Recently I’ve read criticisms in several places that I’m “profiting” off of backpacking and that my primary motivation now is to “make money.” Some have been embedded in unnecessary and baseless personal attacks made by individuals with whom I’ve never been in the same room. I suppose this may be a good opportunity to start growing thicker skin — as something of a public figure, I’m aware that this sometimes comes with the territory. But while I find the personal attacks easy to dismiss, I struggle more with the questioning of my integrity and motives.
I considered whether to even dignify the criticisms with a response. While I suppose I now have, it’s more in a spirit of openness and transparency, not defensiveness. Three years ago I disclosed exactly how I make a living as a professional adventurer, and here I want to share some additional facts and perspectives.
Before I even take on the core question of this post, let me ground this conversation in reality, or at least in mine.
I’m supporting my family, not “profiting.”
Faceless, ruthless corporations seek profit. I simply want a roof for my family of three (me, Amanda, and fur child Oden), keep food on the table, and take an occasional vacation. Furthermore, I have no interest in earning more income than our expenses necessitate — the pursuit of infinite profit only interferes with the things that I actually want to do. While I enjoy my work, it’s still not as fun as actual play.
Passion motivated me, and still does.
I chose this lifestyle because I love it — talking about it, writing about it, reading about it, teaching it, and most of all doing it. If my goal were simply profit, I’d be a fool for having chosen this career when there are far more lucrative, reliable, safer, and easier options out there.
We’re not rich.
For most of my 20’s, my income was well below the poverty line. (Go, Duke!) My financial situation has changed recently, but it’s still within the range of average compared to other married couples without children and of the same age, race, education, and work ethic. We lead a modest lifestyle: we feel fortunate to own our home in Boulder; I drive a 2005 Pontiac Vibe with nearly 90,000 miles on it; we know all the happy hour menus in town; and we got married in our backyard for a cost of about $5,000. Extravagant? Definitely not.
Want an unconventional career? Be creative and resourceful, and work hard.
You won’t find my job on Indeed.com. Instead, I had to be much more entrepreneurial about it: I identified opportunities, sunk my own time and money into unguaranteed business ventures, and worked my ass off. If you own a business or receive multiple 1099-MISC forms each year (and no W-2’s), or know well someone who does, I’m sure you can appreciate what was involved. Overall, I prefer being my own boss, but some days I long for a stable paycheck, paid vacation time, and co-workers to share the workload and to help flesh out ideas.
Long-term, it’s counterproductive to be motivated by profits.
Suppose today that I convince you to buy a shelter, since I will get a small commission on that sale. I know it’s not the right shelter for you, but I pitch you on it anyway because it’s money in my pocket. Will you trust me again when you are shopping for a stove next month? No, you won’t, and you shouldn’t. Long-term, my authenticity and credibility are my most valuable assets. Without them, I would not have the trust of my community and I would be damaged goods for a partner like Sierra Designs. There is no price for which I’m willing to sell out.
The core criticism seems to be that monetizing a passion is somehow wrong. A related charge is that those who do cannot be trusted because their actions become influenced by money. (See #5 above for my reaction to that one.)
This charge seems so obviously hypocritical to me that it’s surprising it’s made. To those who have slung that mud: Are you willing to work for free? Probably not, and neither am I — for me, backpacking is not a hobby, but my career and my livelihood. And, fortunately, it’s something that I love to do. They need not be mutually exclusive.
And I’ll actually go one step further: I am thankful that other individuals have merged their passions with their careers. Many of the resulting products and services have been enormously beneficial to their respective communities. And their contributions are far greater than those made by individuals for whom their passion was a pure hobby.
Do you read daily posts by Philip Werner of SectionHiker or Joel Gratz of OpenSnow? Have you used a Yogi guidebook, or laughed hysterically at Mike Clelland’s illustrated books? Did you attend a slideshow by Appalachian Trail speed record holder Jennifer Pharr Davis when she was in town? Have you joined Geoff Roes at his running camp in Juneau? Have you watched Sage Canady’s instructional running videos on YouTube? Did you buy some of your gear from Ron Bell at Mountain Laurel Designs or Chris McMaster at ULA Equipment? Do you engage the forums at Backpacking Light (Ryan Jordan) or Appalachian Trials (Zach Davis)? Have you been inspired by Anton Krupicka, Alex Honnold, or Cameron Haines?
