Outdoor Leisure Show Trip Report

Just in from the new Outdoor Leisure Show at Birmingham’s NEC. This report almost fits into the “we went so that you don’t have to category”!

The Ordnance Survey backed Outdoors Show that we have covered since its launch has now moved to London. By all accounts this was a well thought out show but for some bizarre reason it was scheduled for two weeks after New Year, a time when few people have any money. This new Birmingham show, which has been designed to fill the half-term gap, is tagged onto the Camping and Caravan Show. The floor area is small and much of that it empty. Looking at the show guide a number of the bigger stalls have been given space at the last minute in oder to fill the big gaps.

To be fair this probably isn’t the best time to launch a new show. The overwhelming spectre here was the difficult economic climate. Yet despite this there were few opportunities to buy discount gear. These shows aren’t cheap, it cost £15 to get into this one. If you’re reading this before trotting over there tomorrow you may be thinking again. So, here are some of my highlights of the show.

Tents

This is the one area where backpackers would have been able to indulge their interests.

Alpkit were previewing their new range of tents. The three tents on show are not lightweight backpacking tents but bombproof geodisc designs that are deigned for expeditions or static camping. The tallest of these tents weighs about 3 kilograms but is a big tent for two. The next one up in size is aimed at four to five people but would be a palace for two in a fixed site setting. the largest in the range is a huge geodisc which would also make a great campsite tent for a family with a couple of small children. While not the lightest tents in the world these compare well with the competition and do offer that famous Alpkit value for money.

A lighter range of backpacking tents should arrive in about 12 months. Alpkit’s aim is to have a fully functional, two skin tent for two people that comes in at just under a kilogram. However, design is the watchword here and if the final design comes in at just over 1 kilogram Alpkit won’t worry too much.

I recorded a long conversation with Alpkit’s Jim Evans which many of you gearheads will find interesting. I’m always struck by their honesty. You know what they are aiming at, good functional design and goo value for money. Jim was quite upfront about the difficulty that the company is having particularly with the securing of very lightweight fabrics for the Pipedream range. As the mainstream producers move towards these lightweight materials in a big way supply is becoming a problem and production of these items might become a little more erratic. So but while you can!

If you do go to the show the Alpkit stand is one of the very few where you can find yourself a bargain, especially when it comes to down jackets or sleeping bags. Lot’s to listen to here — I must get around to editing the sound files quickly!

Terra Nova

The new range of Terra Nova tents is on display at the show and are certainly worth a look not least because the lightweight materials of the Laser are now used throughout the range.

I was interested in the new Voyager 2.2 as this is the successor to he Solar 2.2 that I have used for the last give years or so.

The Voyager 2.2 retains the basic form an shape of the Solar with a few key differences that are designed to meet the criticisms of users. The first thing you notice is that the roof has a dramatic slope on it so there would be no more problems with water pooling on the roof. The dual vestibule system is retained but the sloping roof means that one of the pair using this needs to be quite a bit smaller than the other!

The Solar 2.2 weighed about 2.2 kilograms which could easily be reduced to 2 if you used titanium pegs. The Voyager 2.2 is heavier coming in at around 2.5 kilograms. The increase in weight is mainly due to to the use of a third pole. The slope and space of the new rood presumably has had an effect on the stability of the tent and one vestibule/door area is re-enforced with a third pole that stretches the length of tent. Not only does this mean that the tent is heavier but I guess it means that it is not quite so quick and easy to put up but I may be wrong about that.

One other design bonus of this change is that the inner tent is now wider which will be welcomed by many who felt that the Solar was just a little too intimate. The width of the Solar didn’t bother me until I started using a Neoair mat and then I did notice it a bit.

For me the additional weight has sent this tent in the wrong direction and I’d be looking at other options, particularly the lightweight teepee ones. Still, this design does put right the two main problems of the Solar 2.2. Bob was a fan of the original Solar and a disappointed user of the 2.2. he declared himself happy with the new design, although I’m not sure he had clocked the third pole which I only noticed after a prolonged inspection.

One little oddity was the Laser Competition that was made of Cuben Fibre, the Laser Ultra. This tent comes in under 500 grams and is I guess designed to ensure that Terra Nova keeps the record for the lightest two skin tent on the market. Personally, I’m not sure it is a good idea to put so much stitching into a sheet of tightly stretched cuben fibre!

Paramo

As ever at these shows the Paramo stand stood out and I guess they will be pretty buy on Saturday. As the Paramo range expands it gets more difficult to really follow what is going on but there are more choices now that use the new lightweight outer fabric first used on the Velez Adventure. A Ladies version of the Velez Adventure Trousers is now also available. I’ve certainly found the male version of these far more comfortable than the old and heavier Cascadas.

Sadly, it was confirmed that the Third Element Jacket is no more. I did have a slightly weird conversation with a guy on the stand who — shall we say — didn’t have the usual Paramo customer friendliness!

Me: “Shame about the third Element”

Him: “Too expensive mate”

Me: “It was a good jacket though, shame not enough people understood it”.

Him: “Far too expensive to make. It’s as expensive as the Aspira you know”

This last point was supposed to be a clincher. I almost pointed out that this should be no surprise as the jackets are made out of exactly the same material, but then I thought better of it. I could see this chap was going to keep trashing the product so I made some comment about how it was a shame that only long distance backpackers appreciated it. Nobody is going to keep making an item that doesn’t sell but it is odd that so many of my backpacking mates use this jacket in the winter and cooler months. everyone who uses it seem to love it. The Third Element was paramo Nick’s great invention and personally I still think it is a greta jacket. If you can find remainder stock on ebay it is still worth a look.

The one product here that did stand out for me was the new Paramo Fuera windproof. This seems well designed and is probably a little more robust than many of the competitor’s lightweight and windproof offerings.

Thank goodness for the Bushcraft Folk

By far the best display of the show was the Bushcraft ‘village’. The stands were staffed by warm hearted enthusiasts and there was a lot to do and watch.

George — London Backpacker — wonders whether the age of these big shows has passed and he might be right.

So, a bit disappointing and probably not worth a long trip for. Young children, through, will enjoy the climbing walls and Kayak tanks. This group beneath were having a great time whittling spoons in the Bushcraft area.

Whittling!

Comments

  1. Nice one Andy. Thanks for confirming that we haven’t missed much.
    I enjoyed your Resonance FM interview as well, BTW.

  2. Podcast Bob says

    Video of the show can be sen here;

  3. I used to visit the canoe show regularly but then it went “professional” and lost its fun, magic and discounts.

    As a newbie to lightweight backpacking a show somewhere in middle UK (or preferably in West Wales) would be welcome to see and touch just lightweight gear. Just needs someone to arrange it!!

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