The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 75: Winter OR 2007

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

When the outdoor industry gathers, it's a major expedition for the folks at Backpack Gear Test; but it isn't all about the toys. This week on The WildeBeat; Winter O-R, two thousand seven.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number seventy five.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: It was kind of a sensory overload, I felt like a kid in Toys-R-Us for the first time. All of the brand names that you're familiar with are there... and it's just booth after booth with all the gear you can imagine. It's just a giant room, full of gear, and everyone there seems excited to be there.

STEVE: That's Backpack Gear Test reviewer Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd, reporting from last year's winter Outdoor Retailers show. This year's show was even bigger. Rebecca, and two other Backpack Gear Test reviewers called-in with reports. Jason Boyle marked his first waypoint in the GoLite booth.

JASON BOYLE: ...They have completely redesigned their pack line. They have pared their pack line down to nine men- and nine women-specific packs. The Venture series is for the backpacker that needs to carry traditional loads, but doesn't want a traditional, overbuilt pack. The Ultra series is for the backpacker that wants just the essential features for lightweight loads. And the Adrenaline series is for the backpacker "fast packer" that needs maximum convenience, versatility, and load control, and is willing to carry a few more ounces to have it. I was very impressed with the Venture series packs... The three packs in this series range from the fifty-five hundred-cubic-inch Odyssey that weighs in at three pounds, eight ounces, to the thirty-one hundred cubic-inch Pursuit that weighs in at two pounds, eleven ounces. Definitely worth checking out the new GoLite pack series.

JASON BOYLE: I also visited Snow Peak. They have a new canister stove called the Metal Crab that uses an inverted butane canister to capture their fuel in liquid form. Several other stoves will be hitting the market this spring and summer that are using the heat-exchanger technology that Jet Boil has made so popular.... The MSR Reactor and the Primus Etapower EF are just two of the series that will be entering the market to compete with the Jet Boil.

JASON BOYLE: Bio-fiber clothing is one of the latest trends in the outdoor industry... Almost every sock manufacturer has a bio-fiber sock that combines a natural fiber with a synthetic fiber. Fox River is using a corn bio-fiber in their socks, and Injinji is using bamboo in their socks. GoLite is also using CoCoNa fiber in their clothing line.

STEVE: Raymond Estrella's curiosity peaked in the Sierra Designs booth.

RAYMOND ESTRELLA: ...I saw the new Hercules Assault version 2 four-season tent. They had it set up, so I was able to get a really good look at it. This is a two-person winter tent that weighs six pounds, six ounces. They have redesigned the Jake's corners with what they call "medallions of strength." I have Jake's corners on one of my own tents, and can see that this new application will be much stronger. The Jake's corners attach with a hub to the lower section of the main poles now. Looks pretty beefy. They've also redesigned the ventilation system and added a larger Drizone fabric crown to increase the breathability of the tent. It looks pretty bomb-proof to me. We are going to test this tent, and I hope to be one of the lucky people chosen for it.

RAYMOND ESTRELLA: Speaking of the company's Drizone fabric, which they told me has been improved, they showed me a lot of updated or new Drizone outerwear that will be available next fall. We are going to test the Chalkstone, which is a Primaloft-filled belay jacket, but favorite was the Titan jacket -- a sweet seven-fifty-fill, down insulated jacket with a removable hood, baffled construction, and welded zippers, the main one of which is waterproof. It looked to me like it should be a very warm jacket.

RAYMOND ESTRELLA: One of my favorite pack companies is Osprey, and they showed me the new lightweight Talon series of packs. They have an airscape back panel with ridge-molded foam, and air channels to keep your back cooler. I was very impressed with the Talon thirty-three, a two thousand cubic-inch hydration-capable pack that weighs two pounds. This top-loading pack has a big front pocket and two side pockets made of stretch material. It also has a fixed top-lid pocket above the main pack body... It has dual ice ax loops with toggled bungee cord tie offs. I was impressed by this enough to order one. It'll be my new fast-packing and day-hike pack.

