Want to be a gear tester? Journalist, Author and Gear Tester Dan Nelson tell us all about it. [EP 255]

Dan Nelson has a job many of us would love. He is a gear tester and editor with Gear Institute.com, a veteran outdoor journalist, and author of numerous guidebooks. We talk about gear testing, some of the products he's worked with, and more.

Show Notes

Gear Institute


Hells Canyon

WSU Edward R Murrow College of Communication

Washington Trails Association

Washington Trails Magazine

Adventures Northwest

Mountaineers Books

Intro to the Outdoors

I grew up in Eastern Washington and my family is all Minnesota natives, but we moved to Eastern Washington when I was a tot and grew up in a little farm community in Southeast Washington, right in the corner of the state, by Idaho and Oregon.

Down in the blue mountains, which most of your listeners aren't going to know. If you know where Hell's Canyon is, we're not too far from there. The Blue Mountains form the Western edge of that. So anyway I grew up in the mountains and the foothills and out along the snake river breaks riding dirt bikes and hiking and that is where I started fishing.

When did you become a gear junkie?

In the small farm community I grew up in we had one of those old school mercantile type stores where it was a hardware store, but they also sold clothing and kitchenware and household knickknacks and basically anything you would need on the farm. And they had a corner of their hardware section dedicated to hunting and fishing gear. And when I wasn't outside playing or inside reading, I was in that store pouring through the fishing lures.

Which product category are you seeing the most innovation these days?

The easy answer is tech things like personal locator beacons and avalanche beacons performance tracking tools. I think in terms of core gear. I think for the most innovation I'll go back to sleeping pads or sleep systems may be evolved a lot in the last several years from that one and a half pound self-inflating pad to three or four-ounce air pads that are just as insulating as back in the day.

Which product category do you think could use more creativity and innovation? What are they missing?

Looking back on a lot of the changes I think Tents maybe.  There's been a lot of great innovation in materials. But really there hasn't been any change in the structural innovation.

Dan's Advice for getting in a career in the Outdoors

It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work. I wasn't outdoors testing gear, I was indoors writing about it. So I was putting in a hundred plus hours a week at times between, writing and designing magazines and actually out testing gear. I would say plan on hard work, really find what you want to do, and focus solely on that.

Favorite piece of gear under a hundred dollars

I will say that the one thing I purchased and purchase at full retail and I've got multiple pieces of it is again, going back to getting older and our bodies starting to fall apart is a flip, focal magnifier. It's a clip-on magnifier that clips onto your hat brim. It got to the point where I was starting to fish bigger and bigger flies just because I couldn't tie on the right size.

Follow up with Dan

Instagram at dan.a.nelson

Google me and look for some of my writing, I use my byline which is: Dan A. Nelson

Find Dan on Amazon


00:01:59 – 00:02:40    Intro to Outdoors
00:07:10 – 00:07:58    Become a Gear Junkie
00:42:59 – 00:43:27    Favorite Gear
00:39:28 – 00:40:04   Advice



[00:00:00] More than Dan. Welcome to the show. Thanks. Glad to be here. Yeah. Great to be talking with this. Once you say you're in the Pacific Northwest with a little bit of storm coming in, huh? Yeah. Yeah. I'm actually down in the late or Olympia area, South of Seattle. And a lot of rain coming, snow and stuff.

[00:00:20] Yeah. It looks like a, they call it the atmospheric river is heading our way for the weekend. So you had a lot of wind and up to four or five inches of rain in our area this [00:00:30] weekend. So which means feet, two feet of snow in the mountain. So yeah. Good. Do you need that? We all need that, right? Yeah. So you'll probably be inside most of the weekend.

[00:00:41]Yeah, probably be doing more renovation and home projects. We bought a new place on maker Ridge this year. So it's been in our COVID quarantines, remodeling a house. That's a good project to have actually, yeah. It turned out perfect for this year. Okay. We're [00:01:00] isolating. So let's spend it productively.

[00:01:02] Yeah. Good time. Yeah, that's perfect. So how were you introduced to the outdoors and adventure?  Grew up in Eastern Washington. I'm my family is all Minnesota natives, but we moved to Eastern Washington when I was a tot and grew up in a little farm community in Southeast Washington, right in the corner of the state, by Idaho and Oregon.

