The Three "Backpackaneers." From left: Mike Martin, Don Wilson, and Will Rietveld walking through downtown Salt Lake City on their way to a previous Outdoor Retailer show. We will NOT be bringing coats for the summer show.
Once again, I find myself in a frenzy of preparation for the upcoming Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City. I’m in the midst of a daily stream of emails and phone calls with vendors and fellow Backpacking Light staff as we schedule appointments, sift through hundreds of press releases proclaiming the (supposed) greatest new outdoor gadgets, and organize our show coverage. This show will be my fifth for Backpacking Light, which I suppose makes me a veteran. Still, rather than becoming jaded, I look forward in anticipation as each show gives me an unprecedented opportunity to see the latest new gear, but more importantly, also gives me a chance to renew relationships with vendors and staff.
"I love you, man."
It may not be evident to our readers, but our staff is far flung and relies on electronic communication for much of our contact and planning. Strange though it may seem, over the years I’ve developed close friendships with people like our Senior Technology Editor, Roger Caffin, whom I’ve never actually met in person, and our co-founder Alan Dixon, whom I’ve only ever met during these shows. Our biannual convergence on Salt Lake City for Outdoor Retailer is one of the few times I can enjoy the company of fellow staff members – even if it’s at a time of sleep deprivation and caffeine-fueled late night editing.
This show, I’m very pleased to welcome longtime BackpackingLight.com member and University of Utah student Ryan Gardner to our crew. With a notepad, camera, and shiny new media badge in hand, Ryan will be joining Will Rietveld, Janet Reichl, and myself as the on-site editorial team. The four of us will be doing the groundwork at the Salt Palace, while being supported off-site by much of the remaining Backpacking Light staff – Chris Townsend, Steve Nelson, and Alan Dixon are all writing articles remotely; Ken Knight, Don Wilson, Cat Jasins, and Rick Dreher have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that our article production runs smoothly; Jared Schlender, our resident "home page artist" has created another wonderful banner for the event; while Addie Morstad and Gisela Krack are the lone guardians holding down the fort every day back at Backpacking Light headquarters in Bozeman.
I owe this off-site group a very special thank you as they have signed up to experience the thrill of the long hours, technical snafus, and time pressure of Outdoor Retailer without the drudgery of actually having to see cool new gear, visit with staff members, or meet industry players. To this group (and anyone I’ve inadvertently missed), thank you all – the show would be impossible to produce without your support.
In addition to our editorial team above, Ryan and Stephanie Jordan, Sam Haraldson, and Nicole Chilton will be joining us in Salt Lake City. Our magazine is, after all, an outdoor-related business. Ryan will be focusing on new product development and business partnerships; Stephanie will be sourcing materials for our in-house brands; Sam will be buying merchandise for our gear shop; and Nicole will be working on ad sales and wholesale distribution of Backpacking Light books and magazines.
Much of our planned content this time is in the form of Product Roundups – shelters, stoves, raingear, etc. We thought this format would provide better information to our readers by showcasing similarly grouped products together to make it easier to compare new offerings. Of course, there are also several promising products that deserve attention by themselves or don’t fit into a particular category, so be ready for some surprises.
This year we are covering new sleeping pads that dramatically improve warmth per weight and comfort per weight ratios with new pad technology. We’re also expecting to see the world’s lightest canister stove (purported to be fifty-three grams) as well as a reduced-weight version of one of the "integrated stove systems" introduced last year. Highlights of our Shelter Roundup will include a sub-two-pound double-walled tent and an eighteen-ounce Tyvek tarp tent. On the apparel side, we’re planning rainwear and footwear comparisons, as well as writing about new garments from Western Mountaineering, Integral Designs, Rab, and others.
Finally, the European OutDoor trade show was held in Friedrichshafen, Germany in July. This show precedes Outdoor Retailer and, as such, is the venue for many new international product introductions. Chris Townsend attended OutDoor this year and has shared his impressions of that European experience in contrast with the distinctly North American Outdoor Retailer. He’ll also give readers a glimpse of some of the gear that we’ve been missing here in the States.
Thanks for joining us again. I don’t want to give away all the secrets we have planned for the show, but this brief introduction will hopefully whet your appetite for more from Outdoor Retailer. Please check back throughout the next week, as we’ll be publishing new content daily as the show unfolds.