Certainly, these individuals could have held onto a “real job” and dedicated their remaining free time to their passion projects. But since they can’t pay for food, their home, or their children’s tuition bills with “personal satisfaction and fulfillment,” ultimately they took their passion to the next level due to the prospect of generating income. They should be applauded for that, not hypocritically criticized for their approach or falsely charged of perverse intentions.
It’s ridiculous that people question a motive on this topic. Unless you’ve seen Andrew working firsthand you cannot comprehend the dedication to and mastery of his craft. He works with equal parts passion and purpose. Like any other entrepreneur he is charting a course that makes sense for him personally and professionally without the benefit of a pre-existing roadmap. You don’t owe anyone an explaination or detailed finincial budget. Run your business, follow your dreams, and keep doing an awesome job at both those things.
Not only do I support what you’ve done, I’m very jealous of it. When one considers what you have done in order to earn the credibility to be successful, there is no way one could suggest you haven’t earned it!
I think people often have a difficult time imagining others who have found a way to earn income and enjoy what they do. Somehow their perception is that they must have “sold out” to accomplish such. It is a way for them to feel more “normal” for living in the misery they experience day to day.
I applaud your effort. While I have not approached the level you have with my paddling, I hope to accelerate the process as a means of income during retirement. The passion for me is to get people in the out of doors. If they never experience it, they will not care about it. Once they experience it, it remains a highlight of their life experience. Paddling is the way I most enjoy doing such.
Exchanging value for value is one way our economic system functions. If you are not providing value, the market will allow you to continue to live in poverty. As you continue to provide value, meet a need, your success continues.
I applaud that because it is business at its purest combined with passion and mission. Ignore the trolls, continue the work. There is nothing better than getting up in the morning and knowing you make a difference in the lives of people, all the while you are getting paid. Difficult, absolutely. Rewarding, beyond imagination.
I visit your webpage regularly, and when I saw this article, I couldn’t help but be compelled to submit a comment. I do not want to waste much time writing a long description of the people criticizing you, and will only say that they must be of a lower character than yourself.
Unfortunately, 99.9% of us are not afforded the luxury of not having to work and earn a living to support ourselves and our families. I think one of the greatest things in life is the ability to take your passion and turn it into an honest day’s pay.
On a personal level, I would not be as interested in backpacking as I am without the contributions you have made. Backpacking and day hiking has become something by 2 boys (15 and 11) and I share, and has brought us closer together. It is also the same reason, with the contributions you have made to ultralight backpacking, why my boys and I can pack a bag for an overnight trip, knock out 30 miles, and still have my boys asking when’s the next trip as we drive home.
I truly hope that not one sentence of negative criticism deters you in any way. Any products or advice I have read from you, have been spot on. I have never once regretted buying a product that you have recommended, and have never once felt like I wasted my hard earned money. I know you will continue this integrity in whatever opportunity you take on.
Great post- I think that there is a profound overestimation of the amounts of money involved with these sorts of arrangements, but there is also, I think, a fundamental misunderstanding (within the forum/blog posts, etc.) of what the consumer should be taking away from any kind of athlete “sponsorship”.
Especially in this field, personal preference, personal needs, etc., are going to (or at least should) dictate our purchases more than any endorsement or general idea of “what’s the best X?” ever should.
Where the real value comes in, I think, is that input/commentary from someone like you is useful for getting baseline information on a product, its durability/reliability, and its capabilities. Should I buy an MLD Solomid because I saw a picture of you using one on your Alaska trip? Of course not, and most people would consider that to be a poorly reasoned decision. If I was looking for a light, bomber shelter that could withstand tough conditions in harsh terrain, would I take into account the fact that you used one and seemed pretty happy with it? Of course. It would take a rather cynical viewpoint to assume that choices on critical gear for a months-long, intense trip would be made based on an endorsement deal.
