Alan Sloman recently wrote a post about outdoor magazine circulation pressure and the future of print magazines. For me it was an interesting discussion and as a result of a point I made I thought I would share some of the great content that is free to the outdoor enthusiast online; which also is the reason I believe print magazine sales are in decline.
No paid-to-view content counts in this roundup. I feel paid-for content has value, but for me there is as good free content online, and often the free is much better.
Love them or hate them, blogs are part of the online community and each shares its outdoor experiences how the author wishes. Some have wonderful prose that combines sublime photos with great writing, and others have that raw, as-we-speak-and-see-it feel. Ether way, there is a rich tapestry of trip reports, kit reviews and outdoor views that can easily exceed the magazines' trip reports and photos, and kit based content. Let's be honest - some magazines' tests are no more than pitching the tent up in field and calling it a test.
Patagonia Dreams is one of my must-read blogs, as Steve and Katrijn travel the world sharing their long walks in Scandinavia, Patagonia and the Himalayan Mountains, as well as their packrafting exploits. It's well-written, contains superb photos and those "wow" locations just make me go back time and time again. All for free. It's my favourite overseas blog, if you need to know. I would expect to see Steve's photos in National Geographic to be honest.
Section Hiker is so packed with tips, advice, trip reports it's hard to keep up. I am a fan and friend of Philip, but with this much content you're going to find that stove review, tips for wild camping and more on this site, and it won't cost you anything.
Inspirational trip reports seems to be one thing magazines claim. "Really?" Ok, inspire me like these do then - for free.
This young man has skills that take him to the Yukon, Greenland and beyond. He traverses mountain ranges in winter on skis and when you read his blog you realise how much skill and knowledge he shares.
When people hail the best blogs this has to be up there with them. But Joery strikes me as a humble guy and his trips just have that epic factor for me. I expect to see this stuff in a magazine. But it's free online.
Go read his Sarek trip and you'll see why I plan to go there. You can look up his Greenland trip reports that are even better than this and also his Yukon posts.
Luc Mhel won both the Alaskan Winter and Summer Classic Adventure Races. To put that into context, go walk a hundred and fifty miles in the Cairngorms with about 4 hours sleep, then imagine the terrain is wilder, vastly more remote (it's remote, it's Alaska) and packed with grizzly bears and you're getting the picture. Plus the horrendous bushwhacking, lack of paths and the only trails you would find are made by bears. The Winter Classic is infinitely harder.
His videos and photography again are of the quality that you pay to see in magazines. Luc shares for free, and his video content you will not see in a magazine, as they have yet to catch up with the online world.
Luc also shares tips, skills and insights like these:
Lightweight Winter Travel
Using a GPS and plotting routes on Google maps - very insightful.
I have shared here some of his videos, as it makes me think. Will I need to ever buy a magazine for outdoor content again? As they are so good, so current and so much better to see than anything any magazine has to offer. Or put it another way: imagine paying for an online outdoor magazine and reading Luc's Report and imbedded was his Logan traverse video. You'd be a pleased customer. Printed copy in your hand - or this and more on your iPad. I know what I would want.
Full trip report by Luc is here
The Summer Classic report is here
Pacrafting is a growing way to travel the wilderness. Yet UK-based outdoor magazines seem to have failed to take note of this. Again, online is fast, responsive, and current.
David Hind is a UK-based packrafter who I have met while out backpacking. Well worth a follow, and for a technical guide to packrafting equipment - free - Forrest McCarthy shares a wealth of information, trip reports, and all world class destinations.
For example, his packrafting equipment guide Packing for Packrafting
A recent trip report example - as good as many magazine reads I have read
Some videos to show again what magazines fail to grasp in the UK. I also added in his trip with Roman Dial who again shares knowledge that is as good as it gets for free, if you look through Romans blog; here is one of the best by him. Magazines searching for content would find top class material from people like Professor Roman Dial and Forest Mcarthy. Lucky for us they share it for free.
Uk-based outdoor blogs have a raft of information and trip reports to share as well as quirky, challenging and damn right in-your-face content at times. We're Brits, after all.
I get baffled when some names are put forward as the best out there for UK blogs. So what the heck - here are some of my picks, in no particular order. You decide. Oh, I know I am mates with a lot of them.
Alan Sloman as he actually has a massive amount of trip reports, views and hates wind farms. He also is a funny, caring, supportive guy. It's good to read, and magazines miss I think that we like stuff like this.
Writers of the Way. So well written, and has depth that missing in many blogs. It's that good.
Backpacking Bongoes as James has so many trips outdoors, sharing them in word and photo. Why this blog fails to get mentioned in the best going is beyond me. Good enough to go into print.
Tracksterman. He leaps over mountains and carries a 100lb pack, the banter about this man goes on and on. Well, in fact Steve/Pete? writes a sharp, often cutting, to-the-point blog. He does not give a damn about other blogs, won't say hi, hates UL 'bullshit,' as he calls it, and the TGO Challenge is not safe from his wrath. He is also off to Tian Shan soon to do a very long walk. He says he will write an ebook about it. I for one will read it. Like I say, short, punchy and informative stuff. Cost to you: nowt. His food ideas are worth the read alone, and much better than you get in the mags.
Self Powered. David is writing for magazines. But for us he writes free on his blog, shares superb photos - it's a must-read. As good as a magazine most times in quality and how we like it - "free"
PTC, I still read, rate and enjoy his blog: gear junkie; takes a fine photo; oh, and he writes for the comic - AKA Trail. His blog is jammed to the hilt with kit, walks, banter and his comment system stinks - but ignore that and go read his blog.
My Mate Terry as he takes superb, magazine-quality photos, makes brilliant videos and his gear tests are bang on as he tests the kit out for ages. He also writes as he is, a trait often missed by blog writers I feel. Be yourself. People see that and enjoy your writing more.
But king of the castle in the UK is Alistair Humphreys . Adventurer, explorer, writer and shares on his website so many fine articles and trip reports. Inspirational guy. Love to hear a lecture by him.
Here is a bit that can only be described as top class writing and photography from him. As good as anything I have seen in a magazine.
Plus he makes videos, and some of the best going.
If I was an editor of a print magazine I would be beating his door down to write stuff for me.
Then on writing, you know there are already free online magazines? "No?" - well, let me share.
TrailGrove is American and packed with good stuff. Get it here
SideTracked magazine is rumoured to be going into print. Reversing the challenge of online it seems. Right now it's free. So make use of it here
To be honest I could write a long list here. Mark Roberts Backpacking North, or the very well written and very Cairngorms focused blog from Neil. DaveC who writes a lot online, and to be honest drives me nuts at times, but is one experienced, clever backpacker and often his posts are inspirational - you need to read through his blog to see why.
The list goes on and on. Share some quality links here folks and let's see what we find.
As for print magazines, I hope they survive, but to do so I believe they need to embrace online; adapt, evolve, or it's survival of the fittest, and they will go. There is more and more high quality free content coming out hourly online. Who needs a monthly magazine now?