Why Dirtbags ❤ Stickers

By Outdoor Prolink Editorial Intern Sara Aranda. Sara likes to climb, trail run, travel, adventure, test gear and write all about it. She currently lives in Yosemite.  

The scene: Back at their car, climbers unpack their gear from a day at the crag with a ruckus of clanking metal and thumps from water bottles being tossed around. One of the climbers grabs a Nalgene, a scuffed and well-endured testament to their ongoing adventures. Plastered across its sides are an assortment of stickers from their favorite outdoor gear companies, local breweries and coffee shops. The other climber drags out a large plastic tote and begins to refill it with gear from his pack. The tote is also haphazardly decorated with stickers of logos and artwork.

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Photo: Lindsay Butcher

I’m a huge fan of stickers too. My own gear totes, water bottles, and even my laptop, are covered with stickers. Stickers are synonymous with the Outdoor Industry. So do us outdoor gear junkies just love to promote the companies that make our adventures possible? Or is it something more?

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“This is my new MiiR tumbler that I specifically ordered in silver so I could cover it with stickers. Marking it as mine and making it unique to me – I can’t resist a good sticker!” – Melanie Loseth

Climbers, surfers, yogis, runners, skiers, cyclists: we all enjoy sharing the feats and experiences we undergo, and of course, many of these activities are made possible by the products that are inherent with the sport, like a yoga mat, trail running shoes, and a surfboard. We develop brand favorites and may even rep names in hopes of being recognized as an ambassador. Some, however, only use stickers to make sure others keep their paws of their Nalgene.

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Stickers are truly awesome: they can be mementos from National Parks, venues, coffee houses, shops, or some may just be words dictating a reminder to enjoy life and just…be happy. When I contemplate why I like stickers, I find that not only are they just fun to stick to things, but I love seeing the logos of the gear brands I use and trust for the sports I love. These brands make climbing and trail running possible for me, and I enjoy repping them.

“[Stickers] just make ordinary camera cases look cool and they tell a story about what kinds of things you like.” – Jackson Carpenter

It also seems to be a culture among climbers to display all the brands they love – not in a boastful way, like showing off what you can afford, but as a beacon. Traveling around, I am more likely to approach someone who has climbing stickers I recognize than someone who doesn’t. Why? Maybe it’s a stereotype, but I feel like those who know particular brands will more likely know the sport, and the chances of them being a great climbing partner for the day (or a like-minded friend) are higher than approaching someone with no climbing identifiers.

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Photo: Sara Aranda

I think my generation (millennials) especially likes stickers because of the self-identifying qualities. We want to make our possessions truly ours in this mass-produced, gross-tourism, max-consumerism world we live in today. We don’t want to always be like everyone else and stickers allow us to personalize our possessions. My generation is also defining new alternative lifestyles, escaping materialism, and often traveling more and farther than our parents.

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Photo: Kim Jacobs

Van dwelling and professional adventurism is now a more accepted thing. Careers don’t always have to be in an office (as many Oudoor Prolink members know), telecommunication is becoming more common, and we’re proving how a happy, healthy, and relatively successful lifestyle can include as much time ‘playing’ as ‘working.’ For me, as a freelance writer and gear tester, playing is definitely needed for my ‘job’ and I am definitely not alone on this career path.

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Photo: Gail Bitondo

So why are other groups not as drawn to stickers? I think it’s because of what is defined as modern in the city. Many people these days like things clean and void of identifiers, everything is cookie-cutter perfection, and clutter-free. Clutter and disorder is seen as a poor habit. Well, compare that to the majority of those living their lives in the outdoors, and well, it’s a different story.

“My water bottle has been my security blanket when at work (currently) or traveling around the world. My stickers are almost all from my hometown and remind me of where I’m from. The other side consists of more beer/brewery stickers (Odell OF COURSE!) and some other stores/shops from home. If I lost this water bottle I’d need some serious traumatic therapy!” – Thomas West

I think people who love the outdoors enjoy some chaos and discord every once in awhile – isn’t that what defines our experiences in the wilderness? Builds character? So why not throw some stickers on a water bottle – life is short, ain’t it? We’re more accustomed to the ebb and flow of the wild and pristine order just isn’t a reality. I can still be super organized and keep a clean house, but I’m definitely not going to deny the urge to decorate things with stickers.

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Photo: Sara Aranda

A Nalgene is merely a plastic container, but with all of my stickers, it’s something I’m attached to. Stickers are the perfect ultralight souvenir for those on a dirtbag budget. It’s a strange power that a sticker has, but its purpose, more a less, is to be a reminder of the life you live beyond material and day-to-day things, to inspire you to just get out there and chase the wonders of the world.

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