On Sunday the 14th of June, retailers, manufacturers and suppliers gathered in Sydney for the annual event that shapes the local outdoor industry.
This was Outdoor Retailer Australia (ORA), and although it has recently had both a change of name and of location, the show has now been hosted by the Snow and Outdoor Trade Association (SOTA) for 30 years.
As a platform for innovative, high-quality products to find their way onto Australia’s retail shelves, ORA is without peer. This was evidenced by the fact that, even though the show was officially on for just three days, the entire operation took the best part of a week to set up and pack up, before you consider the months of planning involved on the part of SOTA and the show’s exhibitors.
Beyond simply being a mecca for outdoor gear enthusiasts, ORA 2015 also served as a snapshot of changes within the general assemblage of outdoor products available in Australia.
Some of these trends have been on the rise for decades, while others are brand new. For those working within the industry, these trends may be so obvious that they’re not given much conscious thought. Nevertheless, we spoke to a few experts to find out what consumers can expect in the year ahead.
RFID Security – Standing for Radio Frequency Identification, RFID has been a double-edged sword for technologists for some time and is slowly finding its way into the consumer market. While RFID technology can be used for good, it has also been notoriously employed as a means of electronic theft, with devices capable of stealing credit card data and more.
Peter Hill, sales manager for OSA Brands, explained that “RFID is the newest form of theft, and not only in a monetary sense.”
“Identity theft is a growing concern and now a reality with thieves now able to easily lift your details from that small little chip in your credit card and all the details contained in your passport,” he said.
It’s clear that the market is responding to consumer concerns regarding their digital security, yet that doesn’t mean everything with an ‘RFID Secure’ label on it is 100 per cent guaranteed. Consumers are best advised to always read the fine print to find out more about how to best protect yourself while travelling.
The Merino Cycle – It seems that merino wool-based textiles are experiencing a significant resurgence in the Australian market. While this may have something to do with the fact that Aussies love buying locally-produced, organic products, proponents of the material say it also has a lot to do with wool’s intrinsic virtues.
When worn against the skin, merino wool works to keep body temperature well-regulated and it’s also slightly water repellant. More importantly, it also allows the user to stay warm even once it becomes damp either by rain or sweat. Also, merino washes well in machines without extra care.
Merino has been in use for as long as outdoor apparel has been considered a market category of its own, and it’s become so popular among consumers that whole businesses have been able to dedicate themselves to creating products made out of it. Consider Icebreaker and Merino Country, for example.
Note: Not all merino products use Australian wool (the merino breed itself originally came from Spain), and even if they do they’re not necessarily fabricated in Australia. Research carefully to ensure you’re buying wholly Australian made if this is an important consideration for you.
Does It Come in Camo? – By no means a new trend, the ongoing convergence of military gear and apparel appears to continue relentlessly. For certain exhibitors at ORA, this was blatantly obvious, with certain products available in both civilian and military-specific versions.
While it’s often the case that military-grade products are later repackaged for consumers (as in satellite communications), general manager of Premier Defence Agencies, Damien Ewin told Wild that the strongest driver for this trend in recent years has actually been soldiers demanding products similar to what they’ve seen on offer on the consumer market.
“The transfer of benefit is going both ways, but I think it is more to the advantage of the soldier than the hiker,” Ewin said. “With a larger market base and ability to get products to market quicker, the civilian side of this industry will always lead in development, which the military will gain access to.”
For this reason, it’s not uncommon to find tactical versions of the outdoor products that are usually sold in high-visibility colours. Of course, this also benefits hunters and fisherman who prefer to buy apparel in camouflage prints or shades of green.
Hottest 25 Products of ORA 2015
Beyond the trends evident at ORA, individual products stood out above the rest as being of particular interest.
While not all of below will be considered particularly new or innovative for every consumer, they at least represent the height of their product category.
Note: This list is not in any particular order and we apologise for missing any items – we couldn’t fit them all. However, if you have something new or interesting to suggest we look into, please leave a suggestion in the comments below the article.
Developed and manufactured in Austria, these glasses are made from a synthetic that is guaranteed not to break. As such, they caused quite a stir at ORA, as demonstrators contorted the frames and the lenses in every direction, even going so far as to apply a hammer to them in an effort cause damage.
Furthermore, Gloryfy offer the product in a wide range of active and casual styles, and you can even get specialist prescriptions in the unbreakable lens. If you’d like to see these glasses get a real workout from a third party, see this YouTube video. Or just type in Gloryfy and watch the landslide of videos pile up.
Price: From $210
This market first offers a high flow (2.5 litres per minute), chemical-free water purifier originally developed for the military. Using advanced technology, the hollow fibre filter offers the most reliable way to remove pathogens – even viruses – from stagnant water. The mechanism is also self-cleaning and is designed to treat up to 10,000 litres of water.
