The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market is in town this week.

Latest count is there will be 17,000 manufacturers, retailers and suppliers in or visiting the Salt Palace over the four days of the show.

Which is overwhelming ... so much to see.

Within the past two months I have received more than 120 e-mails and at least two dozen phone calls drawing attention to products and/or people to interview.

Which all sounds easy, except the minute you pass security and enter the stadium, you're lost.

Ahead of you are a couple thousand pairs of shoes, 10,000 items of clothing, hundreds of backpacks and headlamps and any and all the outdoor equipment a person could ever want or need.

And in most cases, what's being presented is newer, better, brighter, softer, tougher and far more attractive than last year's items of interest.

For example:

Icelandic Design tells me its fall 2008 collection is "Attractive artistic tapestry, rich color palettes and stunning appliques and embellishments make this collection our best one yet." And, yes, it does look nice.

Even packaging is addressed. Ultimate Survival Technologies has released new packaging with "Bold new color scheme and new labeling promoting package recycling" and three new products.

Just when you think an item has hit a dead end, it surprises you. Crocs, makers of those colorful slip-ons, announced it has "14 new and innovative Crocs footwear styles."

Bamboo is showing up in a lot of the products in this year's show. Bamboo Buzz, for example, is touting the bamboo and wool sock it claims is the most comfortable sock ever.

Then there's Teko, another sock maker. It announced it is using high-performance, organic merino wool that comes from a group of 20 farms in Argentina, where wool has been organically farmed. No mulesing, pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, vaccinations or chemical drenches are used, the company says. The sheep are grazed on large pastures and no motorized vehicles are utilized. I guess to keeping the stress level down makes for better wool.

And, of course, "green" is always a marketable item at this show.

Terrasoles, makers of apres footwear, uses bamboo, organic canvas, high-quality recycled fleece, recycled packaging and other environmentally friendly elements in its products.

Brooks Sports is showing for the first time the Trance 8 featuring BioMoGo, the first biodegradable midsole. Merrell is introducing a new running-style shoe using environmentally friendly materials and processes, including recycled mesh uppers and materials that reduce the amount of water and energy needed in the manufacturing process.

What to know the latest weather forecast? La Crosse Technology is showcasing its Weather Direct, an Internet-powered, personal weather system that uses a high-speed Internet connection to deliver customizable multiday forecasts and current weather information, which includes automated voice greetings.

Even the pets get attention at this show. Planet Dog introduced the Tiny Tug, which it calls a sleek device that can take any torque, yank or power-jaw pull a dog can dish out. Katie's Bumpers has a whole list of dog toys, including Super Sqwuggies, Jilly Beams and River Ropes.

These items are but a drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool, which shows just why this show is so overwhelming.

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