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OUTDOOR LIFE

Introducing Columbia’s New Tough Mother Outdoor Guide

In honour of our fierce founder, we’ve revamped our outdoor guide to bring you in-depth stories and expert advice for all of your outdoor adventures
In 2010, Gert Boyle was returning to her home one night when a strange man appeared in her driveway. Approaching her in the shadows, he offered her a fruit basket and asked for an autograph.

Moments later, the intruder brandished a gun and ordered the 86-year-old face down on the ground, attempting what police later identified as a plot to kidnap her for ransom.

But her would-be captor didn’t get far. Before he had the chance to do anything, Gert managed to summon the police to her home, convincing her attacker she needed to disable the alarm system and instead pressed a panic button. As the police were wrapping up the crime scene work, the local chief of police arrived. 'How are you doing?' the chief asked Gert. 'I was doing great until you showed up wearing that North Face jacket,' she replied. Two days later, she was back at work.
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Gert Boyle (aka 'One Tough Mother') was a clever, no-nonsense lady with a great sense of humour who became the face of Columbia Sportswear’s ad campaigns in the ’80s and ’90s. As the brand launches its newly revamped Tough Mother Outdoor Guide, Gert’s spirit lives on.
The story above summarizes Gert in a nutshell—quick-witted, tough, feisty, resilient—and always hardworking. The founder of Columbia Sportswear, who passed on in 2019 at age 95, certainly lived up to her nickname as 'One Tough Mother'.

Those who didn’t know her by name often remember her from the iconic Columbia ads that ran in the ’80s and ’90s—the tough-looking lady in the magazines who sported half-rimmed glasses and faux tattoos and did funny things on TV like run her son over with an ice surfacer or send him through the carwash (all in the name of product testing, of course).

Commonly referred to as “Ma Boyle,” she wasn’t an actor. Gert was a real-life person, and using her son as a human test dummy wasn’t the only way she made people laugh. She was relentlessly clever. She loved cracking one-liners and, even in her 80s, she was always up for a spicy joke. Being an immigrant who fled Nazi Germany as a child, she had a tough-as-nails attitude and her zest for life was infectious. As we launch Columbia’s newly revamped Tough Mother Outdoor Guide, we’ll have Gert’s spirit front and centre. Whether it’s through impassioned personal narratives or simple how-to guides, our goal as we move forward will be to tell stories as unique as our founder was. Here are a few of Gert’s traits that we hope to carry on.

Wit and Personality

Gert had a brazen sense of humor that blended sarcasm with razor-sharp wit. Not only that, her comedic approach was one-of-a-kind—this was a woman who strapped her son to the roof of her car and drove through a rainstorm for laughs. In the same way that Gert injected her personality into everything she did, we’ll do the same with our Tough Mother Outdoor Guide. In lieu of dull outdoor tutorials, for example, we’ll interview real-life people with funny, heartwarming, or inspirational stories. We will strive to be engaging and we’ll make sure the information is presented in a way that’s not only useful but also entertaining. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Gift Ideas For People You Just Don’t Get
  • Ask The Pros: Wesley Locke On Fly Fishing For Tarpon
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    Gert’s comedic timing was on point in many of the commercials that she and her son Tim Boyle appeared in together. In them, she subjected him to funny 'product testing' experiments, such as sending him through the carwash and running him over with an ice resurfacer.
    'It’s perfect. Now make it better. ~Gert Boyle, Founder of Columbia Sportswear

    Commitment to Excellence

    As fun and humorous as Gert was, she knew when to be serious too. Her commitment to excellence was on display in everything she did. In fact, when new and improved products would drop, she would say: 'It’s perfect. Now make it better.' We’ll do the same with the Tough Mother Outdoor Guide. You won’t find us cranking out makeshift content—each article will be fully formed, well researched, factual, and entertaining. Our goal is to create a place to store the best, most reliable outdoor articles and information on the internet. Here are a couple of recent stories:

  • In A Post-Quarantine World, Nature Is The New Gym
  • How Science is Making Winter Jackets Warmer Than Ever
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    The Columbia Sportswear founder was raised in the Pacific Northwest and had a lifelong connection to the outdoors. The advertisement above is one of many iconic clips that highlighted Gert's wit and sarcasm, as well as her attitude about being outside.

