Lifestyles of the Broke and Tentless

With the team fresh off of Outdoor Retailer, I took a few minutes to reflect on my own experiences in the outdoor industry space. From the ten thousand lakes of my Minnesotan motherland to my new home full of purple mountain majesty, there are literally thousands of opportunities to explore the great American wilderness, but Millennials like myself just don’t. I know what you’re thinking, “can the articles about that stupid lazy generation just stop already!” Hear me out though.

We want so badly to see the world. We don’t like the stereotype of the lazy, entitled 90’s kid as much as you don’t like reading about it. We want to see mountains and lakes and everything in-between. Here’s the thing though: we’re confused, broke, and primarily urban. We are not, however, hopeless cases.

Proof I go outside sometimes.

The outdoor industry, like many others, will benefit from targeting Millennials. We’re expected to have more purchasing power than any generation before. There are also just a lot of us, which doesn’t hurt. None of this is a surprise. Outdoor brands specifically however have several hurdles that need to be addressed before they can get a hold of such a lucrative market.

First off, products need to be marketed as more accessible. Walk into your local REI and you’ll be bombarded with tons of great gear. Where to even start? I have no idea what an ultralight synthetic hard-shell jacket that allows air permeability of 20 CFM even is. For years outdoor brands have made leaps and bounds in innovating gear to compete with each other. This technology has moved so fast with so few noticing that now, unless you’re a die-hard outdoors person, even shopping for something as simple as a shirt can make you feel alienated.

By no means should brands abandon this innovation. However, when it comes to branding, by focusing less on the specs of the gear itself and more on the lifestyle surrounding it, the products will be inherently more accessible and attractive to a wider market.

Outdoor brands also need to consider how Millennials will use their product. We’re broke. There’s no hiding that. We can’t simply pack up after work one day and fly to Mount Hood or the Black hills for an adventure. Instead we’re looking for adventure where we already live—typically the metropolis. Activities like paddle sports, indoor bouldering, and indoor climbing are gaining popularity. In 2014 alone, 2.8 million people in the U.S. participated in stand up paddleboarding and that number is still growing. With these activities gaining traction the demand for new gear will skyrocket: something outdoor brands should keep in mind.

Like every other industry, the success of a brand depends entirely on its ability to understand and engage with consumers. By carving out a more accessible, urban space in the existing industry, outdoor brands will effectively be able to entice the ever elusive millennial into the wild.

P.s if anyone has any pack suggestions for this clueless, broke millennial put it in the comments!


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