About 6 years ago I fell in love with backpacking. It was my first overnight ‘backcountry’ camping trip, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Along with a group of friends, I packed my newly bought Dick’s Sporting goods filled pack up the Mist Trail at 3pm with 4+ liters of water. By about 8pm we made it to the designated campground, a whopping 4.3 miles. We were destroyed. Everyone in the group was complaining, or had the 1000 yard stare. We had only gotten to the base camp, and still needed to get up in the morning to continue UP, to Half Dome. Before the night was through my right knee had basically locked up, I decided there was NO WAY I could make it up to Half Dome, let alone up the cables the next day. Long story short, I made it. But I had a lot of slow walking time to realize two things…
I was in love.
And woefully unprepared.
So I did what I do when I face any obstacle…Googled it. What I found was that there are quite a few amazing backpacking/climbing/trekking communities out there, and I’m not the only gear junkie. I quickly found the gear trade forums, and felt as though I had stumbled upon a treasure trove…that was a huge pain in the ass to really filter or use in a consistent fashion. I kept missing things I REALLY wanted, because the post slipped by. That Bearikade Weekender you’ve always wanted, but couldn’t get yourself to pay retail for? Yea…they sell within minutes on BPL. You better be fast, and lucky.
I knew I could fix this problem, and set out to do so.
My background is that I’ve been a web developer for ~10 years now. I’ve been building tools to streamline my workflow or business needs from the start, and saw this as an opportunity to build something fun for myself.
The first version of lwhiker.com was just a very basic aggregator of a few sub forums that I wanted to keep an eye on. Next I added a simple email that would get fired off to me if any of my ‘keywords’ were found in a new post. It worked…almost too well, I realized that there was a TON of GREAT deals on really great gear out there that I had been missing due to just sheer volume of posts. I thought that I should at least open the system up for people to be able to use if they wanted, and it turns out…they did. A few hundred people have now signed up to use the notification system which has sent out nearly 2,000 emails at this point.
A few days ago I rolled out a new version of the lwhiker.com website. It’s been completely rebuilt on a whole new platform, and much more ‘modern’ in technical terms. It’s faster, more secure, more accurate and most of all…easier to find what you’re looking for.
But it’s also much more. Part of my passion for the gear is the small businesses behind so many of the community’s favorite products. These ‘cottage’ companies, people making incredible products out of their garages…turning them into real businesses and product lines. I love that, and I hope to help promote those companies and products – along with the lightweight philosophy – with the brand and product integration that’s been built into lwhiker. There are currently over 200 manufacturers listed in the system, and 400+ products already added. Registered users are able to add both manufacturers and products to the system, allowing it to grow with the community. When these brands or products appear in a forum post that is picked up by lwhiker, the thread will be ‘tagged’ with the brand or product so as to be easily found for anyone looking for those specific things. If you go to the “Tarptent” brand page, you’ll see its products as well as threads tagged to it. The same goes for a product page, for example, the Tarptent Notch. All threads, reviews, product information, etc is listed for each product in the system.
I hope to continue development on the system for as long as people continue to get good use out of it. I’m always up for feedback and ideas, feel free to comment here on the blog or head over to the contact page and shoot me an email.