Just back from the 2010 OutDoor trade show at Friedrichshafen on the shore of Lake Constanz – or the Bodensee if you're feeling teutonic – it's a massive affair, to give you an idea of just how big, it even has its own iPhone app to help you find your way around.
There are more than ten hangar-like halls, all crammed with stands belonging to brands you've heard of and brands you haven't from all over the world. For every North Face or Patagonia, there are tens of small brands that are big in Belgium or massive in Portugal.
And the whole point of the thing is for everyone to show off what's new for spring 2011, the place is crammed full of packs and clothing and boots and GPS units and strange little gadgets that you're not quite sure what they do – pretty much anything outdoorsy you can think of in fact.
We'll be bringing you highlights from the usual suspects over the next week or so on OM, but as starter, we thought we'd pick out a few trends. The first thing we noticed this year is that it seems to be a case of evolution rather than revolution – stuff is getting lighter and slicker and neater, but there's not much around that's truly ground-breaking.
As an example, Pertex has a new fabric called Quantum GL – the GL stands for Gossamer Light and you can stop the smutty condom jokes right now – and it's everywhere. Or seems to be. It's a very light and very expensive 10-denier fabric and features in several bonkers light windproofs along with some very neat Rab insulated clothing.
But when all's said and done, it's just a a bit thinner and lighter than existing, bog standard Quantum, so the result is slightly lighter windproofs and insulated clothing.
Then there's colours. Lots of them, bold primary ones that jump up and smack you in the face. The North Face is a good example, their stand was awash with brightness, made stuff like waterproof jackets in bright purple and yellow – same garment – Haglofs were similar, Osprey Packs are now available in some retina-scorching hues and even Scarpa has a range of casual shoes that look like a colour chart.
So we'll be looking like a bunch of jesters next year then? Not quite, because besides all the brightness, the big boys always have a quieter option for the more modest wearer and chances are that you'll be seeing rather more black or plain blue shells than poisonous green and yellow ones.
What else? One last trend, suddenly barefoot running is hip and the result is a growth in the number of shoes claimed to simulate barefoot walking and running. Innov-8 won an award for their floppy-soled trail come fell-running shoe and went a step further with a minimalist urethane foot cover designed for running on grassy meadows and on sand.
It's not all niche either. Merrell, who are as mainstream as you can get, has a range of 'barefoot' walking shoes out next spring and designed in conjunction with the guys at Vibram Fivefingers, while even Keen has dipped an artfully-protected toe into the barefoot water with a minimalist new trail-running shoe.
The fascinating bit is that you can now buy trail-running footwear ranging from ultra-minimalist, through to massively cushioned, stiffened, nubuck-uppered quasi-walking shoes that would make a decent basis for a traditional walking boot. Confused? You will be...
What else? Well, the sausage is still big in Germany. It was ridiculously hot. Berghaus now has a crack innovation unit called Mtn Haus, which makes us think of special forces hiding out in the woods, the new, super-lightweight Terra Nova tents look bonkers in the flesh, there's a new boot called the Asolo Fandango and slack-lining is the new skateboarding. Or something like that...
All this and more in excruciating detail over the next week or so.