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December 19, 2008

Dumbest Outdoor Trends of 2008

By Brian Kevin

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Gourmet campfire cooking? Could be part of your next "glamping" trip. (Nathan Borchelt)

End-of-the-year “best” and “worst” lists are like marshmallow Peeps or trashy reality TV—everyone claims to abhor them, but year after year, we find ourselves weirdly compelled to see who People chose as the year’s best-dressed celeb and what obscure piece of avant-indie noise-rock became Pitchfork’s album of the year.

I’m going to be straight with you, though: I like these lists. I know they’re utterly arbitrary and meaningless, but I like them anyway. I look forward to arguing about them with friends and sometimes with strangers on the bus. So in that spirit, I present my own completely subjective and unempirical list of the Top Five Dumbest Outdoor Adventure Trends of 2008.

5.  The word “glamping”
This cringe-inducing neologism for “glamorous camping” evidently came from the British (who else, though, really?) as far back as 2005, but only in the last year has it really caught on with the American press and PR industry (it gets almost 32,000 hits on Google). I don’t mind the concept of high-end camping, but “glamping” is a stupid word, and it has to be stopped.  It sounds like a veterinary term, like a symptom of an intestinal disorder you might see in farm animals—as in, “If you see any glamping, I’m going to need you to bring Bessie in right away for some tests….”  Is it not worth the extra couple of syllables to say “luxury camping,” “deluxe camping,” or something else that makes you sound like less of a wanker?

4.  Winching
Now that Rolling Stone has added the “extreme sport” of “winching” to its annual Hot List, expect to see kids in skinny jeans lining up to bash their faces against rocks while getting dragged through whitewater by a shuddering, repurposed snowblower motor.  With winching, we’ve finally found a way to burn diesel fuel AND risk drowning at the same time.  Gnarly, brah.  (Also, speaking of the Hot List, check out this NPR piece for an unrelated, but excellent dissection of “hotness” in travel, music, and most every other subject under the sun.)

3.  Economic drama on the ski hill
Okay, so you can’t really blame ski resorts for the credit crisis.  But when the repo man starts threatening to haul the lifts away, you have to wonder if a couple resorts might not have gotten in a little over their heads.  What, no government bailout to prevent massive liftie layoffs?

2.  Luggage fees
I generally travel pretty light, but adventure travelers know that it’s often easier to pack a suitcase full of gear (or skis) than to hit up the rental shop upon arrival.  Thanks to dwindling airline profits, I now have to choose between paying an extra $25 and being that jerk who tries to stuff his bear canister into the overhead compartment.

1.  REI scratch-and-dent sales
Okay, so outdoor equipment retailer REI has actually been doing these for years.  But technically it was fall 2008 before I got up early enough to attend one.  I’m here to tell you, it was a carnal madhouse, a teeth-gnashing affair like something out of Dante.  At one point, I watched a grown man parry his way through the crowd like a fleece-clad musketeer, brandishing a trekking pole in one hand and clutching a discounted MSR water filter in the other.  I like cheap gear as much as the next guy, but I glimpsed a dark side of human nature that morning.  I suppose I shouldn’t complain, though—I did get two pretty cheap Therm-A-Rests, and one of them even holds air.

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