Short version- I would never buy a piece of gear simply because I saw a figure I respect using it, but it’s certainly a valuable vote of confidence. I’ve read the Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide enough times that I can certainly see the appeal for you in having a close-knit design relationship with a gear manufacturer.
Anyone who accuses you of profiting from your passion is clearly not in a position to follow their own. It’s your passion for what you do that makes you so successful. It’s why people enjoy reading your blog posts and taking advice from you. It’s why people sign up for your expeditions. Granted, there are people out there who are too preoccupied with money, but they usually get found out for what they really are eventually. For you, knowing what you’re talking about comes from a love of the game, not from the desire to turn a profit. Making money doing what you love is called entrepreneurship, and it’s a quality any self-made man (or woman) can appreciate and admire.
Hey Andrew, crazy that anyone would even question you on this. All I can guess is that they don’t know you, have not really thought it through and are jealous that they were not able to work their passion into a profession like you have. I for one really respect what you have done and continue to do and wish you the best with your endeavors. If only more people could/would follow their heart instead of chasing the almighty American materialistic dream, then we certainly would live in a happier society.
I’ve found that people who are less than satisfied with their own choices and motives are the ones usually finding fault with others. Jealousy is evil and divisive. It’s also harmful for the person harboring it, because it holds that person back from productivity and its rewards.
Personally, I’ve always held the highest respect and admiration for you, Andrew, and others like you who give up security and certainty in order to walk your own path. I find it INSPIRING that you took your passion and made a livelihood from it. It is NOT easy. It is incredibly difficult to make your own way without security and benefits. My husband, as a musician, made the same choices until our daughter turned two. I’ve watched the behind the scenes struggles to live an unconventional dream firsthand.
Far from being criticized, you should be applauded. Good job! Yay for you! You didn’t settle for a soul sucking job behind a desk crunching numbers. (How dare you!) You had an idea to make your passion your livelihood, and YOU made it happen.
This world would be a better place if people stopped spending so much effort being critical and instead spent more time loving and lifting up, supporting. It’s a hard path in a wild place full of ups and downs. We all need a hand at some point…and we should all be a hand at some point.
I have long heard a truly blessed person is one whose avocation is also their vocation. Three cheers to you! I would gladly pay for your expertise.
You’ve nothing to justify. I admire your courage, creativity and determination. Mental health advice: pursue your bliss. I suspect your critics are some combination of small minded, scared, and jealous.
Andrew, you are making a living doing what you love, to the benefit of others. Ignore the ignorant. Hike your own hike is also a solid metaphor for life.
Well said, Andrew! I think you’re to be admired for turning your passion into a career. How many people are lucky enough to do that? Do the people who wrote you say the same things to everyone who loves their job? Probably not. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s people like you that drive the outdoor industry (and it IS an industry) forward.
I also agree that it seems strange that anyone would question your motives or integrity at this point. If you started pushing 8-hour energy drinks or bubble gum, I’d be less impressed. As you mentioned, I’m sure Colin Fletcher Ray Jardine made money from their reputations and experiences, so what is the problem?
I certainly appreciate the folks that post blogs and post (after all of the work to prepare) backpacking videos for free, but at some point people need to make a choice depending on their circumstances and interests.
The educational & entertainment value I’ve gotten from you over the years is appreciated and worth whatever I paid for your book or items I might have bought at Campmor after your talks..
Well spoken Andrew.
Owning two small business’ of my own, I find being with people who are passionate about what they’re earning a living from to be invigorating. People who are unhappy doing what they spend most of their waking hours doing are tiring to be around. People who go about ‘stepping on other peoples toes, well, they’re very difficult to be around.
More people need to understand that getting ahead in life by doing what is naturally within them to do is the finest form of success.
You’re doing good. Keep on being as you are.
Bravo for taking on the critics, whoever they are. These must be very unhappy people to fret over how you make your living. I admire what you have done in turning a passion into a viable living. If it wasn’t for the happy souls out here who enjoy your work, you could not do it. We don’t support you ( I have your ultra-light hiking gear guide) out of charity. We actually think you know something that we can use. Best of luck in the future, and continue to be proud of your accomplishments.
Good post, Andy. People who criticize you do so out of a probably subconscious jealousy. Everyone has a right to pursue their passion and make a living doing something that they love and find rewarding. More power to you for finding a way to do that.
