Hard-line outdoor enthusiasts don’t let winter weather stop them from adventure. But this month’s second annual Get in Gear Fest, held at Asheville’s RiverLink Park, lets the public warm up to the idea a little more.
And because the manufacturers of these boutique products — from kayaks to backpacks, hammocks to slingshots, drones to dried legumes, bikes to socks — are all regional, it’s a chance to observe a cottage industry in high acceleration.
Among the homegrown companies is a strong grouping from Henderson and Transylvania counties, including kayak builder Liquid Logic, sport-bike manufacturer Cane Creek, and electric-adventure-vehicle innovator Outrider USA, all based in Fletcher; camping-trailer maker SylvanSport of Brevard; and REEB Cycles, a companion company to Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard.
Get in Gear Fest is the brainchild of Outdoor Gear Builders, a Western North Carolina consortium of gear makers and sellers. “We originally wanted to partner up with a few companies and make a neat, local event similar to the national Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City every summer,” says Kyle Mundt, a member of OGB’s steering committee and the marketing director for SylvanSport.
However, “there’s so much excellent equipment being designed, engineered, fabricated, and assembled right here in Western North Carolina,” according to Mundt, “that by the time we realized how many companies we had, with such a great variety of interests, we knew this could be something special.” Exhibitors will be displaying gear for typical mountain sports such as paddling, camping, and cycling — but rarer outcroppings of the genre, including high-tech aerial photography and spelunking, are also represented.
In fact, the rise of the OGB group itself is likely to draw even more vendors. The industry, says Mundt, “will definitely continue to grow. There is a nice, sustainable blend of established companies based out of this region, entrepreneurial startups, and new companies moving to the area.”
It’s no accident that Henderson and Transylvania counties are a hotspot for the industry. The Green River, with its famous rapids, flows through both counties. Transylvania has DuPont State Recreational Forest and Gorges State Park, plus bouldering destination Looking Glass Rock, vast and remote Pisgah National Forest, hundreds of waterfalls, and fishing on the trout-dense Davidson River.
“We’ve got world-class cycling, paddling, climbing, camping, fishing, and hiking,” lists Mundt. When the national Outdoor Industry Association convened in Asheville last year, SylvanSport hosted a day of activities. “We brought everybody out to Transylvania County. It was really an eye opener for the people who had never been here before, and they loved it.”
This year’s free Get in Gear Fest takes place on Saturday, March 19, from 11am-5pm, at Asheville’s RiverLink Park on Riverside Drive. Free. For more information and event listings, visit www.outdoorgearbuilders.com.