Text by Toby Skinner / Photography: Liz McBurney
Conventional wisdom once had it that people concerned with style and good design lived in cities, while country bumpkins went camping, mountain biking and climbing hills.
If that idea still exists at all, it’s thoroughly debunked by The Outsiders: New Outdoor Creativity, a new book from trendy German coffee-table publishers Gestalten, whose stated goal is to reach “aficionados of cutting-edge visual culture worldwide”. It’s both a series of essays and photography about the outdoors, and a showcase for innovative outdoor brands around the world, from Denver’s Topo Designs to Denmark’s Nordisk tents.
Though edited by a Brit and published in Germany, The Outsiders was conceived in Norway. Editor Jeffrey Bowman is an illustrator who is doing a research thesis on the outdoors and its influence on visual culture. In 2012 he was teaching at a college near Manchester, in the UK, when one of his students suggested he might like her hometown of Hemsedal.
“I originally just went for two days but it was a revelation to me,” says Bowman. “I ended up falling in love, and spending a summer and two winters there. A lot of it is the culture. There are a lot of young, creative, savvy people going out into nature, and the outdoors lifestyle is ingrained, with more of a focus on a work-life balance. It’s a mix I found inspiring.”
Hemsedal, says Bowman, helped form the concept of The Outsiders, which was co-edited by Gestalten’s Sven Ehmann and Robert Klanten. It’s a bit like a high-concept magazine in book form, with elegant product spreads and lots of cool ideas, from hanging tents to foldable kayaks and driftwood surfboards. “We wanted to showcase honest brands that really live the kind of ethos we’re talking about,” says Bowman.
The aim of the book, he says, is less about being hip and more about democratising the outdoors. “It’s about inspiring everyone to get out there – an adventure doesn’t have to be some unattainable, life-defying challenge, as the recent microadventure trend has shown.”
There’s also, he says, a form of digital detox behind the book. “In many ways, the modern urban lifestyle has cracked,” says Bowman. “Young people are saturated with phones and social media and they’ve started to feel a disconnect. People are starting to see the simplicity and beauty of just being out there.”
Hemsedal is four hours’ drive from Oslo; Norwegian flies to Oslo from more than 100 destinations. Book flights, a hotel and a rental car at norwegian.com