My friends and I are avid outdoorspeople. We spend a lot of time drinking beer around campfires. Much of the time the topic of conversation is other beers and other campfires. If my story holds up around a campfire, it means more to me than if it gets the approval of every editor who ever lived. I founded Bonkers Magazine on the idea that the stories that outdoor magazines tell should be more like the stories that people tell in tents and around campfires.
Bonkers Magazine is a digital magazine about the active pursuit of happiness in the backcountry. The concept is simple: one issue, five adventures. Our philosophy is to go out and do things and come back with great stories. Each issue will have a different theme that inspires the adventures contained within. Bonkers will cover things like skiing, kayaking, and mountain biking -- we don’t want to define ourselves by the type of activity, but our rule is that we won’t cover activities that require a motor or a man-made structure.
The name Bonkers comes from the fact that the adventures we plan on featuring are going to get pretty bonkers. A quick read of our preview issue will show that our stories often go off the rails in ways that are fairly entertaining (although they’re not always entertaining in that moment).
There are outdoor publications dedicated to all activities: skiing, hiking, climbing, hunting -- the list goes on and on. Most endeavour to be at the cutting edge of their discipline. The steepest slopes. The most challenging peaks. The fastest runners. Yet the adventure writing that has endured feels different. John Muir, Edward Abbey, and Jon Krakauer are and were excellent at what they did, but they were not professional athletes. The athletes get faster and stronger. The gear gets lighter and warmer. The cutting edge moves quickly. The skiing in The Blizzard of Aahhh's, considered by many to be the Citizen Kane of ski films, has long since been eclipsed, but the movie hasn’t.
What endures? For one thing, the places. The Alps, Alaska and Utah will always inspire. Interesting people, great reporting, and great writing endure. Truly legendary trips also have a way of inserting themselves into the outdoor canon. We hope to set ourselves apart with our sense of fun and joy.
While Bonkers Magazine is entirely digital, I wanted each issue to be self-contained and feel like a traditional magazine. At the same time, the digital format opened up a whole realm of possibilities. Having fun outdoors is a visceral thing. There are vistas and blue skies and hooting and hollering. If there’s any genre that benefits from a multimedia approach, it’s adventure writing. Everything was built from the ground up to exist digitally, from the table of contents to the final page.
Freed from the constraints of print, we could let our imaginations run wild. For starters we ditched the two page format -- every ‘page’ is in a landscape layout, far better suited to computer and tablet screens. We also ditched a rigid page format, using subpages extensively but keeping linearity. We embraced the use of .gif files and videos in lieu of regular photography. We made extensive use of scrolling text, which is an art director’s dream, allowing us to keep a consistently minimalist design and allows us to avoid off-putting walls of text. Animation and particle effects make layouts come alive. We’re particularly proud of using a video as the cover. A mobile edition was just as important -- half our readers use mobile phones to read Bonkers, and it was important to us that there was no drop off in features or quality between the desktop and mobile versions. Digital publishing also allows us to stay free for our readers -- like other online publications, we plan on making our money from advertising revenue.
Bonkers Magazine is the startup’s startup - everything we do is willed from nothing and held together with duct tape. We made our first issue while travelling around the American west with a pathetically small budget and three quarters of a plan, so we decided to crowdfund our first few full issues using Indiegogo. We slept in tents in 3°C weather to shoot our crowdfunding video. We’ve enjoyed a huge amount of support so far and we’re on track to hit our funding target. It turned out to be the ideal solution to get things off the ground.
Our first full issue is going to be a huge undertaking. It’s going to be an insane summer, but we’re excited by the challenge (and the opportunity to travel and camp). We’re excited for the future of Bonkers Magazine.