Andrew, we are thankful for the inspiration and knowledge you provide. Wish you could make more.
Honestly, if more of us could profit from our passions, it would be a far better world we live in. Too many people are miserable sitting in cubes and not doing things that matter to them. Living a life that gives free rein to exercise a life of meaning and passion can’t be compared to anyting else. The idea that making money somehow sullies the experience is odd to me.
Great writning, keep up what your are doing.
These accusations are totally ridiculous…..keep on keepin’ on….these accusations also says, indirectly, that all those people who come to you to learn are stupid and easily-swindled. I am a teacher—its my passion—so I shouldn’t get paid??!! I suspect that many of the people who make this accusation are doing jobs that they don’t have a complete passion for…
Don’t worry about those kinds of comments. In general they are made by people who wished they thought about it first. In regards to making recommendations, no one makes the best recommendations all the time. I wish that was true of my broker! Instead we identify people with character and a proven long term track record and we go with their recommendations, those recommendation change over time and yours will too, no need to apologize for it or defend it to anyone.
Sorry to hear that these comments got to the pitch that you even had to say this. But glad you did and I absolutely agree with your remarks and especially JV’s comment that those making these noises have their own insecurities and personal issues they’re projecting.
I’ll add they should probably spend less time making logically challenged and vitriolic criticisms of you/a person they don’t know from behind a keyboard and maybe more time out on the trail doing fun and meaningful stuff.
Keep up the great work.
Haters gonna hate!
People cannot be pleased. Whatever one thinks or believes is fact and the rest of us be damned. The interwebs allow us to all voice our criticisms anonymously which is a blessing and a curse. Here’s to all you do for backpacking! Keep it up and thank you. Signed a middle aged wanderer who finds motivation when I read your work.
What you have described is unfortunately the way of the world. The vast majority well understand the points you’ve made in this blog entry. The ones that do not understand never will, because they do not want to. Trying to explain things to them is not worth the amount of life it will cost.
I sometimes amuse myself with a quote from a Swedish author, who considering different kinds of criticism encountered, quipped:
Even if you just write a story about a needle, you can be sure that there is some one-eyed bastard who will feel hurt… 🙂
About three year’s ago, by brother introduced me to your works in the field of ultralight backpacking. He had invited my sixteen year old son to hike the JMT with him, and I was researching equipment and best training methods. I knew virtually nothing about hiking, but my brother has a couple JMT hikes under his belt, along with extensive treks throughout the Sierras and Alaskan wilderness. Your passion and excitement really motivated both my son and myself to get into hiking. I applaud openness on the subject, and thank you for playing a part into introducing my family to the world of outdoor adventure.
I’ve faced similar issues in my own career, and this is also a common rationale underlying arguments against attractive compensation for people who are in “caring” services–nurses, child care workers, teachers, etc. It’s baseless and counter-productive as it ignores the social value of the work. Great write-up–too bad it had to be driven by other peoples’ negativity.
p.s. am I the only one who gets performance anxiety when I have to do math to prove I’m not spam?
Well said. I wish folks knew how hard we work and how much our families sacrifice in order for us to be “outdoor entrepreneurs.”
Thanks for doing what you do! Your recommendations have been spot on for my husband and I every time. We have bought several copies of your Gear Guide and share them with friends at every opportunity.
The sad reality is that every idiot has internet access these days, and feels entitled to opine and unleash their ignorance on the rest of the world. I don’t think you need to explain yourself to anyone, just keep doing what you love and inspire the right kind of people. Rabble-rousers and riff-raff have existed since the dawn of time.
I don’t typically comment, and until I noticed where you went to school I was in agreement with you.
You went to Duke though. You deserve the hate.
Boy, that is one thing I miss living in Boulder. Superbowl Sunday, most go skiing. And CU just does not have the rivalries like those in the ACC.
My distaste for Duke has dwindled since Maryland left the conference.
Who am I kidding. I still despise your school!
Eat that hate Skurka, eat it!
Ha! This is my favorite comment on the entire thread!
You have explained this issue very well. There are simply some people who are leaders, and there are some others who are whiners. I have long known you to be among the former.
