CleverHiker.com is an american based company whose mission is “To Create the Worlds Best backpacking tutorial Videos”. Making videos these days is as easy as sliding your camera (or smartphone) setting to video and pressing the red button. Uploading to blogs, websites and, of course, YouTube is almost as easy. Making good, instructive videos that people want to watch is rather more challenging.
This is Simon Pritchard‘s review of the video series that has just come out.
I haven’t been out much of late (as can be seen from my blog (or lack thereof!), mainly due to now having two little bundles of joy to look after. This does not however stop me from being up at all hours of the day and night with small child in arms either:
a. Dreaming of things to do myself (and in hopefully not too many years’ time, with the little ones)
b. Wondering what other people have gotten up to and thinking about doing something similar myself.
As it’s quite difficult to do much typing while doing this, I am finding myself drawn to YouTube – the ultimate place to waste time while sat down. YouTube, like the internet in general, is so massive that it’s often difficult to find something of quality. Even the “decent” outdoor traders have gear guides and mini reviews on the site these days – but they are of variable quality (and usefulness) and man are almost not even worth watching! I do often chuckle when I happen upon a gear review nnd see my mates in them, doing their best catwalk poses.
My uncle-in-law (not sure if that’s an actual title, but it’s factually accurate) asked me to have a look at a sample video series and e-book from Dave Collins – founder and CEO of cleverhiker.com.
The site and series sets out to give simple honest advice on how to lighten your load when backpacking, both on your person and in your rucksack. I have always thought these “lightweight” hikers, who would chop toothbrush handles off in the name of saving weight, were, frankly, mad. However, I have started to lighten my pack load over the last 12 months or so and it has made a notable difference to being able to walk further and feeling better at the end of the day.
Dave and his team have come up with a great set of video guides, each one detailing a different category, allowing the relative novice to understand the principles of how to hike light. They are interspersed with their own personal experiences, which is done in a very supportive manner – Dave never gives the impression that he’s showboating about what he’s done or where he’s been. The videos have the hallmarks of a professional production company – easily surpassing those companies with £££ (or $$$) in marketing budgets. Watching through the series, I was ticking his suggestions as I went – “yep, done that”, “am about to do that next”, “ooh, not thought about that”. Although I’ve been at this game for a while now, having someone make some suggestions from a different angle has been refreshing and interesting.
The video guides are accompanied by an e-book detailing specific products to consider, as well as a REALLY useful checklist for use when packing before a trip. The book also includes links out to the manufacturers’ websites – especially helpful for those who are not aware of some of the more specialist / niche companies.
I only had a few observations from watching / reading:
– In order to appeal to the European market, I would suggest including kilograms / grams in all videos and the e-book rather than pounds and ouncesw. For the “more mature UK user” (not saying anything here Charles!), who still work in “old money” this isn’t a problem, but for me I kept having to do the conversion.
– When talking about using alcohol stoves, Dave mentions about ensuring the stove is cool before adding more fuel, then refilling from a plastic bottle. Alcohol stoves have been the mainstay of backpacking in the UK for a number of years through the use of Trangia stoves, using methylated spirit as the fuel. At the same time, these have resulted in a number of very serious accidents involving very serious burns. There are two ways to minimise this risk. One, a technological one, is to use a fuel bottle with a one-way valve, preventing ignited vapour from entering the fuel canister. While this may add a considerable amount of weight to the pack, from a safety point of view, worth it. The second is a training one. When using these with my cadets when we have to (I try to avoid their use, for the reasons above), I always teach them “take the stove to the fuel, not the fuel to the stove”. If they try to pick up the stove while it’s still lit, it is too hot so they can’t move it. If it’s cool enough to move, then it’s safe to add more fu
M My only suggestions for the e-book would be to include metric weights (as above) and to include a small product image, so people know what they’re looking at (especially important for things like tents). Although the links are there, these are prone to change, so I think worth a product image, especially if someone is looking for a second-hand one in a few years’ time.
My only other observation is that I’m not sure these videos by themselves would cover all UK walkers in all terrains. I think for those that generally do fair weather camping and trekking, staying in the lower lying areas of the UK, these are simply second to none and would be a valuable asset to that target market.
Dave doesn’t make it clear that there will be a follow-up series (I really hope there will be!) but if there is, I would like to see it focus on looking at how to lighten the load in winter conditions, including typical conditions seen in the UK in winter (i.e. cold and wet, rather than the classic European winter type conditions of cold and dry).
Although there is a charge for the videos and e-book, I do think they are well worth it and would happily purchase further series.
Cheers Dave – good luck!