__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

INDEPENDENT. UNFILTERED. ENGAGED.

IS REI TOO BIG?

THE PROS AND CONS OF HAVING THE WHOLE INDUSTRY IN ONE SET OF HANDS.


TERREX FREE HIKER


ENGINEERED FIT UPPER OFFERS STEP-IN COMFORT AND SUPPORT WHERE YOU NEED IT

EXTRAORDINARY GRIP RUBBER OUTSOLE WITH ADAPTIVE PROFILE DEL I V ER S OU T S TA NDING TRACTION ON BOTH WET AND DRY SURFACES

ENDLESS ENERGY RETURN FULL

MIDSOLE

P R O V I D E S L O N G -T E R M CUSHIONING AND COMFORT

V I S I T U S AT : M R 2 0 4


THE BIG CHEESE SPEAKS – A Mystery Rant

MYSTERY RANCH showcased our new booth and Fall 2019 product line at this past November’s Outdoor Retailer Winter Market... and a strange thing happened... we had a Winter Market that actually helped our ordering cycle. MYSTERY RANCH is not at the Snow Show as there is minimal benefit to our marketing and sales effort in January. The Snow Show is at the ideal time for the ski industry and should remain a ski show. Should we try and mash the Outdoor and Ski industries together? Only if we want to do both... poorly. The Outdoor and Ski industries are cousins, but shouldn’t be in bed together! We enjoyed ORWM 2018 – but there is more to a successful show than making it as crowded as possible. Here’s to the first new born cries of The VOICE! We need an independent observer of the trade. Make Bob Woodward proud, and bring the snark! – Dana Gleason, Big Cheese


contents 64

the End of Elite

When Walmart marketed Black Diamond last summer, the resulting fiasco stirred up a long-simmering identity crisis, causing the industry to look in the mirror and ask: Who are— and aren’t—we? By Tracy Ross

72

Coolshops

Multisport challenges, tutorial videos, open-arms outreach: These 10 shops show what it takes to kill it in retail today. By Amelia Arvesen

80

the long arm of rei

The brand wields unmatched power in the industry. But is it a benevolent leader or the 800-pound gorilla of the outdoor world? By Kassondra Cloos

84

Safe outside?

An eye-opening first look at the groundbreaking SNEWS survey on sexual harassment and sexual assault in the outdoor industry. By Charlie Lieu

88

Copycat gear

PHOTO BY LOUISA ALBANESE

Evolving technology has made it easier than ever for brands to knock off a competitor’s gear. Some call such companies a boon—others, a threat. By Kelly Bastone

ON THE COVER

Illustration by David Vogin

PAGE

03


C ontents

business 13 Industry

Buzz

Rentals and demos are booming as more skiers travel in search of stoke.

16 Your

Next Customer

27

36

CUlture

gear

27 Fresh

Faces

Meet a freshman Congresswoman, a queer advocate, a designer, and a leader in conservation and diversity.

Enough with the calls to get people of color outside. We’re there—you’re just not speaking our language. By Glenn Nelson

30 Unfiltered

17 Numerology

Three reps share their tips, tools, and must-haves for life on the road.

These key stats define the health of the outdoor industry today.

18 Show

Biz

Breaking down what you’ll cough up at different types of trade shows. Plus: Do we really need three national shows?

21 Shop

Talk

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance and Sierra Designs launch an exclusive for member stores.

Hey, brands: “Exposure” for your ambassadors doesn’t pay their bills.

31 Road

32 The

Rules

Convo

What’s your identity got to do with your work in the outdoors? Three industry members talk it through.

34 Homage

36 Breakthrough

The North Face aims to dethrone Gore-Tex as the king of waterproof/ breathable tech.

38 The

Trend Report

What’s selling now—and will be soon— according to our expert panel of retailers and brand innovators.

50 Voice

50

The coolest new products of the season, ranked.

62 EcoFront

PrimaLoft breaks it down with a new biodegradable fabric; does recycling really rule?

Props for reps; one of our own battles cancer; volunteers save the national parks during the government shutdown

22 Messaging

Hotels + gear = the freshest way to meet customers.

in every issue

24 In

06 Editor’s

Brief

VF Corp., Interbike, and three-day OR

10 Contributors 96 In

PAGE

04

Note

Gratitude

PHOTOS BY (LEFT TO RIGHT) GARRET VAN SWEARINGEN; NICK COTE; COURTESY

22


IT’S TIME TO WEAR THE FUTURE Learn more at our booth. thenorthface.com/futurelight


ditor’s note

R

PENOBSCOT BAY, MAINE, 1994

Find Your Voice Change is messy, scary, uncomfortable—and important. It starts now.

PAGE

06

ain screamed sideways. Whitecaps surged over my kayak. It was September 1994, and the weather had turned to shit off the Maine coast. My knuckles white, I fought to keep pace with the experienced paddlers ahead of me—five stronger, older guys. As BACKPACKER’s newest hire and first female gear editor, I was determined to hang with the big boys on our staff trip, never mind the Small Craft Advisory. When they decided to circumnavigate an exposed island across the bay, I was not about to get left behind. Our group crossed the choppy inlet and hugged the island’s craggy shoreline. As we neared its exposed point, the gale picked up. The guys fought their way around—laughing and howling—and got ready to surf down the other side. But my boat stalled. Despite putting every ounce of strength I had into each stroke, I was merely paddling in place, then slipping backwards. Two of my coworkers came back, rigged a tow rope, and hauled me through the typhoon. I hated that I needed to be rescued, but I took solace from their nods of respect. That night, I shared a tent with one of the guys (this was common practice in our company culture). Burrowed in our bags, we talked about the day, about gear, but mostly about his many adventures. I was a little starstruck. Eventually, I rolled over and said goodnight. Then I felt his breath on my neck and his body curl against mine. I was stunned. Like so many women do, I wondered if I’d unconsciously signaled some encouragement. I hadn’t. I wanted a professional relationship, not a physical one, and I made that clear with an elbow jab and a “No, no way!” He backed off and soon started snoring, as if nothing had happened. We never spoke of it again in our many years of working together. In fact, I’d erased it from my memory until very recently. This fall, SNEWS surveyed 1,000 outdoor professionals about sexual harassment and assault in our industry. An

astonishing 41 percent of them reported experiencing some sexual misconduct. Dozens shared personal stories and agreed to deeper interviews. The first installment in our special series—an overview of the survey findings—starts on page 84. This is exactly the type of story we’re dedicated to exploring in The Voice. We’ll tackle this and other tough issues facing our industry: the ones that make us uncomfortable, but ultimately will help our community evolve and grow. When we announced this journal just eight weeks ago, you told us you didn’t want another trade show daily. You wanted a forum for real conversation and independent truth-telling. And that’s what you’ll find here, with new voices and viewpoints to

“THEN I FELT HIS BREATH ON MY NECK AND HIS BODY CURL AGAINST MINE. I WAS STUNNED.” help us collaboratively shape the next generation of outdoor leadership. Sharing my own story here is uncomfortable and a bit scary, but creating this issue—with this team—has been a highlight of my 25-year career. So now, it’s over to you. We hope these pages raise eyebrows, spark introspection, and shed light on the best path around your own stormy islands. Tell us what’s good and what’s missing. We’re already working on the next issue, and we want The Voice to include yours.

Kristin Hostetter Editor-in-Chief


OUT PRODUCT TESTING, SEE YOU IN JUNE. VA S Q U E

VA S Q U E . C O M

@ VA S Q U E F O O T W E A R


EDITORIAL

SALES

EDITOR-IN- CHIEF

SALES DIREC TOR

DEPUT Y EDITOR

303-253-6319 gthayer@aimmedia.com

Kristin Hostetter Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan CULTURE EDITOR

Shannon Davis CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

Gregg Thayer

SALES MANAGER

Susie von Mettenheim

303-253-6441 svonmettenheim@aimmedia.com

Dennis Lewon, Casey Lyons ASSISTANT EDITOR

Amelia Arvesen CONTRIBUTORS

Kelly Bastone, Betsy Bertram, Kristin Carpenter-Ogden, Kassondra Cloos, Nick Cote, Ron Griswell, Cindy Hirschfeld, Courtney Holden, Charlie Lieu, Elizabeth Miller, Glenn Nelson, Heather Balogh Rochfort, Tracy Ross, Elyse Rylander, Shawnté Salabert, Virginia Schmidt, David Vogin, Carolyn Webber Alder, Ryan Wichelns

PRESIDENT & CEO

DESIGN & PHOTOGRAPHY

Michael Henry

CRE ATIVE DIREC TOR

CHIEF INNOVATION OFFICER

Mike Leister

ART DIREC TOR

Monochrome Design House LE AD PHOTOGR APHER + PHOTO EDITOR

Louisa Albanese

PRODUCTION PREPRESS MANAGER

Joy Kelley

AD COORDINATOR

Caitlin O’Connor PREPRESS SPECIALIST

Idania Mentana

Copyright 2019 © Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.

Andrew W. Clurman SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER & TRE ASURER

Jonathan Dorn

MANAGING DIREC TOR/PUBLISHER

Sharon Houghton

VICE PRESIDENT, AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT

Thomas Masterson

VICE PRESIDENT, PRODUC TION AND MANUFAC TURING

Barb Van Sickle

VICE PRESIDENT, PEOPLE AND PL ACES

JoAnn Thomas

AIM BOARD CHAIR

Efrem Zimbalist III


Enjoy the Journey. Cold hydration for more than 4 hours. Introducing the Journey Series™— reinvented hands-free hydration. Our Cold Flow™ System lets you enjoy every sip as cool as the first. No more choosing between cold water and hydration on the move— now you can have both.


C ontributors

Ron Griswell For The Voice’s photo editor and lead photographer, the best part about launching a brand-new magazine is the creativity it allows: “Starting from scratch means there are no boundaries, so you really get to use your imagination,” she says. Case in point: dreaming up the whimsical photos that illustrate “The End of Elite,” page 64. Albanese is also the photo editor and staff photographer for BACKPACKER and co-founder of the Wild Acorns Media production company. Favorite voice in the outdoor industry At the moment I’m fangirling @pattiegonia. I love her positive energy, message of inclusivity, and the way she can crush a bag of Cheetos. Coolest new gear I’m using The Deuter Active SL Kids carrier. It’s the lightest on the market and made specifically for women.

Kelly Bastone

Steamboat Springs, Colorado-based freelance writer Bastone says she was shocked to learn how easy it is to launch new outdoor gear while reporting “Startup Nation,” page 88. “People can just shoot off a few emails to a factory and commission almost anything they might want,” she says. And investigating the balance between homage and stealing hit close to home. “I’ve always been creative—writing, music, and textiles—and I’ve drawn tremendous inspiration from others’ work,” she says. “I don’t know what the noble ratio is for mixing original and borrowed ideas, but I have a special reverence for things that look, sound, or feel unique.” Bastone’s work has also appeared in Via, Los Angeles Magazine, 5280, BACKPACKER, and AFAR. Favorite voice in the outdoor industry Steve Casimiro. In my next life, I hope to write personal essays like he does.

PAGE

10

Tracy Ross

National Magazine Award-winning journalist Ross is drawn to stories that bother her—which made writing “The End of Elite,” page 64, the perfect fit. “This summer, I saw a post Jimmy Chin put up about an energy drink ‘for the elite, by the elite,’” she says. “It chafed hard, because it preyed on all of my insecurities. Then I learned about the WalmartMoosejaw-Black Diamond thing, and I felt, ‘Boom, there’s a prime example of what rubbed me the wrong way.’” Ross, who lives in Nederland, Colorado, has recently published work in 5280, Outside, and Red Bulletin. Coolest new gear I’m using A sick Bight Gear puffy Outdoor activity I most want to learn in 2019 Surfing. I’m going to Hawaii!

PHOTOS BY COURTESY

Louisa Albanese

Griswell’s love for the outdoors started in 2013, when he worked for a couple of outdoor adventure nonprofits during a sabbatical from college. Those experiences led to stints as an outdoor educator and guide, and ultimately to his current labor of love: launching HBCUs Outside, an organization that creates outing and recreation programs at historically black colleges and universities nationwide. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based Griswell says the idea for his piece on working for “exposure” versus pay (“Feeling Exposed,” p. 30) grew from his frustrations with recent conversations with brands about their ambassador programs. Who in the industry do you nominate for president in 2020? Yvon for president! #Chouinard2020 Outdoor activities I most want to learn in 2019 Kiteboarding and whitewater kayaking


PHOTOS BY COURTESY

Glenn Nelson

Elyse Rylander

For the past seven years, Bellingham, Washington-based Rylander has had one foot in the outdoor world and one in the social justice world—helping her bring a unique perspective to “Fresh Faces,” page 27. “As I’ve made connections and accessed different spaces, I feel it’s incumbent upon me to make sure I’m amplifying the voices that are still absent in the vast majority of our conversations as an industry,” she says. When she’s not running OUT There Adventures, her adventure education organization that “connects LGBTQ youth to experiences OUTside,” Rylander is leading the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit and blogging for the Climbing Wall Association. Who in the industry do you nominate for president in 2020? Luis Benitez, director of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office Coolest new gear I’m using After a number of summers kayak guiding in Alaska, Xtra Tuffs have become my standard footwear. This winter I bought a pair of their new “deck boots,” and I have to say they’re as awesome as I thought they would be.

As the founder of The Trail Posse, an organization dedicated to making mainstream media portrayals more diverse, Seattle-based writer/photographer Nelson has been focused on race and inclusion for years. “In my work, I’ve kept tripping over the false narrative that people of color need to be drawn outdoors,” he says. “I’ve traveled the country extensively, and have seen and experienced many examples that explode that myth,” a theme he explores in “Our Own Words,” page 16. Nelson’s writing has recently appeared in YES! Magazine, Crosscut, Outside, and Audubon. Who in the industry do you nominate for president in 2020? Dan Nordstrom of Outdoor Research, because he brings the renowned Nordstrom heart and service to the outdoors and knows the ropes (literally and politically) Outdoor activity I most want to (re)learn in 2019 I need a reintroduction to backpacking. We’ve been apart for some decades. Now that I’ve acquired an ultralight camera and sleeping quilt, I think I’m ready for a reunion.

Charlie Lieu

It’s no hyperbole to say that Lieu’s work investigating sexual harassment and sexual assault in the outdoor industry (“Special Report,” page 84) changed her life. After she started speaking up about her #SafeOutside research, “I suffered personal, career, and financial consequences for becoming ‘the sexual assault and harassment girl,’” she says. “It’s an uncomfortable topic, but my sense of justice made it impossible for me to walk away.” So the Pacific Northwesterner shut down her boutique management consultancy and returned to her academic roots, “where my sexual harassment and sexual assault work is a testament to my character, not a risk to the organization.” Favorite voice in the outdoor industry Len Necefer for giving credence to the indigenous perspectives long ignored by most of the nation All-time favorite gear shop Mountain Gear in Spokane Valley, Washington

Bryan Nanista

Denver’s Nanista, owner of Monochrome Design House, jumped at the chance to design The Voice from scratch. He started with conceiving the “persona” of the magazine—“Someone on the team called it the Lenny Kravitz of outdoor magazines, which is silly, yes, but gets everyone’s mind in the same place”—then built a mood board for inspiration. Then he dug in, bringing the persona to life through color, font, and style. “You know you’ve built the right foundation when you lose control and the pages begin to take on their own personality,” he says. Favorite voice in the outdoor industry I love filmmaker Julie Ellison’s (@juliehart) Instagram feed. A lot of people try to marry outdoor imagery with inspiring write-ups and usually fall short. Julie hits it out of the park almost every time with her honesty and damn good skills.

PAGE

11


Let’s change the way we make our clothes. Together. A conversation about Fair Trade and recycled materials.

January 31 3:30 – 4:30 PM Panel Discussion + Q&A 4:30 – 6 PM Happy Hour LOCATION The Camp

FEATURING Representatives from Patagonia, Fair Trade USA and Textile Exchange

© 2019 Patagonia, Inc.


business

Rise of the rentals As skiers and snowboarders travel more to distant mountains, the gear rental market is booming to keep up. BY CAROLYN WEBBER ALDER

LOUISA ALBANESE

WHAT YOU’LL SHELL OUT FOR 3 INDUSTRY SHOWS / MEMBERS-ONLY GRASSROOTS GEAR / COURTING CUSTOMERS IN THEIR HOTELS PAG E

13


INDUSTRY BUZZ

While hauling his luggage out the door, Eric Derflinger ticks off each item from his mental packing list. Jackets, pants, and gloves? Check, check, check. Skis and poles? A split second of panic, then he remembers he’s renting this time around. Old habits are hard to break. A few years ago, skis would have been the first thing Ohio-based Derflinger tossed in his car before driving to the airport for a ski trip, but hefty baggage fees have convinced him to give renting a try. Lugging gear around an airport and to the resort was always a hassle, anyway. He’s not alone: Resort town ski shops are bursting with people renting their gear. By all accounts, the number of skiers and snowboarders hopping flights or driving across state lines in search of stoke is up, and more of those powder-hungry winter enthusiasts are leaving their gear at home. Instead, they’re renting and demoing on (or near) the mountain. Flying solo

“Rentals have been extremely successful, and increasing,” says Bill Irwin, a

PAG E

14

seasoned rental manager for Elan USA Corp. In his 25 years of visiting ski shops and resorts around the U.S., he’s watched the rise of rentals sweep across the industry. Why? Convenience, for one. “I always rent when I fly,” says Roddie Haley, a skier picking out demo gear at Jackson’s Base Camp in Park City, Utah, one day last December. “It’s a pain to take my gear with me and pay extra.” With round-trip baggage charges ranging from $100 to $200 and a demo package of brand-new products running about $50 a day, the math makes sense. Nick Sargent, president of SnowSports Industries America, has been watching the trend unfold as the next generation of skiers hits the slopes. He defines the group as “cost-savvy, time-sensitive, and technology-driven,” which translates into unique customer habits: They follow the snow and book their trips last-minute. What’s more, skiers are increasingly purchasing multi-resort passes, allowing them access to unprecedented terrain around the globe. With Vail Resorts’

JACKSON KNOLL, OWNER OF JACKSON’S BASE CAMP, REPLACES HIS 168 PAIRS OF SKIS AND BOARDS WITH NEW PRODUCTS EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Epic Pass (access to 65 resorts) or Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass (38 resorts) in hand, trips to Whistler Blackcomb, Keystone, and Squaw Valley in one season are that much more doable. Try over buy

There’s one more reason skiers and riders, especially experienced ones, might be tempted to travel without gear: to take high-performance demos for a spin. “If they were to bring their skis, they’d only bring one pair,” says Sam Beck, director of marketing and com-

THE RENTAL COUNTER AT JACKSON’S BASE CAMP AT PARK CITY, UTAH

PHOTO BY CAROLYN WEBBER ALDER

usiness


PHOTO BY CAROLYN WEBBER ALDER

munications for Nordica. “But if they’re renting or demoing, they can trade it in or out according to the conditions.” Skiers and riders lust after testing the latest technology, and shops are keeping up with customer demand by offering a wide selection of high-quality performance skis. The old trope of beat-up rental skis is on the outs as ski shops, particularly at destination resorts, upgrade their rental and demo fleets more often. Jackson Knoll, owner of Jackson’s Base Camp, replaces his 168 pairs of skis and boards with new products every single year. Jack Walzer, general manager at JANS Mountain Outfitters in Park City, has begun changing his fleet to cater to this experienced demo crowd, swapping out the novice-friendly sport skis that used to be popular for high-performance demo models. “We had about 260 sport skis a couple of years ago, and maybe 150 high-performance [packages],” Walzer says. Now, the shop maintains a more even split.

navigate off groomers. And in F19, the brand will launch its new boot line, the Cruise for adults and Speedmachine J3 for juniors. The boots are lighter and more comfortable, and include a dual soft flap opening to make slipping them on and off easier. Rockered heels and Gripwalk technology in the soles are aimed to improve walkability. Elan has experimented with a new way to increase flex and maintain durability in skis. The resulting technology, called U-Flex in junior skis and Groove Technology in adult products, has lines cut into the topsheet that flex like little hinges. This technology is in the F17 junior Explore ski and the F18 adult Element ski, which are available now for rental and retail. The bumped-up durability is breaking into the company’s rising demo

market as well. “Over the last two years, we’ve doubled our performance rental market share,” Irwin says. “And this year, I think we will go higher than that.” Demo skis have also become an increasingly important part of DPS’s sales, says spokesman Alex Hunt. The brand recently partnered with Aspen Skiing Company to provide its innovative base treatment, Phantom Permanent Waxless Glide (see p. 44), to be used on the company’s demo fleet. Once ski shops apply the one-time treatment, they eliminate the time-consuming process of re-waxing skis and boards. As the travel-to-ski trend gains steam, it can’t hurt to make it easier for footloose skiers—and the shops that serve them—to rent and demo gear. And brands that embrace it might just gain the upper hand.

HAVE PASS, WILL TRAVEL Multi-resort megapasses are making it easier than ever for skiers and snowboarders to hop from mountain to mountain all season long. Here’s a snapshot of the major players.

Give ‘em what they want

A subset of skiers—often city dwellers who travel once or twice a year to ski—like demoing and renting so much they’ve gone all in, choosing to demo indefinitely over purchasing their own set of skis. Industry leaders say Europe has already moved in this direction and, based on numbers, the U.S. is likely to follow. “It’s a steady increase in rentals balancing a steady decrease in retail,” Irwin says. Nordica recently updated its most popular retail skis (which are increasingly used for demos) to have a thicker topsheet for added durability, Beck says, answering the call for gear that can stand up to repetitive use and continuous tuning. In the 2018-19 season, Nordica released its rental-specific ski, the Drive; the tail shape, ski width, and rocker were all designed so beginners and novices could more comfortably

OWNED BY

Vail Resorts

Alterra Mountain Company

Partnership of member resorts

2018/19 COST

$899-$949

$899-$1,049

$449-$509

MEMBER RESORTS

65

38

17

CROWN JEWELS

Vail; Park City; Stowe; Crested Butte

Steamboat; Mammoth Mountain; Crystal Mountain

Aspen/Snowmass; Jackson Hole; Big Sky; Sun Valley

INTERNATIONAL DESTINATIONS

Whistler Blackcomb, Canada; Hakuba Valley, Japan; 30 European resorts

Thredbo, Australia; Valle Nevado, Chile; 3 resorts in New Zealand

Banff Sunshine, Revelstoke, Lake Louise, Canada; Niseko United, Japan

925,000

1

$149

Year-to-date sales of Epic Passes FUN FACT

Heli-skiing operation (CMH Heli-Skiing) that offers special deals to Ikon passholders.

