The Invention of Outside

Newsweek Life Outdoors 1977.jpg

McDonell talks to Outside magazine about adventure travel before it was a category.

OUTSIDE: In the Outside library, I found an old Newsweek cover story from the summer of 1977 headlined “Life Outdoors.” The cover shot shows two men, two women, four external-frame backpacks, moustaches, perms, short-shorts, the whole mid-seventies deal. Newsweek had noticed the surge of interest in the outdoors, and they mentioned the launch of Mariah. For somebody who’s young right now, it’s automatic that magazines like Outside have always been around. You were there when that leap happened—when people saw the demographics and the trends and where they could go.

TERRY McDONELL: The thing we always said about Rolling Stone was that it was about a lot more than the music. So we had variations on that—Outside was about a lot more than the Sierra Club and nice camping trips, or anything we saw to be kind of square and soft.

At the same time, what we knew—and what I was a fan of at that time—was Mariah. Larry Burke had conceived of it from his own experience traveling around the world, so it had an adventure travel kick to it before there was any such thing as adventure travel as a defining idea. Mariah hinted at expat-ism and everything that’s a little bit dangerous, a little more fun, and it covered going to very far-out, deep places. Outside was going to be about that, too, from the beginning. But Outside also had an environmental-news edge to it. We were very interested in covering the radical environmental movement particularly. And we wanted to be literary at the same time. So I went after Ed Abbey, who of course had written The Monkey Wrench Gang, which was about blowing up a big dam to free rivers.

Read the interview in Outside magazine.