Financing the UL lifestyle
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James Hou
(JamesH) - F
Financing the UL lifestyle on 04/28/2012 20:15:54 MDT Print View

I've looked through about 30 pages of old postings, so I know that there are quite a few grad students out there. (I'm one myself.) But, what about you others? It's not just about affording the gear, but also being able to take time off from work to hike. I'm only getting out on weekend hikes about 3 or 4 times a year. I don't know how you others can work in anything more, much less thru hikes.

What do you DO? What careers offer that kind of flexibility, while still paying enough that you're not just some ski bum? (No offense to the ski bums.)


I'm a student in New Orleans now, so I know geography works against me. But, surely not everyone lives in PNW or SW. Even when I was active duty stationed in Kentucky, with the Smokies 4 hours away, I still only made it out there a handful of times a year.

Edited by JamesH on 04/28/2012 20:16:43 MDT.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
career on 04/28/2012 20:27:27 MDT Print View

I happened to pick a career that requires me to spend time in the backcountry- that gives me several trips a year; the rest of my trips I do with my better half :)

Emil Gazda
(Emilio)

Locale: Southeast
career on 04/28/2012 20:44:17 MDT Print View

I'm only able to get in a short overnight once month. I usually can squeeze in a two or three night trip every few months or so if I'm lucky. The only reason I can spend that much time out is because the trail head is only 2.5 miles out my front door. I'm very lucky that my family lets me indulge that much.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Financing the UL lifestyle on 04/28/2012 20:57:55 MDT Print View

This was my former job, but before 9/11, I backpacked almost every weekend while teaching high school with most weekends off, incl. 3-day federal holidays (except "drill weekends" as a reserve military officer). Teaching is not the best paying profession in the world, but it's OK with time for local overnights, summers off, and total job security with year-round bennies, pension. If more money is needed, there's teaching summer school, so that flexibility is always there. It may have changed with more teaching applicants than jobs due to the economy (again, I do something else less secure in my civilian life now).

There are seasonal jobs too. I was thinking a tax accountant/enrolled agent job would be perfect for spring backpacking in the American southwest. After April 15 (US income filing deadline), I would think there'd be ample opportunity to take off on some 1-week trips. Maybe I'm wrong on that however.

ADD: There's always a trade-off unless one has a trust fund.

Edited by hknewman on 04/30/2012 12:01:38 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Financing the UL lifestyle on 04/28/2012 23:00:15 MDT Print View

Being a professional couple in a rural area (cheap land hence that biggest expense of urban professionals gets greatly reduced), we each work part-time. We juggle our schedules to work in family (kids = 7 + 12) travel, hiking, canoeing and increasingly backpacking.

I also hold down the fort for her to go to her rowing meets. She facilitates my death marches and road trips.

I've always jumped on remote work assignments and then leveraged the air flights to obscure places into staying a few extra days (on my own ticket but hiking is cheap) after finishing the work.

Students: Find the Outing Club on campus*. They tend to be heavier on grad students and hangers-on than undergrads and 3 or 4 people in a car greatly decreases costs (driver never pays gas was the UC Berkeley rule). Also, more contacts means more ideas for trips and/or whole new activities (canoeing, kayaking, caving, etc, than you'd know to do yourself). You can get quite aways and see a lot between last class on Friday and Monday morning.

*That's how I met my wife. I'd suggest pre-meds versus art-history majors if you want to worry less about your equipment budget in the future.

Jeremy B.
(requiem) - F - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Financing the UL lifestyle on 04/28/2012 23:26:24 MDT Print View

Students: Find the Outing Club on campus

Some of them also have very affordable gear rental (not necessarily UL, unfortunately)! I didn't take advantage of this at Cal, but the Stanford gear shed was very useful, particularly for occasional-use items like snowshoes where I wasn't sure I could justify the purchase price/storage space.

Brock Graves
(gravesbrock) - F

Locale: asheville nc
financing on 04/29/2012 18:19:43 MDT Print View

I consider myself very lucky to work for a nonprofit organization that sends me backpacking three weekends a month working with adjuct youth. I am also responsible for all of the gear, blog, and facebook. On the off week I get paid to find new routes and trails. Cheers!

