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Posts Tagged ‘outdoor retailers convention’

After living in Salt Lake City for 7 years, I finally got around to going to the outdoor retailers convention. This is one of those events that you hear so much buzz about and always kind of wonder what the deal is.

The Outdoor Retailers Show is like going to a huge REI where every product has its own huge display with all the newest toys. Half a city block’s worth of toys. Oh and they serve beer and cocktails and you can buy a lot of the stuff at half price at the end of the week. Holy shit, for a gear and tech head like me this is nirvana.

One of the amazing advances in gear lately is how light everything has gotten. Like Mammut is selling an entire quickdraw that ways less than a conventional oval carabiners.

The camping cookware from GSI Outdoors was also amazing. They make a super lightweight cooking pot that had 2 bowls and two insulated cups that fit perfectly inside of it — no more fighting to fit all that crap in your backpack, it all sits nicely inside the cooking pot. They had lightweight everything from completely flat fold-up spatulas to hip flasks. Stuff like this makes me appreciate that we really are living in the future we dreamed up reading sci-fi as kids. You start to see how you could soon have a completely bomber camping setup for any season that would pack down tiny and weigh 10 or 15 pounds – stove tent sleeping bag food and all. It completely redefines what adventures are possible.

I bought a full length insulated sleeping pad from Pacific Outdoor Equipment that weighs barely more than a pound,it was made from sustainably grown bamboo, and the price includes carbon offsets for the CO2 to produce it. Pretty sweet.

Another toy I couldn’t get enough of was the helmet camera from GoPro. GoPro ads show up in practically every Google search I do since I’m always researching camera gear and it was great to finally get a look at one. What they’ve done with the setup is amazing. The camera weighs just a little more than the 2 AAA batteries that run it, comes with a housing waterproof to 100′ and can take an hour of video or 2 hours of 3 megapixel stills at 1 per 5 seconds. All you do to run it is push a button. It attaches to pretty much any surface from a ski boot to helmet, plane wing, surfboard, motorcycle, you name it. It retails for $180 which is seems like a lot of money, but considering what you get is pretty dang cheap since for most digital cameras, just a waterproof housing costs 2-3 times that.

One shortcoming of the GoPro is that it is hardly low profile (I mean do you really want to look like a cyborg when you ski?), but since it is self contained, this is hard to get around. Another issue is that if the clamp or sticky-mount fails you loose the whole camera since its not like a typical helmet camera where there would be a cord running into your coat to the recorder.

Video Quality — The camera records mpeg4 avi files @ about 550×350 (can’t remember the exact specs). this is reasonable quality for online use and actually looked surprisingly good on the wide-screen tv’s they were showing it on. . Unfortunately, by their own admission, the video doesn’t look that great on YouTube because it gets recompressed. They didn’t seem to fazed by this and were encouraging people to use other sites that have less compression, but to to me this seems like a major shortcoming. I mean really, the only reason anyone is going to buy one of these is to put their video online to show off what they do and probably 99% of people putting video online use YouTube. If you make a camera that seems directly targeted at YouTubeusers, having video that isn’t optimized for YouTube seems kinda lame. But hey, this is thing is only a year old so maybe they’ll see the light.

As someone who always wants to buy digital toys with the most available options, part of me really appreciates the simplicity of the GoPro. It has 2 buttons, nothing to adjust and almost no settings at all — it only does what they sell it to do, take pictures and movies when you push a button. I’m sure this will be annoying after a while, but as a product development paradigm it seems like something useful to think about.

Its supposed to snow 40 to 50 inches in the next two days so I’ll take the camera for a ride and post the video soon.

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