In Offense Of ‘Outdoors, Incorporated’

[Editor’s Note: This essay was written by guest contributor T.J. Hooks.]

You’ve seen it, in unnamed magazines purportedly dedicated to the adventurous lifestyle, yet in reality closer to a Mountain Hardwear/Marmot/Arc’teryx catalog of apparel you could never afford, but will buy none the same. Or, perhaps, browsing through Instagram, perfect pictures from that perfect blonde, of perfect days in the mountains, with somehow perfectly coiffed hair at 9,000 feet. #vanlife, #livingthedream

Then again, maybe it was that video posted by that Salomon/Patagonia/Outdoor Research athlete, one day skiing impossibly white summits in New Zealand, the next on some deserted beach in British Columbia.

This imagery exists in whole to reinforce a blatant lie that permeates our culture, and lifestyle at large: “Buy me! You need me! Without me, you cannot possibly fulfill your dreams!” Something practically viral has infested what we laughingly call ‘dirtbag culture,’ something incredibly dangerous, perhaps the most pestilent force in our history.

Money, and those who love it.

Long ago, our predecessors in spirit discovered something incredible, leaving their towns, cities, and villages for a time; they found nature! With boots cobbled with nails and polished saplings for support, these blacksmiths, bakers, and carpenters climbed mountains, explored unmapped rivers, and ran through crevassed valleys. They found what Money cannot buy, the gradual mountaintop sunrise, endorphins rushing through mind and body after an exhaustive run, that adrenaline-laden shock from peeking down un-fathomable depths. And in the exploration of the boundaries of nature, and their bodies as well as souls, they created a new breed of humanity, or perhaps re-awoke the most ancient one of all:

The Adventurer.

But Money, and those who love it, spread into this new culture to consume it, or at least they tried to. How can you sell a sunset, or a mountain breeze?

Simple, buy the mountain. And they did. Vail, Whistler, and Park City are all modern examples of Money’s success; only those who can afford this newly monetized form of nature stay. Even then though, Money couldn’t own all mountains, beaches, and meadows, in part due to the efforts of those conservationists, John Muir, Ansel Adams, and Henry David Thoreau (although, being practically anarchist of mind, Thoreau might not approve of our government’s current handling of our wild places), among many others.

Again, Money and greed were challenged, but Money will burrow its way into everything, whatever is priceless will find itself charged for, in time.

Money couldn’t own the mountains or the wind or snow, so it bought the culture of those who seek out nature’s beauty.

In the late 1950s, alpinist, innovator, and inventor Yvon Chouinard began the company that would become Black Diamond, hand forging revolutionary pitons (an early anchoring device for climbing, usually akin to a knife blade in shape) to fund his own expeditionary lifestyle as a climber, explorer, and environmentalist. In 1989, he filed Black Diamond for bankruptcy, it was acquired by former employees and several business investors, and became hugely successful once again. Two other conservationists and prolific climbers, Douglas and Susie Tompkins, started The North Face in 1964 as a small retail store for recreational gear. It was successful, potentially due to their unique and now mainstream tent design, and they sold the company, traveling to Patagonia with aforementioned Chouinard to film their adventures.

These men and women, and those like them, created something new, useful, and innovative with their own hands, quite literally! But in doing so, a gateway was opened for Money, and those who love it.

The North Face is now an asset of VF Corporation (formerly Vanity Fair), a massive corporation dedicated to one thing, Money. Black Diamond’s parent company recently changed their name to the Clarus Corporation, “to better reflect its recent return to a diversified holding company with a strategy to acquire high-quality, cash flow-producing assets.”

These corporations couldn’t make you pay for adventure, to step out freely into the wild, but they could convince you that you needed them first. How? By buying the forefront of the movement, the best of us. The fastest skiers, strongest climbers, and the prettiest trail runners. (Because, let’s face it, trail runners are way more attractive, just look at Hal Koerner.)

