Beware of Hidden Consumerism While Planning a Camping Trip

CC BY 2.0. ramblinbears

Intensive marketing and addictive consumerism go hand-in-hand, and these certainly exist in the world of camping superstores that attempt to sell redundant gear to eager campers.

Are you planning a camping trip this summer? Before you set out on a preliminary trek to the nearest REI, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Cabella’s, or another camping superstore in order to stock up on gear, take a few minutes to contemplate the hidden consumerism that exists within the camping world.

Camping is an escape to the wilderness, a chance to get away from the comforts and technology of everyday life; and yet, it has turned into a huge industry where people believe they need to consume stuff in order to be good campers. An article called “The Hidden Consumerism of Camping and Outdoor Activities,” published on Postconsumers, raises some excellent points worth considering.

It’s important to realize that marketing creates the illusion of needs where there really are none. The rise of the camping superstore is intimately linked to marketing and the addictive consumerism that must exist in order to ensure a big box store’s survival. Beyond the most basic of supplies – a waterproof tent, a warm sleeping bag, a stove – you probably don’t need it whatever the store is trying to sell you.

Postconsumers writes: “Merchandise needs to be created to fill those big boxes and therefore consumer marketing needs to support generating the purchases to keep that train moving. Where there is a big box store, there is significant consumer infiltration. And that is certainly true in the camping and outdoor sector.”

Ask yourself about the gear. Do you need it? Sure, it would be convenient and fun to have that new stove, its special carrying case, that extra-light air mattress, that water purification system, that awesome headlamp, etc. but do you really need it? Unofficial addiction to buying camping gear is common; people buy what they need to camp, but then they go above and beyond to buy additional items that they think will make that experience better. Most likely, it won’t, because it can’t keep away blackflies, get rid of the rain, or raise the temperature outside.

Watch out for upgrade marketing, a common tactic used by camping superstores that want to generate sales. Postconsumers writes:

“You have a tent, but do you have this upgraded tent with all of these extra features? You have a perfectly functional backpack, but wouldn’t this upgraded backpack with more pockets be better? How do you avoid upgrade marketing? Always stay grounded in whether the upgrade truly offers you a feature or features that you honestly need or that would honestly improve your experience or if you’re just falling prey to the enthusiasm of upgrade marketing tactics and coveting ‘more, more, more.’ Sometimes you need an upgrade. Most of the time you do not!”

Take control of the situation by assessing your collection of camping gear thoroughly prior to making a trip to a store. Make a list of items required and stick to it. If there’s something you want to buy, wait 24 hours before deciding; that will create a better perspective on how necessary that item actually is.

Keep in mind that having the widest array of camping gear does not make you a better camper; it’s the hard skills, determination, and experience that will make your trips most successful.