Other filters traditionally rely on chemicals or UV treatments that require relatively clear water to work. This offers a more comprehensive solution that will decontaminate almost any water (it’s not designed to remove chemical contaminants).
This integrated solar panel and speaker set is designed with a new generation of outdoor users in mind. Of course, even younger bushwalkers may find the concept of listening to music while visiting a National Park to be completely abhorrent, but even they would find use for these speakers once they’ve made camp in the evening.
Providing the ability to charge directly or via the solar panels while concurrently playing music (the device is bluetooth compatible), you can also chain multiple Rock Out 2 devices together to create a portable speaker system. Beyond that, it’s durable weatherproof shell offers real flexibility in an item that is all about lifestyle.
Using a proprietary, silk-weight textile called Polartec, these base layer leggings are designed to reduce the impacts of sweat while remaining extra light. By quickly removing sweat from the skin they therefore help maintain warmth nevertheless, they’re recommended as suitable for active people in cold conditions. Available in mens and womens styles.
A new product to the market, SpaTap is designed as an accessory for those looking to have a simple option to shower in the bush without having to carry a large amount of kit.
Made from medical-grade silicon, this device attaches to the mouth of any water-holding vessel and only releases water when the valve is undone. And while you may not get a high pressure flow, it does allow the user to make the most of a small amount of water. Weighing just 70g, we think this is a must-have for just about any multi-day adventure (festival goers could probably do with one as well).
This survivalist multitool from Leatherman really packs in the features with a 19-in-1 design. Special mentions include the detachable, diamond blade sharpener and a ferrocerium rod for striking fires.
Leatherman offers its 25-year guarantee on this, so for anyone thinking of replacing their old pocket knife in the near future, this should definitely be a consideration. Probably a great option for a loved one’s birthday or Christmas gift as well.
Available: August/September 2015
A new thermal base layer line for the locally-manufactured Wilderness Wear brand, the product combines a high grade merino with Schoeller polypropylene. The latter material is a synthetic added to enhance the durability and moisture wicking properties of the wool.
As an example of a wholly Australian made and owned brand, Wilderness Wear are certainly one to consider for those who like to buy local, and this new product line provides yet another reason to take a look.
Standing in a class of its own, this jacket from Carinthia is designed to be the ultimate insulating layer for anyone hoping to survive even the harshest of conditions. As Carinthia owns its own insulation manufacturing plant, it’s able to custom build a high-grade synthetic that perform consistently across its range.
This jacket is designed for us under a breathable, waterproof shell, and with its articulated elbows, as well as stretch panels at the shoulders, sides and wrists the user maintains full mobility despite the added layering (the medium size weighs just 380 grams). Furthermore, because it’s a full synthetic, it handles a machine wash after every expedition.
This could be the best combination of comfort and ease of use ever offered by an air mattress. A uniquely designed valve inflates three times faster than a traditional valve and deflation is almost instantaneous. This sounds like a big marketing claim, but we witnessed this mattress go from flat to fully inflated with just seven normal breaths (no pump or attachments required).
A 7.6cm thick mattress with raised side rails, this mattress is targeted for the camper looking for a comfortable night’s rest.
XTM Down Under Jacket
Part of the recent upswing in merino-based products, this jacket is insulated with a blend of 50 per cent Australian merino and 50 per cent coarse Australian wool, which XTM say will help it trap more air and act more effectively as an insulate.
Called ‘Merinolite’, this snow-ready jacket rated for -10 degrees and is also available in a vest version. A hard-wearing, machine washable line for people who want a dependable, all-round garment.
Price: From 119.99
Some may scoff, but if you’re taking your dog into blisteringly hot conditions or into the dense, spiny understorey of the Australian bush, then investing in puppy paw protectors is the right thing to do for your best friend.
Well anyway, there’s clearly a significant market for these products among animal lovers. Besides which, a shoe with a vibram sole for dogs makes for an item we couldn’t fail to mention.
This award-winning rucksack features a new harness and adjustable lumbar pad as well as a host of other features, including removable sidekick daypack or hydration sleeve, an integrated rain cover and more besides.
A new iteration of a favourite model for the Gregory brand, the Baltoro includes more but is now lighter than ever. Worth a look for anyone in the market for a new pack.
An ultralight drop sheet that folds up into a tiny size, this product could be used in any number of ways according to its user’s needs. It includes weighted corners with eyelet rings and it even includes a folding guide so that you’re not wasting time scratching your head after your first few uses.
The pouch it folds into is attached to the drop sheet itself so it can’t go astray. The sheet is available in both small (110mm x 70mm) and large (140mm x 110mm).
Price: From $35
These headlamps have been a staple for nighttime or subterranean pursuits for decades and now the entire range has received an upgrade. This model now offers 100 lumen brightness, but every other option in the range has also undergone a similar increase.
