It is difficult to explore the outdoors. As strange as it may sound to certain people, the unbuilt and sparsely inhabited space between everything has become difficult to reach for the average person. It is not because the outdoors is inaccessible. It is not because the outdoors is particularly dangerous or takes a high level of skill to engage with. It is not because the outdoors charges an exorbitant entrance fee.
It is because the outdoor goods industry has become aspirational, the rebranded word for exclusive. While it may not have been the role Leon Bean or Yvonn Chouinard envisioned for the companies they founded, a handful of large, successful outdoor businesses have shaped the modern culture of the outdoors through their products, marketing, advertising and brand identities. These industry leaders have become the gatekeepers of the outdoors and unfortunately, the outdoor culture that these companies created is exclusive.
People of color are excluded from this culture. Women are excluded from this culture. People who live in large cities like New York, Chicago, and Atlanta, are excluded from this culture. Beginners are excluded from this culture.
The outdoors, as portrayed by the companies that commodify it, is the exclusive domain of the suburban Coloradan, the Pacific Northwesterner, the coastal Californian. Invariably these characters are presented as white, western, and monkish in their expertise; the fanatic climber, ascetic hiker, or globe-trotting surfer chasing an endless wave.
Unless you are one of these anointed, it is communicated that you have no need for or right to the best trails, walls or waves, as they would be wasted on you. As a consequence, you have no need for or right to the best gear, as this would also be wasted on you. This dynamic is then capped by the reality of exponentially growing gear prices, which exclude anyone without the money to spend on say, a “real” backpack.
What’s left is a situation in which wealthy dilettantes are encouraged to spend their endless resources buying gear to abuse Mt. Everest, while teenagers in Queens will quickly learn that exploring the wilderness is for someone else.
Anyone who has spent time outside knows that the outdoors is not only an inviting place, it is, mostly, an empty place, guarded by no one and open to all. It is part of the mission of this company to lower the cost of getting outside, and reclaiming some of what has been lost to branding, so that it is once again, open to all.