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Katherine Donnelly | 08.02.2017

Each summer, the vast majority of human-powered outdoor industry companies converge in Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show, with a similar Winter Market show taking place in January. The largest and most comprehensive outdoor show of it’s kind, Outdoor Retailer is THE PLACE for retail buyers to view and place orders for upcoming outdoor gear and apparel from industry manufacturers.

Over 1,600 brands spanning product for backpacking and hiking, camping, adventure travel, mountaineering and rock climbing, trail running, mountain biking, paddlesports, fly fishing, fitness, tactical and lifestyle showcase the latest trends and product innovations on the Salt Palace show floor and the Open Air Demo day. In addition to brands, conservation organizations and outdoor media outlets are also present at the show.  Beyond the retail buying focus, Outdoor Retailer incorporates educational sessions pertinent to the industry ranging in topics from content marketing strategy to leveraging influencers and product trend innovations to supply chain management. 

This summer I had the pleasure of heading to Salt Lake to attend my first ever Outdoor Retailer from July 26 through July 29! Although I wasn't able to make it to the Open Air Demo day on July 25 (due to some inconvenient car troubles 50 miles north of Ogden), the festivities held within the doors of the Salt Palace were enough to have me BEGGING for Spring 2018 to just get here already! 

Here are some of the trends and highlights coming out of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017:

  • There was no shortage of brightly-colored water bottles, hammocks, or coolers strewn across OR's many exhibitors, and it seemed like brands young and old were tapping into this season's most popular outdoor accessories. Triple-walled stainless steel mug while relaxing on your brand new double-hammock, anyone?
  • Outdoor apparel continues to capture the the do-it-all mentality, as more and more outdoor recreationalists are looking for clothing that can easily blend the lines of work and play; some of our favorites from the Summer Market include Fjallraven and Prana.
  • With so much talk of land conservation and ethical outdoor behavior, it's only natural that more and more brands continue to bring their products and manufacturing processes into the age of sustainability! It was great to see so many companies making the pledge to cut their impact on the Earth, and we hung out at the Vivo Barefoot booth for a while to hear all about their upcoming revolutionary shoe made from algae biomass! Another brand you may have seen out and about (but should totally take a look at) is Recover, producing awesome apparel from recycled plastic bottles and recycled cotton.
  • You've likely seen the world of paddlesports starting to take over, and OR Summer Market was no different, with paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, and everything else water-related out and on display in full force this July! In the name of accessibility and convenience, inflatable paddleboards and foldable kayaks continue to make big waves - make sure to check out Oru Kayak, NRS, and Jimmy Styks for some of our favorites on the market.
  • Sunglasses, sunnies, shades...whatever you call them, you'll be happy to know that there's some amazing new eyewear on the horizon for Spring '18! Lens technologies are getting an overhaul, and both frame style and colors will be reworked to match what's on trend. One of our favorite products of the week was from Popticals, who proved that they're ahead of the curve and catering to the adventurous-at-heart with their compact, stylish, and rugged product line. And did we mention that they fold up into an UBER-stong bundle smaller than your fist?! Yeah, you should definitely check them out...
  • Outdoor speaker systems are all the rage in this millennial-driven market, and brands worked hard to showcase their newest and most-improved speakers throughout the expo floor by turning up the volume and letting the technology do the talking. Industry-veterans Outdoor Technology and JBL, among many others, were showing off their ultraportable, Bluetooth-equipped technologies, but it was the California start-up, Speaqua, that held our interest the most with their Barnacle speaker that's making waves in the world of the untethered music experience - literally. 
  • There's no denying the popularity that #vanlife is seeing right now throughout the country and beyond, and so it should be no surprise to anyone that this summer's OR was full of the coolest adventure-mobiles, Sprinter vans, and the occasional VW (we're looking at you, Carabiner Coffee!). Winnebago was out in full force showing off their newest rigs, and tech companies like Goal Zero gave us an inside look into their newest power-solutions for those with adventure on the mind - Goal Zero ambassador Chris Burkard's van was on display to show off their system in all of its glory! 
  • Other products that got the Outdoor Project crew excited...
    • Piggybacking on the trending #vanlife, rooftop tents are still a huge thing, and many companies were showing off their newest, slimmest, lightest, and most rugged tents yet. Our favorite? Tepui Tents, out of Santa Cruz, California, who continue to push the limits on what a roof top tent can do on AND off the roof. Their newest product, the Skycamp, is perfectly suited for those looking to offer camping on their land or just want an awesome backyard tent set-up reminiscent of a treehouse. The kit comes complete with the structure, a picnic table underneath, and - of course - one of their iconic pop-up tents. 
    • ​In a world where eating right on the trail still has its challenges, Maine-based Good To-Go is "changing the way people eat on-the-go" - and it's freaking delicious!
    • GNARBOX has a lot of people talking, and for very good reason. Offering a pocket-sized device that allows you to backup, organize, edit and share HD videos and photos with just your phone, GNARBOX is a must-see for all you media-minded explorers out there! It was incredible to see just how easy photo and video editing can be, even in the backcountry...
    • Not only is Minnesota-based Granite Gear making some top-notch packs and bags for your epic adventures, but the company is putting its packs to work with the Grounds Keepers Program: brand ambassadors (of sorts) are packing out trash as they hike long trails around the country, pledging to practice and promote Leave No Trace ethics along the way! How cool is that??
    • XTRATUF has been making amazing footwear for those on the water for more than 50 years, and we caught up with them to talk about their new line-up, including the Salmon Sisters women's Legacy Boot. With all new prints coming out in Spring '18, these boots continue to offer better fit and all-day comfort, all while bringing the FUN into FUNctional!
    • Sierra Designs is working hard to design the best sleeping bags on the market and we're pretty confident that they nailed it with their new Cloud bag. We weren't the only ones who liked it; Gear Institute named it to their Best New Gear list for OR Summer 2017!
    • For a bicycle helmet that you'd actually want to wear, check out Thousand! This small company, led by Gloria Hwang, participated in this year's Pitchfest with Camber Outdoors and is creating some real buzz around overhauling the way people see and use helmets.
    • If you've ever wondered if you could have more fun while enjoying your morning espresso, than Bripe is for you. This ultralight, ultra-portable brew pipe only takes three minutes to brew the perfect coffee shot and comes in an awesome, compact kit that will have you starting conversations left and right...all while enjoying freshly brewed coffee, wherever you may be!
    • Rumpl has quickly taken over the outdoor blanket market, but their newest products have us jumping for joy. Because where can you go wrong turning your blanket into something wearable, like say a Poncho?? Even our poncho model couldn't stand still when showing it off, as you can see from the [blurry] photos!
    • Looking for a flashlight that packs a punch? Meet VSSL and their rad design around optimizing the empty space found in a standard flashlight; no matter what you're looking to do in the outdoors, they've got you covered. From shelter building, first-aid essentials, fishing tackle and rope to a flask with two retractable shot glasses, the VSSL is a must-have for anyone who spends their time in the wilderness. I now carry their VSSL Supplies in my car at all times, because you never know what you'll run into...
    • OR was chock-full of brands boasting awesome camping gizmos and gadgets to make your next trip easier, lighter, etc...but we were lucky enough to run into the guys at Seattle Sports just in time to learn about their water bottle innovations, including the Firewater Plus and the Powerlid/Firelid. Now you can turn your water bottle into what you need, like a solar-powered lantern or even a phone charger, or just collapse it once you've finished hydrating and pack it with ease!

