Millennials at the tailgate

Leather-and-plaid wool backpacks that weigh 8 pounds, empty. Mom jeans that somehow totally work. Ironic facial hair that looks like my facial hair. Unfathomable new fans of Lionel Ritchie.  A generation with the world at their fingertips. A demographic wave that dwarfs all previous waves.

These are the Millennials.

What do Millennials like most about the Outdoor experience in 2016?

a. Creative and engaging social media content. Memes! Contests! Instagram takeovers by @hikinghispter420!

b. Beards and plaid.

c. Summits, descents and the personal challenges overcome in a blue-sky outdoor setting.

d. The opportunity to get away from the Boomers and Slackers.

Like every other generation – the Millennials include all kinds. The rock stars and the rockheads. The passionate dolts and troublemaking geniuses. The perfect and the flawed. To consider them a homogenous pool is a big time error.  But to ignore the sheer generational girth is also a massive mistake.

In less than a decade, Millennials will make up 50% of adult consumers. Put down your kombucha and think about that for a second. Voting with their wallets, voting at the polls, it’s going to be their world.

On one hand, I’m admittedly jealous. They’re showing up in my world (known as the "Outdoor Industry") just as the party is hitting full stride. Outdoor is a place of true opportunity, of careers in nearly every category and every geographic market.

On the other, however, I feel for these kids. The downside of Outdoor's maturity is that it’s becoming saturated, increasingly broad and definitely diluted. All that great gear we make may never get that much better from a technical standpoint, other than becoming more easily available. And the expectations being laid at the Millennials feet are nothing short of momentous (while the expectations they put on themselves are equally staggering).

For Outdoor, how to deal with the coming Millennial wave is a minor conundrum with major implications. It goes without saying that Outdoor is going to move toward them and greet them with open, merino-clad arms. The question is how far are we going to go, exactly?