Price of a Mountain Collective Pass at Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show 2019 (good for the rest of this season)

PAG E

15


usiness

YOUR NEXT CUSTOMER

our own words People of color are already outdoors. You’re just not speaking our language. BY GLENN NELSON

ne of my favorite places in the outdoors has multiple trails and offers spectacular views of a major snowcapped peak. It has an old-growth forest where the silence is broken by hoots from barred owls. Rabbits bound, beavers sun, and bald eagles and otters nab fish along abundant shoreline. The place also brims with people of color, shattering one of the more pervasive pictures of the outdoors—that nonwhites don’t inhabit it, because we’re somehow disinclined to do so. In recent years, elements of the outdoor industry have been abuzz with the need to increase diversity outside, but the notion that people of color are not already outdoors is a myth perpetuated in America to exclude us. That way, it’s easier to justify many of the widely accepted “norms”: why non-whites are not models in catalogs or advertisements, on covers of magazines, or working in national parks and environmental and conservation organizations. The place I’ve described is no Xanadu or Wakanda, but Seward Park, a real peninsula in southeast Seattle where more than 59 different languages are spoken. In many, there are no equivalents for words that make up the American outdoor lexicon. In Spanish,

O

PAGE

16

for example, there are no words that natively mean “hiking” or “tent.” People of color are doing the same thing, but we’re often overlooked because we call it something different. I am a founding member of the Next 100 Coalition, a national alliance of civil rights, conservation, and community groups of color. In 2016 we commissioned an English/Spanish survey of non-white voters that spelled out ideas and issues associated with the outdoors, instead of using the usual mainstream terms. Seventy percent of respondents said they engaged in outdoor activities. Respondents also supported the protection and upkeep of public lands by margins far in excess of 90 percent. In other words, we are indeed outside and value the outdoors. Even so, many of my Seward Park neighbors might describe their activities as “just taking a walk” instead of “hiking.” That kind of simple linguistic, cultural, and experiential disconnect is enough to exclude a lot of nonwhites from representation in public lands, conservation and environmental movements, and outdoor brands. That’s because this disconnect feeds a cycle of self-perception: “I’m not outdoorsy, because I don’t see myself and my activities reflected in these mainstream definitions and mass media portrayals of outdoor activities.” This lack of representation is forged from historical exclusion and privilege, and it ignores

the way people of color do connect with the natural world. Another issue at play here: the inclination of the most recent immigrant communities to emphasize extended families and congregate for reasons of safety and support. Big groups don’t fit nicely into the mainstream drive for solitude and escape. It’s hard to see the point of reserving a camping space for two when your party numbers in the teens. It’s more reasonable to claim a picnic area. In a matter of decades, whites in this country will no longer be the majority, and it will be in everyone’s best interest that the new majority prioritize stewarding public lands and fighting against climate change. And of course, this demographic shift also impacts the growth potential of outdoor brands. People of color are absent from the table of decision-making in the industry and, as such, will continue to be invisible in the way the mainstream views the outdoors. These gaps cannot be bridged until the overwhelmingly white outdoor industry starts treating the hiring of non-whites as an investment in mutual understanding. Whether we describe a journey as a “hike” or a “walk in the park” really shouldn’t matter. We mean the same thing and share a love of public spaces, and those commonalities provide opportunities to build bridges on more complex issues. Not to mention influence where future dollars are spent.


POSITIVE

NEGATIVE

NUMEROLOGY

NEUTRAL

10%

Taking 850 the Pulse Just how healthy is the outdoor industry in 2019? A by-the-numbers look at the new landscape of challenges, opportunities, and everything in between. BY KRISTIN CARPENTER-OGDEN

82

Percent gain shown by an index of 18 publicly traded outdoor brands from June 2013 to June 2018 (compared to the S&P 500’s 62 percent gain) -SNEWS OUTDOOR INDEX

Storefronts that digitally native brands plan to open in the next five years

tariff on ski gloves, packs, camp stoves, and many more outdoor products as of Jan. 1, 2019. Tariffs will rise to 25 percent on some products on March 2 unless an agreement with China is reached. One outdoor brand estimates that for every $1 in tariffs, retail costs will rise $4.

-JLL RETAIL INTELLIGENCE

-RICH HARPER, OIA

3

Camping Category with the biggest drop in sales in 2018 -NPD

$720

Highest average amount consumers are willing to spend on a single online purchase -“THE 2018 OMNICHANNEL BUYING REPORT,” BIG COMMERCE ECOMMERCE PLATFORM

78

7

Years running that participation in outdoor activities has increased (to 49 percent in 2018) -OIA 2018 OUTDOOR RECREATION PARTICIPATION REPORT

Stores REI opened in 2018, plus an “Experience Center” announced for this year (see p. 80). -REI

$41b

Percent of consumers who use their phone in-store to support their shopping (to find promotions and product info, etc.)

Sweatshirts & active bottoms Biggest growth category in 2018 (percent increase in the low teens)

Estimated worth of the resale industry by 2022; the category is growing 24 times faster than retail.

-ALLIANCE DATA

-NPD

-THREDUP, 2018 RESALE REPORT

Too busy with family

3,500

Number-one reason listed for not getting outside

New unauthorized third-party sellers added to Amazon daily

-OIA 2018 OUTDOOR RECREATION PARTICIPATION REPORT

-FRED DIMYAN, POTOO SOLUTIONS

PAGE

17


usiness

SHOW BIZ

the price of admission Whether you’re a brand, a retailer, a rep, or a PR flack, chances are you invest a good chunk of days—and dollars—at trade shows each year. Here’s a comparison of what we’re spending on the three main types of outdoor shows.

Outdoor Retailer 3X PER YEAR

VALUE PROPOSITION: Serves and connects brands, retailers, sourcing agents, designers, media, reps, PR agencies, and nonprofits for line showings, strategy talks, education, and social gatherings.

27,000*

BOOTH SPACE

$

TRADE SHOW SERVICES

$

($30 per square foot)

17,250

includes things like shipping services for samples, carpet, drayage, electricity

BOOTH SERVICES

25,175

$

includes things like setup, takedown, maintenance, storage of booth

PRINTED MATERIALS

200 $ 1,700

TOTAL

$

SWAG

$

71,325

BY KRISTIN HOSTETTER

HOTEL IN DENVER

$

200

average cost per person per night for standard downtown room

ALL NUMBERS ARE APPROXIMATIONS CORROBORATED BY VARIOUS BRANDS, RETAILERS, AND REPS THAT ATTEND EACH TYPE OF SHOW.

AIRFARE TO DENVER

$

305

average cost in 2018 according to Bureau of Transportation

*ALL FIGURES BASED ON A STANDARD 30’X30’ BOOTH

PAG E

18


Nickels & Dimes

$ Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Connect

Regional rep shows

VALUE PROPOSITION: Serves and connects retailers, brands, and reps with line showings, retailer education, and networking.

VALUE PROPOSITION: Serves and connects retailers and reps in a focused, transactional way.

2X PER YEAR

UP TO 50 PER YEAR, ACROSS THE COUNTRY

$

8,400**

$

($14 per square foot)

(average of $3.28 per square foot and typically includes some basics like table, three chairs, pipe and drape, ID sign, and wastebasket)

$

7,450

$

includes things like tables, chairs, electrical, lighting, gridwall display

one electrical outlet (optional)

$

1,700

Reps DIY these services.

200 $ 1,700

Basic swag (stickers, coozies, etc.) provided by brands or deducted from rep’s marketing budget

$

328***

75

.75

$

per square foot of carpeting(optional)

75-$200

per show

19,450

$

403 - 678

bare bones

$

with carpet and electric

160

HOTEL

$

450

MILEAGE/ PARKING

$

HOTEL IN KNOXVILLE

$

AIRFARE TO KNOXVILLE

$

**ALL FIGURES BASED ON A 20’X30’ BOOTH

approximation

HAPPY HOUR KEG AT COLORADO CONVENTION CENTER

220

$

WHAT A TYPICAL RETAIL SHOP SPENDS PER PERSON PER DAY TO COVER EACH EMPLOYEE WHO ATTENDS A TRADE SHOW.

3.19/ 2.68

$ $

PRICE OF A LARGE DRIP COFFEE AT CLOSEST COFFEE SHOP TO CONVENTION CENTER IN DENVER/ KNOXVILLE

$

$

450 to $ 650

150 50

per day per car

$

100

PER HEAD

WHAT A PR AGENCY SPENDS FOR A MEDIA OR NEW CLIENT DINNER IN DENVER

- 500 $

ALL INVITED RETAILERS GET THIS REBATE AT THE END OF GRASSROOTS OUTDOOR ALLIANCE CONNECT IF THEY HAVE A FULL SCHEDULE OF APPOINTMENTS.

***ALL FIGURES BASED ON A 10’X10’ BOOTH

PAG E

19


usiness

SHOW BIZ

Do We Really Need Three National Trade Shows? The new show schedule spreads resources thinner than ever. BY SHAWNTÉ SALABERT

A

isles and hallways jammed like a New York City sidewalk. Stoke-filled happy hours that spilled into a parade of afterhours events. A buzz that was not just a feeling, but also the very real sound of 29,000 people packing the Colorado Convention Center. At this time last year, the inaugural Outdoor

PAG E

20

Retailer + Snow Show, the former’s first dance in Denver after 20 years in Salt Lake City, offered a promising sign for the year ahead. Ten months later, the first November Winter Market felt one tumbleweed short of a ghost town. The show had half the vendors, less than half the exhibition space, and attendance described as “below expectations” by Outdoor Industry Association. Now that they’ve had time to gain perspective on November’s show, brands, retailers, sales reps, and other industry players are asking: Do we still need three national trade shows? Many vendors and buyers typically chose to attend either Winter Market

or Snow Show. Last year’s joint effort was an anomaly, albeit one that ended up serving as a cost-effective one-stop shop for many who said that they’d like to see the shows combined going forward. “A lot of my brands are outdoor and ski, so having it under one roof made the most sense,” says Beth Cochran of What’s UP Public Relations. “Twice the buyers, all at once. One trip, one show, one hotel.” When compared to what was viewed as an energetic and wildly productive January show, the November Winter Market didn’t quite stack up for many attendees. “There’s a big question mark on whether or not it was worth the investment for the majority of people,” says Brian Linton, founder and CEO of United By Blue. “I think the buyers will only come back if they feel like there’s positive momentum. Otherwise, they’re just going to go to the regional shows.” While most feel that it’s crucial to attend at least one national show every year to maintain their industry presence, ROI remains at the crux of these decisions, especially for small and mid-sized brands and retailers, which can get business done at smaller regional shows (see page 24 for a comparison of show costs). For some, the lower traffic at the November show cast a pall over January, and forced them to reconsider their strategy around national shows. “Right now, from a vendor’s perspective, the model is ‘Double your trade show expense and split your customer base,’” says Rand Whitney, principal of Alpin Sport Group, which represents brands that include Ortovox, Howler Brothers, and Deejo Knives. For many, the decision of which shows to attend simply comes down to budget. “We need to cut our expenses in the buying process,” says John Mead of California-based Adventure 16. “I can’t afford to go to the January show. I can only afford to do two shows per year.”

PHOTOS BY LOUISA ALBANESE (LEFT); COURTESY (2)

PRIME TIME AT WINTER MARKET 2018 LACKED THE FOOT TRAFFIC OF SHOWS PAST.


PHOTOS BY LOUISA ALBANESE (LEFT); COURTESY (2)

SHOP TALK

members only Grassroots Outdoor Alliance and Sierra Designs team up to take on the retail giants. BY VIRGINIA SCHMIDT

O

n February 15, 2019, the first shipment of a new line of ultralight tents and sleeping bags heads to storefronts across the country. But here’s the rub: For the first time ever, shoppers will find the gear only at retailers that are members of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance. The idea gained steam a year ago in February 2018, when Grassroots President Rich Hill broached the idea of a collaboration with Sierra Designs at his group’s annual board retreat. “We were looking for distinctive product that would be Grassroots exclusive— something that would drive traffic into our stores, and help us be different from all the big-box competition,” says Joe Butler Jr., vice chairman of the Grassroots board and principal of Black Creek Outfitters in Jacksonville, Florida. And while Sierra Designs had been one of the most venerated brands in the outdoor industry, in recent years it had started to lose some of that cachet— what VP and GM George Bryant calls its “tangible component.” So he reached out to Hill to discuss ways to reconnect with outdoor enthusiasts; that conversation planted the seeds for the partnership. “Our brand has a 53-year history, and

SHOP TALK

when you walk the halls of OR, everybody knows who Sierra Designs is,” Bryant says. “The issue is, the consumer doesn’t. This was an opportunity to reintroduce ourselves.” From conception to final product, the turnaround was epically expeditious: In June 2018, Sierra Designs unveiled its new tent, the Clearwing, and synthetic sleeping bag, the Synthesis, at the Grassroots Connect Show in Knoxville, Tennessee. At 4 pounds for the two-person version of the tent and 1 pound, 7 ounces for the lightest bag, both target ultralight backpackers on a budget (the Clearwing will go for $230 to $280 and the Synthesis for $120 to $150). “Sierra Designs hit the nail on the head with these,” says retailer Emily White of Roads Rivers and Trails in Milford, Ohio. “Their weight and price point align perfectly with most of my customers. We can’t wait to get the product in-store.” Of Grassroots’ 71 retailer members, 45 booked with Sierra Designs for 2019 (with all 45 participating in the exclusive products)—39 of which were new accounts for the brand. Back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Grassroots retailers implemented a brief but successful run with their own private label, Iron Mountain, in order to compete with the house brand of REI and with other big-box stores. And while Grassroots considered hearkening back to those days to create products in-house, the organization chose instead to partner with a well-established company, letting the brand do what it (already) does best. “This was a good model for us to go with because you get an established

brand that already has the marketing support, customer service, and factory relationships,” says Grassroots Vice President Gabe Maier. “And then they’re creating these products by collaborating with specialty retailers, hearing their input early enough to develop the products retailers want.” (The Clearwater and Synthesis will also be available online, but only directly from Sierra Designs.) Both Grassroots and Sierra Designs plan to give consumers plenty of time to discover their collaborative products, committing to keeping them in-line for at least several seasons. “A single-season program is the equivalent of a quick buck for both parties, but being mindful of a longer horizon is what generates real return,” Bryant says. “Ideally, this partnership will have an infinite duration.” And Grassroots hopes this ongoing collaboration with Sierra Designs is only the beginning of a whole new era of alliance to specialty. “We’re working hard to deliver more of these opportunities for our retailers,” Maier says. With the rapidly evolving retail marketplace today, this kind of teamwork might be just the ticket. “Why try to go after the next solution all on our lonesome?” Bryant asks. “Anything else is a defensive strategy, but through collaboration, we have an offensive strategy.” THE SIERRA DESIGNS CLEARWING TENT AND SYNTHESIS SLEEPING BAG

PAG E

21


usiness

MESSAGING

VISITORS CAN HANG OUT IN A KAMMOK HAMMOCK AT LOGE’S ENTRADA LODGE IN BEND, OREGON.

“MEETING CUSTOMERS

Guests with Benefits Shampoo, bar soap—and outdoor gear? Hotel room product placement is the next frontier of brand exposure. BY KASSONDRA CLOOS

PAG E

22

I

magine stepping into your hotel room and finding a YETI cooler for a coffee table and a Kammok hammock strung up in a corner. You load up that YETI with ice, bury a few six-packs, and head for the beach. A few months later, you’re shopping for a cooler of your own and see a YETI amid the other options. Are you more likely to buy it? A set of brands, a gear shop, and a hotel chain are betting that you are. The proprietors of Loge Camps, a new hotel chain for outdoor enthusiasts that’s owned in part by Seattle-based retailer evo, see guest rooms as an opportunity to provide both unparalleled perks and unique brand exposure. Their bet: Give guests the chance to test drive a high-end Traeger Grill, Black Diamond headlamp, designer cooler, and other top-notch outdoor gear as if it’s their own, and you forge an emotional connection that lasts. “If I go to Loge and have no interest in buying a cooler, but then I put my feet up on it and see that it’s sturdy, see what it feels like—that is such a higher-quality user impression than what I’m going to get when I go to REI and have no interest in looking at a cooler,” says Loge co-founder Johannes Ariens.

Guests can purchase gear at a discount right from their rooms simply by taking it with them when they check out—Loge will automatically add it to their bill. Or, they can purchase a discounted new product directly from evo’s website or the on-site retail shop. It’s too early in the program, which launched last year, to have meaningful data about conversion rates, but anecdotal evidence points to success. “If guests are introduced to something like a Kammok hammock and get to experience it in real life, we think the odds are higher—if they’ve liked it—that they’ll buy it there, at Loge, or down the road at some point,” says Ben Wallace, evo’s business development director. Loge isn’t the only hotel chain to experiment with incorporating outdoor products into its stays. For $5, Westin Hotels & Resorts will rent you a set of New Balance clothes and sneakers to use during your stay. And upscale adventure lodge chain Eleven Experience takes it a step further with a “retail minibar” in their Crested Butte locations, each offering goods like Opinel knives, YETI Rambler mugs, and Patagonia Black Hole dopp kits. Brands need to find new and better ways to connect with customers directly, says Haley Robison, CEO of Kammok, which is why she was intrigued when Loge approached her about a partnership. “As we think about broadening marketing tactics for [customer] acquisition, one of the questions we’re asking is, ‘How do we meet customers where they’re at?’ Robison says. “Meeting customers at a point of use that’s non-traditional—I think that’s the next wave of marketing as paid channels become saturated,” Robison says. And if it feels like an amenity rather than a marketing opportunity, everyone has done their job right.

PHOTO BY GARRET VAN SWEARINGEN

AT A POINT OF USE THAT’S NON-TRADITIONAL—I THINK THAT’S THE NEXT WAVE OF MARKETING.”


MAESTRALE XT BACKCOUNTRY PERFORMANCE REDEFINED: 13 0 F L E X U N D E R 15 0 0 G TO FIND A DEALER NEAR YOU OR TO SEE THE FULL LINE, PLEASE VISIT WWW.SCARPA.COM SCA R PA ATHLETE

CHRIS DAVENPORT

FRED MARMSATER 10-MILE RANGE, CO

BOOTH 36081-UL


IN BRIEF

steamboat loses in vf corp. move The change means both economic opportunity and loss for Colorado. BY HEATHER BALOGH ROCHFORT

ast August, VF Corporation announced it will move its global headquarters from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Denver, starting this June. Parent company to The North Face, Smartwool, JanSport, Eagle Creek, and Altra, VF’s relocation represents a massive coup for Colorado’s economy. But in some parts of the state, the move is more bitter than sweet. Smartwool began in Steamboat Springs 24 years ago, and its employees are an integral part of the sleepy ski town. With VF’s relocation, all positions will move to Denver, too. Smartwool employees will all still have jobs—if they decide to

L

move themselves and their families away from Steamboat. “Not everyone will be making the move to Denver, and we are supporting each person as they make the decision,” says Smartwool Director of Global Communications Molly Cuffe. Rural Colorado will also take a financial hit as a result of the Smartwool relocation, and locals are none too pleased with the fallout. According to John Bristol, economic development director for the Steamboat Springs Chamber, Smartwool employs 75 people with an average salary of $80,000. When compared to Routt County’s average annual wage of $42,000, the Northern Colorado region is looking at a loss of at least $6 million in payroll from rural to urban Colorado. “The state approved VF for $27 million in tax credits, knowing this would take high-paying jobs from rural northwestern Colorado, so we look forward to working with the governor to mitigate the pending economic impacts,” Bristol says.

with Interbike shelved, will bikes join or? ast December, Emerald Expositions canceled the 2019 Interbike trade show, with vague assurances of reassessing options in 2020. They also laid off multiple employees, including the show’s director and sales director. The move

L

1551 WEWATTA ST: FUTURE HOME OF VF CORP.

L

L T. MA

024

S 16TH

15TH ST.

PAG E

begs the question: Will bikes soon be joining the fun at Outdoor Retailer? According to Scott Boulbol of Simbol Communications, the agency that represents Lizard Skins and TIME pedals: Not likely. “There is so little crossover between Outdoor Retailer and the cycling industry that the show isn’t even on our radar. There isn’t any serious interest in attending.” Instead, mountain bike companies are reevaluating the importance of Interbike and the role it played in their business. “We noticed a decline in attendance at Interbike over the past couple of years, but we still found meaningful conversations with retailers and distributors who enjoy direct relationships,” says Curt Shelman, COO of Chamois Butt’r. “We’re working to identify events that will facilitate that same conversation with a highly bike-centric audience.” –HBR

at or, three days are better than four he times, they are a-changin’. Emerald Expositions announced in December that its Outdoor Retailer events are scaling back from four days to three for the Summer and Winter Markets. (The Snow Show has always been three days and will stay the same.) Vice President and Show Director Marisa Nicholson says the shift stems from retailer feedback, and many brands agree it was a needed adjustment. The real question, some brands say, is more about the number of shows, not days (see p. 20). David Koorits, COO and founder of Good To-Go Foods, says, “Saving a night in lodging is negligible in comparison to the cost associated with attending three separate shows with booth fees, travel, etc. We’re seeing a growth and relevance in attending more regionally focused shows [see p. 18] … and we’re finding the conversations at those shows to very valuable and cost effective.” –HBR

T

PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOGLE EARTH PRO

usiness


ReGreen Windshell

Made from 100% green recycled bottles Available Spring 2019

ÂŽ


SUMMER

STAINLESS STEEL COVERED LID SOFT SILICONE LIP FOR COMFORTABLE DRINKING TM

TEXTURED GRIP FOR EASY OPENING

FLEXIBLE STRAP WITH ATTACHED LID

REMOVABLE STRAINER WIDE MOUTH FOR EASY FILLING

DESIGN ELEMENT

STAYS HOT

KEEPS COLD PROTECTIVE SILICONE BASE

STOP BY BOOTH 46114-UL TO SEE OUR NEW REDESIGNED LINE. WWW.ECOVESSEL.COM


culture

Fresh Faces Meet the future of the outdoor industry. These four have a fierce determination to create a new path forward for the outdoors, and they’re doing it with a degree of awareness and intersectionality we’ve never seen before. BY ELYSE RYLANDER

NICK COTE

ROAD WARRIOR REPS / PAYCHECKS FOR BRAND AMBASSADORS RAP SESSION ON IDENTITY / SHOUT OUTS AND LOVE PAG E

27


PHOTOS BY NICK COTE (PINAR); OCASIO2018 (OCASIO-CORTEZ); COURTESY (2)

u l t u r e FRESH

PAG E

28

FACES

1 2

3 4


PHOTOS BY NICK COTE (PINAR); OCASIO2018 (OCASIO-CORTEZ); COURTESY (2)

1.OUTD O OR E DUCATION

Pinar Ates SinopoulosLloyd 30, CO-FOUNDER QUEER NATURE

Queer Nature, based in Nederland, Colorado, is a “queer-run nature education and ancestral skills program serving the local LGBTQ2+ community.” As a queer and trans person of color, Pinar found more connection and empowerment through time spent in nature than immersed in urban queer culture. So Pinar founded Queer Nature to provide space for people feeling similarly marginalized to find healing through wilderness self-reliance skills and ecological literacy.

AS A QUEER AND TRANS PERSON OF COLOR, PINAR FOUND MORE CONNECTION AND EMPOWERMENT THROUGH TIME SPENT IN NATURE THAN IMMERSED IN URBAN QUEER CULTURE. As one of its participants notes, “Queer Nature has changed, shaped, and supported my life in profound ways. It’s given me a space for my queer soul-searching, which has given me health, passion, and purpose.”

3.P OLITICS

After experiencing firsthand the liberating and restorative powers of the wilderness on a 22-week backcountry trails program in Kings Canyon National Park, Agnes Vianzon was hooked. But the more she got outside (she worked for the National Park Service for five seasons), the more she realized that there’s not much diversity in the conservation world. So Agnes founded the Eastern Sierra Conservation Corps, “a development and leadership program committed to building a stronger and more inclusive community,” and created backcountry conservation opportunities specifically for women, people of color, and indigenous youth. Accessibility is at the core of ESCC’s work, and Agnes is creating a direct pathway to the technical and leadership skills necessary to apply for entry-level corps, state, or federal positions. This provides an economic opportunity for underserved populations while also changing the faces we see wielding those Pulaskis.

2.C ON S E RVATION

Agnes Vianzon 41, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EASTERN SIERRA CONSERVATION CORPS

Alexandria OcasioCortez 29, U.S REPRESENTATIVE, NEW YORK 14TH DISTRICT

“There isn’t one type, and we don’t have to be one thing,” says Khristian Gilham of the “typical” Topo Designs consumer. That’s why she loves designing there. She’s had a hand in nearly every product from the Fall 2017 line onward, and is particular proud of her Sherpa Jacket and Tech Trench 3L.

