Outside Magazine and I have had an up and down relationship for many years. At times, Outside grabs me with great journalism, awesome photos, and fun facts. I've lliked its fearless tackling of environmental issues and its ability to transport me to truly exotic places. At other times, i question its journalistic integrity, emphasis on the latest and greatest gear, and shameless trumpeting of past successes. At times the advice it gives also seems more aimed at insecurities (you need this gear to be successful, you need to live HERE to live a fulfilling life) than I think a magazine focusing on fun in the outdoors should.
Cases in point:
- I'm not sure what criteria it uses for recommending gear but at times I question whether the recommendations come because a certain company is an advertiser or because the editors truly believe that a certain bike, watch, pair of sunglasses are really all that. I don't get the sense that recommendations come as the result of rigorous field testing a la Backpacker Magazine, etc. Also the gear tends to be super expensive. Whatever happened to just enjoying the outdoors via the John Muir approach: just taking off with the clothes on your back and the nearest snack at hand? Because I live in a mountain town I see this ridiculous emphasis on having Just The Right Gear/Clothing for every occasion all the time. It's a little silly.
- Recycling or contradictory fitness advice. Outside did an outstanding series back in 1999 about achieving total fitness but then in subsequent issues redirected its fitness programs under the same type of heading (Achieve your best fitness now!) that made me wonder if they're just running with current fads. I know a magazine has to really work at staying fresh but I think consistency is the best approach here.
- Dudes---John Krakauer wrote a great series and subsequent book about the tragedy on Everest in 1996. But that ship has sailed. If that's the only hook you can hang your hat on the magazine's got problems. We get that your magazine took the lead on that story. Stop reminding us of it.
There is a strange mixture of articles in this magazine. Some are about outdoor activities- though not really about *you* doing them, but stories about someone else. Other articles seem completely general interest that would not be of any more interest to an outdoorsy person than anyone else. There are entertaining travel articles about writers' trips without too much practical information if you were to plan a trip. However, in the back there is a large section of advertisements from all kinds of outdoor adventure places. The photography section is lovely; there are a couple of pages of just artistic photos. For an active outdoor magazine, it seems a little too passive.
An Outdoor Magazine for the Armchair SUV Set
There is some very good writing to be found in Outdoor- Randy Wayne White and John Krakauer come immediately to mind. Excellent reading for the armchair traveller. The bulk of the magazine, however, is an extended advertisement for high-tech outdoors gear, punctuated by ads for SUVs the size of earthmoving equipment that every true outdoorsman or woman needs.
Outdoors is rather like the numerous amateur photography magazines that obsess about equipment and yet have very little to say about the aestheic of art. When I think of my favorite outdoor adventures I don't think about the equipment I used, or the many and wonderful modern conveniences I brought along. Instead I think of just being in a quiet place, away from flashing and beeping electronics that fill my workday.
Fine for guys
I'm not sure what has happened at Outside, but for the past couple of years it seems like it wants to be Esquire. Though not founded as a men's magazine, it's become that. Case in point: The most recent gift guide, which is titled ""What Every Man Wants This Year." Apparently it was too hard to find gifts women would like.
The photography is astounding, but overall you're better off going with the real thing: Subscribe to Esquire.
Ads, gossip, and gear reviews
I used to love this magazine and subscribed on and off for years. But I finally realized it holds nothing for me anymore except 1 or 2 good photographs and sometimes the fitness section. Almost all the articles are about sports that I could never afford to get even mediocre at, gear, and - increasingly and alarmingly - hot & trendy outdoor sports stars. The tone of the magazine is kind of breathless, often kind of snide.
It's not all bad - I do like the monthly fitness section, and sometimes there are great articles and useful travel info. But now I just browse it at the checkout stand if it's a good issue, I'll buy it there.
GOING DOWN HILL...
The main complaint in the critical reviews is that OUTSIDE has lost it's formerly excellent articles and substance. THEY ARE CORRECT. This was a great magazine that is quickly "losing" it.
Image vs. Content
I'm not sure who's at the helm of this operation but I'd be willing to bet they don't get Outside too often. Not to be too cynical about it, but I just don't find this mag to be as USEFUL as it was before. If you like LOTS of articles on who the coolest extreme sports stars are, how they got their abs, and what gear they're wearing, subscribe NOW. The magazine looks amazing, the photography is top notch and they still manage to come up with a thorny article on the environment periodically. But for my money, it just feels like the editorial staff has been plucked from New York image mags that do one thing really well - SELL. I read National Geographic Adventure, and unlike Outside, I USE IT for information because it has CONTENT.
For the fashion conscious gear collector that will never step outside!
There is nothing worth reading in Outside any more. They seem to fill up their pages with "Gear Guides" and half their magazine looks like a product catalog (with boots and jackets that most of us can't afford). Occasionally there used to be good articles, but even those seem to have disappeared. Outside is now just a magazine that is below mediocre and attempts to disguise its fluff with flashy graphics and self aggrandizing language.
I thought it funny when they started sending me free issues of GO, their attempt at creating an upscale version of Outside for the rich people. I opened it up and it was filled with more gear guides, except the gear was even more expensive.
If you are truly an outdoors person, pick up an issue of Backpacker. It will inspire you to get outside and explore vs. Outside mag, which just wants to inspire you to buy from their sponsors.
Like a dumber lamer GQ with more patagonia
Outside used to be a pretty interesting magazine, but somehow turned into a totally dumb men's mag about dumb stuff. I guess they think only vapid shallow wealthy men enjoy the outdoors? boooring.
If you like Jack Johnson,Lance Armstrong, Kelly Slater (or the blonde surfer) this is the magazine for you- you'll be seeing alot of them. I used to subscribe to this magazine for years, but it became 'the same old thing', so I quit.