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Outdoor Retailer 2014 Odds and Ends Roundup

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It’s been a busy week at Outdoor Retailer (Summer edition), albeit slightly less frenzied for me than something like Eurobike or Interbike.  That’s mostly because there’s just less swim/bike/run-focus at Outdoor Retailer for me to track down, and instead far more non-tech focus (which I don’t follow too much).  Things like apparel, hiking gear, and even pet supplies are all big tickets here.  Of course, as you’ve seen over the past few days there’s been plenty of new products in the sports technology arena announced at the event that I was able to cover.

Here’s a handful of things that I stumbled into that didn’t quite make the cut for a full post by themselves, but were interesting or noteworthy enough to post here.  Some sports-tech, some not so much.

goTenna:

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First up in the random things I stumbled into was goTenna.  This little double-pen sized unit that weighs 2oz allows smartphones to communicate with each other, even if there isn’t cell phone servers.  Now unlike a device like the Spot, it doesn’t use satellite, but rather instead works more like a conventional radio would (such as CB radios).

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Depending on the particular topography of the area it has a range of upwards of 4-6 miles in relatively open areas, and down to about a mile or so in more mountainous areas.

To communicate you’ll use an app (iOS or Android) that allows you to send either text messages or coordinates.  The messages though will queue up in the small stick, in the event your phone isn’t turned on.  The stick has a 3-day battery life, but can be charged via micro-USB.  Like most things, it’d be easy enough to charge via a simple solar charger if in the wilderness.

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The unit can send direct encrypted messages as seen above between defined contacts (individual or group), or it can send ‘shout’ broadcasts to anyone in range.

In addition to chatting you can also send your location using the app – which can then be overlaid on cached maps of the area you’re hiking in.

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You can see below the unit is in airplane mode and pulling up the cached maps:

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Now the models I was shown appeared more like 3D printed units than actual functional hardware, but the company says they’ll be delivering products later this year at a price of $149US for two units (obviously having one unit is kinda useless).  The use case here is pretty simple in that it’s ideal if you’re hiking in wilderness areas without cell coverage and want to be able to communicate between parties.  I could see this also being used in some of the adventure races where you might have a team – in case members get separated.

iFit Active activity monitor:

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Next up is the iFit Active ($129US, available now), which is an activity monitor from iFit, whose parent company is ICON, who makes those fancy ProForm treadmills.

The iFit Active is pretty similar to most other units in that it tracks calories, sleep, steps and distance.  The associated app also tracks calorie consumption (manual input).

The actual band/pod design looks virtually identical to that of the Garmin Vivofit once removed.  Though unlike the Vivofit it includes a vibration motor.  Further, the screen is used to display alerts and messages from the iFit app – which are generally geared to update you on status of not only your day – but also contacts within the iFit platform.  For example, if The Girl was wearing a unit and was ahead of me in steps that day – it could let me know.  This is a cool concept that takes the social sharing aspect and elevates it directly to the wrist.

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The unit has a 7-day battery life during which you’ll sync with your phone for upload of data (iOS or Android).  From there it’ll tie into the iFit.com platform, which also contains your data from compatible treadmills and/or gym equipment if you’ve uploaded from one of those units.

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The company does not have any partnerships today with any other platforms for data, so your data is basically on a little island.  As we’ve seen with other companies that have activity trackers – this doesn’t really pan out long term.  Users want to use apps like MyFitnessPal and other major platforms to store and track their data.

I do wonder whether or not the lack of partnership is in any way tied to the fact that parent company ICON has pretty much sued (or rather, tried to) about half the sports technology companies at one point or another.  Having talked with many companies that have been on the receiving end of ICON’s legal ambitions, I could see how they’d be extremely hesitant to do business with ICON.  Plus, it’s a small world in the sports technology business.  Most people move around between the companies with surprising frequency.

On a related note, despite my relative dislike for such practices, I’ve actually been trying to buy one of their treadmills (no, not the crazy overpriced Boston Marathon one).  The challenge is that the ProForm treadmills that are available in Europe are about a decade behind those in the US.  They lack many of the more advanced features and screens that the US models have.  Out of curiosity I asked about that – but they dodged the question a bit and never really gave a useful answer.