C’mon, Skurka. You don’t deserve happiness and financial security. You should be living in a van down by the river. Haha. Well-written article, man. If Jim were to ask you if you are satisfied by all the encouraging responses, your response would undoubtedly be “How could I not be, Martin?” My favorite quote of yours from college (after 1500 at NC State meet).
So the new definition of “sellout” is anyone with the brains and hard work to turn their passion into a vocation? Nonsense. If that’s the case, then every professional musician, athlete and artist – for starters – is a sellout. Like someone said above, only unhappy people are fretting over how you make your living. Frankly, I’m shocked anyone would care how you make money, as long as it’s not by force or fraud.
Also, I certainly hope that you ARE seeking profit like those “faceless, ruthless” corporations you mention. Businesses seeking profit is an inherently good and necessary thing. With profit, they can grow their businesses, employ people, pay taxes, take care of customers, give to charity, and return money to their owners. Without it, they cease to exist. What good did GoLite’s bankruptcy do for the lightweight backpacking community? None. If “faceless, ruthless” Andrew Skurka Adventures LLC doesn’t make money, before long those of us who rely on that venture to further our backpacking passion will no longer be able to do so.
Andrew, I haven’t read the critical posts, but they seem infantile. You are just like the many other pros that earn a living by sharing their expertise in an outdoor field. I’m excited by your collaboration with SD both because I expect you’ll improve their designs (which is much needed) and because their relatively affordable products reach a lot of people and therefore result in more people hiking in a better style. The real tragedy here is that our society places so much value on mainstream sports and so little on outdoor sports. I find your work and trips far more impressive than that of a 250 lb baseball slugger or urban athlete with a massive salary. Keep up the great work!
Living in abundance and loving what you do is nobody else business but yours. If you love it, do it. The universe always seems to flow abundantly to those who love themselves and their passions produce that abundance. What anyone else thinks about that just simply isn’t any of your business! hahaha
It’s not wrong AT ALL. If you can profit from it then it is a bonus, big time. How many professional athletes profit from playing their passion, how many musician, actors….the list can go on. More power to you if you can make a few bucks.
Ignore the haters on BPL. Winter is silly season on that website.The frustration of finding excuses not to go out rather than embracing their surroundings spills over into vitriolic posts that seek to denigrate others and accomplish nothing positive. Sadly, RJ’s lack of stewardship of the site does nothing to snap those who avoid the 4th season out of their complacency.
As for what you’re doing, I applaud you for doing what you love, living the life you wish… and being able to call Boulder your home. With more than a third of the town being trustafarians or otherwise financially independent, it makes it that much harder for the rest of us to call this place home. Most of us have to make sacrifices. And all to often that means doing less of what you love in the hope that you’ll be healthy and wealthy enough to play catch up in later years. Having recently witnessed two colleagues felled in their prime by ALS, the deferment strategy seems to be based on flawed logic.
Do what you love, and monetize it? Heck yes! And don’t ever feel you should have to apologize.
There is an old joke that may apply to your career choice. “How do you make a small fortune as a guide?” “Start with a large one!”
As a recovering gear seller, I can attest the sporting goods / outdoors industry is a tough path to sustainability. It is an incredibly crowded field. Really, despite people who grouse over the costs of a backpack, sleeping bag or skiis, there is little money to be made in gear compared to the fashions that reflect a lifestyle. Guiding becomes more lucrative only after you can get other guides to work for you.After all, you can only be leading one group at a time.
If you carve out your own niche and can sustain yourself, put a little away in the bank and teach people a few things while minimizing impact, well, more power to you.
However, I believe it’s only natural that scrutiny results from associations or partnerships with businesses. Plenty of athletes regularly endorse products and services, that is nothing new. But I am under no illusion that the are being compensated for those services. I don’t suspect that your moral compass is going to be redirected on the basis of a small tent commission, but it is completely valid to question whether or not the person is being completely truthful in assessments based upon the remuneration.
I think your track record speaks for itself. You’ve worked hard to establish a business based upon a body of work that is second to none. Your expertise is well known and respected. And you’ve had to learn to guide – which is a lot different than doing that which made your famous in the hiking world. Teaching others is HARD.
