Basecamp: Where the outdoor industry gathers every day
Ali Carr launched a jobs board on Facebook four years ago. Today, it’s the go-to hub for 22,000 people who work in and seek to work in the outdoor industry.
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Ali Carr grew up camping, hiking, skiing, surfing, and scuba diving, but it was a piece by Mark Jenkins written for Outside magazine that ultimately led her on a mission to write for the magazine.
“[Jenkins] wrote ‘The Hard Way’ column for Outside for many years. His last column was the year after I graduated college and I remember reading it in my grandmother’s apartment in New York City and crying,” she says. The piece was about the life and death of Jenkins’ best friend and fellow explorer, Mike Moe. “It was so moving,” Carr recalls.
Inspired, Carr applied for the Outside internship three times, but it was only after meeting a former publisher from the magazine during a course she took that her resume finally landed in front of the editor in charge of internships. By that time, she was an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. When Carr received a call from Outside with an offer of a six-month internship, the editor asked: “Are you sure you want to demote yourself?” Carr would have to take a pay cut, move from New York City to New Mexico, and had no guarantee of a full-time job at the end of the internship.
Carr didn’t think twice and accepted.
The move ultimately sealed Carr’s lifelong passion to work in the outdoor industry. When she wasn’t writing about the outdoors, she was hiking or snowboarding every weekend and learning to backcountry ski and mountain bike. One of her best memories was rafting the Rio Chama with her Outside colleagues under the full moon.
Carr’s journey to join Outside wasn’t easy and it showed her just how difficult it was to get a job in the industry. So she decided to do something to change that, and thus, the Facebook group, Basecamp: Outdoor Jobs & More, was born.
Carr runs the group with Jenna Celmer, a marketing and business strategy consultant for outdoor and action sport brands. But even before Celmer joined Carr, Basecamp was already on the path to becoming the most community-engaged space in the outdoor industry. Together, the two are turning Basecamp from a Facebook group to a brand, a business, and an industry changemaker.
To understand how Basecamp came to be and where it’s going, we need to look at the woman behind it all: Ali Carr.
Ali Carr: outdoor writer, gear expert, change-maker, and mom
After college, Carr got an internship at Food & Wine in New York City before landing her editorial job at Travel & Leisure. People were a little surprised when Carr took the Outside internship, but she was confident it was the right choice.
“It was something that really resonated with me and I felt a drive to go. Six months turned into six years at Outside,” she says.
Carr was eventually hired on full-time and covered everything from gear to travel. After six years, she grew restless. She didn’t see a path towards moving up in the organization and set off to try new things. She traveled extensively as a freelancer, worked as a travel editor at Microsoft, represented brands like Coleman and Superfeet at Hayter Communications and worked for Nike in its startup lab on a project for an underserved community of women.
Basecamp: 2017 to now
Basecamp started with Carr’s own career needs.
“I was job hunting in a few Facebook groups like Social Media Jobs, SLOANS list, and Dreamers and Doers,” Carr says. “I saw the way that they were functioning, people were interacting, and you could talk to the hiring manager as a candidate.”
Carr realized she could use the format in these groups to create something similar for the outdoor industry.
She launched the Facebook group in 2017 by inviting 200 people from her Rolodex, asking them to each invite 10 more. She started building the Basecamp community by posting outdoor jobs she found on LinkedIn and other job sites under the eventual heading of “Cool Jobs of the Week.”
When Jenna Celmer joined Carr as a partner in 2019, the Basecamp following had grown to 8,000 members. They launched a free newsletter with jobs, events, and tips, and the Outdoor Dream Jobs Podcast, which helps job seekers learn about career opportunities at outdoor companies. Their first interview was with Patagonia recruiting manager, Alyssa Kessler. In November 2020, they rolled out Basecamp Weekly Premium, a monetized newsletter that includes sponsorships by outdoor brands.
Flash forward two years and the group has grown since its inception by 110 percent, to nearly 22,000 members.
Carr says the Covid-19 pandemic played a role in Basecamp’s recent growth spurt. “There were a lot of layoffs in the industry,” she says. “People were unemployed and looking for jobs.”
This month, Carr and Celmer shared their new website, WeAreTheOutdoorIndustry.com, a hub for everything related to Basecamp. They plan to eventually offer events when it becomes safe to gather again in person.
“There will be more monetized products coming out, but the goal is to continue to be an authentic resource for everybody who wants to break into the outdoor industry,” says Carr.
What the Basecamp community has to say
Bill Byrne, director of Remedy Publications Relations has been a Basecamp member since 2017 and describes it as “a case study on how brands can start and grow a community quickly.” He likes that Basecamp provides “insight into the thoughts and needs of others working and participating in the outdoor space,” while also being a resource for jobs and networking.
Kay Kensington, of Lexington, Kentucky, agrees.
“I joined Basecamp six months ago in the hopes of learning more about what sorts of opportunities exist and to gain clarity and direction while embarking on a new career,” she says.
Marinel M. de Jesus, Esq., founder of Brown Gal Trekker and The Porter Voice Collective has been a member since 2018. Her writing career and documentary film work “focuses on marketing treks globally with the mission to decolonize and create inclusion and equity in the trekking and outdoor industries.”
“Basecamp is useful…when it comes to getting leads or connections to brands or companies that may become relevant in my work,” she says. “It’s also useful as a resource to learn about the current culture, viewpoints, and attitudes within the industry.”
These three members are not alone. Scroll through the group and you’ll notice some posts receive over 100 comments and upwards of 500 likes. Carr and Celmer clearly have created a place where the outdoor community is highly engaged.