Finally, I had heard through the grapevine from a few people that Altra (who shared a booth, both owned by ICON), was in the process of launching some technology for their shoes which tracked a bunch of metrics at the shoe level.  It was described to me as somewhat similar to Scribe Labs and their system.

Unfortunately, they didn’t want to talk about it, and instead said they’ll be launching it at the Running Event in Austin, TX in December.  Hopefully said project does not follow ICON’s data-islanding practices though, as that’d be a deal killer.

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Asics Treadmill Running Contest:

At shows like Interbike there are numerous contests going on in booths, usually for prizes that the company itself makes.  For example a free Garmin or similar.

However, Asics takes the cake for the best contest and associated prize I’ve seen at a show.  Outside in the Pavillion area they had a flatbed truck setup with a large treadmill on it.  Said treadmill went one of two speeds depending on if you were male or female.

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For men it went 12.6MPH, or 4:46/mile (2:58/KM).  This pace correlates to Ryan Hall’s US Marathon Record time.  For women it cruised at 11.3MPH, or 5:18/mile (3:17/KM), which correlated to Deena Kastor’s US marathon Record time.

Oh, and don’t forget the elevation of Salt Lake City is an aerobic starving 4,226ft (1,288m). Yup, fun times ahead.

The premise was simple: The person who stayed on the longest won a free trip to Paris to run in the Paris Marathon next spring.  No annoying ‘wait till the end of the season’ type clauses or the sort.  Just straight up longest time during the show won.

I checked in on occasion throughout the show as I walked back and forth past it between the Pavilions and the main convention area.  I actually managed to almost always walk past as someone was upping the record.  For example, the women above was at 3 minutes and 43 seconds – a record at the time…yes, despite running in the onesie.

And the guy below topped it out a bit beyond 5 minutes.

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It  was just as I had finished up a meeting on Thursday afternoon that I walked past as the below individual (named BJ) had just cruised through about the 7 minute marker, looking pretty darn effortless.

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It was clear he was out for a free trip to Paris, and meant business.  So I stayed to watch, curious how long he’d go.

I know of course that all it would take to win this contest is a collegiate or post-collegiate 5K or 10K runner coming by.  One had to have a show badge, but realistically that wasn’t terribly hard – especially if you were a sponsored runner by any one of the running companies (all of which were there).

He easily cruised into the teens and past the earlier record of 10 minutes.

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At this point it was just a case of how high a watermark he’d set.  The show technically goes through Saturday, so that left at this point a fair bit of opportunity open for a higher time.

I asked one of the Asics PR reps the longest they’ve ever seen – and was told it was nowhere near 10 minutes.  He guessed this was because previously at shows they’d just give out a pair of shoes or the like, which wasn’t really enough to motivate someone to completely throw-down for a sustained period of time.

But a free trip to Paris?  Yup, definitely (well, for everyone but me I suppose).

It’s too bad that most of the crowds walking by didn’t quite realize what was going on as BJ just kept on cruising.  Here’s a video of him around the 18-minute marker:

Ultimately, he ran all the way to 25 minutes and a few seconds.  It seemed based on this running form that he had a preset time in mind and ended things then.

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He celebrated by jumping up on top of the truck.  Of course, whether or not he’d win a trip to Paris would have been dependent on whether or not another runner toppled his record by the end of Saturday.  Hopefully a reader can find out and drop a note below (since I flew back Friday afternoon).  A search on Twitter using above hash tag doesn’t seem to find anything.

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Random Photos From Around The Show:

Of course, being an outdoor focused show, the vast majority of it has nothing to do with technology.  For example, stand up paddle boarding, which has become incredibly popular in recent years.  They had setup a giant pool in the parking lot, which was used for demonstrations non-stop.

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Even in the occasional rain storms there was someone out there – in this case, doing Yoga on the board.

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Thankfully it was mostly sunny.  Though, when it did rain it went whole hog coming down.

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In addition to the swimming pool there was also a very shallow (like, a couple inches deep) pool for casting.  Though, for the most part there was very little fishing (or even hunting) focus at the show.  Really just a handful of booths outside in the Pavilion area.

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There was also a giant tent city, where you could wander through and check out hundreds of tents setup outside on the grass.  Given this area seemed deserted every time I went by (as in less than one person around), I seriously contemplated an afternoon nap inside a random tent.

