Some booths at Outdoor Retailer have their own gravity. They draw a wide range of athletes, entrepreneurs, journalists and other thought leaders. Here, they discuss the real problems the outdoor space faces—from climate change to diversity in the outdoors—and come up with solutions on how to move forward.
Pit Viper is not one of those booths. It may, however, be the booth most likely to be monitored by security.
Can you can claim your season pass to “Party Mountain” in the Ballroom or Yoga Zone? Um, no. But at Pit Viper, you simply pick up a provided prop (anything from a fish head to a novel for the 1980s classic ski flick Hot Dog), sit in the photo booth and post that bad boy to Instagram tagged @pit_viper.
Your ride to a magical kingdom is just beginning, and it may have more in common with micro-dosing than perfluorinated-chemical-free DWR.
Located near the coffee station at the north entrance to the Salt Palace and lathered with New Wave tackiness, the booth has been both attracting and frightening showgoers who wander mistakenly out of the main hall. In point of fact, its line of adjustable, military design sunglasses (think Pantera meets Kenny Powers) and Weird Science-era soundtrack are stickier than pork rinds at a stag party.
“They put us in the part of the show that people hate,” said co-founder and virgin exhibitor* Chuck Mumford (no relation), “and we love it.”
That fits right into Utah-based Pit Viper Worldwide’s philosophy. Mumford created the brand and sunglasses after he broke a high-end pair of shades in the Tetons. The concept? According to the company website, Pit Vipers can “be shot, sat on, shoved in pockets, run over, and they’ll mostly maintain their sun and wind-bucking ability.” Mumford, who raised $38,648 on Kickstarter to bring his vision to life, stands by their quality, as does the company warranty: “Just send us a video of you breaking them, or a dramatic reenactment of how they broke. Make us laugh.”
Not surprisingly, Pit Viper cultivates its own unique flavor of crowdsourcing to promote the brand. Tag a disturbing photo of you in the shades on Instagram, and you can become one of their “Key Players.” Some of the images give a whole new meaning to “viral.”
For all of the zaniness, one should not underestimate the consumer allure of the sunglasses. Mumford confirmed that the biggest complaint he receives from customers is that Pit Vipers get stolen—a lot. In fact, a passing attendee at the booth interrupted our interview to rant, “Dude, some crazy mofo stole my Pit Vipers and I need a new pair or I’ll go blind!”
Another attendee queried if the Stormtrooper model was still in the line.
The booth has attracted some celebrity attention as well. Our investigative team found the one and only Chris Denny, principal and founder of Denny Ink., sniffing around the booth. He immediately bro’d down with Mumford and donned a headband that would have made Richie Tenenbaum proud.
Has any other manufacturer achieved that level of brand engagement anywhere else at ORWM? Nah, didn’t think so. But it’s not too late for a psychedelic trek to the top of Party Mountain. Unleash your inner snake, friend. You won’t regret the journey.
*As in, first-time exhibitor. We’re pretty certain Chuck is a widely experienced and generous lover.
Over the next several weeks, we'll be rolling out the best content from Outdoor Retailer Daily Winter Market 2016. This story appeared on page 87 of the Day 4 issue.