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Best in Show: Award-Winning Gear From Outdoor Retailer Summer 2024

The Outdoor Retailer Summer 2024 show was held in Salt Lake this week, and the bleeding edge of the Outdoor Industry's gear and technology innovations were on full display. Here were our favorites.
(Photo/Adam Ruggiero)
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Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace was alive and bustling this week as hundreds of members of brands, retailers, and media gathered for the annual Outdoor Retailer (OR) Summer 2024 show.

Since OR left Denver in 2021 and returned to Salt Lake, the largest and most recognizable brands — Patagonia, YETI, Marmot, The North Face, and others — have declined to attend the show. That, on the heels of the pandemic, resulted in a notable downturn in attendance and general hubbub surrounding the show in recent years.

However, this year, OR may have turned a corner. At the Summer 2024 show, there was fresh excitement, new faces, smaller brands, and far less talk of “this show ain’t what it used to be.”

As a result, GearJunkie got face time with many brands, entrepreneurs, and startups that might have otherwise flown under the radar. OR has leaned more heavily into the “discovery show” aspect instead of the big brand exhibition it used to be. And you know what? We’re OK with that. It’s evolution, baby!

We stormed the floor over 2 days, bouncing around, geeking out on gear, holding meetings, and GearJunkie’s own Editor-in-Chief, Adam Ruggiero, even hosted a live podcast. We saw tons of amazing, brand-new products, but only three of them were impressive enough to earn GearJunkie’s coveted Best in Show awards.

Here are the winners.

Chamelo ‘Music Shield’

(Photo/Chamelo)

By this point, you’ve probably heard of photochromatic sunglasses. They automatically adjust the tint of the lens, getting darker when exposed to UV light. If there’s one knock against the design, it’s that some folks perceive a lag when light conditions change from sun to shadow.

The Chamelo Music Shield electrochromatic sunglasses put the power to adjust the tint in your hands. By injecting electricity through the chromatic lenses, the tint is adjustable by simply running your finger over a slider near your right temple.

Not only do these sunglasses allow you to control the tint of your lens, but they also work much faster than traditional photochromatic lenses. According to the brand, Chamelo lenses change tint in less than 0.1 seconds — 1,800 times faster than photochromic glasses.

As if that wasn’t cool enough, these shades can also connect to Bluetooth and have small speakers embedded in the arms. So you can run, bike, hike, or just walk around looking cool and jamming out to your favorite tunes.

The technology behind the Music Shield sunglasses is innovative and unique. We haven’t tested a pair beyond the friendly confines of Salt Lake City, so we’re not sure if it’s fully refined for all outdoor sports. But the innovation is cool, and the frames are sleek, attractive, and fun.

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Mr. Heater ‘Fuel Keg’

(Photo/Fuel Keg)

Green propane canisters are far and away the most common fuel canisters at any campground you walk into. But they are extremely wasteful. Somewhere between 40 and 60 million of them are sold to consumers every year, and the vast majority of those end up in landfills. Mr. Heater aims to change that with its Fuel Keg refillable propane canister system.

The Fuel Keg Refill Kit uses a standard 1-pound propane tank that attaches via a proprietary connector to a standard 20-pound propane tank. It allows you to refill the small canister as many times as you want. And yes, there are a lot of safety features built into the system to mitigate accidents and assure ease of use.

Plus, the whole kit costs about $30.

If it works as advertised, the Fuel Keg would offer a safe, simple, and cost-effective alternative to single-use propane tanks — which, to us, screamed “Best in Show!” Just make sure you read through the extensive refill instructions before diving in.

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Chalkless ‘Grip Enhancer’

chalkless grip enhancer
(Photo/Chalkless)

We must have walked by the Chalkless booth five times before we stopped to try the brand’s demo. And when we finally did, it blew our minds. Unlike regular chalk, this silica silicate grip enhancer removes the oils from your hands and repels water.

And the effect is dramatic. A drop of water on your hands beads up and rolls around your palm without leaving a trace of damp. That keeps your grip iron-tight and slipless.

We’d love to show you an image of the actual product, but it’s basically invisible. The folks at the Chalkless booth had us test our unchalked grip strength on a device they’d created that measures torque. We then applied Chalkless to our hands and tried again.

Honestly, we didn’t know it was there until we rubbed our hands together, and they started to feel extra dry and tacky. On the second try with the torque sensor, our hands didn’t slide at all, and the numbers showed that both of our grip strengths had improved by about 50%.

This stuff could be huge among weightlifters, golfers, police officers, the military, ball players, and, of course, rock climbers. Plus, you only need to apply it once for the entire day and leaves no residue. When you’re done, just wash your hands with soap and you’re good to go.

All in all, it was one of the most impressive product demos we’ve seen in decades of Outdoor Industry trade shows. It was a no-brainer Best in Show.

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