Coming back from the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City, this “real world” I return to is hitting me with a bad case of culture shock. I miss my hikertrash family, being surrounded by miles of new gear to check out, and endless free food (my hiking friends and nonhiking friends alike will not be surprised that most of the time on the exhibition floor was spent in pursuit of free ice cream, chocolate, and crepes).
OR did require all of us to be “on” and focused for 18 hours a day. Even the meekest of us found that staying out until 3 am every night talking about hiking was the norm. Then, we’d get up and back on the exhibition floor at 8 am (or 9 . . . or 11).
I also heard some interesting industry presentations on the role of conservation non-profits and sustainability on gear making and selling. It was a privilege to see Secretary of the Interior/former CEO of REI, Sally Jewell, speak on how the outdoor industry can engage young people and conserve the places where we recreate.
This was my 3rd trip to OR and definitely my best—mostly because we had a great group of long distance hikers at the show. What could be more awesome than having AllGood, President of the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West, walking the show floor, letting his smile brighten everyone’s day?
Who could be a more stellar ambassador of the trail life than hikertrash Double Triple Crowner (and on his way to a Triple Triple Crown), the colorfully tattooed, ever-charismatic Lint?
It was an honor for the hikertrash to hang out with OR veteran, Trauma, whose humble demeanor and insane talent for free-food hunting prevented the rest of us from being intimidated by his godlike skills.
Barefoot Jake covered the ever-exploding new market of minimalist footwear and wowed people with the extreme cross-country-glacier-rock-climbing he manages in barefoot shoes.
Getting a solid group of hiking athletes together at OR, telling gear manufacturers face-to-face how we use their products and even that long distance hiking exists, is a huge step towards getting recognition for the trails we hike and the cool places we go. When the corporations with the money and sway start realizing that people do what we do, we’re that much closer to protecting and preserving the places we love.
There’s a lot of controversy over hiking going “mainstream” but one thing is for sure: as our stories become known, the wildlands we walk will be valued for what they are—wild—instead of what they could become: another place for condos. Unlike many athletes of other outdoor sports represented at OR, many long distance hikers are actually making a real difference in stewarding and advocating large swaths of land we love. OR is the place where the industry goes to sell stuff. Our job as hikers at OR is to tell our stories and keep it real.