… Teach a child to backpack, and they will explore the great outdoors for the rest of their life. 

This past weekend, I had the privilege of representing Mountainsmith at Backpacker’s first-annual Adventures Denver in Sloan’s Lake Park.  The event, modeled after their own Adventures New York City that takes place every summer in Central Park, brings outdoor activities to the city aiming to inspire the local community with a new appreciation for the outdoors.  This year’s event in Denver did just that, offering up kayaking, stand-up-paddle boarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, sustainability demonstrations, and wilderness survival education.  It was clear to me, as kids raced around on sno-cone sugar highs (bicycle powered ice shaver of course), that they really dug the activities that they would otherwise not have access to.

Kids trying mountain biking at Backpacker Magazines
Kids try out mountain biking at Adventure Denver

The weekend brought on an epiphany for me, emphasizing the importance of revealing to our youngest generations the joy of the outdoors.  As a member of the outdoor industry, I understand the importance of supporting our culture and preserving the natural spaces that allow us to do the activities we love and keep us happy.  Not only do these efforts support my passions, but my livelihood.  I am fortunate to work for a company that reserves a portion of its profits for contributions towards conservation efforts, which clearly holds value in passing on a more beautiful planet to our future generations.  However, this old proverb kept returning to my thoughts this weekend:

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime

Is it safe to argue that the most powerful conservation effort we can make is to teach our youth to appreciate nature?

Kids testing out the climbing wall at Backpacker Magazine's Adventures Denver
Kids testing out the climbing wall at Adventure Denver

If you are reading this blog entry on Forged For Life, chances are you already have a strong appreciation for the outdoors.  It is also likely that someone is responsible for inspiring that interest in the outdoors.  During a small reception full of outdoor industry folk the night before Adventures Denver, Sara Romito from the Denver Green School asked us to raise our hands if we liked the outdoors.  No surprise, we all raised our hands.  Next she asked how many of us had our first outdoor experience before the age of fifteen.  A couple hands dropped but not many.  Next, she asked how many of us had that first outdoor experience with a school.  All but one of around 100 of us dropped our hand, forcing the rest of us to realize our good-fortune of being introduced to nature by an inspiring parent or mentor.

The message was clear.  The outdoor industry folks in the room that felt so inspired to support the outdoor culture did so because it had been imparted to them from an early age.  The message was hammered home the following day when meeting the attendees of Adventures Denver, many of whom calling it their first outdoor adventure.  Let us not forget how easy it is to fall in love with outdoor sports, if only given the opportunity to do so.

My epiphany for the weekend was that the most powerful conservation tactic available is to bring our youth outside.  I think we can all agree that once we have gotten them there, nature will do the rest.

This week’s blog entry is a tip of the hat to the people and organizations that help kids get outdoors.  A special thank you goes to our local partners; Big City Mountaineers, The Cottonwood Institute, and The Denver Green School.  Their conservation efforts are everlasting.

Jeremy Dodge in the Mountainsmith tent with the Ghost 50 in the foreground.
The author greets visitors in the Mountainsmith tent with the Ghost 50 in the foreground.

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