“THERE ISN’T Already leveraging her new position as a Congresswoman behind “The Green New Deal,” Alexandria OcasioCortez and other like-minded representatives aim to cut U.S carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement and increase green energy jobs across the country. The youngest woman ever elected to Congress and first woman of color to run in New York’s 14th district, Ocasio-Cortez walks the talk. From Flint, Michigan, to pipeline protests in North Dakota, she has a long record as an activist fighting for environmental justice. “Historically, people tend to think that the environmental movement is homogenous,” she said in a press conference at the Capitol after she won her seat, “[but] among black and Latino communities, rates of environmentalism and environmental beliefs are actually much higher than average.” Why? Because communities of color tend to experience the impacts of climate change first. As an industry dependent on the conservation of natural spaces “AOC” could become one of our biggest allies in this fight.

ONE TYPE, AND WE DON’T HAVE TO BE ONE THING.” For Gilham, Topo Designs is the perfect balance of fashion and the outdoors. Because of this “fluidity,” Gilham believes Topo can reach a wider array of consumers and help the industry evolve the narrative of who does what outside. She also wants to see continued growth in sizing options that allow all people to feel and look good on their adventures.

4.DE S IG N

Khristian Gilham

25, APPAREL DESIGNER TOPO DESIGNS

PAG E

29


u l t u r e UNFILTERED

feeling exposed There are more outdoor influencer opportunities than ever—particularly for underrepresented populations. But getting paid for that work is another story. BY RON GRISWELL

y 2044, people of color will make up the majority of the U.S. population. Naturally, there’s a resulting urgency for more diverse representation in marketing. Yet even with diversity on everyone’s table, influencers hired to check that box aren’t always eating. Most of us are giving away our talents and skills for free, getting paid with “exposure.” This devalues our work and denies us an equal seat at that table, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I started modeling after I was streetcast by a large American clothing company, which used my image in their stores and digital marketing all around the world. After not seeing payment, I reached out and was told my compensation was exposure—that the “opportunity” would help me. Confused, I consulted

B

PAGE

30

a fashion photographer I know in New York City to get his opinion. “At a minimum, you should be paid six Gs,” he said. “That’s the average rate for that caliber of job.” Needless to say, I felt used and a little embarrassed. I’m now seeing a similar problem in the outdoor industry. I’ve recently been contacted by outdoor brands wanting me in their ambassador programs. One offered me two apparel items. In return, I would have to send them three to five photos of each product to be shared on social media, plus email, website, and promotional use. My agent (yes, I now have an agent) also recently found a client offering $2,000 for the use of my image. The contrast in opportunities is striking. So, with frustrated poise, I responded

to that outdoor brand: “Do you have any paid opportunities? If so, I would love to pursue that.” The (actually pretty empathetic) marketing coordinator explained that this is an opportunity they give influencers to build their portfolio, and noted that paid opportunities may arise after “testing the waters.” Sigh. The crazy thing? I understand. It makes business sense to test the waters, and for the right person, it’s a great opportunity to be associated with a popular brand. And it can lead to larger projects, or to fruitful referrals that can launch you to the next level. But exposure still doesn’t pay the bills—especially considering that some studies pin influencer marketing as having 11 times the ROI of traditional advertising. Influencers, here’s my advice: Always ask for paid opps. This sets

the precedent for all future conversations. If they don’t have the money, say no and move on. Only work with brands for free if you see a mutual benefit and are having a transparent conversation.

Negotiate image usage. Always ask

and understand how the images will be used. I once received this: “All images in exchange for the product will be used in social media, website, email, and promotional material.” I said social media only, and they obliged. Usage beyond social is exploitative (including promotional ads on social media). Companies have marketing budgets and pay models for these channels.

GRISWELL ON THE TRAIL

Do your research. Know what you’re

supporting. Does the brand appropriate indigenous cultures’ designs? Tout U.S.made but manufacture in Sri Lanka? Push diversity in campaigns, but not in their workplace? It’s up to you to decide where your personal brand intersects with a potential client’s—and only you should draw the lines. The table is set. Let’s all eat.


ROAD RULES

Rep Life Three sales reps from three regions reveal secrets of life on the road.

How many miles did you drive last year, and what’s your rig?

TM 30,000, and it depends on the trip. Our agency has a fleet: a Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, a Chevy Tahoe, and a Chevy Avalanche. LF 20,000, between a Subaru named Tammi or Sprinty the Sprinter van. DM 35,000. I’m a Tacoma guy. What’s the weirdest thing in it?

TM My Thera Cane. LK A huge, jury-rigged steel support bar in Sprinty that props up my rack of 1,500 pounds of samples during preview time.

TOM MCCARTHY

LETA KALFAS

DAN MILLER

PRINCIPAL, THREE MOUNTAIN ASSOCIATES

PRINCIPAL, MTNSTUFF

FOUNDER, PACIFIC CREST TRADING

VERMONT

Since 1979, McCarthy has bounced from independent shop to big brand and back, until founding Three Mountain Associates in 1992. Current brands: Osprey, LEKI, Pelican, Grayl, MTI.

COLORADO

Kalfas moved to the Rockies and started repping in 1994; MTNStuff became the first agency to rep for the then-unknown Osprey Packs. She still reps Osprey, plus Western Mountaineering, Astral, and Outdoor Research.

CALIFORNIA

Miller’s career began in customer service for Gregory Packs before he felt the pull of the rep life. He’s still with Gregory, as well as Cascade Designs, Darn Tough, Kathmandu, and Oboz.

What do you listen do while driving?

Also, yes, your least favorite?

TM NPR, blues, classic rock, or jazz LK Lots of MSNBC. I’m a news junkie. DM I’m into podcasts. I love Afterglow and What You Missed in History Class.

TM The New York/New Jersey metro area at rush hour. Brutal. LF Hands down: I-80 through Wyoming from Denver to Salt Lake City.

What’s your CMS of choice?

TM What’s a CMS*? LK SugarCRM DM karmaCRM How freaked out are you about tariffs?

TM Not at all. I can only focus on doing what I can do to best support my retailers and vendors. LK Not yet. Am I naive? A good portion of my business is done with brands made outside China. DM Nah. Our industry is in this together.

How do you stay looking good when you’ve been driving for 12 hours?

TM A change of clothes, Tom’s of Maine deodorant, and Altoids. And if I’m out of those, an apple, to clean the road funk out of my mouth. If you could have any other job in the outdoor industry, what would you choose?

DM I would switch jobs with John Connelly at Oboz or Ric Cabot at Darn Tough. These two both had a vision to create brands in very crowded categories and have gone on to be market leaders.

What’s your favorite stretch of road in your territory and why?

What’s your best advice for younger you?

LF Dallas Divide near Telluride. There’s a mystique about this area that always makes me stop along the drive, get out, and breathe.

TM Find a great mentor. LF It’s old-school, but eye contact, a firm handshake, and a smile go a long way in any business.

*CONTACT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM PAG E

31


u l t u r e THE

CONVO

Who’s talking

identity matters

Karen Ramos (@naturechola) “I started a nonprofit on California’s Central Coast called Get Out Stay Out. We reconnect kids of indigenous migrant backgrounds to ‘outdoor culture.’”

The Voice: What does identity mean? And how does that inform the work you do in the outdoor industry?

Three members of our community conversing candidly about who they are—and what that means to the industry as a whole.* *CONVERSATION HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED FOR SPACE AND CLARITY.

space, I went all Mountain Katie—I mean, in the outdoor industry, the rooms are always white. I kept my true identity very separate, which I regret now.

Karen Ramos: For me, identity has two parts. What you see on the outside—I am a brown indigenous woman—is my physical identity. The other part is my cultural identity. Katie Boué: I love that [idea], what you see on the outside versus culture. For me, it’s so mismatched. If you just look at me, I’m a white girl. But my culture is Cuban. And what was more significant, personally, was the difference between what I call “Miami Katie” and “Mountain West Katie.” I grew up as Miami Katie and I never knew it to be special. But for the first few years that I was working in the outdoor

C.J. Goulding: You’re both amazing examples of exploring yourselves to tease out what those different pieces of your identity are. My family’s Jamaican, and I’m the first generation born here in America. I’ve been paying attention to the conversation around identity to figure out how I can play a role in creating spaces where other people can feel comfortable and safe enough to explore theirs in the same way you two have done so well. KB: I think this exploration started with an awareness of a lack of racial diversity.

Tested & Proven

As a recovering Lyme disease patient, and mother of

two based in the beautiful, but tick-rich state of Maine, I do everything I can to protect our family from ticks.

I’m comforted knowing that Insect Shield technology is protecting us always while we enjoy the outdoors.

Tested. Proven. Mother approved.

- Heather Hearst

Founder & President, Project Lyme

Look for Insect Shield products from these trusted brands


Katie Boué (@katieboue) “I work in the outdoor industry doing public lands advocacy through social media for clients like the Outdoor Industry Association.”

Then it opened up this idea of identity that’s so much more encompassing than what we look like. KR: Yet both types of identity are so important. I don’t want to have an outsider

C.J. Goulding (@goulding_jr) “I work for the Children & Nature Network, and I’m the program manager for the outdoor leadership program The Natural Leaders Network.”

the different outdoor consumer segments. Extreme athletes—I think they called it “The Aspirational”—were at the top, and basically your grandma gardening in her backyard was at the bottom. It made me think how I never identified

“BUT WHAT DOES PICNICKING IN A BACK YARD HAVE TO DO WITH CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN?” come in and tell the kids we work with, “Here’s how you do this.” Instead, let’s engage people from their community who they can see lead and guide them. KB: A few years ago Outdoor Industry Association did a big research project on

as outdoorsy until I went to college and joined the climbing club. But that’s not true at all; My family went outside all the time. But what does picnicking in a backyard have to do with climbing a mountain? I think that as we continue to explore these ideas of identity and

celebrate them, the narrative of what the outdoors experience is will shift to something more understanding. KR: [Picnicking] is totally a story of being outside. My hope for the outdoor industry as a whole is that it becomes more equitable. It’s really a huge effort on everybody’s part. And it’s an uncomfortable effort, sometimes. KB: I want to see the outdoor industry continue to be uncomfortable. You learn a lot through discomfort, as on any adventure. And I would love not to have any more panels on diversity at Outdoor Retailer because all the panels are just plain diverse. CJ: That’s an awesome idea.


ulture

HOMAGE BACKBONE MEDIA SHOWS ITS SOLIDARITY WITH JLD (SEATED, CENTER).

That—and many rounds of radiation—are working. As of late December, all signs of cancerous nodes in his neck are gone. “When I get past this challenge, I’m gonna have a whole new approach and try to give some of this kindness back,” JLD said in a story in our sister publication, SNEWS.

Park Heroes

the federal government’s partial A sshutdown dragged from December

lovefest Paying respect to outdoor awesomeness

Cancer Beater

ohn DiCuollo, or “JLD,” as he’s widely known, is a much-loved PR guy with industry heavyweight Backbone Media. After last summer’s Outdoor Retailer, he went to a doctor to investigate swollen glands and discovered something serious: stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His coworkers and many industry friends have rallied around his “Fuck cancer—I’m going skiing” attitude and shaved their heads.

J

into January, national park services were severely limited—and trash (and worse) started piling up. Here are just a few groups who restored our faith in humanity by stepping up to help with cleaning, education, or even financial support. Friends of Joshua Tree, CA J-Tree’s nonprofit partner has been pitching in by cleaning toilets, hauling trash, and educating visitors about minimum-impact practices. “The climbing community has really been on the sharp end of the cleanup effort, even as people from all over have traveled to


lend a hand,” says Friends of Joshua Tree president Kenji Houratounian. “New Year’s is peak visitation and celebration in the park, and revelers are really tough on the landscape, flora, and fauna.” (friendsofjosh.org) Yosemite Climbing Association, CA YCA is no stranger to cleanups: For the past 15 years, the nonprofit has organized an end-of-season volunteer trash pickup event. During the shutdown, the group has been educating travelers, handing out tools, and even encouraging volunteers to wait to prevent park overcrowding. (yosemiteclimbing.org) Whittaker Mountaineering WA “We encouraged folks stopping into the shop to pick up litter on the trails,” says the outfitter’s operations manager, Rebecca Brooks. “We provided trash bags and protective gloves, and asked participants to post an image about it on social media, tagging our store and #MountRainier #ShutdownStories. It sparked a lot of conversation on social

media. We wanted to encourage people to behave in the best way on the trail.” (whittakermountaineering.com)

Love Letter to our sales reps By Betsy Bertram

parents founded Townsend M yBertram & Co. in Carrboro, North Carolina, and at many a family dinner, we had reps around the table. My dad would bake bread and cook fresh vegetables; my mom talked business, and the dogs plied our guests for affection. She knew then what I would only come to understand as an adult: The reps were hungry for home. As a kid, I soaked up the reps’ stories of

adventure, but now I see how they hemorrhage their personal resources and relationships to support our business. I was shocked when I found out an average rep spends 200 days a year on the road. I remember reps raving about my parents’ gardens, later realizing the impossibility of them growing their own food, or growing roots themselves. I am forever grateful for every event, line showing, clinic, and visit to our shop by the reps. It’s time we raise our voices for these capable colleagues and treasured friends; the kind who wrote me handwritten cards when my father died, and who generously donate on their personal dime to support our nonprofit partners. Let’s treat our reps as we do our natural resources: with love, respect, and praise. We need to protect, nurture, and listen to our reps, examining how we do business so it’s as sustainable as possible for the people keeping the dream alive.

YOU KNOW US FOR THE

WORLD’S BEST OUTDOOR FOOTWEAR

NOW GET TO KNOW OUR

COLD WEATHER BOOTS SERFAUS GTX MID | Olive

TRADITION AND INNOVATION SINCE 1923.

TALLINN GTX MID WS | Anthracite/Blue Grey

See our 2019-20 Cold Weather Boots Collection at OR-Snow Booth #39054-UL. GORE-TEX, GTX, GORE, and GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY and design are registered trademarks of W.L. Gore & Associates Inc. © 2019 LOWA Boots, LLC.

photo: © Bernd Ritschel


gear

changing the game The North Face just solved the waterproof/breathable problem. BY CINDY HIRSCHFELD

LOUISA ALBANESE

GEAR SALES TRENDS FOR TODAY—AND TOMORROW / TOP 50 NEW GEAR PICKS / ONE STEP CLOSER TO BIODEGRADABLE APPAREL

PAG E

36


BREAKTHROUGH

I

It’s a bright, cold morning in Aspen, Colorado, and Scott Mellin, a bigwig at The North Face (TNF), and I have just summited 12,392-foot Highland Peak. The nearly 800-vertical-foot bootpack from the lift leads to Aspen Highlands’s premier ski terrain, the massive bowl below us. I’m normally sweaty upon arrival, but this time is different—because of something called FutureLight, a new waterproof/breathable technology developed by TNF. Mellin, the Global GM of TNF’s Mountain Sports division, and team athlete Nate Rowland had tested early FutureLight prototypes at this same spot almost a year ago, and after five bowl laps that day, “I knew we had solved the problem of breathability,” says Mellin. That’s a lofty claim, right? But I think they’re on to something. Fundamentally, all waterproof/breathable membranes work the same way: Microscopic “pores” in a membrane are so small that rain droplets cannot penetrate it, yet large enough to allow sweat vapor to escape. Most membranes are created by extruding polymer into a thin film. FutureLight, meanwhile, uses a process called nanospinning, in which a polymer is sprayed through thousands of tiny nozzles to produce a highly porous mesh of “nanoholes” that are air

THE AUTHOR (RIGHT) AND MELLIN

permeable but still deflect precipitation. A few other nanospun membranes exist, notably Polartec’s NeoShell and AscentShell from Outdoor Research. Stats from third-party testing, however (which TNF commissioned), reveal that none breathe as well as FutureLight. “Feel this,” Mellin says as he hands me a FutureLight bib and shell to test during our day in the mountains. It’s incredibly supple—no crinkling or stiffness—and feels radically new. That soft hand and its four-way stretch are welcome byproducts of the new membrane. The mesh is so delicate that it required new face and backer fabrics, and TNF developed those entirely of recycled materials. A new lamination process came next, followed by a PFC-free DWR treatment that retains 80 percent of its effectiveness after 80 washings. It was a huge effort, especially given that for 40 years, TNF has had a cozy relationship with the king of technical textiles, Gore-Tex. So why do it? In February 2017, just after Mellin joined TNF, he was climbing Mt. Sneffels, a 14er in southern Colorado, with team athlete Andres Marin. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could keep our shells on all day?” mused Marin. Though it’s a thought we’ve all had, including Mellin himself, that comment resonated more deeply with him that day. “The weather was inconsistent, with snow off and on, and the volume of transitions we made [with apparel] really slowed us down,” Mellin explains. “Plus, there was the risk created by [terrain] exposure every time we stopped.” So, Mellin asked the brand’s material science and sourcing teams to conceive a membrane so breathable that you wouldn’t have to fidget with layers over the course of an active day outside. “I’m at the service of our athletes,” Mellin says. “And that fundamentally benefits every consumer.” Does it work? TNF athletes like Jim Morrison and Hilaree Nelson, who climbed and skied Himalayan peaks in FutureLight, think so. Third-party

testers, including Underwriters Laboratories, which assesses waterproofing for firefighting gear, gave the product exceptional marks. Jeremy Dakan, co-owner of Pine Needle Mountaineering in Durango, Colorado, who’s tested samples, says, “I wouldn’t bat an eye to tour in this. It’s a game-changer.” After my day in Highland Bowl, I concur. I didn’t feel sweaty after our steep hike. When Mellin loaned me an even lighter kit for a backcountry trip several days later, it was the first time in ages that I arrived at a hut without immediately needing to change my baselayers. For Fall 2019, TNF will offer FutureLight in outerwear, gloves and mittens, and even single-wall tents. Going forward, all waterproof/breathable apparel in the company’s Mountain Sports line will use FutureLight or, on the pricepoint end, their proprietary DryVent. TNF’s lifestyle apparel and accessories will still use Gore-Tex, though FutureLight will eventually trickle down. “If you think about the evolution of jacket technology,” says Mellin, “we started with fur, then boiled wool, then plastic, then Gore-Tex, and now we have FutureLight. It’s not only a better product, but it’s also the next revolution in garment technology.” Mellin can’t wait to see how FutureLight is received in the marketplace. “I’ve done a lot of fun things in my life,” he says, “and this is by far the coolest.”

PAG E

37


ear

the trend report WHAT’S WHITE-HOT THIS WINTER? WE ANALYZED THE NUMBERS, GRILLED INFLUENTIAL RETAILERS, AND CONSULTED BRAND INNOVATORS FROM EVERY CORNER OF THE COUNTRY TO FIND OUT. FROM HARDGOODS TO HEADWEAR, HERE’S THE SCOOP. PLUS: THE NEXT BIG THINGS IN GEAR. BY COURTNEY HOLDEN

On the Up and Up Promising early sales have retailers optimistic for a big winter.

O

h, what a difference a year—and some snow—makes. Unlike last fall, this season’s snowsports sales are off to a great start. Data from The NPD Group show a 14 percent total increase in sales, from $959 million to $1.1 billion, for the August to October 2018 timeframe. Julia Clark Day, executive director of business development, sports at The NPD Group attributes this growth to one thing: early snow. “When people are anticipating a cold winter, they’ll buy,” she says. Although these early-season numbers are incomplete, the number of ski areas that opened before their traditional start

PAG E

38

dates gives Day reason to be optimistic about November and December sales. The apparel category's 23 percent growth ($640 million to $786 million) is one factor driving the overall increase. Matt Powell, The NPD Group’s senior industry advisor, sports, explains that cold weather across much of the country last January helped many retailers sell through their apparel. “The combination of clean inventory, a lift in last January’s sales, and cooperative weather in this early fall combined to make the sales this season much better,” Powell says. In winter hardgoods, alpine equipment still rules the category, with $113.8 million in sales. Still, sales are down 4 percent compared to last year. Better

“WHEN

PEOPLE ARE ANTICIPATING A COLD WINTER, THEY’LL BUY.” JULIA CLARK DAY, THE NPD GROUP

news: Alpine touring, while still a niche category, continues to increase, with equipment sales up 23 percent from $5.1 million to $6.3 million. Touring bindings (up 62 percent) and boots (up 12 percent) are pushing the category’s numbers skyward. Snowboarding gear is also on the rise, with sales up 13 percent from $50.3 million to $56.9 million. Women’s-specific snowboard equipment in particular is trending north, with boots up 29 percent, bindings up 13 percent, and boards up 8 percent. That’s likely a reflection of strong female role models and standout Olympians as well as better women’s-specific products, Day says. Winter/snow accessories jumped 8 percent to $28.8 million, an increase driven in part by snowsports helmets—which specifically saw a 13 percent boost, to $11.5 million. Day says the popularity of MIPS technology gets the credit: “We’re willing to spend on our safety.” Retailers were feeling confident going into the holiday season. The Retail Pulse Survey from Snowsports Industries America (SIA) reported that 65.9 percent of their respondents felt "positive” or “very positive” about their November sales.


JENNIFER MERKEL

TOM CZECH

SCOTT O’BRIEN MIKE KAZ

8

3

7

CHRIS HAUNOLD

5

2 6 4

DONNA HEMOND

1

BRENDAN MADIGAN MIKE MORIN

BRENDA MOHR MAILE SPUNG

meet the panel These 10 leading retailers have their fingers on the pulse of winter trends.

PHOTOS BY COURTESY

When it opened its doors in 1973, The Alpine Shop 1 in St. Louis, Missouri, focused solely on climbing gear. Since then, it has expanded to serve outdoor enthusiasts of all types at its four stores across Missouri and Kansas. Merchandise Manager BRENDA MOHR leads a team of four department buyers, including MIKE MORIN in snowsports/cycling. Although his background in Nordic skiing spans nearly 40 years, including both racing and acting as the Nordic program director for the local ski

club, SCOTT O’BRIEN became a partner at Skinny Skis 2 in Jackson, Wyoming, just five years ago. In recent years, the Nordic-oriented shop has also ventured into the backcountry ski market. After working for more than a decade as an outdoor industry sales rep, MIKE KAZ was sick of life on the road. He was already living in Keene Valley, New York, when a job opened up at local shop The Mountaineer 3 . He’s been there since 2014, now in the role of men’s apparel buyer, accessories buyer, assistant ski tech, and fly-fishing department manager. MAILE SPUNG grew up working in her parents’ Aspen, Colorado-based gear shop, Ute Mountaineer 4 . After college, a stint guiding on Mt. Rainier, and working as a ski patroller, Spung returned to the family business full time.

Softgoods and accessories buyer for Proctor Ski and Board 5 in Nashua, New Hampshire, DONNA HEMOND loves the winter sports industry because “it’s always new,” with constant innovations in skis and boots.

BRENDAN MADIGAN went to Tahoe to

ski. He never left. After seven years of working at Alpenglow Sports 6 , he bought the place. Now, eight years later, he describes getting out in the skin track and dawn-patrolling before work as the highlights of his job, along with “the day-to-day tasks of building something bigger than just ourselves.” Look around Idaho Mountain Touring 7 in Boise, Idaho, and you’ll get a sense of owner CHRIS HAUNOLD’s passions. “Pretty much everything we carry in the store is either a hobby of mine or something I was really involved with at one point,” he says. Cred: Haunold spent a decade as a dirtbag climber living out of his van.

JENNIFER MERKEL’s parents opened their first store the weekend she was born—the same place where she worked until she left for college. She returned to Bozeman, Montana, in 1997 to co-manage Chalet Sports 8 . TOM CZECH is footwear, hardgoods, and hardgoods accessories buyer and co-manager.

