I love the outdoor industry. I love the people, the energy and the genuine love for anything outside. But more and more, I’m noticing a trend that I don’t love: outdoor snobbery.
I was scrolling through my social media feeds the other day and the glaring elitism was blinding. One friend hashtagged a photo #MyLifeIsBetterThanYourVacation while another argued on Twitter that the proverbial “we” shouldn’t encourage newcomers to the outdoors because they were going to screw it up. The logic? If you want it bad enough, you’ll figure it out on your own….just like “we” did.
PC: All photos by Will Rochfort
And don’t even get me started on how many emails and comments I get from various people, accusing me of “ruining” places by writing about them. Because, of course you should be allowed in these places, but no one else?
Y’all, I get it. Getting outside does seem a bit like the latest trend du jour. Hipsters and mountain men alike are finding their way to the trails and the industry is noticing: there is a huge push in the gear world to scale products towards car camping. After all, entry-level enthusiasts are likely going to be interested in car camping before they dive headfirst into ultralight backpacking, yanno?
But what is with the snobbery? When did we become a group of holier-than-thou individuals who think that our prized wilderness delights are only for a select few? The type of people that specifically hashtag photos in an effort to make others feel worse about themselves?
My friend Katie speaks the truth.
Yes, trails are more crowded. And sometimes, these uneducated crowds of newcomers do stupid things like graffiti on canyon walls or topple ancient natural wonders. And absolutely, this sucks. But assuming all newcomers to be careless individuals is an arrogant and dangerous assumption. Think back to your early-outdoors self: you probably dressed in cotton, maybe wore a pair of jeans on your first hike, and carried a water bottle in your hand. You still learned what you were doing; you evolved. Why can’t we assume the same for everyone?
Why do we have the right to act as gatekeepers to the outdoors? Do we now get to determine individuals’ worth and deservedness to be outside?
No. Because not a single one of us is better than anyone else. Not a single one of us is more deserving that another. There are 7 billion people on this planet and we have to get along. We have to share our love for the outdoors rather than isolate those of us with less experience.
The outdoor industry has always been a place to share knowledge and experiences, focusing on the core love of Mother Nature. Don’t change that. Don’t scare people away with condescending attitudes and assumptions that your life is better than those out of the know.
Let’s keep it a place where everyone belongs.