As far as I can tell, you’ve been always affable and have taken the time to answer questions from the hiking community. Heck, it’s nice so many hikers have the opportunity to benefit from your experience first-hand. Good luck to you!
I’m grateful for real, talented, people behind small businesses in this country that offer such excellent programs, products, or services – like you offer Andrew. Thanks for what you do – i hope many others will have the opportunity to engage in your guided adventures or have the chance at least to participate in one of your talks.
Andrew- I think this is bit of an overreaction here. No one is really calling you out. If you read the thread in question on BPL you’ll find that to be the case.
Was not primarily BPL. The discussion there was mostly encouraging, though still enough of a concern there that I wanted to get ahead of it.
If I could’ve sent you back in time to 1999—but with the experience you’ve had since—then I wouldn’t have had to buy new lightweight backpacking gear to replace my old SD stuff.
You get paid, mainstream gear shoppers get lighter, more thoughtful gear. Sounds good to me.
(Oh, and thank you for not raising the price your guided tours to match the demand! A tangential point, but noteworthy.)
Clearly, you are in the pocket of the Pontiac Motors Company*, and their lucrative Previously Owned Vibe** division.
*You don’t really believe they’re “out of business”, do you?
**Coincidentally, a couple I hike with me own one, too. Honest. Our last big trip was the Wonderland Trail last September. Your Ultimate Hiker book helped me keep my pack weight down. Great trip!
I’ve never paid for anything from you, but I’ve benefited a lot. I’ve followed your website, read blogs, and learned a lot that has benefited me in my backpacking adventures. I emailed you and you responded… free of charge.
I’ve not found a single person that works for free. You have a right to do so and should be proud of what you have done. I would expect that you have inspired many to be active, healthy, and environmentally friendly. Thank you for taking our passion, making it public, and making a living off of it.
My hope is there will be so many responses to this message that those that flung mud will be compelled to apologize.
Thanks for inspiring me and many others. GO ANDREW SKURKA!!!!!!!!
I Have Been Following You For years, Watching You Mature While Achieving Incredible Goals. From The Very Beginning I Was Struck By Your Spirit Of Generosity And Willingness To Share So Much With OtherS By Allowing Free Access To Your Wonderful And Informative Website. I Am Thrilled That You Can Finally Make A Decent Living Doing What You Love. You Have Worked Hard. You Deserve Any Success You Enjoy. I Am Sorry You Felt You Even Needed To Address The Issue.Keep Up The Good Work!
A quote from Gore Vidal comes to mind in times like this: “It is not enough to succeed; others must also fail”.
Good on you for the SD opportunity. Enjoy it and, like all opportunities in a career path, let it be a building block for other opportunities as well.
Your reasoning makes complete sense, but the system we live in has got to go. Profiting and making money shouldn’t be concerns for anyone. This is 2015, and I think we can do better than competing against each other for resources. We can have cooperation. Stick a wrench in your cog of the machine!
I heard a guy say, “The intersection of your greatest passion and your greatest ability is your sweet spot.” You’ve found it and have figured out how to make your living doing it. Bravo! Do not be ashamed to prosper as you get better at your craft. There is nothing ignoble about providing better for yourself and your family as you are rewarded for your hard work. Keep it up!
[…] Skurka unnecessarily defends himself against making a profit in his occupation. What do you think about what he […]
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
I think any grumblings you may stumble upon may have a hint of jealousy that they’re not in the same position that you’re in. Congrats on your achievements and where they’ve gotten you.
We quit our soul-sucking jobs to live the dream…the world would be a much better place if people could do what they love for a living. Thanks for all you do for the outdoor community.
You haven’t sold out. Quite the opposite. You’ve stepped up to work with a mainstream manufacturer to build better gear for outdoor adventurers, that will benefit us all. I wish you ever success working with Mike Glavin and his team at SD. They’re an energetic, can-do bunch that’s reinventing backpacking gear and selling it through major outlets like REI. I expect great things to emerge from your collaboration together and hope it will spark an industry wide revolution in the type of gear that SD’s competitors produce as well. Onward and by all means!