PAG E

39


ear

THE TREND REPORT

ALPINE SKIING GEAR the trend report

Right Now in Retail 10 top retailers from New York to California report on what's flying off the shelves this winter.

PAG E

40

F19

SCOTT O’BRIEN There was a lot of

hype last winter about the Dynafit Hoji boot, and it’s certainly lived up to that. The one-action design on the Hoji is a pretty simple idea, but not many other manufacturers are coming out with something similar.

MAILE SPUNG A lot of people who

like Nordic skiing or hiking uphill on traction devices are switching over to alpine touring so that they can have a fun run down as well. As a result, we’re seeing a ton of sales in that uphill fitness/exercise category. The moldable shells of Atomic’s alpine touring boots have been great for accommodating a lot of foot shapes and sizes.

MIKE KAZ A trend in itself is alpine touring. That’s the growth story. Many folks who were longtime telemark skiers are now coming over

SCARPA MAESTRALE XT ($895)

“THE NUMBER

OF PEOPLE WHO NEED BOOTS STIFF ENOUGH TO HUCK OFF CLIFFS IS NOT HIGH.” to alpine touring because of the lack of choices in the telemark category. Brands are innovating and improving this category every season. DONNA HEMOND I’m seeing a little bit wider skis, especially in women’s. And the big thing in boots is lighter weight and heat-moldable custom shells. Why? Comfort. BRENDAN MADIGAN In backcountry skis and boots, we’ve seen a tremen-


SCOTT O’BRIEN: JACKSON, WY / MAILE SPUNG: ASPEN, CO / MIKE KAZ: KEENE VALLEY, NY DONNA HEMOND: NASHUA, NH / BRENDA MOHR & MIKE MORIN: MISSOURI & KANSAS / BRENDAN MADIGAN: LAKE TAHOE, NV CHRIS HAUNOLD: BOISE, ID / JENNIFER MERKEL & TOM CZECH: BOZEMAN, MT

NORDIC SKIING GEAR dous amount of traction with the current crossover products like the Salomon S/Lab Shift bindings or the Atomic Hawx boots—products that perform in line with traditional alpine equipment in terms of stiffness and skiability but have the added feature of being able to ski uphill. A lot of skiers struggle with the fact that backcountry equipment is expensive, so the argument to buy it is further bolstered by the fact that you can get a one-quiver ski/boot/binding for both backcountry and the resort. CHRIS HAUNOLD A few years ago, it was all about how burly your AT stuff could be. Now it seems that they’re going back to the idea that lightweight is important: lighter boots and lighter skis. The number of people who need boots stiff enough to huck off cliffs is not high. Instead, people are realizing that if they’re going into the backcountry, they have to haul that stuff up the hill, so light weight is key. TOM CZECH In boots, definitely the

three-piece shell is doing really well. Everyone is enjoying the fit, the custom liners, and full flex that they get out of those boots.

MIKE MORIN Flat-mount skis [which

come without bindings] are outpacing system skis [sold with bindings], and customers seem to be taking to wider skis. Requests for “walkable ski boots” have been up.

SO Skin skis have been popular.

They essentially have a strip of nylon mohair embedded in the center of the ski. You need to have better technique for these skis, but they’ve gained in popularity because you get similar performance to a waxable ski, but don’t have to put the sticky kick wax onto the base.

MK We still do pretty well with

F19

metal-edged classic touring skis. Those are more about exploring away from the cross-country trails. If you live in a place where you have snow out your backdoor, you can just head out and go exploring. BMA Metal-edge touring skis like the

Fischer Spider 62 OTX have been very popular because they’re inexpensive. They’re a much friendlier way to get around on snow compared to snowshoes, so it appeals to aerobic athletes a little more. There’s the benefit of versatility: You can take them to a prepared trail at the cross-country center or break your own trail in the backcountry with the metal edges.

FISCHER SPEEDMAX 3D SKATE COLD ($800)

CH In skate, the equipment keeps

getting lighter and more stable. It makes skating a lot easier for people to pick it up. I used to hate selling entry-level skate stuff. It was so heavy, and people struggled to learn because of the gear. Now, even the lower-price stuff is pretty light, so it’s not hampering people from learning.

PAG E

41


ear

THE TREND REPORT

PACKS

SNOWBOARDING GEAR JONES APOLLO BINDING ($450)

F19

F19

ARC'TERYX ALPHA AR 55 ($249), TOP; GREGORY TETRAD ($180-$240)

DH Boards are going more toward specialized shapes versus all-mountain shapes. I think people are figuring out what they want and looking for a special board for their riding style. In particular, women’s boards were very non-specific before, and now they’re trending toward some park-specific boards.

F19 ON THE HORIZON

BMA We’ve seen a lot of splitboard inter-

SKIS FOR A WARMER WORLD Snowsports brands will be forced to respond to climate change realities. “The snow conditions are becoming more and more uncertain,” says Salomon’s Alpine Ski Products Manager Sara Isoux-Gay. “Brands have to adapt and propose new gear to have fun, whatever the conditions may be.” Look for the comeback of carving skis and more versatile models made for both on- and off-piste terrain.

MM Never Summer is asked for and looked at more than any other brand, but its sell-through is not any higher, possibly due to price points. Burton’s Step On boots and bindings are hot. We had sell-through of our main sizes in just a few weeks.

RETHINKING WAX The typical topical ski wax coating only lasts for a day or two. Where does it go from there? Yep, into the snowpack. The cleaner, greener approach, according to DPS Vice President of Product Thomas Laakso, is skis that ditch wax completely. See it in DPS’s Phantom, a permanent, waxless glide treatment launched last winter.

est. With pioneers like Jeremy Jones and Xavier De Le Rue, it’s been mainstream popularized, so a lot of people are getting their first splitboard setups. Bindings continue to get lighter and more efficient, making it a better all-around product. The gear in general is keeping pace with backcountry ski equipment.

PAG E

42

AR If it’s from Patagonia or Osprey, it’s selling. Both brands have been very strong for us this fall/winter season. We’re also seeing the category of adventure travel packs increase. Patagonia’s Black Hole Duffels (see p. 52) in particular are great for gear-hauling and travel; the 60L is our best seller. From Osprey, the Farpoint/Fairview series of packs is performing very well. MK Dayhiking packs in the 15L to 30L

range are really strong. Osprey is our top vendor. We advise our customers to get the smallest model they can get


SCOTT O’BRIEN: JACKSON, WY / MAILE SPUNG: ASPEN, CO / MIKE KAZ: KEENE VALLEY, NY DONNA HEMOND: NASHUA, NH / BRENDA MOHR & MIKE MORIN: MISSOURI & KANSAS / BRENDAN MADIGAN: LAKE TAHOE, NV CHRIS HAUNOLD: BOISE, ID / JENNIFER MERKEL & TOM CZECH: BOZEMAN, MT

GOGGLES away with since those types of packs always carry better when they’re full. CH Now people want packs for

specific activities, whether it’s for snowsports, cycling, or hiking. They have a different pack for backcountry skiing because the way it opens works better in the snow, and they’re set up to organize avy gear and have lash points to carry a snowboard or skis.

TC Lower-volume ski packs are

trending because users can carry their beacon, shovel, and probe, but still ride the lift with them (see p. 61).

ON THE HORIZON POLARIZED PACKS Eron Chorney, senior manager, product line for Arc’teryx, predicts packs will go to one end of the spectrum or the other: über-technical, single-sport-specific options, or tech-light crossover packs that handle themselves on a dayhike or in town. “People are buying less and wanting to experience more,” Chorney says. See it in Arc'teryx Alpha AR 55 ($249) NEXT-GEN WAIST PACKS In the lifestyle category, brands like Kavu describe a resurgence in waist packs (don’t you dare call them fanny packs). “That silhouette is really coming back for us,” says Kavu Design Lead Leah Evans. “It’s just been going nuts.” See it in Kavu Kiyo Carryall ($30)

MS We’re seeing a lot of interest in

F19

magnetic lens-changing technologies, just because they’re super-easy to change on the fly. MK Replaceable lenses are a great idea, but anytime I’ve had those myself, I don’t take the extra lenses. So photochromic lenses from Julbo (see p. 53) are top sellers in goggles and sunglasses. DH Our best-selling googles are the Smith I/O and I/OX with two premium spheric lenses. Customers are willing to spend the extra money to get a premium lens that covers all conditions. BMA More and more people are asking for photochromic lenses. Some people are still stuck on the three lenses per goggle, but with the photochromic technology, when you have customers put the goggle on, they can see right away the difference in individual clarity. And the performance in the field is not even comparable. We’ve seen really good traction from Julbo and their Aerospace technology. It’s a vented goggle that addresses not only best-inclass optics, but also the ability to combat fog because the lens pops away from the frame of the goggle. When you pair that with photochromic lenses that adjust to the ambient light conditions, you have a superior snow product.

ZEAL PORTAL AUTOMATIC ($279)

ON THE HORIZON SAFER KIDS' HELMETS “MIPS has turned into the Gore-Tex of the helmet industry,” jokes Graham Sours, snow product manager at Smith. The advanced protection is moving into junior helmets—and it ain't cheap. Smith's Grow With Me technology makes MIPS an easier sell for parents: The dual-stage liner system lets a child wear the same helmet from roughly age 2 to 12. See it in Smith Prospect Jr. ($130). AUTO-TINT EYEWEAR “Say at the base of the mountain it’s super-sunny, but then you head up to the top and it’s dumping snow,” says Zeal Optic’s Molly McCall, global director of visual brand & product development. Forget swapping lenses: Next, expect photochromic technology to actually change color for you by automatically going from light gray to deep rose or yellow to persimmon. See it in Zeal Optimum Polarized Automatic+ lens ($249-$279)

PAG E

43


ear

THE TREND REPORT

SNOW SAFETY SO In avy packs, the trend that we’ve

CH It seems like the three-anten-

seen over the past few years is toward smaller avy bags. The 30L range seems to be the sweet spot for us because people are just taking the essentials and keeping things light and compact.

na beacon is now the standard. It’s expensive, but people are replacing their old beacons—and they should, since beacons are an electronic thing that gets dropped and banged around. And with the new technology, they’re so much easier to use now.

MS The coolest innovation in recent

years is Black Diamond JetForce technology (see p. 52). Instead of using batteries, it uses a supercapacitor, so it’s very light and easy to recharge. You can’t fly with an airbag pack that has a cartridge or a lithium battery, so this pack is the perfect solution for someone traveling around the world and skiing. Also, The Barryvox S Avalanche Beacon is really cool. They used research with professional rescuers about elements that were slowing them down and where they were making mistakes and created a more intuitive beacon that works well for professionals and novices alike.

MK Avalanche packs are not a huge demand for us, but as the technology continues to improve and costs come down to the consumer, I bet this will turn in greater numbers. We talk to a lot of people about it, but sell very few. Some of the new non-canister styles will change that. As the technology evolves and becomes more reliable, it will bring the price down and will make it easier to travel with them. BMA The big winner is the new Scott airbag technology because it’s considerably lighter. It gets down to

PAG E

44

TC BCA has a fantastic package pro-

F19 ORTOVOX BEAST 2.3 SHOVEL ($60), TOP; BLACK DIAMOND JETFORCE PRO ($1,400)

F19

5 or 6 pounds with a really clean, user-friendly, and reliable airbag deployment mechanism. In tools, people are still heavily gravitating toward both Mammut and Pieps. Those brands really shine.

gram for their T2 and T3 transceivers, where it comes with the beacon, a probe, and a shovel.

ON THE HORIZON SMARTER AVY PACKS The latest innovation to avalanche airbags: Bluetooth capabilities, which make software and system updates a breeze with a smartphone. “As the development time for software is so quick, and technology around software changes so rapidly, Bluetooth connectivity is key for software-based products," notes Craig Hatton, Black Diamond's ski category director. See it in Black Diamond Jetforce Pro ($1,400; $70 pack boosters) SNOW TOOLS FOR NEWBIES Expect backcountry skiing to keep booming as more rookies embrace lift-less terrain. That means more gear designed for these off-piste amateurs, what Ortovox U.S. Brand Manager Tom Mason calls “the enthusiastic majority.” Look for backcountry-worthy tools at a newbie-friendly price point. See it in Ortovox Beast 2.3 shovel ($60)


SCOTT O’BRIEN: JACKSON, WY / MAILE SPUNG: ASPEN, CO / MIKE KAZ: KEENE VALLEY, NY DONNA HEMOND: NASHUA, NH / BRENDA MOHR & MIKE MORIN: MISSOURI & KANSAS / BRENDAN MADIGAN: LAKE TAHOE, NV CHRIS HAUNOLD: BOISE, ID / JENNIFER MERKEL & TOM CZECH: BOZEMAN, MT

BASELAYERS BMO Merino and merino blends are still strong for us. What’s new are fun colors and prints. We’re educating our customers that baselayers don’t have to be just “under something.” We’ve moved women’s baselayer styles out of our dedicated baselayer department and merchandised them in with women’s sportswear, and sales have been great. MS For us, it’s all about wool. Our customers are quite technical and pretty savvy, so it’s really easy for us to get them to understand the benefits of wool. And so many brands are doing fun things with it: Kari Taa is doing some fun, cute, girly stuff; Smartwool is doing some nice wool insulation pieces. There’s more and more wool on the market, which is getting the general consumer more comfortable with it. People aren’t looking at it as their grandpa’s union suit anymore. They’re starting to realize it’s a high-quality merino. Also, there are a lot of blends that are bringing the price point down a little.

“PEOPLE AREN’T

LOOKING AT WOOL AS THEIR GRANDPA’S UNION SUIT ANYMORE.”

F19

opting for a synthetic or blended synthetic and merino. In our climate, merino gets wet and stays wet—and then it gets chilly. But some brands use a merino filament spun with nylon so then you get durability, a little better wickability, and better drying ability. JENNIFER MERKEL Natural fibers are still trending very well—wool and the natural blends. Some of those baselayers have become lifestyle pieces now, especially in our region.

KARI TRAA SJARM ($100)

MK Patagonia is one of our stron-

gest vendors. Their synthetic baselayer has always done really well for us. Then they came out with their wool Capilene Air line. It’s super-comfortable, super-warm, and super-breathable. It’s about as good of a wool baselayer as you can get for warmth and moisture movement.

DH People are more aware of layer-

ing systems, and they’re looking for different weights in baselayers to accommodate different conditions.

BMA We live in a fairly warm climate, so the majority of our backcountry skiing clientele is still

ON THE HORIZON TRACEABLE WOOL TOOLS As consumers care more and more about how the sheep that grew the fibers in their cozy new woolies are treated, standout brands are making it easier for shoppers to trace the wool back to source farms, says Tom Mason, brand manager for Ortovox. RUNWAY INSPO Baselayers are coming out from under cover, serving as everyday tops as well as tech apparel—and people want them to look the part. “We have been seeing more romantic, small-flower patterns all over the fashion scene,” says Kari Traa Head of Design Johanna Hills-Johnes, “so, we’ve taken that concept and mixed it up to fit our brand in specific pieces.”

PAG E

45


ear

THE TREND REPORT

MIDLAYERS & INSULATION

SHELLS F19

BMO Down styles are still selling

well, but we’ve had some challenges in shipping from a few vendors that got caught with factory capacity problems. This has created a scarcity model that has supported full-price sales.

MS There seems to be a shift back

to synthetics, especially synthetics that are acting like down. For us, the Patagonia Micro Puff is leading the charge. In fleece, the high-pile, retro look is in.

DH Synthetic insulation is very

popular with our customers. They’re debating between down if they’re going to use it more for insulation, or synthetic if they want something that’s going to be more breathable.

F19

ADIDAS OUTDOOR POWER AIR FLEECE JACKET ($180)

now people are branching out with colors. Customers’ choices are very fashion driven, not insulation (down versus synthetic) driven.

BMA We’ve seen a lot of traction with

active insulation. You have the benefit of the ability to stay warm, but when you’re moving and creating heat and steam, it’s able to breathe.

CH Synthetic that acts like down

seems to be the rage. Down is still really strong, but some of the synthetic stuff is mimicking it in weight and compressibility—and also in price, but people seem to be OK with paying more.

JM The down sweater look has

become the uniform, and it doesn’t matter what brand it’s from. Everyone has a black and navy one, and

PAG E

46

ON THE HORIZON SUSTAINABILITY BREAKTHROUGHS Apparel brands are beginning to reckon with the waste and pollution associated with their business. “There’s a strong global movement toward adapting state-of-the-art technologies that tackle environmental issues facing the textile industry,” says Mike Joyce, CEO and president of PrimaLoft. Two solutions to watch: biodegradable fabrics and yarn tech that slashes microplastic pollution. See it in PrimaLoft Bio insulation and Biodegradable Fabric (see p. 62); Polartec Power Air fabric, which is specifically engineered to reduce the shedding of polluting microfibers

DAKINE BERETTA 3L GORE-TEX JACKET ($450) MK Shells for us have become a

weaker category above the $250 price point. We always have some higher-end mountaineering shells in stock, but we keep that inventory really tight. The sweet spot for us is the $200 to $250 range. The Outdoor Research Foray Jacket is one of our best sellers because it’s waterproof and breathable, fits well, and is priced right.

DH Around here, if people are looking

for a shell, most are looking for a Gore-Tex shell. They still see the value in a Gore-Tex hangtag.

BMA Our backcountry clientele is still pretty into Gore-Tex, but they’re opting for the more breathable, lighter-weight versions. Like the Helio from Black Diamond, which is a full-featured, three-layer jacket that uses Gore-Tex Active for its breathability.


SCOTT O’BRIEN: JACKSON, WY / MAILE SPUNG: ASPEN, CO / MIKE KAZ: KEENE VALLEY, NY DONNA HEMOND: NASHUA, NH / BRENDA MOHR & MIKE MORIN: MISSOURI & KANSAS / BRENDAN MADIGAN: LAKE TAHOE, NV CHRIS HAUNOLD: BOISE, ID / JENNIFER MERKEL & TOM CZECH: BOZEMAN, MT

HANDWEAR CH Gore-Tex, especially for the highend products, is still king. People seem to be willing to pay the money. They understand it. Also, shells are not nearly as stiff and crinkly as they used to be. JM For us, this is a male-dominated category. Women tend to want more insulation in outerwear. Stretch is part of the shell now and men are loving the mobility.

F19

BMO “Phone friendly” is important, from liners to insulated gloves. MS Gloves from Outdoor Research

ON THE HORIZON CLEANER, GREENER SHELLS We're at a tipping point with recycled materials (see p. 63), says Patagonia’s Vice President of Global Technical Outdoor Jenna Johnson. “We have to change things now, and we have a huge responsibility as product manufacturers.” Expect more recycled nylon and polyester, as well as innovative materials like recycled cork. See it in All of Patagonia's F19 shells; Outdoor Research’s Transcendent collection; Mammut's fully recycled Casanna HS Thermo Jacket and Pants ($439/$329); Holden Outerwear Corkshell Summit Jacket ($800) STYLIN' WATEPROOF GEAR The lines between fashion and function will continue to blur, predicts Greg Thomsen, managing director for adidas Outdoor U.S. “Younger urban dwellers are asking for their outdoor products to offer both great protection from the elements and at the same time look cool and stylish around town,” he says.

and a couple of others using Aerogel [are popular]: It’s a really cool, thin, pliable technology that they’re starting to put into gloves that really protects your hands from the cold. It’s the same material NASA used to insulate the space shuttle! 

MK Rab does an amazing job with

gloves. The guy who owns the company now used to own a glove company, so they’ve paid a lot of attention to this category all the way from a super-technical ice climbing glove to the all-mountain glove. Sealskinz has been a surprise for me. We brought them in last winter. They have superthin, notquite-as-breathable gloves, but when someone needs a waterproof glove, that’s where we point him. Leather still rules the durability game, but some people are averse to it because if it gets wet, it’s no good.

OUTDOOR RESEARCH INCEPTION AEROGEL ($99)

DH I don’t do very many inexpensive gloves. I don’t like when people complain about being cold, so I don’t stock them. We sell hundreds of $85 and even $130 Swany gloves, but people have no problem going up to $160 for the Hestras. BMA We do a ton of business in what we

would call the midweight softshell range. They’re warm enough for California temperatures, but dexterous enough to perform whether you’re dry-tooling, ice climbing, or backcountry skiing—and they dry quickly to boot.

CH People are buying specific gloves for specific activities. If you’re a serious cross-country skier, you buy a cross-country glove. Mittens are still popular for snowboarders and people whose hands get cold easily. JM People love Hestra: They’re warm, functional, fit well, and last. It seems to be hitting that niche for the customer. We just started carrying Hestra’s heated mittens/gloves. They’re $425, and we’ve only sold a couple of pairs, but people are loving them.

PAG E

47


ear

THE TREND REPORT

MEN’S LIFESTYLE BMO We’re finally seeing the “fuzzy fleece thing” trending for men. We’ve heard from Southern retailers that the high-pile, soft fleeces were selling well for men for a few seasons, but it has been slow to catch on here. We have noticed Southern fashion trends move to us more quickly now that Mizzou football is playing in the SEC and people are traveling south for games. DH We see that fleece is very popular, often in retro styles with the high-pile Sherpa finish. The North Face Campshire pullover is definitely a retro style. I think it’s popular with millennials because they don’t even know it’s retro. MK We’ve seen some really strong

performance with Howler Brothers. It reaches a pretty broad spectrum of ages and customers with some fun younger things, but then their standard stuff is great for middle-aged and older guys. Also, in sportswear more than technical, customers care a little bit more now about the philosophy and ethos of the brand than they have in the past. BMA I’ve seen a lot of men migrate away from traditional plaid. Not all men—we’re pretty simple creatures—but now you have brands like prAna and Howler Brothers that are doing something innovative, like horizontal stripes in fun patterns and solids with embroidery.

PAG E

48

WOMEN'S LIFESTYLE BMO “Soft and cuddly” fleece and wrap

sweaters are doing well. The longer sweater trend might be tied to women just wanting to live in their yoga pants. A longer sweater that you can throw on gives you the coverage that you need while running around town.

F19

MS Muted colors and neutral tones are big. And we’re seeing the return of sweaters. Basic fleeces are slowing down, but everyone wants a sweater look now. MK Women are willing to pay a little bit UNITED BY BLUE CLOVE SHIRT JACKET ($148)

CH Anything with plaid or flannel sells. Guys are not that discriminating. Nice-quality pants from all the brands are also popular.  JM Flannels are still out there doing well. Men are just coming in and buying a different color. I do think that different gauge weights are an issue: People have a heavy one and want a light one, or vice versa. Lots of great companies have that whale cord coming out for next year. And the trendier, younger, college crowd likes the flannel shirtjac look for ski or after-ski. MS We have a million plaid shirts.

It doesn’t seem like that’s going to die.

more for a garment if it looks good, fits well, and tells a story.

DH We still do Patagonia and The North Face fleeces, with a little more in the snowboard fleece from Burton. Our female customers like the styling of it. The fleeces are a little bit longer, so women can ride in them. And the Burton name is rider-approved. JM We’ve seen a downturn in dresses and/or skirts. Companies don’t seem to be venturing out and pushing the edge. Insulated skirts, however, are still strong (see p. 61). Women want to pull them on over their tights for that extra little bit of warmth.

“EVERYONE

WANTS A SWEATER LOOK NOW.”


