First Timer’s Guide to Outdoor Retailer



Hiker Life
Outdoor Retailer

As we speak, the long distance hiking community is taking over the Outdoor Winter Retailer Show at the Denver Convention Center.

I’ve been to over a dozen Outdoor Retailer shows and been going in the days before there were many other long distance hikers attending. Here are a few tips I wish I had known the first time I’d walked in here:

The show is huge!


There are 10,000 people coming to Winter OR and Summer OR can get to be as 40,000.

Everyone here is here for a purpose.

That reason is greater than just getting free schwag. If you’re here just to get free stuff, you’re at the wrong venue.

People attend the show to make deals, network, and collaborate. You can tell which people are entrenched in the industry by their desire for free gear. Veteran industry folks likely have more gear at home than they know what to do with.

As a dirtbag myself, I’ve noticed increasingly it is harder to get free gear or even free food.


Reconnecting with friends and colleagues is one of the best parts of Outdoor Retailer

You have to apply in advance to attend.


The Outdoor Retailer gatekeepers review to make sure the only attendees are here for business.


Be respectful of other’s time

Most folks who attend set up appointments way in advance.

Don’t expect to just be able to roll up to a major brand and expect they’ll give you the time of day. No matter how important an athlete or journalist you may be, it’s important to set up appointments.

If you’re looking to create a sponsorship or help a non-profit, unless you’ve set up a meeting, wait  until the end of the show when exhibitors have already made their sales

No matter how important an athlete or journalist you may be, it’s important to set up appointments beforehand.

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.

Non-profits are towards the bottom.

Non-buyers can also pay for a badge. They include brands who are considering coming to OR but want to check it out first or potential investors in outdoor companies.

Use the first day to get the lay of the land. 

The show can get overwhelming for first timers.

Map up.

It’s a maze in here. Be sure to get your hiking map or to download the app.

The more times you attend the show, the more it will become natural. Booths and vendors often stay in the same spot. You can use the major brands that have giant booths as landmarks along the way

Stay fed and hydrated

It’s incredible how many steps you can clock at a trade show.

All that hiking around the show floor will get up your hunger and thirst. Denver’s air can be dry.  Just like real hiking, take care of your bodily needs (especially since Happy Hour may dehydrate you).

Find your food and drink.

If you’re here as media, a sales rep, or a retailer, food and drink can be found in the Press Room or Rep room. Otherwise, backpacking food companies or other food or drink related companies often give out samples.

Happy hour is a big thing

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.

Note that if you aren’t drinking alcohol, many vendors don’t have a ton of alternative options. Use your OR Daily magazine to guide you towards the happy hours that look like they’ll have the best options for you.

Phone Battery and Wifi 

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 external battery or charger!


The Wifi is iffy, too. Don’t count on that to be your main way of connecting to the internet.

Dinner and night time are for working, too

If you were hoping to catch up with a friend who lives in the area, know that you likely won’t have much time to do so.

OR itself has infamous parties that often are headlined by famous bands like Spearhead, George Clinton and Parliament, or the Head and the Heart.

Your dinner time will likely be recapping and strategizing (aka, talking shop) with colleagues. You may also find yourself networking with potential partners.

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


Do you have any tips for going to big conferences?


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