The latest outdoor industry trend: Outdoor gear eCommerce D2C websites

Gibson Toombs

September 22, 2021

7 min read

Direct-to-consumer (D2C) eCommerce businesses sell their products to customers without going through a wholesaler, retailer, distributor, or other outlets. This is becoming an increasingly popular model among outdoor brands, as the industry continues to bring in more participants and more revenue.

In this article, we discuss the current state of the outdoor industry, the top brands in the space, how to get started building a DTC outdoor gear eCommerce site, and more. So if you’re in the process of planning, building, or updating your outdoor business’ online store, keep reading!


The most notable change in the outdoor recreation space over the last year is the increase in participants due to COVID-19. For many people, engaging in outdoor activities like hiking and cycling served as a good alternative to remaining indoors all day, every day during the lockdown. Bars, restaurants, cafes, concert venues, and shopping malls were replaced with parks, beaches, mountains, golf courses, and hiking trails—spawning new hobbies for many, and a lucrative opportunity for outdoor brands such as REI, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Patagonia.

Here are some interesting statistics around COVID-19’s effect on the outdoor industry:

  • In 2020, 7.1 million more Americans engaged in outdoor activities than the year prior.
  • National park attendance increased in 2020, with the Great Smoky Mountains and Zion National Park experiencing their busiest seasons on record.
  • Oregon, Idaho, and California each saw significant boosts in license sales in 2020.
  • The two fastest-growing categories in the outdoor space in 2020 were water sports and camping.
  • Many outdoor businesses are now selling more products via digital storefronts than traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Outdoor footwear brand Havaianas, for example, currently sells 70% of its products online. As a result, the business closed 14 physical stores in order to put more resources toward its website.

It will be interesting to see how this data evolves in a post-pandemic world. But in the meantime, your D2C outdoor eCommerce business should revisit its digital presence, see what its competitors are doing, and upgrade its site to make the most out of these new industry trends.



The outdoor recreation sector generates $887 billion in annual consumer spending, topping industries like pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, education, and household utilities. To be clear, these are the activities that make up the outdoor industry:

  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Motorcycling
  • Off-roading
  • Snow sports
  • Trail sports
  • Water sports
  • Wheel sports
  • Wildlife viewing

Like all industries, as these activities become more popular, the number of outdoor gear eCommerce companies increases, creating more competition in the space. So how can your brand’s DTC site maintain a competitive edge? The first step is looking at the top outdoor brands on the web, then identifying the various qualities that make them successful.


If you’re looking for inspiration for your outdoor gear eCommerce site, start by checking out these three awesome brands:


K2 sells snow sports equipment such as skis, snowboards, helmets, and related apparel. The brand’s DTC site is visually stunning, with videos and images on the homepage that make you want to plan a trip to the mountain ASAP. The homepage also displays two CTAs, “Shop Ski” and “Shop Snowboard,” establishing an easy starting point for both segments of their target audience.


With hunters as their primary customers, Slumberjack provides sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, camouflage vests, and other equipment necessary for a successful hunting trip. The site is not only an easy place to purchase gear, but it’s also a digital community where hunters can share tips on how to preserve meat, knowledge about different hunting spots, opinions on new product releases, and so on. Plus, the site’s product pages are loaded with customer reviews, creating a more insightful and transparent shopping experience for its users.


Camelbak is known for its durable water bottles and hydration packs. The site makes it easy to find products based on the customer’s specific activity, whether it be mountain biking, hiking, or snowboarding. The homepage displays a carousel of top-selling items, as well as messaging around the brand’s lifetime guarantee policy.


Now that we’ve seen examples of successful outdoor gear eCommerce sites, let’s explore the key characteristics that each of them shares:


To help tell your brand’s story, get its message across, and capture the attention of potential customers, your site’s pages should have stunning, high-resolution background images or videos—especially on the homepage. Whether it’s a picture of a hiker on a trail or a video of a cyclist riding down a hill, the goal is to inspire your customers to embrace their adventurous side and get outside.

In addition to engaging imagery, it’s imperative that the user experience (UX) design is clean, simple, and optimized for mobile. Customers should be able to navigate through your site and find what they’re looking for with little effort and as few clicks as possible—regardless of the screen they’re interacting with it on. If your site’s design is boring, with a clunky interface and complex navigation, your potential customers will likely bounce to a competing site.


Most successful outdoor gear eCommerce brands offer free shipping, so you’ll want to heavily consider that when mapping out the customer experience. Of course, this means you’ll have to pay for shipping out of your own pocket, which can have a detrimental effect on the business’ bottom line. However, there are ways to combat this. You can try offering free shipping only for products above a certain price, or only to customers who have signed up for a membership.

When it comes to returns, consumers expect free shipping, with easy access to shipping labels, along with the ability to exchange or drop items off at physical stores. Regardless of your policy, make sure the information is easy to find and easy to read on the site. Many online shoppers will not purchase from an eCommerce store until they’ve thoroughly checked its shipping and returns policy.


Ecommerce personalization means providing custom user journeys, based on a variety of characteristics—such as age, location, gender, transaction history, browsing behavior, and so on. With advanced tools, businesses can collect and analyze this user data on the back end, then leverage it to present curated content, product recommendations, and other marketing assets on the front end.

Many outdoor DTC sites show the top-selling products in a customer’s particular location. You can also engage in cross-selling by displaying relevant product recommendations to customers during checkout. Personalization functionality can even extend beyond the site, allowing businesses to send targeted emails, as well as present curated ads on a customers’ social media feed.


Giving users the ability to create an account on your site is another proven method for boosting customer engagement and sales. By setting up a rewards program, you’ll incentivize your customers to continue making purchases, so that they earn points and receive better deals over time. And by plugging them into the company newsletter, you can keep customers in the loop on new products, promotions, and so on. This will help your brand gain customer loyalty and establish a community online.


Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key ingredient to success in the eCommerce space. This involves strategically publishing content and structuring your site so that it performs well in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. By frequently posting keyword-optimized content, namely blogs, you can rank higher for search terms that are relevant to your business and its products—while also paying less for paid advertising. Furthermore, posting and sharing content regularly helps establish your business as a thought leader in the industry, so consumers know and trust your brand when it comes time to make a purchase.



The outdoor gear eCommerce space is ultra-competitive. Therefore, you’ll need a website that’s unique, visually appealing, easy to navigate, SEO friendly, and personalized to various user personas. Chances are you don’t have the time or technical expertise to modernize your current site or build a new one from scratch. But with a partner like Codal, you can focus on running your business, and let our team of certified eCommerce experts create the perfect customer experience.

Codal has over a decade of experience designing, developing, testing, launching, maintaining, and optimizing online stores for business across all industries—and that includes outdoor recreation. Our team will learn all about your business and its customers, conduct in-depth research into your competitors and the surrounding market, identify the right eCommerce platform and other third-party tools, and build a site that exceeds your customers’ expectations.

Interested in learning more about building, maintaining, and optimizing outdoor gear eCommerce sites? Get in touch with Codal today!

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