SCOTT O’BRIEN: JACKSON, WY / MAILE SPUNG: ASPEN, CO / MIKE KAZ: KEENE VALLEY, NY DONNA HEMOND: NASHUA, NH / BRENDA MOHR & MIKE MORIN: MISSOURI & KANSAS / BRENDAN MADIGAN: LAKE TAHOE, NV CHRIS HAUNOLD: BOISE, ID / JENNIFER MERKEL & TOM CZECH: BOZEMAN, MT

WINTER FOOTWEAR KEEN BAILEY ANKLE ZIP BOOT ($160)

F19 F19

BMO I’m looking for styles that

TOAD&CO CRUISER CORD SKINNY PANT ($90)

ON THE HORIZON THROWBACK LOOKS For F19, brands are adopting a retro aesthetic and returning to multicolored stripes, corduroy, Sherpa pile weights, and even moleskin. Turtlenecks, chunky sweaters, and shirtjacs are standout silhouettes. “It’s a look back to simpler times that align with the free spirit of getting out and experiencing life on the trail under the open sky,” says Kyle Boettcher, Toad&Co vice president of design/merchandising/ supply chain. See it in Toad&Co Women’s Earthworks Jumper ($120); Kavu Beber Belt ($35)

don’t feel like clunky snowboots— something with a slimmer silhouette that men or women can wear with their street clothes that will still give some light insulation and weatherproofing if they get caught in the snow (see p. 55).

MS In women’s, it’s all about low

boots. We’re seeing a ton of sales in anything that has traction.

MK Winter hiking boots are trending. Numerous brands have done a good job translating the fit and function of the midweight hiking boot by insulating it and giving it a stiffer sole that’s still so much more comfortable than walking in a mountaineering boot. We also do a pretty robust business with technical ice climbing and mountaineering boots because we take the initiative and risk of stocking $700 to $800 boots. There are only maybe three

“ WE’RE SEEING A TON OF SALES IN ANYTHING THAT HAS TRACTION.” or four shops in the country that even stock these shoes, so footwear is a big source of pride for us. BMA We’re seeing a lot of positive feedback on boots with traction embedded in the outsole. These new products are a little more expensive, but it’s a green story because customers are buying less stuff. TC We’re doing very well with wedges

on the lifestyle side of things—the shorter, easy-on, insulated, aroundtown lifestyle winter footwear. And in technical footwear, Merrell, with its Arctic Grip nonslip sole and 100 grams of insulation, is still nice and lightweight.

PAG E

49


ear

SEASON’S BEST

the voice 50 THE 50 COOLEST NEW PRODUCTS OF THE SEASON, RANKED BY RYAN WICHELNS AND KRISTIN HOSTETTER

F

ull disclosure: Gear is a wicked subjective thing. Always has been, always will be. To curate this list, our team of hardcore— and highly opinionated—gearheads pored over hundreds of new product launches, reading the specs and sifting through the marketing promises. We zoomed in on photos and watched embargoed video clips. And we debated. We culled the massive list down once, then made another pass until we had our 50 most coveted products. Then we voted to determine the rankings (we are a democracy, after all). In order of how badly we want to try it, here is our list of the most exciting product launches for Fall ’19.

2

1

Future Fabrics

1. The North Face FutureLight THE STOKE Next-level breathability, water-

proofness, and sustainability in the shell category. Bring it on. See p. 36.

2. PrimaLoft Biodegradable Fabric

THE STOKE A fuzzy fabric that vanishes

instead of clogging up landfills and polluting oceans? Be still our hearts. See p. 62.

3. Ombraz Armless Sunglasses [$160]

THE PROMISE Cordage, baby: That’s the

future of sunglasses. THE DEETS The adjustable polyester

3 PAGE

50

cord running between the temples and around the back of your head keeps the glasses snug to your face and ditches the possibility of broken glasses arms and head-squeezing pressure. Plus, acting like built-in eyewear retainers, they’re harder to lose and either hang around your neck when you take them off or function like a headband. THE STOKE These things look crazy (like a fox), but after an early test, we fell in love. “No pinching, no pressure, and steazy AF: Yes, please,” says one tester.


4

7

5 8

6 4. Black Diamond Vision Down Parka [$399]

THE PROMISE A puffy tough enough for

tree skiing. THE DEETS According to BD, this burly fabric initially stumped designers because it was so difficult to cut. A polymer weave crisscrossing the 20-denier face fabric adds a lot of durability without penalizing weight. This 800-fill hydrophobic down toaster comes in at an airy 1 pound, 4 ounces. THE STOKE Say goodbye to duct-tape patch jobs on your warmest layer: This one looks rugged enough to dance on in crampons. It could be a revolution in lightweight durability.

5. Outdoor Research Tundra Aerogel Booties [$69-$89]

THE PROMISE With NASA-designed

Aerogel underfoot in these synthetic camp booties, cold doesn’t stand a chance. THE DEETS Solid Aerogel won’t com-

press like typical insulation, so it’ll keep your feet warm even while you’re standing on it. Plus, a grippy outsole steadies you on the icy trail to the outhouse. Also available in a low-cut slip-on version. THE STOKE Aerogel has been popping up more and more in outdoor gear, but its lack of breathability has held it back. The bottom of a camp bootie seems like the ideal application.

6. Marmot West Rib Parka [$600]

THE PROMISE The West Rib features

unique gridded down baffles to boost warmth in the extreme cold. THE DEETS Marmot packed 800-fill down into cube-shaped baffles around the chest of this deep-winter puffy to trap warmth around your body. Synthetic insulation layered between the down and the Pertex Quantum shell material adds weather protection and durability. THE STOKE We’re curious about the cubist baffles and layered use of synthetic fill. This thing sounds like a serious volcano.

7. Dahu E’corce 01 Boot [$TBD]

THE PROMISE It looks and operates like

no other ski boot on the market. THE DEETS The Grilamid shell has

cutouts to eliminate pressure points and the liner is beefy enough to walk around in. The unique entry system has hinges at the front and back of the boot, creating a giant opening. THE STOKE Comfort. Ease of use. Versatility. Boom.

8. Sweet Protection Interstellar Goggle [$220]

THE PROMISE The lens won’t fog. Period. DEETS The Gore membrane increases

moisture and air transfer, equalizing air pressure and preventing condensation. Retina Illumination Grading increases contrast and enhances vision in low-light conditions, and the carbon-reinforced frame creates a rigid structure for the lens. THE STOKE: Gore-Tex in a goggle? Just plain fascinating.

PAGE

51


ear

THE VOICE 50

9. Six Moon Haven DCF Tent [$400]

THE PROMISE This is the ultimate feath-

erweight shelter for fastpacking duos. THE DEETS The Haven DCF is a shaped,

supported tarp made of Dyneema Composite Fabric, which offers extreme durability at a paltry 12-ounce weight. With two doors, a peak height of 45 inches, and 51 square feet of interior space, it can also be paired with the Haven Net Tent to create a fully enclosed double-wall shelter at just 1 pound, 4 ounces. THE STOKE Dyneema tents are the new standard in ultra-ultralight, and this one sets the bar high … er, low. 

10. Patagonia Black Hole Collection

[starting at $29] THE PROMISE Every Black Hole pack, duffel, tote, and waist pack gives plastic bottles and factory scraps another life. THE DEETS It’s still burly, thanks to 90-de-

9 11 PAGE

52

nier poly ripstop with a TPU laminate and a DWR finish, but it now uses 100-percent recycled fabric, lining, and webbing. THE STOKE Tally this up as yet another reason to love our favorite duffel.

11. Black Diamond Equipment JetForce Pro [$1,399]

THE PROMISE It’s the most advanced

avalanche air bag pack out there. THE DEETS This new version of BD’s

award-winning JetForce series is still rechargeable and travel friendly. But the Pro is modular, letting you zip on and off a 10-, 25-, 35-, or 25-liter splitboard booster pack, making it super-versatile. THE STOKE The modular design sets rippers up to stay safe on any day.

12. Tecnica Forge Winter [$300]

THE PROMISE Get a customized fit in a

ready-for-winter hiker.

THE DEETS Like its three-season counterpart, the Forge Winter features in-store custom shaping for a perfect fit. It also adds Vibram’s Arctic Grip outsole and a Gore-Tex insulated comfort lining for waterproof/breathable insulation. THE STOKE We fell in love with the original Forge, so a warm, winterized version is a no-brainer.

13. Rab Verglas Jacket [$375]

THE PROMISE It combines the best

features of a parka and a shell—without turning you into a hot mess. THE DEETS The Verglas is packed with 750-fill hydrophobic down for warmth, and Gore-Tex Shakedry over the 20-denier Pertex Quantum makes it waterproof while keeping it lightweight and mega-breathable. THE STOKE For cold days with precip, this puffy looks like a winner if Shakedry can hold up to abuse.

10 12

13


14. Fischer Urban CrossCountry Ski Boot [$189]

THE PROMISE This is the first Nordic ski

boot designed to take you from home to trail to aprés. THE DEETS With a sneaker-like sole and chukka-style upper, you’d never know this was a cross-country ski boot. Designed for skiers less focused on racing and performance and more on casual exercise, it’s compatible with Fischer Turnamics and any NNN compatible binding. THE STOKE Nordic boots have never looked so good.

15. Julbo REACTIV Performance Lenses

[Starting at $210] THE PROMISE Ski from dawn to dusk on bright bluebirds or during storm sessions. THE DEETS The lenses—available in both shades and goggles—magically transition from clear (87 percent visible light transmission) to dark (12 percent VLT) in record time: roughly 20 seconds. THE STOKE These just might be the one-quiver shades and goggles we’ve been looking for.

14 16 17 15

16. Holden Outerwear Corkshell Summit Bib [$600]

THE PROMISE Cork is the insulation of

the future. THE DEETS These bibs (and their

matching jacket) incorporate Schoeller’s recycled cork content to add heat retention without the bulk of traditional lofted insulation. THE STOKE We’re always intrigued when brands find new ways to recycle materials, and companies have been chasing warmth without bulk for ages. Could this be the one that actually delivers?

17. G3 FindR Skis

18

[$869-$919]

THE STOKE Pick ‘em up, stick ‘em togeth-

THE PROMISE Leave the ski straps at

er, walk away. Sounds pretty slick.

home. Magnets hold these skis together. THE DEETS Updated for 2019, the

powder-cruising FINDr series now features magnetic contact points, making bootpack transitions quick and easy, and eliminating the need for straps when shouldering your skis.

18. Blizzard Zero G 95 [$840]

THE PROMISE It’s typically either/or: light

weight or stiffness. These are your new no-compromise skis. THE DEETS The Zero G 95 touring ski

strikes the ideal balance between uphill comfort and downhill charging, thanks to a carbon fiber frame that’s integrated over the wood core to reduce weight for speed on the skin track while still delivering a high level of stiffness for downhill performance. THE STOKE Light feet on the uphill and stiff shred-ability on the down? ‘Nuf said.

PAGE

53


ear

THE VOICE 50

19. Smartwool Intraknit 200 Base Layers

[starting at $120] THE PROMISE It’s the ultimate in body mapping. THE DEETS Intraknit technology is a first-in-industry 3D knitting technique that can marry different weights of fabric into a single garment, without the use of seams.

(The company already uses the technology in its socks.) THE STOKE This sounds very much like the FuseForm tech that (sister company) The North Face introduced in shells a few years back. The concept makes even more sense in baselayers, where multiple seams can make body-mapped baselayers chafe in all the wrong places.

19 20

20. GoLite ReFill Eco 100 Jacket [$250]

THE PROMISE Keep warm and divert

green plastic bottles from the landfill. THE DEETS At a Taiwanese recycling

plant, volunteers collect and sort bottles, and GoLite snags the ones nobody else wants—the green ones—and turns them into dye-free clothing, like this PrimaLoft Silver Eco-filled puffy. THE STOKE Recycled products are nothing new, but we dig how GoLite found a way to use the bottles that stump other apparel makers.

21. Mammut Meron IN [$449]

THE PROMISE It’s as warm as you can

get, without the bulk. THE DEETS Premium 900-fill down is

shelled with a lightweight, water-repellent Toray ripstop nylon and lined with an equally light, semi-transparent lining that traps the down. THE STOKE It’s hard to make a puffy this warm not look like a Michelin man. This one does it through the magic of smart patterning.

21

22. Salomon S/PRO Boot Collection [$800]

THE PROMISE Get a custom-like fit, with-

out all the hassle and expense. THE DEETS Salomon digitally scanned

22 PAGE

54

23

more than 4,000 feet to identify a shell that’s compatible with 70 percent of the European/North American market without needing any significant modification. THE STOKE Any respectable skier knows that custom-molding your boots is mandatory. Our apologies to all the boot-fitters out there, but this could be good.

23. Atomic Savor [$1,545]

THE PROMISE It’s the ultimate starter kit. THE DEETS In an effort to combat exhaus-

tion, soreness, and complicated equipment, Savor includes painless-entry boots, easy-to-handle skis, and a comfortable helmet designed specifically for rookies. THE STOKE Want to get your SO on the slopes with you? This package might be your ticket to paradise.


24

26

27 28

25 24. Jones Snowboards Super Sap Bio-Resin [$479]

THE PROMISE It’s the greenest snow-

board on the market. THE DEETS All Jones boards are now built

with Super Sap Bio-Resin, a bio-based, USDA-certified, renewable epoxy resin made with plant-based carbon instead of petroleum-based carbon. THE STOKE Resins are the most toxic component of skis and boards. Super Sap is a huge sustainability step in this category, and we hope other brands follow suit.

25. HydraPak IsoBound [$38]

THE PROMISE The world’s first insulated

reservoir (no hose jacket required) keeps your water at the perfect temp, always. THE DEETS Double-wall construction and open-cell foam insulation create a barrier around the reservoir, keeping fluids from freezing in winter and cooler longer in summer.

THE STOKE We’ll miss Grandma’s

boot with real drivability on steeps.

hand-crocheted bladder sleeves, but not our frozen water bottles.

THE DEETS An update to the popular

26. inov-8 ROCLITE 335 [$150-$175]

THE PROMISE It’s the first hiking boot to

feature graphene in the outsole—a superstrong carbon-based material that adds ultralight durability. THE DEETS This winter fast-hike/trail runner hybrid boot has a PrimaLoft upper and a graphene-infused rubber outsole for greater wear, traction, and flexibility. When graphene was developed in 2004, the scientists who isolated it earned a Nobel Prize, and the incredibly durable, superthin substance was heralded as world changing. THE STOKE Boot soles that never wear out? Challenge accepted.

27. Dynafit TLT8 Carbonio [$849]

THE PROMISE It’s an ultralight touring

TLT6, the 8 has Grilamid and carbon construction; a single, strong cuff buckle; and a reinforced, lower-volume shell to maintain performance while conserving weight. The cuff rotates a full 60 degrees for a natural, energy-saving walk mode. THE STOKE Two-buckle boots don’t normally have the all-mountain performance the TLT8 claims, so our curiosity is piqued.

28. Vasque Coldspark UD [$140]

THE PROMISE This is one of the nimblest

winter boots out there. THE DEETS Vasque swapped out tradi-

tional insulation for a heat-reflective barrier to bump up the BTUs in this revamped favorite while cutting out weight and bulk. THE STOKE If the space blanket idea works inside footwear, it could be a big step toward agility in winter boots.

PAGE

55


ear

THE VOICE 50

29. Nite Ize RunOff Collection

[Starting at $25] THE PROMISE Drybags with the world’s first toothless waterproof zippers. THE DEETS Expanding into a brand-new category, Nite Ize launches six different bags, all featuring its new TRU Zip, which is superquiet, smooth-running, and easy to operate. The pouches are made of welded thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which is flexible and compressible. They’re waterproof (and sand- and dustproof) down to 1 meter for 30 minutes. THE STOKE Sounds like it takes the fiddlework out of sealing a drybag. Our iPhones await samples.

30. Hestra Freeride CZone Mitt [$160]

THE PROMISE Handwear created specifi-

cally for snowboarders. THE DEETS The Freeride removes the

ski pole-specific pre-curve and gets rid of the outside stitching that skiers like for better grip. Increased durability/

29 30 PAGE

56

flexibility in the cuff and bottoms of fingers stand up to repeatedly ratcheting bindings. THE STOKE The riders on staff finally feel loved.

31. LEKI Helicon Lite Backcountry Pole [$80]

THE PROMISE These touring-specific

poles are dialed to make your transitions silky smooth, like the pow you crave. THE DEETS The Helicon Lites feature a strap that releases quickly when pulled upward for safety in avalanche terrain. The notched Binding Basket is designed to manipulate touring bindings—like adjusting heel lifters and popping boot buckles. THE STOKE The less futzing we need to do during transitions, the better.

32. K2 Mindbender Skis [$500]

THE PROMISE The Mindbender’s new

laminate has unrivaled torsional and longitudinal stability.

32 33

THE DEETS The key tech here is carbon fiber woven in different directions to boost torsional and longitudinal rigidity separately for better stability all over the mountain. THE STOKE The carbon braid means a damp shovel, but makes the tail more manageable—ideal for a wide variety of ability levels.

33. Somewear Personal Satellite Hotspot [$350]

THE PROMISE A superior app user expe-

rience means unprecedented ease of use and reliability in a messenger beacon. THE DEETS This compact, lightweight unit pairs with your smartphone to provide global two-way text, location sharing, weather updates, and SOS emergency services with a mobile-first approach. THE STOKE Every emergency beacon worth its batteries is two-way now, but this one saves some cost by hitching your SOS to your phone, which is cool. But if your phone dies, you might, too.

31


34. OluKai Pehuea Heu [$130]

THE PROMISE If a sneaker and a slipper

had twin love children, the result would be these cozy kicks. THE DEETS The upper is made from waterproof nubuck leather and lined with genuine shearling, and the beefy rubber sole and gel footbed mean your feet will be high, dry, and comfy all day long. THE STOKE Because why should wearing slippers all day be frowned upon?

34

35

35. Matador Freerain 24 [$65]

THE PROMISE It’s the super-packable

backpack that doesn’t compromise on features. THE DEETS At 6.6 ounces, this frameless 24-liter backpack packs down to 5 by 3 inches and has a roll-top closure, front organization pockets, and plenty of adjustable straps for dayhikes or travel. THE STOKE Compared to other compact packs, the Freerain 24 has features galore. But the real test will be how it carries.

36

36. Mountain Hardwear Phantom Alpine 15°F [$900-$930]

THE PROMISE Free your arms and stay warm on that chilly bivy with the Phantom Alpine’s dual side zips. THE DEETS The bag features 850-fill goose down and a zipper on each side that lets you pop out your arms to do camp stuff. THE STOKE We’ve loved the Phantom collection for years, and the addition of dual side zips brings more versatility and comfort to the table.

37 38

37. Mammut Diamond Fingerboard [$450]

THE PROMISE This hangboard is your

personal trainer. THE DEETS An attached mobile-phone

holder automatically operates the Mammut training app as you weight and unweight the hangboard so you can follow the free training workouts handsfree and keep your phone from getting chalked. THE STOKE Did hangboarding finally get fun? Maybe a little bit.

38. Ortovox Trace Ski Pack [$100-$120]

THE PROMISE It’s the ultimate skimo

pack. THE DEETS It keeps weight low and close

to the body for optimum balance, while the ventilated shoulder straps and hipbelt

stay comfortable during sweaty ascents. Main pack access is through the backpanel, with dedicated spots for a shovel and probe. Available in four sizes, from 18 to 25 liters. THE STOKE Seems like everything we want for daily missions.

PAGE

57


ear

THE VOICE 50

39. Mountain Equipment Odin Jacket [$200]

THE PROMISE Fewer stitches, fewer

holes, fewer little white feathers floating in the wind. THE DEETS Each baffle is created during the fabric weaving process, resulting in improved durability and better heat retention, plus it virtually eliminates migration of the 700-fill, water-resistant down. THE STOKE Woven baffle jackets have been around for a few seasons (think: Mountain Hardwear) but this is a similar tech at an easier-to-swallow price point.

40. Full Windsor Splitter Titanium Multi Utensil [$60]

THE PROMISE Toss all your old sporks

and melted spatulas. This is the only camp utensil you need. THE DEETS The 1.8-ounce Splitter is made of two separate titanium utensils: a spatula and a long spork (perfect for reaching into dehydrated-meal bags). When joined, they morph into tongs.

THE STOKE Does the world really need

another titanium spork? No. But this is so much more. Declutter. Simplify.

41. Noso Pride Patch

39

[$7]

THE PROMISE It fixes ripped gear and

stands up for inclusivity. THE DEETS The 2.25 x 1.5-inch patch

features the iconic rainbow flag and is suitable for repairing tears in puffy jackets, sleeping bags, and shells in seconds. THE STOKE We love these patches: Why use duct tape to make a temporary, messy repair when you could do the job right and make a statement of unity?

42. Helly Hansen Odin Mountain 3L Shell Jacket and Bibs [$475-$600]

THE PROMISE It’s a tailored-just-for

ski-tourers top and bottom outer layer. THE DEETS The Odin shell and bib use

a new proprietary membrane built for the stop/start tendencies of ski touring; the hydrophobic microporous membrane that ADIDAS OUTDOOR POWER AIR FLEECE JACKET ($180)

releases moisture quickly in cold and dry weather. For backcountry relief, the men’s bib has a front zip, while the women’s has a drop seat that allows you to keep the suspenders up. THE STOKE The membrane sounds a lot like others out there, but we do like the design of this outfit.

43. MSR Paragon Snowshoe Binding [starting at $260]


44

40 42 41

43

THE PROMISE Snowshoe bindings are

notoriously cumbersome. These slip on easily, stay snug around your boots, and keep you stable even on the steepest of slopes. THE DEETS This one-piece TPU mesh binding is light, durable, freeze-proof, and conforms to a wide array of boot sizes with a glove-like fit. The single-piece design makes them easier to adjust (no more messing with multiple straps over the foot). The mesh and variable thickness

of the TPU help prevent pressure points without sacrificing durability or strength. THE STOKE Could the perfect binding make us actually want to go snowshoeing? We’ll get back to you on that one.

44. Terracea Beacon and Huntington 2L Jackets [$360]

THE PROMISE The Beacon (for men) and

Huntington (for women) look at home on city streets and have the technical

DIRECT MAIL IS STILL STANDING Direct mail has been quietly reinventing itself, and carving out a new role in the modern media world.

AFTER 15+ YEARS, THE OUTDOOR GUIDE CONTINUES TO BE THE PERFECT ENGAGEMENT TOOL > Drive customers in-store and to your website > Guides are offered throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall > Guides customized to your business FOR LESS THAN $1/COPY, including postage!

Voice_OutdoorGuide_QtrPg.indd 1

Gregg Thayer gthayer@aimmedia.com 303.817.7138 Susie von Mettenheim svonmettenheim@aimmedia.com Beth Prehn bprehn@aimmedia.com

1/15/19 9:31 AM

chops to keep you warm and comfy on the slopes. THE DEETS: These water-resistant insulated jackets feature body-mapped PrimaLoft Silver insulation, helmet-compatible hoods, magnetic zipper and pocket flaps, and long, butt-covering cuts to combat icy chairlift seats. THE STOKE: A fresh new brand on the apparel scene is always welcome. We hated to send our sample back after living in it for a week in Vermont.


ear

THE VOICE 50

46 45

47

48 49

50

45. Merrell Thermo Rogue Boa 2 Mid GTX [$250]

THE PROMISE This athletic hybrid is

packed with the best in protection, but stripped of any bulk, so you can move fast on any winter adventure. THE DEETS PrimaLoft Gold, along with Aerogel over the toes, provide warmth, and a Gore-Tex lining keeps things dry. The Boa lacing system ensures quick adjustments and a secure lockdown. Vibram’s Arctic Grip Dura 2 compound combined with Merrell’s new lug geometry enhances the grip and adds speed and confidence on trail and ice. THE STOKE We dug the Rogue when it came out last year. This is a worthy upgrade.

