- Buyer's Guide
The CamelBak Pursuit Series :: A New Experience
High in the mountains above Salt Lake City, Utah I stumble along a narrow ridgeline trying to keep pace with the runners ahead. At this altitude I wince with each step. I stop momentarily to catch my breath and allow my gaze to travel out along the expansive Salt Lake Valley stretching out below.
Two weeks ago, I was down in that valley at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show. Along with 30,000 other people, I looked over gear and listened to product pitches deep in the Salt Palace Convention Center. Today, I’m still checking out gear but on my own terms, in the great outdoors, and with a mere 300 other people. I’m at the inaugural CamelBak Pursuit Series in Snowbasin, Utah and the trail running class I signed up for is pushing me to my limits.
The CamelBak Pursuit Series, in partnership with The Outbound Collective, is designed to be a turnkey outdoor experience. Just show up with a pair of shoes and choose from the nearly 250 classes and outdoor experiences offered over the three-day event. It’s a consumer-facing event where brands can build genuine, offline relationships with customers. On the flip side, customers have access to any outdoor activity they want with full gear and instruction provided by the brands. It’s a win/win.
The outdoor industry is booming. Or perhaps it’s more accurately described as trending. Swoon-worthy Instagram photos and epic Facebook videos have done a lot in the last few years to drive people to the outdoors more than ever before. Yet for every one of these newly-hooked outdoorsmen and women taking sunrise selfies on top of a mountain, there’s two who have no actual clue how to pack an overnight backpack to follow suit, especially safely. As an outdoor gear company, how do you not just sell consumers gear but also provide some lasting benefit and experience to them?
This is where the CamelBak Pursuit Series comes in. Want to bike down a mountain? Great, Trek is on hand with bikes and some bonafide instructors. Or perhaps you’re looking for a more low-key hike in the woods? Not a problem because Granite Gear is leading a hike led by a thru-hiking legend. But then again it is the weekend so maybe you just want to kick back with a drink in hand? Cool because Tito’s Vodka is teaching you how to imbibe in style in the outdoors. The outdoors can be experienced in a whole lot of different ways. The Pursuit Series recognizes that and provides the logistics to safely dive in, no matter how gnarly you want to get.
“Brands can build genuine, offline relationships with customers. On the flip side, customers have access to any outdoor activity they want with full gear and instruction provided.”
For Granite Gear’s Rob Coughlin this is a key benefit of attending the Pursuit Series. In “How to Pack a Bag,” one of Granite Gear’s numerous classes being taught daily, Rob excitedly tells me that all 15 people in this class have never worn a hiking backpack. “That’s an incredible opportunity to teach people safe backpacking,” a visibly stoked Rob tells me. Paul Twedt, another Granite Gear guy and seriously accomplished thru-hiker, chimes in about how you see thru-hikers with serious, long-term back problems because of incorrectly loaded packs. “At the Pursuit Series we can provide these new hikers not just with one of our packs but also the knowledge of how to keep using our pack. That’s really cool.”
As brands begin to find ways to take their sizeable online communities offline for experiential events (think Outpost and Outessa), bag companies find themselves filling an interesting niche in these events. Regardless of what event you’re doing, you likely need a bag. And for CamelBak, the fact that you’ll be carrying water as well makes sponsoring an event like the Pursuit Series a natural fit. As Whitney Standring-Trueblood of CamelBak tells me, even if they weren’t here people would still be bringing CamelBaks to nearly everything here. “I think we’re a natural sponsor for an event like this.”
As I relax beneath the airy CamelBak tipi throughout the weekend Whitney has a point. With the exception of Granite Gear hiking packs, CamelBak packs are ubiquitous on participants’ backs. As Julia Stamps Mallon of Eventus Outdoors, one of the organizers of the event, explains the brands – and gear – being used throughout the Pursuit Series is a very intentional thing.
Although there’s a natural synergy between the brands (for instance there’s only one company here that sells hydration packs), deciding what companies to invite was the second step in building the Pursuit Series. “In planning this event we sat down and made a dream list of adventures that we could do in Snowbasin. From there we decided what gear and brands we would need to invite to make this happen.”
While watching the Camp Chef crew prepare mouthwatering food I think about this distinction – adventures first and then brands. Had this been the other way around it would be too easy to dismiss the Pursuit Series as a marketing event masquerading as an adult summer camp. Instead it comes across as a genuine event for the brands in attendance to build organic relationships, share their stories outside of product catalogues, and offer some bonafide knowledge that encourages getting outside. As the weekend comes to a close I’m stoked to see how the CamelBak Pursuit Series and similar events will continue to develop and start to shape the outdoor industry in a way that feels right.
Curious to give the CamelBak Pursuit Series a go? The second edition is happening in Sanborn, California September 8 – 10. More information here.
*Photos courtesy of The Outbound Collective – Clare Healy, Jason Hatfield, Josh Currie, Mike Fennell, and Prajit Ravindran