[00:01:26] Down in the blue mountains, which most of [00:01:30] your listeners aren't going to yeah. Never heard of it. Yeah. I've never heard of them. Blue mountains. If you know her to hell's Canyon, we're not too far from there that the blue mountains form the Western edge of that, the human Tila. So anyway I grew up. In the mountains and the foothills and out along the snake river breaks and riding dirt bikes and so builds and hiking, and started heading thing in fishing.

[00:01:59][00:02:00] Early teens, probably when my, an older brother, one of my older brothers got into it and really. Developed a passion for hunting and fishing. And he's five years older than me. And he helped introduce me to that. And he actually went on to become a game warden part of the country. And I. Fell into another part of the outdoor industry.

[00:02:21] So yes, he still do that. He actually retired from the game department, went to work as a school resource officer for his [00:02:30] local community. He wanted to keep giving back to his community. So he worked in the school as a, the onsite County sheriff and working with kids and really loved bath. And just recently actually, Last month was elected to the County commissioner there.

[00:02:46] Good for him. So he's really dedicated to his community and that part of the state and making sure that he's giving back to everything he got from the communities. That's great. Yeah. And how did you start writing? How did the writing career [00:03:00] writing? I actually fell into it as well.

[00:03:02]I attended Washington state university, which is again in Eastern Washington, about two miles or two hours North of where I grew up. And I'd always enjoyed writing as a kid and through high school and into college and needed. Some cash in hand, is it as a former college student? So I looked in the wan ads and saw are the school paper at WSU at [00:03:30] an independently run newspaper.

[00:03:32] As part of the college school of journalism at WSU is the Edward R Murrow school. It's where Edward R Murrow attended college in his date. Yeah. And so to maintain that the journalistic independence and standards they set up the paper as it independent. Newspaper that wasn't influenced by the school administration.

[00:03:58] And so they actually [00:04:00] paid their student writers pretty well. And so I sought a part-time job there  and no journalism background wasn't in the journalism program. I just thought I could write. Then they agreed with me and fell into it. And by the second year I was there, I was. On the editorial board and became the editorial page editor and wow.

[00:04:21] Yeah. I was actually in the civil engineering track at the time. So that's different. Yeah. Yeah. So [00:04:30] is there any there's in your family? Anybody else, right? Nope. I met. Wow. That's interesting. Good for you. And I attribute a lot of it to, I just have a passion for learning new things. That's a great talent or okay.

[00:04:46] Characteristic for a journalist that wanting to learn things. And to the point where I bounced around through. All kinds of different classes at the university. I just took classes that I enjoyed [00:05:00] instead of a specific track. So did you end up with a degree though? I ended up with a degree in four minors.

[00:05:08] That's cool. I had enough credits for two degrees, but none in the lined up. So I just said to, but I have a degree in history and minors in political science, math, English, and. It's a general science. So where does that curiosity come from? Does that come from your family? I think it probably does very supportive folks [00:05:30] at that.

[00:05:30] Encouraged me to do whatever I wanted in life and pursue my own goals and dreams. And I've always been a reader. I've started reading novels that my dad passed down when I was eight or nine, when I was reading.

[00:05:50] Piece. I read Dickens, I think at 12. Okay. That's interesting. So [00:06:00] I'm sure that curiosity helps you as a gear guy. When did you realize you were a gear junkie? Was that early on? I think again, probably early in life. Yeah. I realized I, again, in the small farm community, we had one of those old school mercantile type stores where it was a hardware store, but they also sold clothing and kitchenware and household knickknacks and basically anything.

[00:06:27] You would need on the farm. They, you could find [00:06:30] it in some Boldy corner store. And they had a corner of their hardware section dedicated to hunting and fishing gear. And when I wasn't out inside playing or inside reading, I was in that store pouring through the fishing lures. And when did you start writing about gear?

[00:06:49]That I really started shortly after college. I left college again, no journalism classes ever, but I, I. [00:07:00] Was immediately taken on as a journalist on a West side, Western Washington newspaper. And so I, I fell into just the general beat that the rookie reporter covering every bit of everything, murder beats.

