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Tae Kim Q&A: The importance of outdoor information and inspiration

Talk to Tae Kim for a few minutes, and we guarantee you’ll be inspired to get outdoors more.

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Talk to Tae Kim for a few minutes, and we guarantee you’ll be inspired to get outdoors more. Kim, part of a growing group of urban outdoor gear designers — many of whom can be found in Outdoor Retailer’s Venture Out section — says living in a city “is a lame excuse for being cooped up. Magical outdoor fun is all around us, no matter the location. And we make a bunch of cool stuff that helps you get out there.” The co-founder and creative director of Alite Designs and Boreas tells us how communication, outreach and education are key to get more people outdoors. Plus, how to keep newbies from fleeing to the next hot trend.


Brands like Alite have been on a quest to get more people outdoors that aren’t necessarily core outdoor. What strategies have proven the most successful?
Successful strategies need the right amount of information and inspiration. People want to spend more time outside, but often need a little encouragement and guidance on how to make being outside a consistent reality in their lives. Alite has recently launched a program called the Fresh Air Club, which aims to accomplish just that. It’s a resource center, a social interaction tool and an idea guide, all in one. Launching the Fresh Air Club is a strategy that has been successful for us because of the large amount of people wanting ideas and inspiration on where to go, how to get there and tips on what they’ll need to make it happen. By providing meaningful information to outdoor enthusiasts we can enable the right introduction for a meaningful (and sustaining) future.

What do you see as the top hurdles preventing people from getting outdoors more?
Not having the relevant or proper amount of information is a huge hurdle preventing people from getting outdoors more. When someone gets bombarded with information and equipment options, it can deter them from participating in an activity all together. Also, a lack of instructions on how to use products properly can be an unnecessary hurdle. Not knowing where to find the best resources regarding access to activities also prevents people from taking a step toward a new outdoor venture.

Outdoor lifestyle apparel has proven extremely successful for retailers. Do you see that trend filtering into gear — in other words, outdoor lifestyle equipment?
Yes. Acquiring outdoor apparel is one of the first steps toward someone making the choice to be more active outdoors. As people get more comfortable going outside and participating in activities, they get more acquainted with equipment they’ll need.

On the flip side, fashion and lifestyle trends can be fickle and fleeting. How do outdoors brands make sure they don’t get blindsided by a boom and bust style?
Outdoor brands can prevent this by leading people into an outdoor lifestyle and making sure they feel comfortable. We need to show folks how to get outside more, and this includes not only gear, but also information. Once people realize how being outside makes them feel, they are inspired and likely to continue getting out there. The outdoor industry needs to introduce people to outdoor activities in the appropriate way, with information and motivation. We may lose a few folks along the way, but outdoor companies should offer sound and solid pathways to encourage people to explore more, weekend after weekend, year after year. It’s all about providing the right amount of guidance to get people informed but not overwhelmed.

If the industry can succeed in getting more people outdoors, what’s the next step? How do we keep them engaged, instead of losing them to THE next
hot trend? 

The ways in which people are engaged in the outdoors has changed regarding the range of activities one can try and the ways we participate and share on social media. There are many outdoor options and people will stay engaged because they’ll want to continue exploring and seeking something new: a new adventure, a new location, a new social group, and so on. It’s all about keeping people educated and not just throwing them out in the wild with a brand new backpack or pair of hiking boots. We need to continue to give some direction and inspiration on the endless opportunities of where they can go and what they can do.

–David Clucas