Guidebooks, websites, word-of-mouth—nowadays, there's a wealth of resources that an outdoor adventurer can consult before embarking on a trip. Oftentimes though, these resources aren't comprehensive, up-to-date, or even particularly reliable. Furthermore, not many do a very good job of inspiring novices to venture out into the wilderness. This is where Outdoor Project comes in.
"Guidebooks don’t speak to you," says Tyson Gillard, founder and CEO of Outdoor Project. "They don't get you out of bed and get you pumped up. National-level magazines, like Backpacker and Outside—they're good at inspiration, but they don't feature adventures that are relevant to you. We wanted to bridge the gap between the inspiration of a magazine and a trusted guidebook."
Gillard brought his background and connections as an architect and a designer to create an easy-to-navigate website that would provide vital information for Northwesterners trying to get outside—directions, campgrounds, bathrooms and parking permits—in addition to excellent writing and stunning photography. Before the website's launch in November of 2012, Gillard went on 250 adventures over six months to provide the content that would form the base of website.
"There's a critical threshold before you're actually a viable resource," says Gillard. "You can't have an internet resource with only 60 adventures—it was absolutely crazy, but it was important. We wanted to create a high standard for others to follow."
Much of the additional content has been provided by Outdoor Project's pool of 40 contributors throughout the Pacific Northwest; the company intends to expand to northern California later this year. Aspiring contributors must undergo an application process, and contributing to the website is a hybrid between free wiki-style content development and paid journalism.
"We're a curated website. Not just anyone can just publish and post things," Gillard said. "Not only do you have to be a good videographer, writer and photographer, you also have to know what you're talking about. Some of these adventures require expertise."
At the same time that Gillard founded Outdoor Project, he and his core team also founded the non-profit outdoorproject.org. "People won't care about the natural world until they go out and have transformative experiences," Gillard said. "People [need to] go outside and get their hands dirty, and not just use and abuse." While the organization is still applying for non-profit status, the focus will be equal parts supporting field conservation organizations and providing educational content. Part of the revenue from membership contributions to Outdoor Project will eventually go towards outdoorproject.org.
Images courtesy of Heron Marychild, Eric Guth, Outdoor Project, Jeremy Forrest and Andrew Stohner respectively