[00:07:14] I picked all of it. Writing, obits, covering boring. Committee meetings of various local governments. But one of the beats I picked up was environmental news. And this was back in [00:07:30] 89, and I also, at the time of. I, it was a twice weekly newspaper that was owned by the local daily. So I was doing work for both of the papers and on the twice weekly, since there was so few staff, we, the writers took turns working on Features and weekly columns as well.

[00:07:52] And so I started plugging in my outdoor adventures into my column just for a topic to cover and that worked with some of the [00:08:00] environmental news. I could do some crossover. And so I started covering local outdoor clubs and local adventures I was doing in the feature work as well. And after about a year and a half, that led to a new job with the Washington trails association and nonprofit organization.

[00:08:20] And they hired me to basically turn their monthly newsletter into a real magazine. Wow. And so I yeah, that was a huge undertaking [00:08:30] type. I built a magazine basically from a. Six or eight page newsletter. And one of the new sections that created was the good news is that as pull in advertising as a hook, that was my original thinking was if I want the local gear makers to support us, let's talk about their gear, and that worked in Washington trails magazine, getting Northwest [00:09:00] trails and took off and did really well. And with in less than a year of launching that magazine, I was contacted by backpacker magazine and started providing them with Northwest coverage and gear reviews. Wow, good for you. And that magazine is still around today, right?

[00:09:17] Washington trail. So around in Washington trails I'm proud to say when I was hired the nonprofit was on a downward slide and membership. They had some leadership issues and. They [00:09:30] weren't doing well. I think they had dropped down to just over a thousand members statewide. And when I left 11 years later, we were had over 12,000 members.

[00:09:42]The magazine was in retail stores all over the Pacific Northwest. And we had actually launched a volunteer trail program the executive director and I that went from zero hours of volunteer work to becoming the [00:10:00] leading. Trail maintenance organization in the Western United States with over 200,000 hours of volunteer work each year.

[00:10:07] That's great where we shared our trail Sinead at these days. Don't they? Man. That's good. So tell our listeners about the gear Institute, where you were involved from the beginning, but you weren't one of the founders. So I have that, right? Yeah. I wasn't a founder. Basically the gear Institute started, man.

[00:10:25] It's gotta be 12, 15 years ago. And it was, again [00:10:30] I started writing for backpacker in 92 and just continued in gear coverage and really specializing your coverage for a lot of years. Since that time I've done just about everything. Yeah. But your Institute was three guys That were in the same boat.

[00:10:47] They were established year writers. Justin Nyberg was a former editor of outside magazine. Peter was just primarily a ski coverage guy. He worked in the ski industry, Roker [00:11:00] powder and back country magazine. And tally was in the same boat of writing for freelance writing for a bunch of different publications.

[00:11:08] And they decided we all have great experiences. We all know gear. Rather than, provide condensed coverage to the various magazines we write for less use our talents and also provide really detailed coverage on our own to our readers. And so they launched gear Institute and that's really what it was.

[00:11:29] It was [00:11:30] they dubbed it, the Institute that we were, that the instructors and the experts that, that were. Providing detailed head to head comparisons in a wide variety of gear, categories of gear. And I started right away. Yeah. It's everything from ski and snowboard to the climbing and trail running and hiking and backpacking.

[00:11:54] And I became the fly fishing and snowshoeing guy. [00:12:00] Largely I was, I created snowshoe guidebook series for mountain, your books as well, and in those intervening years. So I was a social guy, as well as hiking and fishing.  Basically gear Institute started that way as hardcore professional gear, testers providing really detailed comparison reviews of products and categories.

[00:12:23] And it's. Evolved somewhat over the years, I actually quite a bit. Now we [00:12:30] had, we recruited more writers and did more news coverage and one-off reviews instead of everything being 10 or 15 pieces being compared together. And now there's a evolution currently taking place where we're going to incorporate more reader, generated reviews as companions to some of the professional reviews.

[00:12:52] So we get those, give the readers a chance to weigh in with their own experiences about the products we're talking about. It's a good [00:13:00] idea. I think it'll be a really strong Tool to help people when they're looking for gear to be able to see both what we as professionals do when we beat up gear and write about it, as well as what their colleagues and friends see when they actually use it themselves.

