Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is REI Paying Attention to Us?

A while ago, I did a post on what I called "designer backpacking gear" in which I identified an increasing trend in backpacking gear design to add whacky graphics and neon colors to gear that was previously pretty spartan.  I hinted that I prefer simple aesthetics and a lot of Gear Talk readers seemed to feel the same.  Whenever this topic comes up in the forums, the majority of backpackers tend to favor neutral colors and simple designs as well, yet it seems like the manufacturers are still pushing blaze-orange packs and neon water bottles with retro 60's graphics on us.  So imagine my surprise when I turned to page 20 of the latest REI catalog...


TWO whole pages of Earth-tone colored packs! I can't remember the last time I've seen an REI catalog without at least one or two obnoxious chartreuse or orange packs in the mix.  I wonder if REI is finally paying attention to us and test marketing a more subdued color lineup.  After all, some of these packs do come in brighter colors and they could have featured those--but for some reason, they chose not to.  Granted, on page 18 they do picture the most hideous dry sacks ever conceived...


Still, it's interesting to me that they would decide to deviate from convention on one of their higher-margin products.  Maybe I'm reading too much into this but it's an unusual move for REI that makes me suspect someone in the marketing department has been checking the forums and blogs lately.  If that's the case, kudos to REI!  Give me brown, green, tan, and grey...chartreuse is for bass-fishing lures!
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22 comments:

Izzy G. said...

Some marketing company suggests "patterns" and the companies just go for it. Who knows who these companies do research on, but I doubt it's people who are directly 100% into the outdoors. It's like SIGG putting flowery patterns on their bottles now. To get the woman demographic. It's about sales and eye appeal.

Curt said...

Nice to see this trend. Now if they will get away from the seemingly increasing trend of huge logos. Marmot's packs, many shoes, etc are going with 4" letters readable from 100 yards away. Ridiculous.

SweetPea said...

HA! I saw those dry stuff sacks in the catalog yesterday and thought the exact same thing! Hideous. Too funny.

Aaron said...

You know, I am all for multiple colors for stuff sacks/dry bags... it helps me to organize and I am more likely to grab what I need out of a full pack. But THOSE things seem a bit ridiculous. It makes me wonder, too, if they are more expensive than the standard bags... Often, ugly is more expensive.

James N. said...

REI brand gear has been pretty good at being neutral in color; especially their packs. I personally don't mind having some bright orange items, such as a rain jacket or clothing as I figure it can help me be seen in case of a rescue or a recovery. The bright clothing also helps people distinguish me as a backpacker from a hunter or militia person (a concern in the Midwest).

Jason Klass said...

Hey Curt,
Yes, I kind of hate huge logos too. I think Marmot actually does a pretty good job of keeping their logos tolerable. The North Face, not so much.

Dana said...

Sooooo....... how about the bright orange on our Aarn packs? Actually the new orange is more of a rust than the bright orange that you've seen.

Jason Klass said...

Dana,
The orange on the Aarn Packs is really just an accent--the whole pack isn't blaze or neon orange. It's mixed in with grey and black so it's not an eyesore. Plus, as you said, it's really more of a rust color which to me is more aesthetically pleasing. But more importantly, Aarn packs don't have obnoxious graphics and logos pasted all over them like some of the new designs coming out. Good for Aarn! I think color is OK if it's put in the right places.

Hiking Lady said...

I got my REI catalog in the mail last night and I was pleasantly surprised too! Ironically I did find those dry sacks to be horrible looking. I bet those will be at the REI Outlet store soon...

Some old guy said...

I walk during hunting season (usually wearing a nice green-and-black ULA Catalyst) and so always have to throw a blaze orange bandana on the back of the pack so I don't get shot from behind. The blaze orange shirt and hat take care of the front. Stealthy I ain't.

I also stay put at dawn and dusk when most of the hunting is going on.

Anonymous said...

Hey, there's no accounting for taste.

Bivouac Jack said...

Personally, I don't like the bright colors either, but I know my wife will buy anything if its pink or has a flower on it ;)

Jason Klass said...

Jack, Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...that's exactly what the marketers want to hear! Don't encourage them!

William A. Martinez said...

I don't thing its that big of a deal really, I actually prefer the neon gear as it is easier to spot when i am cleaning my campsite. Also, if i am ever in trouble, i would imagine a neon pack would be easier to find for a ranger than an olive drab on a pile of bushes.

Anonymous said...

Bright colors are incredibly useful in hunting areas. It's not about what you want to see someone else wear hiking. Sorry if someone interrupts your glorious nature because they don't want to get shot.

Jason Klass said...

Anonymous,
Apology not accepted. ;) You make a good point about hunting but all I'm advocating is that gear manufacturers at least give us a choice. If they want to offer a pack in what many would consider an obnoxious color, then they should at least also offer it it a more subdued color for those of us who don't like (or need) it. Most of the places I hike in don't allow hunting so it's not an issue for me.

kristy said...

I like the orange look:)

Anonymous said...

I would buy a brighter colored backpack, maybe even with different bright color accent, but never with a pattern or huge logo on it. Of course I wouldn't buy it for the color, but for the features of the backpack. Sure, they can offer different colors, maybe even with patterns, but keep neutral colors for those of us who don't want to have to wear sunglasses to look at backpacks.

Shawn Hudson said...

While I tend towards having Earth-colored gear with bright neon highlights or seams to them, being in Korea these past months has shown me that not every nationality prefers more subdued color schemes.

Walk into any store here (and there seem like there are more outdoor stores in Korea per capita than in the US, even) or walk on any trail, and the people are decked out in fluorescent gear.

It's not just Korean brands, either ... Sea to Summit, OR, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, North Face. 95% of the gear here is colored like its meant for a road construction crew.

In short, I think gear is kinda crazy-looking, but I can see why it's going that way. Hiking's becoming more than functional; it's becoming a way of life and a means to display one's personality. Just look at any of the crazed hikers on the AT who attach random bears, flags, cricket bats, etc. onto their packs for the long haul.

EatStayPlay said...

I don't buy my gear based off of colors (usually) but off how it preforms. However, that being said, as a woman, I do like colors in most things.

A benefit for gear coming in a variety of colors/patterns is that it's easier to find MINE when I'm out and about with a group of people.

Throw 5 nearly identical black packs in the back of a pickup, drive for 20 miles on a dirt road, and then tell me a blue pack or a star wouldn't be a quick way to find YOUR pack!

Kathy Handyside said...

If they think those hideous dry sacks will pull in the "women demographic", here's one woman it's not working on. I started backpacking back in the '70s, when the brightest color I remember was a dark red called "mountain red". I've seen a lot of changes since then, much of it good in terms of fabrics, tent design, lighter weight, etc., but here lately, I've noticed a creeping sort of "urban style" coming into the backpacking scene. I've seen people in some backpacking shops who are only there for the "outdoor fashion statement."

Anonymous said...

Cool.. I like simple, but I am also a person who appreciates an artistic touch sometimes... but this 3-seconds-in-Photoshop "graphic art" crap everyone is doing isn't really doing it for me.