This classic design from Klean Kanteen has been re-released in a huge range of sizes and colours, with the brand pursuing the ultimate in temperature regulation available. As such, the product claims to keep fluids hot for up to 12 hours, and up to 24 hours for cold.
Ranging from 355ml up to 1892ml, the Klean Kanteen Classic range also maintains the brand’s eco-friendly values in a bottle that’s highly portable, reusable and recyclable.
Price: From $35.80
A 35-litre daypack from Mont made from DR80 canvas reinforced with Cordura nylon. The new contour includes a minimalist ice axe holster on top of multiple other gear attachment points.
We particularly like this pack for its focus on technical features for hikers and mountaineers, including dual vertical daisy chain webbing, water bladder compatibility and its expandable lid design.
The latest addition to the Wilderness Equipment tent range, this shelter includes dihedral three-way pole hubs to create a low-profile, wedge-shaped tent envelope that provides more interior space.
What we found particularly innovative about this tent was the internal tension strap that is used to add extra stability against the elements. There is also a four season version available.
The second iteration of Hydrapak’s collapsible water bottle concept, this one is even more ‘stashable’ due to the fact that its flat base design allows the bottle to stand upright, but also clips into the lid when collapsed.
Available in 750ml and 1L versions, the Hydrapack Stash packs down to a disc just five centimetres in height once empty.
Price: From $34.95
Perhaps best suited to the travelling adventure, the Pacsafe range is the perfect example of a brand designing for form, function and security. As such, here’s a daypack that has a number of anti-theft features include RFID security and slash-proof materials that also includes a waterproof rain cover.
Built to integrate with the new Travelsafe X15 portable, this range of products represents a lineup of products designed for people with travel insurance that don’t intend on having to claim against it as a result of petty theft.
While this product is still strictly in its final stages of prototyping, we figured it was too interesting not to make note of regardless. The Wind Monkey from Power Traveller is a concept that has been rumoured to be in production for at least the past year, but it’s now hoped it will receive an official launch in Germany next month
While the brand has been focusing on miniaturising its line of hand-cranked and solar charging options, here’s one that’s designed to draw power from wind energy. A great device for those in need of power in over-cast, windy locations. We should have more details on this one soon enough.
Klymit’s range of packs are designed to be as light as possible by featuring an innovative frame technology. Called the ‘Air Beam Framesheet’, these packs use what is essentially a miniature inflatable mattress to provide structural support.
Beyond the lighter weight offered by this technology, using an inflatable means the backpack can be easily adjusted to be firmer or softer depending on the wearer’s preferences. Some users have reported replacing this with their own lightweight sleeping mattresses (well folded with only a little air left inside), which means they’re able to save more space and weight. Definitely one to look at if weight is one of your primary concerns.
We’ve already reviewed this personal locator beacon in issue 146, however it’s worth some space featuring in this list as it continues to maintain its place as one of the best in its class while also being Australian made.
With a smaller volume than its nearest equivalent, the KTi PLB is designed to float without the use of any accessory, however it does come with a lanyard (that has its own built-in whistle as well as PLB usage instructions printed on it). A good choice for paddlers, and just about anyone else spending time in the wilderness.
Bright, lightweight and simple to use, this small lantern is ideal for campsites, vehicles and table-top illumination. A streamlined, single-piece design houses a frosted globe for even distribution of the LED within, emitting 100 lumens at its max setting.
A dimming switch provides adjustable brighness, and a collapsible double-hook hang loop makes it easy to suspend from above. This little lamp runs on three AAA batteries and will run for up to 70 hours on its lowest setting.
A simple, easy to maintain, two-thirds raincoat that is designed for slogging it out in the heaviest of elements without needing to worry about shredding your high-end performance wear. The three-layer polyester is water tight and breathable at the same time and includes a variety of pockets.
This raincoat may not include anything new or whizzbang, but we think it’s on the money as far as its price point and for the fact it’s well designed for the local market. Specifically for the education market, the unisex sizes are colour-coded onto the jacket for easy identification.
To round out the discussion on the cyclical nature of merino’s popularity, we couldn’t but help make mention of Merino Country’s Wundies range, which include briefs and bras – underwear for both sexes.
While this kit isn’t strictly outdoor gear, at least those Australian merino wool lovers out there can rest assured that they can even find something made from their material of choice in the underwear category. Lightweight, breathable and all-natural.
Price: From $24.70
Following the tradition of lightweight innovation, this inflatable mattress from Klymit is designed to give maximum comfort using minimal materials, with added insulation for warmth. The Static V – so called because of the trademark v-shaped chambers – is designed to limit heat loss and air movement, while the rail structures help you maintain your position while sleeping.
Because of the minimal air used for inflation, this mattress will be ready to sleep on in just 10-15 breaths. Another one for the ultralight fans, it weighs in at 556g and measures 183cm long.