ORWM: A Few Trend Observations
I just returned from two days at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market (ORWM), an outdoor industry trade show. ORWM is where all the labels (large and small) showcase their new product for the following year, in this case Fall/Winter 2012/13. Retailers come from all over to see and touch the new goods, and to place their inventory orders. It is a massive event held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, and I raced from end to end trying to cover as much ground as possible for you. Here is a quick-and-dirty update on just some of the trends I observed at the show:
I am old enough to actually remember the 70’s and 80’s, so looking at some of the “new” styles was like flashing back to my childhood. In fact, I’m pretty sure when I was eight years old I skied in one of the jackets featured for 2013. Classic sneaker designs are being resurrected in the name of fashion and minimalism, neon is called ‘a fun pop of color’, and even Moon Boots are back.
With so many amazing fabrics at their disposal, manufacturers are matching fabrics to body parts based on what is needed where. That means you may see Primaloft on the torso for core warmth, and a simple polyblend on the sleeves. You may see windproof panels on the front, but not the back. The purpose, of course, is to deliver benefit where it is needed most, while keeping garments breathable and light.
Bootie-licious. Shoes are looking pretty sleek and futuristic with microfabrics covering the entire upper in gaiter-like fashion. It may be a cool design aesthetic, but it also happens to have the functional benefit of keeping gunk and debris from the crevices of your fancy wheels.
With the continued boom of endurance sports, the need for true anti-chafe gear is moving strongly to the forefront. In addition to finding fabrics that feel ‘barely there’, manufacturers are putting their pieces together with as few seams as possible, translating into even fewer possibilities for discomfort. The emphasis is clearly on making gear that feels as if it is a part of your body, i.e. if don’t notice it during your activity, that means it was a successful execution.
GORE-TEX has always been the gold standard, but several companies are making a go at one-upping them. You will see plenty of new waterproofing innovation coming up. The goal is not to make gear more waterproof, but rather to make it more breathable. In some cases, it is about eliminating the water barrier between the outerlayer and the waterproof layer (trapping heat near your body), in other cases it is about increasing the surface area at the molecular level to speed evaporation, and creating a two-way flow of air. I saw some dramatic scientific demonstration, and have no doubt we will ultimately be able to have our cake (dryness) and eat it too (breathability).
If you are a fast-packer, you will love this one. I saw several shoes that looked like a trail running shoe and a hiking shoe mated, and gave birth to something akin to a high-top trail running shoe. I asked about the application, and the answer was always the same: ‘it is for fast hiking, or those outings where you go steep uphill, and run downhill’. These are super-lightweight, grippy shoes with terrific lateral and ankle support.
As I’m sure you expected, the minimalism trend is still in full force. In addition to virtually all running shoe brands offering a super-stripped-down, zero-drop shoe, the trend has extended into both hiking and lifestyle shoe models. You will see more ultra-light and very-low-offset hiking boot models, as well as plenty of waif-like leisure shoes. I’m talking feather-light. Less continues to be more.
Another response to the growth in endurance sports: I saw a lot of apparel pieces that could easily be stuffed into their own pocket for stowability. For those of you who enter events (such as ultra- or adventure-races), requiring you to have a waterproof jacket on board, you will have some serious options for shells that are water-/wind-proof and super-packable in their own pouch. Excellent for cyclists too. Some of the warmer items stuff into a travel-pillow-shaped pocket to make themselves useful, even when they’re not in use.
It seems like all of the backpack companies I visited wanted to show me their new travel luggage. Huh? Apparently, the economic downturn has led more people to do short trips domestically, requiring sleek roller bags, and to take backpacking trips. The good news for you is that backpack manufacturers know a thing or two about clever pockets, weight distribution, durability, and staying light. There is some super-sweet luggage coming your way that will have you rethinking entirely how you normally travel.
As the Fall/Winter 2012/13 products move from prototype to production, ActiveGearReview will be testing as many as possible, so that you have some insight into how things are faring in the field.
Have fun out there,