Outdoor Retailer WM14
Credit: David Webb

What’s happening in the world of outdoor gear and apparel this year? We travelled to the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market — an annual trade show in Salt Lake City, Utah, showcasing the newest and most innovative products — to find out.

All the major players are here — The North Face, Columbia, KEEN, Canada Goose, Arc’teryx, Marmot, Patagonia, ECCO… and hundreds more. If you manufacture outdoors gear, you’re in Salt Lake City this week.

As Canada’s number-one reviewer of outdoors gear, explore is here too. With one day at ORWM14 under our belt, here is a sneak peak of some of what Canadian consumers can expect to see in stores for the Fall/Winter 2014 season:

KEEN showcased several exciting products for 2014 — but front-and-centre is their new Durand hiking boot. Manufactured at their headquarters in Portland, Oregon, the Durand looks to be a quality all-around hiking and backpacking boot; not super stiff, but seems supportive enough for what most of us do on the weekend (waterproof-breathable; will be available in low and mid). The big story is its “one million steps of comfort” — meaning that long-term comfort and extreme durability are primary concerns. KEEN staffers were particularly excited about the direct-contact method of bonding the polyurethane sole to the leather upper — the two are gluelessly bonded at a molecular level. To quote the product manager, “The only way it is coming apart is with a saw.” 

Lowepro showed off their “action camera” products — bags and cases specifically designed for GoPro Hero cams and other similar devices. The Nova Sport shoulder bag, as well as Dashpoint cases, feature straps and compartments specifically tailored for tiny, easily-lost GoPro accessories. Joby is also getting in on the action with a line of fully-adjustable clamp-on tripods — dubbed Action Clamps — designed to attach a GoPro/action cam to either moving or stationary objects.

Mountainsmith’s Scream 25 and Spirit 12 backpacks both caught my eye, though for very different reasons. The former, Scream 25, is a 25-litre frameless backpack that stuffs into its own sack for ultimate portability — so you can have a technical day-pack on-hand virtually anywhere… in your car’s glove box, in your carry-on luggage, etc. The Spirit 12 looks to be a great cycling daypack. Quality materials, function, sure — but what sets it apart is its “Breezeway;” trampoline suspension that creates open space between your sweaty back and the pack. Thanks to the Breezeway, when you get off your bike you won’t have a giant wet-spot on the rear of your shirt.

Freewaters is a unique shoe-maker — they have partnered with Therm-a-Rest (yes, the sleeping pad company) to put authentic Therm-a-Rest soles on their flip-flops and many of their shoes. Comfy, and not slippery when wet.

Debuting in the North American market this fall, Super.Natural is an apparel company worthy of note. Manufacturing base-and mid layers, as well as casual pants and tops, Super.Natural sets itself apart in this competitive market with the process by which they make their fabric. All of their products are manufactured from natural Merino wool blended with either polypropylene, Spandex or Lycra at a base level — the actual yarn itself is blended, then the fabric is woven from this unique blended material. The results — base-layers, technical active-wear and casual outerwear — look and feel great, and should perform equally as well.

Fischer’s alpine touring gear looks fantastic, especially their Ranger 96 skis, made ultra-lightweight via an air-channeled wood core (called AirTec) — you have to pick them up to believe it — but in an aggressive package (106mm underfoot) designed for shredding deep, steep and varying-condition snow.

Built especially for the trail-runner, Hillsound’s new Freesteps 6 are slip-on micro-crampons that pair with running shoes to provide extra traction while speeding across springtime trails covered in slush, mud and ice. (They were tested and approved by Canadian Mountain Running Team member Adam Campbell.) 

Sperry Topsider, often thought of as purely a summertime brand, showcased three interesting items. The first, the Voyager, is a waterproof-breathable shoe well-suited for the cold-water sports enthusiast or, thanks to its casual good looks, just the dude looking for something to kick around town while keeping his feet dry. (Men’s only.) The second, the Ricochet Bootie, is perfect for the Canadian stand-up paddleboarder looking to keep his or her feet from freezing in our always-chilly water. Designed with Sperry’s Sonar Tech — which enhances foot feel through the sole — this bootie can be worn on its own or integrated with a wetsuit. (It also could find a home with canoeists who traverse technical/wet portages.) Finally, their Winter Cove is a very stylish, waterproof-breathable, mid-height women’s boot — with just enough technical chops to be useful off-pavement.

Stay Tuned for Updates From Day Two & Three!

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