Being comfortable in the outdoors is second nature to me.
As a kid, my family would load up the camper each weekend, pull it to the lake where we would spend our days exploring the shoreline and our evenings roasting marshmallows around the campfire.
I was in Cub Scouts as a youth and made the natural progression to Boy Scouts at eleven years old. I had always had a natural affinity for the outdoors but it was during those years in Troop 34 (Rome, GA) where my exposure to adventure accelerated. I was part of a high adventure troop and it was here that I took my first backpacking trip.
If I had to identify that pivotal moment that catapulted me into the “adventurous lifestyle”, it would have to be during my years leading up to earning my Eagle Scout award.
Over the ensuing decades, I became a whitewater canoeist, rock climber, mountain biker, snowboarder and a veritable adrenaline junkie. I spent a summer living in the jungle of Argentina studying owl monkeys with a primatologist. I lived an hour away from the Ocoee River (site of whitewater events for the 1996 Olympics) and would spend most Sundays driving to and paddling the river multiple times before heading home. Each summer, I would pick a new destination in the Rockies for a backpacking trip. During the winter, a weeklong snowboard trip was a must. All of the times in between were spent backpacking, paddling and mountain biking in the relative vicinity of my hometown.
When I first started backpacking, I wore cotton gym shorts (and underwear), t-shirt, socks and on humid summer days, I likely wore a rolled red bandana tied around my head to capture the sweat. My gear was a potpourri of an aluminum framed backpack, synthetic sleeping bag from Service Merchandise, closed-cell foam pad and a 2-person Eureka tent. I carried water in a traditional style canteen. We cooked our meals on the campfire. Campstoves came later to our quiver of gear options.
Our weekend trips were extended to often week long backpacking trips which ultimately culminated in our trip to the Philmont Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. This was to be the beginning of my love affair with the Rockies and the western United States. I experienced my first 12-day backpacking trip at Philmont, we also hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon along with visiting other sites like Four Corners, Mesa Verde and Carlsbad Caverns.
During college, I procured my first internal frame pack, a Lowe Contour IV. Upon graduating from college, a friend and I decided to spend that summer out west backpacking in the Rockies. For graduation, I received some premium gear including my first Gore-Tex jacket and pants along with The North Face Aerohead tent. I still have that tent in my gear closet.
As the years passed, my gear closet grew as I researched the latest and greatest from the reviews posted by the editors of Backpacker, Outside and similar periodicals. I evolved from using all cotton apparel to being clad almost entirely in synthetic, regardless of the season. I upgraded to a premium down sleeping bag and a self-inflating backpacking air mattress.
I knew gear specs backwards and forwards.
With all of this gear expertise, I felt compelled to share my knowledge. I began writing gear reviews for local and regional publications. Now, instead of buying the gear that I was using and writing about, companies began sending me gear and my portfolio of outlets grew as well.
I didn’t set out to become a writer. Instead, my natural love for the outdoors and adventure created the catalyst. I owe my humble progression of adventure skills to competent leaders, a few guidebooks, early subscriptions to select publications and a plethora of trial and error.
Today, I feel as comfortable camping along a remote fjord in Greenland as I do staying at a luxury resort. I have traveled to remote off-the-grid locations around the globe with an unquenchable thirst for more. I wish I still had some of that “groundbreaking” gear that I began this lifelong journey with. Not to go backwards, but rather to show the evolution of my gear selection. Thanks to my progression as an an outdoor and adventure writer, my gear closet is overflowing with the latest and greatest from underwear to outerwear, tents and sleeping bags for any adventure, backpacks for short and long trips along with mountain bikes (yes, that means multiple), snowboards, climbing gear and kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUP).
I love sharing my love of adventure with others. When my nephews graduated from high school, we spent nearly a month in southern Peru backpacking the Inca Trail to the citadel of Machu Picchu, sandboarding in Nasca and exploring cultures in this South American wonderland.
Last year, I reconnected with several of the guys that I spent time with during my formative teen years in Boy Scouts. We planned a 3-night and 4-day backpacking trip to the same wilderness area that we spent so many weekends exploring in the mid-80s. Coincidentally, most of us still engage in outdoor adventures as a result of our early experiences.
Over the next few years, I’m looking to do a stand-up paddleboard race from Bimini to Florida, do a SUP first descent of a river in the Yukon Territory, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (my wife plans to join me for this one) and whatever fantastical whims that I can conjure up as I draw inspiration from adventurers and explorers (past and present).