[00:13:17]That's a good idea. And you have another site called adventures Northwest, right? Tell us a little bit about that.  That's really just my personal blog site. My work on it has been cyclical over the years. Sometimes I'm really [00:13:30] active lately. It's been largely inactive again, partly because I, the past year we've been planning this move very limited.

[00:13:41]Yeah. Definitely distracted. I'm anticipating booting that back up after the first of the year. And basically it's a way for me to share some of my own adventures. I've been planning and started the process of moving some of my trail research to that site. In addition to my [00:14:00] gear work, I've written.

[00:14:02]18 guidebooks for, of Northwest. So I've written several guide books for Mountaineer books, covering hiking and snowshoeing. Mostly I've also written for national geographic books. I contributed all the West coast coverage for their last few national parks series books. I provided that coverage for them, but.

[00:14:26] Yeah, I've created a lot of [00:14:30] content in the last 30 years. So that's kinda what I see Northwest adventures or adventures Northwest being in the future is like I said, I want to transition some of that trail research into now. I've got GPS logs that I've, I want to post with the trail notes I have.

[00:14:49] And so people can download the GPS tracks and be able to use that directly. And then that'll be a great resource. Yeah, so that's been a slow [00:15:00] process because I want to make sure I'm getting it as updated as possible. I don't necessarily want to have a 28 year old GPS track there. That trails are pretty static, but they do change and drill heads move and enclosed or.

[00:15:18]What are a couple of things you like best about testing and writing about gears? It just that you get to play with the gear or is it actually going out and testing? What's I I love gear. I love, [00:15:30] like I said earlier, I like to learn new things. And so I, when I see new gear, I want to know how it works and I want to know how it was made and designed.

[00:15:41] And being a tester. That's a great way to do that. Getting product going out and being. Paid to beat it up and sometimes take it apart there, break it and try to put it back together. And frequently it means being able to talk to designers and the people behind the product [00:16:00] and figure out their mindsets and what led them to decide things the way they did.

[00:16:05]It also lets me help folks Make the most of their money when they're looking to buy new gear and I enjoy helping people. So being able to share my experiences is very rewarding. That's cool. Do you have a lot of interaction with designers and product managers on the front side of the product?

[00:16:22] I was a product manager for a couple of different brands and it would, I don't know that our guys ever reached out to a tester to get some [00:16:30] feedback on something before they actually finished the design. It was usually an after the fact. At times I've had great interactions upfront sometime frequently over the years I've taken pre-production samples out for testing and provided feedback on that, that ended up being changes in the final production model.

[00:16:51]That's I think been beneficial to both parties, myself and for the makers to be able to improve gear before it actually [00:17:00] gets to production. Exactly. And that a couple of times, I know REI is the one that sticks out in my mind. They've we've had designers come to a handful of us writers and say, what do you really want to see in this category?

[00:17:14] The one that comes to mind is a Farrow of Pam that four or five of us helped design. This is back in the late nineties and the idea was create the ultimate trail pants, something that was, work for scrambling or light climbing, as well as [00:17:30] hiking and snowshoeing, something rugged and useful.

[00:17:33] And we provided, we want this, we want four way stretch material. That's super durable and pockets here and there. And. All the features. We wanted articulated knees and crotch, gussets, and all of that. And they built us the pants and we loved them. Kroger use. In fact, I still have a pair I wear all the time, but they.

[00:17:58] Only went to production [00:18:00] for one season because they were ridiculously expensive. So the time again, late nineties paying $150 for a pair of pants. Wasn't something most inserts were going to do. And that's what they ended up at retail as well. I could imagine if you get ahold of a gear for gear testers, and you say, what would you like.

[00:18:20] In this product, it would be too expensive. Anyway. Cause you put everything, whatever it was, pants, backpacks. Yeah. Where they asked us to dream big and we did [00:18:30] so yeah. Building all those articulated joints and four way stretch shoulder fabric at the time was ridiculously expensive to get it. Thin enough and light enough to be useful.

[00:18:42] And yeah, but she had a great pair of pants and they're still there after 25 years. No, it's interesting. There's something to be said for that, because now that we're all trying to make products that lasts longer and you don't have to replace them as frequently, if you spend $150 on a pair of pants and that lasts for 10 years, that's a [00:19:00] pretty good bet.

