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Travel Market Overview
When Eagle Creek wants to gauge how the travel market is faring, it takes a tripâ€¦ to the cosmetics aisle. If makeup sales are down, travel is up, up, up and away. Why? Because according to company executives, when people feel good about how they look, they’re ready to escape the confines of their hometown for sightseeing and new cultural experiences. Naturally this leaves us wondering about men wandering around the cosmetic counters trying on lipstick, but we digress. Â
Maybe a bit more tangible market barometer is pre-book trip planning. Long gone are the days of travelers booking a trip six months in advance which was replaced by a lead time of a mere two to three weeks post-9/11. Industry insiders told us that travelers are feeling more comfortable again and extending their trip planning time out by two to three months. Another good gauge of travel activity is Sin City, of all places. The Las Vegas airport has more flights coming and going now than it did before 9/11.
To answer the needs of domestic and globetrotting travelers, companies are devoting design energy to product development on a fundamental side (making carrying more comfortable, wheels more durable, etc) and then throwing in a few quirky features just for added flavor. Among them are zip-out drink pockets on wheeled luggage for those Starbucks-obsessed caffeine heads from Eagle Creek, JanSport and Merrell, and corner bumpers doubling as handy grab handles on JanSport and Eagle Creek wheelies.
During the entire four days of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2004, the SNEWSÂ® team scouted out the trade show scene from the paddle tank to the climbing wall and even around the dusty and quiet corners of private rooms and hidden booths. We’re only covering product that stood out to us and was ready for prime time, so if you’re not mentioned below, we either did not see you, we didn’t think your product stood out sufficiently, you were showing the product behind closed curtains which implied you didn’t want us to talk about it, or we were just plain clueless — you pick one. With that in mind, here’s our take on what’s moving and shaking in the world of products for travel:
Cocoon by Design Salt — We don’t think even Mr. Science could have come up with anything slicker than this — fibers that designers are claiming promote health, improve blood supply and activate skin cell metabolism. That’s what Cocoon is touting in two new fabrics it developed — SeaCell, a fiber made of cellulose and seaweed, and SeaCell Active, which contains marine plant life and silver. Blended with silk and cotton in a TravelSheet and MummyLiner, the new fibers are ideal for sensitive skin, and have antimicrobial and fungicidal effects backed up by Germany’s Hohenstein Research Institute, an international textile research center. Also new are the Primaloft Innerbag sleeping bag liner and the Primaloft Overbag that adds 20 degrees of warmth to a bag and protection from moisture. Â
Crumpler — We are still trying to decipher Crumpler’s catalog — censored words, female clowns and all — but we can tell you the company does have an extensive new lineup of camera bags and accessories. Small padded shoulder bags like the Private Diner, Hedge Diver and Bureau carry various-sized camera essentials — camera, batteries, memory card, cord, etc. The even-smaller Digits pouches are microfiber lined to keep digital camera displays and lenses scratch and lint free, with organizational pockets for memory cards and the like. Bunion inserts are padded, removable pouches with organizational dividers that can turn shoulder bags, like the Supersnipe, into a camera bag. Responding to consumer demand, Crumpler now has backpacks.
Eagle Creek — Always game for something new, the folks at Eagle Creek debuted an Exploration Systems travel gear line, which, they say, morphs to fit the needs of a particular type of travel to the needs of any type of traveler.Â Included in the line are the Switchback Max ES 22 and 25 with the new curved Touch Point Radius Handle System that follows the arc of an extended arm, puts more weight on the wheels and offers less chance of kicking the bag with your heel. Made with a blend of Cordura fabrics, the Switchbacks have a new fully adjustable suspension system, improved Comfort Zone Carry system with moisture-wicking Aero-mesh, finger holds on the bottom bumper for multiple grab points, and a detachable daypack. Also available is the Exploration Systems packing system (like the Pack-It System) designed for the ES bags in coordinating colors with “what’s inside window” and customized tags to ID contents. ES luggage products are covered by the “No Matter What” damage repair policy — if the bag is ever damaged, Eagle Creek will fix it for free. Spring 2005 wouldn’t be complete without Eagle Creek’s new line of electrical converters and adaptors for international jaunts, and microfiber travel towels. Definitely your one-stop travel shop. Â
JanSport — With a full travel category crew on board, this JanSport division has been in overdrive creating two collections: Modus and Integration. JanSport research showed that when its consumers graduated college, many left the brand behind as they entered the workforce. Modus was launched in an effort by JanSport to keep college graduates interested in and buying the JanSport brand. The line is more mature and wired for technology. Available in October, the 10-piece collection starts with the 30-inch Footlocker Roller Duffel, three different sizes of Expandable Roller bags to a garment bag, carry-ons and toiletry kit. As good as the line looks, and it does look good, we do have one quibble out of the gate — it appears that Modus is relying on several design features — boxy styling, wheeled bag handles and orange linings — that look decidedly like other industry lines. We would have expected JanSport to be a bit more unique. On the other side of the spectrum is the younger Integration, shipping in March, designed for the recreation traveler with design features that look more linked to JanSport’s outdoor heritage. Skewed to the masculine, the company says these pieces are more durable, stylish and hit the “cool” factor that JanSport says consumers have asked for.
Kiva — Part of Kiva’s new offering is the PTG-2 (Performance Travel Gear) TTS-1 (Total Travel System) series. The wheeled upright bags (20 inch, 24 inch, 29 inch) are identified as “complete travel packages” and come with the following extras: toiletry kit, separate garment sleeve, laundry bag and three packing cubes to sort clothes. The discreet reflective piping by IllumiNite glows when light hits it — useful when your train arrival into a foreign city leaves you wheeling your luggage at night while trying to find that hostel you know is “just down the road” as cars whip by you on narrow streets.
