Innovations at Outdoor Show Lineup This Season

Camping off the grid: A solar power package is now available for RoadTrek motohomes. Courtesy photo.

Camping off the grid: A solar power package is now available for RoadTrek motohomes. Courtesy photo.

By Howard Meyerson

Innovation is one of the things I look for every year when the outdoor show season opens in Michigan. There are 13 shows on the lineup this year. They start next weekend in Novi with the Ultimate Fishing Show Detroit and wrap up at the end of March with the Ultimate Sport Show Grand Rapids (See the full calendar on next page).

The show season typically has something for everyone, and cool innovations can turn up at any of them.

Take, for instance, alternate energy technology. Solar panels and other power management technology has been around for decades. It long has been used by sailors to extend voyages and eliminate the need to plug-in every night to charge batteries.

But this year some of those ideas are trickling down to the RV industry, better known for bloated energy and fuel consumption. A promising new approach will debut at the Grand Rapids Camper Travel Show opening Jan. 17 at DeVos Place.

RoadTrek Motorhomes Inc., a Kitchener, Ontario-based manufacturer is introducing its E-Trek package, a propane-free and external generator-free system for running the refrigerator, hot and cold water, shower and stove.

It has no propane tanks to fill, less need to plug in each night, and no noisy, external generator to provide power when camping. The company bills its E-trek motorhome as environmentally friendly. It clearly is a step in that direction.

The E-trek package is available on the popular RoadTrek, Class B motorhome, which also can burn biodiesel fuel. It is a sharp-looking vehicle that uses recycled materials in its tables and countertops, too.

“It (the E-trek motorhome) has a solar panel on top and a combination generator alternator that will recharge the eight auxiliary batteries while you are driving,” said Mike Wilberham, the show manager. “You would otherwise typically have to plug in each night when you get to the campground.”

The E-trek approach is smart — and cool. If it performs as suggested, campers can skip the campground altogether. Anglers can pick a great spot by a river, fish until dark and then crash in comfort. Hikers can spend the night in some remote area without worrying about running out of juice. Rafters can spend the entire day running whitewater and return to full power, air conditioning included.

American RV will have the E-trek model on display at the show. They are one of 14 dealers showing hundreds of trailers, campers and motorhomes at the show. The E-trek also can be seen online at

Another innovation — a motorized tree stand that moves up and down a tree at the push of a button — will be at the Huntin’ Time Expo Jan. 24-27 at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids.

The device is called the TreeRider. Its Georgia-based inventor, Tony Moran, who was featured in December on the History Channel’s Invention USA show. The TreeRider likely will change the world for disabled and older hunters and make life a lot easier for those who are well and able to climb otherwise.

“This is exciting and huge,” said Tom Antor, the Huntin’ Time Expo producer. Antor’s show added a fourth day this year. The show opens at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24, rather than on Friday as it has in past years.

“We’ve gotten hammered over the past few years to the point that we were losing people because it was hard to find parking,” Antor said. “So we decided to add another day.”

Antor’s Huntin’ Time Expo features, how-to workshops, taxidermists, deer displays, gun auctions and even a Puppy Alley where breeders can come and sell their young hunting dogs.

But the core of the show always is its lineup of hunting gear and supplies. And that’s where the TreeRider likely will be a hit. Video clips of its use and from the Inventions USA show can be seen on the company website,

Moran, its inventor, demonstrates how quick it can be set up, its smooth and secure ride up and down a tree carrying a hunter and his or her gear, and its use after a hunt to lift a deer so it can be loaded onto a pickup.

The device comes with a solar cell to charge its batteries while sitting in the tree. It also comes with outlets for electrical devices such as cellphones and radios. The 3,500-pound capacity winch handled a 300-pound hunter without a hitch on the History Channel’s televised episode.

The TreeRider and E-trek motorhome are just two of the many new products being shown this year, but they are two of the more innovative developments that are likely to foster change.

But don’t just take it from me. There are plenty of shows to browse and enjoy. See for yourself. At right is a quick list of the shows that are planned and where you can find out more about them.

2013 Outdoor Show Season Calendar 
Jan. 10-13: Ultimate Fishing Show Detroit, Suburban Collection Showplace Novi:
Jan. 17-20: Grand Rapids Camper, Travel & RV Show, DeVos Place, Grand Rapids:
Jan. 24-27: Huntin’ Time Expo, The Delta-Plex , Grand Rapids:
Jan. 25-27: 18th annual Traditional Bowhunters Expo, Kalamazoo County Fairgrounds, Kalamazoo:
Feb. 13-17: Grand Rapids Boat Show, DeVos Place, Grand Rapids:
Feb. 16-24: Detroit Boat Show, Cobo Center, Detroit:
Feb. 21-24: Outdoorama — Suburban Collection Showplace, Novi:
Feb. 22-24: Michigan Deer & Turkey Spectacular, The Summit Sports and Ice Complex, Dimondale:
Feb. 23: 4th annual Celebration of Fly Tying, Grand River Fly Tyers, Knights of Columbus Hall, Wyoming:
March 1-3: Flint Steelheaders Boat, Fishing & Outdoor Show, Birch Run Expo Center, Birch Run:
March 2: 18th annual Quiet Water Symposium, East Lansing, Michigan State University Pavilion for Livestock & Agriculture Education:
March 9-10: Midwest Fly Fishing Expo, Macomb Community College, Warren:
March 21-24: Ultimate Sport Show Grand Rapids, DeVos Place, Grand Rapids:


Email Howard Meyerson at

This story appears on MLive Outdoors

About Howard Meyerson

After more than 30 years in the outdoor writing business, you would think I'd know better.
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