The Trail-to-Town Trend: Outdoors for All
Influenced by street style, the trail-to-town trend was brought about by the next generation of outdoor consumers who demand apparel with crossover appeal.


From the singletrack to the pub, there is one trend that is dominating the industry more than any other: the concept of outdoors for all. Consumers are no longer forced to choose between techy gear and fashion-forward clothing, they can have both.

Influenced by street style, today’s outdoor apparel is a flourishing movement that goes by many names: trail-to-town, athleisure, or simply multifunctional. Regardless of the name, the outcome is the same across the board: the audience demand for crossover appeal is highly influencing  styles and products that perform in casual and technical settings.
estes park lake“Today’s outdoor consumer is seamlessly transitioning from the office to the crag to patio happy hours, and needs gear that can jump from each activity without warranting a wardrobe change,” says Katie Boué, the community and social media coordinator for the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

Where is this movement coming from? According to OIA’s recent 2015 Consumer Segmentation Full Report, 60 percent of Americans identify themselves as outdoor consumers. However, very few would label their activity as “extreme,” and prefer to convey a more balanced image of themselves—even the “hardcore” demographic.

“Our audience closely resembles the broader U.S. population, which the outdoor industry hasn’t traditionally targeted,” says Boué. “These folks aren’t extreme expeditionists looking to summit the highest peaks; they’re 9-to-5ers who sneak in bike path rides during lunch breaks and take the family out for weekend camping trips at nearby public lands. They still need technical gear that performs well, but they are taking a much more leisurely approach to their outdoor experience.”

hiking by lakeWith the target audience skewing more toward multifunctionality rather than single-purpose tech products, it is easy to understand why brands are designing more crossover apparel.

“It is definitely influencing product design,” says Joanna Tomasino, the softgoods category manager for Mammut North America. “It began when technology and design realized they could coexist.”

This push for versatility is recognizable in the bright pops of color that now litter the showroom floor of Outdoor Retailer, the industry’s largest tradeshow of its kind. Gone are the days where muted greens and blues and browns dominate the fabrics. Instead, bright patterns and bold accent colors cover everything from shirts and pants, to shoes and backpacks. The inspiration? The fashion industry.

“I’m finally finding myself able to strictly shop outdoor brands,” says Boué. “Where my closet was once a stark dichotomy between weekday wears and gear for getting outside, there is now a stronger blend. The same company makes both my favorite raincoat and sundress!”

Thanks to this trail-to-town movement in apparel, it is easier for consumers to be loyal to their favorite brands.

The GORE-TEX Brand is joining the trend with the introduction of GORE-TEX SURROUND® footwear. Featured in technical hiking boots by Mammut, Salewa, Scarpa and La Sportiva (among others), GORE-TEX SURROUND® product technology can also be found in everyday shoes. Both Ecco and Salewa now carry casual shoes engineered with GORE-TEX SURROUND® product technology.

The endpoint: durably waterproof and highly breathable shoes that keep your feet dry and cool, regardless of whether you’re taking a lunchtime stroll or sipping a beer at your favorite happy hour.

woman hiking sunset

As the influence of crossover apparel continues to spread, North America appears to be leading the charge. In fact, Tomasino does not even consider trail-to-town to be a relatively new trend in the United States. “It’s been around for awhile,” she says. “It’s simply different jargon.”

That said, Tomasino also believes that while solidly established in the U.S., the movement is still finding its footing in Europe where classically tech gear is still the norm.

“Many brands across the Atlantic are now recognizing the need to create more of their collection based on the fact that most consumers expect gear that can perform and look the part, whether you’re at the crag, the trail or the local coffee shop,” she says.

Is it worth it for the stragglers to jump on board? Is this athleisure-multifunctional-versatility trend here to stay? Tomasino sure thinks so.

“Our society is so busy and many of us now struggle to make time to be a little active each day,” she says. “That makes me believe it is here to stay.”

Boué wholeheartedly agrees.

“This concept will be crucial to the success of the industry. I know more than a few in the industry who think that catering to the new style of outdoorists will turn the industry into a bunch of latte-drinking hipsters, but that elitist perspective will ultimately be what separates future successes from failures. You have to listen to the consumers, and they’re speaking loud and clear.”

To be sure, this trend will evolve as movements tend to do, but it does seem that the endpoint is here for the long haul.

“Perhaps the sea of plaid button-down shirts will evolve into something else,” says Tomasino. “But I think the concept and the utility of versatile, comfortable and functional products is needed indefinitely.”

Images by Will Rotchfort