A couple weeks ago, I had the extremely fortunate opportunity to attend The Outpost, an experimental concept from cause marketing agency Uneri that was created out of frustration with standard industry trade shows.
The theme was Outdoors and brought together a curated group of like-minded brands, creatives, artists, and athletes for a three-day retreat. The idea was to give these influential attendees a different opportunity to connect and build long-lasting relationships that can help their businesses thrive.
The inaugural event took place on Chanslor Ranch in Bodega Bay, California about 90 minutes drive north of San Francisco, although it was not limited to locals. I met attendees from New York, Chicago, LA, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Portland, and more.
Participating brands like Rumpl, Barebones, and Goal Zero had their products woven into the camping experience with founders and representatives there to give informal demonstrations of the products. Besides a few personal items, attendees did not need to pack any gear. Organizers had even created forums for those in the Bay Area to carpool in together, which turned out to be an amazing way to go. In my ride, I got to meet some really great people from LA and Chicago who had flown into San Francisco for the event. There’s just something about spending a couple of hours together in car driving the beautiful California coastline that helps you bond. Or perhaps it was just being hungover on winding Highway 1 curves, trusting that your new friends would be there to get you through.
Upon arriving to check-in, we were assigned camp areas and safari tents that were outfitted with sleeping cots, sleeping bags, pillow, blankets, portable chargers, and coolers fully-stocked with Goose Island IPAs. While waiting for everyone to arrive, we ambled along the ranch property while sipping on our cold brews and greeting new friends under the golden light.
Before we knew it, the sun had expired and a pizza dinner was served. Only it wasn’t your typical greasy, white box fare. It was prepared right in front of us from a large portable oven. The lengthy wait, although not intentional, gave us time to meet folks who had just arrived fresh from their work weeks. The interesting thing was that although I didn’t know very many people beforehand, everyone there seemed to have one degree of separation from someone I knew very well. These were all people I wanted to connect with.
As dinner came to a close, throngs of stars lit up the sky and we were ushered over to a stage to relax on Chillbo Baggins to some ambient electronic sounds.
The next day was full of activities we had signed up for previously online or the evening before. I chose surfing and cooking with fire, but there was also a nature walk, kayaking, outdoor skills, photography, van life, wood carving, and more.
I personally hadn’t surfed in 5+ years since I lived in San Diego and was stoked to get back in the water, even if I was essentially starting from scratch. Proof Lab provided longboards, wetsuits, and instructors for a quick lesson and took us out into the water, helping everyone catch a wave successfully. I didn’t want to leave the beach that day, but an impromptu camp had been set up with tunes, snacks, and drinks, so I lazed about before heading back to the ranch and then into town for a gargantuan burrito. I was reminded that there isn’t much better in life to me than sunshine, surfing, burritos, and a cold beer.
It had already been a successful day by my standards, but I then attended cooking with fire and Go Westy Van Life 101 informational sessions to learn about two topics I knew next to nothing about. I learned how to cook a piece of meat using nothing but a piece of wood and some fire, and exactly what items were essential to the van lifestyle.
Not having had enough of the beach or the fishing vessel still beached upon its shore, I met some Noise Pop folks heading back down for sunset. We brought some blankets and beverages, and chatted indie music to the backdrop of one of the best sunsets in recent memory. It was the perfect precursor to the night of music that was to follow.
By the time we got back to camp, dinner was being served and we gathered on long tables to dine under lantern light. I met a few more interesting people I had not chatted with yet.
I had just enough time to set my belongings back inside the shared safari tent before we were heralded over to a not-so-secret whiskey lounge set up in the woods. Being the Curious George that I am, I had already explored the wooded nook during the day, but was surprised how many people could actually fit in the space. I found my carpool mates and attempted to slow down my consumption because I was already feeling great.
Next, we got word that Terry Malts was playing a set in a barn on the property. Everyone left for the show where the organizers said a few words and Elemental Awareness shared a touching film about their work to give urban youth an opportunity to experience the outdoors. People stayed around for the set, but many left soon after from exhaustion (of the best kind). I crashed hard for a solid eight hours of shuteye.
The next morning I felt surprisingly great. While many people caught a few extra ZZZs, my tent mates and I headed up the hill to basecamp for Equator Coffee and granola breakfast. Despite the tired eyes, smiles and laughter lingered as goodbyes were said and we packed up.
My carpool made a brief stop at the beach and took some photos before hopping back on the road and getting caught in the standard Petaluma traffic. An In-N-Out pitstop was necessary. As we crossed back into San Francisco from Marin, the Blue Angels soared over the skyline, further demonstrating my love/hate relationship with the military exercise. When outsiders visit your city, there is this responsibility to show them a good time. I was happy that things had gone so well for our Chicago friends.
I know I am incredibly lucky to be treated to an event like this. As my buddy Gregory Han pointed out after seeing some photos, the outdoor industry can exhibit exclusivity toward white privilege because it’s still not something many minorities grow up with access to OR a place they feel welcomed. Although I do not identify as white and there were a handful of mixed race or non-caucasian ethnicities represented, it was mostly white and we can definitely do more to make these experiences accessible for anyone that’s interested in the outdoors.
From an event standpoint, I couldn’t have been happier. I had one of the best weekends of an anxiety-riddled year for me, and made a bunch of rad friends I want to stay in contact with. I don’t know if brands will be able to measure the event’s influence, but I only have positive associations with the brands that made that weekend possible. And hey, I’m telling you about it, right?
For more on the event from a marketing/business angle, check out my coverage on PSFK.