Last week, I spent several days in sweltering Salt Lake City, home of the Outdoor Retailer (OR) Summer Market. The event is a five-day smorgasbord of product demos, media presentations and outdoor personalities, all centered around what’s new and notable in the outdoor gear industry. It’s an expo where gear brands showcase their latest innovations in outdoor equipment and apparel, retail buyers choose what items to add to their inventories, and media reps buzz around trying to get the scoop on the next breakthrough item that every hiker is going to want.

But beyond the labyrinthine aisles of apparel displays, gear assortments and energy food booths filling every square foot of the Salt Palace Convention Center, OR, to me, is about people. It’s about getting just a few minutes to chat face-t0-face with folks I only get to communicate with by phone or email, and swap stories of our latest adventures. It’s about making new connections with industry professionals who share common interests in outdoor recreation and their excitement to enhance our outdoor experiences. And its an opportunity to reflect on my own place as an outdoors author about how I can provide a valuable service to fellow hikers.

Eli Boschetto and Shawnté Salabert taking a break for the hustle at 2016 ORSM. Photo by Eli Boschetto
Just a couple of PCT writers taking a break from the hustle at 2016 ORSM.

Shawnté Salabert
~ Hiking the PCT: SoCal

Over molé enchiladas and minty mojitos, Shawnté and I got to spend an evening regaling—and commiserating—over our experiences in developing our respective Pacific Crest Trail guidebooks. Shawnté joined the Mountaineers Books PCT team a year after Tami Asars (Hiking the PCT: Washington) and I started the project in 2012. An accomplished and enthusiastic outdoor journalist for Southern California’s Modern Hiker, she has been a fun, passionate and energetic addition to the team—and one that I have yet to hike with! In a cramped corner of the insanely popular Red Iguana restaurant, we compared comical incidents on trail and in camp, reveled in painting vast PCT panoramas over high mountain passes, and agonized over the challenges we each faced with dodging wildfires. Shawnté has taken on the monumental task of covering the largest Southern California section of the PCT—900 miles from Campo to Tioga Pass—on a stretch of trail where “PCT” should stand for “Perpetually Combustible Trail” for its ongoing wildfire issues. Hiking the PCT: SoCal will be available in fall 2017. You can follow Shawnté at @ShawnteSalabert.

John Walbrecht, president of Mountain Hardwear.
John Walbrecht, president of Mountain Hardwear.

John Walbrecht
~ President, Mountain Hardwear

One of my favorite presentations at Outdoor Retailer is the Mountain Hardwear luncheon. Over colorful and tasty sushi rolls, media and industry reps come together at the Naked Fish Bistro to get a peek at the newest innovations from this leader in outdoor gear and apparel. Led by Amy May of JAM Media and presented by Mountain Hardwear’s own product developers, this year we were treated to first looks at the Thundershadow Jacket, AC Henley and Outdry Duffel, among other items. The highlight of this year’s luncheon was a greeting from John Walbrecht, the new president of Mountain Hardwear, who shared some inspiring words about how vision and teamwork are vital to the growth and success of any organization. He also shared some of the thought process behind Mountain Hardwear’s revitalized focus on the products it produces, and their mission to create products that enhance outdoor experiences. I’ll be looking forward to trail testing some of these new products soon!

Paul Twedt (L) and Seth Orme (R) of Packing It Out.
Thanks to Paul Twedt (L) and Seth Orme (R) of Packing It Out for cleaning up the PCT.

Seth Orme & Paul Twedt
~ Packing It Out

Take a hike on the PCT, or just about any trail for that matter, and you are bound to find litter: snack wrappers, drink containers, fruit peels, band-aids and—the worst!—used toilet tissue. After a successful stint in helping to clean up the Appalachian Trail (AT) last summer, the guys with Packing It Out have been continuing their mission of keeping trails clean this summer on the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking from Mexico to Canada and picking up trash as they go. As of their last posting, they have hiked nearly 1,200 miles through California and have packed out nearly 600 pounds of litter! The guys’ mission, to “inspire a greater sense of environmental stewardship within our communities by raising awareness for litter conditions along America’s trails,” is a call-t0-action to all outdoor recreationists to take better care of our outdoor playgrounds, and ensure that we’re all doing our part to keep these places clean and pristine for all to enjoy. At this year’s Outdoor Retailer, I got a chance to talk trail with them and thank them for their efforts. You can follow their PCT progress at Packing It Out.

Photographer Florian Schulz in the Arctic.
Photographer Florian Schulz in the Arctic.

Florian Schulz ~ Freedom to Roam

Every year at Outdoor Retailer, the Conservation Alliance hosts a not-to-be-missed breakfast presentation. The public event serves as one of the organization’s annual member meetings as well as an opportunity to share a presentation by a notable outdoor industry representative. In previous years, presenters have included Aron Ralston (127 Hours), Cheryl Strayed (Wild) and Shelton Johnson (NPS Ranger). This year, the special event showcased the award-winning photography of Florian Schulz. A passionate advocate for the preservation of sensitive environments, Schulz’ most recent efforts have been focused on the Arctic environments of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. During the course of his slide and video presentation, his stunning imagery illustrated the rich and diverse landscapes and wildlife of the Arctic regions, and the importance of protecting them from potentially harmful resource developers. You can learn more about Schulz’ mission and see some of his imagery at Visions of the Wild.

This is just a sampling of some of the inspiring people I had the pleasure of meeting at this year’s Outdoor Retailer show, and I look forward to following their progress as they all work to advocate for and improve our outdoor experiences.

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