March 19, 2024

Rachel Gross Unpacks the Evolution of Outdoor Gear and the American Outdoor Identity [EP 431]

Show Notes

Rick Saez
Rachel Gross Unpacks the Evolution of Outdoor Gear and the American Outdoor Identity [EP 431]

This week I’m talking with Rachel Gross, an environmental and cultural historian of the modern U. S. and an assistant professor of history at the University of Colorado Denver. Among many accolades and experiences, Rachel was a Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich and, for her doctoral research, wrote about the history of outdoor clothing and gear in the U.S. from the Civil War to the present. Her book is: Shopping All the Way to the Woods: How the Outdoor Industry Sold Nature to America

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Show Notes

00:00 Shifted from outdoor pursuits to writing about them professionally.

04:46 Global scholars gather at Munich’s Rachel Carson Center.

09:58 Early guidebooks promoted self-reliance in the outdoors, discouraging buying equipment and emphasizing the Woodcraft ethic of creating makeshift arrangements from natural materials.

11:15 Early white guidebook authors claim close Native American ties to validate their information sources. They emphasize their relationship with Native Americans as a way of asserting the authenticity of their knowledge. Their focus on white settlers’ connections to the Native American past is reflected in the stories of native peoples being displaced from national parks in the early 20th century, which are recurrent themes in their publications.

15:35 Book delves into paradox of outdoor consumerism, exploring its history and impact on American attitudes towards nature.

18:23 Consumer identity linked to fancy cooking gadgets. Participation.

22:06 Outdoor industry leads in photography and sustainability.

24:56 Experts doubt Patagonia’s sincerity in anti-consumerism ad.

29:14 “Ski Style” by Annie Gilbert Coleman is a recommended book that explores the culture and evolution of skiing in the 20th century. It provides insights into how skiing has become associated with specific social classes, economic accessibility, and the development of ski resorts and attire. The book encourages readers to critically evaluate the origins and evolution of this popular recreational activity.

32:21 Encouraging introspection on consumerism’s values and influence. Reflecting on personal choices and societal impact.

33:46 Researcher finds value in personal stories for understanding.

Learn More

To learn more about Rachel and her work, visit her website at:

You can also visit Rachel on these social sites:



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#outdoor gear, #history of camping, #outdoor industry, #research, #cultural history, #environmental history, #environmental sustainability, #consumerism, #American outdoor identity, #consumer behavior, #product design, #sustainability initiatives

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