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Once you picked out your tent, you went inside to go negotiate your price.  By ‘inside, I mean inside the tent inside the giant pavilion tents.  Like tents-squared.

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Alternatively, you could just waste the time away watching the world go by.  The show had just opened about 2 minutes prior this morning, and these four were clearly in no hurry to go anywhere – coffees in hand and lounging.  In general, this show is far more relaxed than Eurobike or Interbike.  The companies in general are smaller and less corporate, and there’s simply far less money on the line.  Further, the crowd tends to be a bit more grounded.  Sorta more ‘island time’ kind of mentality.

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Of course, there are no doubt major brands like Columbia and the likes, with massive and sprawling booths.

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Some even rising entire buildings inside the show floor.  But in general, there’s only a handful of these monster structures.  It’s not like CES where this booth wouldn’t even count as a low income housing.

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Like any show, the crowds ebbed and flowed.  Less busy at lunch hours – thankfully because the food selections on and around the convention center grounds were vastly superior to those found at other shows.  Lots of food trucks were onsite.

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Alternatively, you could almost feast off of samples if you played your cards right.  There were tons of hiking food places, from bagged burritos to trail mix.  Some of that was food vendors, and some of it was vendors selling things that helped you prepare food in the (semi)-wilderness.  For example, this dedicated pizza grill:

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Alternatively there was this Kickstarter initiated project – GoSun, which is a tube that uses the sun to cook things at around 500°F.  Pretty crazy.

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Unlike CES and their booth babes, if you wanted to get someone’s attention in this crowd you turned towards more environmentally focused icons.  Like this hawk that was a mainstay at one booth many times I passed by:

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Though, on the whole there were very few booth distractions.  Err…wait, there was this thing:

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Which, seems like a perfectly appropriate place to wrap-up my Outdoor Retailer coverage for this year.  You can swing back and check out all my Outdoor Retailer posts here, or, just the list of them below:

Hands-on with Epson’s new Pulsesense optical heart rate activity trackers
Hands-on with new Timex One GPS+, a 3G connected watch requiring no phone
Hands-on with Timex’s new Move x20, Run x20 GPS, and Run x50+ fitness units
First look at the new Magellan Echo Fit
Knog releases new Qudos dual GoPro and bike light system
Mio shows off new Mio Velo and Mio Fuse optical heart rate units

Thanks for reading!

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29 Comments

  1. Karl

    So DC, how come you didn’t give the treadmill a go? Any idea what you think you could have done?

    • I was lazy. :)

      My guess is I probably could have done about 5 minutes worth, or roughly a mile. I don’t have that kind of top-end speed. Well, actually, I don’t have much speed at all. Though, in observing a number of people it was interesting to see that many were getting a slight rise (vertically) from the harness. In fact, I could tell the harness was heavily rubbing BJ (the guy above) quite a bit, he was definitely uncomfortable with it.

      Actually, the main reason I didn’t give it a go is that I had meetings packed both days and wasn’t wearing running stuff and didn’t want to show up drenched to my next meeting.

  2. Bryce

    BJ is a common sight around the Intermountain triathlon, cycling, and running circuit. He wins a lot and being tall helps his visibility. He has done Kona quite a few times too. If he won the Paris trip, you should invite him over to the store for a cupcake. All my interactions with him say he is a really nice knowledgable guy. I imagine without the harness he would have gone a little longer too. Thanks for these posts on the OR. Made me a little homesick though.

  3. Gunnar

    I could also see the Gotenna useful for a foreign vacation. When my wife and I travel to Europe we avoid using our cell phones because of the high roaming fees. But, it’s hard to track her down at the hotel when I return from my morning bike ride adventure. Is she at the pool? The shop? The beach?

    Handy way to use your phone without the roaming fees.

    • Just buy some pre-loaded pay-as-you-go SIMs? That’s what most people did in the past in Europe, before the European Parliament started cracking down on phone companies gouging European roamers (“What has the EU ever done for us?! Apart from simplifying travel and working across Europe, putting caps on roaming charges, etc.,”), and what most still do when travelling outside Europe.

    • It would depend on your phone though, as many times when (Americans) buy phones they are locked and aren’t able to change carrier SIM’s unless the original carrier approves it.

