This year’s Outdoor Retailer Winter Market marked many things, not least of which was the first time I got a pro deal while standing at a urinal. Thanks to the QR code on the SOLE ad pasted above the toilets and in the men’s restroom stalls at the Salt Palace, premium footbeds may soon be mine. It is a weird experience pulling your phone out to scan a sign while, you know, doing what one does when one is standing at a urinal. Certainly not at all the weirdest thing at OR, but a reminder for me that the show is business.
During three days of what always feels like nonstop beast mode, I talked with the folks at Salomon about why they don’t make a barefoot running shoe, talked to the guys at Falcon Guides about their new books, talked to other companies about technology to keep us warmer during the winter, and checked out new avy beacons. If you drool over gear, OR is your nirvana. I like gear, but what I like more is when conversations with PR, marketing and other outdoor industry people turns to whatever they’re passionate about in the outdoors. We run trails, we climb, we ski, we surf, we sleep in the dirt. We love our bikes and our backpacks and our boots, but it’s also nice to get through the business and then talk about why we’re really there, too — because we love the outdoors.
That said, in the ocean of gear and apparel that filled the Salt Palace, there were a couple cool things that caught my attention, and I hope to test out this year: Sierra Designs’ DriDown and Ortovox’s Zoom avalanche beacon.
SD is not the only company introducing a water-resistant down technology, but theirs seems the most legit and confident so far. They’re saying that a polymer applied at the molecular level during the down finishing process will keep down dry 7 times longer in rain and dry 3 times faster. They don’t call it “waterproof,” but lots of folks seem to believe it could be a game-changer. As a guy who has woken up freezing because of condensation forming on the outside of my bag in a bivy sack or in a humid environment, I’m excited to try out a DriDown sleeping bag this spring and see if it delivers. They’ll also add it to several jackets in their line.
The other piece of gear that caught my eye at the show was Ortovox’s new Zoom avalanche beacon. In a market where beacons seem to either be roughly $300 with standard features or $500 with a bunch of options I will need only if I become a ski guide, Ortovox is dropping this beacon at $250 retail, which hopefully puts it in reach of most dirtbag backcountry enthusiasts, but still contains Ortovox’s Smart Antenna technology, which enables searches when the wearer is buried vertically. Seems like a price point that will get more beacons out there to folks who venture into the backcountry or sidecountry.
Those were just two standout items of gear at the show, amongst hundreds of cool things, but even more dozens of great industry people. I thought about coming home from the show and writing a post about my experience, which is the same incredible experience I have every show. Then I read Jill’s post at GearGals and decided she nailed it. If you’ve never been and want to know what it’s like, or have been and want to read a great description of it, click here.
Semi-Rad is brought to you by Outdoor Research.