[00:19:01] Exactly. And that's actually, I've. Transitioned, some of my writing to talk about the durability and the usefulness of gear long-term instead of buying the shiny, bright, new thing, every season, find something that's going to last and that's good. Yeah. So is there a product or a product category you like writing about overall the rust.

[00:19:27]Like my college career [00:19:30] I've drifted all over in the outdoor industry and followed different passions over the years. It's I love to do different things, just I love to learn new things. And so I've primarily, I started out in the hardcore hiker, backpacker market and that's.

[00:19:48] Really been the one constant throughout my career is the hiking coverage and that the core trail user but I've also been a fly Fisher since, [00:20:00] again, back to those days when I was 12, 13 and spent my, the money, I earned mowing lawns on my first fly rod, when I was 13, going down to that, that local hardware store, dig holes and buying a fiber glass.

[00:20:14] Seven weeks, which looking back, it's okay, at the time I bought a seven, nine foot seven weight efficient, tiny mountain stream today I'd be fishing with a two weights. At the time that seven weight was [00:20:30] considered, the go-to all around rather than I was a 13 year old that didn't know better other than what I read in outdoor life and sports fields.

[00:20:39]But so that's, those are probably the categories I really am most passionate about is hiking and fly fishing. And my favorite is to really focus on the crossover. I love to hike the fishing locations, my wife and I both. We actually she's. Donna has been at my side on. [00:21:00] This entire outdoor adventure I've enjoyed.

[00:21:03] So we actually met in a mountaineering first aid course, so that's great that she does. She's either. I started to teach her myself and that didn't go well. She just never took it off, which anybody that's tried to teach a spouse to do something, he realized that's a bad idea. So yeah. So along those same lines that the gear reviewing played a huge role there [00:21:30] because I was invited on a press trip to Jackson, Wyoming with at the time Brenton and cloud veil their PR company working with them.

[00:21:43] And there was a press trip that they also invited spouses. And so we were in Jackson and they. Gave this, the writers were going fly fishing on the snake and the. You were away and gave the wives the [00:22:00] option of either going out with professional guides and learning to fly fish or going to Jackson and shop for the couple of days.

[00:22:07] And Donna being a hardcore outdoors woman said, there's no way in hell. I'm going to spend two days shopping. So I'm not even going to spend an hour shopping. So she went and was fortunate enough to have a really great Orvis endorsed guide provided instruction and perfect. By the end of the four day week she was or weekend, she was [00:22:30] out catching me and that's continued for the last 20 years.

[00:22:34] Great. Good for her. That's pretty cool. Yeah. What's the first piece of gear you couldn't live without probably your fly rod was definitely just as a generic, the fly ride was the first thing that I, I. In fact, they still have that first fly rod. The one thing that really sticks out though as that piece of gear, that really changed [00:23:00] my life and as changed the way I hiked and.

[00:23:04] Did coverage was my first thermarest sleeping

[00:23:10] in. I didn't get that until actually I started writing about gear. I was sleeping on an old cheap clothes. Sell Insulite pads.

[00:23:23] Once I started reviewing gear again, being in Seattle thermarest cascade designs with a local team, the [00:23:30] company I actually wrote about them when I was still at the newspaper as a local company, helping support communities in our area. And I got to know the designers there and the owners there, John burrows.

[00:23:45] And, but that pad changed the way I thought about backpacking and backpacking comfort changed a lot of our lives. Yeah. And thermarest was the hallmark of quality and performance [00:24:00] decades. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that was a, one of the things that I think made everybody realize that, gosh, we don't have to suffer back here.

[00:24:06] We can actually enjoy it. Which category do you think is seeing the most innovation these days? Oh, I've been thinking about this. It's a. The easy answer is tech things like personal locator, beacons and avalanche beacons performance tracking tools. I just got a Suunto sent me a some of their new [00:24:30] smartwatches that look at, and that, that technology is insane.

