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An aerial shot of OSU-Cascades campus

Immerse Yourself in the Outdoors & Earn an Outdoor Products Degree in Bend 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re huge fans of gear here at Geartrade. So, it makes sense that our ears perked up when we heard about the new Outdoor Products Degree at Oregon State University Cascades in the outdoor mecca of Bend. The Outdoor Products degree program, “combines product commercialization, lands stewardship, and experiential learning to educate and inspire future leaders for the opportunities and challenges in the outdoor industry.” Students can choose to enroll in the program as either a major or minor, with the expectation to find jobs from product designer, developer, Product Line Manager, Director of Sustainability, or as an entrepreneur and inventor following in the path of industry titans like Yvon Chouinard and Jake Burton Carpenter. Bonus—you get to live in Bend, Oregon while pursuing your four-year degree. 

Residence Hall. Photo by Hannah O'Leary. Dining Hall

We spoke to Geoffrey Raynak, the Executive Director of the Outdoor Products Degree, to learn more about this new degree and how the focus on sustainability is integrated into the program. 

Raynak explains that the whole intent of the degree program is to provide students with, “an entire field of view of what it takes to create a new product, from innovation to concept design: product line management, design chain, front of house, back of house.” He adds, “Then the idea is, if you want to be, say, a product manager, then you’re so much better at being a product manager because you understand the goals of everyone from the CEO to the design team—as well as understanding the pain points of each group, which lifts everyone.”

Sustainability is integrated into the whole curriculum, which includes topics like the right to repair, recycling, circular economy. Raynak points to a specific class—Outdoor Product Failure, where students study products that have failed, from major recalls, to their own experiences with product failures. In one instance, students bring their broken gear into class, “The question is then asked is, ‘How did my ski rack break,’ and the idea is, ‘If I know how my ski rack broke, it would be nice if I could fix it,” shares Raynak. The students take away learnings across the board from product design to customer service. The hope is that the product can be built not to fail, and if they do fail, brands can offer repair parts to allow repairs. “One buckle on your tent shouldn’t ruin your entire PCT trip,” offers Raynak. “Relatively easy do-it-yourself repair—that’s the sort of mindset we’re trying instill from the get-go!” 

OSU feature on students working with Wanderlust Tours, which takes small groups into remote natural areas while maintaining a low impact on the environment. It was awarded the Oregon State University Austin Excellence in Family Business Award in 2007.

Other classes include Outdoor Products Design and Development, Sustainability Assessment, Operations Management, Experiencing Outdoor Product Designs (divided into both a Land and Water class), Recreation Resource Management, Product Ecosystem Connections, and more. The degree program follows a set path initially, then students can customize the program in their final year through a partnership program and senior project. Raynak explains that students are encouraged to identify a brand they’d like to work with for their senior projects, either in Central Oregon or more distant. The program is well able to facilitate these connections for the students the degree program was designed with input from more than 30 outdoor industry leaders and innovators from brands including Hydro Flask, Black Diamond, Columbia, Kialoa Paddles, Metolius Climbing, Nau, Nike, Patagonia, and Smartwool, many of which continue their involvement through the advisory board and in supporting programs like the senior project. 

These senior projects exemplify the range of opportunities this degree offers. One student participated in physical product design with a well-known brand. Another student project featured a complete reworking of a brand’s packaging toward sustainability—not only the point of sale packaging but also the process of coming from manufacturers in shipping containers—the whole supply chain. Raynak says the student was able to take a micro view of “Every single time something comes in a box, plastic or both, what does that look like and how can we stop using those things?” Another student took the lead in auditing a brand’s energy footprint and environmental impact, a first step when brands sign the OIA Climate Action Corp pledge (of which Geartrade is a member). Raynak says, “Some brands here in Central Oregon are growing so fast that they have a hard time looking left, right, or laterally to find the time to do an energy audit. So, all of a sudden we have a cadre to help them learn about their environmental impact.” 

OSU Cascades Move-In day, Sept. 2019. Bend, Oregon. Photo by Rob Kerr

The first class graduating from the Outdoor Products Degree class will be in the Spring of 2022. A class of innovators educated to champion a responsible systems approach to product commercialization with respect for our natural world. An all-around win for the outdoor industry.


Annie Fast writes about winter sports and outdoor adventures from her home in Bend, Oregon.You can read more about her and her work at


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