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Continental Divide Trail Coalition volunteers running a booth at Outdoor Retailer. (The CDT Woolrich blanket is visible in the background)

Continental Divide Trail Coalition volunteers running a booth at Outdoor Retailer. (The CDT Woolrich blanket is visible in the background)

As we speak, the long distance hiking community is taking over the Outdoor Winter Retailer Show. Many of us are working with trail non-profits and companies like Woolrich, Point6, and Mountainsmith that are sponsoring long National Scenic Trail-centric gear. Others are representatives of outdoor stores and are busy buying gear as part of their job.

I’ve been going to OR back in the days when Trauma was the only other long distance hiker coming. Although I’m far from a veteran at this event, here are a few tips I wish I had known the first time I’d walked in here:

1)      The show is huge! There are 21,000 people coming to Winter OR, and Summer OR can get to be as 40,000.

The crowds flock to the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City to see the newest gear

The crowds flock to the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City to see the newest gear

2)      But everyone here is here for a purpose greater than just getting free schwag. You have to apply months in advance, and they review to make sure the only attendees are here for business.

3)      So if you’re looking to create a sponsorship or help a non-profit, unless you’ve set up a meeting, to expect to stay out of the way until the end of the show when exhibitors have already made their sales.

4)      Since business comes first, there’s a hierarchy of badges here. Exhibitors (gear companies) are here to make money, so retailers (gear stores) are getting first dibs for their attention. Media is the next desirable badge, and non-profits are towards the bottom.

Outside OR

Outside OR

5)      But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun early in the show. Be sure to use Wednesday to get the lay of the land.

6)      It’s a maze in here, so be sure to get your hiking map or to download the app.

7)      But all that hiking around the show floor will get up your hunger and thirst. So be sure to stay hydrated.

Maple Bacon soft serve from Vermont Darn Tough's booth. Photos thanks to Renee Patrick.

Maple Bacon soft serve from Vermont Darn Tough’s booth. Photos thanks to Renee Patrick.

8)      Luckily, there’s lots of food and drink around. Just check the back of the OR Daily magazine for locations. You can usually get a meal for the cost of a donation to a good outdoor cause.

9)      Or, if you’re here as media, a sales rep, or a retailer, food and drink can be found in the Press Room, Rep room, or Boy Scout Room.

10)   But if you can wait until 4 pm, there’s plenty of drinks to be had a dozens of Happy Hours. We hikers usually like to visit Happy Hours that support the trails.

11)   If you’re trying to find your friends at the end of the day, know that running the OR app and just being in the conference center can really drain your phone battery. Bring your charger!

12)   And then head out to the infamous Outdoor Retailer parties.

 

Congratulations! You’ve survived Day One of the four day event. It’s going to be a wild ride!

 

Do you have any tips for going to big conferences?