Low-elevation balance tricks: In previous decades, climbing took place way up in the mountains, far from prying eyes and flashbulbs (remember those?). But if there's no camera, who will see your rippling lats? I'll admit that at the time the rise of bouldering never made sense to me ... it seemed like a great way to sell a lot less gear to an even smaller segment of the population .... but then I saw a couple of the videos. Turns out climbing in front of a huge crowd that's amped up on (insert energy drink here) can be totally rad. And dovetailing in on the mass acceptance of bouldering's balance tricks, came the acceptance of slacklining: a campsite dare that's turned into a phenomenon -- and very likely the hottest item of 2009.
iPod pockets: It seems like yesterday -- or, holy shit, eight years ago -- that Apple introduced the iPod. According to the people I've never met at Wikipedia, the thing debuted on Oct. 23, 2001, about six weeks after the tragedy of 9/11 and heading into one of the darkest holidays on record. But not only did the iPod reinvigorate Apple and recast the portable music market .... it sent outdoor gear designers into a tizzy. The first "iPod pockets" that hit the market became the difference maker for hard shells and backpacks. Later on, they became de rigeur in everything from hooded sweatshirts to golf pants. For a spot I did back in 2005, I joked that a new jacket had an "iPod pocket for its iPod pocket." Nobody laughed (as usual), but I thought it was hysterical.
Merino wool: Once upon a time when warmth was wealth, wool was the currency. It never really went away, but we all recognize that wool took a back seat to synthetics in late 1900s. Look around though, and you'd be hard pressed to find a material better suited to being the outdoor world's choice of the decade. You've got your mega-modern wool hipsters. You've got your legacy brands that continue to make wool their bread and butter, even after 185+ years. And you've got your newbies jumping on the wool bandwagon ... and who can blame them? Not even Nostradamus could've predicted that three dozen+ brands would be making $30 merino wool socks in 2010.
Hydration: When I was kid we called it "drinking water," but in the last 10 years "hydration" became more than something you do when you get thirsty while exercising, it became an entire industry. There are rack upon rack of hydration packs made for virtually any outdoor activity. There are bottles that calculate your exertion and remind you when to sip. And there are even flavored Alka Seltzer tablets sold in $15 six packs that enhance your body's ability to accept the water that you put in your mouth. Just writing this makes me thirsty.
Energy drinks: I can't explain it better than this. LINK: "We're going to look back on this era of energy drinks, and history will not be kind."
Extreme gear for mild mannered pursuits: It may be trade show legend, but it may be true as well. When Simms Fishing Products introduced the G3 Guide Wader back in the early 2000s -- a $400 fishing wader that was better built and arguably more spaceworthy than stuff the Apollo astronauts used -- few thought that the things would become more than a pricey footnote. When the G3 shattered previous sales records, however, both retailers and reps realized they were onto something. High end, high performance gear isn't just for guys on the Khumbu Icefall ... it's for everyone that heads outside. And while Simms embodied the spirit of "there's no bad weather, only bad gear" for a pursuit that primarily involves standing still, other brands spent the decade capitalizing on microscopically less outdoorsy items like $800 baby strollers named after premier mountaineering ranges.
Yoga pants: I have a friend who works for a major yoga brand. The one that makes those pants. Yeah, those pants. He swears that he has a file of letters written by guys who want to thank the company personally for "making women's butts look fantastic." I believe him.