Are Millennials Changing Our Outdoor Experiences?

20 Sep Are Millennials Changing Our Outdoor Experiences?

Baby boomers and Gen Xers tend to think of the outdoors as a place to get away from it all, where peace and solitude are found. Millennials prefer to make their outdoor adventures social events with friends. ©Khanh Hmoong, flickr

Baby boomers and Gen Xers are inclined to think of the outdoors as a place to get away from it all, where peace and solitude are found. Millennials, however, prefer to make their outdoor adventures social events. ©Khanh Hmoong, flickr

Outdoor ads—whether they’re from gear manufacturers or adventure tour companies—tend to have a certain “look” to them, and it goes something like this: there’s a lone figure standing on top of a cliff or rock ledge, surveying the wild country below. Or perhaps there’s a solo kayaker, in a state-of-the-art boat, shooting down a waterfall. The outdoors is a place to get away from it all, test your self-reliance and commune with unadulterated nature, right?

Wrong—or at least if the millennial generation has anything to say about it. The majority of the people born in the early to mid 1980s and the 1990s would like to see that individual guy or gal standing on the cliff to have some buddies around and that kayaker equipped with a helmet camera.

Will their propensities soon change the outdoor experience for all of us?

The outdoors is just outside

Three in four Millennial travelers post to social networks, such as Instagram, at least once a day while traveling. ©Joyce Cory, flickr

Three in four millennial travelers post to social networks, such as Instagram, at least once a day while traveling. ©Joyce Cory, flickr

A millennial is officially defined as someone who is between the ages of 18 and 34. Theoretically, they are the ones in their working years, the ones spending money and, therefore, the ones marketers want to target. Unlike the baby boomers (50 to 67 years old; born between 1946 and 1964) or Gen Xers (35 to 49 years old; usually defined as being born between 1965 and 1984), millennials grew up in a radically different world that was forever changed by the Internet.

Millennials don’t tend to look at the outdoors as a proving ground. When they are “out there,” what they want is lots of friends along and a party atmosphere. In fact, millennials are more likely than any other group to travel socially with friends and family. And for those acquaintances who don’t happen to be along for the trip? Experiences are shared on social media. According to a survey conducted by Chase Card Services, three out of four millennials post to social networks at least once a day while traveling.

And that “party” doesn’t have to be too distant, either. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, research conducted by IDEO, a global design firm, found that many young people view the outdoors as something that starts at their front door and is part of everyday life. Jill Levinsohn, IDEO’s team leader for the Outdoor Retail of the Future Project, stated that for this generation, you have to rethink “outdoorsy” as “outsidesy.”

On-the-road creature comforts

While they are outside, millennials aren’t interested in suffering from any backcountry deprivations. They want the finer things around them. They are the generation that was born to “glamp” (short for “glamorous camping”). Some of the best-selling, outdoor gear items for millennials are camp chairs with drink holders for sitting around a fire and tents integrated with LED lighting.

Glamping fits the travel style of most Millennials. ©Wicker Paradise, flickr

Glamping fits the travel style of most millennials. ©Wicker Paradise, flickr

The days of our thinking about the outdoors as the place to find solitude, peace, quiet and oneself may be going extinct. But what we may gain is a large number of young people who have learned to like and appreciate being out in nature, even if many of those moments involve posting shots of their day hikes on Facebook and watching movies at night on their iPads in their tastefully outfitted and comfortable tents.

Do you think millennials will change how we all will start to experience the outdoors, as marketers take their cues from this next generation? Do you see outdoor experiences as social and something to be shared instantly, or should they be personal and solitary? What will be lost as we move toward this way of thinking—and what will be gained?

Here’s to your adventures, in whatever corner of the world you find them,

Candy

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Candice Gaukel Andrews
A multiple award-winning and five-time book author and writer specializing in environmental issues and nature-exploration topics, Candice Gaukel Andrews has traveled around the world—from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica and from Greenland’s coasts to Patagonia’s steppes—searching for and telling the stories that express the essence of a place. To read her articles and see samples of her nature photography, visit her website at www.candiceandrews.com and like her Nature Traveler Facebook page at www.facebook.com/naturetraveler.
Candice Gaukel Andrews

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