[00:24:34] What's out there these days, but that's the easy answer, I think in terms of core gear. I think the most innovation of I'll go back to that the sleeping pads or sleep systems maybe evolved a lot in the last several years from that, that one and a half pound self-inflating pad to three or four [00:25:00] hours, air pads that are just as insulating back in the day. The idea of sleeping on a air mattress was ridiculous because there is no insulation, right? And now you can get something that's, the size of a Coke can and weighs just a few ounces and has as much installation as that old one and a half pound.

[00:25:25] Yeah, right? Yeah, no, that's true. Yeah. There's a lot of creativity there and they're doing a lot with sleep [00:25:30] systems too. It's no longer just the secret peg and the pad. It's a system thing, which yeah. And the bags themselves have gone from, I was used to carrying two and a half, three pound bags for a three season bag and now you can get them for under a pound.

[00:25:43] Yeah, that's crazy. Yeah. Which category do you think could use more creativity and innovation? What are they missing? Looking back on a lot of the changes. I think Kantz maybe They there's been a lot of great innovation in materials. [00:26:00] But really there hasn't been any change in the structural innovation.

[00:26:04] That's just been a stagnant area ever since probably 20 years ago as the last big change with the popularization of hubs on tent-poles and that, that allowed Big evolution in tempt design. But since then, there's, excuse me, there's been a bit of stagnation in the structural design.

[00:26:27]I will note that I think [00:26:30] big Agnes is, and probably Nimo as well or. The ones that are doing the most push on the edges of that design or open big Agnes, especially, I know they're willing to go big with some design ideas and sometimes those fail I've had big Agnes towns that. Literally were flattened in 20 mile an hour winds.

[00:26:52] And I shared that with bill the owner. And he said, yeah, we've discovered the same thing. And we appreciate the [00:27:00] feedback and we made these tweaks and just changing some of the pole placement. I. They were able to correct the so there that's, I think it's, what's really needed are those companies that are willing to take the risk and push the design and sometimes it fails.

[00:27:18] Yup. Yup. Let's say you learn, you learn what not, sorry. You learn as much what not to do as what to do. Exactly. Yeah. You can learn a lot from a failure. You can see, why it [00:27:30] failed and. Avoid that and find the opposite way to make it actually stronger in the longterm. That's right.

[00:27:37] So walk us through a typical scenario of how you use and test a product.  You receive it from the company. Do they give you some kind of direction things you'd, they're looking for. Really no. When I started especially I, when I started doing your review for WTA, for the Washington trails magazine, I was flying [00:28:00] blind working with backpacker right away.

[00:28:02] That was a godsend because they have even in 91 92, when I started working for them, they had a well-established protocols and I adopted the, their mindset that I'd never review a product that I hadn't used extensively in the field or had one of my assigned team mates use So mostly today I've mostly self assigned my features that I decide what topic or feature I'm going [00:28:30] to cover.

[00:28:30] What category for instance last spring, I did a package on the, for birdwatching, for gear Institute. And so for something like that I'll come up with, the. Kind of the criteria of what I'm looking for, specifically binoculars for wildlife viewing birdwatching and animal viewing and I'll call candidates or send out emails saying, this is what I'm looking for.

[00:28:57] These are my criteria. I want, something [00:29:00] under a thousand dollars looking for both. Compact. So that can be used for hike to sites or backpacking use as well as the car supported ones. And I'll get as many product is I can sent over. And then I'll put them out to use in the field in what I would think of as normal use situations and like binoculars typically it's a high price.

[00:29:26]Item, usually those are loaned out. So I'll get those for [00:29:30] 30 or 60 days. And but. I don't baby them. I treat them as if they were my own or worse yours all. If I break them, that's no money out of my pocket. So I, I. Tend to be pretty rough on the gear. I test, I leave them out in the rain.

[00:29:52] I don't cobble on my, but I try to use them in a normal type situations. I don't go out [00:30:00] intentionally to abuse them, but I don't lean away from that if that's what the situation calls for. So we do that for as long as we can. Compile our notes. I'll usually try to send them out with other testers I trust as well or get their notes and feedback.

[00:30:18] And then I'll write up the reviews. And if a product is these days, I like to highlight. The best use of a product whenever possible. If there's a [00:30:30] best bird backpacking binocular, for instance and then, or the best budget binocular. So if I've got three binoculars under a hundred bucks I'll really focus on which one is the best, which one avoids fogging and provides the clearest optics and.

