SALT LAKE CITY — A tent that lights up? Sure. Speakers that play music underwater? Why not? Countless ways to charge your cellphone without an outlet? Yes please.
Technology is constantly expanding and reinventing itself, and, to keep up, so is the outdoors industry. And there's no better place to see how the two industries have grown together than at the biannual Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. The show includes a Summer Market in August and a Winter Market in January.
"Technology is allowing more and more people to get outdoors," said Outdoor Retailer spokeswoman Kate Lowery on Aug. 7, the second day of the show.
The Summer Market kicked off on Aug. 6 and ran through Saturday, with an open air demo on the newest water vessels on Aug. 5 at the nearby Pineview Reservoir.
Walking around 546,000 square feet of exhibit space in and around the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City, iconic outdoor brands such as North Face and SmartWool loom large.
Throughout the show, representatives of these big-name brands met with officials from retail companies. These meetings were not unlike the business meetings you expect to see in an office building, except crisp blue dress shirts were replaced with plaid and khaki. Plus, the meetings often took place in tents.
But new technology and business deals are only part of the Outdoor Retailer Show. Representatives from Leave No Trace, the nonprofit organization dedicated to the education of outdoor enthusiasts, drew a crowd with daily giveaways. The organization also enticed new members to sign up with socks, T-shirts and water bottles, and many companies, such as Sea to Summit, donated their proceeds from the show to Leave No Trace.
During Happy Hour on Aug. 6, Nikki Wayment, education and outreach director with HawkWatch International, held Calurus, a red-tailed hawk, on her outstretched arm. The bird served as a reminder to Happy Hour partakers that their $5 per beer did not go to Kuhl, the outdoor apparel brand hosting this particular event, but directly to the raptor conservation nonprofit.
"A lot of companies have mandates for conservation," said Wayment, explaining it is in outdoors companies' best interests to preserve nature. "People get out to enjoy landscapes, but don't think about the impact."
It's becoming common for the proceeds from the purchase of an item to have a specific goal. Vestergaard's water filter, Lifestraw, says each purchase of LifeStraw products provides a child in Africa clean water for a school year.
Not made in America?
Cotopaxi made its presence at the show known with llamas, Coto and Paxi. The inseam of a Cotopaxi backpack has a tag reading "made in Peru." Cotopaxi aims to support manufacturers in struggling countries to help their economies.
Stand-up paddle boards aren't going away soon. Nearly all of the show's 87 paddlesport companies designed a SUP. As the vessel's popularity grows, new ways to use it are popping up, including using it as a yoga platform or as transportation.
Fugoo is one of many waterproof speaker brands, but company rep Sean Donahue says its sound quality and durability is why Apple chose to sell the speakers with the Apple name. Fugoo has Bluetooth capabilities and can have up to eight phones plugged in at once.
Many companies entering the outdoor industry or smaller businesses looking to continue to establish their roots see value in spending a chunk of their profits to set up booths at the Outdoor Retailer show. And some of these companies are right around the corner.
Zuke's, a dog treat brand dedicated to making treats that are fit for a human to eat, came to Salt Lake City from Durango, Colo.
The presence of several publishing companies and outdoor writers also signified the outdoor industry's intent to educate.
Justin Lichter, who has hiked more than 35,000 miles in the past 12 years in the U.S., Europe, New Zealand, Africa, Iceland and the Himalayas signed copies of his two books, both published by Falcon Guides.
Joe Quackenbush had seen Lichter's books before, and his interest in hiking and other outdoor activities brought him to the author's table.
"Look at this," Quackenbush said, pointing to the large scab on his shin from hiking through a slot canyon, as Lichter signed a copy of "Trail Tested: A Thru-Hiker's Guide to Ultralight Hiking and Backpacking."
Lichter's eyes widened.
"Maybe you need this, too," he said, handing Quackenbush his other book, "Ultralight Survival Kit."