07.31.08

Demand Begets Recreational Supply

Posted in Conservation, Fun and Games at 11:44 pm by justakim

Have you been to REI lately?

It is amazing how quickly markets for the outdoor enthusiast are being developed. I’m sure many of you can think back to the days of the frame pack and ye olde hiking stick. Nowadays the equipment available, of things you need and things you wouldn’t have known you needed until you saw it, might have the gloss and flair of the electronics aisles. Some say it’s good. Some say it’s bad. I say it’s fascinating.

The growth in the outdoor gear market has sparked a lot of competition in improving and inventing products. The more money there is in it, the more business can be supported, the more companies wish to enter, the more they compete with each other… the better the consumer is in the end. More products, higher quality products, and cheaper products. There have been some great improvements and inventions in the recent past that would not have come about and been made available if there were no incentive to do so.

I think back to my first tent and comparing it to my current one, it reminds me of the difference between steel and aluminum bikes. Or carbon fiber.

When did this non-stick cookware show up? Ever want a titanium spork? Wicking fabrics? Gore-tex?

Can you say “personal locator beacon”?

Two things that seem to be ubiquitous on the trails these days are hydration systems and trekking poles. I never thought I could drink so much water, but how can you say no when the straw is right on your shoulder? And who would have thought that no good hike is complete without taking a pair of sticks with you. My knees have never had it so good, and it’s hard to imagine going back.

I honestly believe that there are some places that would have been inaccessible to me without trekking poles. I hear economists think at the margin. Well, I am the margin.

To the extent that I have personally gained from the quantity and quality of gear that I have used, I gladly welcome my fellow consumers. I welcome the technical-gear geeks that are always pushing for the next thing.

And to an extent, the equipment can lower the playing field in cost of entry, and sometimes in accessibility. A hardcore person might appreciate but scoff at the difference a few pounds makes, but if you’re starting out, any help you can get means you can go a little further, see a little more, and possibly enjoy your experience just a bit more. And make the next trip out easier, until suddenly you have another enthusiast.

Popularity breeds popularity. It piques the interest of the curious, it encourages the timid, it provides a topic of commonality.

I know that some worry that there are just too many people out there, loving nature to death. But there is a big difference between those who appreciate something they know, and those who will not miss the passing of something they never knew was there.

To those who enjoy the gear, go for it; you and I will benefit from each others’ business. To those who can do without, you have gained more opportunities to exercise restraint.

Comments are closed.