Real adventure is not about the gear. But let's be honest, it gets us pretty excited.
And there's no better place to find it than the annual industry-only OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. From tents to trail running shoes, slack lines to sleeping bags, it was all here. It's a show and tell for the biggest and best brands in adventure recreation. You'll see some of the cool toys we found popping up over the next few months – but for the time being, we take a look at a few key trends.
Climbing's Going Up
For many OutDoor visitors, the first thing they saw upon going through the gates was the massive indoor climbing stage – one of many indoor climbing setups present. Throughout the show, professional and amateur climbers were constantly scampering up man-made bouldering walls, trying out different holds and various other climbing products. Upon arrival in the hall dedicated to climbing, an audible buzz was in the air. Nathan Kuder is a product manager for Black Diamond Equipment, and a multi-year veteran of the outdoor recreation trade shows. "Climbing is on a massive upswing," he says.
Interestingly, however, that doesn't necessarily mean more people are getting outside for adventure – it's happening under a man-made roof. "Indoor gyms and climbing facilities are popping up everywhere, and there's simply tons of hold companies and auto-belay systems," says Kuder.
We're Losing Weight...
"Lighter, lighter, lighter," says Kuder. "Almost across the board, everyone's trying to make lighter gear." Whether it's packs, crampons, hardware or outerwear, thin is in. Pack companies are offering slimmed-down, no-frills packs meant for quick ascents and day trips.
They're doing it through modern materials – many packs at the show were sporting nylons akin to what you'd find in a parachute. It's also about form and fit – packs like the Boreas Muir Woods, pictured above, force your heavy load closer to your body, rather than to the bottom of your pack. Across the board, companies were using ventilated foam and mesh suspension systems to help support packs while keeping the body cool.
Drying off quicker…
It's all about evaporation. Apparel brands are constantly touting the "breathability" of their fabrics. Columbia Sportswear's Omnifreeze EVAP technology is an addition to their recently released Omnifreeze cooling fabric. The basic principle: disperse sweat from the locations that moisture collects so it can evaporate more quickly off the body, increasing comfort and lowering perceived temperature. How well does it work? Samples passed out at the show received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Hitting the trails…
While climbing is staying indoors, running is going outdoors – and off road. Race-ready trail running shoes were everywhere. While the 'barefoot' revolution continues to make its mark with minimalist and lightweight offerings all-around, not everyone is a devotee. Popular brands like Salomon are continuing to make, well, just great trail running shoes like the S-Lab Sense Ultra (above), which prove that going light (240g) doesn't have to mean sore feet after anything more than 20km.
The other trend in shoes? Ditching bulky hiking boots for slimmer, lighter trail running shoes. The weight and size of traditional boots simply can't keep up with the convenience, utility and comfort of a good trail running shoe. Where warmth isn't an issue, consumers are increasingly moving away from boots and towards a multi-use trail shoe. This display of yet-to-be released product from Merrell is touting hiking – and showing off two shoes that look more like trainers.
We'll be reporting on these and other developments in the coming weeks as we single out the best gear to take on your adventure.