Backpackers.com — The Outbound Collective is one of the newer backpacking communities to spring up in San Francisco, the land where technology meets and conquers all odds. Until now, the premise was a website that hosts high-quality images, activities, and specific directions for awesome adventures around the entire world.
The Outbound Collective app was released this week, and it strives to provide many of the same services as the website, on the go. We got in touch with the team at The Outbound to ask some questions about the new service, how it stacks up against competition, and future plans.
The Outbound Collective is explained below, then we review and explain the app itself, and finally the interview with the team. Got it? Good. Enjoy.
What is The Outbound Collective?
The Outbound’s concept is not an entirely new model, but one that has benefited from a fast website, a streamlined experience, a huge number of activities in its roster, and solid corporate connections. In short, The Outbound Collective is a community and submission based website for an endless number of activities — your typical hikes, trails, and backpacking trips are present, but so are SUP Paddle adventures, surfing, and beach bonfires. These reviews are submitted by individual users, the most active of which are “Explorers,” and are then commented upon by anyone who does the specific activity.
Every review features high quality images — one of the clear draws to the site. And users can upload their own photos, too. It’s also easy to share the content, which contains a live map, specific “necessities” for each trip, and a place where you can suggest edits, in case the original post needs to be updated.
The Outbound Collective App
Like all successful sites today, The Outbound Collective has reached a place where an app is not just necessary, it’s incredibly useful. The team has ported the streamlined experience of the website onto a mobile platform, with the images (again) as the highlight. You can download it for Apple iOS.
The app is free, but you must create an account (or connect via Facebook) to access anything. A trade-off not uncommon in today’s market. Select your activity interests, let the app access your location (if you want it to give you local options), and you’re ready to browse.
After doing so, you’re presented with the home screen.
Note the featured collections, which are a group of reviews curated by the in-house staff. You can also search by activity, which is a unique highlight of The Outbound Collective. With 18 individual “activity” categories, the adventurer really can narrow in on an activity that suits their current situation.
Each review is tagged in a category, and one review can have multiple tags. So a surfing adventure, like camping at El Capitan State Beach in Goleta, California, can fall under “Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Surfing, and Swimming.” You get the idea.
Below activities you’ll see everything in your area, starting with the closest activities you claimed you were interested in. The app really shines here, because it geolocates your current position, so if you’re traveling to a new place you can simply pull up local activities and try them out.
One of the best features (because it works so well) is the ability to search for activities (unsorted or sorted) via a live map. Like Yelping for a restaurant, the Outbound Collective app makes this simple and interactive, allowing you to get a live view of your location.
We got in touch with the Outbound team via email to discuss some particulars.
Backpackers: We noticed that the “Explore: National Parks” featured collection is by Garmin, but each trip within the collection was submitted by a user or Explorer. Can you talk about the partnerships you have with companies, and how that plays into the app and the site as a whole?
Brian (from The Outbound): Our featured collections are just some of our favorite user-generated lists that our editors see in the app. We’ll be rotating these frequently, and we’ll be featuring cool lists from the community (users, partners, etc). More explicitly re: partners – we’ve just started working with some companies to figure out a good way to incorporate them into our community. But in a way that adds value, remains authentic, and isn’t intrusive. That said, we’re treading very lightly here and we’re taking our time to figure out what the right balance is.
Backpackers: What differences do you see in your app offering vs. competitors, like AllTrails and EveryTrail?
Brian: We think the biggest difference is that we feature a lot more outdoor activities, outside of trail-based activities. And one of the problems we’re trying to solve is helping everyday people squeeze a bit more of the outdoors into their busy lives – even if it’s really casual. That might be helping someone find a cool spot nearby to catch a sunset, take their kids swimming, or have a beach bonfire. You won’t find a lot of that content on either of those apps. And we don’t think you should have to check six different apps to find something fun to do outside.
Backpackers: Do you ever plan to add topographical maps to your interface, for active tracking of hikes and backpacking trips?
Brian: Incorporating topographical maps and the sharing of GPX data is definitely in the roadmap!
Backpackers: We see a number of individual activities added by The Outbound Collective, rather than a user. Any specific reason the company is adding individual activities? Do you send employees to those locations?
Brian: The vast majority of the adventures in the app have been added by our community. In some cases, we know what some of our team’s favorites are (even if we don’t have a lot of contributors in that region yet), so we add them for our community.
Backpackers: The app just launched, so everything is new…but we were wondering if you can name any plans for the future? An Android app? The Journal section of the website on mobile? And, most importantly (we think), the ability to add a new activity via your phone?
Brian: Yes, it’s still really early for us and we’re a relatively small team, so we take an incremental approach to development. That said, we have plans to allow users to add their own photos to existing adventures, as well as their GPX data (for relevant activity-types). We’re also looking at how to possibly incorporate some Journal content into the app experience. As far as the Android app goes – this has been a pretty frequent request in the week since we launched. It’s something that [we] know we’ll be discussing the New Year. I’ll keep you posted!
Backpackers: Finally, how do you plan to add growth in areas of the U.S. (and the world) that don’t have much content, like the South? I imagine competition is fierce for a user-based community, so what steps will be taken to make the job worth it for Explorers? You mention discounts on gear, anything else in the works?
Brian: This is a great question. We’re fortunate to have an engaged community that’s helped us grow purely by word-of-mouth. At the center of that is our team of Explorers – they’ve set the bar incredibly high with the quality of their content. Because of this, we receive daily applications from around the world to join the team. But we’re always looking at cool things to do to help incentivize continued participation (including working with industry partners). But to really answer this question, I think it’s important to understand that our Explorers are members of our team because they have a shared belief in our mission. They are local experts, thought leaders, and stewards of the outdoors. We like to think that we help provide them with a platform to receive the audience their work deserves.
You can download The Outbound Collective App for free, and check out some excellent adventures.
All app screenshots Backpackers.com, courtesy The Outbound Collective