STEVE: But Rebecca kept things in perspective, realizing that sometimes it's the little things that make a really great adventure.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: The first thing I wanted to talk about was a really simple item that I think will be very useful for several backpackers, including myself. It's called the Smart Tube Drinking System. And I found it at the Access Outdoor booth. This is a mouthpiece and tube system for attaching a hydration tube to a standard bottle. There are interchangeable caps that they sell, and they'll fit nearly every water bottle on the market from soda bottles to Power Aide bottles to the regular Nalgenes that you'll find at your average outdoors store. Personally, I don't like to use hydration bladders when I go backpacking, and I prefer to keep bottles in my side pocket. And I think using a system like this will cause me to stay better hydrated and drink a little bit more water when I'm out on the trail.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: The next thing that I really liked was seeing that Mont-Bell has expanded their line of jackets, and they'll shortly be releasing a hooded version of their down inner jacket that's so popular with lightweight backpackers right now. The intent is that it can be used in a sleep system a little bit better than the current down inner jacket. And the best part is it only weighs a little bit more than the current down inner jacket.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: Another thing that was kind of interesting that I hadn't seen before, was a little digital camera by the company Go Pro. It's called the Digital Hero three, and it's a tiny digital camera that you can wear on a wrist strap. It's a three mega-pixel camera, and it takes the standard S-D cards. Not only that, it's waterproof and it takes triple A batteries. It only weighs four point five ounces, and they keep down the weight and the size and the batteries by removing the standard LCD screen that you see on most digital cameras. This means that the camera is not only small, but you can wear it on a wrist strap so you can always have it accessible instead of having to dig through a standard pocket, or maybe a camera case that you'll be carrying around your neck or on a pack belt.

STEVE: Please remember that the opinions expressed are those of the individual reviewers, and are not necessarily those of Backpack Gear Test, or The WildeBeat. My thanks to Jason Boyle, Raymond Estrella, and Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd, for their reports.

STEVE: Now, most of the people attending the O-R show are fascinated by the new gear and products displayed by the manufacturers. But guest commentator Kurt Repashek saw something bigger happening.

KURT REPANSHEK: Three decades or so ago, the "outdoor industry" largely was comprised of granola heads. You know, outdoor folk who loved the backcountry and figured out a way to make a living from it. So successful were they that they spawned an industry that today is big business. It stretches from Asia with its manufacturing plants to thousands of retail shops in the United States. It's even atop Mount Everest, where companies such as The North Face wrap their "athletes" in corporate gear and logos. How big is the industry? The Outdoor Industry Association counts more than four thousand members and generates seven hundred thirty billion dollars a year for the U.S. economy. Not surprisingly, O-I-A is leveraging that economic clout, strongly pushing the concept of sustainability, both inside and outside the industry, and wielding its political muscle. During the show, where outdoor manufacturers dangled their latest gear and clothing innovations, the OIA sent a delegation to meet with Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. Why? Because Huntsman had shown a willingness to open four million acres of roadless areas in national forests that lie within his state to energy exploration and other uses. Coming out of that meeting, the governor tabled his request. And he agreed to consult with the OIA if he decides to revisit access to roadless areas. Now, part of Governor Huntsman's decision was based on legal wranglings over the Bush administration's handling of the roadless lands issue. But there is little doubt that the OIA influenced him, as well. Not only does outdoor recreation contribute more than seven billion dollars to Utah's economy each year, but it supports eighty two thousand jobs and generates three hundred forty eight million dollars in tax dollars for Huntsman's state. Whether those numbers continue to grow depends largely on Governor Huntsman's approach to outdoor recreation and lands that support it. In meeting with the governor, Peter Metcalf, the C-E-O of equipment maker Black Diamond, told him the Outdoor industry adamantly opposes opening up Utah's roadless lands...

PETER METCALF: This was a foundational issue and a decision to go forward with that petition would be perceived as an attack on the industry and its members...

KURT REPANSHEK: ...he told the governor. The O-I-A's influence isn't restricted solely to Utah. It is active in Washington, D.C., where it is lobbying Congress to adequately fund the Stateside Land and Water conservation Fund, and takes an active role in supporting wilderness bills in states across the nation. Yes, you can still find granola heads in the industry today. But their focus is not just playing in the wilds. They're working just as hard to keep them wild. In Utah, this is Kurt Repanshek.

STEVE: You can find more commentary by Kurt Repanshek on the National Parks Traveler blog.

STEVE: Were you at the Winter Outdoor Retailer's show, or do you have comments on this edition of our show? You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. And you can go to our web site to find links to information about the O-R show, and find out how to become a tester for Backpack Gear Test. Also, you'll find additional bonus audio, and an extended version of this edition on our web site.

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STEVE: Next time -- a Wildlink.

STEVE: Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Please click on the support link to make possible future editions of this free service. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a public service of Effable Communications.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number seventy five. Thank you for listening.

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