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How the Outdoor Recreation Industry is Evolving to Meet Changing Customer Needs

February 20, 2023
How the Outdoor Recreation Industry is Evolving to Meet Changing Customer Needs

Adapting to Tech: Evolution of the Outdoor Recreation Industry

As with every other industry that relies on consumer participation, the outdoor recreation industry must adapt and change to meet customer needs. With the rising popularity of tech, the fact that new and more powerful tech devices are more available and accessible to the average person, and the increased range of internet and phone signals, a simple, unplugged outdoor adventure is a thing of the past. As technology infiltrates the great outdoors, outdoor industry business owners must decide: do they want to embrace this change and adapt, or try to make their space a tech-free zone? Here’s a look at how most of the outdoor recreation industry has evolved to meet these new tech needs.

Digital Planners and Guides

One of the most lucrative ways that tech is helping the outdoor industry evolve and thrive is through increased use of digital planners and guides designed specifically for the outdoors. Online communities bring like-minded customers together, sharing the best places to camp, hike, raft, parasail, and participate in other outdoor activities. These apps also make it easy to share geo locations, directing users to specific areas to explore. They also create a shared sense of connection and community, fostering both safety and a sense of adventure even among newcomers. These online digital planners and guides have a huge reach, allowing more people access to information about the great outdoors than ever before. More and more outdoor industry business owners are turning to apps to coordinate services, schedule stays, and advertise, making it easier for them to use third-party property management companies to handle bookings and coordinate turnover.

Increased Access to Public Lands and Better Planning for Urban Areas 

Another key way that tech is shaping the outdoor industry is by providing increased access to public lands. In January 2022, President Biden announced an initiative, called “30 x 30,” to conserve at least 30% of all U.S. lands and freshwater, and 30% of all U.S. ocean areas, by 2030. One way to do this is by boosting outdoor recreation and encouraging the voluntary conservation of private land that provides an access or entry point to public lands. The introduction of an app called onX has long been collecting data on public-private land intersections—decades worth, in fact. The app has identified 16.4 million acres of public land over 22 states that is currently inaccessible to the public because it is bordered by private land. The information from this app is used by local, state, and federal land managers who can use it to push for easements and greater access to public lands for everyone. 

Technology is also improving our planning in urban areas. Around 100 million people in the U.S., including 28 million children, have no access to green spaces or local parks within walking distance of their homes. The Trust for Public Lands is using data collected over the last 20 years to build an interactive map of green space, called ParkServe.org. This map shows where these green spaces are most needed and helps city managers access funding for constructing parks and green spaces. 

Addressing Climate Change 

It isn’t a surprise that climate change is having an enormous impact on the outdoor recreation industry. The effects of climate change on public outdoor lands can significantly impact how, when, and where customers can access outdoor activities. A rise in wildfires, floods, and heat waves is putting added pressure on first responders, rescue agencies, and everyone else who coordinates outdoor activities or works within the outdoor recreation industry. A company called Gaia created an app called Gaia GPS, which provides access to free map layers designed to help users with fire-related issues in their area. Two wildfire maps give precise, real-time data on where fires are located, how far they’ve spread, and their projected pathways. The data is culled from NASA satellites’ heat detection data and is fact-checked with firefighters on the ground. Other maps from the EPA’s AirNow program show current and predicted air quality data to indicate areas where pollutants in the air could pose a health hazard to those spending time outdoors.

Storytelling and Connection 

The increase in use of apps and other online communities has created an opportunity for storytelling and connection in the great outdoors. These apps and communities have also made it easier for social movements and conservation efforts to coordinate and plan. Even sharing a story on Instagram or another social media app brings the great outdoors to a new audience—oftentimes one that wouldn’t have that access otherwise. The content created by outdoor adventure enthusiasts can be seen as both aspirational and accessible, as it allows people all over the world to have a glimpse into activities and geographical areas they can’t take part in themselves.

Improved Safety and SAR 

With the increase in the use of advanced tech in the outdoors, it has become easier for first responders, rescue agencies, and firefighters to reach people in trouble. Satellite phones and powerful GPS devices used to be only available to professionals or the wealthy—now, that technology is accessible to almost everyone. GPS devices, interactive mapping, and satellite phones have made it easier to locate dangers, threats, and people who need assistance or rescue, even in remote areas. Tracking devices can help firefighters share up-to-the-minute information with each other about fires in remote areas, helping them coordinate where to drop fire retardant material and communicate about dangers.

The Use of Drones 

Drones are another form of technology that is no longer only available to niche industries and the wealthy. Almost anyone can afford to buy a drone now, and despite efforts to restrict the use of drones in certain areas, most people will operate their drones anywhere they want to. The upside of this is that drones offer scientists a safer and more remote way to observe and monitor wildlife. They can also provide valuable real-time data to first responders and other industry members if there is an emergency or threat.

Tech and Adventure Gear 

Tech has long been a part of the adventure gear industry, but now it's becoming even more prevalent. Tech is responsible for stronger and more flexible hiking, climbing, trail running, and biking gear like shoes, gloves, and clothing. Using information from the tech industry, outdoor gear companies have been able to design clothing that is responsive to changes in the body’s temperature, so that the clothing can adapt along with its wearer. 3D printing has also made the creation of more advanced outdoor gear even more accessible. 3D printing is being used by a wide range of outdoor gear companies to produce new designs in hiking packs, water bottles, and safety gear. Using these tech advancements creates less waste during the design and manufacturing process and allows for more complex designs.

More Advanced Portable Power 

One of the biggest barriers to tech in the great outdoors is a lack of portable power. Now, with incredible advancements in the industry, portable power is less expensive, more powerful, lighter, and more accessible than ever before. A three-pound device can generate 40 watts of power, enough to charge a smartphone in just 15 minutes. Portable power can also be used to power flashlights and headlights, GPS devices, communication devices, and cooking and heating devices, increasing safety, and improving outcomes for those who become stranded or lost in the outdoors. These devices are also incredibly valuable for first responders and search and rescue teams.

Smart Wearables 

Wearables, like smartwatches and fitness trackers, have become even smarter over the years. In addition to tracking real-time health data, they can also provide location information and alerts about health dangers. Some smart wearables measure body temperature or help monitor glucose levels.

Learn More About the Tech Evolution of the Outdoor Industry 

If you’re interested in learning more about the changes in tech and how it’s forcing the evolution of the outdoor recreation industry, then keep reading our blog at Advanced Outdoor Solutions. At Advanced Outdoor Solutions, we research, analyze, and present the latest trends and data in outdoor activities so that you can stay up to date on the latest trends and data that impact your business. 

We also offer those in the industry land planning, design, development, and turnkey third-party management solutions throughout Delaware, DC, and SW Florida. To learn more about these services, contact us today at 1-800-579-9796 or contact us online.