What will next year look like in the outdoors? We attended The Outpost retreat and came away with eight observations.
The Outpost is a melting pot of ideas, cross-industry brands, and entrepreneurial spirit. Held several times a year across the U.S., it has emerged as an anti-trade show that promotes ideas and trades fluorescent lights and showroom carpet for the open air.
Held at Mammoth Mountain Resort earlier this month, the retreat offered a lens into trends that will affect the outdoors and active-lifestyle industries this year and beyond.
Outdoor Trends Seen at The Outpost
1. Bright Colors in Outerwear Are Over
Nearly everyone I saw, from The Outpost participants to random Mammoth skiers, wore black, grey, or white. It seems consumers are opting for increasingly muted shades and inconspicuous outfits.
The low-profile trend previously existed in casual pieces, but the space of “outdoor lifestyle” clothing is growing. Trail-to-tavern (or peak-to-pint), stealth, and multi-use outerwear is catching on.
2. Brands Want to Know You Personally
The Outpost allows brands to interface directly with the people who will buy their products. On-site demos, expert staff (i.e., the actual inventors), and non–gear-related questions all help court customers or improve brand perception.
Business models can be based on personality and reputation, not just debuting the lightest jacket/shoe/cooler. Intimacy is something smaller brands have that larger brands want.
This was the second brand-to-consumer “retreat” I went on in one month’s time. REI offers Outessa, Backcountry has Gearheads in the Wild, The Outbound Collective puts on the Pursuit Series, and, finally, there’s The Outpost. All of these launched in the last couple years.
The events aim to bring influencers and consumers together to interface directly with the brands, from CEOs to designers to retail shop owners.
3. Being a Core Athlete Isn’t Cool Anymore?
Icy slopes at Mammoth from a dry year revealed who can rip and who can’t. There were a lot of non-rippers (i.e., beginners) at the event, which is unusual for an industry event in the outdoors. More people are interested in the lifestyle and not the sport.
One panelist during a “Future of Mountain Towns” discussion made the comment that recreationists no longer use “-er” to describe themselves. Younger enthusiasts don’t say they’re a “kayaker,” “rock climber,” or “runner.”
Instead, people opt for “I like to kayak,” or “I like to run” because people are interested in multiple sports. It’s less intimidating and more inclusive.
4. Direct-to-Consumer Brands
Small outdoor brands are on the rise, and one method for beating out the competition on price is a direct-to-consumer model. Direct sales allow brands to get rid of mark-ups from retailers and deliver a lower-price final product while keeping more profit for themselves.
We reviewed one such brand, Ridge Merino, at The Outpost. In a saturated market such as merino apparel, the company manages to stand out thanks to its direct-to-consumer business model.
Other brands like Canadian gear-maker Live Out There also seek to offer consumers value with final pricing closer to what the gear costs to make.
5. Gear Trend: Staying Connected Everywhere
The Outpost brought a lot of social media influencers and photographers together, a culture that demands communication and connectivity everywhere they go.
We used GoTenna Mesh, a device that connects with other Mesh owners and allowed us to communicate on the mountain without cell service. It uses a 1-watt UHF radio signal that can pair with other devices up to and beyond 10 miles away.
While it makes my outdoorsy heart cringe, it seems the need to stay connected is infiltrating itself deep into the outdoors space. GoTenna Mesh is just one of the plethora of new technologies aimed at keeping us connected.
6. Living in Mountain Towns Is Possible (and You Don’t Have to Bus Tables)
Geographic mobility is a perk of the freelance lifestyle and the growing short-term contract work trend. And with it, people can work wherever they please.
Mammoth Mountain Resort is home to The Fort, a co-working space for professionals. Between events, I snuck away there to answer emails, write articles, and work on our Instagram story.
Coworking spaces are expanding to many mountain towns and allowing people to work remotely. Just look at Squaw Valley, Jackson Hole, Mammoth Lakes, or the towns associated with the Mountain Coworking Alliance.
7. Partying in the Wild Is on the Rise
If the staggering amount of insulated cup makers is any indicator, adult beverages in the outdoors are the most popular they’ve ever been. We sipped cocktails all week long out of DrinkTanks’ cups.
With Instagram marketing performed by Bulleit Bourbon and Sufferfest Beer, more and more of your favorite drinks are showing up in the social feed. Expect more integration or brand collaborations between adult beverages and the outdoor industry.
8. Trade Show Attendees Want More Organic Interactions
Trade Shows are extremely efficient events that bring together industry professionals. It’s a tried and true system that works. But it’s also draining and potentially limiting on what connections emerge.
The Outpost strives to bring together brands that don’t always cross paths. And it does so organically while avoiding the common trade show sentiment of feeling like sheep, herded from one appointment to the next.
This anti-trade show emerged to bring industry people together, generates ideas for content, and encourages collaboration. It may not produce as many immediate business interactions by sheer quantity compared to something like Outdoor Retailer, but it does so in a much, much more enjoyable way.