At Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014, we worked with our sister publication Backpacker to bring some of the magazine’s readers to help us cover the event from the consumer perspective.
At a show full of industry insiders, jargon and trade, it can be easy at times to lose sight of the ultimate end game — serving the customer back home. We wanted to know their view of the outdoor industry including which activities they’re pursuing, if brands are meeting their needs and where and how they shop for outdoor gear.
Below is our discussion with John Amorosano from Big Bear Lake, Calif. and Kimberly Greenhut from Los Angeles.
Tell us a little about yourselves.
John:I grew up in Anaheim, Calif. about a mile away from Disneyland. Going camping as a kid, living in the “concrete jungle”, made me appreciate the outdoors at an early age and, as I got older, made me want to be more a part of it. My favorite outdoor area by far is the Sierras, specifically along the John Muir Trail in Kings Canyon.
Kimberly:I’ve loved being outside for as as long as I can remember. When I got into trouble as a kid, my punishment was not being allowed outside. I grew up in New Jersey and it was my college years at University of Vermont that introduced me to real mountains and wide-open spaces. My first backpacking trip was in Yosemite after I moved to California and I’ve been exploring the Sierra Nevada and beyond every since.
What outdoor activities are most popular with you and your peers these days?
Kimberly:I mix with a hiking backpacking crowd. I’ve noticed people have started getting into class 3 and 4 hiking and ice climbing.
John: My peers and I absolutely love hiking more than anything. I am currently section hiking the PCT and am amazed at how many people have an interest in thru-hiking, not only the PCT, but the CDT and the AT as well.
Where are outdoor brands not meeting your needs?
John:Keeping prices down ... everything is so expensive. $500 for a sleeping bag just because it’s 8 ounces lighter than a $100 bag is crazy!
Kimberly:I’ve been on a frustrating quest for the perfect pair of convertible pants — a bit of stretch, gusseted crotch, 6-9 inches short, pockets that are big enough to actually hold things, zippers at the ankles, and a tie at the waist to take care of the ubiquitous back gap on women’s pants and alleviate the need for a belt. I’ve also had no luck finding a lightweight soft shell with pit zips.
Tell us about your favorite store. What do they do well, what can they do better?
Kimberly:I do most of my gear shopping at REI. The staff tends to be very knowledgeable, which I appreciate, and even though they recently changed their return policy, it’s still very generous. I wish they had a wider variety of boots to choose from.
John:My favorite store is REI, as well. They pretty much carry all the up-to-date hiking gear available. There’s not much they can improve on, other than bringing prices down a bit and having a little more variety of hiking gear to choose from.
What’s the next piece of gear you want to buy?
John:Either the lightest 25-30-degree down sleeping bag out there or a Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 Platinum tent.
Kimberly:I’ve done some major upgrading in the past year — a new pack, new sleeping pad, new sleeping bag, some clothing replacements. Next up is possibly a new stove. I’d also like to find a lightweight one-man tent.
Where do you go for advice on what gear to buy?
Kimberly:I use online reviews and feedback from friends when making gear decisions. I also contact the company to ask questions when features are not clear to me.
John:Online reviews are key to my buying decisions. I mix customer reviews with lowest price and my personal need of the gear to make my final decision.
What are brands doing right with social media to attract you? What methods turn you off?
John: The ability of a company’s social media marketing to recognize web sites I look at, and more specifically the items, and then to advertise those products to me on other web sites I visit, such as Facebook is amazing. The one thing that turns me off is getting daily emails from brands or companies on upcoming events or sales.
Kim:I like when social media creates community among it’s followers. And I like contests. Who doesn’t like to win stuff?