[00:30:47] Those that don't make the grade. If something really just isn't quality I'll give the maker a call and say, we're, we appreciate you sending this out. This is our finding. We're not going to include it in a review, but we want it to let you know what [00:31:00] we found. And so just because I get a product doesn't mean it's automatically going into her.

[00:31:06] For a review and that's, I think a really important part of the testing is it's, there's no, no guarantee that a product is going to be written about just because we're field testing it. Yeah, if it's not worthy, it's not worth it. That makes total sense. Yeah. So you must have extensive notes when you come back from, I tend to keep pretty detailed notes.

[00:31:28] I evolved to [00:31:30] some pretty straightforward, short hands. I don't think anybody else would be able to understand that. Just a simple one or two words sometimes it's I don't have to worry about your notes falling into the competitor's hands. They would be able to decipher them anyway. Yeah. Yeah. If they see my notes on a binocular and it says heavy and fog, they may not say it.

[00:31:55] But so they're good in fog. It's no, the lenses fog up. Easton, [00:32:00] that's funny. Sorry. I there's. Yeah, definitely things said by my handwriting is Donna tells me is. Nobody's going to be able to read it anyway so I can take very elaborate notes and nobody will be able to steal them probate. Yeah.

[00:32:15] Yeah. When I'm recording these podcasts, I have notes going and I'm sure I'm the only guy that could read them and realize what the heck to do with them. So you get outside a lot. That's pretty cool. Do you have a favorite activity? He does. Is your go-to still fly [00:32:30] fishing. It is, that's probably what we do most of these days.

[00:32:34]I've been doing this as I said, a long time. I'm getting up there in years. And so it's 15, 20 mile. Hikes into high Alpine lakes. Isn't something I do as frequently as we used to. We still do a lot. So definitely spending a lot more time. Wade fishing and rafting, craft fishing these days, but still, [00:33:00] probably the.

[00:33:01] All time, favorite activity that we still get out several times a year is to do a backpacking trip to a hight Lake or especially in the cascades or in the Clearwater areas of North Idaho. Beautiful hike into the creeks and lakes of the wind rivers in Wyoming. So that the hike and fish is really.

[00:33:25] Yeah. Yeah. So when you go and you're testing here is your [00:33:30] pack heavier than most. I would S I would think you'd have a few extra things in there that some people might not, or four pairs of binoculars or, yeah. That's, that has been the case in the past. They see with age comes wisdom.

[00:33:46] Late twenties. And even into my thirties or trips in the heyday of my writing when I was researching three or four trail guide books at the same time as I was writing for backpacker and outside [00:34:00] and watching trails. So I was doing a lot of writing, but I was also spending upwards of 150 nights a year and a 10th.

[00:34:07] Wow. So to get that much coverage done I was. At times carrying two or even three, two or three person temps on a backpacking trip, set up a different tent every night I was out just so I could get enough testing time into it. So yeah, it wasn't unusual for me to carry it. 60 to 80 pound [00:34:30] backpack for a lot of those drifts.

[00:34:32]When you're here a young adult and stubborn probably and stubborn. Yeah, definitely that, yeah, these days I tend to be more selective of the gear I take out and focus on a few core pieces. I do I, if I'm going to review a backpack, I'll say, okay, We're taking this specific backpack, I'll take that new five-piece run from [00:35:00] Cabela's or whatever.

[00:35:01] And so I, yeah, I'm more selective of what I take yeah, it makes sense. Yeah. Do you have any advice or suggestions for folks wanting to get into the outdoor business or outdoor gear testing biz?

[00:35:17] Smart answer is marry someone with a trust when they search. That comes up a lot. Yeah, seriously, you can't make a decent living in the [00:35:30] outdoors. It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work, a lot of hi Molly and that's, I was like a, that I wasn't outdoors testing gear. I was indoors writing about it.

[00:35:42] So I was putting in a hundred plus hours a week at times between, writing and designing magazines and actually out testing geared. I would say plan on hard work, really find what you want to do and focus solely on [00:36:00] that. I, after college decided, this writing thing is what I want to do.

