Last weekend was the gigantic OutDoor Tradeshow in Friedrichshafen, Germany. The staff here at UKClimbing and UKHillwalking make an annual pilgrimage to this huge event, as it is the place to be in the outdoor industry. It's all deal making, handshaking and, dare we say it, beer drinking. We go there to report on products and have face time with our advertising clients.
On the new gear front we have seen new fabric technology, some new micro cams, a carabiner with a gate that opens at both ends(!), portable hydrogen reactor power chargers, and of course the bottom of several empty pint glasses (nothing new there). All this new gear and more will be revealed in the next few weeks in our series of after show reports, with videos and photos.
This year UKC gear reviewer Charlie Boscoe came for his first taste of the commercial side of climbing. Here's what he had to say about the crazy few days in Friedrichshafen:
"Having never been to a big exhibition, let alone one centred on the sports I love, I was interested to see how I'd find the OutDoor 2013 experience. As it turned out, my preconceptions - lots of shiny kit, climbing "celebrities" at every turn, and a whole lot of walking around extremely hot halls - wasn't far off. The show is frankly MASSIVE; imagine a hall about the size of a football pitch, then imagine 12 of them, plus stands and attractions in the surrounding courtyards, and you get the idea. It was amazing for me to suddenly realise just how many companies there are, and what a range of kit we are lucky enough to have at our disposal, especially when compared to what there would have been at the first Friedrichshafen Outdoor Show in 1994.
Kit, really, is what the show is about, whether it is distributors selecting what to sell, companies pushing new models, or climbers coming along to check out what will be in the shops next year. Initially it's tough not to be slightly sceptical about the consumerism all around you in Friedrichshafen, but it struck me walking round that it's only this frantic competition that has got outdoor equipment to the high (in my opinion) standard that it is today. When the first version of breathable waterproof fabrics came out, people probably thought it was a fad, and yet it led to the Gore-Tex/Event/DryQ etc. kit that is ubiquitous in the market today. You could no doubt say the same of GriGris, leashless axes, softshell and many other bits of gear. 99% of the products I saw in Friedrichshafen will never be any more than "this year's model", but that other 1% will create some interest, inspire other manufacturers, and maybe, just maybe, lead to a development that we'll one day take for granted.
Essentially, the Outdoor Show is a gear geek's heaven, but it's a fun event, and the fact that when the beers were brought out at 6pm each evening, only about 1% of the chat was about climbing, is a metaphor for the whole event. 99% of it you can take with a pinch of salt, but that tiny little detail might just run and run. Our job was to try and spot the 1%, and I personally enjoyed it immensely, but once a year is enough!"
UKClimbing and UKHillwalking will be producing a series of reports in the next few weeks, covering the different products at the show, but until the first one is published (Climbing Hardware) - here's just a few photos to wet your whistle... and remember - there's loads more products/brands and innovations to come!