And those athletes and adventurers went along willingly, who wouldn’t? Instead of working minimum-wage shifts at Starbucks to fund their exploits, they could follow their passion completely, with one caveat, their names would be bound to said companies. No longer would unique individuals set FKTs, or new ski routes, but those athletes @TNF #neverstopbuying would. In lore, names have magical power over their owners, and in reality the same is true. By binding a groundbreaker to a brand, any success belongs in part to the brand.

Acquiring mountains and men was easy, but there were still those with no need for Money, and Money exists only through desire. Some people lived freely, with taped shoes and ripped jackets, needing only the rock on which they climbed and the trails they ran to be satisfied. A challenge, but one which could be overcome with time.

So Money changed our memories, with articles and ads running throughout those magazines dedicated originally to reflect a life of freedom in nature, until it seemed impossible for one to simply go into the outdoors, but rather that such freedom must be bought.

The dirtbag legend, to which many aspire, was altered. That wasn’t a van they drove, but a Volkswagen, or maybe a Sprinter. That ripped jacket? Not thrift-store material certainly, but REI! Likewise, one only climbs in the latest La Sportiva shoes, as those predecessors most definitely did!

How a homeless climber, runner, or alpinist with only 15 dollars “and some change in the cupholder” to their name could afford such expensive essentials to life needs not be explained.

These are the factors responsible for molding our present. Where the youngest among us see soaring peaks and aspen-laden valleys through a prism of logos and hashtags, catchy taglines for the ever-present viewers, “And sick shots for Instagram!”, emulating the very companies which now own our lifestyle. As we draw near to the conclusion of this… essay? Opinion article? Rant? Perhaps the best definition would be a flow of ideas, emotions, and facts knitted together in some semi-coherent fashion toward a well-defined endpoint, and perhaps a handy, simple solution to the problem. Except, I don’t have one.

Everything can and will be commercialized, and it is nearly impossible to reverse the cycle. Take for example, the Raramuri of the Sierra Tarahumara, arguably some of the greatest trail runners in existence, and thrust into the world’s spotlight in Christopher McDougall’s acclaimed book, Born To Run.

The locals of the Sierra Tarahumara are renowned in part for the ease in which they can run ultramarathon distances while either barefoot, or clad in homemade sandals cut from discarded tires. In 2013, Nike, a juggernaut of the recreational industry, brought media outlets to the center of Raramuri culture as part of a multi-day publicity stunt to unveil, you guessed it, their newest model of running shoe.

What can be done to turn the tide? To reset the clock, before a time of branded men and women, athletics, and exploration simplified into a catchphrase or logo, and the eternal, ceaseless need for more; more jackets, more backpacks, more shoes. Always the newest, brightest, most expensive equipment available. Beyond desire, into conceived necessity.

Can we return to that lost era? Well, no, unless every consumer ceased to purchase new equipment simultaneously, bankrupting both the companies and those employed in the outdoor industry, as well as leaving most of the highest-caliber athletes of our generation without the means to continue expressing themselves at their zenith. Clearly not an acceptable solution, even if feasible.

We cannot return to the past in our actions, not while striving toward a better future, and to permit or encourage the plans of ‘Adventure Incorporated’ will result in a tomorrow none of us desire, if history is any indicator.

But perhaps, perhaps we can stem the flow of un-necessitated need, and push against the false dogma of insufficiency. Because Salomon shoes didn’t climb that ridgeline, you did. It wasn’t a Mountain Hardwear jacket that braved that Colorado monsoon, with lightning striking so close you could feel static shivers creep along your arms; you ran, you stumbled through the rain-pour and thunder, up onward to an uncertain and perilous summit. In the remembrance and exhortation of this fact, that we are more than the tools we use, maybe we can develop a tomorrow not of adventurers owned by brands, but brands owned by us, the adventurous.

As an afterword,

Corporate entities are not immoral, evil, or maliciously inclined by rote, but rather an amalgamation, a molding of the talents and ideas of the people within. In essence, companies are reflections of us, comprised of our morals, ingenuity, and effort. To assume the worst of them without cause is to lose some semblance of hope in ourselves.

