Idaho’s “Rec Tech” Innovators

This post by Greg Hahn with Idaho Public Television, gives a behind the scenes look at the Outdoor Idaho episode focusing on Idaho’s growing recreational technology (rec tech) industry and the adventurous men and women behind some of Idaho’s rec tech innovations.  Reposted with permission.

If you love the outdoors, you’re probably a little bit of a gear junkie.

Maybe it’s all about your bike, or your skis, or your hunting or fishing gear – in those off-seasons, when you can’t use it, you’re reorganizing it all, wandering wistfully down the aisles of your favorite outfitters, checking out the ads in all those outdoors magazines.

bts_CharlieBikeYou know what works, and what would work just a little bit better – if only somebody made that!

You aren’t alone, of course. There are tens of thousands of us in Idaho, and a handful of the most industrious, or maybe the most adventurous, or even the most impatient of us have stopped waiting for somebody else to invent what they can already envision – and have made a living in the industry known as “recreation technology.”

I came across Waterworks–Lamson when my wife bought me a new fly reel for my birthday – a far fancier one than I would have ever sprung on myself. And I was delighted and intrigued to find out that the company makes these reels right here in Boise.

I called them up, sat down for an interview with one of the partners, and learned that the designers were fly fishermen who wondered why so much new technology had gone into lighter and more responsive poles, but the reels themselves were virtually identical to those from the turn of the century. They said they came to Idaho because they finally had a good excuse to move to their vacation spot for good – fly fishermen would much rather have a fly reel made in fly fishing country than in southern California, and the folks hired to assemble the reels here would be far more likely to know their way around a river (and a fly pole). It was the perfect fit.

bts_BuckKnivesWe had heard a similar story about Buck Knives, the four-generation manufacturer that moved from San Diego to Post Falls to much fanfare a few years ago. And the more we asked questions, the more people we found. It sparked a summer of discovery for us – and everywhere we turned, we found more great stories.

Take Glen Eberle, who wondered why, when he competed as an Olympic biathlete, were gun stocks so bulky and heavy when the technology existed to make them lighter and stronger. Now Eberlestock outfits athletes, hunters and military members around the world from Boise.

Or Kate Schade, who wanted to save money on lunch when she skied in the Tetons, so she made calorie-loaded, but great-tasting energy bars for herself and her friends. Now, Kate’s Real Foods is a growing employer in tiny Victor, Idaho.

In Sun Valley alone, Ed “Scotty” Scott invented the modern ski pole and Bob Smith created the first modern goggles – and now both of their names are known the world over.

In a Lewiston famed for housing some of the best jet boat companies around, Darell Bentz’ custom shop makes some of the best – with bts_whitefistpumpideas he has forged in decades of adventurous river-running.

In Idaho, companies make boot dryers, whitewater rafts, drift boats, ammo, guns, high-tech outdoor clothing that incorporates your electronics, climbing gear, tough outdoor bags, knives, backpacks and much, much more.

We couldn’t come close to fitting all the good stories into our show on Idaho’s “rec tech,” but I hope it gives you a taste of the variety of companies out there. And I know it includes some amazing people – adventurers, risk-takers, inventors, entrepreneurs. Folks young and old who share one major characteristic:  They love to be outside in Idaho.