Let’s get passionate

September 27, 2006

When I chimed in yesterday on a discussion started by Tom Mangan at Two-Heel Drive I figured I’d get a response. I didn’t mean to get riled, but I expressed surprise that Steve Outing questioned whether hikers share the same passion for their sport that mountain bikers and climbers have for theirs.

In a reply to my post, Outing explains a little more what he meant.

“I think our model is different and more community/passion focused than most other outdoors online stuff to be of interest and use to people.”

I’m still not seeing a difference in the communities or the level of their passion. But maybe that’s because I’m a hiker/backpacker and, as Outing admits, he isn’t.

“Haven’t backpacked in years, and my hiking is usually on vacations or once in a blue moon I might do a 14er here in Colorado.”

So perhaps it’s up to us to show him just how passionate we can be about our sport. Mangan and winehiker have already started.

Share your thoughts in the comments section.

I also thought it would interesting to see if there was a way to quantify some of this passion. At Echo Media I found circulation figures for a lot of publications. I’m not able to validate the numbers, but what little cross referencing I did seemed to indicate they were fairly accurate. I don’t know about the other data. For one thing, the income level shown for Mountain Bike seems way out of whack.

I picked out a few biking and climbing magazines to put up against Backpacker magazine. And I also threw in some other outdoor-related publications.

To be sure, these numbers can’t offer a complete picture, but they do provide an interesting insight.

Magazine Undup. Circ. Avg. Income Avg. Age Percent Male
Backpacker 310,000 $70,950 40 73%
Bicycling 400,000 $69,815 37 77%
Bike 79,339 $67,165 33 94%
Canoe & Kayak 57,230 $88,000 44 83%
Climbing 36,646 $75,000 37 87%
Field and Stream 1,500,000 $50,586 41 na
Mountain Bike 155,000 $94,000 36 91%
Mountain Bike Action 65,000 $70,000 33 97%
Outside 650,000 na na 68%
Rock and Ice 31,250 $79,982 35 na
Runner’s World 615,000 $69,274 36 57%
Sierra 675,000 $100,700 50 47%

If you view magazine subscriptions as one measure of that commitment, the number of people passionate about backpacking and hiking has to be judged at least on par with those passionate about the so-called extreme sports.

But I don’t think Outing is concerned with numbers so much as he’s interested in the magnitude of their passion.

As others have pointed out, there’s a far lower barrier to entry for hiking, and only to a slightly lesser extent for backpacking, than there is for most other sports. That makes it easier for people in, well, my age bracket to stay involved in hiking and backpacking.

Still, I don’t know what you can conclude from that. If you’re really passionate about a sport you have to buy expensive toys? You have to be young?

I’m not ready to agree to that. Are you?