Such a deep topic. I admire you for bringing it to light.
If a person is to live as a part of society, money is necessary.
He or she must choose a way to attain money.
Some people maintain a cognitive bias regarding “respectable” professions, but
scrutiny can be applied to most professions, if one wants to do so.
Thank god not all people choose a normal path.
Keep doing awesome stuff, for the reasons you see fit, and tell us about it! (and make a living!)
As someone who attended your Sea-to-Sea presentation at REI in Santa Ana many years ago and who has followed your adventures ever since, I must politely disagree with those would might be tempted to accuse you of ‘profiting’; you are not ‘profiting’ any more than a doctor is profiting from his years of medical school or any other professional profiting from their experience and education. You interned on the AT, the Sea-to-Sea Trail, Great Western Loop, Alaska-Yukon, and many other journeys, journeys where you honed your skills. The number of people who have spent more time and hiked more miles in the wilderness, all the while refining their craft, are very few. Along the way you have freely shared your experience, gear lists, and hard earned lessons learned as well as being an inspiration to others. (You were the person that opened my eyes to the advantages of ‘lightweight’ packing, as well as the pitfalls of ‘stupid light’.) No where in your writings do I see you “selling out’ (e.g. changing/subverting your core values for material gain) rather you seemed to have found what many people spend their entire lives trying to find; that perfect position where you are receiving appropriate compensation to what you would be doing anyway.
One of the failings of far too many people is they cannot be happy with other peoples success, especially in areas where they wish they themselves were successful or if they perceive the other person as a threat in some way. The other person’s success must be somehow tainted. In your case, since they can not challenge your work ethic, they must impugn your motivations; something they have no direct knowledge of. But since jealousy and envy are not rational, the illogical nature of their position is lost on them.
May you have continued success in all your endeavors.
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. ”
― James A. Michener
When I first saw the title of this article, I came over here to post the comment “screw what others say or think Andrew!”
Within your introduction I could already see I needed to change my comment.
What I have seen around the internet the last few days directed at you have been an utter shameful act by the backpacking and athletic communities.
I have a good part of my life over the last six years designing products (count is presently at 7 products) for the hiking community — gear that people use probably ever weekend that have no idea I designed it. I have never made a penny from it. Is that stupid of me. Perhaps. Probably. It could have gone to pay for health insurance I suppose. Rather I have not because, like you, there is an aspect to this vibrant community that is about giving back.
Like you, I had to find a way to supplement, to find a way to keep the bills paid. I got lucky. I had a media company want to me guide them into some areas to do some videography for their client. Now, three or four times a year, I get the pleasure of taking some guys with a few hundred pounds of gear into the backwoods and letting them do what they do best. As a result, I am able to afford food for the ~200 days a year I spend out on the trail doing my passion: designing new hiking routes for future generations.
Everything you explained and share from your heart in this article is exactly what makes me shameful of the greater community over this entire issue. Your passion will continue to trump their malintent. Stay strong.
Those who mind don’t matter. Those who matter don’t mind Skurka. You’re the inspiration of many people, showing an example of a way of life… What humans can accomplish. Somthing wrong with that, in times where we are put to the test on many levels? NOT! You just go and use that anger as motivation to do something constructive.
You’ve got to realize that the critique is coming from those who are not happy with their current situation and think they’ve got all the answers.
Kudos on your success.
[…] of this criticism caused him to answer his critics in this post. He should not have to answer to anyone, except himself; and he hasn’t done anything to be […]
I’m very happy for you that you can make a living doing something that you love. It’s an inspiration for everyone to pursue their passions and hopefully one day do the same.
However, it has been 5 years since your last big expedition (Alaska-Yukon) and to some extent it seems that you’ve come to rest on your laurels. From an outside perspective, it looks like your prime interests have shifted from pushing the envelope on what was possible for ultralight long distance travel to how to maximize profit by sponsoring gear, books, speaking engagements and guiding trips. While I can’t blame this shift in mentality, it’s very easily perceived as “selling out” because you’re no longer doing the very thing that you gained recognition for in the first place.
That being said, I have the utmost respect for your previous adventures, especially the big three. I hope to one day be reading or hearing about the 4th epic adventure.
