Under Solen Blog
What I Learned at Outdoor Retailer: It’s the Environment That Counts

Wrote this over on Elephant Journal, but figured we should pop it up here as well… Enjoy!

In the world of new media, time is of the essence. But the constant need to produce daily content and up-to-date information means that sometimes we don’t take the necessary distance to contemplate, consider and meditate upon how we really feel about something.

Or at least that’s my excuse for not having written about the recent Outdoor Retailer Summer Market which took place at the beginning of August.

Outdoor Retailer, otherwise known as OR, is a mad-fest of outdoor brands, retailers and other industry folks all crammed into one big convention center. Try to imagine every single outdoor brand that you can think of, put them all in fancy booths, add in a mix of dirtbag climbers, and media professionals, and complete with daily rounds of happy hour…and you start to get the feel of what this event looks like.

There are two ORs a year, one in summer and one in winter, and in the months leading up to ‘em it seems like the only thing any of us in the industry can talk about.

“Don’t you have that crazy trade show where you check out a bunch of new products to go to again?” ask our friends.

“Umm… yeah,” we respond, slightly stressed and intimidated by the long list of meetings that we’ve scheduled.

After four intense, sleepless days it’s all over, and we return home to: “How was that crazy trade show? Did you see anything cool?”

How does one even begin to answer that question? One of the industry media stars that I look up to, Steve Casimiro of The Adventure Life, recently tried to answer that question, and he put into words what I was already thinking: at the end of the day,this industry isn’t about the products, it’s about the people. That’s why we all stick around.

I’ll admit to being a bit of a gear nerd, but in all honesty, during the four days at OR it wasn’t even the products that any single brand was touting that I was concerned with, it was the causes they were promoting. That’s the great thing about the outdoor industry: it’s good people using business to promote conservation causes. Because at the end of the day, without beautiful, accessible natural spaces, us outdoor types would have nowhere to play, and therefore if we want to buy new tents and rainjackets, we better do our damnedest to protect the places that we plan on using them.

So forget about the products…what were some of the coolest causes I saw? That’s only a difficult question to answer because there were so many.

Here’s a quick selection:

1. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance – SUWA encouraged OR attendees to let Ken Salazar know that they wanted to Keep Utah Wild in a creative way: by posing with a cardboard version of the Secretary of the Interior himself. Pucker up and protect those wild lands!

2. Save Our Wild Salmon – Salmon have become a cause near and dear to my heart, and partnering with Patagonia, Save Our Wild Salmon hosted a party andshowed a film trailer to celebrate the one-of-a-kind fish that swim more than 900 miles inland and climb over 7,000 feet to spawn. Seriously, I’m sure that’s wayyy more effort than any of us will every put into procreating.

3. Conservation Alliance – I can’t say enough about Conservation Alliance. If you don’t know this organization, you should. It’s a class example of how competing businesses can come together for the common good. Case and point: theConservation Alliance announced at this summer’s OR a new level of membership that recognizes companies contributing at least $100,000 annually. That’s a lot of cash going directly to conservation causes.

Back to that timing thing…I could have written this post three weeks ago. But the farther away I get from OR the more I realize that what’s left in my memory aren’t the newest products; it’s the necessity to get out and work to protect the places we love.

This isn’t a choice; we have to do it.

So get out and get active. Support a cause, sign a petition, or go on a trip to your favorite backcountry spot in order to get re-inspired by the beauty of nature.

Because there’s no excuse for complacency—and it’s a lot of fun.