Have you heard the news? Camping is cool again. Thanks to Instagram, broke millennials are discovering that spending a night outdoors can be an ideal way to affordably curate an enviable lifestyle for your #influencees, while maybe even enjoying the experience. And the rise in popularity is paying off in the retail sector: REI’s sales were up 5.5 percent last year, to $2.56 billion, to quote one example from the $887 billion outdoor recreation industry.
But, with its massive success, the camping gear market is also experiencing growth pains. Massive players in the activewear space like Nike and Lululemon have decided they’d like a piece of the market, while upstarts like Poler, Huckberry, and Cotopaxi are discovering that slapping fun patterns on tried-and-true gear can combine with social media marketing to create successful new businesses.
There are a couple problems with that.
One: Clothes designed to cool you down during a workout don’t make ideal outdoors apparel, especially when it’s cold out. And two: White-labeled knock-off tents aren’t a great value, even if they do come in fun colors. There's a reason why gear from an established outdoor brand is way better than something found in an Urban Outfitters store. Trouble is, lots of new campers don't realize its merits—and its ability to solve both of those problems.
This disparity was the subject of a 2015 article on Racked, which quotes our own editors and others from the outdoor media space. The conclusion? New brands entering the space is good, but the traditional makers of technical gear better watch out if they want to maintain their market share. That’s potentially bad news for those of us who enjoy staying dry and warm outside.
Luckily, the North Face just unveiled its response. Its Homestead Collection comes in a variety of fun prints and is affordably priced. The gear isn’t cutting edge, but it will get the job done better than most of the stuff you’ll see photographed using the Perpetua filter.
TNF has remade its stalwart Roomy 2 tent in colors such as: Tibetan Orange Heat Map, Darkest Spruce Yosemite Sofa, and Vintage Sparse White Mo. Priced at $230, it undercuts Poler’s 2 Man tent by $20, while shaving a pound of weight, and adding six inches of interior height, and four square feet of floor area. Its car- and festival-camping-focused Homestead Twin sleeping bag may not have fun ports for your arms and legs, like the Poler Napsack does, but will keep you warm down to 20, versus 50 degrees, for the same price.
Elsewhere in the collection, you’ll find tote bags, sun shades, and internal frame backpacks. That pack’s designer told us eliminating external straps was key in order to avoid confusing the range’s intended customer.
Know someone who hasn’t yet discovered the joy of spending a night outdoors? Suggest this stuff when they ask you what they need to go camping.