Photo: João Canziani

The Changing Face of the Outdoors

James Edward Mills writes, "Gear catalogs, advertising campaigns, films, and articles in magazines like Outside typically presented the outdoors as a place for white people, most of them men. At the turn of the millennium, I decided to do something about this, pivoting from sales to journalism. I wrote about the achievements of people like the buffalo soldiers, African American members of the U.S. Cavalry who started patrolling Yosemite in the 1890s as some of our first national park rangers, and Sophia Danenberg’s historic 2006 Mount Everest climb, when she became the first black American to reach the summit. The more I looked around, the more obvious it became that the world of adventure was­—has always been—far more diverse than we’d been led to believe. The stories of people of color, Native Americans, those with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community just weren’t being shared widely in the outdoor community.

Finally, that’s changing. But not because the outdoor media and the outdoor industry woke up. What happened is that underrepresented groups took control of the narrative. Utilizing digital platforms, they’re speaking for themselves. Organizations like Outdoor Afro, Latino Outdoors, and Out There Adventures have begun stripping away the presumption of a white, male, heterosexual experience. Even more importantly, by unapologetically presenting their unique points of view, they’ve shined a light on a rich heritage of adventure and environmental stewardship that has been there for generations."

To read his full Outside article and the twelve highlighted activitists and athletes creating this narrative, visit

To learn more about James and his Joy Trip Project celebrating and documenting the stories of more like-minded and inspirational spirits, visit