The Extra Mile
The expression is self explanatory, the act is not. As a solo long distance traveler, I rely heavily on whatever kit I take into the field. Some of my kit is sponsored, but most of it is purchased with hard earned dollars. I expect it to work, and when it doesn't I expect gear companies to stand behind their product and go the extra mile.
I write this post because of a story that unfolded this past week. Some of you may know of Andrew Badenoch, aka 77zero.org, Fatbikerafting the Arctic. Andrew ran a very successful Kickstarter program, then had a few set backs, but eventually set off into the field for the adventure of a life time. If you have been following his updates, then you already know that Andrew has suffered serious setbacks from logistics, weather, and his body.
I tuned in last week to hear Andrew talking about his shoulder and hands and how he was losing all feeling in his digits. In everyday life this is a problem, in the middle of British Columbia this is a huge issue. I followed the conversation for a day or two and then suggested that if Andrew needed a new pack, I would gift one to him. I have become an Ambassador for Hyperlite Mountain Gear and I immediately thought that one of Mike's packs would be a perfect fit for Andrews needs. I also knew that since it was a small shop, the probability of Mike being able to tailor a pack to fit Andrews specific needs was very high and something that could be done very quickly.
Even though I am an Ambassador, I had no intention of asking Mike to donate a pack. My goal was to get Mike involved so that I could purchase a pack for Andrew and get him sorted out. Well as you can guess by the title of the post, Mike was adamant that he would sort this out. Mike fully understood the situation that Andrew was in and he wanted to help a fellow Adventure Traveler. He was willing to go the extra mile, do a great deed, simply because it was the right thing to do. I can honestly say, I am proud to be using and representing HMG not only because of the quality of their products, but because of their commitment to doing the right thing.
HMG is not alone in this ethic. Three years ago, in the middle of Alaska my tent poles became jammed to the point that I had to strap them to the sides of my kayak. They simply would not come undone. North Face, overnighted me a new set of poles at no charge. They earned my respect and my business. Two years ago my pole issues struck again, this time with my Bibler Bivy. Once again, Black Diamond stepped up, no charge, overnighted me poles. Later my Tripod bivy developed problems and they replaced it. In neither of these cases was I sponsored by Black Diamond or North Face, they just did the right thing.
Two years ago, Nigel Dennis heard of my issues with my beloved NDK explorer. He met me, shook my hand and said "well, lets get you a new Kayak". At the time Nigel and I had never met, but he understood what I was trying to accomplish, 3300 miles solo up the Atlantic, and he did the right thing. On the same trip, my much used dry suit from Kokatat had become badly damaged and they went the extra mile to sort me out, insuring that I could safely paddle the cold waters of the north east. Lastly, just this past year, my Surly BB was on the fritz. A series of emails and phone calls and Surly overnighted parts to a TX bike shop and covered the repair costs. I was not sponsored by them they just did the right thing.
So when you go to make a choice on what gear you are going to buy keep these things in mind. Cheap gear generally leads down a painful path. Gear made by companies that are dedicated to their product, the industry, and the craft, are more likely to support you or your fellow traveler when and if the unthinkable happens. This is especially true of cottage shops where you can actually build a one on one relationship with the people making your gear. Getting to know them makes it a personal affair.
I am forever indebted to the kindness and generosity of the companies and individuals that have helped me along my journey.
Lets all keep paying it forward