Social distancing prompts increase in outdoor adventure


CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — As COVID-19 precautions move people from indoors to outdoors, sporting gear manufacturers report increased interest in outdoor adventure.

For the past 16 years, Josh Helke, founder and president of Organic Climbing in Philipsburg, has made customized, sustainable rock climbing and mountain biking gear.

Before the pandemic, Helke says indoor rock climbing gained popularity. It was the first time the sport would be included in the Summer Olympics and urban areas were jumping on the trend by opening indoor gyms.

When Pennsylvania went on lock down earlier this year, he says those business goals took a turn as more people shifted to buying hiking, running, and biking gear.

“When their indoor fitness facility closed… [athletes] were really like jittery and jonesing to keep their workout going,” says Helke. “Immediately we saw a lot of them go from indoor climbing to trying to learn outdoor climbing.”

Joining the dedicated outdoor adventurers are many new faces too, according to Helke.

“It’s pretty neat to see how many people were exposed to the outdoors through this,” says Helke. “All of a sudden everyone is sitting at home and needs to get out for mental health.”

He says he hopes the community will take outdoor sports as an opportunity to explore all the local area has to offer.

As more people get out in nature, Helke encourages the community to think sustainable and preserve the natural land.

“As a business, we’re trying to be good advocates for the resource and not just take from this opportunity.”

And with colder and snowier months approaching, he says customers are already preparing to continue this outdoor trend by building training walls in their own backyard.

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