James Hou
(JamesH) - F
Thanks. on 04/29/2012 18:30:12 MDT Print View

So, basically, luck and having had the good sense to go to Cal or Stanford? ;-)

My undergraduate was in Education, and I could've had an easy transition into LE after discharge. Wish I would've checked the forum earlier, would've saved me three years of grad school.

Found an old thread in Techniques and Philosophy, from way back in 2006, about "Becoming a Thru Hiker." Looks like the answer there was luck, wealth, or major life event.

Thanks for the replies. I'll be returning to studying for finals now. Maybe good grades will make the luck part a little easier...

Stephan Doyle
(StephanCal)
Re: Thanks. on 04/29/2012 19:14:39 MDT Print View

Cal's outdoors club is not restricted to students. So as long as you had the good sense to move to Berkeley, you'd be okay. ;-)

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
luck is irrelevant on 04/30/2012 08:31:34 MDT Print View

In my experience luck has very little bearing on how often a person gets out and does their outdoor pursuit(s) of choice. I grew up in Ohio (not my choice) and went to undergrad in Iowa (best educational opportunity), and when I graduated I promised myself to never live somewhere further than 30 minutes from great wilderness ever again. So I haven't.

I could have gone to somewhere more prestigious for grad school had I been willing to apply to somewhere in the midwest, but I wasn't. I could be making a lot more money doing the same job I'm doing now if I were willing to live in another part of the country, but I'm not. Instead I do trips lots of people spend years planning for any weekend I want. It's not all gravy and there is always a down side, but I've never even begun to have regrets.

In short, it's really easy to live a life where you can backpack is amazing places all the time, you just have to plan accordingly the live with the full range of consequences.

As for gear, contrary to what this site too often portrays backpacking is pretty cheap. Choose wisely and one shelter, one pack, etc will serve just fine. I read the occasional posts here about folks dropping 10+ grand in a year lightening their packs and have to shake my head. More power to you if you've got that kind of cash kicking around, but that level of spending is not even close to necessary, and is way beyond my means. My gear closet has gotten fatter since I started getting free stuff for various writing gigs, but both before that and now I plan well in advance for major purchases and save up for months to fund them. One or two well chosen big items a year, then care for them so they'll last.

I also live in a tiny rented house and drive a beat up truck with tons of miles on it. Another issue of life priorities: less money on these things so that more can be put towards gear and even more towards place tickets and unpaid days off.

Jeff McWilliams
(jjmcwill) - M

Locale: Midwest
Not just CA on 04/30/2012 08:47:43 MDT Print View

Well, not just Cal or Stanford.

University of Michigan Outdoor Adventures rents gear to students and non-students alike for pretty cheap. They also organize trips.

There's also a local backpacking/outdoors club in SE Michigan. The club owns gear that it will loan out to paid members FOR FREE.

You still have to find the time and get to your destination. The Adirondacks, PA, WV, and parts of Canada are within a day's drive, as is Isle Royale National Park, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Some of those destinations may not compete with the JMT, PCT, or Glacier, but we can at least manage to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Financing the UL lifestyle on 04/30/2012 08:54:42 MDT Print View

http://andrewskurka.com/2012/how-i-make-a-living-as-an-adventurer/

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
gear on 04/30/2012 08:59:31 MDT Print View

buy functional, fairly light gear that is on sale, and look beyond the "brand" (UL or otherwise) ... buy what you need and youll be fine

go chasing every last oz everytime something new, shiny and marginally lighter, and you wont be ...

those who do the most tend to spend more money on going out ... not unused gear ...

