In early July, the Gear Junkie hopped the big pond to attend Ispo, a major sports and outdoors-equipment trade show held twice each year in Munich, Germany.
As one of the world’s largest outdoors and fitness-sports exhibitions, Ispo brings together a diverse group of international companies to provide a peek at worldwide recreational trends. Indeed, at this year’s summer show, held July 3 – 5, exhibitors from 46 countries were present, and only a small percentage of companies on the show floor were American.
In addition to the international flavor, Ispo makes an effort to recognize innovative products from new and upcoming companies with its BrandNew Award program. The award is given to nine companies in several product categories, and Ispo showcases BrandNew winners and nominees in a special pavilion at the trade show.
The following are my top product picks from the BrandNew Award winners and other international outdoors companies that caught my eye.
Cross a yo-yo with a gyroscope, throw in some artsy aesthetic, add a fitness theme and you have the Handytrim, a strange little workout device made by Xcise Sports Group. Comprised of two metal rings, some cord and an aluminum disc, the Handytrim employs several Newtonian bylaws to create a spinning, pulling, centrifugal-force-wielding contraption that can be used to work out muscles throughout the arms and upper body. Essentially, Handytrim users grip a ring in each hand and begin spinning and pulling the cords until the center disc jumps into its rhythm. At full spin, the device provides several pounds of pressure to tension against with each pull of the ring. There are at least five exercise regimens the company has built around this odd and effective workout toy. ($36, www.handytrim.com)
It’s a bummer, but dedicated surfers must get out of bed before the sun rises to check wave conditions online, as the surf is often best as early as 5AM. The Wave Pillow is a regular plush and padded pillow that interfaces to an Internet-connected computer to check wave conditions automatically. Each morning, the pillow connects to the Internet to read wave-buoy websites from beaches all over the world. It vibrates if wave conditions at your beach are good, and it is still and silent if the waves are small or the wind is bad for surfing. If the waves are really big, it vibrates strong to shake even the sleepiest surfer from slumber. ($99, www.wavepillow.com)
Powergrid Fitness calls itself a leader in the development of videogame-based exercise equipment. Until the Ispo show, I’ll have to admit, I was not aware videogames could provide a workout. But the Kilowatt Sport does just that, as it is a device that forces videogame players to stand, push, pull and grunt their way on a virtual playing field. It is compatible with PS2, Xbox, GameCube and computer-based videogames. While the $1,200 Kilowatt Sport is made primarily for health clubs, the company has plans to release a personal videogame-workout device this autumn called the Exer-station, which will weigh just 15 pounds and retail for about $200. (www.kilowattrocks.com)
The Twinskates by Reflex are stubby little water skis with a length of just 39 inches, a width of 12 inches and a deep side-cut to allow for quick carving in the wake. The short, fat design is made for jumping, rail-sliding and other stunts. The ski’s inherent float and stability will also make them attractive to beginners. ($590, www.reflexworld.com)
Remember those pop-up books from your childhood? MountMaps brings the pop-up concept to ski resort trail maps with its namesake product. The pocket-size brochures open to reveal a 3D map of the ski area, complete with printed trail names, chairlifts and other details you’ll need to navigate your way through the mountains at massive ski resorts. The maps are topographically accurate, waterproof and durable, as they’re made of recycled plastic. The company has created 3D maps for two major European resorts, but plans are to expand globally and sell the concept to ski hills around the world. ($4, www.mountmaps.com)
Think the recumbent bicycle is dead? The KMX Kart, a 24-speed recumbent with mountain bike characteristics, may just put these ground-skimming cycles back in fashion. I had a blast cruising at high speeds outside the trade show pavilion, banking turns, spinning out, riding over curbs and stopping on a dime. Knobby tires, disc brakes, nice components, beefy construction and a design that provides good control on the pavement and off trail have allowed the company to sell 3,000 KMX Karts in the past six months in Europe alone. ($1,000, www.atomictoys.net)
Windsurfing on dry land. That’s the general idea behind the Windboard, an oversized flexible fiberglass skateboard with sail compatibility. Its large tires let riders catch the wind and sail on asphalt, packed sand or other hard surfaces. The company made the Windboard for passionate but landlocked windsurfers looking to get a quick fix, but windsurf neophytes may also benefit from this design, as it lets you get the hang of the sport without waves and other challenges of the deep, dark sea. ($499, www.windboard.com)
Skorpion Sports Ltd. calls its namesake product a multi-terrain quad skate. Essentially, they are rugged roller skates with big wheels and suspension to suck up the bumps and roll over grass, dirt, gravel, cracked pavement and brick cobbles. A wide foot platform and ratchet straps let you step in and skate in regular footwear. The five-inch wheels have fast bearings and a strong five-spoke geometry. The skate body and axle mounts are made of a thermoplastic resin for durability and light weight. ($75, www.skorpionskates.com)
Knog Frog light
The flexible silicone body of this micro bike light allows it to be stretched and mounted on handlebars, seat posts and frame tubing with diameters ranging from 10mm to 32mm. The Frog is water resistant and has no moving parts. It weighs 12 grams and runs on lithium battery coin cells that the company says will keep the Frog’s L.E.D. blinking bright for 160 hours. ($10, www.knogusa.com)
GoPro Hero Camera
Never miss the shot. That’s GoPro’s mantra for the Hero Camera, a waterproof 35mm camera that attaches to your wrist via a strong Velcro bracelet. It stays folded down and out of the way during activities like surfing, mountain biking, skiing and climbing; when the perfect photo opportunity arises the camera pivots up with the flip of a small rubber tab ready to fire. Made for amateur sports photographers tired of the inconvenience of traditional cameras, this product is a smart and simple solution. It’s easy to operate, it’s durable, and it will do the job capturing those hard-to-get action shots you might miss in the blink of an eye. ($20, www.goprocamera.com)