Vancouver Island Needs to Gear Up for Outdoor Gear Boom

New initiative aims to promote local gear economy

Did you know VanIsle has more than 50 outdoor gear design and manufacturing companies?

Pat Deakin wants outdoor gear brands to bloom and boom on Vancouver Island.

Deakin is Port Alberni’s economic development manager. Last October, he went to Kimberley for the KORE Outdoor Rec-Tech Summit.

KORE stands for Kootenay Outdoor Recreation Enterprise, and its mission is economic diversification. The non-profit was launched in 2021 with the goal of growing the outdoor gear sector in the Kootenays, attracting talent, and finding ways to support small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Today KORE has more than 40 members. Among them are makers of tents, backpacks, clothing, climbing gear, skis, snowboards, and many other boutique products.

Deakin said he was blown away by the summit. It featured presentations from entrepreneurs like Golden-based Dan Durston, of Durston Gear, and Dustin Adams, founder of We Are One Composites in Kamloops. Each shared their homegrown business struggles and success stories.

Deakin was so impressed that he returned to Port Alberni determined to do something similar on the Island. He thinks it’s a natural fit.

“We live, work and play in some of the most beautiful and breath-taking scenery in the world and in a very safe and accessible place,” Deakin told VanIsle.News. “Everyone I know is into some kind of outdoor recreation and we all have these huge and enticing backyard playgrounds.”

The building blocks already exist.

Kevin Pennock, KORE’s project manager, did an industry scan to see who was doing what on Vancouver Island. He discovered more than 50 new and well-established outdoor equipment and clothing brands. These include NOBL Wheels, Salt Legacy, Kindred Snowboards, Nimbus Kayaks, AquaQuest, Forbidden Bike Co., and the list goes on.

“I think it astounding that this large and rapidly growing sector has been ‘sitting under our noses’ for all these years,” Deakin said.

These are early days for the initiative, but Deakin said several communities and entrepreneurs have reached out to confirm their interest.

By mid-February, he hopes to be sending a survey to as many Vancouver Island gear designers and makers as he can find. His goal is to gauge the level of interest and collaborate on drafting a mission statement.

“From those responses, we’ll develop a Vancouver Island version of KORE and gear up.”