Well this is a huge surprise for me… apparently next week HikeLighter.Com will have been online for a year. I will be having family in town next week for the holiday seasons so I thought I would write up an article now so I can stay away from the computer as much as possible while family is here.
Many of you may remember that I started off using redwoodoutdoors.com, which I started on December 27th 2009 and I have made the decision to no longer use at the start of 2013, so I have actually been writing articles related to hiking for a number of years, guess that would be three years. Before that I exclusively did youtube video reviews for a couple of years under a number of different accounts. It has been fun. I have almost stopped a number of times, but each time I walk away (usually because I am out hiking) I came back with a renewed focus and start something new, which keeps me going for a couple more years.
Somewhere during my time of using redwoodoutdoors the online hiking community started to explode and really started seeking out bloggers and video reviewers, and like a number of other hikers, it was during that time that I really started to see a massive increase in readers, viewers, and other hikers getting involved. As my long time readers may recall I started struggling to keep redwoodoutdoors going. This was because I had become frustrated with the fact that the vast majority of my readers of those articles were weekend hikers and I had lost my zeal for writing about gear and news and cottage stuff that was just for weekend hikers… I needed something, a new outlet, that would allow me to really stay focused on what it was I had become, a long distance super ultralight hiker, that also enjoyed doing extreme ultralight hiking in the summer time while not on long distance hikes. If you have not already done so, I would encourage all of my readers to read how I define basepack weights, as I approach that issue from a much differently then everybody else. So after a lot of pondering on what to do, while out hiking of course, I came up with the idea to start a new website devoted to super ultralight and extreme ultralight hiking. Over the years there have been a few guys out there in the sul/xul world who have created websites focused on sul/xul, but I had never seen any website where regular articles were being published and in blog-style format where readers could share their thoughts.
Throughout the world there are only a half-dozen or so websites on the entire internet that really have substantial content that can help a sul hiker get down into the xul world. I wanted to bring what I had learned and share it for others. I have/had learned so much from those half-dozen or so other xul hikers that I felt it was sort of a responsibility to those guys that I also share what I had learned to try to help others.
When I first made the decision to focus on sul/xul hiking related articles I figured I would loose 99% of my readers that had been following me at redwoodoutdoors.com and my redwoodoutdoors youtube channel. For the most part I did loose a massive audience. What I also expected was that hikelighter.com would probably have no more than a dozen hikers actually follow what was being published – after all, the world of sul/xul is massively small compared to those in the heavy haulers and ultralight world.
However, I have been utterly amazed at just how wrong I was about that. It turns out there are actually a lot more hikers out there in the sul/xul world then I think most of us that are into hiking really understands. I simply cannot count the amount of emails I have received over the last year from sul/xul hikers around the world. Thousands and thousands of them. On average I spend around three hours of my day responding to emails that I receive from other hikers, and probably another hour on facebook (my profile) in the private message area corresponding with hikers (thankfully I do not have a tv to waste away my life sitting infront of) and the amount of knowledge I have gained from other hikers over the last year has been truly amazing!
It has also been amazing to be a part of helping other hikers break into the sul weight of hiking. And to help sul hikers go from sul down to the xul level is just mind-blowing – it takes such a huge change in thought process and experience to get to that level and be able to do so safely.
Over the last year I have had a lot of hikers from around the world ask if I would go in a specific direction with my articles. I have also gotten a lot of requests to write more articles. I have also gotten some complaints from hikers asking why hikelighter does not have a lot of articles, to which I kindly reply letting them know that hikelighter is not even a year old. I remember one guy a half year or so ago was trashing hikelighter.com on a couple of different websites because I only had 20 or so articles. Well, at that time I had been writing on average five articles a month! There are very few hiking blogs out there that have the kind of in-depth articles that I write, that push out five articles a month. The few that do, man do I love those guys and their ability to bang out the articles!
This one year celebration article is my 40th published article here at hikelighter.com – that is an average of 3.3 articles a month, for the first year of this websites history.
I had wanted to get to 45 articles by years end but I had a couple of articles where I invested a couple hundred hours of research into them – such as my SUL/XUL Solo Fully Enclosed Shelter Comparison and the Two-person Sub 900 gram Fully Enclosed Shelters articles, both of which have become the definitive go-to-resources for the lightest of the lightest solo and two person shelters. Each of those articles have spanned the globe, being talked about in forums and blogs in languages I do not know, but I am thankful that google chrome has an automatic translation tool built in so I can read what other hikers are saying about those articles.
