Bitcoin is finally coming to the outdoor gear world. Last week, the website Mountains Plus became the first outdoor retailer to accept the digital currency as payment.
Few tech buzzwords are as ubiquitous as bitcoin, the electronic money created in 2009 that eschews traditional banks. This makes the “coin” easy-to-use, but risky. Earlier this year, hackers took advantage of a Bitcoin glitch to steal $2.7 million from the drug site Silk Road. But while commercial use of bitcoin is still small, more companies are moving toward the digital currency.
"We've been watching bitcoin for a while," says Mountains Plus CEO Erik Viafore. "There are a certain segment of customers who have bitcoin burning a hole in their pockets, and they're looking for ways to spend it. We thought it'd be a good opportunity to offer something for those customers."
According to Viafore, Mountains Plus has been thinking about incorporating bitcoin for about six months. The company was spurred on by other retailers, including overstock.com, that accepted the payment. As for security risks, Viafore wasn’t worried. He assuaged doubts by likening Bitcoin to PayPal, another revolutionary digital payment system that's now omnipresent.
"It's kind of like what Paypal used to be in the old days," he said. "People weren't sure what do with it, and they wondered if a digital wallet was real. But more and more people are trying [bitcoin] out. More people will adopt it."
Viafore predicted that progressive tech companies could add compatibility if bitcoin use continues to grow, but so far only Mountains Plus has taken the plunge. Online retailer Backcountry.com has no plans to incorporate bitcoin, says spokesman Keith Cozzens. And it’s unlikely other outdoor gear behemoths will support the new currency anytime soon. It's just too volatile, and too difficult to store securely.