Like any individual, a company must decide which path to take, onto one of profit above life (sacrificing employees’ wages, environmental standards, and customer safety through cheaply produced, yet overpriced products) or the path of life above profit (with recycled materials, livable wages at each stage of production, and well-developed, long-lasting products.)

Yet my intention in this is not to discuss the actions or impact of these corporations, but our choices as consumers.

Most of my suggestions are hardly original; buy used, reuse, recycle, donate/volunteer for an environmentally focused group.

Also, by supporting publications (like iRunFar, of course) that do not function as 40-page advertisements for the newest jacket, but rather as legitimate news sites, and local races, where the focus still lies within the communal bond of trail running, far from the over-competitive zeal of some larger races.

Trail running, as with mountaineering, skiing, rock climbing, and so many other activities, is upon a balancing point. Unlike so many sports though, the decisions which will form our future lie not with some international organization, nor in the interests of a viewing public, but by us. Whether the sport grows, perhaps toward the Olympics and specialization, or diffusing into a grassroots-type movement of local races and personal reward, is up to us. We are the sport, we are the consumers, the readers, and we decide our fate.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Would you agree with the author’s statement that many outdoor sports, including trail running, are at a balancing point between too much and just enough commercialization? Can you share a few of your thoughts?
  • What pieces of clothing or gear have you had for ages? That has lasted forever and has remained as functional as it needs to be? Can you share stories of outdoor tools and clothing that have stood the test of time for you?
  • What do you think are some tangible steps each of us can take to maintain healthy relationships with our sport’s consumer goods? As in, to acquire the tools we need to be safe and happy trail runners but not to consume just for the sake of having something new/more/different?

There are 39 comments

  1. Mike

    One of the most flagrant examples of this I’ve seen recently are a series of YouTube videos ‘This is Why I Run’ by Jaybird. 2-3 minute commercials for Earbuds.

  2. Hone

    Its a couple paragraphs too long but this is probably the best article I have read on irunfar.

    “Solomon shoes didn’t climb that ridgeline, you did.” Perfectly sums up my thoughts when I see a friend whoring himself by giving a company credit for his accomplishments just because received a 20 percent discount and an “ambassador” title. Ha!

  3. Mark Spencer

    Great article! One reason I love running is because you don’t need the expensive equipment you need for cycling, skiing, etc…and I like high quality shoes as much as anyone, but beyond that, my needs are pretty minimal. I especially liked the comments about the amazing photos on Instagram, all paid for by Salomon, North Face, and REI. I had to unfollow many of these accounts because I spent a lot of time frustrated that I wasn’t living that kind of life! We should all find ways to be happy with what we have and the people we surround ourselves with.

  4. John K

    Funnily enough, I was thinking about exactly this issue on my run this morning :) I tend towards the cynical when it comes to corporate marketing. My example this morning was Tracksmith, and their “winter” clothing line for New England winter’s – their athletes have bare legs and faces, when for this particular New England runner, it was -7ºF on my run yesterday, and I had 3 layers over my head, and bare legs would have been… very unwise.

    That said, it’s also a great thing that there are companies that produce clothing, shoes and equipment that can make our adventurous lives more pleasant and fun, and that we can have this discussion at all.

  5. Markus

    Great thoughts.
    I always found these outdoor catalog photos inspiring and I still like them.
    Sure everything is commercialized and lets not forget that Patagonia’s and North Face’s empires are build on low wage Asian workers. Yes Chouinard and Tomkins did some good things for the environment movement. But it’s not all good what they did.

    The best environmental conscious fleece jacket, is the one you don’t buy. I still own my first and only one from 94 I think. We can all make our choices what we consume.

    Buy less and do more in 2018. Happy New Year everyone!

  6. Brian

    Money – the root of all evil…..or the means to actually feed yourself and provide shelter.

    I actually enjoy the products that innovation, capitalism and money have provided – a good headlamp to run at night, comfortable shoes that protect my feet, food products packaged nicely so that I can carry my own calories and travel farther, looking at a map on my phone to track the trails and where I am, etc., etc.

