With much of the world in near lockdown status, more and more of us have (re)discovered the great outdoors, heading out for hikes, bike rides, or even socially distanced fires in our own backyards. With this rush of people heading out to recreate outside, purchases of outdoor gear have been up—way up.
According to the North American Camping Report, sponsored by Kampgrounds of America, Inc., 25% of North American campers took their first camping trip during the pandemic. Early in the crisis, the Washington Post reported bike sales were up more than 120% over the previous year. The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable estimates that fishing license sales are up 13% over the first three quarters of 2020.
And this rush to gear up hasn’t missed the Queen City as local outdoor retailers have been seeing product selling like never before.
“We’ve been steadily busy since the pandemic began with people really looking for those lifestyle pieces that can go from ’trail to tavern’—pieces durable enough for the trail but stylish enough for a tavern at the end of the day,” said Emily White, owner of the Milford outdoor gear retailer Roads Rivers and Trails. “And people really have been appreciating the experience here, particularly the expertise, personalized guidance, and humanity of our staff, instead of going through with yet another cold internet purchase.”
Indeed, interacting with experienced salespeople is key when purchasing your outdoor gear. The wrong fit for a jacket can allow your body heat to escape and leave you chilled. Ill-fitting footwear can leave you blistered and frustrated. Too much gear can leave you bogged down and spending too much time dealing with ‘stuff management.’ Perhaps with outdoor gear most of all, form must follow function. So, work with a local retail shop with knowledgeable, friendly sales staff that will be happy to find just what makes you happy while you’re outside.
Some specific products though may be hard to find these days.
“We’ve been seeing product flying off the shelves for months now,” noted Darren Wilner, general manager of REI Cincinnati in Norwood. “There’s just been tremendous interest in all the gear that will keep people comfortable out of doors, be it at a campsite, a cabin, or around a fire in their own backyards. Real comfort items like the Teva Ember Moc Slippers, which are almost like a sleeping bag for your feet, and the Rumple Puffy Blanket, a warm, light, packable down throw you drape and secure like a cape, have been particularly big sellers.”
REI’s national offices note that Customer demand for products like bikes and outdoor furniture has been off the charts since the start of the pandemic, and sales of winter gear like cross-country skis and snowshoes are already up more than three and four times, respectively, over last year. They’ve also seen a spike in sales of entry-level gear, offering further evidence that more people are prioritizing outdoor recreation in their lives, some for the very first time.
But the breadth of offerings out there can feel daunting. Thus, we thought we’d reach out to some of our favorite manufacturers to bring you this suggested list of outdoor gear to consider gifting to a friend (or yourself).
Finally, whether you’re an experienced outdoors person or just starting out, please do check out https://www.recreateresponsibly.org/ for tips on staying safe in the outdoors, with specific guidance on pandemic-related outdoor recreation issues.