SALT LAKE CITY: The outdoor industry has descended on this lovely little desert town for the gearfest/trade show known as Outdoor Retailer Summer Market and that means it’s impossible to get a table at the Red Iguana, one of the best Mexican restaurants north of the Rio Grande. The show hasn’t
even started yet and so I thought I could sneak in a lunchtime plate of mole negro at the lizard, but no—25 people were waiting outside in the Utah sun for a table. That’s the bad news, I guess. The good news is that with 17,000 attendees and more than a thousand exhibitors, there’s more Gore-Tex, Vibram, and Cordura here than you could wear in a lifetime—it’s a gear geek’s dream.
The show opens tomorrow in the Salt Palace. Workers bees are still frantically putting up booths and stocking gear in the convention center, which currently looks a bomb went off in REI, strewing mannikin body parts everywhere. You can’t help but marvel that by 9 a.m. Friday morning everything will be in place, the worker bees scrubbed clean, everyone with Altoids, Tictacs, and Purell stashed nearby. It’s a trade show, of course, and if you’ve been to a trade show you know how it is—fluorescent lights, bad air, terrible foods. But this is Outdoor Retailer! No cynicism or grumpiness allowed—we’re talking about the world’s best toy show.
The question that everybody asks each other throughout the show is, “What have you seen that’s cool?” All too often, it’s answered with a thousand-yard stare and brain-dead “uhhhh”. There’s so much to see, it’s overwhelming. But here at T-minus 15 hours, I’m still pretty fresh, and having just come back from a product introduction, I can recollect quite well: Osprey is introducing its first line of fastpacking backpacks, and they are beautiful. There are three models in the Exos series, at 30 liters, 46 liters, and 54 liters. The 46 looks ideal for a long weekend—and it weighs just one pound, 14 ounces, with a full suspension. Incredible. We’ll see how the Exos packs perform loaded and on the trail, but at this point they look pretty darn interesting.
Keep an eye on this space tomorrow. Sometime between the 7 a.m. industry breakfast, nine hours of show, three hours of post-show media events, dinner, and the 40th anniversary North Face party, I’m going to post a daily report. And do the same the next day and the day after and the day after that. Really I am. And if I don’t, it’s only because I’m lightheaded from lack of mole.
- Nat Geo Expeditions