Millennials and the Outdoor Industry

A packed house of kids geeking out over gear—it’s the stuff of dreams for most outdoor brands, which to date have struggled mightily to connect with anyone under the age of 35, despite the fact that the outdoor lifestyle is experiencing a historic moment of trendiness. Adventure couture is hitting high-fashion runways, with labels such as Fendi and Louis Vuitton creating fleece goods that pay homage to classic Patagonia pieces. The lumbersexual look is ascendant in menswear. Last year, youth-minded retailer Urban Outfitters launched an activewear brand called Without Walls. All this, yet young consumers remain decidedly uninterested in traditional adventure brands.

It was interesting to see this written about as I have seen this shift in the industry but I don't think I had realized that it was happening.

The great challenge—and great irony—outdoor brands face is that they’ve spent so many years competing with each other to develop technically superior products that they’ve forgotten how to talk to new audiences. A middle-aged former ski bum might get excited about a $400 sub-nine-ounce waterproof-breathable shell with a single-point-adjustment hood, but the 25-year-old occasional hiker sees an ugly, overpriced jacket.

“Traditional outdoor-product development and marketing has focused on people who want to be at the peak of their sports,” says Scott McGuire, founder of the Mountain Lab, a brand-strategy firm. “That led to huge developments in gear, but things have become so specialized that they’re not welcoming to folks who aren’t hardcore.”

I'm probably the worst person to ask as I am right in the middle on this. I want the piece of gear that looks super chill but technically can go with me up El Cap or Mt Rainier. That's probably why I gravitate towards Patagonia as I feel like they strike that balance pretty well with their options. It is cool to see young startups jump in and fill those gaps though.

The Outdoor Industry Has a Millennial Problem