Youth movement: Gear for kids on the go delivers performance and value

To better serve active families, companies are not just shrinking and pinking (or blue-ing), they’re designing products from the ground up and incorporating more child-friendly features.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:

In a less-enlightened past, women’s gear was pejoratively described as having been “shrinked and pinked.” Now, women can find many products specifically designed and sized for them. Likewise with kids’ gear. To better serve active families, companies are not just shrinking and pinking (or blue-ing), they’re designing products from the ground up and incorporating more child-friendly features.

The timing is no coincidence. Children’s products are seeing a surge in sales as the baby boom generation’s kids are having kids of their own. It’s the baby boom echo’s echo.

At Gregory fit came first for designers CJ Whittaker and Wayne Gregory when they created the Wander youth backpack (MSRPs 70L: $199, 50L: $179), the company’s first foray into kids’ packs. They realized that kids who use ill-fitting hand-me-downs may get turned off to the outdoors, but parents often balk at shelling out for a product their kids soon may outgrow. So they researched and measured ergonomic differences between youths and adults, then devised a wireframe suspension that unites the harness, lumbar support and waist belt in one load-transferring system and adjusts to a variety of sizes. “In the end, we designed a pack that will carry well and not break the bank,” Whittaker said.

Ergonomics also inspired the smaller, 12-ounce, recycled-metal water bottles from Liberty Bottleworks, which have a new sport cap that’s easier for kids to open (MSRP $16-$18, photo, right).

The Kids’ Trailhead Gaiters (MSRP $29) from Outdoor Research easily go on and off with a zippered front and Velcro closure, while elastic at both ends accommodates a variety of sizes.

Other kid-appropriate features include ease of use and versatility. Lafuma has retooled its synthetic, 40-degree Ecrins JR sleeping bag (MSRP $60, photo, left) with kid-focused details like a stuff sack attached to the foot (hey, we adults could use this too!), external carrying straps, anti-jam zippers and internal checkerboard graphics for entertainment on rainy days. Kelty’s new Whippersnapper (MSRP $30, photo, right) 60-degree fleece bag works for warm-weather camping or sleepovers, with a semi-circular hood that fits a pillow and attached roll-up straps; it multitasks as a blanket when fully unzipped.

Seeing a flood of products for young’uns, Eureka focuses on teens with a new recreation junior mummy series of sleeping bags fitting to 5 feet, 6 inches and featuring adult technical features such as a full-length draft tube and a compression stuff sack. The 15-degree Cypress, for boys, and the Azalea, for girls, will sell for MSRP $60.

Mountainsmith’s revamped Youth Pursuit backpack ($130, photo, left), now available in two sizes, has been streamlined with a slimmer profile, lighter-weight materials and more ways to organize gear.

Marmot’s kids’ line continues to expand, according to Public Relations Director Jordan Campbell. The Girls’ Ether Hoody (MSRP $58) updates the classic DriClime windshirt with softer, suppler fabric.

Never underestimate the appeal of safety. Real Kid Shades caters to sun-savvy parents and fashion-forward kids with genuinely protective new styles like the girls’ Fabulous (MSRP $14.99), with oversized polycarbonate frames that block out all UVA and UVB rays, and shields against peripheral light. Meanwhile, Icebreaker touts the natural sun protection of its merino wool pieces (MSRPs $30-35), which are rated UPF 50+; the Spring 13 line includes six new kids’ tees.

--Cindy Hirschfeld

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