Opening Up the Outdoor is making nature extra inclusive

There has been a huge cultural shift in the way we view the great outdoors in recent years, particularly in the wake of the pandemic and our increased desire to spend time in nature for both our physical and mental health.

Couple that with technical outdoor retailers’ newfound appeal to style-conscious consumers (see the North Face x Gucci collab that broke the internet), and it’s unsurprising that business is booming.

Brands in this space are often applauded for their focus on purpose, as seen with Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard recently ‘giving away’ his company to save the planet. But the category isn’t without its problems either, especially when it comes to the diversity of its customer base.

“Spending quality time in the great outdoors is a right everyone should be able to enjoy, but ever since I began hiking, mountain biking and skiing I’ve often been one of the only Black or brown faces on the trail (or piste),” says journalist and filmmaker Keme Nzerem.

Nzerem is the recently appointed vice president of the It’s Great Out There Coalition, an international, not-for-profit organisation which promotes the positive impact of outdoor activities on individuals and society more widely.

Recognising the power of brands to enact change, new non-profit Opening Up the Outdoors (OUTO) has been spun out off It’s Great Out There with a commitment to equity and inclusion. Founding members include leading outdoor brands the North Face, Arc’teryx, Adidas Terrex, Patagonia, and Vivobarefoot.

The organisation’s launch is accompanied by an eye-catching visual identity led by Amsterdam agency We Are Pi. The hand generated logo and illustrations evoke a DIY aesthetic, and are balanced with a utilitarian type system which nods to the design language of manuals and maps.

“The design approach goes against the established aesthetic of the outdoors, and feels like a true celebration of the new outdoor culture Black and brown communities are creating,” says the design team.

Kicking off with a pilot programme earlier this year, OUTO supported six people from ethnically diverse backgrounds whose businesses, initiatives and groups are working to build an anti-racist outdoor community.

The organisation provided them with mentoring and business coaching, and they will have the opportunity to apply for development grants of up to €11,000 to invest directly in their work. A new edition of the programme will be launched in Spring 2023.;