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Changemakers

Love letters: Paying respect to brands, individuals, and gear that make the outdoor industry awesome

Get to know these movers and shakers making life and business better in the outdoors.


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Greening up the office

While many companies are pivoting to long-term remote work, Nikwax has gone all in on a new eco-friendly office space. Located in Seattle, the building uses 100-percent renewable energy and features solar panels, sustainably harvested wood construction, and a rooftop succulent garden that captures rainwater runoff. Plus, the company has worked hard to eliminate its paper use.

“Finding a building that not only aligned with our position as a leader in sustainability, but was also convenient for our staff was important,” says Brian Davidson, president of Nikwax North America. Crucially, the building’s central location in the Ballard neighborhood makes commuting by transit, foot, or bike easy—one employee even Rollerblades to work. To further discourage car use, Nikwax provides a daily stipend for those who forgo single-occupancy vehicles, as well as a company e-bike for running local errands.

Ode to a backpack

By Cindy Hirschfeld (pictured above with her son and trusty Dana Design pack)

A few years after I moved to Boulder, Colorado, I started dating Sean. It was the beginning of an adventure-seeking partnership that well outlasted our romance. Early into our relationship, Sean gifted me a Dana Design Bomb Pack, black and purple with light-blue webbing.

It was my first real backcountry pack. I used it for our many hut excursions, on our backpacking trip around Colorado’s Four Pass Loop—where we unintentionally added a fifth pass—and on countless ski outings, where we muddled together while learning to telemark.

Four years ago, Sean died of a stroke. It guts me to think about it still. But my pack remains by my side, some 25 years on, having outlasted Dana Design itself. And it’s in good shape. I’ve since passed it along to my son, 14, who’s starting to use it on hut trips of his own. It’s now his turn to fill it with memories.

Revisiting the N-word

Last summer, Carolyn Finney, PhD, a storyteller and cultural geographer, wrote a brief essay imagining a conversation with John Muir. Finney “called Muir in’’ to explore the erasure of Black people from history, showcasing how our conversations around nature and environmental decision-making might look different if their voices had been included. Finney has since turned that essay into a one-woman performance piece: “The N-Word: Nature, Revisited.”

Read more: Five outdoor leaders of color discuss the use of the N-word in media 

At press time, Finney planned to workshop the performance on July 14 and 22 at the New York Botanical Gardens for crowds of around 50 people each. “My goal is to create an intimate, emotional space,” Finney says, noting that she’ll be encouraging feedback and conversation. “That’s where the real change happens.” The three-part reading will juxtapose Muir’s representations of nature with Finney’s familial history and current events, tying together themes of mobility, exploration, and accountability.

Leading with pride

Outside, the company to which this magazine belongs, has a new, exemplary employee resource group (ERG): Outside and Proud. With 58 members (roughly 10 percent of the company), the ERG is the brainchild of Maren Larsen, an associate editor at Outside, who wanted to maintain a safe, supportive space for queer employees internally while also having a sizable external impact.

“For many of us, the creation of this space marked the first time we felt comfortable being out in the workplace,” Larsen says, noting that allies are also welcome to join. In just a few months, the group has established a social presence (@outsideandproud) and launched a Pride Month photo contest. It’s also used company DEI funding to provide editorial grants for queer stories across brands and to launch a line of merch, the profits from which will be reinvested in other LGTBQ+ initiatives.

Saying goodbye

In early June, VF Corporation announced it would close down legacy travel company Eagle Creek by 2022. Eagle Creek started as Eagle Creek Mountain Packs in 1975, which founders Steve and Nona Barker launched with just $2,500. Over the next three decades, the brand flourished and its homegrown, familial culture became legendary.

Read more: “Eagle Creek should not die,” say founders Steve and Nona Barker

VF’s decision to shutter Eagle Creek sent shock waves throughout the industry. The Barkers, who say they have no regrets about selling the brand to VF in 2007, received an outpouring of support. The couple fervently hope Eagle Creek will endure in the hands of new owners who understand its potential. “Travel is an integral part of outdoor,” says Steve Barker. “And, you know, we did pioneer that niche.”

This story first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of our print magazine. Read the full issue here.