outdoor gear packaging

Here’s the Problem With All That Outdoor Gear Packaging

We've been very fortunate to live during a time when the hunting and fishing gear we use is on the cutting edge of the absolute best it can ever be. Long before each season begins, manufacturers have already thought about next year and the year after that in an effort to bring us the newest gear to change the game once again. Unfortunately, few of them have yet to find a way to reduce the packaging that our gear comes in—packaging that is necessary to protect it—and that's a bummer. Of course, they can't sell us gear that is broken or damaged, but so many of these items aren't all that easily busted anyway.

Can manufacturers tone down the packaging, still give us the same quality products, and possibly save some money and environmental impact in the process? With emphasis on recycling, up-cycling, and the reuse of packaging, we feel like the outdoor industry has begun to see the light and we're hoping that it will catch on everywhere.

An Excess of Packaging

Outdoor gear packaging

Craig Raleigh

Not all that long ago we reviewed the new Zenon MG-LTX casting reel from Abu Garcia and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the fishing season. The only issue I had with it right off the bat was the exorbitant amount of packaging that it came in: the shipping box, the manufacturer's outer box, the inner box which was two boxes combined, and the interior plastic clamshell that the actual reel was finally in.

That said, this product is not a big box store reel, but an expensive piece of fishing hardware that will last a lifetime for the user that takes care of it. The same goes for things like binoculars, rangefinders, riflescopes, radios, and trail cameras since they are all items that need to be protected. When we consider all the gear that comes wrapped in the form of hard plastic, clear plastic, and styrofoam it can make us squirm. A reel box we will likely keep, but every one of those cardboard backed, hard plastic blister packs used for everything from crankbaits and stickbaits to deer attractants and two-way radios ends up in a recycling center or the landfill.

Leading the Way

outdoor gear packaging

Craig Raleigh

There are ways to recycle and reuse if you're an outdoor lover. We can reload and reuse shotshells and rifle rounds, recycle fishing line, and use sinkers made from non-toxic materials, but it all comes down to choice. Some manufacturers have seen the light and become the leaders in outdoor equipment that is not only made from sustainable materials, but also comes in packaging that is completely recyclable and even biodegradable. The lightweight liner jacket in the above photo is from Beyond Clothing and is a prime example of outdoor gear made from post consumer recycled content, and it was sent to me in packaging that has nearly nothing to place in the garbage. Other good choices are products from Patagonia, Marmot, Rumpl, Goal Zero, and Big Agnes just to name a few. These manufacturers make plenty of items out of recycled materials—not just clothing. The best part is that they also include these items in packaging that is easily recyclable to be used over again.

These companies also demand that their suppliers and vendors use transparency to hold them accountable for ethical practices for worker protection and diversity, as well as lower their need for raw materials that can have an effect on the environment at the front of of their product. Goal Zero, which creates off-grid power sources for campers, requires that over 10 factories they use in nine different countries comply with environmental and human rights standards to create their renewable energy gear. The act of aiming for carbon neutrality doesn't mean that any of these companies are there yet, but converting packaging goes a long way towards being environmentally friendly.

More outdoor gear companies are offering us these greener, more sustainable options. When we go hunting or fishing we hold each other accountable for things like following game laws, bag limits, and season dates. We should hold each other accountable for other things too, and this is one of them.

Please check out my book "The Hunter's Way" from HarperCollins. Be sure to follow my webpage, or on Facebook and YouTube.