Heading to the beach with a pair of Kadima paddles this weekend? You might get snickered off the sand.
That's because this summer's must-have outdoor gear is all about effective, easy-to-use, high-tech pieces versatile enough to transfer from sport to sport.
"What you're seeing is active lifestyles now," says Stu Isaac, senior vice president of marketing for Speedo. "People are doing more things, different things. You find less that a person is just a runner. Instead, they're a runner, cyclist, swimmer and cross trainer, and they want products that can cross over many different venues."
Teva's Karnali Wraptor, for instance, is a sports sandal that provides a stable grip whether you're on a trail, in the river or anywhere in between. The shoe has a 360-degree continuous strapping system that wraps around the foot, as well as toe protection. Its design also includes patent-pending drain frame technology, allowing water to waste through the bottom of the shoe.
For those looking to improve their muscular endurance and power while training for a wide variety of sports, Adidas has come up with Powerweb apparel. A clothing line including compression or body-hugging tops and shorts for men and women, Powerweb consists of thermoplastic polyurethane bands that are anatomically placed to provide muscular support and reduce the amount of energy you expend. Shirts focus on the pecs, shoulders, back and core, while shorts support glutes and hamstrings. Tennis tops have a slightly different design with extra shoulder bands.
According to Adidas statistics, if one person wears Powerweb clothing and another just basic compression gear, everything being equal, the Powerweb technology could help a competitor come out one yard ahead in a 100-yard dash.
Another piece you might end up wearing no matter what sport you're taking on is Oakley's Radar, the company's first new sports performance sunglasses in almost six years. The men's models are just hitting stores this month; the women's version will debut next month. Constructed with a stress-resistant frame, lenses come standard with a hydrophobic and oleophobic anti-smudge coating, meaning nothing is going to stick to them — not even permanent marker. Glare reduction and prescription inserts are optional.
"If you think about a runner or cyclist, they're drinking water and handling sunscreen," says Diane Thibert, director of public relations for Oakley. "They need to be able to have sun lenses that repel anything so they can compete at a high level."
Style and comfort
Another summer gear trend, highlighted by a slew of new products introduced at the fall 2006 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show, is an array of high-end camping gear tailored to baby boomers and consumers who enjoying roughing it in a little bit of comfort.
Jarden subsidiary The Coleman Company, which specializes in outdoor products, this spring introduced a rechargeable battery-powered portable blender and a radio cooler.
All four blender models can whiz through 20 to 30 batches per full charge, making it easy for campers or tailgaters to enjoy smoothies, frozen cocktails and even soups outside of the kitchen. A marine model, perfect for boats, comes with an electroplated finish to protect it from the elements. If you're looking for a multi-tasking appliance, the electronic radio cooler combines a radio, MP3 jack and speakers with a capacity to chill 46 cans, plus ice.
And if you're like the rest of us and hate dealing with slathering the kids or grandkids in sunscreen, try one of the fastest-selling new items from Coolibar, a Minnesota-based clothing company, with an ultraviolet protection factor of 50+. (UPF rates protection against both Ultraviolet A and Ultraviolet B waves.)
Coolibar's swim rompers cover babies ages 6 to 24 months in a lightweight, soft fabric that extends to the wrists and mid-calves. Fibers are chlorine- and saltwater-resistant, and the pieces are machine-washable. Coolibar makes full-coverage, sun-protective swim gear for adults, too.
"Everybody is now realizing that having a George Hamilton, Coopertone tan is not necessarily a healthy look any longer," says Michael Hubsmith, vice president of merchandizing for Coolibar.
What is? Staying sporty — in style, of course.