Just when people start thinking all that can be improved has been improved, and that there's nowhere else to go, the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market appears on the scene and spreads out a whole list of new and improved items.

Such was the case this year for the 15,000 or so visitors to the Salt Palace over the four days of the show.

Key words tossed around this year included higher technology, greater comfort, more durability, better performance and more stylish fashions.

This included Bula's Stereohead hats, a range of hats that blend MP3 technology with Peruvian style for ease of listening pleasure while recreating; the SteriPEN Journey LCD, a water purifier that uses ultraviolet rays to destroy disease-causing bacteria and viruses while out in the wilds; and Bluetooth-enabled helmets that answer phones from Smith Optics, which isn't always possible when outdoors.

Hi-Tec, the boot and shoe maker, introduced new waterproof enhancement technology to its shoe line. The process is called "ion-mask." According to Cheryl Rebsamen, P.R./advertising manager, the process works at the molecular level, building ions upon ions, creating an invisible polymer mask that repels oil and water.

It is also a process that is more environmentally friendly since there is no waste and the process is completed at room temperature, which requires less energy.

All of which makes its No. 1 selling hiking shoe, V-Lite Altitude Ultra, lighter, since it eliminates an inner membrane or outer treatment, more breathable and easier to care for.

And, as she pointed out, "Think what this technology could mean to other produces that can be damaged by water, such as cell phones, which when treated could be protected from water damage."

The company also introduced a seamless shoe that is more durable and instantly comfortable. Seams are, after all, points of wear, cause blisters and are points of compromise.

Snowshoeing has been one of the fastest growing outdoor winter activities in recent years. The reasons, said Bruce Barrows, national sales manager for Tubbs Snowshoes, include things like more convenience, lower cost and more interest in outdoor winter activities.

"New bindings, for example, are easier to get in and out of. You can be in or out of a snowshoe in seconds, where it used to take much longer to connect all the straps. This can be a problem when you are trying to get the whole family fitted," he noted.

"And we're starting to see more families becoming involved in snowshoeing. It's much more economical. You can outfit a whole family for what you end up paying for one set of alpine or cross country skis, and you can go anywhere on snowshoes, even out in your own back yard."

Price point for adult shoes ranges from $119 to $269 and for kids $69 to $89.

Tubbs also introduced a new frame shape for easier walking and new crampon designs for more stability.

It was 28 years ago that Chris Treptow introduced the first Heat hand warmer, a packet that heats up when exposed to air. For years the hand warmers were a novelty; today they have become as much a part of outdoor activity as the parka.

Glove makers, for example, are now building special pockets in their products to hold the warmers.

"Fifteen years ago we approached glove makers, and they told us they weren't interested because it would give the impression their gloves weren't warm enough," she recalled. "So we developed our own glove line. Now, almost every glove makers has adapted a glove for the warmer."

Along with the hand warmer, the company also makes warmers for the feet (boot and support footbeds) and back and this year will introduce headgear that incorporates the warmers.

The mistake some make is trying to use the hand warmers in the boots and boot warmers for the hands. The oxidation process, which creates the heat, requires air. Without air they won't work.

"Inside the boot there is typically not enough air, so we created the boot warmer. Boot warmers will not work as a hand warmer because it typically gets too hot," she noted.

The Salt Lake-based company Chums introduced an all-natural sun protection product with a plus-30 SPF rating named Beyond Coastal. It is a high-end sunscreen line, created by a California surfer for outdoor use by active people.

The company also introduced a men's line of wallets using sailcloth fabric that is durable, attractive and, as with other products, fits into the active lifestyle. The company that introduced the original eyeglass cotton retainer also showed a new line of water packs and women's purses.

Rossignol, which recently moved its operations to Utah and is best known for its skis, introduced a women's parka with a patented adjustable heating system. At the push of a button, four heating panels in the chest and back area heat up. The rechargeable battery will give six 20-minute bursts of heat. The jacket, with a $700 retail price, comes in white and black, but France Lessard, marketing manager, said the company plans to expand the heating option into other garments next year.

Petzl, another Utah-based company, introduced an ultra-comfortable, multipurpose helmet that is "levitated" above the head to give the wearer a near weightless feeling, said John Evans, marketing director.

It also introduce a lightweight belay/rappel device, a ventilated adjustable harness, a locking carabiner, compact telescopic pole and a new headlamp that provides 200 percent more brightness.

There were, of course, many more new and innovative products shown, along with thousands of tried and proven products, all of which will make the retail level next fall, just in time for winter use.

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