    And all these products, including the website where the article is posted, is provided by means of money (i.e. people creating things and providing services in exchange for Money so they can buy food, shelter, etc.). Money is just an efficient means of exchange creating a better life for everyone (try creating your own product and bartering with other consumers so you can have eggs, sugar, etc.).

    Over-commercialization and waste are problems – but most of those early western explorers were families in search of a better way to provide for their families.

    Not against the article, just providing a counterpoint.

  7. Simone

    This is such an important read.

    The issue is the monetization of the things that we enjoy in life. Money isn’t evil, its a tool. Unfortunately greed fuels lots of money decisions.

    I’m against over consumption and thought I had it under control, but this serves as a reminder that although my hobby is good for me, its not an excuse to buy, buy, buy.

    Thank you for T.J. Hooks for writing this and thank you to irunfar for publishing such though provoking pieces.

  8. Stacy

    “When deep space exploration ramps up, it will be corporations that name everything. The IBM Stellar Sphere. The Philip Morris Galaxy. Planet Starbucks.” — Jack, Fight Club

    Nearly anything can be commodified — turned into an object of economic value — in large part because the process of commodification involves the intrinsic utility of the thing only as a starting point and primarily entails the thing’s ability to contain and express personal and social meaning. We have, for example, the concepts of “conspicuous consumption” and “conspicuous leisure,” in which Thorstein Veblen observed over 100 years ago that the wealthy establish their elevated personal worth and social status through displays of ostentatious, wasteful spending not available to the poorer classes of society. Veblen also noted that, for their part and to the extent financially possible, the middle and lower classes often engaged in “pecuniary emulation,” which is the class-aspirational act of imitating the consumption and leisure practices of the wealthy.

    In this way, the process of commodification is about the relationship between people as much as it is about the relationship between things. Luxury goods command a price premium compared with their substitutes not merely because of their functional superiority, but because of their positional superiority.

    Patagonia, in particular, constructs a particular hierarchy of authentic, enlightened outdoor connoisseurship and, as if by coincidence, those who buy into this articulation occupy the top point of the pyramid. This is how it becomes not just logical, but an act of supreme good taste and environmental consciousness, to spend $65 on a pair of running shorts fabricated from petrochemicals, stitched in a Vietnamese factory, and shipped halfway around the world to a boutique in Telluride. Or to launch, with no apparent sense of irony, a multi-million dollar, multimedia advertising and political-legal campaign in “defense” of “Bears Ears,” a landscape where the greatest objective threat of commercial exploitation has long been the one posed by the New West’s own social construction and commodification of nature.

    Outdoor sports aren’t just consumerist, they’re classist.

  9. Sam

    “Corporate entities are not immoral, evil, or maliciously inclined by rote, but rather an amalgamation, a molding of the talents and ideas of the people within. In essence, companies are reflections of us, comprised of our morals, ingenuity, and effort. To assume the worst of them without cause is to lose some semblance of hope in ourselves.”

    Thanks for a timely piece! Hooks eloquently notes that we are headed toward an oblivion of privatized space, an inane chatter of brand ambassadors, and life of empty consumption. But perhaps the solution requires thinking not in terms of morality, but rather to reframe the problem as an imperative to reform a political environment that sees literally every element of the world—from the mountains we climb, to our personal ambitions, to the races we run—as an opportunity for personal profit.

