Musings from out west...

Now that we've had some time to settle back into life in Minnes(n)o(w)ta, I'd thought I'd sit down, take a deep breath, and share with our Tribe the stories of our travels out west to Winter Market Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, Utah. Better late than never, right?! Sure thing. Here goes (worth it, I promise)...

So as you probably already know, we dig Outdoor Retailer for so many reasons, but mainly because the outdoor industry is so rad. It's rad because it is composed of souls that are passionate and driven. Souls that appreciate quality time spent with nature. Outdoor Retailer, in particular, is so special because it always provides a forum for idea sharing and learning, the creation of meaningful connections, and the ability to find inspiration and just have some plain ol' fun. Of course, team ETK made sure all of the above were achieved. And then some.

So, please...join us as we give you a visual tour of our adventures out in Salt Lake City and beyond. Enjoy!

A day in the life of an Outdoor Retail trade show exhibitor...

The team awoke Day 1 and was greeted with an unbelievable sunrise as we stepped foot outside of our Cottonwood Heights oasis. A good omen for the week. Go team!

Check out the lay of the land at our booth in the Ballroom (with Founder Josh in motion). The new banner backdrop really made a difference, adding warmth to the space, and speaking to culture in a very rich way. Nice one, Jake!

Swag for Stories was back in full force, and better than ever...with shwagtastic prizes and free beer at our booth daily at 4:30pm...that was fun.

Stories were told...and master storytellers, like Jason, were crowned victors. Check out his story - so good!


We even met our buddy Zach, from Freaker USA (who was also featured on a recent episode of Shark Tank) was like a dream-come-true for Ethnotek Marketing Oracle, Megan (above, left). Then the whole crew (Megan, Jake and Brad pictured above) continued to get our freak on at our booth with our new Freakers. YES.

Connections were made. Here's our man Josh Foss, with Kathy (the mastermind behind Adventure Mom), a new, very dear friend - and advocate - of Ethnotek. 

One of the best things about Outdoor Retailer is that it is a community of individuals who come together again, and again. It's about creating and fostering meaningful connections. Connections that inspire change. It was a treat to reconnect with Andy (above left), from B Corp at the breakfast they hosted at Klean Kanteen's booth. Also got the chance to meet Vincent Stanley (above right), Patagonia's marketing lead who works closely with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. Talk about inspiration. 

We also reconnected with our friend Nick, from Japan - who has an incredible sense for fashion and style, and whose passions very much align with ours. A highlight of ours was his impromptu harmonica jam session at the booth. Priceless. 

Day 3 found Jake featured in the Day 3 version of OR Daily, in the 'People You Should Know' feature. That was humbling. And so, so much appreciated. 

Despite the chaos at the booth, we even had a bit of time to sneak away from our booth and check out what was going on beyond the's Megan and Founder Jake trying on The Original Beard Beanie for size. Blaze orange, WHOA. 

That said, our Outdoor Retailer wanderings became much more meaningful when we ran into some very like-minded, socially-responsible organizations. Check it out:

Brands that inspire...

One of the best things about Outdoor Retailer is that we too get to do a bit of wandering around, checking out some of the cool, new products in the marketplace and checking in on some old favorites. Winter Market Outdoor Retailer was no exception. We met so many incredible people doing innovative, inspirational things in the way of social responsibility and beyond. Here are a few brands that caught our eye and made our hearts swell. 

Krochet Kids International

When more than a few passers-by visited our booth and told us we had to meet these guys and learn about their mission, we listened. They couldn't have been more spot-on when they said Krochet Kids was full of like-minded dudes with a very similar mission. And, when we met Katie, Stewart and Nic (both pictured below, with Jake), we couldn't agree more. 

The folks over at Krochet Kids call themselves 'dreamers'...and they'd have to be in order to dream up such a unique and empowering business model. Krochet Kids' mission is to empower people to rise above poverty. Empowerment. That resonates with us. Their vision is to create sustainable economic development programs that support holistic growth of individuals and communities within developing nations. To inspire the knowledge of a generation about their ability to bring change to a world that is in need. Through a unique model they are empowering the women of Northern Uganda and Peru with the assets, skills, and knowledge to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. The result is long lasting and sustainable change. YES! 

Learn more about their unique, sustainable model


Nearly a billion people struggle to survive everyday because they don't have access to clean, safe drinking water. Now there's an easy way for you to help. MiiR's one4one initiative is helping provide water to those who need it most. 

It's simple: one dollar, one person, one year. One dollar of each MiiR bottle you purchase provides one person with clean water for one year. The full $1 donation, all 100 pennies, goes directly to those in need. Clean water transforms lives, communities and generations - and at a surprisingly low cost. Just $20 can provide clean water for one person for 20 years.