[00:36:03] And I focused on that and I, after a year and a half in the newspaper world, I decided I really want to get back to my outdoor life. That's, as it. Junior high school kid and early high school, I was all the advisors were saying, you should. Take the tests and they would come back via forest ranger is gay more than there it's so the outdoors has always been [00:36:30] something that was in my mind, and after college I realized, or after the newspaper, it said, I need to focus on this. And so when the WTA option came along, I jumped on that and really. Said the pay it at UN working for a nonprofit is miserable. So I need to make a little extra income. So that's where the freelance spun off.

[00:36:53] I didn't want to take a job evenings running pizzas or something. So you had, folk figure [00:37:00] out a plan and go for it. And no, you're not going to make great money, especially starting off, but. There's a lot of other rewards besides monetary rewards. You're there. You're right. There's a lot of other rewards and it's better than it was.

[00:37:13] I was, I started back in the day when the money wasn't that great either, but yeah, it's gotten a lot better. It's a lot more professional these days and there's a lot of ankles and things you can do. That's good. Yeah. Yeah. Do you have a favorite? Sorry, go ahead. Oh, I was just going to say, yeah, there's with [00:37:30] that.

[00:37:31] The death of print or they die off of print. That seems like there's a lot of doors closed, but there's a ton of doors open in the digital world and that the amount of editorial content that you can sell to gear makers even, and yeah. Yeah. And I'm going to put a shameless plug in here for podcasting too, because podcasting is still a relatively new Avenue for the [00:38:00] outdoor space.

[00:38:00] And the beauty of podcasting is, someone can listen to you in their ear, tell them how to pitch their tent and in the back country, as opposed to watching the video. I guess everybody has phones back there now, but it's really something that's available 24 seven. Absolutely. Yeah.

[00:38:15] That's a great point. And podcasts are a great tool and a great venue for. Content providers and for advertisers. That's right. That's right. Yep. Do you have a favorite piece of gear that you've purchased under a hundred [00:38:30] dollars or that maybe you probably don't purchase much gear, but actually I will say that the one thing I purchased and purchase at full retail and I've got multiple pieces of it is again, going back to the, getting older and.

[00:38:49] Bodies starting to fall apart is a flip, focal magnifier. It's a good one clip on magnifier clips onto your hat brim. It got to the point where I [00:39:00] was starting to fish bigger and bigger flies just because it couldn't tie on the size can relate to that. So that's having that. Three act, magnifier flipped down off my hat brim, and be able to tie on a fly without having to fumble, to take my sunglasses off and put readers on.

[00:39:18] Yeah. And these fish are getting smarter. I think you have to fish, twenties and 20 twos now. It's wow. That seems like it's crazy. Yeah, that's a good one. So that's really, [00:39:30] and I, I. Like I said, I have one on my hiking hat so I can read my maps and GPS now. And I've got multiple fishing hats and Donna has them on her hats.

[00:39:39] And my brother saw me. And so he's got them on his, yeah, those are good. Yeah. Your youngsters out there you'll realize that what these are someday, but they're very handy. As we wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to say to our audience or ask of our audience? Oh, I would ask, that [00:40:00] everybody that gets outside being respectful in the outdoors leave it better than you found it.

[00:40:05] If you see garbage, pick it up be a good trail steward, big, good river steward. But with that in mind, get outdoors. And that is, there's so much of this world that we can't see from our computer screens. And there's so much more to life than a digital world, or even the indoor world get out and see nature.

[00:40:29] That's good [00:40:30] advice. Yeah. I love that. Yeah. And if people want to follow up with you, where's the best way. How can they find you? I'm not a big Twitter user. I share photos of on Instagram at Dan dot a dot Nelson. If you want to Google me and look for some of my writing, I use my byline is Dan a Nelson.

[00:40:49] I use my middle initial this because there's, I know in my. Local community here. I think there's six other Dan Nelson. So I have to use that middle initial, the set myself off. [00:41:00] Gotcha, cool. Facebook, same thing, dammed up a dot Nelson. Okay, cool. We'll link to that stuff in the show notes and people can see your work and we'll link to the Garrett Institute and a adventurous Northwest, so they can find that stuff to, what's been a pleasure talking to you, dad.

[00:41:14] I appreciate you coming on the show. Thanks. I enjoyed it and I appreciate you having me. All right. Have a good day.


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