As you’re probably already aware, outdoor magazines such as Bike, Surfer, Powder and Snowboarder have all shuttered their windows and shut down their presses. So now what? Where do you turn for some real human-powered and adventure-based outdoor and journalism? And by journalism, we’re not talking about tweets, posts, and pieces written in and curated by whatever advertising banner flies across a website or social media platform.
Print journalism — especially outdoor magazines — is supposed to show an investment in credibility. Its printed editions say, we care and we are serious about what we do. And how do you gain access to a quality outdoor journal? You pay for it, that’s how.
We have no problem spending money for independent music, artisan foods and craft beer, as well as the artists we really want to see. To obtain those experiences, we go buy the vinyl, we shop the local markets, we attend the art shows, and we actively support these ventures.
But today, the majority of our best journalists, photographers, editors, and artists are independent operators, some contributing to outdoor journals such as Adventure Cyclist Magazine, BikePacker Magazine (now part of Bikepacking.com), The Surfers Journal, and Adventure Journal. Unfortunately, these magazines could soon disappear if we don’t continue to support their work.
“Ah,” you say, “But I can view any of these journals on their websites and see what they are doing.” Yes and no.
Yes, you can see the work of these journals — and their journalists — online, and indeed, the quality of the photography is beautiful, and the writing is inspiring. With just a click of a mouse, you can get a fair representation of what a slick, colorful, hold-in-your-hand magazine can give you. But not quite.
Print magazines and journals are the best! They physically arrive on your doorstep and you devour them so fast you can’t wait for the next to arrive. And the next issue won’t arrive for another three months! So, you keep your back issues. Another plus, no need to plug in, boot up, log on, and go into a search box to find words to read and beautiful pictures to help you escape.
Three months between issues? Sometimes! Quality takes time.
We’re not saying online journalism is without merit. But, honestly, in a short time, online articles are shuffled off to Recent Posts archives, mistakes and typos are corrected and edited. But once a magazine or journal is printed and in your hands, it is forever. When John Keats penned “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” he said that it is the permanence of art that is tangible.
The cloud would have really freaked him out.
Another plus to published works? When journals and magazines arrive in your mailbox, it’s like getting the benefits of an around-the-world trip without the cost. For those of us here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), to see an exotic destination that you have visited, staring at you from the pages of a slick journal, is nothing short of amazing.
As an NCOAE instructor who has traveled around the globe, I find that stunning photos and articles, written with depth and emotion, can snap you right back to that beloved location. Instantly. And you can show the article and art to your friends. Just open the magazine up and say, “I’ve been there, and yes, it is that beautiful.”
Each of our instructors has his or her own outdoor passions that bring us together and define us as individuals. Many of us have broken off to explore and experience the fringe of current sports. Whitewater SUP, bikepacking, overland travel — much of which we discovered while reading outdoor magazines and journals. It probably explains why the print versions of Bikepacking Journal, Surfers Journal and The Adventure Journal are so appealing to us.
These publications cover emerging new subcategories of human-powered pursuits we enjoy. An example of this is surfing. You think about surfing and you picture shore breaks on the coast, right? How about river surfing — on a surfboard, not a kayak! On the other hand, the sport of Bikepacking is still in its infancy. You can watch it grow as a subscriber to Adventure Cyclist Magazine, and even contribute to the growth by writing, photographing and submitting content that may eventually grace the pages of any of the print magazines that cover the adventure lifestyle.
And speaking of participation, many of these publications encourage readers to email the writers and photographers. What’s more, they will often respond to questions about the location, equipment, or the article itself. Now imagine trying to call your favorite musician or artist and shooting the breeze by email or phone. When you reach out to outdoor journals, you can actually do it.
Here’s a true story. One day, out of the blue, Joni Casimiro, who runs The Adventure Journal with her husband, Steve, called to tell me I had made a mistake on something I ordered from the magazine. Now, she could have just shipped the order, but she realized I would likely be unhappy with the result. So she called, fixed my problem, and made my day!
Bottom line: If you truly want to be an agent that supports world class work, promotes art, and funds climate change and protection of our wild places, then think about subscribing to one or more of the quality outdoor journals that are out there.
The printed word is still alive! And we need to make sure we keep it that way.
Interested in finding an outdoor publication to read and support. Start with the list below, and then leave a comment using the box below to share the name of your favorite outdoor and adventure-based magazine:
Bike magazine (back issues available)
Elevation Outdoors magazine
Outdoor Photographer magazine
Powder magazine (back issues available)
Runner’s World magazine
Snowboarder Magazine (back issues available)
Stay Wild Magazine (back issues available)
Surfer magazine (back issue available)
Trail Runner magazine
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About the Author: Stephen Mullaney is the director of school partnerships at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) in Wilmington, N.C., where he is responsible for the training and education of NCOAE’s field instructors. He is a member of the North Carolina Association of Educators and has taught within the Durham, N.C., public school system. Stephen received his undergraduate degree in English from Framingham State University, and his master’s degree in Education from North Carolina Central University.