46. The North Face Summit L6 Insulated Belay Skirt [$250]

THE PROMISE This women’s wrap-

around puffy skirt will keep anyone’s tush warm on the chilliest belays. THE DEETS It’s a puffy for your butt and

YOUR RESOURCE FOR GREAT OUTDOOR BRANDS 360 Adventure Collective has the largest number of reps on the east coast. So make us a part of your strategic plan. For reps by reps makes us the right option.

Learn more at 360adventurecollective.org

A TIBETAN PORTER USING MICROSPIKES® FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE ZANSKARRIVER. PHOTO BY MARY MCINTYRE


legs. Measuring 27.5 inches long, the skirt uses 800-fill, water-resistant down and a 10-denier Pertex Quantum shell for weather resistance and durability. THE STOKE Women will love it as a winter wardrobe staple, but there’s no law against men wearing it, either.

47. LiftRider Ski Backpack [$125]

THE PROMISE You won’t grapple with

bringing an extra layer and/or lunch, because wearing this ski pack is like wearing nothing at all. THE DEETS The super-low-profile, wedge shape of this 20-liter pack allows you to jump on the chairlift with it right on your back. The main compartment holds an extra layer and the included 2-liter hydration system, while a padded upper compartment keeps your PB&J from getting squished (it rests above the back of the chairlift). Breakaway pack straps add safety, ensuring you never get caught on the chair. Also cool: A dedicated cell phone garage keeps your phone insulated and the battery life fresh.

THE STOKE We love the idea of hav-

ing everything we need for a full day of frontcountry skiing, without the hassle of hauling a traditional pack.

48. Kathmandu Connect Smart Backpack [$350]

THE PROMISE The Connect pack is a

powerful, smart travel bag that won’t ever get stolen. THE DEETS The 28-liter, travel-specific Connect Smart Pack features a Joey integrated power system that will charge multiple devices and pair with your phone via Bluetooth to prevent theft. If your pack gets too far from the phone it’s paired with, the Joey inside will ring and make noises to avert a thief. Or if you lose your phone, the Joey can actually call it to help you find it. THE STOKE OK, it feels like a slightly paranoid product, but how fun would it be to bust a thief with this?

49. Osprey Daylite Waist [$30]

THE PROMISE Fanny packs are hot right

now, and this one is sleek, non-fussy, and affordable. THE DEETS Like the rest of Osprey’s Daylite line, the new Waist is lightweight and simple, yet functional. It features a zippered main compartment, an interior mesh organizer, key clip, and adjustable waist belt in a superlight and portable package. THE STOKE If we’re wearing a fanny pack, it’s gonna be this one.

50. Popia Hat Collection [$60]

THE PROMISE These high-quality,

on-trend merino hats will brighten your winter wardrobe and keep your head toasty. THE DEETS All Popia hats (like the POW, pictured) feature supersoft, lightweight, fine-gauge merino wool; a double-layer design with a contrasting interior; and a generous pom to top it off. Small-batch, exacting craftsmanship (in playful motifs and bright colors) ensure it will last for decades. THE STOKE: Big fuzzy hat toppers are all the rage. We dig.

Are you reading SNEWS? Now it’s FREE.

Representing: 111 Watches, Backcountry, Buff USA,

snews SNEWS is the leading industry source of breaking news, retail trends and brand innovations.

Cotopaxi, Craft Sportswear, Decathlon, DownTek, Halo Neuroscience, HOKA ONE ONE, Icebreaker,

• Visit SNEWS.net

Injinji, Mammut, MT Sobek, RMU, The Outbound,

• Sign up for our SNEWSletter (industry news 3x a week delivered to your inbox)

Red Bull, West + Wilder and Title Nine Sports

• Connect on social

@SNEWSfan @SNEWSteam snewsteam SNEWS


ear

ECOFRONT

Breakdown PrimaLoft’s latest fabric adds to its collection of biodegradable materials— and takes another step toward garments that return to the earth. BY ELIZABETH MILLER

PAGE

62

I

n just over 400 days, in conditions that mimic a landfill and the ocean, PrimaLoft’s new fleece fabric is at least half gone. Faced with rising concerns about microplastic pollution—globally, a half million tons of the stuff are released each year into the water cycle during the washing of polyester, nylon, and acrylic—PrimaLoft is rolling out another product that takes a major step forward in reducing the garment industry’s impacts on the planet: PrimaLoft Biodegradable Fabric. While others have attacked the problem by trying to catch these fibers when shed in the wash cycle, PrimaLoft has moved instead to eliminate the risk they’d pose if and when they get into waterways. “If our fibers, at whatever size, become airborne and get into nature, they turn into something that’s harmless,” explains CEO Mike Joyce. As of mid-December, the brand’s ongoing testing showed the water-resistant version of the fiber, 493 days in, was 84.9 percent biodegraded and the non-water-resistant version was 59.1 percent gone in simulated landfill conditions.

In ocean-like conditions, both versions were 55.1 percent decayed after 423 days. That’s compared to just over 2 percent for standard polyester. Like the Bio insulation PrimaLoft released in late 2018, this technical fabric is still petroleum based, but engineered to be appetizing to microbes that consume and digest it, converting it to sub-compounds like organic matter, carbon dioxide, and methane. The challenge with this product, Joyce says, was durability. This textile has to survive brushing, combing, and essentially ripping to make loops with colorand wear-fastness. Upping the green cred, PrimaLoft has also made Biodegradable Fabric entirely out of recycled polyester. “We are proponents of recycle, reuse, repair, repurpose,” Joyce says. “We are not, by any stretch of the imagination, suggesting someone throw it in the landfill or in the ground when they’re done. What we’re trying to cure for is the eventual end-of-life.” Though the new fabric is a great start, the work to make a fully biodegradable winter jacket is still underway. Brand partners have been looking at shells and liners made of natural materials like cotton and hemp to pair with the new insulation. To drive that change, Joyce says, they’ve been teaching shell and liner providers their technology. There’s at least one zipper manufacturer who has crafted a biodegradable zipper. The hope is to someday package it all together, though that’s years down the road. PrimaLoft Biodegradable Fabric debuts at Snow Show in concept pieces from L.L.Bean and Helly Hansen, as well as from European brands Norrona, Vaude, and Houdini. The fabric is expected to be available for consumers in fall 2020 from these and other brands. By that time, PrimaLoft hopes to have 90 percent of its line made at least half out of postconsumer recycled content. Ultimately, though, the biggest impact on the industry may be simply modeling how to plan for gear’s end, right from the beginning.

PHOTOS BY COURTESY

PRIMALOFT’S BIODEGRADABLE FABRIC AIMS TO FIGHT TEXTILE WASTE AND MICROPLASTIC POLLUTION.


PHOTOS BY COURTESY

To Re(cycle) or Not to Re?

What’s Old is New Recycled materials are popping up in more and more products every season—but what’s the real impact of turning old feathers and plastic bottles into new gear?

Recycled materials are in high demand for outdoor apparel—and they tell a great green story. So, #industrygoals: ever-higher amounts of recycled content? Not so fast. “I think the consumer sees ‘recycled’ and goes ‘Oh great,’—it’s a feel-good purchase,” says Alex Lauver, director of commercial innovation for Outdoor Research. But, “I don’t know if the carbon footprint is any better than virgin.” Truth is, the recycled-materials supply chain still has some hiccups. Recycling down Cons

Makes use of an existing product and keeps feathers out of the landfill ...

... but virgin feathers are already a byproduct of the meat industry that would otherwise be burned.

Diverts some of the U.S.’s 16 million pounds of discarded textiles (in 2016) from the landfill.

Uses as much water and energy as virgin feathers.

Reduces dependence on petroleum.

Able to reach 700 fill power now, and improving; some suppliers are working on 800 fill.

BY ELIZABETH MILLER

62 Fluffy Stuff The latest and

NUMBER OF PATAGONIA’S NEW SHELLS USING 100-PERCENT RECYCLED FABRIC—ITS ENTIRE F19 LINE.

greatest in recycled insulation

Recycling synthetic fill/fabric

Pros

Pros

No way to tell if feathers were produced ethically and/or without harmful chemicals.

Cons Can use as much water, energy, and chemicals as processing virgin materials. Little infrastructure in U.S. for collecting and recycling postconsumer garments. The process may shed microfibers, contributing to water pollution.

Can be as pricey as (or more than) virgin feathers. Recycled feathers may break down faster.

2.2b Outdoor Research’s Vertical X

“The hard part of polyester in general, recycled or virgin, is that it doesn’t like to stick to itself,” explains Alex Lauver, the brand’s director of commercial innovation. The fix in this new F19 fill, which is 85 percent recycled: Instead of stapling yarns together or layering glue on the top, Outdoor Research coats the polyester with sticky binder fibers. They say the result is warmer, stretchier, and more breathable than the competition.

NUMBER OF PLASTIC BOTTLES PROCESSED ANNUALLY TO PRODUCE REPREVE’S RECYCLED FIBERS.

The North Face’s ThermoBall Eco These fluffy, cloud-like clusters have been around since 2013, but this season’s version (developed with PrimaLoft) uses at least five recycled plastic bottles per garment and will be paired with 100-percent-recycled polyester fabrics. The structure mimics down, with tiny air pockets within each cluster, to trap warmth.

PAGE

63


PAGE

64


end elite the

of

When several high-end brands joined—and then quickly defected from—Walmart’s Premium Outdoor Store, they resurrected the question “Who is the outdoors for?”

BY TRACY ROSS | PHOTOGRAPHY BY LOUISA ALBANESE

PAGE PAGE

65


W

Walmart was going to disrupt the outdoors. It was late August, 2018, a year and a half after the retail leviathan purchased the online outdoor retailer Moosejaw for a reported $51 million. Walmart was ready to put its investment to work. PAGE

66

Walmart, as everyone knows, is the largest retailer on the planet. It sells everything from tire chains to whey protein at bargain-basement prices, but its focus in the outdoor space has always been more about car camping and hunting. Moosejaw, on the other hand, has sold high-end outdoor gear on its website for 27 years, growing its business from online only to 10 brick-and-mortar stores in the process. And now, with Walmart, it was poised to deliver on the industry’s long-held dream: to tap a staggeringly wider audience. On March 10, Moosejaw CEO Eoin Comerford told the Grand Rapids News that he was “very excited about the


idea that [Moosejaw] can introduce high-end, premium outdoor products to people who perhaps have thought about getting into the outdoors, but haven’t been exposed to this product before.” Walmart spokeswoman Jaeme Laczkowski said at the time that walmart.com reached about 100 million unique visitors each month—a potential gold mine. It seemed like exclusive brands would finally go all the way mainstream, picking up millions of new customers and welcoming them to the party of those who live for and love playing outside. That’s not what happened. On August 27, Walmart launched a “Premium

Outdoor Store Curated by Moosejaw” on its website. Brands who’d agreed to be sold through the store included industry heavyweights like Deuter USA, Katadyn, LEKI, and Therm-a-Rest among 50 other outdoor companies. But on launch day, one brand balked. When the store went live, it advertised several Black Diamond products, including climbing slings, carabiners, ATC belay devices, and a harness. Within hours Black Diamond distributed a press release stating that it had directed Walmart to “cease and desist” use of the Black Diamond® and diamond logo trademarks because the store’s use of them was “likely to

confuse consumers into believing that Walmart is an authorized dealer of Black Diamond.” Shortly thereafter, those four other high-end outdoor brands all pulled their products from the site, too. The backpedaling was fierce and unexplained. Most brands gave canned answers that offered no insight into their thinking. Deuter USA President Bill Hartrampf said in a press release, “While we appreciate the concept of what Moosejaw is trying to accomplish with this new initiative, we have decided this is not the right time to participate.” It was all slightly strange, since when Moosejaw first introduced

PAGE

67


the premium store idea, at the Summer 2017 Outdoor Retailer show, several participating brands seemed excited. “The concept made sense,” Hartrampf told Outside. “We would be exposing our brand in a premium shop to a new, diverse group of consumers.” But after Black Diamond’s response, Deuter USA, Katadyn, LEKI,

PAGE

68

and Therm-a-Rest stood firm in their resolve to steer clear of selling directly on walmart.com. So what happened? It had nothing to do with Moosejaw’s relationship with those retailers—all of them still do business with the e-tailer. And it had nothing to do with discounts—all products were listed full price. The

catch seemed to be that these highend outdoor products would now be marketed under the Walmart banner, and that clashed with how the brands viewed themselves. In his statement, CEO John Walbrecht wrote, “Black Diamond remains committed to its specialty retail partners,” which, in an August 31, 2018,


dently thought that the way the entire situation played out whiffed of elitism. In an “Open Letter to the Outdoor Industry” published on his LinkedIn page, he argued that the Premium Outdoor Store was created “to grow the industry beyond its exclusionary, historical [white, male] audience” and echoed what has become a mantra in the outdoor industry: “If we’re going to grow this industry … we need to reach new audiences ... younger, more female, more diverse.” That’s true. But when the rubber met the road, the old troll named elitism emerged and with it, questions that have been plaguing the industry for years: Who are we? And perhaps more importantly, who aren’t we?

Grebe answered, “I started riding my freshman year of college and oh my, I was addicted. There’s this community created when you can look at a fellow rider and know that they know what others do not.” This “secret frequency of stoke” Grebe experienced keeps her in the outdoor community that values isolated places and outdoor adventure. But how to maintain that feeling when the outdoor spaces are busier and busier? Over the past three years, according to Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), participation in the outdoors has been on a slow but steady upswing. In 2017, 49 percent the U.S. population ages 6 and older participated in an outdoor activity at least once—and 13.6 million people tried

“IF WE’RE GOING TO GROW THIS INDUSTRY … WE NEED TO REACH NEW AUDIENCES ... YOUNGER, MORE FEMALE, MORE DIVERSE.” EOIN COMERFORD, CEO OF MOOSEJAW

IN SOME WAYS, that sense of elitism

column, Forbes analyst Chris Walton translated to mean: Black Diamond wanting to maintain its cachet “on the principle of scarcity.” The wider problem, Walton added, was that “Walmart can’t escape its brand connotations.” Walbrecht declined to comment for this story. Comerford, Moosejaw’s CEO, evi-

is what drew many people to the outdoors in the first place. I know it enticed me, back when I was a kid first learning my way in the world, in the mountains of southern Idaho. When I hiked the trails outside of Ketchum, I reveled in the fact that so few people seemed to know the trails existed. When I fished the Wood River with my dad or camped in the South Hills with a boyfriend, I celebrated the beauty we saw because we were bold enough to earn it. I’ve spent the ensuing 30-plus years living and recreating in a community of like-minded folks, and the outdoors have been central to who I am. And it’s not just me. A quick survey I posted on Facebook asking when friends first realized that the outdoors and the outdoor community was their “place” turned up several stories like mine. Diehard mountain biker and former cycling tour operator Kelly

outdoor activities for the first time or returned after a hiatus. Though 11.9 million people stopped participating last year, 1.7 million more people got out in 2017 than 2016 (the last year for which data are available). The fastest-growing demographics are Hispanics and Asian, whose participation in activities like running, hiking, cycling, and camping has inched up about 1 percent over the last five years. But while the industry has been striving for greater inclusion, demographically speaking, the majority of outdoor users are white (74 percent) and 54 percent are male. Nearly one third of outdoor users have a college education, and a similar percentage has an annual household income greater than $100,000. The second-largest grouping of outdoor users (22 percent) has less than three years of high school, and a similar percentage makes $25,000 to $49,999 annually. (The average Walmart shopper, by comparison, is

PAGE

69


a 50-year-old white woman with an annual household income of $53,125, according to a study by Kanter Retail in 2017.) Outdoor brands, of course, have done well to market a relatable version of the outdoor ethos to the mass consumer. And not all brands herald “scarcity.” As they’ve grown, businesses like The North Face, YETI, Marmot, and Spyder have increased their market share by selling outside specialty retail. Today, you can buy Spyder gear at Costco, a YETI cooler at Sam’s Club, see a Patagonia Nano Puff vest on just about any guy who works in finance, and find more of The North Face on the quad than in basecamp. Marketing is also pivoting from the elite to everyday, with companies following in the footsteps of Merrell’s longtime work around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Merrell continues to

LIFESTYLE IS A MUCH bigger com-

ponent of the industry than technical is. And maybe by viewing it that way— lifestyle first—it’s easier to understand how and where the industry needs to position itself to grow. By wearing Patagonia, you can align yourself with the brand’s political and environmental work, even if you’ve never set foot in Utah, caught a wave in California, or fly-fished a day in your life. Black Diamond jackets bestow the aura of elite upon their wearers—even on the sidelines at soccer practice. YETI coolers are a potent status symbol, whether you’re on the river or at a tailgate party. Even without technical context, these things signify a certain value placed on outdoor experiences, a scrapper’s mindset for problem solving, and a view of the earth as

“A STORE LIKE AMAZON OR WALMART IS GOING TO GET SOMEONE KILLED.”

RICH HILL, PRESIDENT OF GRASSROOTS OUTDOOR ALLIANCE

target consumers who have real lives yet still enjoy being outside. Particularly popular are ambassadors who juggle full-time or multiple jobs while getting outdoors. For Merrell, the decision to skew to a wider audience was an easy one. “People say hike is the new yoga,” says Strick Walker, Merrell’s chief marketing officer. “For us, this means making footwear and apparel for the trail. It also means inspiring folks to get out there—all folks.” Anecdotally, the message is resonating with its target audience. “It’s difficult to track sales specifically from our DEI efforts,” he says. “What I do know is that the brand is growing and we have a clear mission. We know who we are, we love our ambassadors, and we will continue to tell stories about interesting people living interesting lives in the outdoors.”

something to be enjoyed and perhaps, protected. When it comes down to it, that’s not so different from what I felt all those years ago on the “secret” trails of Sun Valley, and what I still feel to this day. That’s certainly one argument for adopting an industry stance around inclusion rather than the exclusion that elitism implies. And that brings this whole thing back around to Walmart. The millions of people who visit walmart.com are potentially millions of untapped outdoor users. And we need users, says Steve Barker, the founder of Eagle Creek and current Outdoor Foundation board member, to protect the outdoors and the environment. Though OIA’s statistics show an increase in overall outdoor participation, they also reveal a “leaky bucket.” While 10.6 million Americans returned to or started participating in one or more of

the outdoor activities measured, 8.6 million stopped. That equates to a net gain of 2 million total participants and a churn rate of 8.3 percent. We can’t continue to leak, Barker says, or fewer people will experience the outdoors, appreciate it, and advocate for its protection. That’s where Walmart could come in. “There’s always been a variety of entry levels for the consumer wanting to get into camping,” Barker adds. “If Walmart is having that conversation, then we need to engage them at a deeper level.” But Rich Hill, president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, points out that having a good first experience with the outdoors is paramount for new customers—that’s the reason they keep coming back—but that’s something Walmart or Amazon can’t offer. Moreover, Hill says big-box retailers could put the entire industry at risk because they don’t understand how safety equipment works. “A store like Amazon or Walmart is going to get someone killed,” he says. Hill realizes that sounds elitist, but, in his view, the outdoor industry has a responsibility to keep people safe. “If that excludes some people from getting into the outdoors,” he says, “then so be it.” While the connection between those who use the outdoors and those who advocate for it is notoriously difficult to quantify, there is no other widely accepted rationale for why it’s important to bring more people to our public lands. So let me offer one: All us lovers of the outdoors share something in common. Our connection to the wilds has to be earned individual by individual. But once it is, it doesn’t really go away. The world can do worse than to have more people feeling the outdoors in their chests and wearing it on their bodies—and the future of the industry likely depends on it, too. In the end, there’s probably room for both elitism and mass consumerism in the outdoor industry without one devouring the other. We’re just going to need a bigger tent.

Note: This story has been edited from the original print version to correct an inaccuracy. PAGE

70


BREAKING NEWS

snews is now

FREE

You asked, we delivered

SNEWS is where buyers and sellers in the outdoor industry gather to learn and share. It is the leading industry source of breaking news, retail trends, and brand innovations...and now it’s free. Your investment with SNEWS will now directly relate to your brand’s desire to reach our targeted and influential audience. SNEWS offers the largest industry distribution of press releases there is. And you have control of the posting including: distribution quantity, timing and word count. Press release distribution pricing starting at $75 a month.

For more information, contact Susie von Mettenheim at 303-253-6411 or svonmettenheim@aimmedia.com.

www.snewsnet.com

WE KNOW OUTD OORS


Doing it PAGE

72


Right

These 10 shops have lessons to teach us about inclusion, accountability, risk-taking, and so much more. BY AMELIA ARVESEN

I

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: PACK RAT OUTDOOR CENTER; SUNFLOWER OUTDOOR & BIKE; FERAL MOUNTAIN CO.; OUTDOOR GEAR EXCHANGE; KAMP

t’s tough out there. The retail landscape seems to change every day. You have to be nimble, embrace a mission and stick to it, and find unique ways to get customers to walk through the door, or you’re toast. Since the inception of our #CoolShops column in March 2017, SNEWS has sought out innovative, authentic, and standout specialty outdoor stores across the country. As of this month, we’ve featured nearly 50 retailers, each with something to share on doing retail right. In the age of e-commerce, these retailers work hard and get creative to keep their businesses alive. Here are just a few of the many lessons we’ve learned from 10 of our favorite #CoolShops.

PAGE

73


Lesson 1: Green it like you mean it PACK RAT OUTDOOR CENTER FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS

As outdoor stewards, it’s not unusual for gear stores to take an interest in reducing waste, either by implementing recycling programs or offering used gear or repairs. But Pack Rat takes being green to a new level. The store is a legit recycling dropoff center for glass, steel, plastic bags, snack wrappers, paper, cardboard, and other common materials. Sustainability Director Faebyan Whittle also has a system for reusing and repurposing bubble wrap, polybags, Styrofoam, and other packing materials. Out back, there are two compost bins. And mounted on the roof is a 348-panel solar array, which powers the store. Pack Rat is inspiring change in its community by passing on the culture of sustainability to customers, encouraging them to bring in hard-to-recycle items like pens, water filters, and even hydration tubes. Manager Chally Sims says, “If we’re asking our leaders and legislators for good environmental laws and we’re not practicing sustainability at home, then we’re not walking the talk.”

PAGE

74

COOL FACT Last year Pack Rat sent just 50 pounds of trash to the landfill. And since installing solar panels in 2014, the store has prevented the burning of more than 275,000 pounds of coal.


Lesson 2: Harness social media FERAL MOUNTAIN CO. DENVER, COLORADO

If it wasn’t for an Indiegogo fundraiser that brought in $100,000, Jimmy Funkhouser might have had to shutter his three-year-old store, Feral Mountain Co. In early 2018, his building’s owners told him that he had to move from his charming cottage storefront. He found a bigger space a few blocks away; the only problem was paying for the move. The fast relocation was largely possible due to nearly 600 backers, many of whom heard about the project through Funkhouser’s near-daily postings to the store’s huge social media following. And while he has a part-time social media coordinator, it’s often Funkhouser’s own bearded face that’s live streaming on Facebook and Instagram. It’s part of his constant effort to bring his “hyperlocal” customers through his doors. But social media is not about sales, Funkhouser says: “It’s a long game for us. Not a sales growth strategy, but a brand growth strategy. The days of hanging your shingle, unlocking the door, and people just showing up are over. You have to always be looking for unique ways to connect with people. Today, that’s social media.”

COOL FACT Feral has more than 18,600 followers on Instagram.

