5 Outdoor Gear Industry Trends to Watch in 2021

5 Outdoor Gear Industry Trends for 2021

What new outdoor gear industry trends can we expect to see in 2021?

2020 is a year we’re all looking to put behind us. Though many of us are still locked down, we’re optimistic that we’ll be back on the trails soon!

When we do finally get back to the mountains, here are some of the innovations we can look forward to:

Sustainability & Ethics

This is a trend that’s been building momentum for some time, pioneered by ethical brand leaders like Patagonia.

Finally the movement towards more environmentally friendly products is beginning to snowball, with all the brands launching “eco lines”.

Perhaps some brands are simply jumping on the bandwagon, but we still see it as a very positive trend. (Providing that the processes and materials used are genuinely sustainable and ethical, and it’s not just a case of greenwashing).

We’ll be scrutinising any new “sustainable” products released in 2021 to check they’re genuine, and not marketing BS!

Sustainable outdoor gear trends we expect to see more of in 2021:

  • Wool and down sourced from Animals Raised to High Welfare Standards
  • Low(er) impact plant based fabrics such as hemp, bamboo and organic cotton
  • Higher % of synthetic fibres made from recycled post consumer waste
  • Phase out of PFCs and other potentially toxic chemicals
  • Recycling and Re-Selling of second hand outdoor gear
  • Modular items that facilitate repair / partial replacement
  • Multi purpose items that serve for different conditions and sports
  • Lower carbon manufacturing and distribution processes
  • Better working conditions and benefits for employees at home and abroad

All in all, these are very positive trends. I think that most of the major brands are run by outdoor lovers who care for the planet, and that these innovations are genuinely motivated.

Hopefully we’ll see this trend spread out to other industries as it gains momentum!

Outdoor Gear Industry Trends 2021

Giving Back

Yet again, I have to give props to Patagonia for pioneering this movement. Yvon Chouinard founded One Percent for the Planet back in 2002. That’s nearly 20 years ago now, what took everyone so long to catch on?

Many different outdoor brands are now signed up to the One Percent scheme. Others such as Cotopaxi and Sherpa have set up their own foundations, and last year Innov8 pledged 5% of the revenue from their “Green Friday” sale to tree planting initiatives.

We’re very happy to see the outdoor industry lead the way when it comes to giving back to the planet and it’s inhabitants.

On the skeptical side of course, one can question how justified the high prices are of the big outdoor brands?

It’s nice to know that €7 of that €700 you just paid for the brand name jacket you just bought is going to a good cause. But is it genuinely a better decision ethically, environmentally or economically, than buying a cheap no logo version for €100, and donating €600 to Effective Altruism?

These are questions we plan to dig deeper into this year here at Gear Exposure!

Inclusivity

Edmund Hillary, Robert Peary, Ernest Shackleton, George Mallory, Reinhold Messner, all great inspirational outdoor adventurers. All white men.

Up until the late nineties, if you saw an image of someone on a mountain or trail, it would have been a white man.

This is thankfully no longer the case with regards to gender. Women are well represented by all the major brands in terms of promotional images, and product offerings. You’ll also now most likely find just as many women out on the trails and crags as you will men.

Up until very recently however, the men and women you’d see modeling the latest outdoor gear would all invariably be slim, athletic, white people.

2019 saw an increasing number of brands start to use Black and Asian models for their product shoots, and also occasionally plus size models. This is likely to be a trend that will continue into 2020 and perhaps even increase.

Anecdotally, at least here in Spain, there is currently very little ethnic diversity in the mountains. It will be very interesting to see if the efforts of the outdoor brands to be more inclusive (aka increase customer base?) are successful.

Smart Outdoor Gear

Smart outdoor gear? But isn’t going to the countryside all about getting back to basics and eschewing technology?

We’re definitely proponents of zero social media and less screen time while out on the trails, but we’re also geeks that love to test out new gadgets!

Wearables

Smart watches are getting more outdoorsy, and outdoor watches are getting smarter!

The Honor GS Pro really shook up the outdoor wearables category last year, the first smartwatch that was rugged enough to be a serious contender as a sports watch.

We expect to see the incumbent brands such as Garmin and Suunto up their games in 2021 in order to stay competitive.

Smart Clothing?

Last year Mammut was the first of the big outdoor brands to start including RFID chips in their products. The inclusion of RFID chips is intended to increase supply chain transparency, allow customers to identify genuine products from fakes, and also to interact with products digitally. The Mammut Connect app was discontinued in October though so not off to a great start.

L.L. Bean took things a step further by planning to incorporate chips that would track the wearers movements, and how often they wore and washed an item. Unsurprisingly, consumers found this innovation a step too far, and this project has also been shelved.

While clothes that track the wearer don’t seem like a great idea, chips that increase supply chain transparency, verify authenticity and/or ownership, or could be scanned at the end of life to aid resale or recycling do seem like good potential uses we may see more of in the future.

Other less mainstream brands are getting even more creative, such as Vollebak with their Solar Powered Jacket, Hexoskin’s Health Tracking Fabrics, and Wearablox with their haptic feedback leggings. While the latter are currently just for yoga, it’s not hard to imagine versions for other sports coming soon.

Security

Certainly the biggest benefit of advances in technology for the outdoor market if that of improved safety and security.

Cheaper, lighter, more reliable satellite and GPS technology helps us navigate with more precision and ease, and in a worst case scenario could help the emergency services find us!

Light and Power

The biggest stumbling block for smart technology in the outdoors has traditionally been the lack of plug sockets in the forest.

Better batteries and solar panels from the likes of Goal Zero however are now making staying connected off grid ever more feasible.

Multifunction products such as this combination lantern / powerbank that can charge via plug, solar or wind up are likely to be a growing category for ’21 and beyond.

Face Coverings aka Masks

This is a trend that we hope starts to fade at some point soon, but as the coronavirus doesn’t seem to be going away without a fight, it’s likely to keep growing for the time being…

So those are our picks for the Top 5 Outdoor Gear Industry Trends 2021. Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments or on social media!