Merrell — Six months ago Merrell launched a new category of packs and bags, and at Summer Market it still had a little more up its sleeve to unveil. Bob Boland, product development manager for accessories, said the company didn’t re-invent the spring line, but tweaked it a bit adding strategically placed pockets and “nests” and colors — like apple green and coffee brown. The Outventure line’s Chameleon Wheelie and the Transit line’s Sprint Wheelie had larger size bags added. There are more women’s-specific styles in the Transit collection, such as the new ultra-organized Pacific Satchel and Topo Tote, an ideal overnight bag. Oh, and we can’t forget the small and large travel toiletry kits made of ballistic and ripstop nylon with organization pockets and expandable elastic straps.
Mountainsmith — Mountainsmith’s Road Trippin’ collection highlighted a popular theme and name at Summer Market (Marmot intro’d a sportswear collection with a similar moniker). The pack-maker’s ingenious new modular storage system is made up of 12 pieces that includes Modular Haulers, oversized rectangular bags that hold Storage Cubes and Anvil Totes. Gear, clothes or just about anything that needs organization can be stored in the various-sized cubes and totes, then fit into the modular hauler in the back of a car for easy storage and transportation. When you get to your destination, grab the cube with the necessary essentials and you’re set to go. The modular haulers are made of ballistic nylon with durable rubber bottoms and haul handles, while the top-loading cubes come in various versions, like sectional, wet/dry and cooler. We’ve been testing a few items in the line and will post our review in the next month or so.Â Also check out the new Vibe II lumbar pack in 12 colors, designed especially for traveling and retailing for $19.95.
Osprey — Osprey’s travel pack line has a couple of new additions for 2005 — the Waypoint 60 and Waypoint 80, in sizes for men and women. The backpack-style bag has a panel-loading design, adjustable suspension and detachable daypack. Osprey perennials include Etheral suspension, Interchangeable IsoForm harness to customize fit and built-in ErgoPull hipbelt for balancing loads. Once the suspension system is tucked away and zipped in, it’s ready to check on any plane. Waypoint 80 hovers around 4,700 to 5,100 cubic inches, while the 60 is 3,500 to 3,700 cubes.
Timbuk2 — Expanding beyond its messenger bag roots, Timbuk2 displayed a variety of colorful new totes ideal for the traveler. The heavy-duty Cargo Tote is styled after the company’s Classic Messenger Bag with the over-flap replaced by a zip-top with handles and removable shoulder strap. Unlike its messenger bags, all totes come in predetermined color combinations. The smaller City Guide shoulder bag, inspired by international couriers and news correspondents, can carry guidebooks, camera, travel journal and just about anything else you can think of for your jaunt around New York’s boroughs or the canals of Venice. Also available now are square-sized clear pouches with urethane see-through windows to keep all your travel necessities organized and easily viewable to airport security.
QUICK HITS:Nomad Adventure Journals released two more journal themes: fly-fishing and festival/live music. Water-sport journals like fly-fishing come with waterproof pages that can be written onâ€¦ Overland Equipment’s Trinidad carry-on tries to make security lines easier to navigate.Â In addition to the main compartment, the shoulder bag has multiple storage areas including the front pocket that’ll keep you hyper-organized, side water bottle pockets and padded laptop sleeveâ€¦ Therm-a-Rest reorganized its Comfort Essentials line for 2005 into three series that includes Trek & Travel, which includes compressible, neck and lumbar pillows. Plus, the Wrap-It Pillow, a compression stuff sack that can serve as a mattress stuff sack or stuffable pillowâ€¦ Lots of hammock companies at Summer Market offering travelers a good night’s sleep on the road. Based in Bali, Ticket to the Moon’s colorful hammocks weigh less than 1.5 pounds, hold up to 400 pounds, resist mildew and are machine washable. The Travel Hammock had a variety of hammocks, including Hawaiian and camo prints, as well as accessories like the Parasheet ground cover, sleeping bag liner and mosquito netting. Hammock Bliss, new on the scene, has compact and lightweight single and double hammocks made of parachute silk, and two models with attached mosquito netâ€¦ After a brand overhaul in the last year, PacSafe quieted down just a bit. It now has a line of Travel Sentry certified locks that are recognized by the TSA, and spiced up the color and styling of its GoSafe shoulder bag and StashSafe fannypackâ€¦ Celebrating its 25th anniversary, High Sierra Sport’s new lumbar packs move from trail to travel adventure easily. Designed to hold two 1,000 ml Lexan bottles, the Arroyo and Canyon have oversized main compartments for travel necessities including a CD/MP3 pocketâ€¦ With a fast-growing mail order and Internet business, Acorn is using color to create impulse in its four lifestyle footwear categories. Great for the plane is the leather Travel Slipper for men and women with an indoor/outdoor sole, a lining of soft leather with padding, and it folds in half to stash into a provided pouchâ€¦ Swiss Army’s wheeled Standard Traveler bag’s styling stays the same but its retail price has been reduced from $229 to $199â€¦ Traveling light is incorporated into every product Sea to Summit does, including its new Dry Lite Towel made of a super-soft, suede-like material in three sizes; Large Pocket Towel measuring 24 by 48 inches; and the Trekking Umbrella, made of lightweight DuPont’s siliconized Cordura to keep users dry.Â