In a world of super technical, ultra-vapor-wicking, titanium alloy-reinforced, mega, mini, maxi, mucho everything, what happened to gear that is a tool to bridge the gap between the outdoors and the everyday for the beginner outdoor enthusiast?
At this year’s Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, some companies seemed to hone in well on meshing the style of today’s urban youth while still managing to keep up performance standards. But it takes more than just style to help a newbie of any age overcome the challenges of the outdoors. Today’s urban youth seem more and more to be craving the outdoor lifestyle. Still, as beginners, they need products that can help bring the techy-oriented, urban, concrete world they know into a dirt-filled world that may be alien. Here is a look at just a few companies that hit a home run on blending not only style and performance, but also adding in elements of the urban lifestyle to their outdoor products.
Looptworks is a company that has more of a green focus -- an important aspect for today’s youth. It utilizes modern style and functionality of its product to appeal to the weekend warrior and maybe, unintentionally, also the beginning enthusiast. Looptworks uses 100-percent pre-consumer waste scraps to create its limited-edition line of apparel each year. With products such as the Chinhai Hoodie -- a soft shell, zippered hoodie that is great to wear across campus, as well on a fall hike. Another product is its upcycled laptop cases made from wetsuit material. Overall, gear from Looptworks (www.looptworks.com) has an everyday purpose and it offsets the inhibition to spend a load of dough for weekend-oriented stuff. The hoodie has an MSRP of $90 -- well-priced to compete in its market, and the laptop case is $30, which isn’t too bad considering the tech protection you’re getting. A line that’s green with forward style and a perfect tool for an urbanite to rule the wilderdom.
Teva, a company that is most certainly no rookie on the trade show floor, is making an effort to change the way people look at the brand. The Gnarkosi wakeskate shoe is the first product released by Teva that is a part of its new, younger look. Loud colors, hip designs and versatility is a part of what Teva R&D feels will appeal to the future generation of outdoor enthusiasts. The Gnarkosi is a wakeskate-specific shoe that co-mingles Teva’s old school roots of watersport performance footwear with a Millennial’s “extreme” twist on the outdoors. What makes this shoe great for a newbie is the fact that it is a product designed to perform not only behind the boat but also around town. Teva (www.teva.com) told us to be sure to stress the shoe was not skate-inspired but street-inspired. Whatever jargon you put behind it, the fact of the matter is if it works on a water skateboard it works on a street skateboard. That fact makes this correspondent happy as he can skate on the lake and skate to the bar by the lake -- still with the same shoes and swagger as he would have with other skate shoes. The product’s MSRP is right at $100, a pretty common price in a performance footwear category, but this shoe will still also hold up to the pavement walking to and from school.
When you think of urbanite youth, you cannot ignore their need for technology at their fingertips. From camping stoves to binoculars and then some, Brunton, another veteran in the outdoor industry, has found a way to grab the attention of some serious “gear heads” and maybe a few beginners as well. One product category that Brunton (www.brunton.com) claims to have pioneered in the industry is providing solar energy solutions for all the electronic gadgetry beginners just can’t do without. Two products in particular are good tools that aid newbies in their adventure into becoming more outdoorsy. One, the Restore, a portable battery and solar charger in one package, and, two, the SolarRoll, a waterproof solar panel that rolls up tight into a small bundle. Priced at $125 and $295, respectively, they might be out of the price range for most (but not off the holiday wish list). Ah, but you never know what lengths some will go to keep their text messages or tunes close at hand … or ear. These two items are designed to keep those small electronics like an iPod or a SmartPhone running while out in the woods, making the next tweet a Millennial posts about what he or she saw on the way to the “toilet” perhaps a bit too personal.
The company that takes the cake for newbie products is Alite. A company that’s a bit green and only started in 2008 out of San Francisco. Alite’s mission (www.alitedesigns.com) is to design products that make the outdoors a much easier feat to tackle for the young urbanite attempting to get outside. One product in particular, the “Sexy Hotness,” is a sleeping bag with a purpose: to make the outdoors more fun for you and your significant other when things get a little…hmm…steamy in your tent. Equipped with a 20-degree temperature rating, it makes a great summer bag, as well as a couch crasher that’s easily packed into your pack or car. This “sleeping” bag, priced at $145, is a deal considering it functions just as well in the outdoors as any other three-season bag but can be used in any situation indoors as well. This is just one piece in an entire line that’s innovatively geared for as many functions as you can come up with from outdoor environments to daily urban use to both. It also offers daypacks that convert from on-campus to on-trail use with built-in laptop sleeves and removable organizational pouches, and chairs built for concerts, camping, daily indoor use and almost anything you can throw at it. Watch out for this group of innovative thinkers. They engineer people’s needs into their products well -- which makes them strategically placed to be the leader of this niche market.
--Anthony Shaheen, SNEWS Youth Team Reporter
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