Suffice it to say, 2018 is looking pretty awesome already!

Any article covering the 2017 Summer OR show would be incomplete without mentioning that this year has been a monumental (sorry for the pun) one in the world of outdoor brands and retailers, specifically surrounding the topic of public lands. Shortly after the 2017 Winter Market show in January, the retail giant Patagonia announced that it would no longer participate in the Outdoor Retailer show as long as it is based in Salt Lake City due to Utah's support for rescinding protections for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands. Soon after, other outdoor brands, such as Arc'teryx, Zeal Optics, and many more, made similar announcements. 

The folks at Outdoor Retailer took the hint that Salt Lake City was no longer the best place for their shows due to the hostile, bureaucratic environment that's blossomed in Utah, and so they went to work on determining their next stop. Denver, Colorado, was one of the immediate front runners, and when Outdoor Retailer bought SIA Snow Show in May, Denver was officially announced as OR's new home - thus making this Summer Market show the last one in SLC! Those brands who protested the show's location were surely missed as OR kicked off, but Outdoor Retailer made sure to make the most of their last show in Salt Lake City by working with brands and influential figures to host a myriad of events around public lands advocacy. Outdoor Industry Association kicked Day 1 off with a breakfast unlike any other - complete with a legendary lineup of speakers including Former Secretary Sally Jewell, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and iconic climbers Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold to talk about the importance of public lands and outdoor recreation's economical impacts.

Many other lectures, classes, panels, and initiatives took place throughout the show to continue on this theme, but Day 3 featured what was most likely the coolest event: the 'This Land Is Our Land' March for Public Lands! Thousands of OR attendees, exhibitors, athletes, ambassadors, and everyone in between came out to march to the Utah State Capitol to celebrate public lands and their importance to the outdoor industry and all Americans. Sign-making was at the forefront of everyone's mind running up to the big event, and as everyone made their way to the meeting point, the scene from my vantage point in the Salt Palace was nothing short of spectacular and incredibly inspiring. The love and comradery was palpable as the outdoor community as a whole took a stand for the lands we love most!

While my limited pictures don't do justice to all that went down at this summer's show, Outdoor Retailer put together a recap of some of their highlights that is definitely worth a watch:

See you all in Denver for the 2018 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show, and THANK YOU Salt Lake City for the good times!


Excellent Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show in Salt Lake City. It is a great outdoor gear event. It's a great opportunity for collecting huge brand product one roof. I pleased to attended a great trade show. Would you mind I share . It is perfect for stock hiking, fishing, camping, riding, paddling and playing game gear.
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