Being in style for the outdoors without ever going there-

Roger Phillips has a commentary in the Idaho Statesman how pop culture affects outdoors activity styles and the activities themselves.  He is hardly the first to notice this, but it has not come up on the Wildlife News much.  Phillips uses the example of the wildly popular Hunger Games maybe boosting archery and bow hunting.

Going back a generation or so, the movies like a River Runs Though It increased the popularity of fly casting and made Montana a more desirable place to live in the minds of many.  Folks might be able to think of others.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

13 Responses to Popular culture and the outdoors

  1. jdubya says:

    A whole aspect of the outdoor marketing trade he ignored is that fueled by Go Pro. In a ten year period, how many deaths will be chalked up to people pushing the snow or the rocks or the water harder and farther than they have any sane right to do, just to make a viral YouTube video? This culture of self exposure is even rampant in a culture as steeped in self reflection as fly fishing. Ughhh….

    • Salle says:

      Somehow I have this image of these fashionistas competing to show just how much they have bought into sheepleness.

    • sleepy says:

      I think you’re certainly right–“wilderness experience” has become a commodity where each year’s new “model” has to be bigger, better, faster, and more dangerous than last year’s model with ever greater thrills.

      It’s good old American consumerism.

      Lost in all that are the simple ways to enjoy the outdoors that are dirt cheap–hiking on city nature trails, car camping in national forests or state parks and day hiking.

      Canoeing class IV rapids in Labrador is great, but don’t let the outfitters tell you that defines the outdoors.

      Even here in factory-farmed Iowa, most folks aren’t more than an hour away from natural areas thick with deer, eagles, turkeys, coyotes, etc.

  2. Wolfy says:

    Outdoors Culture in the US: Soccer moms driving 4×4 land yachts through the drive-thru while texting with kids dressed in Carharts and Timberland boots.

    • Salle says:

      How about that ignorant Carhartt commercial that showed a bunch of pretty young and not so bright good ol’ boys around a campfire who are attacked by wolves to show how tough their jackets are and how it helped them prove their dominance in the wild? Made me stop buying Carhartt products. Reverse effect.

  3. Nancy says:

    Speaking of Outdoors Culture in the US – anybody seen the latest “dog tested, dog approved” Subaru commercial? Probably only being aired out here in the west (or perhaps states in the northeast?) because of the end of the commercial “background” vocals.

  4. rork says:

    Folks near me (Huron River, SE MI) think kayaks are cool, and that canoes are old-fashioned, but canoes let me have lots of gear to hand (including gear wanted by the kayakers), can hold multiple people in various ways, are good for fishing, and are traditional. The Anishinabe did not use kayaks, and its not cause they couldn’t build such a thing.
    Popularity of kayaks may be cause it is easier to start with, or seems more sophisticated. Maybe you can more easily imagine you are running giant rapids in a man vs. nature thing, rather than doing maybe-class-2 stuff.

    After “river” we did experience allot of people with brand new expensive fly fishing uniforms. Folks wearing waders in 70F water and 85F air, after smallmouth. Perhaps to increase the dangers of wading, sweat buckets, or to make you feel more in the mood. Now the gods prefer me in neoprene too if water is cold, but otherwise it’s a swimsuit, tennis shoes, and a home-made purse of gear (which I can hold in my teeth in a pinch). I also apparently hadn’t heard that you are supposed to false-cast back and forth at least 10 times, thrilling to your own skills at whipping line about to no purpose, since I often don’t false-cast at all.

    • Salle says:

      Boggles the rational mind. The Californication of the entire country. Whenever I lived in CA I was always discouraged to see that life there is all about appearances and little about substantive existence. If you aren’t displaying conspicuous wealth, you are an outcast and unworthy of anything regarding rights and equality, absolute capitalism with no compassion for anyone not adhering to the norm. Sadly, it has become a “must” for everyone in the social norms of our country these days. Most of us aren’t able to conform or compete, thus we are relegated to the dregs of notice because we are somehow distasteful and unworthy of equality because we have been shut out of the “good life” of unfettered wealth and power. I don’t think this is the America we were told about all our lives.

      • Mike says:

        This isn’t just California, and at least California has places that sort of equal out the materialism. Most states do not have a counterbalance. You’ll have to find artistic communities to see relief from these mindsets (Pilsen, Ukraine Village, Logan Square in Chicago to name a few). The west coast is home to many of these types of communities, and it’s one of the reasons why I love California. Not to mention the amazing abundance of public land and the wide variety of landscapes.

        ++Most of us aren’t able to conform or compete, thus we are relegated to the dregs of notice because we are somehow distasteful and unworthy of equality because we have been shut out of the “good life” of unfettered wealth and power. I don’t think this is the America we were told about all our lives.++

        I don’t buy this, to be honest. Yes, there are people who think this way. But I don’t see this behavior all that often from those in the artistic community who have succeeded. Rather, I see it from people who have not expanded their minds, who’s idea of a hobby is watching sports on the weekends rather than taking the time to learn about the world around them, whether it’s native flora and fauna or a trip to a foreign country, or even reading books, fiction or non. There’s a lot to be said for rising above your daily path and observing it from afar. Most people never take their daily path blinders off, ever. And that is truly sad. And those are the people you describe.

        Yes, the country is leaning towards a Corpocracy. No question about that. We need to fix this. But there are great people doing great things, many of them in California.

        There’s also jealousy. How much is there when we look inside ourselves? Not all rich people are jerks, and not all poor people are saints. I believe that people who work hard and offer something unique should get noticed and rewarded.

      • SEAK Mossback says:

        I spent a day in LA last year decompressing from a 14 hour flight. It was the longest I’d spent back in California since escaping from the northern part as a kid in the 1960’s. During limited walking around, I noticed exactly what you’re talking about: “life there is all about appearances and little about substantive existence”. Everywhere I looked I saw big black SUV’s. Having no obvious need for 4WD, people are willing to pay the extra to buy and feed them and choose the status color “black” no less, in that hellish heat, just to make a statement.


April 2012


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey