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Random observations from Outdoor Retailer

Everybody does the gear rundowns, but here are a couple of my random thoughts on the show.

By: Kyle Frost + Save to a List

My favorite piece of new gear : Arcteryx Norvan VT

Seriously. I'm drooling. Arcteryx is expanding on it's ever growing line of footwear with these impressive trail running shoes. It has a pretty nifty lacing system that uses support pieces inside the shoe that is designed to better secure your foot for technical and steep scrambling. I've gone through and looked at a lot of trail running shoes. Spending most of my time on steep Class IV and packing in a lot of miles, I need something that is light, durable, and provides enough grip/support on those technical sections. My latest workhorse has been the Salomon Speedcross, but between the sleek design (see above), colors, and seemingly more durable sole, I'll be buying these as soon as they're released for Spring 17.

The most impressive booth: Mountain Hardwear

Hands down, they won the booth wars this year. The three story monstrosity came with a freaking mini movie theater in a cave and faux rock walls included. The new gear was looking pretty fly as well.

The most saturated markets: SUP and portable battery chargers

Ok. Let's be serious. How many SUP companies can the industry actually support? Now, I don't pretend to be an expert on the paddle industry, but it seems like that market has reached a serious level of saturation. I'm mostly surprised at how many choose to exhibit at OR. It seems to be a market similar to surfing, where a significant market share is taken by local shapers, and it remains to be seen if one of these companies will emerge to dominate the market.

Also, portable battery chargers. Every gear company and their mom makes one, or a dozen now. If that's your only game, I'd get out of it. While I saw them everywhere, the best offerings seemed to be pretty clearly dominated by Goal Zero and Enerplex, both design and functionality-wise.

The thing I didn't know I needed: Mountain Standard dehydrated salsa

Yep. You read that right. Dehydrated salsa. You lose the glass container and the weight, and gain delicious salsa-y goodness. It's superb.

Most surprising brand: Thule

I bet you didn't even know that Thule made technical backpacks. Like, really nice backpacks. In addition to their long-time bread and butter of car racks, bike accessories, and ski/bike transport, Thule has moved into the hiking and backpacking market. I was tremendously impressed with the level of design detail in their backpack line, which ranges from city bags all the way through multi-day backpacking.

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