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OR Report 2: New Products on Deck

For a first-time visitor such as me, the summer Outdoor Retailer trade show is a fairly dazzling event.

With more than 1,100 exhibitors crammed into the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, from heavyweights (The North Face) to innovative emerging brands (NEMO Equipment, with a interesting line of clever tents), OR is like an REI flagship store multiplied by 20. Maybe 50. I’ve seen people dressed up as insects on one level and a dancing bottle of insect repellent on another. It makes me wonder if Tim Burton is in charge of some of the visuals here.

A few items of interest that caught my attention on Day 1:

CamelBak

CamelBak director of product management Jon Austen says his company has been listening to its customers. As a result, on Oct. 15 CamelBak will roll out the first full-scale revision to its reservoir line since 2001.

“As a product guy, the great thing working for CamelBak is that we have this massive user base, I believe about 10 million-plus regular CamelBak users,” Austen said Tuesday. “I get a contant flow of emails from people who say, ‘I love my CamelBak, but can you make it do this?’ So a team of people and I took the most common suggestions and decided we’re going to redesign our core technology around what consumers want.”

Among the key changes available on the new Antidote reservoir line:

• An opening that requires 1) less force and 2) far fewer twists to open.
o The existing opening, Austen says, can be overturned when closed. “In that case, the O-ring, the watertight seal, can get compressed, and a lot of torque pressure is required to pry it open it.” The new fill port design is modeled after gas caps – it opens and closes with a quarter-turn twist, yielding about a 50% reduction in the amount of force needed to open existing CamelBaks. “It’s a massive difference,” Austen says.
o Existing openings also take 10 to 12 twists in order to close, meaning the new quarter-turn cap will surprise current CamelBak owners. Austen points out that the new design still meets the company’s standards for watertightness. “There was a lot of trial and error before we finally landed on this configuration,” Austen says.
• A wider opening, believed to be the widest (88mm, up from 80mm) of any reservoir. Easy to fill and clean. Just about anyone’s mitts can fit inside.
• Reduced “reservoir bulge,” due to a vertical baffle built into 2- and 3-liter models. “It reduces the profile of the reservoir by ¾ of an inch, or about 25 percent,” Austen says. “It keeps the water weight tight to the back and improves your center of gravity when carrying such a dense, heavy object. The reservoir doesn’t push out into the cargo area of your pack.”
• Built-in “dryer arms” built that prop the reservoir open for faster drying. The arms tuck away behind the fill cap, like the temples of sunglasses when folded away. When needed, the arms pinch the reservoir’s sides to permit air out in expedited fashion.
• A “quick-link” sip tube system allows the tube to detach from the reservoir. CamelBak also offers a series of accessory tubes (for filtering chlorine out of water, or installing an insulated tube.
• A new cleaning kit that includes a hanger to promote accelerated drying.

Still in place: The existing polyurethane films with a silver-ion based antimicrobial treatment (known as Hydroguard) impregnated into all water-contact surfaces. “It doesn’t mean that if you leave water in for a significant time without cleaning or draining stuff won’t grow in your water,” Austen says. “But it will inhibit bacterial growth from attaching to the surfaces, so you can still clean and maintain your reservoir.”

And the big question: Why are CamelBak reservoirs blue? Austen smiles. “Consumers psychologically associate clean and pure water with the color blue,” he says. “So we make them blue.”

Mountain House

No time to boil water for lunch during a multiday backpacking trip. Mountain House aims to address that quandary with its first mix-with-cold-water dehydrated meal: chicken salad.

Angela Daniels, a research and development technologist (much fancier than “cook”), says the need for efficiency prompted the arrival of the new product. “People want something they can just add canteen water to and eat in a reasonable period of time,” she says.

The new item requires just 12 ounces of water, 8 minutes of wait time and delivers 72 grams of protein. Daniels figures people will toss the mixture into a bring-along tortilla and offer the carbohydrate component. A 1.25-ounce package, Daniels estimates, will yield “about 2 really large burritos. It creates a balanced meal.”

Mountain House will also added a chicken fajita option to its popular wraps line, introduced this year.

Photo:

CamelBak's Jon Austen demonstrates the dryer arms on the new Antidote reservoir.

Posted on at 8:14 PM

Tagged: Mountain House, Outdoor Retailer and camelbak

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Rachel M

That's interesting about Mountain House whipping up some concoctions that can be mixed with cold water. I'll be interested to try one--if there's a veggie option. Thanks for the update!

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