The importance of being outdoors
I’ve spent a lot of time studying the outdoor industry as of late. I’ve learned what different age groups want for their outdoor adventures, how many Americans spend time outside participating in various sports, and how the industry has grown to accommodate these trends over the years.
All of the stats, percentages and numbers (many of which you can read about in this week’s feature) got me to thinking: When did I first fall in love with the outdoors? And what do I want from the outdoor industry today?
I’ve been visiting the Rocky Mountains since before I could even walk. Even though I was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, my family was always going up to Aspen, no matter the season. With or without the Rocky Mountains, I always remember having an overwhelming love for the outdoors. I wanted to be outside most of the time when I was younger, playing in streams, climbing trees, and digging in the dirt for anything that looked interesting. I remember my grandmother getting on me constantly about dirt under my fingernails because I was always outside.
Spending so much time in Aspen as a kid only deepened my love affair with all things nature. In the winters, we would ski at Buttermilk, find steep hills to sled down on Red Mountain and snowshoe up Hunter Creek Trail. In the summers, we would play in the creek by Herron Park, picnic up Independence Pass at the Grottos, explore the ghost towns, and bike on the Rio Grande Trail.
As I grew older, I learned to spend more time at my computer, on my cellphone and in the office, which made it so I had less time outdoors. I started thinking of concerns like the heat or the cold, things that didn’t come into play as much at a young age. Still, the outdoors are without a doubt my favorite place to be. It just takes more of an effort to get out there and really enjoy them.
Today, I would say I’m probably an outdoor retailer’s ideal customer. I’m a sucker for cute tank tops, the latest pair of comfortable athletic pants, high-tech camping gear, and just about any type of hiking accessory. But what I want from the outdoor industry goes far beyond material possessions. What I want from any and every brand that sells outdoor gear is the ability to fight for what’s important: our planet. More and more, companies like Patagonia are coming to the forefront on public land issues, showing that environmental activism is one of their bottom lines. Because, if we don’t have the outdoors than we certainly have no need for an outdoor industry.
What I’ve learned from all my research as of late is that I can no longer be an outdoor enthusiast without being an environmental activist. Sure, I’ve always appreciated green initiatives and have worked to do my part. But it’s time to take that a step further, to give my time and money to organizations that are trying to make a difference, to purchase gear and clothes from outdoor retail brands that put the environment over their company, and to elect officials that have the health of the earth as a top priority.
The outdoors has given all of us so much. Most of my best memories involve being out in nature, from when I was a small child to just the other weekend when I went camping. I ask a lot of the outdoors—for it to help me relax, to provide an escape, to facilitate adventure, fun, and new experiences. As far as I know, the outdoors has never asked for anything in return. Still, even without a proper ask, I plan to make it a top priority to protect it and support all others that do the same.
Barbara Platts is ready to do some serious outdoor apparel shopping after all of this research. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.