This article is second in my coverage of Outdoor Retailer (OR) Summer Market 2013. In part one covered my visits to VIVOBAREFOOT, Luna Sandals and Altra; if you haven't read that article I recommend starting there. What follows are some of my visits to non-footwear related booths following a quick lunch at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
After leaving the Altra booth, I felt as if I was finally getting a hang of the show. I had a few great discussions in the shoe booths and was tempted to continue looking at more shoes, but decided that since day two held several meetings with other shoe companies, I would spend the rest of day one looking at non-footwear items. My first non-shoe stop was at CEP Compression.
When I made the transition to minimalist (low-drop) running I, like many others, experienced sore calves. I did a bit of research, learned of the potential benefits of compression, bought a pair of calf sleeves, and found they helped. (Note: I used the sleeves incorrectly as an overnight recovery aid. Sleeves without foot compression are not recommended for overnight use as they can drive fluid into the foot.) I have since progressed to using compression socks for recovery from a hard run, support for travel, or when spending long periods of time on my feet (i.e. working a tradeshow).
As I walked past the CEP booth, I tried my luck at a drop-in visit and it turned out to be a very smart idea. The CEP employee was welcoming and started by pointing out that CEP is the performance brand of Medi, a German manufacturer of medical products such as knee and ankle braces. Medi applied their medical expertise to running products and the quality was apparent in the products I saw. I looked at a pair of socks that seemed to be made of a tougher woven material than other compression products I've seen but were still soft and seemed comfortable. The employee must have seen my interest in the socks because he offered up a pair that I gladly accepted.
I wore CEP's appropriately named Socks for Recovery at least 6 times in the week and a half that followed OR including several flights and 3 long days working a tradeshow. The socks provide a noticeable, but comfortable compression and though they are tightly woven breathe very well (and looked good under my suit).
It is too soon to make an assessment of durability but my early impressions of the CEP product is very positive. The CEP Socks for Recovery have become my go to recovery aid.
One of my goals at OR was to see if I could find a hydration bag/vest worthy of replacing my trusty Nathan #020. I've had my #020 hydration vest for 2, maybe even 3, years now and have been very happy with it's performance. I've taken the bag on trail runs loaded with only 20 oz of water a few gels and my iPhone. I have also taken the bag on long runs into the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. In every situation, I have been happy with the bag's performance and have not had reason to replace it. Still, 2 years is a long time, especially at the rate sports equipment evolves, and I was curious what was new in the space. I thought the best place to start would be with Nathan themselves.
I popped into the Nathan booth without an appointment and initially drew little attention, until a woman approached and asked if she could answer any questions for me. I saw my opening and professed my love for my HPL #020. I mentioned that the only thing I wished was that it had a second chest strap to limit bounce even more and to pull the vest further onto my shoulders. She suggested I consider the women's version, the Intensity; this was off to a good start.
She added, that the women's version comes in colors besides pink, is cut narrower on the shoulders, weighs a little less than the men's and still carries the same capacity. I decided the suggestion wasn't bad. I then asked about whether they had any bag that was as light and comfortable as the #020 but had more space for times when I wanted to carry a little extra gear. Expecting a no, I was surprised to learn of the the Nathan Elevation.
Weighing-in at 14.1oz versus the HPL #020's 14.6oz the Elevation manages to almost triple the storage from 5.5L to 16L, woah. I tried the Elevation on in the booth and must say its a great vest. The elevation is setup to carry either 2 22oz bottles, a 2L bag, or both. It includes a similar, but improved 3-way harness system as what is used on the #020, but adds a safety whistle (good for solo adventures), trekking pole clips, an additional zippered pocket on the upper chest, a compression cinch and a cool magnetic clip to hold the water tube in place. All-in-all the Elevation looked pretty sweet. I've been working on plans for a fall adventure trip into the Grand Canyon, and I hope to acquire a test bag to confirm that it performs as well as it looks.
I would have been happy enough to leave the Nathan booth after learning about the Elevation vest, but figured I should at least ask about their other products. I've never much liked hydration belts, so even though the Nathan products looked like good belts I didn't ask much about them. Instead I asked about their handhelds. Before switching to a vest, I used to run trail races with a pair of small Nathan QuickShot Plus handheld bottles and thought I'd ask what was new.
Nathan has improved upon the QuickShot Plus by adding an insulated bottle. Carrying 8oz instead of 10oz on the QuickShot, the insulated version has a double wall to maintain drinks colder for longer; likely great during a hot run or race. As an added bonus the bottle is also reflective so improve visibility of the person carrying the bottle. Both the regular QuickShot bottle and the QuickShot Insulated bottle look like they may be perfect bottles for my attempt to switch from gel based nutrition to a self-made concoction during the Chicago Marathon this fall. I wouldn't want to run the entire race with a handheld, but since Chicago is my home turf I am hoping to stash bottles with friends and family along the course as DIY aid stations. I haven't committed to this plan yet but if I go for it I'll share how it works out.
I remembered seeing an email about a company called Liberty Bottleworks who was going to fill a custom water bottle with a local beer then sell them for charity. It took me a good twenty minutes to find the Liberty Bottleworks booth on the other side of the Salt Palace, and when I arrived I was blown away by the number of bright eye catching bottle designs on the wall. The only thing missing was the keg.
It turns out the bottle sale was actually on Day Two, oops. I still ended up spending at least 20 minutes talking about bottles with an Liberty employee. He explained that the Liberty bottles are made entirely in the USA from recycled aluminum coated on the inside with a lining that would not leech into beverages, even acidic beverages like kombucha, or beer. What stood out most however, was the quality of the printing on the bottles. Liberty has employed a printing technique that allows them to print in virtually any color on the rounded bottles with no distortion and and deposits so much ink during printing that the bottles have a great raised texture to them. Technology aside, coolest part about the bottles was the art. The Liberty booth was adorned with hundreds of bright bottles created in conjunction with businesses, or by local artists. I ended up choosing a favorite bottle adorned with a Chicago themed design, created by a Chicago Graffiti artist and was told if I came back the next day for the beer bash I could buy a bottle early (all the display bottles would be sold on the last day of OR).
I walked away from the Liberty Bottleworks display to find a cold brew in a different booth, but did come back the next day to buy the charity bottle, raising money for Big City Mountaineers and my Chicago themed bottle. I've since filled that charity bottle at least 100 times and am happy to have stopped wasting so many paper cups and plastic bottles. I didn't expect to spend 30 minutes looking at bottles, but hey, when something is cool I take notice.
With that, my first day at OR Summer 2013 was over, well, at least the show-floor part was over; I still had a couple of parties to attend. Come back for the last article in this series covering Day Two and my meetings with several shoe manufacturers including: New Balance, Merrell, Topo, Patagonia, Inov-8 and Vibram.