On top of selling super-tight water bottles (Jake and Megan both snagged one), Miir just recently launched their bicycle line and we're jazzed for their growth. Every MiiR bicycle provides on person in need with sustainable transportation. Simple, and powerful.

These guys are great. We met Brian and his awesome mom (pictured above, who later purchased an embroidered Vietnam Dep Tote) and were instantly inspired by their passion and mission. Can't wait to see if a future collab is in the cards. 

Learn more about their giving model


Oliberté partners with factories, suppliers, farmers and workers to produce premium footwear in Africa. But there's so much more. They work to create fair jobs, with the goal of contributing to the development of a thriving middle class.

It is generally accepted that a thriving middle class is a key component to the success of any country. In Africa, the middle class is increasing in size, and one of Oliberté's goals is to support that growing middle class by building a world class footwear brand that can create thousands of jobs and encourages manufacturers from other industries to work in Africa. They're en route to becoming the first Fair Trade shoe company...ever. Cool.

I have to say, Oliberte's boots were stunning and super high-quality...and with their good-to-the-core mission, I was left cool would these boots look with some textile integration? Whoa.


Why Africa? Learn more

Soul Poles

Bamboo ski poles?! Yes please. Eco-friendly and a social mission too?! Done. Soul Poles' singular focus was born out of a simple - though frightening - thought: No snow. No ski. They're aiming to innovate the greenest equipment in the snow sports industry by merging sustainable design with uncompromising performance and truly original style. 

Soul Poles are a one of a kind product created by skiers, for skiers, with an eye toward the future of our sport. Each and every Soul Pole is handcrafted in Park City, Utah using the most eco-friendly materials possible and is carefully guided through every step of the manufacturing process to ensure only the highest quality poles make it to consumers. In doing this, they help to reduce waste (by not having to replace your poles), initiate asustainable movement within the ever-consuming ski industry, and provide consumers with not only a functional ski pole, but a one-of-a-kind piece of art as well.


We had the awesome opportunity to stop by the shop, meet Founder Bryon Friedman (pictured above - what a great vibe he has!) and chat for a bit.  Looking forward to connecting with these guys more in the future, and following their success. 

Learn more about their handmade process

Don't you worry, we had some fun too...

Post-Outdoor Retailer found "Josh Squared" (aka Founder Josh and Tribe Member and friend Josh) embarking on their road warrior journey back to Minneapolis, CFO Brad heading back to Seattle...and Megan and Jake hitting the slopes with booth neighbor and new friend Julian Carr, of Discrete Headwear (See beanie pictured on Megan, above. We totally back the brand he's building and approve in a major way.).  

Little did we know, our booth neighbor Julian was not normal, by any means. Yep, turns out he is a pro-skier and cliff hucker/dude extraordinaire (To give you an idea of his cool/crazy dude factor, check out this sick new GoPro commercial of him. That's FOR REAL. WHAT?!), and we'd be in for one major shred session. Though Jake and Megan were slightly (okay, maybe more than slightly) nervous, they grabbed their gear and opted to bring the Amaru THREAD Raja Pack on the mountain for some new THREAD functionality testing. Check out the more than held up and passed the test - YEAH! Let's get those wool, waterproof THREADs up here from Peru, waddayasay?! More to come on that...


Jake and Megan survived the shred session, despite a hard digger taken by Megan and some intensely heavy, high altitude-breathing by the dynamic duo as they hiked up to the pseudo-fear-inducing Mt. Baldy to crush it. Don't worry, nothing a little Après-ski session at Alta couldn't fix. Cheers to Julian, Parker, Kate, Tara, Chad and more for allowing two Midwesterners to hang with them for a memorable pow day out on the mountain (though, have to be honest - we'll not be as quick to thank you for introducing us to the 'twiskey'). 

Looking forward to strengthening the connections made at Outdoor Retailer this go 'round, and definitely looking forward to Summer Market Outdoor Retailer. Until then, we've got new bags to sell and new Tribe members to welcome! Stay tuned this week for more information about our Highland Luxury collection launch as we celebrate Tet Holiday!

Enjoy the adventure, 

Tribe Scribe

Check it out: For more images of Team ETK's adventures, check us out/follow us on instagram or Facebook.

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Dustin said:

It was a pleasure meeting the Ethnotek Bags tribe at OR!! Diggin’ my bag so far too!

Tribe Scribe

Tribe Scribe said:

Dustin – Awesome to meet you…welcome to the Tribe, man! SO stoked to hear you’re digging your bag. Cheers for spreading the good word. YES!

-The ETK Crew

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