Trade show offers high-tech solutions to the curses of simple camping trips

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- There's nothing like the smell of a wet dog inside your tent to put a damper on the wilderness experience. And boy, wouldn't a hot shower be nice on a long camping trip.

Solutions to the problems of the otherwise simple life can be found at the 21st annual Outdoor Retailer show, where 843 manufacturers this weekend pitched everything from soft Gore-Tex jacket shells to fix-anything hand tools and a $3,000, all-wheel-drive mountain bike.

But while consumers might revel in the show's displays of wilderness widgets that inspired Outside magazine's ''drool'' rating system, only specialty retailers were allowed to browse.

Zodiac Outback Gear of Park City displayed every camper's dream -- a compact propane burner than can heat shower water in 10 seconds for $139. A tiny battery-operated pump delivers the 100-degree water through a hose.

Greg Kennedy of Gearheads in Moab pitched a multicolor, LED bulb glow stick for $25. It can be configured five ways for a variety of tasks, throwing a 50-foot beam of night-vision green light. Flyweight batteries ease the load in backpacks.

Nearby, Brian Phillips of Belgrade, Mont., sold a portable toilet ($259) that's government approved for river and wilderness camping where special rules may apply. It uses ''pooh powder'' to solidify, deodorize and shrink the contents.

Even Fido is a camper these days, and a half-dozen vendors offered specialized pooch gear.

''Everything we do is dog,'' said Mariel Head of Issaquah, Wash., owner of Canine Hardware. The company has a line of dog toys, including the Chuck-it Flying Squirrel, $9-$13 depending on size, that throws like a flying disc and lands on its feet. It also floats.

Canine Hardware made its mark with the ''anti-slobber lobber,'' a $12 ball launcher that can pick up slimy tennis balls.

No dog is content without his or her own washable sleeping bag and mosquito-mesh tent, said Marc Ladyga of Steamboat Springs, Colo., chief executive of Uhlr. That's pronounced ''oo-ler'' after his late dog.

''You can keep your stinking dog out of your tent,'' said Ladyga. He said dogs gladly hop inside their own tent ($40 and up) and, when it gets cold, snuggle into their own bag ($30-$65.)

He's planning a line of saddle bags so dogs can carry their own tent, fabric bowls and trail chow.

''People will go to any lengths to keep their pets healthy and happy,'' said Lee Alvarado of the American Pet Products Manufacturers' Association.

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