3 Outdoor Product Categories to Watch in 2021

3 Sports & Outdoors Categories to Watch in 2021

Lots of consumers took up new outdoor hobbies in 2020. Activities like camping, hiking, and cycling all surged as people looked for safe and active ways to enjoy themselves during the pandemic. Much of that enthusiasm is expected to carry over into 2021, and as the weather begins to warm, shoppers are going to be on the hunt for new outdoor gear.

Here are three outdoor retail categories that we expect to do well in 2021.


Car Camping

Camping is one of the few areas of the travel industry that experienced growth during COVID-19. Back in October, Kampground of America released a report estimating that 21% of leisure travelers went on a camping trip over the summer, 18% of which are expected to continue camping in 2021.

There are plenty of ways to spend a night outdoors, from Glamping in a wi-fi enabled luxury yurt to sleeping in a bag under the stars. Car camping is a nice middle ground between ruggedness and comfort, and over the last several years, it has become an increasingly popular choice among campers.

In 2020, online interest in car camping hit an all-time high, per Google Trends.
Top search terms around car camping included: “car camping essentials” and “car camping accessories.”

As the searches show, car camping is all about the accessories. Roof racks, truck tents, cookware, coffeemakers — there’s lots of gear options for consumers looking to up their camping experience.

Travel options will still likely be limited for most of 2021, so we expect that this will be another big year for car camping and car camping equipment.

Our top car camping brand picks for 2021

Nemo Equipment – Consumers are looking for multifaceted products more than ever before, and the tents from Nemo Equipment are built with design and durability at the forefront. Their products are built strong enough for the car camping site, but ultralight offerings make them a dream while backpacking — making the brand well-positioned for the modern-day outdoor consumer.

Rumpl – As outdoor blankets gain popularity with outdoor consumers, Rumpl has seen a recent rise in popularity by mixing fun and unique styles with unmatched quality. Rumpl’s blankets are just as comfy inside on the couch as they are outside in nature, making them well-positioned for 2021.

RTIC – The expectations of what a cooler should be capable of has increased quite a bit in the last few years. RTIC has proven that it’s possible to give consumers the top quality product they want at a price that’s attainable for a much larger audience.

Jetboil – Eating protein bars for every meal can get old pretty quick — and the modern-day consumer wants options. With a versatile catalog of camp cookware, Jetboil has shoppers ditching their dad’s hand-me-down two-burner for something more modern, efficient, and compact.

Helinox – Comfort and convenience are at the forefront of the outdoor consumer’s priorities in 2021. Helinox makes a variety of innovative camping furniture that offers unmatched quality with half the size and weight of your classic camping chair.



Backpacking is a niche segment of the camping market. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea and requires lightweight, specialty equipment. However, with the exception of 2019, online interest in backpacking has been slowly and steadily growing over the last five years.

Like many other outdoor activities, online interest in backpacking hit a five-year peak in 2020. Interest started to build around March and steeply rose into July.
Popular searches around backpacking mostly have to do with equipment. Top non-branded queries include: “best budget backpacking sleeping bag,” “best backpacking pillow,” and “keto backpacking meals.”

According to Kampground of America’s fall report, 33% of habitual campers and 14% of prospective campers want to pursue a backpacking experience in 2021. If the fall report is correct, 2021 should be another good year for the backpacking industry.

Our top backpacking brand picks for 2021

Osprey – Best known for their ultralight backpacks, Osprey has been positioning themselves as a leader in the backpacking category for years. They offer backpacks in a variety of sizes that are suitable for both thru-hiking and day trips.

Sea to Summit – Sea to Summit is a one-stop-shop for backpacking and outdoor gear. They make everything from wilderness wipes to sleeping bags — and while already fairly well-established, are a quickly-growing brand amongst new and veteran backpackers alike.

Eagles Nest Outfitters – ENO is a leading hammock brand that’s gained a lot of popularity amongst backpackers and campers alike. For backpackers, ENO’s “Sub” line of hammocks are an ultralight substitute for a tent and are great for spring and summer conditions, and their underquilts are the market leader for hammock camping in the colder months.

GSI Outdoors – GSI Outdoors makes a variety of ultralight cookware and drinkware products, suitable for any outdoor adventure. The brand does a great job of creating their products to be cross-functional — light enough for a backpacking trip, but versatile enough for everyday use. As more consumers dip their toes into backpacking, GSI’s value proposition is enough to push them toward the top of considerations for outdoor shoppers.


Hiking Gear

Tons of Americans went hiking in 2020. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, day hiking rose more than any other outdoor activity measured during the months of April, May, and June (up 8.4 unweighted percentage points).

Google Trends echoes the findings of the Outdoor Industry Association. Online interest for hiking started building in April and hit its peak towards the end of May. Interest in hiking remained high throughout the summer and began to taper off a bit in August and September.
Top related searches around hiking concerned hiking locations, hiking outfits for both men and women, and boots for both men and women.

Hiking is probably one of the most accessible outdoor activities when it comes to the general public. It doesn’t require a multiple day commitment, and people don’t need to purchase lots of equipment to do it. A good pair of socks, hiking boots, and a water bottle will see most people through, which is great for brands that sell socks, boots, and water bottles.

We’re in the beginning of 2021, and online interest in hiking is already beginning to pick back up. In fact, January’s Google Trends numbers around hiking are higher than they have been for the last five years. It’s an optimistic start to what could end up being another peak year for hiking.

Our top hiking brand picks for 2021

Darn Tough & Smartwool – Darn Tough and Smartwool are two brands that have been leading the way in sock technology. Both brands produce ultra-durable socks for hiking, running, and casual wear. As consumers become more educated about the importance of the gear they choose, we anticipate higher-end hiking sock companies thriving in 2021.

Ruffwear – Ruffwear makes top-quality gear for your four-legged hiking pals. Lots of people adopted dogs during the pandemic — and with more hikers on the trail, naturally, there are more dogs too.

Merrell – As consumers shift their preferences toward longer-lasting equipment, brands like Merrell are rising to the top. Merrell’s hiking shoes go forever and are gaining popularity among the hiking and trail running crowd.

Fjällräven – Best known for its trendy Kånken backpack, Fjällräven has deep roots in high-quality outdoor adventure gear. Consumers looking for the best of the best hiking backpacks and apparel will find what they’re looking for in Fjällräven’s expansive product catalog.

Hydroflask – While many categories are being shaken up, we don’t anticipate Hydroflask being dethroned anytime soon. As the leading insulated water bottle brand, consumers gravitate to Hydroflask thanks to its high-quality product, stylish brand identity, and legacy reputation.