Home & LifestyleNovember 20, 2020

The Great Outdoors – Designing for a Growing Recreational Market

As many seek safe recreation, they flee to the great outdoors. This…
Avatar Jim Romeo

As many seek safe recreation, they flee to the great outdoors. This has heightened the importance of well-engineered outdoor gear and equipment.

The pandemic has kept people inside.  It’s also caused others to go outside – into the great outdoors – where the risk of COVID isn’t as high as indoor enclosed spaces.  For manufacturers of outdoor equipment such as bicycles, roof racks, recreational vehicles, hiking gear, and a whole host of products, there is an upswing in demand and a user expectation of durable, light, and reliable equipment.

Activity and Recreation to Stay Occupied and Healthy

According to the researcher NPD, outdoors activities during COVID-19 are surging. “Consumers are looking for activities to help them stay occupied and healthy as COVID-19 necessitates social distancing. As a result, a number of outdoor categories have experienced explosive growth.”

The Outdoor Industry Association publishes research about outdoor recreation, as well as the industries that support it.  In August, they reported that in the earlier months of COVID-19, that Americans “flocked to outdoor recreation amid COVID restrictions, and that “walking, running and hiking were widely considered the safest activities in which to participate.”  In the months of April, May and June of 2020, versus the same period in 2019, they report, unweighted participation rates for day hiking rose more than any other activity measured, up 8.4 percentage points.

Purveyors of outdoor equipment serve the outdoor enthusiasm of their customers who demand high quality products that stand up to the outdoor elements, are lightweight, and dependable. Product designers incorporate these demands and continuously seek better ways to design equipment to meet their needs.

Part of the design effort is to have data and information readily available to design teams and others on the extended product team.

Building a Library of Information

Mammut Sports Group is a Swiss mountain sports specialist and producer of alpine equipment and apparel.  Their products are used in many different activities – which includes rock climbing and scaling – and entails the outdoors.  Such activity can be adventurous, but also dangerous.  They sought to accelerate their design efforts to bring about innovative products and manage essential product information that complies with activity standards and environmental regulations.

They created a database of all their product data making it available everywhere – using , to allow employees to gain secure access to all product information, as well as purchasing, development and production data.

Offering high-performing outdoor clothing is more complex than it sounds. Twice a year, Mammut develops an assortment of its summer and winter apparel lines. It begins with their previous product lines that are updated and improved with new and different color and design versions, new trim characteristics related to a specific season or use, and new and sometimes different materials. The permutations of modified, but new, products each year can be complex to manage. They used a digital tool to maintain a data library that facilitates the design effort year over year.

Digitizing this data not only expedited the efforts of product designers and all who support the products, but it also helps the company meet normal demands – and the surge in demands that the pandemic caused.

Educating Designers for the Outdoors Industry

The Mammut example exemplifies the growing importance of outdoor activity and also shows the criticality of design in outdoor equipment.

Utah State University has been ahead in the design of outdoor gear.  They’ve created a new academic program that serves to educate designers, specifically in the design of outdoor equipment.  In its program description Utah State describes it as a program that “provides students passionate about creating products with the knowledge of design principles and aesthetics and technical skills in order to make them come to life.”

In a four-year education, students will learn the process of product creation, how to communicate design through sketching and digital tools, and how to translate designs into prototypes and final products through hands on projects.

Designing for the Great Outdoors

Simulation and design tools are often associated with sophisticated products such as automotive, medical, defense, and many other products.  As consumers, however, recreational products designed with sophisticated modeling, data, information, and many other sources is very important to the performance and enjoyment of our outdoor equipment.

Simulating a backpacking tent and designing it according to specific characteristics is now possible by one person for one person. The same process of utilizing digital tools to create outdoor gear and equipment exemplifies the precision and design accuracy such gear entails.

That may explain why this market category is being enhanced by digital design technology such as Dassault Systemes 3DEXPERIENCE, as well as other design tools.  It is also aided by educational programs such as the one at Utah State University.  It sends a message that the ability to design and create with innovative technology solutions, helps enrich our lives and support our lifestyles – especially in times like these, where the great outdoors is the place to be.

Editor: To learn more about how brands are evolviging to meet growing consumer expectations, click here.

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