The Outside Magazine Buyer’s Guide arrived in my mailbox on Monday night. I tore off the thick layer of plastic and noticed that the opening pages were crowed with mini-bios about the magazine’s staff and gear testers, those lucky dogs who are paid to take cool trips and try out sleeping bags, trail shoes, hiking shoes, hard shells, soft shells, headlamps, sunglasses, cameras, mountain bikes, and stand-up paddleboards. In between the gear ratings were style guides—new pieces of gear unfolded and strewn about in colorful, asymmetrical patterns. I zoomed in on the style guide for women climbers, which was labeled “Everything you need to scale new heights.” At the center of the page, beside the helmet, the harness, the pack, and the token piece of hardware, was a quick dry hoodie with a “flattering fit” and “sexy skinny jeans” made of a nylon/spandex blend.
I tried to determine what was different about the Buyer’s Guide and the regular edition of Outside. For one, the editors had squeezed out the gratuitously adventurous human-interest stories and descriptions of some off-the-beaten path trails for a few more equipment reviews. Otherwise, The Buyer’s Guide edition seemed similar to any other. Why did it take me so long to realize how cramped the magazine was with product advertisements? Of course, magazines have to sell ads, and one fantastic way to do this is to display products as functional and stylish; however, now that I have been a subscriber to Outside for a few months, I’m realizing that pushing products is one of the primary goals of the magazine. Ideally, the advertisements would leverage a platform for telling good stories. However, inspiring people to enjoy more of their lives outside and to “Live Bravely,” as the slogan says, is also a ploy to get people to buy the gear that will make them more active, badass, and happy.
I want to be active, badass, and happy. I work hard during the week, and I recreate hard on the weekends. It’s Tuesday, I’m still sore from my most recent blitz to the mountains near Leavenworth. I drove over and camped on Friday, hiked in and climbed all day Saturday, and drove home early on Sunday so that I could clean the house, prepare lunch for the week, and grade papers.
This work/life balance is my El Dorado. I want to have fun and keep exploring, but I also want a steady job, health insurance, and other kinds of recommended securities. Read more »