  10. Rich Bennett

    Once in a while an article like this comes up that cuts right to the marrow. It exposes an uncomfortable truth about our way of life despite our best efforts to justify it through a closer relationship to nature or pursuit of age defying health. The basic human emotions of greed and desire are fully exploited by sophisticated marketing machines of corporations and businesses and they continue to hone that ability through social media platforms. They can get ahead of traditional months long market research cycles by tracking “likes”, “shares”, “retweets” within hours ultimately showing (and hopefully selling) you products that you were merely thinking about moments before. Instant gratification doesn’t belong exclusively to the fast food industry. I started working in the outdoor industry in the early 90s selling gear in a high end mountaineering shop and eventually moving into a buyers position. Retailing back then in traditional brick and mortar shops was still pretty unsophisticated and required a chain of events that included sales reps, buyers, customers, market managers, manufacturers, business owners and customers to decide what products would show up on the shelves season to season. Certainly that chain has gotten shorter literally going from manufacturers directly to customers. Okay, maybe those other links still exist but hugely minimized. My point is the time it takes for new products to land in the hands or feet of the end user is so short and so is the relevance of that product lasting about as long as it takes that next brand ambassador to proclaim the newest “innovation” on instagram. We end up spending more time chasing the newest and best constantly dissatisfied with what we have that works. As a self professed gear head I have trouble keeping up! What I have found entering my 40th year of running is that the gear and equipment has improved vastly allowing my aging bones to continue to enjoy this most fundamental of pursuits giving me the chance to find at least a few hours to decide if my zero drops are better than the uber cushioned ones I had on last week. Greed and desire are hard-wired into human DNA as survival tools but so is the need for adventure and exploration.

  11. Tony

    Good article – the idea of the consumer having more influence that he, or she, realizes is big. Not simply in outdoor sports but everywhere from agriculture to recreation and more. Truth is we do not need laws if people just speak with their actions but sadly often laws make it easier for people to pass the fault instead of taking responsibility. I realize this is easier said than done but when the consumers realize they have great power you can see great change.

  12. Brian

    My first few pairs of running shoes were a fairly thin soled Nikes, after a year of running, consistent muscle soreness and limited miles due joint and muscle issues I discovered Hoka’s. As expensive and highly marketed as they were, it changed my running experience. 3,000 miles and a few Ultra’s later I realized the initial “product” mistake I made.

    Over Christmas I saw an ad for Marmot gear on sale. I shopped through the website looking for the best down jackets they had, warmest, coolest colors, most innovative designs. I live in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. I’d use this jacket at most 3 times a year. I could find any cheap hoodie or jacket I already owned that would suffice in any of my mountain running endeavors. Did I really need this Marmot jacket? No…but I did need the Hoka’s extra cushion and balance.

    Get what you NEED for the sport, not what you WANT. I’m greatful for all of the companies making innovative new products to help us do what we love. I enjoy the marketing and flashy instagram account gimmicks. Some of the photos are inspiring and give FREE ideas to try a new adventure…wether you do it with an 1800 lumens 3 setting headlamp or the flashlight in your kitchen drawer.

    I needed the Cushion, but not the cool colors. Time to fly ;)

    1. Diego

      You may be aware of the emergence of the cushioned shoe and how it reached dominance with no solid evidence of its health benefits. Capitalism’s drive towards growth involves the creation of new needs, and that – I think – is part of the point of the article (with which however I do not agree completely). Yes, with cushioned shoes you may be able to run longer distances, but I would add “sooner”. After a lifetime of feet being protected, adapting to minimalist running takes time, in particular to long distances. Face an image of a fit and good-looking runner jumping over rocks with an astonishing landscape behind, and it is difficult to escape the temptation to achieve that as soon as possible. The need in this case is therefore to do that “sooner”.

      Yes, I run in minimalist shoes. And yes, I was also inspired by the images and motivational videos the author mentions (after all, the promise of what is possible is inherent to ultra-running – I’d say most of us get here before we start actually running long distances). But I am gradually accepting that that is not me and may never be (although I do not find it easy!). After a bit more than three years only now I am getting closer to the marathon distance, and in my first year I did not run more than 10k at any one time.

  13. Pat

    Perfect read as I’ve been thinning my closets of gear and apparel I don’t use.

    Definitely focusing on repairing what I have instead of buying new things this year.

  14. Brian

    It is hard to keep track of the number of times the author contradicts himself, but here are a few:

    “supporting publications (like iRunFar, of course) that do not function as 40-page advertisements for the newest jacket”…counted no less than 5 advertisements on the page, including one from Amazon, not to mention the calls for Patreon support.

