Emerging Trends in the outdoor industry

Emerging Trends in the outdoor industry

The essential core values that gave rise to the outdoor industry in the early 60’s have remained relatively unchanged since its birth. Those values are based on a respect for the following principles: The innate desire to explore the unknown; the thrill of adventure-seeking; and the wisdom gained from a deep connection to the natural world.

Although these values have changed little over the past 55 years, the economic environment and social context in which the industry thrives today, has changed quite a bit. As a result, industry leaders have had to adjust to a shifting landscape and stay abreast of millennial trends. Taking a closer look at what the millennial generation values most in this post- recession economy, we flush out what these changes mean for the future of the outdoor industry.


The millennial generation seeks out amazing experiences and sees them invaluable. Rather than spending money a luxury hotel or boutique item, we would rather put that money towards renting some gear and covering the rent so as to take off for a month on the Appalachian Trail. The explosion of global festival culture over the past 10 years is another testament to this desire to have peak experiences in without having to travel too far or spend too much money. After all, it is hard to put a price tag on unforgettable experiences, moments of bliss and awe.


It used to be all about owning gear — the more gear you owned, the more access you had to a variety of activities. Past generations tended to be devoted to specific sports; they were loyal to one, maybe two outdoor sports communities. They were also more bound by regional and geographic constraints. But over the past 50 years, access to travel has increased significantly and we, as a society, are more mobile. This change significantly expanded the variety of outdoor sports that we can participate in.

It’s also true that buying and owning gear is expensive. And since the 2008 market crash, money has simply been tighter. With the crash came a necessary shift in the millennial consumer perspective: Millennials don’t like to own as much. They don’t like to be tied down by as much stuff and, in general, have less means to do so anyway.

But they do like to DO more stuff — variety is king and they want to try and do it all. So being limited by needing to own all the gear needed to be addressed. Enter the birth of the Sharing Economy…


After the market crash, there has been a strong national trend toward becoming more economically conscious. And if necessity is the mother of invention, she has also midwifed in the birth of the Sharing Economy. The Sharing Economy allows resources that are challenging to get but are greatly desired to become accessible to many more people (eg. High-end technical sports gear). Trend reports show that the Sharing Economy is transforming many industries. And this shift has most certainly extended into the outdoor industry.

One way in which we see the Sharing Economy trend taking shape in the industry is in millennials’ desire to rely on experts to be guided through great experiences; we want to try more outdoor sports than ever, but we have less time to become experts in all of them. As a result, a new generation of micro-entrepreneurs has cropped up to meet the demand for in-person guides and guide-based apps. This model also provides supplementary income for those with expertise in a given area of the outdoor space to provide huge benefit to an eager novice or a busy 9–5-er whose time to plan is limited. Millennials like to have things mapped out for them — we are used to that luxury, and yes, will pay for it.


The path is being forged for the future of the outdoor industry based on novelty experience and thrifty intelligence. We know the Sharing Economy will play a significant role in the emergent economy and that this model is congruent with millennial values. Keeping these trends in mind will help both new business and investors alike set themselves up for the next 50 years of success.