Open Air Demo has a lot of small booths to attract our attention to new innovations, but the main focus is watercraft (above), and lots of them.
The Outdoor Retailer Show is a twice-yearly convention focused on the outdoor store near you - your local outdoor retailer. It's a huge gathering where gear manufacturers pay big bucks to showcase their latest and greatest gear (in this case for spring 2010) to outdoor retailers and hopefully rake in lots of orders. It's also a great opportunity for the media (like yours truly) to prowl around and find out what's in the pipeline.
Outdoor Retailer comes a little earlier starting this summer - July 20-24 to be exact - and Backpacking Light will be there to report on gear of interest to lightweight backpackers. Our coverage will start with Open Air Demo on Monday, July 20, at Pineview Reservoir near Snowbasin. There will be lots of small booths there, where manufacturers will hawk their newest innovations, in hopes of luring us to their big booths at the main Show. But the biggest draw of Open Air Demo is the opportunity to actually try out new gear. It's mainly about watercraft, and lots of them... which is why it's located on a reservoir! We get to demo lots of different boats and decide (for example) which Kevlar canoe we like best. Tough job!
The main event runs for four days (July 21-24) at Salt Lake City's Salt Palace Convention Center. To give you an idea of the scale of the Outdoor Retailer Show, here are a few statistics:
- The Salt Palace has 515,000 square feet and the OR Show uses all of it and then some. In recent years, the OR Show has spilled over into the nearby Energy Solutions Arena, which is also huge.
- 21,000 attendees.
- Over 1000 exhibitors representing 1500 brands.
The Outdoor Retailer Show occupies the entire 515,000 square feet of Salt Lake City's Salt Palace Convention Center (left), and spills over into the nearby Energy Solutions Arena (right).
With so many exhibitors, there's no way we can cover all of them, nor do we want to. Our challenge is to find the proverbial needle in a haystack - new lightweight gear that will interest our readers. We narrow our focus by visiting manufacturers that will most likely have gear of interest - GoLite, Montbell, Evernew, Terra Nova, Cascade Designs, Innov-8, etc. We also reach out (by email) to small manufacturers (like Gossamer Gear, Tarptent, Six Moon Designs, AntiGravityGear, etc.) who can't afford a booth at OR and offer to cover new gear they will be announcing between now and spring 2010.
Covering OR means long days for your dedicated reporters. Each day we run through a succession of half-hour appointments with selected manufacturers (which we schedule in advance). When we have a few minutes between appointments, we roam the aisles looking for something new and exciting. By the end of the day, we're on overload. Dinner provides a short respite, then we head to our hotel room to write articles 'til midnight or later. From Salt Lake City, we email our articles to our off-site team consisting of Mike Martin, Ryan Jordan, Rick Dreher, Ray Estrella, Addie Bedford, and Cat Jasins who help write, edit, and publish the articles in the magazine the next day. Lather, rinse, (sleep?), and repeat...
Despite the sleep deprivation, we love covering OR because it concentrates everything in one place: we find lots of new gear and technologies to report on, we get to visit with our friends in the industry, and we enjoy the enthusiasm and camaraderie.