My two part article on the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Jacket has also been the go-to research for those looking and contemplating purchasing it. It is the third most read article on the website.
My article on the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filter has been the second most read article – it along with two other highly respected hiking bloggers have resulted in probably tens of thousands of those water filters being sold, and there is no doubt at all that when it was discovered that the Evernew Water Carry Bags worked on the Sawyer Squeeze that a mad rush of them being purchased ensued. Within four eight hours of my posting about that, three of the four main suppliers in the usa had sold out their stock. A day or two later a couple other bloggers posted about it and the last main supplier with some in stock sold out within 24 hours. Now every cottage company is doing everything they can to get their hands on both the Squeeze Filter and the Evernew Water Bags.
Those out there that think internet bloggers are not a driving force in outdoor gear sales need to either close up shop or move into the modern world. Here is my response to them: a single article I wrote, earlier this year, accounted for over ten thousand dollars worth of sales for a single cottage company. Another one of my articles caused a cottage owner to sale out of his entire supply in under 12 hours and brought him in over three thousand dollars worth of sales in the initial twelve hours and another two thousand dollars over the next week. One of my more recent articles caused yet another cottage owner to have to hire two additional part time staff in order to fill all of the orders they received in a timely manner. One cottage manufacturer has been totally unable to keep a product that I have reviewed in stock (and I am the only person on the internet that has a detailed review of the product) and each time they have another batch ready they sale out within 24 hours, netting them over six thousand dollars per batch – and they have easily sold over twenty thousand dollars worth of just that single product this year. This might sound as if I am bragging, and I suppose in a way I am, but what it shows is that the hiking industry needs to wake up to the fact that super ultralight and extreme ultralighters hikers have a buying force behind them, and are willing to spend big big money in order to obtain the lightest and best gear that we can.
Over the course of 2012 I have designed two products that have been brought to the market and are being used by hikers around the world, and I have had the honor of becoming a sponsor of Black Rock Gear and a Trail Ambassadorship of Gossamer Gear – thank you to both of you!
I really want to say thank you to all of you out there, whether you are a sul/xul hiker, or a heavy hauler or an ultralight hiker, that have taken the time to read my articles and post your comments. It means a great deal to me when other hikers comment on my articles, as any writer does. Over the course of this first year of HikeLighter being online I have only had four submitted comments that I did not approve to be publicly viewable and that is just amazing. There will always be haters out there, just how some folks are, but the encouragement and feedback and amazing comments that I have gotten this year have really touched my heart, so thank you!
From a statistics perspective, I think the most interesting one that I have is how many times the different cottage companies have had people visit their website from here at hikelighter.com – to me that really shows what the focus is by those who read my articles. It is no surprise that ZPacks is at the very top of that list. Coming in at second place is Six Moon Designs. Gossamer Gear takes third place. Black Rock Gear takes fourth place. Montbell takes fifth place. Mountain Laurel Designs take sixth place. Hyperlite Mountain Gear is in seventh position. Klymit, Trail Designs, and Suluk46 close off the top ten. Simblissity, mentioned only once or twice all year, came out of no where and almost got into the top ten, probably a result of my end of the year cottage update article where I mentioned them as being the “biggest news” now that they have re-opened their doors. They are one of the cottage companies I mentioned above about having their entire inventory sold out within 24 hours of my article being published.
All in all it has been a fun year for me. I hope it has been for you too! As some of you may know I suffered a rather severe injury to one of my knees earlier this year that resulted in me having to cancel two long distance hikes and stopped all development of a 400 mile trail that I am developing. It has been a painful year and lots of hoping beyond all hope that things will be good enough for me to get back out onto the trails in 2013. This injury has allowed me to work closely with a number of cottage companies this year to develop products, to do prototype testing, and to be apart of bringing a number of new products to market, and refining existing products. I cannot mention names, but to all of you out there who I have had the honor of working with this year in those ways, thank you for allowing me to be apart of what you are doing! It is unbelievable fun to be able to sit down with cottage owners and manufacturer and hash out all of the issues involved in bringing a product to market – and perhaps even more fun to be involved in making changes to existing products to make them better, lighter and easier to use, for those who, like myself, are super ultralight and extreme ultralight hikers. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thank you to all for an amazing first year of HikeLighter.Com!