    “We cannot return to the past in our actions, not while striving toward a better future, and to permit or encourage the plans of ‘Adventure Incorporated’ will result in a tomorrow none of us desire, if history is any indicator.”….so is progress good or bad. The author seems so confused. And based on history, our present situation is solely undesirable? So progress towards creating a better future results in an undesirable present? Huh. If the present is so undesirable, then wouldn’t changes have been made to correct the problem. Or is it impossible for people to make positive change? But then that contradicts the whole premise of striving towards a better future (and the whole point of the article of deciding our fate).

    The more time spent trying to decipher this mess of an article (rant, opinion), the more I feel worse off for reading it.

    1. Andy

      This is exactly how I felt after reading this piece. Contradictions, overly verbose phrasing, and awkward interpretations of history made it difficult to decipher the author’s point(s). Further confusing are most of the comments following this piece – as a mildly educated person it’s almost as if we didn’t read the same article.

    2. Run GMD

      Thanks, Brian (and to you, “Loyal iRunFar Reader” below) for your comments. I share your feelings that this piece might have benefited from further editing. Reading and re-reading this piece I kept hoping, desperately, to feel T.J.’s obvious passion in my heart, but… I just can’t. The ideas are, I think, important for the community’s collective thought and discussion but they get mired in the weeds of T.J.’s rant, impact muted.

      In the spirit of constructive criticism, may I suggest that this work be re-edited and re-purposed during 2018, tightened and sharpened to a razor’s edge? Then it could be re-published anew on the day after Thanksgiving for maximum impact rather than the day after New Year’s?

    3. T.J. Hooks

      Hey! You’re totally right about this mess of an article (rant, opinion)
      I didn’t start this with a framework or even a solid idea as to the main point, it was literally just me writing down my thoughts for a few hours after a massive Lovecraft binge. (Which I think added to the overly verbose language.)
      I guess what I was trying to say is that we should try to focus on creating a future where what we buy are merely tools for our adventures, and nothing more.
      By the way, I submitted this hoping for advice/feedback on my writing, and honestly never expected it to be published! So I’d definitely love to hear how I could improve it.

  15. Loyal iRunFar Reader

    Please hire a knowledgeable copy editor. Tough to enjoy reading iRunFar while wishing I could take a red marker to it.

    1. Meghan Hicks

      Hello, here’s your copy editor, front and center. Do you not care for the peculiarities of this article or iRunFar’s articles in general? I’m open to your feedback; feel free to contact me, As for this article, there is some unique formatting, for example nontraditional word capitalization and sentence structure that I, as editor, preserved from the author’s work through the editing process, because it seemed he used them for emphasis. They aren’t normal for iRunFar in general, but I felt like they were a part of the author’s voice. Again, I’m open to your feedback. Thanks.

  16. Eileen

    Super great article, but at the end if the day, shopping is a choice despite the siren call of the marketing machine. When I need to, I’m buying Patagonia plumafill gear (hopefully on sale) which combines the benefits of both down and synthetic material, but takes animals out of the equation. As other commenters have noted, leaps in innovation needs money to happen. Enjoying the outdoors is still free as it’s always been.

  17. Jack

    No, there’s no stopping this juggernaut. But the world is big, and if you want avoid the BROS on the trails there’s plenty of space. Right?

  18. Nick

    Awesome article! I buy used as much as I can. Firstly because I’m cheap ;) and secondly because hey, trail shoes get that crap kicked out of them on purpose–whether you buy them new or “slightly loved”, the end result is the same…

    Cheers to a healthy beginning to 2018!

  19. Paul

    The author gives too much credit to the ability of corporations to manipulate us, and too little credit to the ability of consumers to resist all the hoopla. I for one certainly don’t get caught up in Instagram (partly because I don’t have an Instagram account), YouTube videos, or any of the other streams the author refers to. My point isn’t that I have a supernatural resistance to these things, quite the opposite, I’m just a regular guy applying common sense, no different than all of us do every day.

    I buy products that make my trail life easier and safer, and I’m thankful these companies are there creating the products. Modern LED headlights, improved shoes, GPS watches, technical clothing, better packs, etc. None of these would exist if companies weren’t making money and making their products known.

