While not exactly predictable, the outdoors industry moves in steady trends with occasional leaps.
Influenced by outside factors like politics and consumer spending, these are a few trends we expect in 2017.
YETI-Fication Of More Gear (heavier, more durable, more expensive)
Call it the YETI factor. Consumers today are willing to pay more, maybe a LOT more, for premium products like YETI coolers. This is a continuation of a trend. But we expect to see it applied to many more industries. In late 2016, the brand 1620 launched to become the “YETI of workwear.” Its first pants hit the market in 2017. Another example is Stanley’s bet on “burly” for 2017, including one upcoming water bottle that weighs almost three pounds.
More Made In The USA Gear
U.S. manufacturing has grown steadily over the last couple years in the outdoors industry. Brands like Topo Designs apparel, Leatherman tools, Benchmade knives, and Stormy Kromer hats are among many strong brands making products domestically. President-elect Donald Trump promised to promote American manufacturing through protectionist policies. If he’s successful, we could see a true renaissance of U.S. manufacturing.
More Expensive Foreign Goods
In contrast, with protectionist policies come more expensive foreign-made goods. If Trump’s administration implements tariffs on foreign-made goods or stomps out NAFTA, expect a jump in prices on normally cheap products from Asia and Latin America.
Growth Of Thru-Hiking As Sport
Thru-hiking (hiking the big trans-national trails) is already popular. But it will become even more “gamified” in 2017, with athletes attempting to best one another with faster times on big, difficult objectives such as the AT, PCT, and major mountain summits.
Fight Over Public Lands
Public lands will be a hot button issue in the outdoors. Many politicians have asked the federal government to hand over control of public lands to states and local governments. This will be a battle of ideologies that may ultimately result in the transfer of federal lands. Local battles for control, or even sale, of such valuable real estate could ensue.
High-End Sustainability, Low-End Consumerism
Environmentally-conscious brands like Patagonia will continue to push for high levels of sustainability and accountability in manufacturing. They will promote long-lasting, repairable, recyclable products.
In contrast, cheap, throw-away gear (think Solo Cups and plastic water bottles) will likely benefit from a reduced environmental focus within the incoming administration.
These are really hard to predict. But we will certainly see some big advances in technology in 2017. A few rumored major leaps: synthetic insulation that rivals down, heavy-lifting drones used in search and rescue operations, and a proliferation of cheap, high-quality POV cameras and drones.
Boom In Grassroots Conservation
While the federal government may cut long-standing environmental protections to make way for extraction and manufacturing expansions, conservationists will close ranks. Think “tea party in reverse,” with many federal proposals stymied by an increasingly powerful environmental lobby fueled by passionate outdoors lovers awakened with the new political risks to the places they love.
The craft brew industry will continue to boom in the U.S., and with it micro distilleries. But expect more craft-quality non-alcoholic drinks, too. In food and beverages, we’ll have more variety at our fingertips than ever before — for those who can afford them.
In 2017, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the dichotomy deepen between the haves and have-nots. We hope many people will be able to enjoy the outdoors, as well as diverse products the outdoors industry supports, in the coming year.