Episode 47, Simple innovation for auto travel plentiful

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Based in Oakland, Helinox (www.helinox.com) was among numerous vendors at the recent Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Denver. The annual trade show showcases a vast array of merchandise, some geared toward various automotive user groups.

“We obviously come from the outdoors, but we recognize the way in which people get to the outdoors is often by automobile,” said Azul Couzens, vice president of the company that also makes umbrellas and trekking poles. “More people are active in the outdoors with their cars. They’re going all-terrain; they’re going with their van and they’re going with their restored VW van or Land Cruiser.”

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A 1976 Volkswagen Bus was used as part of the display for Helinox during Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Denver.
A 1976 Volkswagen Bus was used as part of the display for Helinox during Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Denver. Image © James Raia/2018
The Chair Zero collapses and fits into a pull-string bag the size of a water bottle. It weighs one pound and can hold a person weighing as much as 275 pounds.
“People are looking for equipment knowing that space is at a premium and that’s where we come in,” said Azul. “We offer lightweight, collapsible and portable furniture that delivers on comfort when you’re away from home. It really comes down to how much comfort you want to carry and how far you have to carry it once you pull it out of your car.”
Helinox displayed most of its products at Outdoor Retailer with traditional shelving. But a centerpiece of furniture was positioned around a restored 1976 Volkswagen bus. The vans are a time capsule of efficient outdoor-oriented travel, an ideal match for Helinox.
Here are three more automotive-related products from the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market:
* Aquabot (www.lunatecgear.com) — It’s called a hydration spray bottle. It has three patterns — mist, stream and shower. It’s available in several sizes and colors. According to Nick Rhea, president of Lunatec Gear, it’s good to use to “cool off, clean off and hydrate.”
The largest and most elaborate bottle, the Comet, holds one liter (33.8 ounces) and includes a sleeve and a 36-inch long tube. It eliminates having to pick-up the bottle while driving. The Comet is also popular among golfers, backpackers and cyclists.
“It just makes drinking more convenient,” said Rhea. “We make innovative gear that simplifies your life, and to ease complicated adventures.”
* Hi-Tec/Magnum (www.hi-tec.com) — Outdoorsmen, military and law enforcement personnel and truck drivers often make long hauls in bulky shoes with little ankle support. Magnum, the world’s top-selling tactical boot, makes a six-inch and eight-high boots.
The boots provide strong ankle support, but it results in drivers having difficulty articulating their feet when using gas, brake or clutch pedals.
All Magnum boots have a flexible “round-up” heal for pivoting and flexibility overall comfort for daily use while driving a vehicle. The boot is uniform-oriented with a clean, rounded toe for polishing, but with a high-top portion for support.
* Knockaround (www.knockaround.com) — The idea is affordability, and it’s reflected in the name. The San Diego company makes cheap sunglasses in a near-countless offering on colors and sizes. And the sunglasses include components of prominent brands, like polarization, ideal for driving.
“Beat ‘em up, wear ‘em, lose, scratch ‘em, break ‘em and buy another pair for not that much,” said company vice president Ed Rainey. Knock around sunglasses range from $10-$30.
The company started about 12 years ago when its founder lost his RayBans on the beach didn’t feel like spending $200 to replace them.

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