Lesson 3: Make the most of your backyard

celebrate retail

SUNFLOWER OUTDOOR & BIKE SHOP LAWRENCE, KANSAS

Kansas isn’t known for mountains and crags; it’s all cornfields and prairie sunsets. Some consider it a flyover state. But there are still adventures to be had: A huge network of trails, a lake, and a campground beckon right outside Sunflower’s front door. The shop started as an Army-Navy surplus joint, but in its 45-plus years of existence, Sunflower has evolved into a full-service gear shop and cultivated a community of cyclists, climbers, anglers, skiers, and runners who are pretty hardcore. And they did this not by eschewing their home-court flatness, but by embracing it. “I think people get to Kansas and they’re like ‘Well, there’s nothing to do here,’” owner Dan Hughes says. “But we have these little hidden gems that just need to be exposed, so that’s what we do.” Sunflower’s customers are evidence that you don’t need to have huge peaks to be crushers. And the psyche is just as strong as in any mountain town. For instance, the turnout for Sunflower’s annual showing of Banff Mountain Film Festival is on par with that in the outdoor epicenter of Boulder, Colorado.

COOL FACT Need proof of Sunflower’s local following? In 2018, it sold 1,500 store-branded T-shirts.

SHOPS THAT ROCK

Introducing our #CoolShop Award. Who will you nominate?

Innovative specialty shops deserve celebrating. So starting this month, you can nominate shops that are raising the retail bar and putting on a clinic on how to do customer service right. We’ll choose one #CoolShop per month to spotlight on SNEWS (snewsnet.com), and by the end of the year, we’ll have 12 finalists to announce for a final round of crowdsourced voting. The ultimate winner will receive massive bragging rights, a beautiful banner custom designed by artist Latasha Dunston, $500 to throw a staff appreciation party, and the chance to be an expert guest on Channel Mastery podcast. Nominate your favorite shop here: bit.ly/CoolShopAwards

PAGE

75


Lesson 4: Speak up for everyone KAMP ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Mandi and Jason Gray, who co-own KAMP, do more than pay lip service to making the outdoors inclusive. As the (white) parents of two adopted black boys, the couple is instilling in their sons an appreciation for adventure and nature. “They love to be outside, but a lot of people perceive the outdoors to be predominantly white,” Mandi Gray says. Rather than start a store and then look around and realize all their employees were white, the Grays founded KAMP on inclusive values. They opened their business last year as a way to get more urbanites into the outdoors and to partner with businesses that specifically support people of color. They chose the neighborhood because it’s where Jason Gray grew up, and it’s diverse—something important to them as a multiracial family. “We still get plenty of folks who wander in and wonder, ‘What the hell is a camping store doing in this neighborhood?’ But those are always good conversations,” Jason Gray says.

Lesson 6: Stand up for your causes ESCALANTE OUTFITTERS ESCALANTE, UTAH

Cruising up All-American Scenic Byway 12 on the way to Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante or Bears Ears National Monuments, it’s hard to pass through downtown Escalante without noticing seven mini log cabins, the adjacent general store and restaurant, and the sign touting “Pizza, Beer, Cabins, Gear.” While many outdoor shops took a stance against President Trump’s shrinking of two of Utah’s prized monuments, Escalante Outfitters had even more of a reason to speak up—they’re literally located smack in the middle of the public lands debate. Co-owner Dana Waggoner is part of a local group supporting small business, and she’s traveled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the land that is the bedrock of her store. The shop has become an information hub for travelers from all over, who are inspired by the store to stand up for public lands. “Grand Staircase is part of our business—our bottom line— and the experience out here,” Dana Waggoner says.

COOL FACT In the store’s neighborhood of Gravois Park, the population is about 62 percent black, 23 percent white, and 9 percent Hispanic.

PAGE

76

COOL FACT As of December, Escalante had seen about a 15 percent increase in revenue as people stopped by to see what all the commotion was about.


Lesson 5: Give gear new life 3 RIVERS OUTDOOR CO. PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA

Christine Iksic and Chris Kaminski knew squat about brick-and-mortar outdoor specialty retail until they opened 3 Rivers Outdoor Co. last spring. But they had been outfitting outdoorsy people in Pittsburgh for several years in unconventional ways. It all started with lending their personal gear to friends, which evolved into hosting Gear Fests, or pop-up consignment markets where people swap gear and socialize. Each Gear Fest drew upwards of 800 people and gave Iksic and Kaminski tremendous insight into their community, validating their idea that not everyone has the means or desire to drop hundreds of dollars on a shiny new backpacking setup. “Stocking loads of spendy gear won’t help us get new people outside,” Iksic says. Used gear and consignments make up 10 percent of 3ROC’s business, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

COOL FACT Since opening in 2017, 3ROC has returned $10,000 in credit to its customers.

Lesson 7: Challenge your customers MOUNTAIN CHALET COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO

What better way to celebrate a 50th birthday than by doing what you love most? For Mountain Chalet in Colorado Springs, that means getting folks outside. To ring in a half-century of business, owners Jim and Elaine Smith (pictured above) cooked up the Anniversary Contest. About 300 community members participated all year by completing specific routes in six sport categories: trad climbing, sport climbing, ice climbing, backpacking, trail running, and backcountry skiing. In November, the Smiths drew the names of six winners out of a pool of finalists and decked them out with a full outdoor kit, each one worth a few thousand dollars. Just because. “We really wanted to just encourage people to get out there,” Elaine Smith says.

COOL FACT Founded in May 1968, the store is Colorado’s oldest outdoor specialty retailer.

PAGE

77


THE #COOLSHOP INDEX

Since 2017, we’ve profiled 48 specialty outdoor shops. Find out what makes them cool at snewsnet.com/tag/ coolshop.

Adventure Bound Ellicotteville, NY Backcountry Essentials Bellingham, WA Backcountry Experience Durango, CO Boutique Hors Circuits Saguenay, Québec Cadillac Mountain Sports Bar Harbor, ME Chopwood Mercantile Crested Butte, CO Confluence Kayak and Ski Denver, CO Crazy Mountain Outdoor Company Bozeman, MT Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange Discovery Bay, WA Fin & Feather Iowa City, IA Frugal Backpacker Asheville, NC Gear Coop Costa Mesa, CA Half-Moon Outfitters GA and SC Hometown Sports McCall, ID International Mountain Equipment North Conway, NH Maine Sport Outfitters Rockport, ME Neptune Mountaineering Boulder, CO Next Adventure Portland, OR Nomad Ventures Idyllwild, CA Onion River Sports Montpelier, VT Outdoors Geek Denver, CO Ozark Outdoor Supply Little Rock, AR Pack & Paddle Lafayette, LA Powder 7 Golden, CO Repair Lair Minneapolis, MN Roads Rivers and Trails Milford, OH Rusted Moon Outfitters Indianapolis, IN Shoes & Brews Longmont, CO Summit Hut Tucson, AZ Sunlight Sports Cody, WY Survive Anything Sarasota, FL Tahoe Mountain Sports Truckee, CA Taos Mountain Outfitters Taos, NM The Hiker Box Eagle River, WI The Hub & Pisgah Tavern Pisgah Forest, NC The Mountaineer Keene Valley, NY Trail Creek Outfitters Glen Mills, PA TRAX Outdoor Center Fairbanks and Anchorage, AK Woosah Outfitters Grand Rapids, MI

Lesson 9: Be a video star OUTDOOR GEAR EXCHANGE BURLINGTON, VERMONT

About four years ago, in a rare move for a single-location, primarily brick-and-mortar shop, Outdoor Gear Exchange invested $10,000 in camera equipment and hired a full-time videographer to build the store’s presence and credibility on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and Instagram. Some videos from this past year have thousands of views. “Like all retailers right now, we’re trying to figure out our digital versus physical path,” co-owner Mike Donahue says. “Today’s consumers demand video. At the same time, retailers should realize more of their staff are likely digital natives and their video experience, combined with more approachable software, means that becoming a video content creator is easier than ever.” OGE’s 330plus videos include gear reviews and previews, psyche footage, and what-to-bring and how-to tutorials. They even shoot legit mini films about things like ski trips and special projects, too.

COOL FACT OGE’s six-minute Backcountry Skiing 101 video stars an employee talking through the basics of building a kit and has been viewed almost 53,000 times.

PAGE

78


Lesson 8: Be nice WATER STONE OUTDOORS FAYETTEVILLE, WEST VIRGINIA

Almost every great outdoor specialty shop has a schedule of events—gear demos, fundraisers for local causes, and movie nights. Events are, after all, a proven way to keep customers engaged and coming back. But events also shed light on the store’s character and community. When Water Stone Outdoors says they’re welcoming of everyone, they really mean it. For the past 11 summers, the store has been a title sponsor of HomoClimbtastic—the world’s largest queer-friendly climbing convention—in which 30-plus people spend a weekend socializing, climbing, and competing for prizes. The store extends that kind of open-arms attitude to all of its customers. “The reason we’re still here after 25 years, really, is that we’re just nice to people,” co-owner Kenny Parker says. “That’s a priority in life. We’re accepting. We welcome people into our community. Everyone has their oddities, and is a weirdo in some way. We love that.”

COOL FACT In 2016, Water Stone convinced city officials to let them host the first-ever deep-water soloing competition on real rock.

Lesson 10: Find your focus BLACK CREEK OUTFITTERS JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA

Just because you’re a specialty outdoor shop doesn’t mean you have to offer gear for every single outdoor activity known to man. In the last few years, Black Creek Outfitters—located on a 22-acre lake—has pivoted to cater more toward the paddlesports and yoga crowds. Owner Joe Butler says he was introduced to yoga to help his back problems, and that turned into him teaming up with a local yoga studio. The shift in focus was also due to him noticing that customers are investing more in experiences than gear, so he started offering weekly kayak and SUP clinics. He says picking out product is essentially picking out a ticket to go out and do that experience. “We’ve always tried to make sure that we have what best can be described as the ‘differentiating factor’ from the three-letter store across the street,” Butler says. “By having that lake, it gives us the opportunity to do a lot of different things, whether it be classes or demos, where people try before they buy. You probably can’t walk into any store within 200 miles of us and have that.”

COOL FACT The lesson rental and services category for Black Creek has grown more than 120 percent in the last two years.

PAGE

79


PAGE

80


Is

REI Too Big?

The industry’s largest specialty retailer is also its most powerful. Does that make it a visionary leader? Necessary evil? Cutthroat competitor? Or something else entirely? BY KASSONDRA CLOOS ILLUSTRATIONS BY DAVID VOGIN

PAGE

81


I

f it’s not a big-box store and it’s not an independent specialty retailer, then what exactly is it? REI Co-op defies easy definition. It’s a builder of brands and a risk to them. It competes with smaller shops around the country while throwing its weight around to protect recreation access and grow outdoor participation. It’s a powerhouse that holds influence over its partners, customers, and politicians. And it’s a profitable business that isn’t totally profit-driven: Annually, it gives back millions of dollars to co-op members in the form of dividends, and reinvests millions more into industry causes. Still, in some ways, it’s also a bully. Undeniably, REI—with its 154-plus stores in 35 states and Washington, D.C., and 6 million members—is the big fish in the outdoor industry’s pond. And for every small retailer who bristles at yet another brand giving REI an out-of-the-gate exclusive on new gear, or company that feels compelled to target new products to an REI niche, there’s a brand hitting it big-time with the co-op’s help, or a nonprofit enjoying its largesse. One thing’s for sure: The industry would be a very different place without it.

The Competitor

Independent retailers have always feared REI moving in next door, and that concern has deepened as the co-op targets smaller markets around the country. Case study: REI’s first New Hampshire location will open in North Conway, population 2,300, next fall. Michael Scontsas, the manager of one of the last Eastern Mountain Sports stores, says he’s not sure what REI hopes to get out of North Conway, nor what to expect when EMS moves out of its current 20,000-square-foot building for a smaller footprint—and REI moves into the space. (EMS announced its plans to downsize first.) “It’ll be interesting to see what happens because, you know, the pie is only so big here,” Scontsas says. “The other three gear stores are definitely going to feel an impact with REI coming to town.”

PAGE

82

But according to a statement REI provided to The Voice, it isn’t out to steal customers: The co-op opens stores where member bases already exist. “When we add a new store, we help impact the outdoors positively, which tends to float all boats,” it noted, adding that REI invests in local communities where it has stores. Rick Wilcox, president of North Conway-based International Mountain Equipment, doesn’t expect problems: “I think there’s room for everybody if [we’re] careful about what [we] do.” IME’s bread and butter includes specialty ice climbing gear that more generalist stores like REI don’t sell. That’s where problems start, he says—when a generalist store tries to sell specialized gear its customers don’t want, and then floods the market with discounted goods. Changing times play a role in retailer attitudes, too. “A decade ago, REI was the number-one threat to mom-and-pop specialty retailers,” says Ross Saldarini, co-founder of Mountain Khakis (he left in late 2018). “Today, Amazon has replaced REI as the ecosystem threat.”

The Gatekeeper

To keep its offerings fresh, REI tries to get in on the ground floor with new brands whenever possible—a game-changing boost for a fledgling company. Kuju Coffee landed in all REI shops in September 2018, when the brand was three years old. Co-founder Jeff Wiguna

says selling at REI gives instant legitimization to a new brand like his: “They are essentially the industry authenticator,” both to stores and consumers. But that credibility has its price. To maintain its outdoor-focused product mix, REI requires brand partners to keep distribution tight—without much presence in big boxes or mass e-tailers. “We draw the line at some stage—if [vendors] are ubiquitous, then that’s not specialty anymore,” says REI General Merchandishing Manager Marshall Merriam. “That’s when we start to pull away and say, ‘That’s not the best thing for our members.’ So yes, we push them.” That’s on Wiguna’s mind as he works to grow Kuju Coffee beyond the outdoor crowd. REI was a huge boon to BioLite, too, which launched in 2012 and was scouted by REI while it was still selling direct-to-consumer only. When BioLite started distributing its CampStove in REI stores, it was too short-staffed to both manage the REI account and work to expand in independent shops. The company has grown exponentially since REI lifted them from obscurity, but co-founder and CEO Jonathan Cedar says the brand has found it challenging to break into specialty shops because they didn’t build the necessary relationships from the get-go. “If I were to go back and do it again, I would probably put larger effort [on specialty retail] right out of the gate,” Cedar says. What REI wants, or might want, impacts the rest of the industry, too. Brands angling for a spot within REI often develop products with that goal in mind, says Grassroots Outdoor Alliance President Rich Hill, who has previously held executive titles at brands like prAna, Patagonia, Marmot, and Ibex. And they don’t just think, “Will REI buy this?” but, “Will this specific buyer at REI want it?” “It gets down to that level,” Hill says. “With clothing, is it technical or is it lifestyle? Which one of those departments will buy more? REI is a huge organization with tons of layers, and you have to be really specific when you go in there. People absolutely target their product development on the needs of REI.” United by Blue CEO Brian Linton


acknowledges his brand considers REI’s needs in the design stage. “They’re a significant player in the industry and an important part of our business,” he says. “But we’re also very careful we don’t let that overly dictate our product strategy.” And Bill Gamber, co-founder of Big Agnes, says his brand’s partnership with REI is a bit of a balancing act. “REI has been a great partner, and supported us early on,” he says. “On the other side, REI can tend to try to control the direction of your brand, product assortment, and more. We just need to fight for who we are sometimes.”

The Changemaker

Because it’s so big ($2.62 billion in sales in 2017), REI has the budget to pack a lot of positive punch, like donating $1 million to create the Nature for Health program at the University of Washington in 2018; celebrating outdoor women of all sizes, skin colors, and ages with its Force of Nature campaign in 2017; and inventing the #OptOutside movement in 2015. The retailer is also in a position to make a huge environmental impact. Even as the industry publicly grapples with sustainability issues, brands aren’t facing many external pressures to do business more responsibly, either from legal stan-

dards or consumer demand. But REI is stepping into this vacuum: In April 2018, the co-op announced product sustainability requirements for all vendor partners, including having a supply chain code of conduct regarding social and environmental standards. The co-op will also put the kibosh on longchain per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (commonly used in DWR treatments) starting in 2020, as well as on certain toxic flame-retardant chemicals used in tents, and sunscreen products made with oxybenzone, a chemical found to be harmful to coral reefs. REI requires all apparel and footwear brand partners to regularly complete a Higg Index Brand Module to evaluate their sustainability, and share the results with REI. “We want to make sure that we’re aligned with the science, and that we’re reflecting the way that the industry should be headed,” says Greg Gausewitz, product sustainability manager for REI. And many brands applaud the effort, even if it poses a challenge. Linton says the new standards are pushing United by Blue to address some issues, like Fair Trade and bluesign certification, sooner than it otherwise would have. “The standards they’ve set forth are by far the highest expectations we’ve seen from any

retailer,” he notes. “I think it’s important for key retailers to do these things, so the industry makes progress faster.”

The Gateway

No one seems to dispute that one thing REI does better than most is broadening the outdoor base, converting more people into outdoor lovers by giving them an affordable entry into activities with high upfront costs. Not only do members enjoy dividends, special sales, annual 20-percent-off coupons, and access to garage sales, but REI’s in-house brand also offers products at a lower price point than many of its vendors. That emphasis on affordability means that brands selling at the co-op should be wary of pricing, Hill says: REI can “love a brand to death.” Once a brand gets to the point where its products are sold in all REI stores, the co-op may ask them to discount gear for its promotional periods. “As brands participate more and more in the requested off-price activity, it can ruin the brand—not within the industry, but within REI,” Hill says, because customers quickly learn to expect discounts.

The Friendly Giant

“We should be thankful about [REI’s] willingness to participate in the outdoor industry the way they do,” Hill says. “They want us all to succeed. They do a lot of things that they don’t necessarily have to do, but they know it’s for the greater good. I give them credit for that.” And unlike companies that must hold market value above mindful business practices, REI’s co-op model offers it flexibility for taking stands on issues and making investments that shape the outdoor industry and recreation for all. So imagine that there hadn’t been an REI these last 81 years. The industry might be without a household name that has, in turn, helped build other brands into household names. We might lack a major power player that has helped to influence public policy. And what other retailer would have both the influence and the freedom from shareholders to force advances in sustainability? Maybe someone else would have evolved to take on these roles. Then again, maybe not.

PAGE

83


the voice

special report

He swung his hand around and grabbed her crotch.�


*THE WOMEN REFERENCED IN THIS ARTICLE ALL ASKED TO USE PSEUDONYMS.

Sex, Power, and the Outdoor Industry Our community is not immune to the #MeToo movement. BY CHARLIE LIEU

NORA* WAS HAVING ONE OF THOSE DAYS.

She was one of the few Westerners in her multinational company, and her factory trips to Asia often involved tough interactions with coworkers that made her feel isolated. After a frustrating 12-hour workday, she had dinner with the group and accepted an invitation from a colleague to return to his room to talk and vent. A highly experienced consultant three decades her senior, this colleague had worked with Nora for two years, and she had come to consider him a mentor. He not only shared her Western background, but his grandfatherly and jovial demeanor made him easy to talk to. His room was often the impromptu gathering place for foreign visitors. It didn’t seem unusual or unsafe to join him there. For more than two hours, he listened as Nora shared her struggles with the company culture, giving thoughtful advice. Feeling better, Nora rose to return to her room, but instead of the customary double air-kiss, he moved in for a hug. It was odd, but not alarming to Nora’s American sensibilities–until she felt his hand sliding toward her butt. She quickly stepped back, searched his face for an explanation, but found none. Suddenly, he swung his hand around and grabbed

PAG E

85


RESPONDENTS WHO REPORTED EXPERIENCING SEXUAL HARASSMENT OR ASSAULT

her crotch. Shocked, Nora bolted from his room feeling confused, violated, and even more isolated. According to SNEWS’ recent survey on sexual harassment and assault and workplace bias, Nora’s experience is not uncommon. “The outdoor industry prides itself on being above the fray ... a family that cares for each other,” said Jennifer*, another survey respondent. “That creates a culture that lowers your guard and allows predators to flourish.” The worst part is that victims are often traumatized more than once: First, when they experience the assault or harassment itself, then again when they are made to feel fear, shame, or isolation when they speak out about it. This was true for Anne*, who was met with silence after she confided in an outdoor community leader about her assault. It was true for Nora, who had to endure attempts by her perpetrator to publicly discredit her, and who continues to be shunned by his allies. It was also true for Jennifer, who lives in fear of her assailant but stays silent because “our tight-knit community makes you afraid of the social and career consequences.” It’s time for the industry’s reckoning.

558

FEMALE

MALE

347

SNEWS SEXUAL MISCONDUCT SURVEY RESPONDENTS REPORTED THE FOLLOWING TYPES OF INCIDENTS. CATCALLING, INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS, OR OGLING

36.9%

10.4% UNWANTED SEXUAL ADVANCES OR PROPOSITIONS

28.7%

9.2% UNWANTED TOUCHING

22.8%

4.6%

DISPLAY OF SEXUAL MATERIAL IN THE WORKPLACE

4.9%

12.2%

UNWANTED FOLLOWING

1.2%

11.3%

FORCIBLE KISSING

.3%

RAPE OR ATTEMPTED RAPE

5.7%

1.8% .3%

FLASHING

FORCED PERFORMANCE OF A SEXUAL ACT

1.1%

2.2% .3%

Survey Approach WHILE STORIES OF sexual misconduct circulate through whisper networks, the issue has still not become a priority for industry leaders. So, to bring these stories into daylight, SNEWS teamed up with #SafeOutside, an industry-led initiative to combat sexual misconduct, to conduct a survey, which ran between September 13 and December 7, 2018. We had three main goals: 1. To determine the size and scope of sexual misconduct and gender discrimination in the industry. 2. To understand the nature of these experiences. 3. To collect data that can be analyzed together with previous #SafeOutside work, which focused on the climbing community.

PAG E

86

41% BELIEVE GENDER BIAS EXISTS

65%

10%

44%

REPORTED RAPES/ATTEMPTED RAPES

10 1

HAVE WITNESSED SEXUAL HARASSMENT OR ASSAULT IN THE WORKPLACE

*WE RECEIVED A TOTAL OF 1,074 ENTRIES. 82 ENTRIES WERE REMOVED BECAUSE THEY WERE UNUSABLE, INCOMPLETE, OR DUPLICATES.


With this information, the industry can better inform, develop, and refine policies to reduce instances of sexual harassment, abuse, and gender discrimination, as well as expand public education while supporting victims. Combined, this work will keep all of us safer. Results and Context OF THE 992* responses analyzed, 41 per-

cent self-reported as having experienced sexual harassment or assault. Broken down by gender, 54 percent of the women and 19 percent of men reported having been victimized. These numbers are in line with estimates of the overall scope of workplace sexual harassment reported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a 2016 study. Additionally, our findings are in full alignment with the data from the 2017 National Sexual Violence Research Center study, which shows one in two women and one in five men have experienced these behaviors in the workplace. Similarly, the prior #SafeOutside survey found approximately 1 in 2 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual harassment or assault while engaged in a climbing-related activity. In this survey, the respondents were 61 percent female and 36 percent male, with the remaining 3 percent identifying either as non-binary or not providing a gender. While some might be tempted to argue that the higher representation of women in this survey may skew the data to represent more victims, it’s important to acknowledge that according to the Department of Justice, less than 25 percent of sexual misconduct cases are reported.