  4. Eli

    Can the goTenna use a mesh network? For example say you’re in a place with no cell network and person A wants to talk with person B but A is out of range of B while C is in range of both. Can the message go through C to get from A to B?

    • No, I asked a little bit about that. Apparently they’re prohibited from doing store and forward by the FCC. Go figure. There’s a tiny bit more about it in their FAQ section on their site as well.

    • Yeah, they chose the MURS frequencies, which are just below the 2 meter band, giving decent range and propagation around obstacles, but store and forward isn’t allowed in that frequency band. If I were on a hiking trip with another ham radio operator, we’d just both carry 5 watt handhelds. But the goTenna should work better than the cheap store bought FRS radios.

    • Craig

      Unfortunately the MURS frequencies are specific to the USA. So it would probably be illegal to use the GoTenna elsewhere in the world.

  5. Luc dancause

    Mike Wardian did 24:14 and won the contest…

  6. Fenitua

    Watching my son play Little league baseball for about four hours recently (two games back to back) in an uncomfortable fold up chair, very much perked my interest in that picture of “The best portable chair”.

    I like that the seat seems to have a comfy obtuse lean-back angle but it looks like the designers did not take that most important Homer Simpsonesque advice and include a beverage holder in the arm rest!

  7. Stephen

    There was apparently a Uphill Challenge with ultrarunners Max King, Sage Canaday and Mike Wardian inside. Too bad you couldn’t video it would have been interesting to see. Apparently Sage Canaday won with 1.92 miles in 15min at 15% incline on the treadmill.

  8. SteveT

    Ray,

    Thanks for the insight on ICON and iFit. I wondered why they dropped the Garmin uploading capability.

    I have a x9i incline trainer hooked into iFit in front of my only TV, so I use Polar to drag (RCX5 to PPT and TrainingPeaks) my data off the island.

    I will say even though it is a island eco-system there there are plenty of features and there is something to be said for begin able to do the south Kaibab trail in the Grand Canyon or run a 10K in Thailand in the winter even if its only virtual for me. You get the real deal. LOL

    Pay to play.

    Another reason why this is a fantastic world class web destination!

    ST

  9. Larry Schwartz

    I’ve been looking to purchase a new treadmill – which model Proform are you looking at and will there be a review forthcoming?

    • It depends a little bit on if I can figure out how to get one of the US models in France, or if I have to make due with the less-awesome French/EU models.

      If I was getting a US model, I was looking at the 1450 or 1495 models, mostly for the full color screen.

    • Larry Schwartz

      Thanks – I’m in the market for a treadmill and was looking at Precor, I’ll take a look at ProForm now. Anyone else with any comments or suggestions for a treadmill? Thanks in advance for any advice or guidance. I’m USA based so don’t have the Euro centric issue Rainmaker does :-)

  10. Michelle

    While on the topic of iFIT, I wan to add that I love iFIT and attribute a great deal of my new healthier lifestyle to the treadmill and motivation I have now to the ability of running new maps. You can see street views as you run and the treadmill will incline/decline as the terrain does. VERY cool! Sure there some issues/bugs every now, but they tend to be more minor annoyances than anything else, and then but it really is incredible technology! The ability to run mostly anywhere in the world really is a great motivator! I only run where there are street views however, and as of right now, much of South America, Africa, Mexico, Central America and some other areas haven’t been captured with street view by Google. You can draw your own maps either on their website or on the equipment screen (if you have a built in browser monitor) or you can download pre-drawn maps from [3rd party XYZ company] which also allows you to search for the exact distance, location, etc you desire.

    • Hi Michelle-

      This is now the second time you’ve SPAM’d here. It’s too bad you’re doing so, because you’re product is actually kinda interesting and I might have written about it otherwise. But SPAM’ing related posts – especially when you’re e-mail address is “marketingandseo14@…” is rather poor.

      I’ve removed your company name so that you’re efforts are wasted.

  11. Robert

    The ProForm TdF bike trainer sure looks interesting. The ability to ride the Tour or Giro, or my favorite ride when it’s -10 is like waving catnip at Garfield. But. Both Proform and iFit get pretty low marks in Amazon’s ratings. Do you think it’s possible the ratings are being skewed by folks Icon has attacked through the legal system? The negative reviews have sure cooled my ardor.

    • I doubt there’s that many people that are upset enough to go that route.