    And +1 one to the irony of a rant about folks making money from the outdoors on a website that makes money from the outdoors.

  20. shawn

    Related to the point of the article, if not the article itself….

    – I can deal with sponsored athletes in races, but I agree that sponsorships and ambassadors seem to sully the point of FKTs, peak bagging, and general adventuring.

    – more races should be swag-less. Don’t we all have enough cheap tech-Ts and medals by now? I know that shirts with the sponsors names on them are part of the marketing and help offset costs, but lets find a better trade-off that cuts costs, waste,

    – I would gladly pay $20 extra for trail running shoes that could last 1,000 miles. I’m okay if that ads an ounce or three. (And I’d gladly pay just a little more for PF improvements so I don’t have to buy insoles.) the carbon footprint of buying running shoes from a sweat shop in Asia really really bothers me, but I haven’t found a good option.

    – Classic gear: I still have the Marker fleece my fiance (now wife) bought me in 1994; I wear it approximately 100 times year, especially when running my dog in the morning. Used ski poles make darn good treking poles, though I realize collapsing poles are nicer. Run without your watch or GPS if you already know your route; your body probably can tell you how far and fast you went. Skip the earbuds; you have plenty of songs already stored in your head; learn all the words to your favs and enjoy the miles.

  21. Eva Wieselgren

    In August I made a quick decision to walk for two weeks in the north of Sweden. I am 61, and had not done any serious outdoor activities since the 80’s. I did not have the money to buy new good equipment. So I used my old. I took the 30 year old tent and goretex jacket, mended holes and washed them with water repellent. It turned out well. Both tent and jacket stood against heavy rains and winds. I am glad I bought high quality equipment back then. An alternative would have been to hire equipment. It’s a commercial world now, but also more democratic. Long ago the well situated adventurers often had other, poorer, people carrying their stuff.

  22. Sam Bosworth

    i have found no better outfit for cold winter running than a pair of levis and a couple old sweat shirts. The Duke approves

    1. shawn

      Where do you live? I can’t imagine running in jeans in ANY weather!
      I’m fond of traditional old sweatshirts too, (over a tech T) but only for runs less than an hour. Beyond that, there are too many problems with my sweat turning icy.

    2. Bryon Powell

      Here above Moab, Utah, I definitely get out for a run in a pair of jeans probably a dozen or so times a year. Depending on the temps, it could be with whatever tee shirt or tee shirt and flannel I’m wearing at the time. I /think/ I’ve done up to 10-ish miles like this and won’t hesitate to run 5 or 6 miles so clad.

  23. kyle

    I couldn’t agree more with the article. While I do appreciate checking in on irunfar for results from time time, I have always disliked the attachment of sponsor names to individuals in results or previews; just another unnecessary plug for corporations – let’s keep the focus on the athletes. Kudos to irunfar for publishing this.

  24. Kevin

    I can appreciate the capitalism rant for what it’s worth, but the commodification train ain’t slowing down.

    The beauty of this argument/rant is you can climb Mt. Tam in a $2,500.00 kit with 20 friends, post it to Strava, upload to YouTube, and maybe star in the next Billy Yang Film. Or you can take a $5.00 tarp and get lost somewhere in Montana for a few weeks. There’s still plenty of outdoor space for everyone.

    Side note, for a self-purported “co-op,” REI sure is expensive…

  25. rich

    Ultimately nothing is surprising about this. Anything (and everything) can be commodified, and mountain/trail/ultra running is no exception (even something as simple as meditation is commodified and commercialized: just do a search on ‘meditation apparel’). On one side is true innovation and inspiration, and on the other pure commercialism. As stated by others, these two must co-exist. Yes, we could run naked and barefoot and bring along a $5 tarp, but then we could also pick berries and mushrooms, hunt moose with our barehands and live in elk-hide teepees.
    Running is no different from any other domain of our lives, where it is important that we reflect on our behaviour and impact, and make conscious and conscientious decisions. I interpret the main idea behind TJ’s thoughts in this light.

