An Inside View from Top Outdoor Trade Shows
Each year the outdoor industry sponsors several trade shows specifically targeting the outdoor retailers. The Archery Trade Show, produced by the Archery Trade Association (ATA) showcases, of course, all the latest and greatest new gear for the archery and bowhunting communities. The Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT) focuses on those areas in which the name implies. Think of these events like the Consumer Electronic Show but for the outdoor enthusiast. The ATA and SHOT shows, however, are private events, open only to members of the industry and not the public. Still, attendance is in the tens of thousands as retailers and media come to see all that industry has to offer. I am fortunate to attend both shows each year and each year I write columns detailing what I believe are some of the best new products for the new year. This year, I am sharing my thoughts with the readers of Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine.
We’ll begin with highlights from the ATA Show.
I like to hunt light, comfortably and quietly. I have never really found a climbing stand which meets all three of these criteria. Last year I was introduced to the folks at Millennium Stands and had the chance this past fall to hunt out of their M100 hang-on stand. This ultra-light weight and amazingly comfortable stand attaches to a tree using a CamLock bracket. If you have multiple CamLocks and multiple sets of climbing sticks you can prep a number of trees early in the season meaning you only need to pack in the 14 pound stand. It is so easy to use and so quiet it’s silly. Heading into new areas, I would take a CamLock, my stand, and a set of climbing steps and still have a package weighing less than many climbers and much easier, faster, and quieter to use. And did I mention comfortable? This year, Millennium has ramped it up again with an even larger version of their popular M100 and the new stand boasts all kinds of adjustability, from seat height to angle and only weighs a couple more pounds. For 2013, new lightweight ladder stands for both single and double hunter scenarios are perfect for younger hunters, parent/mentor-child hunts or anyone who enjoys the convenience of a ladder stand.
The new Hi-5 Quiver looks like a great new product. With a radical new design away from the traditional looks of the Kwikee Kwivers many of us know, their new line will look right at home on today’s high-tech bows. The Hi-5 grips arrow shafts in two places making it ideal for securing mechanical heads. A newly designed mounting bracket will keep your quiver locked tight and rattle free; the quiver will still work with the older brackets and quiver hanging accessories, however. The rubber shaft grippers are reversible making it ideal for both right and left handed shooters to remove arrows from the quiver as efficiently as possible. Best of all, the new Hi-5 Quiver retains the same level of quality and value Kwikee Kwivers are known for.
Just in time for turkey season, Browning, in partnership with ALPS Outdoors, has introduced a new line of portable hunting blinds. Feature filled and lightweight, these innovative blinds draw on the experience of engineers and developer from long time tentmakers ALPS to make a product line which easily sets itself apart from the competition while keeping the cost down. Easy set-up, quiet design, roomy interiors, and extras like built-in bow hangers make these new blinds a best in class. While you are at it, take a look at all the other top-notch camping gear from Browning and their partners at ALPS Mountaineering and ALPS Outdoorz . They pride themselves on making the best gear there is; from packs, to sleeping pads, tents, and camp furniture.
I have been incredibly impressed with the packs and bags from Tenzing. Their products are made with Dyneema, a fabric 15 times stronger than steel but light enough to float on water. When the products first launched last year I saw tremendous utility not only for hunters but for the outdoor enthusiast in general. I repeatedly asked the company to produce products in a solid color to provide an option for those who might not want camouflage. This year, Tenzing has released their entire line in a solid, olive green color which should appeal to wider audience. As for new 2013 products, their 3-pound fiber frame can carry loads in excess of 300 pounds making it ideal for packing out an elk or just about anything else you can imagine. The frame is exceptionally tough. Tenzing has also introduced an upland bird vest and pack that is extremely well thought out and a waterfowl bag full of amazing features and innovation. The TZ6000 is the company’s largest pack, beginning at about 4400 cubic inches it expands easily to hold over 6000 cubic inches. Pricing varies on back size but Tenzing is priced competitively with other high end packs.
Now for some great new products from this year’s SHOT Show.
Alpen Optics produces a full line of sporting optics including spotting scopes, riflescopes, and binoculars. They use quality glass, lenses, and bodies to ensure outstanding products. To keep costs down they limit their marketing and rely on reputation and performance more so than television sponsorships and color magazine ads. Already popular in the birding community, their binoculars offer tremendous value. New for 2013 in their Teton line are 10x50 and 15x50 optics. The clarity and field of view with these binoculars is impressive and the 15x binos really help to pull in close those far away objects. They have tremendous utility for western hunters. They are lightweight too, both the 10x and the 15x weigh-in at 28 ounces. A new 8x42 set of binos in their Teton line might offer greater utility to eastern sportsman and they weigh a very manageable 22 ounces.
Weatherby continues to innovate. At one time Weatherby was known solely as the provider of high performance cartridges and beautiful rifles. Based in southern California, Weatherby built the rifles of the stars. The company has worked hard to reach the mainstream sportsman over the past few years and their Vanguard series rifles have done just that. The new Vanguard Series 2 rifles are feature packed and range certified accurate. The new Back Country rifle in the Vanguard line is my top pick for 2013. Guaranteed sub-MOA accurate at 100 yards, built in a synthetic stock and weather resistant finish, and weighing just 6.75 pounds, this is a backcountry hunter’s dream rifle Offered in a variety of proven standard and Weatherby magnum chamberings there is nothing on this continent, nor most anywhere else, that cannot be hunted with this rifle. It is more expensive than other Vanguard Series 2 rifles with an MSRP of $1399. However, you are getting a feature filled, almost custom rifle that is guaranteed to last you a lifetime.
Best known for the tritium lit, lensatic compasses for the U.S. Military, Cammenga has launched a new baseplate protractor compass for 2013 also featuring tritium to help it glow in the dark. Catering to both the civilian and military markets, and obviously ideal for low light situations, this high end compass will get you there and back, in the dark. Its MSRP is $79.99 which is right in line with professional grade compasses from other manufacturers that don’t have tritium. A more extensive review on the Cammenga compass will be featured in a future issue of Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine.
No longer just rain gear, Frogg Toggs has come up with a great new line of fly fishing gear from waders, to vests, and boots, as well as a line of waterproof and stylish footwear. I am particularly impressed with their roper style boots. I hope to try out the new Frogg Toggs fishing gear this spring and summer in Alaska. The company has come a long way from its start in producing rain gear to becoming a top notch provider of quality outdoor gear for all seasons and all sportsmen.
Winchester Tracker shot shells are one of the coolest things I have seen in a long time. If you enjoy shooting flying objects, whether they clay pigeons, upland birds or waterfowl, one of the most frustrating things to figure out is where you are consistently missing. Are you shooting high, low, over or beneath your target? The Tracker fixes this. With a uniquely engineered wad designed to follow the shot string out to beyond most shooting distances and in high contrast colors you will be able to see where you are shooting and fix the problem quickly.
The second cool item from Winchester is their new 17 Rimfire Super Mag. This is the largest rimfire cartridge made in terms of size and it looks as though it should be a centerfire. This new cartridge screams from the barrel and provides a significant boost in performance over made favorite, the 22 Magnum. There is nothing marginal about the new 17 Rimfire Super Mag for use on predators up to coyote size at reasonable ranges. A 20 grain bullet leaves the muzzle at about 3000fps producing about 400 foot pounds of energy. A 25 grain offering is available as well. Savage is currently chambering the new 17 with at least two more rifle makers following later this spring.
Look for more equipment reviews and product innovations in The Gear Shed.