Another fantastic Canoecopia comes to an end which unofficially kicks off the 2012 paddling season (well, that and the ridiculously fantastic weather). And after a great weekend, we’re even more excited and inspired to hit the water.
If you’re a regular to Canoecopia, you wouldn’t have been surprised by a whole lot. It was very much the same experience with a few surprises here and there. It did feel like the layout was a lot better this year and that boats and boat companies were once again the star while the ancillary vendors were grouped together in less random order than in years past.
If you’re in the market for a boat, rack, paddle or other big-ticket item, the show makes a lot of financial sense to take advantage of the 15% discount. On smaller ticket items and gear, the discount is harder to justify as the only reason to go to the show. Especially when you consider that REI’s big Spring sale starts in a month and offer their annual 20% spring sale discount (and you can buy practically anything at REI that you can at Canoecopia).
In fact, the cost of weekend wristbands + parking might make it a questionable experience year-in and year-out, if it weren’t for the wonderful camaraderie and great selection of speakers and demos (of which there were plenty this year).
Our favorite presentation hands-down was Morrall River Films. We were really looking forward to their first presentation at Canoecopia and they didn’t disappoint. Served up with a bit of humor, they cut together some minute-long vignettes of some of their favorite paddles in Wisconsin as well as a beautiful longer format piece about a few Northern Wisconsin paddles that kept within the framework of their paddling DVD guides (which we highly recommend).
As far as gear goes, it was a nice surprise to see some tents on display this year. Canoeing and kayaking go hand-in-hand with camping and has generally been an underserved side of the story at the show (well, except for the presentations about camp cooking, packing, etc.). MSR had some great lightweight tents on-hand (which were quite handsome we might add).
It was also great to see Northwater, Granite Gear and MSR have a slightly bigger presence for gear junkies. We really dug the Outdoor Research booth, despite having a very small footprint, they had some excellent gear on hand as well as a display showcasing once-sister-brand, ExPed who have some really smart and slick-looking gear. And of course, a big shout-out to Badger Paddles for another fine (and friendly) booth showcasing their beautiful craftsmanship.
But nestled in the Southwest corner of Alliant was the real show stopper. The SylvanSport “the Go” camping trailer was on full display (and quite popular). It really is a thing of beauty. They definitely made an impression at the show.
One expectation we had heading into the show was that there would be more stand up paddling vendors with the current popularity of the sport but there were only a couple paddle board/paddle vendors dedicated to it.
Our one huge disappointment was the absence of GoPro who was listed as one of the exhibitors in the guide. We were looking forward to playing with the GoPro II (and possibly leaving with one as well) but we’ll just have to grab one locally. Also, it wouldn’t be a review of Canoecopia if we didn’t make it known that we’d love to see GSI Outdoors attend.
So we didn’t leave with any big-ticket items (although there is a Astral PFD that’s haunting me. They might make the best looking PFDs on the water) but what we did walk away with was a ton of great info to inspire the season in front of us and a desire to get on the water as soon as possible. It really was a great weekend. Paddling people are the best kind of people.