The Big Gear Show kicked off its first day in Denver with a buzzy B2B gathering of brands, outfitters, retailers, media, and other groups that bring the concept of inclusivity to the forefront of the outdoor industry.
By Bevin Wallace
While providing a new avenue for relationship building and sales meetings, the Big Gear Show’s two trade show days also serve as a lead-up to something that makes the Show even more inclusive—and fun: the consumer gear festival that takes place here on June 10 and 11. “This event was built with inclusivity in its DNA,” says show director Kenji Haroutunian. “We’re pivoting to a form of the industry where we go to where the people are—and invite them in.”
Anchoring the west corner of the show floor, Adaptive Adventures (adaptiveadventures.org) is a nonprofit organization that provides outdoor sports opportunities for people with physical disabilities. Founded with the belief that outdoor sports are empowering, and these sports should be available to everyone, Adaptive Adventures is the largest mobile adaptive sports program, with 18 trailers full of adaptive sports equipment it brings to events, festivals, climbing gyms, parks, and trailheads, mostly in underserved areas. “The goal is to remove all barriers,” says Chelsea Elder, executive director of Adaptive Adventures. “All our services are free of charge, and we train individuals, who then become mentors.” The organization trains product designers and developers (working with 12 different university programs per year) as well as outfitters, climbing gym employees, and retail salespeople to make and sell products that are as accessible as possible. It also provides tens of thousands of adaptive bikes to VA med centers and other programs for veterans, who make up about 55% of whom Adaptive Adventure serves. Many of these vets then become mentors and run programs themselves.
Adaptive Adventures is at the Big Gear Show to “let brands know we are here as a partner,” Elder says. “And to connect with the general public.” The Adaptive Adventures zone is happening, with demo gear, a climbing wall, and even a dragon boat.
Next door to Adaptive Adventures, OutGrown (hikeitbaby.com) is hosting a “family camp” and demo area. Started as Hike it Baby with local guided hikes for parents and small children, OutGrown is a female-founded and women-led national nonprofit that provides programming, activities, and access to gear and support to help families with small children get outside. “When it comes to outdoor activities, kids and babies are often cut out of the conversation; people are afraid to include them,” says Jessica Carrillo Alatorre, OutGrown executive director. Founded with the belief that inviting families to play outside together is a powerful way to build community and foster a life-long love of nature, OutGrown partners with health organizations and receives grant funding to provide gear and programming in marginalized communities. The group promotes the idea of “turning the blues green” and helps new moms discover the mental and physical benefits of going outside. It also launched the 10 Park Challenge—visit 10 parks in 10 weeks—with the idea that the more time people, especially young people, spend in nature, the more likely they will become advocates for these places. “Due to this awareness and connection, they become the guardians so quickly,” says Alatorre. At the Big Gear Show, the OutGrown demo area is a fun family-friendly space to relax, enjoy activities (such as learning how to set up a tent) and games, and meet for guided hikes, which will take place Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The Big Gear Show is also Denver’s only 2023 stop on the Get Outside Tour (outsideonline.com/culture/get-outside-tour). “We’re super excited and proud to support this forum, which brings the industry and consumers together,” says Randy Propster, event manager. “Here, we can discuss real issues affecting the industry, see the latest and greatest from existing brands, and be introduced to new brands. The community can come together to touch, test, and play, so there’s an experiential aspect.
The Get Outside Tour is a six-month road show with stops at bike festivals, music festivals, competitions, outdoor stores, and expos. Tour events include gear clinics and guided activities, plus “we give away free stuff,” says tour ambassador Lyle Frenkel. At the Big GearShow, the Get Outside Tour’s setup includes a van, trailer, and a tent, which is an inviting space full of gear and other conversation starters from participating brands including Gregory, Rumpl, Goodr, and Cutty Sark. “Our sole goal is to get more people outside,” Propster says. “And if they need to come inside this building for the weekend, that works for us.”