So-and-So completes AT speed record. Such-and-Such climbs new 5.14 route in exotic locale. What’s-Their-Name completes first ascent of remote peak in a country I have trouble pronouncing. Model-worthy surf couple builds island home to live by perfect break.
Outside mags homepage usually serves as inspiration, but somedays it feels like a reminder of all the things that I’m not doing. Sure, I get out on the weekends and use my vacation days to venture out for a couple weeks, but I’m not like him or her. Should I be?
In this edition of Therm-a-Rest Explore, contributor Jill Sanford takes a moment to remind us what it means to be an adventurer.
As adventurers, we thrive on stories that navigate the spirit of adventure and the thrill of calculated risk.
We follow the pursuits of our outdoor heroes with awe and trepidation as they blow our minds with their skill, tenacity, endurance, and grit. Our obsession with the extreme enables the outdoor community to define ourselves through the accomplishments of our most dedicated athletes. These people are the record-setters. The pros. The hardcore.
They floor us with their accomplishments, challenge the impossible, and inspire us. We follow record-breaking athletes in our favorite disciplines, sponsored brand ambassadors, and those who just live an extremely enviable lifestyle.
In many ways, these heroes and hardcore athletes define the outdoor space. Yet with this obsession with the extreme, the outdoor community unintentionally breeds a culture of elitism. In some circles, outdoor enthusiasts must prove themselves not by solely by their love and enjoyment of the outdoors, but by their brag-worthy gear, skills and experiences.
Consequently, the outdoor community can be overly fixated with the hardcore. For every mountaineer or world-class climber, there’s a multitude of weekend warriors and everyday outdoor lovers who go on the casual camping trip, backpacking overnight, or afternoon hike.
It’s time to recognize outdoor athletes not just for their jaw-dropping accomplishments, but for the love they bring to the outdoors.
I’ve seen this overly judgemental attitude time and time again in my own relationship with the outdoors.
It runs rampant in the mountain town where I live, which is full of many so-called outdoorsy people who look down on the tourists who crowd our trailheads, lift lines, and grocery stores.
I’ve felt it in a gear shop, when I stopped by in casual street wear rather than hiking boots and a puffy, and consequently received dumbed down advice.
And I noticed it in the mountains, when my somewhat elitist friends commented on the clothing, gear, and appearance of other hikers on the trail.
But I have also seen the opposite when a friend who grew up in the inner city told me about the first time her older sister took out of L.A. and to the desert for a camping trip. That was also the first time she had ever seen stars in the night sky.
Her description of that transformative trip was a far greater testament to the power of outdoor recreation than a professional athlete’s millionth summit of this famous mountain or that legendary peak.
The outdoor community is slowly becoming more inclusive of people who don’t look, act, or perform like the outdated ideal of an outdoorsman. For so long, the stereotypical image of someone who belongs in the outdoors has been a man that is fit, white, and usually young.
While we still see plenty of people who fit that description in the outdoors, people from all walks of life, with different ability levels, races, genders, ages, sexual orientations, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, and creeds are also out on the trails.
And the truth is, the world of outdoor recreation is better for it.
Because it doesn’t matter how often you go outdoors or how hardcore you are when you get there, if you love the feeling of waking up outside, you belong in the outdoors just as much as the next girl or guy.
If you have found happiness covered in trail dust, or if you know what it is like to finally kick off your boots after a long hike and wiggle the feeling back into your sweaty toes, you belong here in the outdoor community.
And if you know what it’s like to feel the burn in your legs as you climb just a little bit further towards the summit, regardless of your pace, this is where you belong.
And you belong here if you have slogged through a workweek at the office by googling hikes and adventures on your lunch break. Or maybe you know what it’s like to stretch out in your sleeping bag after spending a night on the ground. Or thinking about that sore feeling your pack leaves on your shoulders and hips makes you look forward to the next time you strap it on, even as you wince remembering the pain.
In any case, yes, you belong to the outdoors and you don’t need to prove it to anyone.
At the end of the day, we are all looking for that same thing. We are drawn to outdoor pursuits because they recharge, inspire, connect, and invigorate us. Whether you find that on the top of the Seven Summits or during an afternoon picnic in your local state park, remember what draws you to the outdoors in the first place.