I really appreciate your comment. Thanks for being brave enough to leave the first comment that is not in total support of my post, and thoughtful enough to do it in a civil manner.
That it’s been 4 full years since a notable trip (2011-2014) is definitely not lost on me. In fact, I’d say I’m nothing short of bitter about it. Each year I’ve had trips on my calendar that get short-changed or cancelled entirely due to other commitments that aren’t negotiable or as discretionary. You seem to think these activities in the interest of “maximizing profit,” but I’d say that they are more related to the responsibilities of being a new homeowner and husband. It’s harder to fault me for that.
I’m unconvinced that you will ever read about a forth epic adventure. You see, the first three were not motivated by a desire to “[push] the envelope on what was possible for ultralight long distance travel,” but rather to grow and learn as a human being by pushing my own limits. When considered from this perspective, my last four years have not been spent “resting on my laurels” but rather continuing exactly as I have, but with a new focus. Ironically, I’d say that many more people have benefited from the knowledge that I have accumulated post-Alaska than pre-Alaska, so much so that a strong argument could actually be made that I’ve benefited backpacking more as an author, guide, and speaker than I ever did as a guy who backpacks a lot.
eff the begrudgers. Sounds like they should get themselves new jobs.
The haters are those who are miserable with their own jobs and lives. How sad. Those who love what they do AND get paid to do it, are the people who give the most to others and this world. This is what we all hope for…..to get paid to do the things that bring us the most joy and satisfaction in life. This is what life is about, living life to the fullest, enjoying ALL that it brings to us, and sharing our love and life with others. Andrew, keep doing what you’re doing, and thank you for sharing your passion and knowledge with the rest of us to enjoy!!!
I am celebrating you living your passion. This is how life should be for everyone <3 Thank you for being such an inspiration!!! Blessings
My respect for you and your values knows no bounds. A fellow Boulderite recently announced he was hiking the Colorado Trail. His name is Clay Evans. I’m 66, retiring this summer, and decided to put this at the top of my bucket list. I was an Outward Bound Instructor in my 20’s, then became a homebuilder (spent a year on Jon Krakauer’s carpentry crew when he was a fellow dirt bag). Anyhow, I just stumbled across you, this website, and am so grateful for people like you in the world – truly making a positive difference. I wish you from the bottom of my heart all the success and prosperity your certainly deserve as you “build your business”. Thank you for just being who you are and living your dream.
Mr. Soper, Great to see you are well. I was one of the younger folks that went on one of the Outward Bound trips in Jan/Feb winter survival in the White Mtns. 1976. I joined the Marine Corps and am still hiking in the Adirondacks.
If people didn’t trade you their money for your services, you wouldn’t be in business. I would gently ask your critics to reconsider their misplaced aggravation.
To illustrate: I purchased your SHR Mapset and HDT Bundle and relied on them as my primary data sources on my thru-hikes. Could I have experienced these routes without your data? Sure. Put another way, purchasing your product was MY CHOICE. Thank you for giving me that choice. I loved having the opportunity to acquire a comprehensive data set from a trustworthy source. It’s not my personality to plot routes on computerized topo programs and such, so I was pleased to trade some of my life effort for some of yours.
Congratulations on creating a “product” that is relevant to others to the extent that you are able to support a family. And that you’re also passionate about your “product”…whoa! You’ve won the lottery my dear, the rare leading-a-meaningful-life lottery.
Andrew you have a right to earn a living. The reason I read you work is it is not full of subtle brand endorsements, your take is “I’ve done this and this is what I have learned and will share with you”- I have hiked and camped for over 50 years and intend to keep on going until I drop-usefull honest advise like yours helps me in this mission all power to you. “Stupid light’ is the best expression I have heard in years. Keep going !!!
Dave “I wear light boots because they work, carry a canvas pack as it survives where I walk’ Brignall
South of Sydney Australia
Hmmm, using the logic of the pessimists, then jock strappers who like playing football should not play for the NFL. Artistic people should not sell their art. Nerds should not develop and sell new software. I think you get my drift. Work is mundane enough. It sure helps to do something that you like. Blog on bro !