1 IN 2 WOMEN AND 1 IN 5 MEN REPORTED EXPERIENCING SEXUAL HARASSMENT OR ASSAULT WHILE WORKING IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY. er and control, not sex, and the most egregious offenders rarely perpetrate just once. People who harass or assault often do so repeatedly, sometimes with dozens of victims. Furthermore, our unwillingness as a society to pursue justice, or to call out the perpetrators, even in confirmed cases, allows them to move on to other organizations and repeat or escalate their offenses. (In Nora’s case, she reported her experience to her HR department, which opened a formal investigation. More women came forward with similar stories about the same man, and he was fired. But the reason for his departure was never communicated, and his name was never released as a perpetrator of sexual assault.) Over the last year (through both the climbing and the SNEWS survey), #SafeOutside has verified nearly a dozen serial offenders, most of whom experienced no consequences, some of whom were asked to perform “corrective actions”

but otherwise stayed in their positions. In the rare case in which someone was asked to leave an organization, the details were carefully sealed to protect the offender’s reputation. In only a single case did the organization include the offender’s misconduct in his HR file, which will likely never see the light of day because it’s not common practice for potential employers to request full HR files from previous employers. It is our hope that by exposing the extent of this issue, the industry will listen, believe, and change. Sexual harassment and assault is a tough and complex issue mired with pitfalls and social discomfort, and it’s easy to accept bad behavior as status quo. But as activist Brady Robinson, former executive director of Access Fund says, “Doing nothing is not an option.” It is impossible to read and listen to these stories and not have a human response, and it is imperative that industry leaders stand up and lend their voices for change. Because if not us, then who? If we want to see a better future for ourselves, our children, and our industry, we can’t sit back and do nothing. In the coming months, SNEWS will release a detailed report and analysis of the survey findings, as well as continue to investigate some of the specific assaults that have come to light. In the meantime, we want to hear your voices and stories. If you have an experience or comment to share, our confidential inbox is SHSAoutdoors@ aimmedia.com.

Where It Goes From Here

3 WAYS TO ADDRESS SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ASSAULT NOW

LIKE IT OR NOT, sexual harassment and assault is a problem everywhere, including in the outdoor industry. The evidence is clear. And according to experts who study this type of behavior, sexual harassment and assault is most often about pow-

1) Establish a clear Code of Conduct for employees and anyone who interacts with employees: customers, vendors, volunteers, and board members.

2) Create a process for reporting and dealing with misconduct and be prepared to protect victims from retaliation.

3) Access a free toolkit with templates for Code of Conduct, Reporting Misconduct, Whistleblowing Policies, and educational materials: bit.ly/ SHSAtoolkit.

PAG E

87


With sophisticated Asian factories and Amazon, it’s easier than ever to launch a low-cost gear brand. Are companies that prioritize price over innovation a boon to the outdoor industry— or a threat? BY KELLY BASTONE PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICK COTE

startup PAGE

88


nation

LESS IS MORE? LIKE MANY “FACTORY-DIRECT” ENTREPRENEURS, BART PRZYBYL DOESN’T EMPLOY A DESIGN TEAM TO MAKE GEAR FOR PARIA OUTDOOR PRODUCTS.

PAGE PAGE

89


T

here was a time in Tayson Whittaker’s life when $200 was a lot of money. In 2014, when Whittaker was a 23-year-old finance student at Southern Utah University, he struggled to come up with enough cash to buy ultralight backpacking gear. He already had a closet full of hunting and fishing equipment that he’d acquired as a kid growing up in rural Richfield, Utah, but his college pals had turned him on to hiking—and the comforts that come with lightweight gear. Even the Kelty Cosmic (the cheapest down sleeping bag he could find) cost almost two Benjamins, which Whittaker couldn’t afford. Most people, faced with a similar situation, would make do with eBay and move on. But Whittaker had another idea. If no gear company sold the product he wanted at a price he could afford, why not launch a brand that would? After all, he’d already taken loads of business courses, and had even peered into the direct-to-consumer world as a part-time employee with a health supplies importer. “I knew I enjoyed business, but wanted to get into something I was passionate about,” he says. So with $500 in his checking account and a newly minted bachelor’s degree, Whittaker founded Outdoor Vitals. In this case, “founded” meant establishing an LLC and a website, becoming an Amazon seller, and placing an order (for just five units) with a manufacturer in Asia. No in-house designer, no marketing department, no sales reps—he couldn’t afford them, but he didn’t need them. He simply browsed the Chinese online database Alibaba until he found a factory that promised to make what he wanted: a down-filled sleeping bag that he could sell for less than $100. In July 2014, he listed Outdoor Vitals’ first product on Amazon. His 500fill Atlas mummy bag weighed a little more than three pounds, promised a 15-degree comfort rating, and cost consumers a whopping $99. His margin was 30 percent after Amazon fees. It was an instant hit: Whittaker had to order more bags—a lot more—as

PAGE

90

the Atlas reigned as Amazon’s number one-selling sleeping bag for more than a year. Since then, Outdoor Vitals has expanded its “Live Ultralight” mission to include hammock-specific bags, backpacks, tarps and tents, and a synthetic-fill jacket. And Whittaker has more than $500 in the bank these days, with Outdoor Vitals selling more than $2 million in product annually.

THE SUCCESS OF OUTDOOR VITALS

was made possible by two key changes in the way gear is made and sold. First, the evolution of Asian manufacturing makes it possible to hand off design and materials sourcing to the factory. Communicating with factory management is also easier than ever, with email replacing the costly, face-to-face negotiations that were the norm as recently as 10 years ago. Gear production is hardly an infant industry these days; it has grown up, with established norms and a sophisticated workforce. And second: Amazon. There’s nothing new about the math of selling direct to consumers, but it used to take capital to reach those shoppers. Now, access to a nation of bargain-hunters is just a few clicks away. Outdoor Vitals is not alone in pioneering this model. A growing number of similar upstarts are discovering this low-cost formula, and they can’t

be written off as simply cheap. Many of their products please consumers: Piles of five-star reviews confirm it. And, proponents argue, these brands are filling a gap in the marketplace for basic, affordable, functional outdoor gear. The low-investment model also makes it easier than ever for any hiker or climber to turn his or her passion into a business—a dream that has sparked many a career in the outdoor industry. But critics point out that this emerging model hurts the industry by undercutting its retailers (though the same can be said of all direct online sales). And some accuse these startups of copycatting: Instead of pioneering their own designs, company founders make small tweaks to existing products—which often look a lot like models that were developed and tested by established brands that invest in R&D. So are these startups leeching off the industry’s innovators? Or does the model democratize outdoor gear by giving consumers affordable, basic options— and offering scrappy entrepreneurs a low-investment way to get in the game? AFTER A 17-YEAR CAREER as a civil transportation engineer, Bart Przybyl quit his job. He simply didn’t have time to report to the office anymore, because his company, Paria Outdoor Products, was growing so fast. When Przybyl founded Paria in October 2015, he intended it to be a sideline business that would bring in enough supplemental income to let his wife stay home with their three kids. But two years later, with the “side business” grossing more than $1 million annually, Przybyl decided it was time to make gear his main gig. It all started with a podcast that Przybyl heard one day while creeping through traffic in Denver. The interview, with someone who’d started an e-commerce business, inspired Przybyl to leverage his passion for backpacking into launching a gear brand. As a kid growing up in Vancouver, Przybyl went for a weeklong trek on British Columbia’s West Coast Trail, and he has loved backpacking ever since. His first desert adventure, in Utah’s Paria Canyon, inspired the name of his company.


Like Whittaker, he searched through Alibaba’s database, then listed the specs he wanted for a trekking pole and asked a few factories to send him their samples. “I’ve used poles for a long time, and appreciate their benefits for backpacking,” Przybyl explains. But the folding style that he prefers (because it packs shorter than telescoping models) costs $100 to $200 from brands such as LEKI, Helinox, and Black Diamond. So Przybyl set out to make a cheaper version: “Maybe not as high quality, but good enough,” he says. This philosophy—that a lot of backpackers just need gear that’s “good enough”—is key to his approach. So he selected his favorite factory-direct sample, dictated a smattering of changes, and ordered 500 pairs. They arrived 40 days later, and on January 21, 2016, he made his first sale, for $55, on Amazon. CORPORATE HQ: BART PRZYBYL OPERATES PARIA OUTDOOR PRODUCTS OUT OF HIS DENVER HOME.

“Amazon has a program that lets you store your inventory at their distribution centers, and their staff picks and packs it,” says Przybyl, explaining his low overhead model. Amazon’s shoppers quickly took notice of Paria’s bargain-priced poles. “Sometimes, we’d sell 50 pairs a day,” Przybyl says. “So I got to wondering where to go next.” Paria has since expanded into sleep systems, tents, and even double-walled titanium mugs. “We don’t have R&D,” says Przybyl. “We’re not developing products from scratch.” Instead, he targets basic, low-cost construction and asks himself, “Can I make some modifications to existing products to make them better?” Judging from the glowing reviews (five stars each for Paria’s Thermodown 15 sleeping bag and Tri-Fold Carbon Cork trekking poles), Przybyl’s products typically please purchasers. “I love the sleeping pads that I bought,” raved one buyer. “They’re great!” Another attested, “I have pitched the [Sanctuary SilTarp] along the

wilderness coast of Olympic National Park and in the Hoh Rainforest. It has performed flawlessly.” Indeed, BACKPACKER testers have favorably reviewed three of Paria’s products. No surprise, the prices are also a hit. “You are doing an awesome job of helping more people to get outside and play!” wrote one satisfied Paria customer. “What I’m trying to do is fill a gap in the market,” says Przybyl. “There’s really good backpacking gear made by companies such as NEMO and Big Agnes, and they’re awesome brands, top quality, but expensive. Then on the flip side, there’s the really inexpensive gear that you find at Walmart that isn’t good for backpacking because it’s so heavy. It seemed like there was a spot in the middle for lightweight, quality gear that’s suitable for backpacking, but isn’t premium.” But Greg Wozer, vice president of LEKI USA, prefers to assume that all consumers need the best possible

PAGE

91


reliability—especially in his category of equipment. If a telescoping mechanism fails, or a pole shaft buckles, the user could fall. So even though there are no safety standards governing trekking pole design, LEKI subjects all its poles to third-party testing to make sure that even its lowest-cost models exceed industry recommendations. He also disputes the claim that bigname brands don’t offer entry-level options. “The idea that we only develop products for the elite could not be less true,” Wozer says. “Yes, it’s a challenge to continually renew those products at the top of the pyramid, but every time we do, it allows us to take those high-end qualities and filter them down to entry-level products.” LEKI’s cheapest pair of poles (a telescoping model) costs $60, but its folding designs start at $140 per pair— and Paria sells its folding poles for $50 to $60 per pair. But it’s not just about price, says Bill Gamber, founder and co-owner of Big Agnes. Product testing and research matter, he believes. Big Agnes prototypes go through multiple iterations, each one informed by extensive in-field use to make sure they’re ready for consumers. With factory-direct models that forgo that development process, paying customers become the guinea pigs. Gamber adds that brands with no R&D aren’t just skimping on testing: They’re ripping off standards that he and others established. “They’re selling someone else’s thought process and design and hard work.” In fact, he claims, it’s inaccurate to say that factory-direct startups don’t use designers. “They do. It’s Big Agnes, or MSR, or Mountain Hardwear. They’re just not paying for it.” IMITATION IS THE sincerest form of flattery, and every industry has to accommodate it—and has since the second wheel was made. From smartphones to coffeemakers to cough drops, the trickle-down effect is a key part of market growth. Some companies prioritize innovation, while others target affordability. The mix of both creates a diverse marketplace that serves a range of consumers. Should the outdoor industry be any different?

PAGE

92

In fact, many innovators actually welcome new ideas that challenge the status quo. “True competition spurs innovation and pushes us to be better,” Wozer says. But he points out that being part of the outdoor industry has always been about more than making widgets. LEKI and most brands that are firmly part of the outdoor ecosystem support nonprofit trail associations. Many support conservation causes and outreach programs. Then again, most companies need to get their financial footing before ramping up donations. Outdoor Vitals currently donates 1 percent to environmental causes, and Whittaker says he plans to develop a more robust giveback program. Paria occasionally donates gear to the local Boy Scouts chapter and similar nonprofits. Wozer also takes exception to the parasitic nature of some startups. Some Amazon sellers (not Outdoor Vitals or Paria) copy entire pages of educational

“YOU CAN’T GAUGE

TENSILE STRENGTH BY APPEARANCE.” GREG WOZER, VICE PRESIDENT, LEKI

content from the websites of established brands, and list products using keywords borrowed from the bigger names. “We’ll see listings that use the names of our best-selling models and features,” Wozer says. “They’re disingenuous in the way they present themselves to the consumer.” Thus Wozer isn’t convinced that Amazon shoppers are making fully educated purchases. Some bargain-priced lookalikes come so close to LEKI’s original designs that even he can’t discern the difference at a glance. “But you can’t gauge tensile strength by appearance,” says Wozer. (It’s important to note that factory-direct brands are not all the same. Ones like Paria and Outdoor Vitals have customer service and product expertise, while the knockoff artists Wozer is referring to often don’t; we tried to contact several of the latter for this story, but none responded.) Whittaker says that consumers don’t always get what’s advertised, but it’s not necessarily because companies

are deliberately deceitful—they’re just ignorant. Sometimes sellers are copying features that they know nothing about, so they’re cavalier about the facts. When a competing company plagiarized Outdoor Vitals’ own product copy, says Whittaker, it labeled its 500-fill bag as 800-fill down. “They assumed that 90/10 [down-to-feather ratio] meant 800-fill,” says Whittaker. “Yet [the bags] still got five-star reviews, because customers didn’t know the difference.” (The copy was eventually corrected.) Of course, imitation is not limited to low-cost companies. Take the folding trekking pole. Several leading brands now use this design, and you can bet they didn’t all invent it independently. Still, Gamber believes it’s important to bring something original to the table. When Big Agnes set out to develop its own lightweight camp chair, after years of distributing the Helinox version that enjoyed widespread popularity (and cloning), BA designers were careful to engineer their own, differentiating features—like bent poles and innovative joints. Still, it looks quite like the Helinox chair at a glance. To make its own line of branded gear, REI Co-op employs a team of in-house designers that make sure each product bears REI’s brand DNA. “The majority of Co-op Brands product is ground-up concepted, designed, and executed by our creative team,” says general manager Paul Calandrella. But, says Przybyl, some standbys don’t need to be reinvented every time. Paria’s 1P and 2P Bryce tents, for example, employ a widely used geometry. “It’s been around forever, and is offered by lots of other companies,” he says. “We’re not working with product that necessarily needs a designer to rethink it from scratch.” In other words, nowadays a tent is like a water bottle: If you just want a basic model, the factories don’t need a lot of instruction. FOR SOME STARTUPS TODAY, the first

contact with a factory is through Alibaba (tagline: “Global trade starts here”). The site publishes contact information for thousands of manufacturers and


Can You Spot the Difference?

With startups selling cheaper versions of familiar products, there can be vast price differences between similar-looking gear.

PHOTOS BY COURTESY

Paria Outdoor Products Tri-Fold Carbon Cork $60; 9 ounces per pole

suppliers across a wide range of industries. Before Alibaba, you had to travel to Asian factories and negotiate designs and terms face to face, says Richard Amodio, a Bangkok-based production consultant and former factory manager who now advises brands on sourcing, design, and product development. “These days, it’s easier to find [a factory],” Amodio says. But prospecting startups probably won’t be able to partner with the best factories, he claims, because those operations tend to work with bigger, established outdoor brands. And while it’s possible to get quality work done, says Amodio, when you outsource everything to the factories, you outsource control. “It’s a gamble in so many ways, because you’ve got no control over how it’s made, where it’s made, or who’s making it,” he explains. From afar, low-cost startups can’t supervise quality control. They can’t evaluate materials to confirm that their second batch of fabric is as good as the first one. And they certainly can’t know whether the factory is following acceptable environmental and human rights practices, Amodio says. Bigger brands dedicate significant resources to compliance—they make sure that materials, production methods, and working conditions comply with international standards and laws. And, of course, this is another factor that drives up price. For example, Big Agnes employs two

LEKI Micro Vario Carbon $200; 8.4 ounces per pole

full-time quality inspectors, plus two more just for materials testing (the company verifies every batch of down to make sure it meets the declared fill rating). Each Big Agnes sleeping bag goes through a metal detector to make sure there are no needles lodged in the seams—because sewing needles sometimes break. Gamber doubts that ultra-lean startups are providing that kind of quality assurance. (Both Paria and Outdoor Vitals do quality-control inspections. Though their process may not be as thorough as ones used by larger brands, they back their products with a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.) And Wozer notes that LEKI has developed sustainable production methods that prevent chemicals from getting into waterways and capture waste aluminum for recycling. He says low-cost production methods may impose a higher environmental impact. Przybyl disagrees, and disputes Amodio’s claim that startups and big brands don’t share factories. “Some of our products are made in the same factories as the big brands, so in those cases, [charges of environmental and social harm] are just not true,” he says. Whittaker also produces some of his products in factories that he shares with bigger brands, so he knows they adhere to higher standards. And at the smaller factory that Whittaker initially partnered with, he negotiated a five-day work week for his product line.

BUT FACTORIES ARE ONLY part of the

equation for this new breed of brand. The other part is direct-to-consumer distribution. So far, companies such as Outdoor Vitals have found customers primarily through Amazon. But Amazon itself is getting into the game with its Amazon Basics line, and Whittaker expects that in the race for ultralow prices, the behemoth will ultimately beat out the independents. Yet the model allowed Whittaker to turn $500 into a foothold in the outdoor industry, and now, he intends to climb. “Initially, my biggest selling feature was price,” he says, but as his prices rose, his visibility on Amazon plummeted. That’s OK, he says. “For me, Amazon was a stepping stone.” Now, Outdoor Vitals processes 50 percent of its sales through its own website (direct sales remain the goal). It has built a community of brand devotees through its YouTube channel, which has 15,000 subscribers. Whittaker is developing fresh product like the LoftTek Adventure Jacket, which uses a new synthetic fill and raised $750,000 in 35 days on Kickstarter. “I feel extremely blessed to be able to work in the outdoor industry,” he says. “As a kid, I never would have guessed I could combine my biggest passions into my everyday career.” But Whittaker admits that he’s reaching the limits of the factory-direct model and will probably soon start hiring his own designers—initially on a contract basis, and eventually, he expects, as employees. “We now have way too many designs to keep doing it the way we have been,” he explains. And that’s not the only sign that Outdoor Vitals is becoming more like the brands it once imitated. When competitors started knocking off Whittaker’s own products, he responded by moving into new territory. In July 2016 he debuted the Aerie underquilt for hammocks, and in July 2017 he developed (and patented) the MummyPod, a sleeping bag with a novel footbox design that slides over a hammock to provide insulation beneath the sleeper. Within months, he saw cookie-cutter versions of both products appearing on Amazon.

PAGE

93


Product Spotlight

HELIO RECON SKIS The Helio Recon 105 excels at everything from technical lines to powder laps with the durability to withstand season after season of touring abuse. The 105mm ski combines a poplar wood core and ABS sidewalls, with dampening technology borrowed from the award winning Helio construction, to deliver smooth powerful performance. www.blackdiamondequipment.com

TOUR GLOVES A minimalist glove built for backcountry touring, the Black Diamond Tour Glove provides premium leather construction and a time-tested design purpose-built for moving fast in the mountains www.blackdiamondequipment.com

DAHU SKI BOOTS Designed in Switzerland, the Dahu boot is a ground-breaking modular solution that reimagines the ski boot. With a Grilamid composite shell featuring a series of strategic cutouts, a Corsair entry system, and a luxurious Italian-made inner Cambium boot liner that is unlike any ski boot on the market. www.skidahu.com

Advertise your outdoor gear and products in this Product Spotlight.

JONES FLAGSHIP The 10th anniversary Jones Flagship defines our ECO-performance design ethos. Featuring a FSC wood core + topsheet, flax/basalt stringers, recycled edges + sidewalls and plant based Super Sap Bio-Resin, the all-new Flagship is the most sustainable snowboard we have ever produced. www.jonessnowboards.com

SWEET PROTECTION The new MIPS-equipped Ascender is developed for ski-mountaineering. It is low-volume, lightweight, and well ventilated for going uphill as well as down. Certified for US alpine skiing, European alpine skiing and mountaineering, the result is a truly ground-breaking product. www.sweetprotection.com

Contact Susie today! SUSIE VON METTENHEIM SNEWS SALES MANAGER 303-253-6441 svonmettenheim@aimmedia.com


“The best glove I’ve ever ridden in.” - Chris Rogers, PSIA-AASI National Team Member

Introducing Freeride, a snowboard-specific remix of our iconic Fall Line design. We spent the offseason adding snowboard-specific updates like CZone waterproofing, Wolf Paw over-wrap construction, and back of hand flex zones alongside the world’s top snowboard professionals. The result? A glove worthy of first tracks and fist bumps.

COMING FALL 2019


i n gratitude

Thanks a million! T

CHAMPIONS

years

PUBLIC RELATIONS

he reality: Like nanospun waterproof/breathable membranes, MIPS tech, and 900-fill down, quality magazines with original reporting and cutting-edge design are expensive to produce. They require support from advertisers, and we are very grateful to the companies who chose to tell their stories through the ads you see in these pages. But this is a new project, and our timeline was tight. We heard from so many friends and partners with small budgets but big hearts, and they also helped get this magazine off the ground. Thank you for lending your voice to The Voice!

ADVOCATES Big City Mountaineers Outdoor Industry Association Chaco Purple Orange Brand Communications JAM Collective Rutabaga Paddlesports Katadyn Terracea Noso Patches Treehouse Communications ORKA Films Zenbivy FRIENDS Alpenglow Sports • Anonymous • Blaze Partners • Campfire-Collective • Category One, Inc. • Croakies • Darby Communications • David Petri • Denny, ink. • Deuter/Ortovox • Pale Morning Media • Inside | Out Communications • Flowfold • Granite Gear • Groundswell PR • MtnStuff • Outdoor Research • Revolution House Media • Sierra Designs • SIMBOL Communications • Townsend Bertram & Company • United By Blue • Verde Brand Communications • Xero Shoes • Wild Rye/White Cloud Communication

PAGE

96


LIVE.SKI.REPEAT. Sharp End Shell ∙ Spark Pro Gloves Boundary Pro 107 Skis A Powder Magazine Ski of the Year and a hard-charging ripper built for big lines and high speeds on either side of the rope. BD Athlete Tobin Seagel | British Columbia

Mattias Fredriksson

B L A C K D I A M O N D E Q U I P M E N T. C O M


OUR MISSION OUR MISSION

DEVELOPING FUNCTIONAL DEVELOPING TIMELESS, TIMELESS, FUNCTIONAL &&SUSTAINABLE EQUIPMENT. SUSTAINABLE OUTDOOR OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT.

fjallraven.us fjallraven.us

The Arctic fox – this cunning and The Arcticlittle foxpredator – this fascinated cunning our and inquisitive inquisitive little predator fascinated founder, Åke Nordin, so much that our he named his outdoor equipment company founder, Åke Nordin, so much that he with itshis Swedish name – Fjällräven. The named outdoor equipment company fox’s ability to survive in the extreme Arctic with its Swedish name – Fjällräven. The climate has to inspired in all Arctic those fox’s ability surviveadmiration in the extreme who spend time in these remoteinuplands. climate has inspired admiration all those who spend time in these remote uplands.

In Sweden, an experienced walker or In Sweden,who an experienced adventurer traverses thewalker great or adventurer outdoors who traverses the great Scandinavian is known as “a true Arctic Fox”. Andoutdoors a true arctic fox wasaswhat Scandinavian is known “a true the young ÅkeAnd Nordin wanted when Arctic Fox”. a true arcticto foxbewas what hethe grew up. Åke Nordin wanted to be when young he grew up. We are the arctic fox. We are the arctic fox.

Profile for Active Interest Media

THE VOICE by SNEWS  

INDEPENDENT : UNFILTERED : ENGAGED, Issue No. 1

THE VOICE by SNEWS  

INDEPENDENT : UNFILTERED : ENGAGED, Issue No. 1

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded