Sunday, March 11, 2012

Are YOU an outdoors-snob? (Elitism in the backcountry)

A few weeks ago I posted a question in an online forum for rock climbing. As I am strictly a novice on the topic, I decided that it would make sense to ask those who know a lot about the sport before I began a business venture which would cater to it. I posted a simple question asking for opinions, and for the most part I received a positive response. There were the less-than-positive responses as well, including the gentleman who was kind enough to point out that if I "had any pull in (the) industry, (I) wouldn't be (there) asking (those) questions..." Very nice of him to remind me that I am but an ant compared to the giant outdoors industry.

This experience got me thinking about sports in the outdoors, and made me wonder if we are just as bad as any other sport out there when it comes to elitism. Do we too have a hierarchy within our sport, with the car-campers who spend hundreds of dollars at the bottom, and mountaineers who can afford thousands of dollars worth of equipment as well as expensive traveling expenses at the top? If this hierarchy does exist, what is it that sets our sport apart from the rest?

The more I thought about these questions, the more the very thought of it disappointed me. I have always loved the outdoors because anyone can afford to go there, and even the dirt poor can afford to take a walk on a trail. One of the reasons I first became interested in backpacking was due to the fact that once I purchased the essential gear needed for an over-nighter, the only costs associated with the sport is strictly for food, gas to get to the trailhead, and possibly an entrance fee if you go to a National Park.

Don't take me for an ignoramus, I've always known that there are more or less expensive products in every existing sport, just as there are those who can or can't afford them. Even if you were to enter a home repair store you will see products which "get the job done," and those that get the job done with style and finesse. The part that bothers me is that those at the top of the outdoors hierarchy take those at the bottom for pathetic little wanna-be's.

Good old family camping
While writing this, I can't help but think of my Jr. High School years when I thought that I was a skater. I owned a skateboard, had enough skating-brand t-shirts to last me a week at school, and was always looking for cool stickers to purchase for my closet door at home (I could only fit so many on my actual skateboard). I had all the skating flare someone could wish for, yet I lacked the ability to actually skateboard well. Where was I on the skating hierarchy? Although my ability to skateboard was a little better than a beginner, I put myself above anyone I deemed as a "poser," or someone I felt was in the sport just to "look cool"without the dedication to really "live" the sport.

So how does this translate to backpacking, rock climbing, or any other sport in the backcountry? Well, flip through any outdoors magazine and you will see advertising for products that are not so expensive, and those that are ridiculously costly. That isn't to say that the expensive products aren't so steep for a reason, but the point is that there is a very wide spectrum of affordable and not-so-affordable products in every sport, giving those who have money an advantage over those who don't. Thus the opportunity for elitism. Why won't you hear very many outdoorsmen bragging about their new North Face jacket? Because you can find The North Face products in literally ANY sporting goods shop - not just the stores that specialize in rock climbing, backpacking, and mountaineering. Does The North Face jacket still keep you warm and dry? "Well yeah, but...," and then come the countless reasons why The North Face is no longer taken seriously, and then talk about the many other brands which do a much better job, and which are nearly indestructible.

One final story:
I once needed to fix my kitchen sink and instead of driving all the way to Home Depot, I went to a major plumbing store used by general contractors and plumbers. When I asked one of the clerks for help finding a specific fitting, I received a cold "you're bothering me, and are worth nothing more than the dirt on my sole of my shoe" sort of look, which was followed by a quick response which included directions to walk just past a bunch of fittings I had never heard of before, straight across from some water lines I wouldn't recognize if they hit me square in the face. Thinking that I may have been a little paranoid, I asked my co-worker at UPS who also managed one of the stores where I had this experience. He confirmed that the employees of this plumbing supply chain are used to working with professional plumbers who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars with each visit, and that they tend to get annoyed when having to work with the average Joe who needs to fix his toilet. Elitism in the plumbing industry???

See! Escaping the elements WITH style:)
The point of this never-ending post is this: WHO CARES!!!! If you want to get outside to experience natures endless wonders, do it. Whether you bring a black trash bag to repel water, or a $600 breathable jacket with all the bells and whistles; either way you will be outside, and this is all that matters. Sure, there will always be the outdoors-snots who love to check out everyones gear to then pass judgement while claiming that those who are "hardcore" wear certain products - WHO CARES!!!! Decide for yourself why you get outside, or why you buy certain outdoors apparel. If you are one of those outdoors-snobs just remember, it's not about doing the sport in style, it's about loving the sport - period.


  1. I am in the middle of writing a post similar to this one. Amazing how much we think a like.

    To the guy that post on the forum: I work at a large hardware chain, doesn't mean I know everything about everything in the construction business.

  2. i am always looking for some free stuffs over the internet. there are also some companies which gives free samples.
    buy quality plumbing tools