Now more than ever the outdoor industry’s biggest brands are recognizing the significance of an audience that is increasingly located in cities, and increasingly diverse. The narrative of equipping adventurers (almost exclusively white, largely male) to concur nature no longer resonates. It’s time to embrace the lighter side of outdoor recreation, to celebrate car camping and mellow day hikes, and to encourage more of our neighbors to get outside and try something new. The quicker brands recognize this, the better off our space will be for it (and the more money they will make, admittedly).
With the number of “lifestyle” lines being introduced each season continuing to grow, the shift has been underway for some time now. Watching each brand navigate the waters is especially interesting—going full Poler (RIP) may boost initial sales but also alienate core consumers and risks diluting brand identity, which has taken decades to build, while ignoring urban demos completely may leave a brand feeling out of touch and irrelevant.
REI introduced its first ever lifestyle line as recently as fall 2018, and it has done very well for the brand. While others, namely Columbia Sportswear, have been engaged in ingoing—and at times questionable—collaborations with such fashion entities as KITH and Opening Ceremony for years. While that has nothing to do with car camping, it's fun to note.
One example we’ve actually found to have hit the mark with some accuracy is The North Face—a brand long familiar with the value of urban-based audiences—and their Homestead Collection. The entry-level line of tents, sleeping bags, and packs nicely blends functional, purposeful product design with bright, playful, and bold patterns and colorways.
We may be biased, as new SS19 collection campaign imagery features two close friends of Field Mag—Hiram and Bella, founders of MAS, a multimedia project at the intersection of art and climbing—but we’re digging the lineup of tents inspired by the brand’s iconic expedition-ready dome tents and minimalist packs made with just the right amount of tech. Each piece is playfully bright yet highly functional, designed to make car camping and other “basecamp” style outdoor recreation more fun.
Of course, accessibility and affordability are a huge part of the conversation in making the outdoors more inclusive. And though it’d be hard to argue any of this gear is especially affordable (tents range from $230-$350, bags $90-$120) it does check the accessibility box by way of visuals and purpose-driven design that seems to have been created equally with comfort and function in mind. (See paragraph two in regards to the price point—would anyone really want a sub-$200 tent from TNF anyway?)
In the end, it’s up suits in conference rooms to make the final decisions on where to take each respective brand. But it’s up to us, the outdoor lovers on the ground and in the cites, to support brands taking a stance, to encourage friends and family to get and explore more and to be inclusive in our own pursuits, and to be good stewards and positive ambassadors of and for Mother Nature.
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.