What do you look for in a good outdoor product?
A good outdoor product needs to justify its place in your pack, with its user benefit outweighing both size and weight. Even in equipment, aesthetics are increasingly important with interesting shapes and colour pops increasing the shelf appeal of an otherwise purely functional product.
Innovation is always moving forward – what do you see driving the industry at the moment?
We are in a period of refinement right now, with brands constantly improving and re-inventing proven designs. Multifunctional products maintain strong appeal, but should be the result of careful design that recognises a genuine need. This considered approach can be seen on both design classics (Victorinox Swiss Army Knives) and newer entrants (Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini), which gives them a strong consumer appeal. Beyond this there is a real appetite for brand authenticity: consumers don’t just want to buy good products, they want to buy them from companies/ brands that are in tune with their own interests.
How do new materials affect the development of new products?
We haven’t seen much in the way of 100 per cent new materials influencing development of our outdoor brands in 2017, although we will be seeing a little of this in 2018. The introduction of new materials needs to answer a particular need: to make something weigh less, perform faster, taste fresher, reduce muscle fatigue etc. There is the disadvantage of having to ‘tell the story’ from scratch and build up consumer awareness of the new material – how it works, its benefits and safety. However, performance improvements can often be achieved by using existing materials in a new way – and this has been more of a driving force in new product recently. Examples would be the Stanley Master Series Vacuum flasks (using thicker steel, reflective linings, and smart design to improve thermal retention) or the CamelBak Crux reservoir (which delivers 20 per cent more water per sip by changing the proportions and shape of key components).
Have solar powered products made a big impact on the marketplace or is that something that will grow in the future?
Solar powered product has become part of the wider ‘portable power’ story. With more outdoor consumers carrying portable devices (mobile phones, rechargeable headtorches, GPS receivers…the list goes on) there is an increasing need to either carry or generate power away from a plug socket. The good news is that solar panels have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years and the good ones work in any daylight, not just blazing sunshine.
What are the go to products for those who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle?
Water bottles, lightweight socks, walking shoes, torches and pocket-tools comfortably make the transition from the great outdoors to everyday life. The potential to get value from these products across many different activities make them great ‘go to’ products.
With the rise in wearable GPS technology – are they now an essential bit of kit?
Good navigation skills are certainly an outdoor essential, and these skills are enhanced (not
replaced) using GPS. Wearables are perfect for swimming, running and other sports where you want empty hands – hence their enormous popularity as a sports product. However, when it comes to dedicated hill and mountain navigation, no one has yet managed to produce a watch-sized device that fully competes with the large screen, high resolution and long battery life of a good handheld GPS receiver.