The Ultimate Outdoor Retailer Trade Show Survival Guide

In my last post, I mentioned the dichotomy that is attending the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show (OR). It’s an intense 3 or 4 days depending on how aggressive you’re feeling. With over 50,000 attendees and thousands of exhibitors, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This weekend will be my third time attending OR and I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things at this point.

Here are a few tips that are worth considering to not just survive Outdoor Retailer, but to thrive.

1. Beware of the altitude.

At 4,327 feet above sea level, Salt Lake City is sneakily high. It might not get the press that Denver does being the “Mile High City,” but it’s more than high enough to knock you for a loop if you’re coming from sea level. It’s also very dry. Plan accordingly or you’ll spend your trip fighting an altitude headache. Hydrate like a champion before you even make it to Salt Lake City and be sure to tote your water bottle along with you at all times. If you do get a headache, chug more water and snag some Advil. Bring Chapstick too, your lips will thank you.


2. Make friends with an OR veteran.

Your first time at Outdoor Retailer will go a lot smoother if you align yourself with someone who has been a few times before. Who’s got the best happy hour in their booth? Where do I get a good breakfast burrito in the morning? Where’s the best party to network? Where can I snag some free Wi-Fi? They’ll know all the answers and save you a lot of time and frustration stumbling around the Salt Palace with a shell shocked look on your face.

3. Pack an extra duffel bag.

Outdoor Retailer is the land of swag. Samples, prodeals and giveaways abound at most booths, particularly on the last day. The veteran move is to either bring a big duffel and leave space in it or to pack a spare bag just in case you need it.

4. Take it slow.

There’s a LOT to see at OR and the bottom line is you’ll never see it all so don’t even try. Try to pace yourself throughout the show. Pick what you really want to see every day and realize that anything on top of that is a bonus. Enjoy the conversations that happen and accept that you’ll be running behind schedule the entire show. Don’t worry, so is everyone else.


5. Bring a backpack and a charging pack.

Outlets are at a premium in the Salt Palace and your mobile battery will be getting depleted at a breakneck pace. So bring a charging pack (I like the Goal Zero Venture 30) so you’re not beholden to the wall sockets. This should be stowed away with your relevant charging cords in a comfortable backpack. You’ll want something to easily stow and carry your gear while hiking around the convention center and a shoulder bag or tote will just leave you cursing your bad judgment after a few hours.

Outdoor Retailer is a great opportunity and well worth attending if you’re interested in working in or with the outdoor industry. Plan properly and it can be a blast. Hope to see you there!


Jon Gaffney is a Senior Brand Strategist for GYK Antler. In his free-time he gets out on the trail and the water as much as life allows, usually with a camera and some new gear to review for his freelance writing assignments. Prior to joining the GYK Antler team, Jon’s experience ranges pretty far and wide. He ran digital marketing for Vibram, a soling and footwear company based in Concord, MA and then spent 3 years on the agency side working on strategy for adidas, Lego, Reebok, HBO and Royal Caribbean among others. Last year he freelanced on digital strategy and writing while taking a road trip around the United States in a camper van of his own design. His passion for the outdoors is by no means an anomaly on the GYK Antler team and we continue to take those personal interests and apply them to the work we do and pursue.

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