Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '10: Travel still on holiday

Just as the economy was still rattled in 2009, so too was the travel market since the the list of deterrents to travel is growing. We take a look at how gear makers are coping for the fall 2010 season.

Just as the economy was still rattled in 2009, so too was the travel market since the list of deterrents to travel is growing: tightened purse strings, fear of H1N1 germs, a weak U.S. dollar, recent thwarted terrorist attacks, rising fees associated with plane travel…and, now, full-body scans are on the horizon. Pat down, please!

OK, that’s the bad news. The good for 2010? Travel companies are doing what they can to address today’s traveler and entice people to get on the road again – of course using their gear and accessories. When SNEWS® talked to manufacturers and looked at product at the recent Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, consistent themes included light weight, price value, and multi-purpose.

Additionally, both Eagle Creek and Briggs & Riley told us that adventure travel was on the upswing. Even vacations are becoming multi-purpose as adventure travelers roll exotic destinations and volunteerism together on their treks. “We think the worst is over,” said Stasia Raines, a spokeswoman for Eagle Creek, noting a strong fourth quarter for the company.

Eagle Creek had a light showing of new product this winter but hinted at a big rollout scheduled for the summer 2010 show. The big news at the company was the impending exit of founders Steve and Nona Barker and long-timer Ricky Schlesinger, and the succession of Michael Millenacker, formerly vice president of sales, as brand president (Click here to see our Jan. 18, 2010, SNEWS® story).

Below, are a few highlights of new products and lines that focus on the season’s trends:

New on the outdoor scene is Briggs & Riley, hoping to make headway with specialty retailers. Tim McGuire, director of outdoor retail sales, told SNEWS, “All we do is luggage. This is our primary focus. We’re looking to bring in a fresh look, using the right materials, construction and mechanics. ” Cognizant of the lightweight trend and of the adventure traveler, the line is tight: two wheeled carry-ons, a wheeled upright (photo, right), rolling duffel (MSRP $260-$320), as well as a duffel, backpack and toiletry kit ($40-$160). Unlike other bag makers, all the tubing for its wheeled bag handles is on the bag’s exterior, providing an outer layer of durability and a flat packing surface internally. A multi-bag docking system, using snap-in buckles and webbing, allows transportation of two bags as one. www.briggs-riley.com


Filson deviated from its traditionally heavy luggage pieces by launching the Passage collection with 16-ounce nylon twill to shave off weight, but the heritage is still there. The company retained the bridle leather straps and switched to nickel metal hardware. It’s now added wheeled luggage, which includes a briefcase, carry-on, upright and two rolling duffels (MSRP $295-$390). www.filson.com

Part of its lightest luggage collection to date, The North Face added the Wayfinder rolling duffels in three sizes, weighing in at 5, 6 and 7 pounds (MSRP $139, $159, $179, respectively), and made of nylon ripstop and ballistics nylon. www.thenorthface.com

Trending toward the lightweight theme for three years, Victorinox’s new CH-97 line (which reflects the international code for Switzerland and the company’s founding year) consists of two wheeled uprights, two wheeled carry-on bags and duffels (MSRP $90-$290; photo, left). It also hinted at a line that will be even lighter and more inexpensive for next year -- Seefeld, which will have minimal bells and whistles to keep pieces light. www.victorinox.com


Emphasizing the multi-purpose theme, both ExOfficio and MerrellApparel added a “why hasn’t anyone thought of it sooner” tweak to lightweight, insulated jackets: a stuff pocket incorporated into it that is shaped like a travel pillow for neck or lumbar support once you’ve stuffed the jacket into it.

ExOfficio’s version for men and women is the Storm Logic jacket and vest made with PrimaLoft One insulation and a 20-denier ripstop polyester (MSRP $120-$150; www.exofficio.com). Merrell Apparel’s jacket -- originally the Siesta, now re-named the Guise for men and Charade for women (photo, right) -- is made of PrimaLoft Eco insulation with a polyester shell (MSRP $129, www.merrell.com).

--Wendy Geister