For 3 days of last week I took part in a whirlwind of travel, learning and play as a guest at Gore’s “Experience More Blogger Summit”. It was an all expense paid trip designed by Gore to get to know their product users and to let folks know their new direction in focusing on connecting with their community.

Day 1 – Travel and Science

I left a dark (it was early in the morning) but clear skied California and landed in Denver to snow. A flight delay there set Summit plans back so myself and other bloggers on my plane got in to Philadelphia late enough that the shuttle that went to pick us up had to take us directly to the Gore facilities instead of our hotel first. Luckily they had drinks and appetizers for us to eat (I still find it odd that airlines won’t even give you free peanuts to eat when you’re flying across the country). Then it was right into Epcot’s Discovery Center. Or at least that’s what it seemed like to jet-lagged me.

This gets inserted and then expandedI quickly realized that though I’ve known about Gore-tex for ages, and was even aware that Gore made Windstopper fabric, I had no idea so much science was behind these technologies and that the same science was being used in a variety of ways. For example, Gore materials are used in undersea cables, computers, and people. Yep, people. Some infants with heart problems and adults with broken femurs have ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene) in them. It’s also used in firemen suits, astronaut suits and military gear. All of these products have a porous membrane in them which is the base of Gore products.

At dinner, which was catered food at the Gore facilities, we learned more about the Summit. First off the assembled bloggers asked, “Why’d you pick us?” The process was apparently two fold, Gore’s PR company helped pick folks and Gore of course also weighed in. They were straightforward in saying that mentions of Gore products was one factor in the decision. I thought back to when I listed my Windstopper jacket as my favorite multi-pitch jacket ever (but that was just a side comment in a long post about a climbing trip so I’m not sure they noticed it). I thought it more likely that they needed a climbing representative so had chosen me – which also gave them the added bonus of having a female attend. There were only 3 female bloggers at the Summit, though I know for a fact that at least 2 others were invited who couldn’t make it. Total attendees was 15. I was, by the way, the only minority but that may be reflective of the cross section of outdoor community members who also run websites.

Jason and Rebecca listenAt dinner we also learned that Gore had taken money from their print campaign and was instead using it to focus on reaching out to the community of Gore products users. This was something they had not done before, especially since Gore membranes exist in public as part of products from companies like Mountain Hardwear, Arc’teryx, Burton, etc so those companies are more what folks are used to as being the “front”. This Summit and a community website Gore will be launching are steps towards more interaction. In my mind this is a great move, though I’m a veteran of print media (I used to make print ads for national campaigns) I think a personal and interactive touch is what’s needed to prevent a company from *only* being known for slick ads.

I’ve been to events like this before in other industries, what was different about this one was that I didn’t have to sign an NDA and they didn’t seem to want to hammer in their talking points that first day; I had to go looking for them really. All in all it was an enjoyable though tiring travel day (I could’ve done without the Denver plane delay and Philly traffic). Dinner was rather relaxing since they had kept the “official welcome” part short and sweet (we did get to see a sneak peak of their community site though).  It was fun to interact with my fellow bloggers, some of whom I was just meeting for the first time and others with whom I’ve chatted with via Twitter, like @calipidder @wude72 and @modernhiker.

After dinner those of us who had arrived on the Denver plane finally got to check into the hotel. We were given our room keys and Gore goodie bags. The bag itself was a small camo Gore-Tex duffel bag. Inside mine I got a pair of Merrell Siren Sport GTX XCR shoes and the Marmot Leadville Windstopper Jacket! We had been told we’d have Gore products to test so I knew we’d be getting something (they asked for jacket & shoe size as part of the RSVP form) but I was still quite happy with my haul, the colors and styles were what I’d have picked out anyway.

Pictures from Day 1:

Part 2 to come — In which we bloggers learn a lot more about the fabrics we’re specifically interested in (including Gore’s competition) and we get to put Gore-tex & Windstoppper to the test. We also play games.