Whether you’re rocketing down a snowy mountain or launching over waves, you love to be outdoors.

To be comfortable outdoors takes gear: gear to keep you safe and comfortable in the elements, but also to support your performance so that you ski faster, snowboard farther, or paddle board longer.

People love outdoor sports almost as much as they love being outside. To fulfill the needs of this market, gear manufacturers are producing more gear than ever. When it comes to gear, how do you know what’s a must-have, and how do you know what gear you can do without?

That’s where we come in.

From shoes and clothing to backpacks, we’ll help you make smart decisions when purchasing the best gear for your next adventure.

Your Outdoor Gear Guide

Many people turn to outdoors sports and activities to stay fit and healthy. In addition, a clothing style commonly referred to as “athleisure” has become a staple in the wardrobes of many more people who may or may not engage in outdoor activities on a regular basis. To fill that need, there’s been a sharp increase in companies producing gear.

In 2019, the global hiking gear and equipment market alone was estimated at $4.5 billion, according to The clothing segment accounted for roughly half of the market for hiking gear and equipment in 2019, especially among women who have taken to hiking in increasing numbers for both fitness and recreation.

One product in particular contributing to this growth are hiking boots, which many wear for fashion almost as often as they are worn for function, especially among millennials with disposable income.

It makes some sense then that products like hiking boots have increasingly been marketed on social media. There have been 192,000 posts on Instagram using the #hikingboots hashtag alone!

Equipment, such as sleeping bags, tents, and hiking poles, also takes up a large portion of the market, with an expected revenue-based compound annual growth rate, or CAGR, of 7.0% from 2020 to 2027.

Not all outdoor sports and recreation gear is sold online either. As of 2019, brick-and-mortar specialty stores account for roughly half of the revenue share in the hiking gear and equipment market.

Specialty sports outlets are popping up all over the world, too, making it a global market. In addition, familiar sports retail outlets like REI, Columbia Sportswear, and Dick’s Sporting Goods continue to hold strong.

Online sales seem to be the future, however, with an expected CAGR of 6.6% in the years spanning 2020 to 2027.

Ready to get in on the action? Here’s how to choose outdoor gear for your favorite activities, or for when you’re just out and about around town.

The Wide World of Gear

There are a lot of specific products that belong in the broad categories of outdoor gear besides clothing and equipment, and some can double for both outdoor sports and recreation as well as everyday life. Here are just a few of the products helping to fuel the explosion in the market for gear.

Snow Gear

Snowboarding is more popular than ever, and so too is the market for snowboarding gear. That’s especially true for all-mountain snowboards, which are versatile enough to snowboard in all sorts of conditions.

When you’re out on the mountain, you’ll want to stay warm. To do so, you’ll want a ski jacket — which is not just limited to skiing. From moisture and wind protection to temperature regulation and safety, ski jackets are a must-have for any snow sports enthusiast.

And don’t forget one of the most important pieces of equipment on the mountain that’s often overlooked — your ski poles. From the straps, grips, and pole shafts — made from aluminum, carbon fiber, and composite — to the baskets, there’s a lot more to know about ski poles than you might expect.

Miscellaneous Gear

Outside the big-name gear categories like snow and watersports, don’t miss all the advancements in gear in other categories as well, like backpacks, climbing shoes, and pocket knives.

Whether you’re on the mountain or just headed to work or class, there’s a backpack for all purposes, including school, travel, hiking, or even to carry valuables like a camera or a laptop.

Rock climbing and bouldering is a growing niche in the market for outdoor sports and recreation gear, and there are climbing shoes for every skill level and for all sorts of climbing experiences—from lace-ups, velcro, and slipper-style shoes.

Not all outdoor gear is for wearing, it’s important to note. Pocket knives are handy tools both in our daily lives but also when we’re outdoors. These days, you can find great options to use around the house while doing chores or while roughin’ it in the wild.

How to Shop for the Best Gear

Best Ski Brands

Will this be your year to finally try skiing? Don’t let the sheer number of ski brands out there slow you down. This ranking helps you narrow it all down. From a one-stop shop where you can walk out with everything you need for a day on the slopes to specialized shops focused on certain pieces of gear, your options are wide open. There are even sub-market shops specializing in gear for a particular kind of skiing, rather than a particular kind of gear.

Best Snowboard Brands

The same could be said about snowboard brands that could be said about ski brands: there’s a lot to choose from. How do you know you’re making the right choice? Including all the different snowboarding styles like all-mountain, freestyle, and powder, among others, this guide gets you up to speed on how to choose a snowboard and how to know the brand you are picking is among the very best.

Best Paddle Boards 

If open water is your preferred setting to enjoy time outside, paddle boarding is an easily accessible place to start, and it’s suitable for all skill levels. Best of all, paddle boarding is as vigorous or laid back as you want it to be. To get started paddle boarding, it really only takes a paddle board and a paddle. Narrow down your options with this ranking of the best paddle boards.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gear

Still have questions about the market for outdoor gear? Ready to buy some of your own? Search these fun and informative articles on how to make the most of your new purchase.

What Size Paddle Board Do I Need?

There’s a lot more than just brands to consider when choosing a paddle board. This guide is here to help—from volume, length, width, and thickness to the differences between hard and soft stand-up paddle boards, or SUPs. It will even give you some pointers about standing and maintaining balance once you’re up on the board.

What Do I Need to Know About Climbing?

Thinking about getting into rock climbing? Get started with this climbing resource guide, helping you choose the type of climbing you might like to try, including indoor, bouldering, and top-rope climbing. It also covers the gear you’ll need, such as shoes, harnesses, and helmets, as well as training and safety precautions.

How Should I Hold a Paddle Board Paddle?

Continuing our in-depth analysis of the sport of paddle boarding, we answer one of the most common questions among beginner paddle boarders. When they get the paddle in their hands for the first time, many ask, “How do I hold this thing?”

In this article, we give pointers on the best way to hold your paddle board paddle to maximize power but we also cover the structure of the paddle and how to maintain balance on the board, among many other tips and tricks.

What Are the Best Camping Tips and Resources?

Ready to start camping? You’ve gotta get the gear. But where should you begin? This guide provides all the information to get you started: everything from what to bring — including how to choose your first tent to choosing the right camping cookware and other camping essentials — to safety and other camping resources. It will even help you become a campfire cook master.

How to Buy a Bike?

There’s a lot more to buying a bike than just choosing the two-wheeled kind. From proper riding conditions to bike maintenance and cycling safety tips, this guide helps make sure that once you choose your new bike, it will be the start of a beautiful relationship.

How to Choose Running Shoes?

In this simple guide about how to choose running shoes, we cover fit, what kind of surface you like to run on, and even which socks to choose. It even covers how to evaluate your own feet — including different kinds of feet like neutral, overpronation, and underpronation — and how each can profoundly affect which running shoes are right for you.

When Should I Replace My Running Shoes?

How do you know when it’s time to finally put your favorite pair of running shoes to rest? Nobody wants to run with worn out shoes. This guide provides answers about when to replace your running shoes, going over how many miles are too many miles to put on a pair of shoes and how to tell when it’s time to move on — including signs like your shoes feeling uneven, the soles are worn out, or worse, when running has started causing you pain.

How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

Last but not least, what about your hiking boots? When hiking or camping, a good pair of boots is the first place to start. In this guide, you’ll learn about different kinds of hiking boots — including hiking shoes, hiking boots, and backpacking boots — as well as how to tell when it’s time to let your old boots retire from the trail. More than anything, though, we’ll tell you what you need to know to find the very best fit.