      I suspect it’s mostly that the ProForm units are heavily overpriced and people eventually realize it.

  12. Tony Delprete

    I noticed you wrote that the Boston Marathon 4.0 is overpriced. Actually, it is a couple thousand cheaper than any other treadmill that has even remotely close specs. It goes 15mph and (yes, we use speeds higher than 12 mph the majority of the time) it has incline and decline. Not to mention a full color screen, wifi, bluetooth, and a usb port. You tell me where you can find anything like that for even twice as much. You won’t I looked. My Precor goes 16mph but it was also 10,000, not the $3,000 that the 4.0 is. So please do a bit of research before you slam Icon Fitness’s only fairly priced treadmill. Everything else is max 12mph and costs almost as much, so yes, getting a commercial duty treadmill for $3000 is a steal. Just didn’t want others who may read this to not have the correct info.

    • Nope, you’re convincing yourself it’s something it’s not. It’s overpriced.

      99.99% of athletes don’t use speeds at 15MPH (4:00/mile). So no, the majority of athletes won’t use above even 12MPH (which most mid-range treadmills do just fine, which is 5:00/mile) For WiFi, Proform sells their iFit adapter for $90-$150, which works on virtually all of their treadmills, so no need to buy $3,000 treadmills.

      Next, I can get all of the software aspects of that treadmill through iPad apps that allow me to race others and even the Boston Marathon course video. So including a screen smaller than an iPad mini within the treadmill is silly, since that screen will look out of date in a few years when the software looks more than a few years old. Plus, you’ll then likely stop supporting new development on it. Anyway, you sell an iPad attachment stand, so it’s sorta easy to use that.

      While a decline option might sound interesting, the reality is that it’s not terribly useful in 99% of training situations. So that’s sorta useless.

      So basically, the only difference between the ProForm Boston Marathon 4.0 at $3,000 (List price is $4,000) and the $979 ProForm Sport 9.0 S is that one has an overpriced screen, a USB port that has no realistic function since the WiFi adapter can do most truly useful functions, and ANT+ HR strap support (plus a Bluetooth Smart remote control that nobody will use). So basically, it’s overpriced. Stuff like BT/WiFi/ANT+ should be in every model.

      Yes, people come here to weed out the crap from the marketing fluff – and the Boston Marathon edition of that treadmill is nothing more than marketing fluff. This is a perfect example of what happened to previous industry titan CompuTrainer when players like Wahoo, Tacx, Elite and others realized the opportunity. The same will happen here.

  13. Tony Delprete

    I appreciate what you are saying and i am not even an icon fan (I have had quite a bit of bad luck with NordicTrack and ProForm). But you are way off base here. For an elite athlete (I have two All American youth runners and 2015 indoor national champs in the mile and 800m) this is an incredible steal. We live in Ohio so it is hard during the winter to find places to train. We use the speeds over 12mph for almost all of our training except our long runs. Repeats, intervals, etc. are impractical at 12mph for a good athlete (trust me I have two young guys and they eat that alive). This is the only treadmill that I have seen that uses a regular 15 volt current and not 20 and can go over 12mph. I have a precor ($10,000) and that needed all kinds of electrical work to the outlet (running a 20 volt dedicated outlet) to even work in our house. Plus, it is $10 grand! My comment is for the elite athlete who wants to train hard on a treadmill and not get a Precor or Woodway and have to mortgage their house. Honestly, we don’t even use ifit or the videos of running the marathon. We just need the speed and good luck finding anything over 12mph for under 10,000 new. Please prove me wrong because I would love to see some other models that have a regular plug, self lubricating belt, and go 15 mph for even double that price. I did my homework and as much as icon scares the crap out of me, this is a great deal for an elite athlete. I apologize if I didn’t specify that before. Take for instance the article that you wrote about the Ryan Hall treadmill. He went 12.4mph for a marathon so I think there are plenty of athletes who want to do smaller increments of distance and go quicker. Saying that most people (like overweight guys who make a new years resolution to lose some weight by jogging) use 12mph is kind of a ridiculous argument because that is the only option most PEOPLE have. Plus, I was writing for the runners, not the people just trying to stay in shape. So I hope you can at least understand my point. Trust me, in no way am I saying that ICON is a good company. But I am saying that they did hit the mark with this UNDERPRICED model.