The Outdoors Show is the annual gearfest and showcase for walking, climbing and biking enthusiasts.
The show, in London’s Docklands, is now combined with the London Bike Show and the Active Travel Show, with stalls, demonstrations and talks across the outdoors spectrum.
grough took a stroll around the ExCel centre, which has been home to the Outdoors Show for three years, since its move from Birmingham, to sniff out what’s new in the great outdoors.
Maybe it’s the austerity of the age, or the wintry weather, but the show felt smaller and more constrained than previously, with some exhibitors absent and others scaled down.
A couple of big retailers were missing, and quite a few brands had no presence this year.
One nice aspect of the Outdoors Show is that, among the big names such as Ordnance Survey, the Ramblers, Met Office and British Mountaineering Council, there is a plethora of smaller exhibitors often with their quirky view of outdoor activities.
One of the first things to catch our eye was Cassandra Ferguson’s girly stall.
Cassandra, of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, has just published the Glamorous Girl’s Guide to the Great Outdoors.
This little pink book promises a ‘warm and humorous look at the challenges of looking and feeling good in the great outdoors’.
Combined with her website and blog, the book offers insights into what beauty kit to carry, how to handle the hairdo in a gusty wind and how to cope with falling in love with your ski instructor.
Among the fluffier pieces of advice are more serious chapters on safety and, if your passions are stirred by all that fresh air and magnificent soaring scenery, there’s even a few paragraphs on the implications of the Sexual Offences Act on bouts of outdoor passion.
The book was launched at the Outdoors Show and is available through Cassandra’s website for £9.49 including postage and packing.
Anyone planning a serious excursion at high altitude might want to think about hiring the services of Leeds-based Chris Hale.
Chris’s company AcclimatiseMe will bring his special gizmo to your home for some hypoxia training.
Over a period of three weeks, the special breathing system can accustom your body to oxygen levels as low as 7 per cent, similar to the content at the top of Everest.
A series of 15 40-minute sessions are used to acclimatise customers and build up red blood cells before embarking on ventures to high altitude.
Chris, a sports scientist, says each customer receives a bespoke service, depending on their needs and upcoming ventures.
Sea-level oxygen levels are 21 per cent and even at the summit of popular tourist mountains such as Kilimanjaro there is less than half the amount.
More details of the service are available on the AcclimatiseMe website.
Visitors to the Outdoors Show have a chance to view the changing face of Everest exhibitions, with three differing outfits ranging from a replica of George Mallory’s clothing from his ill-fated 1924 attempt, through a 1970s Hamish MacInnes suit and finally Kenton Cool’s Sherpa Adventure Gear ‘onesie’ from his record-breaking 10th successful ascent last year.
The exhibits are part of the Mountain Heritage Trust’s 60 Years on Everest display, which also has a scale 3D model of the area around the world’s highest mountain, along with photographs and other artefacts from mountaineers tackling Everest.
For the first time, Mountain Rescue England and Wales, the umbrella body for teams south of the border, had a presence at the show.
Members of the Llanberis Mountain Rescue and North East Wales Search and Rescue Teams brought one of their vehicles and rescue gear, including a stretcher to the London show.
Plenty of coins were going in the teams’ collecting boxes on the bonnet of the Land Rover.
Testing things to destruction was Chris Rowlands of Llanberis climbing brand DMM, with his rig demonstrating just how far a karabiner could be loaded before giving up the ghost.
“It will go with a bang,” he warned as the design load of 2.4kN approached and, surely enough, the aluminium alloy spring-gate loop cracked as the equivalent of 2.4 tonnes, or a minibus’ weight, was applied to the karabiner.
It’s a perfect result for brand manager Chris, who wants the unit to fail at or about its design force rating – certainly not below but not above either. It means the karabiner has been designed and manufactured correctly, vital when a climber’s life could depend on it.
Adventurer Al Humphreys was speaking to visitors at the Outdoors Show, recounting tales of his numerous outings, ranging from his four-year cycling expedition round the world to the Marathon des Sables and rowing across the Atlantic.
Speakers tomorrow, Sunday, include Kenton Cool, television presenter Helen Skelton, and climber Ed Farrelly.
Another quirky product was on display at the show on the SplashMaps stand. David Overton is producing two areas – the New Forest and South Downs – on fabric.
SplashMaps produce their ‘washable, wearable’ 1:40k maps using Ordnance Survey OpenData mapping combined with OpenStreetMap, the crowd-sourced open mapping data on cloth.
Each of the two available maps cost £18.99 and, though pitched principally at mountain bikers, might be of interest to walkers when the range is expanded to include six of Britain’s national parks.
David is already talking about a custom-centred mapping offering. Some more details are on the SplashMaps site.
New to the UK is Tear-Aid, a repair patch the US company said will stick to canvas, leather and rubber. Another model is designed for vinyl and vinyl-coated material.
Director Jon Earl said these tough patches will stick to any material that isn’t silicone coated.
Typical outdoor uses include inflatable mattresses, tents and even Gore-Tex waterproofs as long as they haven’t been silicone treated.
The patches don’t need adhesive and the manufacturer says they won’t ‘turn gummy’ in high heat. They’re airtight, watertight and puncture resistant.
Tear-Aid is currently pitching to retailers, so you might start seeing them in outdoor shops in the coming months. Details are on the TearAid website.
We also had a long chat with British Mountaineering Council president Scott Titt, who was upbeat about the organisation’s coming year, with extra cash from Sport England funding three new posts, including two regional officers and one devoted to hillwalking.
Scott explained that, with increased participation in mountaineering, which includes climbing and hillwalking, the cash had been diverted from less successful sports, enabling the BMC to advertise the three posts.
More than 200 people have so far applied for the jobs, the closing date for which is 24 January.
Visitors to the Outdoors Show, which has its final day at the ExCel centre in east London tomorrow, Sunday, can also wander into the Active Travel Show and the London Bike Show, with lots on offer including the London Nocturne indoor track which will feature, among other things, a penny-farthing bike race.
And for a glimpse of how the other half lives in austerity Britain, outdoor fans can cross the concourse and gawpe at the indescribably expensive luxury craft at the London International Boat Show.
Somehow, those top-end Gore-Tex jackets won’t seem quite so expensive after that.
More details of the Outdoors Show are on the event’s website.