UNBEKNOWNST TO THE general public, but an invasion of major proportions nonetheless, the massive Outdoor Retailers Summer Trade Show wound up its four-day run at the Salt Palace yesterday.

Although I am neither a retailer or a manufacturer, I spent one whole morning at the show because an accommodating P.R. man (now there's a redundancy) named Jeff Blumenfeld sent me a pass.Blumenfeld got on our good side - I was with Deseret News outdoor editor Ray Grass - quickly when he met us at the Salt Palace entrance and said the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America could just as easily have chosen Las Vegas for its gathering but wouldn't hear of it.

"Sure, you can get more cabs in Vegas, more hotels and world-class entertainment," he said. "But these outdoor people don't want Vegas. They want a place you can step outside and look at the mountains. They want Salt Lake. This place it is."

When selling air conditioners to Eskimos becomes an Olympic event, Jeff Blumenfeld will be a medal contender.

Just how big is the Outdoor Retailers Summer Trade Show? Registration this year topped out over 16,000 people, and that's not counting the corps of engineers that designed the Timberland booth.

Thursday through Sunday, the Salt Palace qualified as the state's 17th biggest city, inhabited almost entirely by people from outdoor/sporting goods shops around the world who can tell anyone they look great in fleece.

Just under 2,400 booths were set up, displaying every outdoor item imaginable and quite a few unimaginable.

As Blumenfeld put it, "Stuff you never knew you had to have."

The stuff you'll be using/not using next winter - I already saw it.

I already saw the Kelty tent "photochromatic window," a window that not only allows you to see outside your tent without opening any zippers but that changes shades according to the intensity of the sun.

I already saw the Brunton "wind-watcher," which allows you to determine immediately the wind speed, the air temperature and the wind chill factor. A handy item for windsurfers and anyone who lives in places like Chicago or Wyoming, which is where the windwatcher is made and tested.

I already saw the Sierra Designs "Night cap" sleeping bag, featuring a special hooded design that allows you to toss and turn while sleeping on the ground - something the average American does 40 times any given night - and NOT wake up. That's what they said.

And I already saw the Hobie "Mirage," a row-with-your-legs kayak with a pedal-powered propeller. Fake out your friends with this one. Lay down the oar and keep on moving.

You get that many outdoor nuts together and - that's right - sushi concession stands.

Right next door to a booth offering relaxation massages.

For the most part, the crowd was so healthy it looked like Everest base camp. There wasn't a single necktie to be seen, and virtually no one was wearing shoes you could shine.

Famous climbers with perfect climbing names like Rick Ridgeway, the first American up K2, and Lynn Hill, who climbed The Nose and El Cap in 24 hours, were there, signing posters, representing companies, and proving they are still alive.

As I was leaving, I passed the "Magic Heat" booth, featuring canisters of a revolutionary and, to me, completely amazing emergency heat source that will burn for hours and keep me alive in an avalanche or while I'm waiting out a traffic tie-up this winter on I-15.

I couldn't buy any "Magic Heat" right then, of course, but I sure got the information on where I can.

It could save my life, and to think I didn't even know I needed it.