The phrase “get back to nature” sounds simple in theory but in practice knowing how to explore the outdoors is more complicated than just walking outside. There’s the matter of knowing where to go, whether that means looking for the best ski slopes or a hidden spot with a nice vista. Then there’s the matter of how to get there. A lot of the time, there aren’t exactly clear signs about where trailheads begin or clear warnings when an easy path gives way to a more strenuous one. If you’re a person of color who has historically been excluded from outdoor spaces, then the task of reconnecting with nature can seem even more daunting.
This is something Brian Heifferon and Tyler Drake can attest to. Growing up as half-Asian kids in California, the duo shared a love of surfing, skating and camping when they realized that the people who are considered traditionally “outdoorsy” did not include them. So, in 2012, they co-founded the Outbound Collective, a community-oriented outdoor media platform that shares hikes, lodgings, scenic spots and other tips for outdoor activities by tapping into members’ local insights.
“We started the Outbound Collective with the desire to discover adventures nearby,” Drake tells us. “Brian and I both grew up hiking, camping, surfing and trying to get outside as often as possible. As adults living in the Bay Area, we found ourselves asking friends for recs or reading blogs, always in search of information on new trails, beaches, campsites. Whether staying local or traveling somewhere new, we sought one central place where we could find access to this information with insights from people who had been there before.”
We sought one central place where we could find access to this information with insights from people who had been there before
That search led them to create the Outbound app. Like Yelp for the outdoors, this free app (available on the App Store and Google Play) helps users find and filter activities or places around the world using reviews and tips from community members. Alongside insights from locals, the listings come with an overview that notes pertinent information like an activity’s difficulty level and directions on how to get there if it is particularly tricky. After filtering by location, scenery or activity type (like snowboarding, surfing, fishing and more), users can download the GPX routes for offline navigation to ensure getting there is as straightforward as possible. Users can then organize their favorite trails and campsites by saving them on the app.
Perhaps the most arresting feature of the application, however, is its photo-sharing aspect. Upon opening the platform, right away striking, high-resolution photos of landscapes, oceans and water holes fill the feed. The ability to share photos to the app makes Outbound more than just a tool for navigating nature; it is a source of empowerment.
“Having this resource available not only helps inspire people to get outside,” continues Drake, “but with reviews, GPX tracks and driving directions, it helps empower them to do so confidently.” Connecting people to the outdoors and each other, the Outbound app encourages individuals of any and all backgrounds to discover the beauty that nature has to offer.
Hero image by Kelly Pau