Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer 2016 Outdoor Retailer Trade Show: Overview and Index

By Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl

Overview and Index (this article)

Welcome to our coverage of the Summer 2016 Outdoor Retailer Trade Show. Our focus is new gear and technologies of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers.

We have covered the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show for 10 years now, and remarkably, OR delivers every time. The innovation and evolution are endless, and we find a load of items to report on every time.

Outdoor Retailer is held twice a year at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT. This summer a new fa├žade (right) was added symbolizing “Thinking Outside the Box”.

At OR new technologies are announced, product designers meet with materials suppliers, gear manufacturers announce new products to hit shelves in 6 months, new vendors exhibit their creations, retailers test out new equipment, everyone is looking for that new breakthrough product, friends gather and party, and retailers decide what to bring into their stores. And we media attendees search the Show for items that will interest our readers. It’s a treasure hunt, and fun if you enjoy keeping up on the latest gear and trends.

OR begins with a demo day at a local reservoir in summer or a ski area in winter, where buyers can look over and test out new gear before they place their orders.

The majority of gear found at OR fits in the conventional gear category, and the majority of interesting new gear we find is the latest in an evolutionary process. The small cottage businesses that produce the majority of ultralight gear are mostly absent from OR because they can’t afford to be there, they mainly sell online, and retail buyers don’t pay much attention because ultralight gear is a niche market.

However, there is a lot of lightweight gear and some ultralight gear to be found at OR (and in retail shops). Reduced weight is a desired attribute in most outdoor gear, and is made possible by incorporating stronger, lighter, better-performing materials into new products. Some of our favorite lightweight and ultralight gear comes from the bigger companies: tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, clothing, footwear, and rainwear to name a few. Those are the things we find at OR and report on. The small cottage businesses sell mostly online, and their products are usually lighter yet and specifically aimed for the niche ultralight and lightweight market.

Over 3000 exhibitors show off their latest creations over four days at OR. The summer show has about 25,000 attendees.

In reporting on new lightweight and ultralight gear coming in the pipeline, we focus on the lightest gear we can find and the technologies and innovations that make it better than what we have now. One reality is most of what we find at OR is in the lightweight category, and the list is shorter for truly ultralight gear. Some readers looking for only ultralight items have expressed displeasure about those items being mixed with a ton of lightweight gear, so this time we are organizing our coverage into the categories below; click on the category to read a separate article.

Overview and Index (this article)

We would like to thank Gossamer Gear for their continued support of our OR coverage, by letting us stay with them while in Salt Lake City. In the spirit of full disclosure, we are Gossamer Gear Brand Ambassadors; on the trail and in our presentations we use Gossamer Gear and are advocates for lightweight and ultralight backpacking. When asked for a specific gear recommendation, we recommend gear from any manufacturer that best meets an individual’s needs.

Our OR coverage is published on our own website Ultralight Insights to avoid conflict of interest with products sold by Gossamer Gear. Opinions expressed are those of the authors. In his career as a research scientist, Will Rietveld was trained to be objective and unbiased, and he brings those principles to his retirement endeavor as an outdoor writer and gear reviewer. Will was a senior editor with Backpacking Light Magazine for 10 years before retiring again to start his own website.

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