I just got back from a pretty great weekend attending the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show. It was two full days of talking canoes, camping and other paddling pursuits. I go mainly to see the presentations and demos in the pool, and to generally see what’s new in the camping world. Most years I go for a day, rush around and try to see everything, get caught up in some interesting conversations, then miss half the show. This year I just decided to take my time and just come back for a second day, and it really worked out.
Here’s the thing
So let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. The Outdoor Adventure show isn’t perfect. I’m not a real big fan of crowds, or randomly touching strangers. When the two are put together, you need more space. The Cottage Life and DIY weekend uses the same venue, and gives you much more space to walk down the isles, so I know this problem is fixable. Please, someone, charge us an extra quarter and open another room. (Having been before, I did get quite good at identifying the less popular isles for quick moving when necessary.) My second complaint is that the show seems to feature a lot of booths that have very little to do with the outdoors, but to be fair, it was much, much better than previous years (I was not harassed to subscribe to a newspaper or sign up for a retirement fund for the promise of a toaster) . I’d also like to see more unique items and specialty shops. Places that sell stuff you can’t just grab at your local big box store. In fact, I think what I’d really like to see is more – more shops, more exhibitors, more neat new stuff.
If that’s your only complaint
Now on to the good stuff. What I like best about these shows is talking to all the outdoor people. They’re the best people around. It’s really a great opportunity for you to get up and talk to the outdoor companies and talk to them about their products and services. The tourism booths are especially good because you can talk about the best places to go, what you can do there, and where you can get more information. I don’t know how many times I’ve started up a conversation with them and completely lost track of time trying to find out the best places to canoe and camp in the area they represent. If they don’t know, they usually know someone who does, and points me towards them. Outfitters being there, you can chat with them about planning your upcoming trips, getting real from-the-horse’s-mouth advice. Then there’s the paddling and/or canoe companies you get a chance to visit. Often located in relatively far off places, outdoor shows like these give you a chance to see their stuff up close and talk to the staff about it – and often there are some really great “show” deals going on. For example, I had a lot of questions for Swift Canoe and Kayaks, especially regarding the new Flax Fusion boats they’ve introduced this year. (I was actually planning on buying a solo canoe, and figured this show would be a good time to do it. Then they came out with a new model and laminate, but more on that in a another post.)
And now presenting
My favourite part of these shows are the presentation and demos, and this year’s didn’t disappoint. I saw a great presentation on bear safety from a very good story teller from Ontario Parks, learned about new camping programs and War of 1812 commemorations at Parks Canada, and took virtual trips down the Norwest Territories Trans Canada Trail and along Lake Superior, to name a few. There’s also a bunch of less formal presentations going on on building fires, camping tips, and cultural dances and music (even saw the Parks Canada Beaver gettin’ down at one point).
And then there’s Kevin Callan (aka the Happy Camper). It seems he works overtime at these things. He gave some presentations on camping at the Ontario Parks booth (where he hung out and talked to campers when not busy). In the theater, I caught both his presentation on Paddle Routes of Northwestern Ontario and the Quest for Wilderness film. The former was filled with good route advice and some funny stories. The latter was the “World Premiere” of his new DVD . This was truly entertaining. I’ll write more about this after I get my copy, but it is at times both very funny, but also introspective about what it is that we enjoy about travelling deep into the woods. (It is tough to put into words sometimes.)
Friends in Outdoor places
For me personally, these shows are a great excuse to catch up with friends in the industry. Some are old friends, others new, and some I may have known a while, but I still hadn’t met face-to-face. I got a chance to talk to Mike Ormsby from Reflections on the Outdoors, Naturally, the boys at Swift Canoe and Kayak – including Mike from Badger Paddles, Jim from H20 Performance Paddles – my Movember partner in crime, along with my paddle making instructor Bruce Smith of W. Bruce Smith Paddles. Then there was the crew over at LearnToKayak.ca. They invited me out after the show and we had a great time. They were very welcoming even knowing I paddle the single blade (there was some talk about making me sit in the corner, but being such nice folk they let me stay put). Dympna, James, Heather, and of course Alan, you guys are awesome.
Some other great OAS2012 posts:
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.