  26. Drew

    No matter what there is a wild place within you to explore. Take or leave the material things, but don’t let having them or not stand in the way of what you love. There is a lot of criticism of the writing in the comments, however, to me this sounds exactly like the kind of conversation I would have with a friend on a long trail run…figuring this thing out together…as a community. At the risk of sounding negative when I am not trying to be, I say you are on board with the author or not. I recently re-listened to a podcast from the trail runner nation about focusing on the “Why” of doing something. I think the conflict here is coming from people with different “why’s” for trail running. Everyone’s why is their own, and the heart of any community should welcome different why’s so long as they are not infringing upon others. So does the “why” of money conflict with the “why” that the author is getting at? Does the money taint the heart of what we do? Even if we cannot fall on one side of yes or no for that what we can do is to stay mindful and intentional (catchy and commercialized words now too, I know, but lets not let money ruin those things as well). Maintaining conversations like this will help us be an intentional community, or at least separate those with aligned “why’s”. I kind of think that is what we are seeing. The parting of the herd. Just thoughts…

    I think this community is the best piece of gear getting me down the trail! Keep up the good work irunfar!

  27. Lisa K

    I lovehate a good rant that makes me swallow my uncomfortable reactions and sit with them for a while. I agree with the tenor of this piece while being able to recognize that I’ve bought – literally and metaphorically – the idea of a lifestyle I cannot conceive to live authentically. Are there contradictions in it? Sure. As there are in life, and in our behaviors from day to day. I scorn the machine while still buying its products, I squirm uncomfortably at the made-up bits of photographed pantomime while still perusing – and dreaming about – these imagined freedoms of #vanlife and #dirtbagging and #gettinglost.

    I’ve bought it. I hate it. I’ll buy it again. This discomfort is why I appreciate this piece.

  28. ShirtlessRunner

    Delete your Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, unfollow all advertised content, buy what you need and not what you want, stop following trends, meditate once in a while, read a book, run. It is not particularly hard to avoid all the shit.

    Innovation of products in the “adventure” sphere is no longer needed. The shoe coming out next year is not going to make you a better runner. That mountain top can be conquered with gear that was available 10 years ago.

  29. lancejohnson

    The outdoor industry is bigger than Pharma in term of dollars. It is bigger than Extraction (oil, gas, etc.) in terms of employment.

    Yet Bears Ears just got crushed. DT is planning to strip mine, deep-sea drill, and otherwise suck the marrow out of the country to the maximum extent possible; and with a lot of hand-wringing and very little impact, the juggernaut of the outdoor world in the US lets it happen.

    We have a big problem, and we are so busy hating the commercialisation of the outdoors – which could be its most-likely saviour – that we let it happen.

    I’m gone. I got a chance to move to France earlier this year and took it.

    Are they perfect? High-tension power lines across the Haute Alps will tell you they’re not. a lot of the companies leading the social media blitz are based here, so they are definitely part of the ‘problem.’ But they seem to have less of a stigma about the fact that things that make money get protected, and so increasing the commercial profile of the outdoor experience is part of its conservation here. It’s not perfect, not at all. But it’s more effective and hopefully over time it will get better.

    It also feels like the great point of the article is to say that ‘the vapidness of pervasive social media sucks,’ more than that ‘for-profit companies are trying to steal the soul of the outdoors,’ but for some reason the blame is placed on the companies rather than the consumers of social-media crap who create their own reality that they hate so much.

    I barely exist on social media (Facebook account that gets checked every few months when I’m too exhausted to engage my brain), so most of that I don’t see. I know it’s out there, that it is based on consumer demand for the always-moving-target of “authenticity” and is consistently rewarded for its effectiveness, but I can’t stand it so I stay away from places where it lives. Stop hitting the ‘like’ button. Don’t hashtag anything. Problem solved.

    But, at the same time, don’t miss the opportunity to be effective. Don’t deride the commercialism that could be the only way for the wild places that we love to be protected – because contrary to the writer’s point of view, I think the lunatic in charge of your country really does believe that Money can, and should, own all the mountains and beaches and everything else good out there…

Post Your Thoughts