock can be opened, if necessary, by an airport's TSA, then lets owners know if their bag has been searched. It now offers an extensive Country Guide chart that attaches to its converters and transformers POP to identify what products are usable in which countries. Eagle Creek told us it's not stopping there and will have even more accessory intros throughout the year. On the luggage side, the new 2,000-cubic-inch Day Trek Pack has an ingenious secret pocket along the backpack's back panel. The zipper is hidden under the pack's fabric edging so important documents are safeguarded against your back and away from sticky fingers. The company also has three promotions planned: a rebate program to benefit shelters in March (see related story published this week in SNEWSÂ®); a rebate promo in April and May; and a trip giveaway to Brazil in June and July. Eagle Creek said the promos have been designed to be easy for retailers to institute and help build business.
Timbuk2 -- Two intern-designed products from Timbuk2 look pretty handy for the traveler. The Messenger Backpack in the Pro series is a 3,300-cubic-inch, XXL shoulder bag that would work for most weekend jaunts. The Digital DJ Hip Pack is specially designed for mobile music lovers and can carry a traveler's musical must-haves as they globetrot from country to country. Timbuk2 told us it is trying to keep a balance of manufacturing in the United States and China, so along with its perennial Messenger Bags, these two new bags will also be produced in San Francisco.
High Sierra -- High Sierra's new ballistic XP travel line has wheeled carry-ons and uprights. The 22-inch and 26-inch wheeled uprights each have a removable foldout garment bag to keep suits and dresses looking their best, and removable packing cubes to organize undies, toiletries, etc. A little girl power can go a long way as High Sierra brought in a female designer to help the company bring out the feminine side of the DR series ski, snowboard and boot bags. The navy-blue hibiscus flower print proved eye-catching.
QUICK HITS: Swiss Army said it's on the verge of launching two new lines in June that will target a younger, "hip" audience (designer/architect wannabes, we were told) with lower price points. Other than that, Swiss Army has been tweaking products here and there but didn't have "a lot of newness" to report at Winter Marketâ€¦ Known for its super-soft and quick-drying microfiber towels, Aquis is switching from a plastic bag wrap to cloth-mesh bags, which can be used over and over again. They're starting to ship into retail nowâ€¦ Pacsafe shared news of its website re-launch and promised that Summer Market's offering will be "massive." The StashSac has been doing well with the 40-plus age group, the company told us, and has undergone a few design tweaks. It also reported that its TSA locks are doing wellâ€¦ Cocoon is making sure travelers get a good night's sleep with new PJs made from SeaCell fibers and Egyptian cotton, both ideal for humid climates. SeaCell is derived from seaweed and has natural health-promoting substances that help keep bacteria and fungus in check.