Communing with the outdoors: Tailgating, event-watching gear on the rise

Bring out the gear, slather on the sunscreen and crack open the beers — we’re going camping. Or tailgating. Or to Bonnaroo.

Bring out the gear, slather on the sunscreen and crack open the beers — we’re going camping. Or tailgating. Or to Bonnaroo. Several companies at Summer Market are tapping into the growing market of consumers engaging in outdoor experiences that are low-key but highly social.

American Rec just launched a new brand, Tailgaterz , targeted to four user types: diehard parking-lot partiers, families watching kids’ soccer games, backyard barbecueing and beach/festival-goers. “We’re calling this outdoor recreation,” said Steve Nadler, Tailgaterz’ product manager. “It’s really about people entertaining themselves outdoors and, especially, at social events. The majority of camping companies don’t think about these consumers.”

Pieces are designed for shade, seating and organization, including the Hang-n-Haul (MSRP $25), a roll-up hanging organizer (like a shoe bag) with mesh pockets for food essentials like dishes, cutlery, condiments and more. Dirty items go in a detachable plastic pouch at the bottom. A favorite among booth visitors has been the Tailgating Tavern (MSRP $80), a portable, fold-out bar with a countertop, hanging shelves and side pockets for ice and cans.

The lightweight, portable Helinox chair (MSRP $90), distributed in North America by Big Agnes, has sold well beyond forecast, according to Big Agnes co-owner Len Zanni. “We’re selling these like crazy, from parents watching their kids’ sporting events to people watching music,” he said. The frame is made of high-quality DAC tent poles, and the 2-pound chair folds down into an approximately foot-long package. Likewise, Crazy Creek’s Beach/Festival chair (MSRP $43) has been a hot item since its February debut. “We’ve sold out of it three times already,” said Chelsea Hill, the brand’s sales and marketing manager.

The latest camping furniture also is being designed with double or triple-duty in mind, with the thought that when you're outdoors at camp, or watching a game, you're likely snacking and drinking as well. The Eureka Curvy Chair with Side Table (MSRP $80) has more than over 100 square inches of organization and storage including a cup holder, recessed plate area and utensil holder. To help with meal preparation or a flat place to set your stove, Eureka's Cook Table (MSRP $100) stands 32 inches high with a large zippered storage cabinet for cookware, plates and cups.


Some brands emphasize modern style as well as ease of use. Alite’s new Cabin Series is geared toward “music festivals, car camping and the back patio,” said owner and designer Tae Kim, and the pieces were inspired by mid-century modern Eames furniture. The portable, oversized Bison lounge chair (MSRP $200) has a tent pole–style base and weighs only 4.6 pounds. The Treeline Table (MSRP $200) is sized at just the right height for card-playing and holding drinks. The rigid top is reinforced with polyethelene slats, and legs adjust up to 9 inches to accommodate uneven ground. A cool extra: A separate maple plywood top is available for indoor home use.


Over at rookie brand Ticla, tents, shade structures, sleeping bags and pads are designed for easy setup and comfort. “We’re bringing color and print into the campsite,” said sales manager Holly Morissette, pointing out sleeping bags with zig-zag interiors and a printed Camp Hero tarp (MSRP $70). The product line includes three vestibule-less tents (MSRPs $275-$450), all with large mesh windows. There are also two synthetic sleeping bags that flip to provide different warmth levels (MSRPs $100/$130) and the Shado Inflato (MSRP $325), a shelter with inflatable supports instead of poles.


--Cindy Hirschfeld