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Adventure Travel

Erron Sorensen Q&A: Brunton President sees portable power extending outdoor trips

Smartphones replace bulky cameras; tablets offer lightweight reading options; lighting extends the evening and GPS can steer you deeper into the wild.

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More consumers are escaping to the outdoors with their electronics.


While that may sound like an oxymoron, the reality is that smartphones, tablets, lights and GPS devices are helping consumers stay outdoors longer, according to Brunton President Erron Sorensen.

Today’s smartphones have higher-quality cameras to capture memories without a bulky camera; tablets offer lightweight reading options; lighting extends the evening card game and GPS can guide people deeper into the wild.

That’s why portable power — to keep these devices going when away from the wall socket — is becoming a hot item at outdoor retail.

Sorensen tells us where the category is heading, including new technologies and opportunities for families to convince the tech generation that they can spend a few more days at camp.

Some say the outdoors should be about escaping the electronic world. What’s your counter-argument? 
I fully support their viewpoint, however, we see many people who want to take some sort of power out with them so they can stay connected, go farther or in general enhance their outdoor experience. Our goal is to help people get out and stay out longer. We think we can do that if we remove that feeling that they need to turn back to get connected. As a father of three tech-savvy kids, I keep thinking about how having some of the conveniences of home for the evenings and early mornings at camp can lengthen our camping trips and allow us to have more fun as a family outdoors. As an industry we have tried for years to convince people to come outdoors, and I think we are making a shift to ask outdoor lovers to stay out longer.

What do you see as the fastest-growing electric devices that people are bringing outdoors?
From a pure numbers point of view, the smartphone is No. 1. We saw a study the other day that 56 percent of Canadians have a smart phone and 70 percent would trade their TV for it. But beyond the phone and tablet, you have GoPro, which has changed the way we share our experience with others. There are also many products that enhance your safety and locatability that we think can really make the experience safer. We look at it in three segments: products that make you safer, products that make the outdoors more fun and products that allow you go farther and experience more.

Solar, lithium, hydrogen … there are a lot of options in the portable power world — is there a clear winner, or do they all have their advantages and disadvantages?
I think each has a place depending on the duration of your trip and what powered items you want to bring. We love solar as a passive power generation option — if you have a base camp and power storage system that allows you to set it up and make power, it is great. We love hydrogen and lithium for its on-the-go nature that allows you to keep charging while you are experiencing the outdoors. Our key mission is, we don’t want people to have to be in the power management business on their trip. Meaning, we don’t want people stressed about charging this or moving that or going without. We want power to be as easy and reliable as it is at home.

Hydrogen is particularly new to the scene. Where do the opportunities lie there for outdoor purposes?
As with any technology, you will see the fuel cell become smaller, lighter and more powerful. We are working on some next-generation products with our developers that have the potential to really change the portable power world. We also are inspired by the potential for fuel cells to reduce the impact on the environment as the technology offers great efficiency and gives our customers the opportunity to invest in reliable and renewable power source.

What’s your industry’s definition of the outdoors? Where else are people demanding portable power beyond backcountry and camp?
We are pretty broad here; we feel like if you leave the house, car or office you are outside of the normal power grid and a portable power solution can make your day better. In the end we all demand power all the time, we have just learned to go without. We feel like when people grasp how easy it is to stay charged the locations and uses will be as varied as the people who use it. It will be fun to share in the experience.

–David Clucas