Gareth Richards is passionate about the outdoors. He’s spent his entire life pursing that passion as both an active participant and an instructor for NOLS and Cornell University. It was as he was helping to teach others how to connect with the outdoors in a more enjoyable and meaningful way that Richards first became aware of the influence that professionals can have on the buying decisions of outdoor enthusiasts.

“Students didn’t just want to know what kind of gear to buy for a particular trip, they wanted to know the exact brand and model that I thought they should buy,” Richards said. “And inevitably, that’s the exact brand and model they’d show up with.”

Time and time again, Richards saw what a valuable resource outdoor professionals were for people seeking advice on gear, clothing, and equipment, and in 2004, he launched Outdoor ProLink as a way to help make that kind of industry insight and experience much easier to come by.

Richards understood, however, that before industry professionals could help other enthusiasts make informed purchasing decisions on outdoor gear, those professionals needed to have access to a wide assortment of top-quality equipment. And, in order for them to actually try out that equipment in a professional capacity, they had to be able to afford it. So Richards created Outdoor ProLink as a membership site where anyone who is employed in the outdoor industry – from guides and athletes to distributors and retail sales clerks – can sign up as a professional and receive significant discounts on gear from some of the most recognized brands in the industry including La Sportiva, Osprey, Thermarest, Scarpa and many more.

“It’s really a win-win situation because we’re helping to promote their brands and also helping to make sure their products get into the right hands of the professionals who can influence the buying decisions of all the people they come in contact with,” Richards said. “These brands understand that there are so many benefits to having a pro-discount program, but they also know that it takes a tremendous amount of time and resources to manage those programs. By outsourcing the management of the program to us, it frees up their customer service team to take care of their customers.”

The team at Outdoor ProLink is focused on fun.

The team at Outdoor ProLink is focused on fun.

The manufacturers also benefit from the program because the outdoor professionals that Outdoor ProLink helps them connect with can provide the manufacturers with valuable feedback on the products and offer insights into ways those products could be improved.

“There’s no one better to give an opinion on how these products work because these guys are out there using them every day,” Richards said. “They know what works and what doesn’t, and they aren’t afraid to tell you exactly what they think.”

And it isn’t just the manufacturers who are benefiting from that knowledge and experience. Through Outdoor ProLink’s blog, Dirtbag Dreams, professionals can offer reviews of the products they use as a way to provide honest insight to outdoor enthusiasts who are looking for advice on what gear to buy.

“These outdoor professionals are a wealth of information,” Richards said. “And we made this site because wanted to create a community of professionals who can pass that knowledge on to the public. Because when they do, everyone benefits.”

Especially all of us dirtbags who are just dreamin of the life those outdoor professionals get to live everyday.