Post World Cup Germany was showing no signs of cooling down. Temperatures high in the 30s are a sure sign that it is time for another European OutDoor Trade Exhibition. You have to wonder sometimes if there is going to be anything new to see, I thought that we are all supposed to be going lightweight? Doesn’t that mean shedding gear, getting fitter and moving more intelligently out of our urban terrain? Well that’s what I have read, but even so 650 exhibitors still managed to occupy nearly 30,000m2 of floor space, attracting some 15,000 trade visitors. Conveniently the air conditioned exhibition space was the coolest place around, and so began 3 days of sticking our noses into other peoples business.
This was the year of 'Outdoor Woman', so the team were looking forward to rubbing shoulders with Annabelle Bond. That never happened but according to the official stats 40% of all climbers are women; verify that next time you are out. However, so the argument goes on, although most outdoor companies offer a womens range only 30% of them have developed a specific approach targeting this particular group. The focus of the special exhibition was on 'women as consumers', 'women in the outdoor market' and the 'buying behaviour of women', sensing a theme developing here? There was focus on shopfitting concepts of all things and how visual merchandising can be feminised. So watch out all you ‘outdoor women’ the industry could be targeting your ‘inner woman’.
Meanwhile the MSR boffins were playing with their new toys, they had brought along the Reactor. Now, if you start calling a stove Reactor it has to look the part, and it does. It is a new stove system with an emphasis on energy efficiency; a more efficient stove means your food heats up quicker and you use less fuel to do it. Less fuel means carting less around with you and therefore a happier camper. Those familiar with other MSR offerings such as the XGK may wonder how they managed to get past fire and safety regulations, but they did and we were treated to a demonstration. Set up on their test rig, this rocket booster of a stove boiled a litre of water in well under 3 minutes. This was done side-by-side a Pocket Rocket, a fine stove itself but in the same time barely turned the water luke warm. What made this beast special was the heat exchanger elements integrated into the pan. This fitted over the burner, creating a wind proof barrier which heated not only by conduction but also by radiant heat. Under the hood the stove has a built in ignition system and an internal fuel pressure regulator that occupies itself with making sure you get a consistent burn at all temperatures. It all packs away very neatly inside itself like russian dolls. One down side is that you have to use the custom MSR pans, but that aside it is one tidy system.
Walking around an exhibition centre all day is like shopping on a Saturday afternoon. The toxins build up in your cells, your back bows under the weight of catalogues and your throat cries out for water, so it was good to get the chance to put the throttle down and get the blood flowing again in the GoreTex sponsored Early Birds run. This was open to anyone who could get to the door at 07.30 and face a 45 minute run with a fitness instructor. Salomon runners was on hand to try as were the latest generation Silva heart rate monitors with built in personal trainer and GPS. Having never tried one of the devices before Jim was slightly concerned to see his rate so high, having declined the opportunity to try one I ran on in ignorant bliss. We were rewarded at the end with a new Camelbak water bottle.
Back in the halls everyone was walking around in Crocs, For those of you with a picture of a dangerous reptile in your head think again. These are the bright coloured rubber clogs that make you look like you have walked straight out of a Walt Disney cartoon. Thinking that there must be something cooler to wear on our feet we marched on. Over on the Lizard stand we fondled the new five-fingered Vibram slips. These were pretty sexy gloves for your feet that promise to leave you feeling exposed! We wanted a pair but they wouldn’t give us any. So it was then on to the Patagonia stand, we couldn’t put it off any longer. They were introducing their own footwear range with a little helping hand from a company called Merrell. You will not find much info on the net but when you see the whole range together it is an impressive sight. With a strong environmental position to uphold there is a focus on natural materials such as organic cotton, hemp and bamboo.
A special space was given over to the first OutDoor Industry Award presented by the International Forum Design of Hannover. A jury of 6 selected 33 products designed for recreation in the outdoors rewarding; engineering, aesthetics, innovation and ergonomics. Topping the judges lists were the Gore-Tex Paclite OZ pullover from Haglofs, the LIV down sweater from Klattermusen and the Viking Lady rucksack by Bergans for its back system.
Outside one of the award winners was slowly frying under the strong sun. The Dutch Bloqx team had brought along their hexagon shaped panels that bolt together to build a climbing structure. The Bloqx modular system resembles the climbing frames I used to clamber over as a kid, it can be put together in many different combinations, a very clever system. Then there is always something which may not win an award but deserves a shout all the same. Czech tshirt brand UAX offers some 240 prints and who knows how many colours. Visit their site and use the tshirt mixer, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to bump into someone with the same design as you.
It’s nice to see all this stuff under one roof and hats off to them for putting on a show. After all it only happens once a year, if you don’t count Munich. But that is different, summer is now and outside it is 35 degrees. Time for an ice cream then maybe down to the lake for a bbq. And finally no show can be complete without a few tag lines bouncing around in your head, so here are some of my favourites: Marmot: Born Professionally, Snow Peak: Outdoor Lifestyle Creator since 1958 and Lafuma: Official Partner of Freedom since 1930.