But community engagement didn’t just magically happen on its own. Carr and Celmer lead weekly conversation starters. They actively comment on discussions, and they encourage members to adhere to guidelines like specific hashtag header formats for posts, which allow everything to run smoothly.
Tearing down walls in the outdoor industry
From the beginning, Carr’s goal was to make Basecamp an inclusive space.
“I didn’t want it to feel like you had to know someone, or that it was a private community for people in the outdoor industry,” Carr says.
She adheres to a broad approach on the definition of the outdoors and welcomes people of all outdoor interests and backgrounds – not just those who climb Fourteeners each week.
“Everything gets better when we widen our lens and when we aren’t trying to market and sell to the exact same people,” she says. “I’d like to see those walls come down and become this very inclusive industry where we can have people who are passionate about going out to a park and somebody who can backcountry ski.”
Inclusivity for Carr also means making Basecamp a more diverse space where discussions around inclusivity and equality are championed. She says this is something that many members want, too. The second most common question she receives from members on the Basecamp sign-up form is: “How do we create more inclusivity and diversity in the industry?” (The first question is, “How do I get my foot in the door?”)
Carr says that not all the diversity work they do is obvious. People must apply to join Basecamp and it results in about 1,000 new members each month. Carr and Celmer prioritize applicants to the group who are people of color, LGBTQ+, or from other underserved communities, in an effort to more accurately reflect a diverse outdoor community.
“Part of our mission is to encourage more people of color to come into the group and increase diversity in the group through proactiveness,” she says. “We can’t sit back and wait for it because that’s what the outdoor industry has done forever, and it hasn’t worked.”
During the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, Carr and Celmer decided to be upfront on their stance.
“We wanted to make it very clear that we were actively anti-racist and pro-LGBTQ, so that people could understand where we were coming from,” she says.
So they created resources for how people could support organizations relating to social justice, provided reading lists on racism, and began including diverse representation in the newsletter images.
They’re working on free content bundles (coming later this year) that focus on diversity initiatives like how employees can bring discussions and change for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) into the outdoor workplace. In the near future, they’ll have a free freelancer database with contributors from marginalized communities and a scholarship program for members of marginalized communities that can be used toward Basecamp’s paid products. Posting fees in Basecamp Weekly will be waived for “events benefiting or providing spaces of healing for marginalized groups.”
Carr admits that there are those in the group who have an “All Lives Matter” perspective. Though Basecamp is quick to remove members when discussions turn discriminatory, Carr says it’s also important for those conversations to take place. She hopes that those who post biased things have a chance to learn, while those watching the conversations can develop a better understanding of why JEDI is important and necessary for the industry.
As for members from underserved communities, the feelings around inclusivity in Basecamp vary. In her short time in the group, Kensington says, “I think Basecamp is incredibly inclusive. I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community and I think we’re seeing more representation.”
As for de Jesus, a woman of color, she feels like Basecamp is somewhat of an extension of the Outdoor Retailer show, a place where she feels excluded by the white, male dominated industry.
“Although there’s been some progress in educating everyone about DEI, there’s always a chance that as a woman of color I will get attacked in [Basecamp] which happened when I last posted about a racism-related topic less than a year ago,” she says.
She’d like to see some more safety measures and guidelines “on how to make discussions on race, gender, and all other social justice issues safer and more productive.” For instance, de Jesus would like to see the administrators “normalize DEI as a mainstream topic within the outdoor industry” rather than “treating DEI as an external or special topic all on its own.” She adds, “It isn’t enough to open the space up for the conversation to happen. We also have to aspire to make the opportunity a safe learning moment for everyone.”
That said, de Jesus recognizes the important potential role that Basecamp holds in being a force of change.
“Basecamp is a connector and a liaison in the industry,” she says. “It has the power to inform and educate its members and as such can play the role of a conduit for change. Basecamp can and should make use of the leverage that it holds to live up to its full potential.”
An official JEDI statement can be found on Basecamp’s new website and the membership questions for the Facebook group now include a note that they’re “a supportive, inclusive, and anti-racist community of people who work or want to work in the outdoor and active lifestyle industries and uplift marginalized communities.” Though they don’t list protocols relating to racist comments in Basecamp, Carr says that she and Celmer use these instances “as an effort to try and have a public-facing productive conversation around systemic racism and deconstructing white privilege.”
“We will offer resources for further education and invite the offender to learn more,” she adds. “If the person continues to slander or make harmful comments, we will remove them from the group. We like to leave these comments public-facing, so we can all learn and grow from these exchanges. Depending on the nature of the comments, we may delete them if they are harming a marginalized group in the community.”
All of that said, Carr knows that their work with JEDI is not complete, but is an ever-evolving commitment to better uplift those who are underserved in the outdoors.
“We have a lot of work to do to make it the place that I aspire it to be,” she says.
Basecamp of the future
In March, Carr and Celmer formed an LLC, putting Basecamp on the path to becoming far more than a Facebook group. Carr currently puts 50 percent of her time into Basecamp, while also raising three kids, consulting with a women’s health startup in Los Angeles, and finding time to be outdoors.
As busy as Carr is, she’s committed to guiding Basecamp into a new chapter, the right way.
She says, “We need to make sure that everybody sees themselves in the outdoors and feels safe and comfortable and embraces all the benefits that nature can provide to all of us.”
Perhaps the best way to sum up Carr’s work with Basecamp is through the insight of a member.
“I really like how people are willing to share insights and knowledge. This community feels very open and welcoming to different folks,” says Kensington. “It’s a camaraderie I haven’t felt since leaving military service.”