Stop complaining about “Bro-ificiation” already

The outdoors are for everyone, and bros aren't the problem

By: Kyle Frost
July 29, 2016

Save List
1 Saves

I get it. It’s fun to call out the “bros” and big bad marketing companies. But from my perspective, the thesis of the recent Adventure Journal article titled "The Disturbing Bro-ification of Outdoor Recreation" runs contrary to every trend I’ve seen in the outdoor industry the last couple of years.

Marketing and product development dollars have increasingly been shifting to focus on the average adventurer, rather than the elites. The big gear companies are scrambling to compete with the likes of Poler, Topo Designs, and others, all of whom have had success focusing on a more infrequent, less experienced outdoors participant. REI launched their EVRGRN line, which is basically a carbon copy of Poler under the REI umbrella. Sponsorship dollars are going to average folks with an audience on Instagram, and less to elite athletes (that’s another discussion in  and of itself). Brands are desperately trying to corner the market on females and minorities, and those market segments are being more vocal about how they’re being marketed too, as well.

Such elite, bro advertising from REI

Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t problems. But the one I see is a nasty strain of elitism that runs throughout the industry and isn’t limited to “bros”. I’m not talking about elite athletes with expensive gear, you can find that in any sport. I’m talking about the people who profess some sort of selfish possessiveness over who should be enjoying the outdoors, and how. I see it all the time. “Keep those front-rangers out of the mountains”, “My secret spot got ruined because of Instagram”, “What you guys are doing is destroying my favorite places”, “Bros are ruining the outdoor industry”. I’m a member of the Facebook group for the Colorado 14ers, and the amount of sarcasm that comes out when “normal” people ask questions about “easy” 14ers blows my mind. So what if they’re doing Bierdstadt? It might be the hardest and biggest mountain they’ve ever done. And that’s AMAZING. We should be celebrating that, not tearing them down because they asked a question that YOU think is dumb. The outdoors aren’t yours, they’re everyone’s (including "bros").

These statements run contrary to what I believe is the greatest power of the outdoors, inclusion and access for everyone. That includes women, elites, minorities, and yes, bros. That’s not to say that greater access comes without challenges — it’s our responsibility to continue to promote LNT principles and respectful enjoyment of our wild places. It’s been a constant topic of conversation for us at The Outbound. We’re dramatically improving access and discovery of some amazing places, so we do everything we can to hammer home LNT and promote good principles.

I understand the underlying message of the AJ article, but I disagree with how it was reached. Advertising has always been at its core, aspirational. There’s plenty of psychology behind that, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Beautiful people in beautiful locales aren’t going away anytime soon. But I also see an industry that is already in flux, and is actively moving to address these underserved markets. It’s a process, and a conversation, and I think we're moving in the right direction.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.