Historically, participation in expeditions was limited to explorers, scientists, the very wealthy, and the occasional free thinker or lost soul brought along for logistical support. During the past several decades, there has been a dramatic shift in this demographic with participation no longer the purview of a privileged few. Today, individuals of all ages, from a wide variety of cultural, professional, and socioeconomic backgrounds regularly participate in expeditions and “expedition-type” activities. Several factors have contributed to this change. Development and advances in equipment have increased participation in such activities as backcountry skiing and snowboarding, flat and whitewater kayaking and rafting, mountain biking, mountaineering, orienteering, rock climbing, scuba diving, and trekking. In addition, safe, efficient and affordable travel has extended participation in these activities to the far reaches of the globe. Combined with economic prosperity, these factors have helped fuel the multibillion dollar adventure travel industry providing easy access to expedition and expedition-type activities for a large number of individuals.
During the past several decades, there has also been growth in the popularity of endurance events including marathons, triathlons, multiday bicycle rides, ultramarathons, and ultra-triathlons. Increased participation in these activities has resulted in a larger number of events being held each year with greater diversity in the type of events held.
More recently, the growing popularity of adventure travel, endurance events, and expedition-type activities has given rise to “expedition-type events” that combine aspects of all of these. Adventure racing or multisporting is perhaps the most popular and fastest growing example.