    Connection to the Outdoors

    Gert had deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, which resulted in an inextricable connection to the outdoors. It was a connection she wanted to share with others and what drove her tireless quest to improve outdoor products. When you read the Tough Mother Outdoor Guide, you’ll be reading stories written by people who are bound to the outdoors just like Gert. We’re not sitting in cubicles somewhere; we’re living, breathing outdoor junkies just like you.
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    In addition to her business savvy, Gert was a woman with a lot of heart who donated to charities and gave her time to those she loved.

    Boldness

    Boldness ran deep in Gert. She was a woman who wasn’t afraid to try new things, and she didn’t have time to be concerned with what others thought of her. At the Tough Mother Outdoor Guide, we’ll follow the same mantra. We’ll tackle challenging outdoor issues and we won’t be afraid to have hard conversations. In fact, we’ve already started:

  • The Uphill Climb: Bringing Body Inclusivity to the Ski Industry
  • A Woman Alone in the Wild: 12 Principles of Solo Hiking
  • Accessibility

    Gert wanted everybody to be able to enjoy the outdoors, not just an elite group of super athletes. She never bought into the idea that the outdoors should be reserved for special segments of the population with unlimited resources, abilities, or technical savvy. In Gert’s mind, spending time outside wasn’t complicated and we don’t think it should be either. In the Tough Mother Outdoor Guide, you won’t find overly technical articles or a bunch of jargon. We promise to keep things simple and never act like gear snobs.

    Heart

    At the end of the day, Gert was more than the tough, no-nonsense lady you saw in the advertisements. She also had a lot of heart. A loving mother and a devoted grandmother, she was a great listener who was full of kindness and compassion. She was also immensely generous, donating regularly to charities and giving her time to those she loved. To carry that energy forward, we will be opening dialogues with real people and having authentic conversations. We will listen to your stories and deliver heartfelt articles in return.
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    Another one of Columbia Sportswear’s older advertisements that put Gert’s knack for a good pun on display.

    We'll be covering these main categories:

    Gert’s 'No Way' List

    Now that we’ve told you all of the things that we are going to do with the new outdoor guide, it’s worth mentioning some of the things we aren’t going to do. We’re talking about all of the nonsense you find online that Gert would have hated. And since she’s our founder, we’ve sworn never to write about any of them. Here are five articles you’ll never see in the Tough Mother Outdoor Guide:

  • The 'No Duh'—Those common-sense articles where you waste five minutes of your life before realising they don’t contain any information that’s not painfully obvious. 'Oh really, I should wear a warm coat in winter? Thanks so much.'
  • The 'Seriously, Who Wrote This?'—When it’s clear that you know more about the subject than the person who wrote the article. (If they have to Google it first, they probably shouldn’t be writing about it.)
  • The 'Shameless Plug'—Those sneaky stories that dupe you into believing they contain unbiased information, but halfway through you realise they’re just trying to sell you something. If we think you need a product, we'll recommend it. But only when it’s actually a helpful resource for you.
  • The 'Obvious Clickbait'—As with the 'Shameless Plug', these articles have alternative motives—they exist only to increase their web traffic. You can tell because they’re long-winded and full of unnecessary keywords. We vow to focus on quality over quantity.
  • The 'Giant Yawn'—Lastly, these are those overly technical outdoor gear articles that contain useful information but are so dry and boring that you can’t keep your eyes open. They have all the facts, but you don't want to read them. We’ll keep things interesting and make sure you don’t nod off at your computer.
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    Gert was a bold leader who took chances and didn’t care much what other people thought of her. Columbia Sportswear’s new Tough Mother Outdoor Guide will follow the same guiding principles, offering one-of-a-kind stories and having conversations about issues affecting the outdoor world.
    As we get deeper into the new year, we hope you’ll follow what we’re doing at the Tough Mother Outdoor Guide. You can find all of our stories on Columbia Sportswear’s Tough Mother Outdoor Guide website. We are excited for what’s to come.

    As Gert would say, 'Stop wasting your time on the internet. Go outside and enjoy yourself.'