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
Re: Financing the UL lifestyle on 04/30/2012 10:19:25 MDT Print View

http://lytw8.com/uploads/Cheap_Ultralight_Gear_List.pdf

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/lightweight_backpacking_wal-mart_style.html

Leslie Thurston
(lesler) - F

Locale: right here, right now
choices, indeed on 04/30/2012 10:33:16 MDT Print View

+1 david's post.
distilled, life is but a series of choices, no?
living UL is no different.
this said too, i'm extremely! fortunate.
i live in a rural area, always have, likely always will,
as i'm entirely unwilling to sacrifice the safety and beauty
of nature. it's what keeps me ticking!
though i reside just 45 mins. from the heart of the whites,
in the interest of time and money (mostly money),
i opt to keep it local.
james, to answer your question, i'm not really spending the time in the backcountry like i once did/wish to, but, healthy compromise it must be!
i also too live in a town that requires a great deal of travel to any conveniences. hence another reason i must be frugal/judicious with use of my resources.
foothills lace my backyard; i make the best of it!
(think: breeds creativity, resourcefulness and i still can fortunately find my peace of mind in the doing so). yes, i am blessed!
all i can share is that i purposefully chose to live my 20's with reckless abandon (so-to-speak) as an outdoor instructor simply b/c i anticipated things to drastically change later on.
my focus now being career (teaching), it's difficult at best for me to really "get out" in the backcountry. still, another echo to david's post...
by living frugally (research your purchases! saves you heaps of time and moola later on) and choosing to live with/on less, getting outside more frequently can in fact be done. au contrarire...
i'm rare in the sense that i've outwardly pledged (again, through a series of conscious life choices) to not own a home, marry, or have a family. surely there's a price to one's own freedom even, but getting outside and living my chosen lifestyle trumps the "shackles" that my married, home owning, city dwelling, stable job, child-popping friends have. they can't understand my choices anymore than i can undsertand theirs.
at 35, i live in a town with a 70% retired population; everything comes at cost.
.02: it's what you can't live without,what choices you make, and/or what chooses you.

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
coupons and sales on 04/30/2012 10:44:02 MDT Print View

i am the king of the REI deal. coupons, sales, and the attic have netted me some outrageous deals over the years. don't buy cheap stuff, you will spend more money buying it several times. nothing wastes money like trying to save a few dollars on inferior products.

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Yep, it's choices on 04/30/2012 11:18:50 MDT Print View

As others have said, there's choices you need to make and tradeoffs you'll have in life. It's good to think on this now - to determine what's most important to you and what's going to make you happiest. You might have the option to take a job in a city that will pay more but be 3 hours further from outdoor adventures, or you could take a job in a rural area that won't pay as much but you'll be a half hour from outdoor adventures. A lot of us live in the west because cities like Seattle have thousands of awesome trails within several hours drive. I certainly wasn't born or didn't grow up here (from Ohio originally) - but I made a choice to come here because I could maximize my outdoors time.

Also keep in mind that there are a lot of people on here who are in their 40's, 50's, and beyond. They're well established in their careers, and thus make more money, have more vacation time accrued, and their kids are often older or grown. It's not necessarily fair to compare what will be your first job out of college with what these folks are able to do - BUT know that if you make the right decisions, you'll get there too.

But know that you do have options. For example, when negotiating salary, if a company can't afford what you want, ask for an extra week of vacation time instead. Time is much more expensive than gear - this lesson is more and more true with every year of your life.

Be creative with your life. Know that true creativity doesn't come from "thinking outside the box" - it comes from defining what that box is. You need enough money to survive - that's one wall. You want to do a decent amount of backpacking every year - that's another wall of the box. Define the other walls of the box you're comfortable in, and note that with too many walls, you'll never manage around it. Now, what decisions are going to fit best in that box?

Another tip: if you decide to have kids, make them into your best hiking buds. My son Mickey can keep up about as well as any 9 year old could be expected, and is a pure joy to have on the trail. So time on the trail doesn't mean time away from the whole family - it means a nice rest for my wife :)

"There's nothin' in the world so sad as talking to a man/Who never knew his life was his for making" - Ray LaMontagne

Edited by Kieran on 04/30/2012 11:52:00 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Yep, it's choices on 04/30/2012 11:43:04 MDT Print View

Nice post, Kier.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
UL on 04/30/2012 19:24:07 MDT Print View

Like others said, the time comes with age.

You may not be familiar with the normal tiered vacation structure, but think something like this generally:

one yr service = 2 wks vacation
5 yrs service = 3 wks
10 yrs service = 4 wks
20 yrs service = 5 wks
30 yrs service = 6 wks
40 yrs service - 52 wks (retired)

So if you stick with a single employer, when you are early 40s you have 5 wks vacation per year. If you move around jobs a lot, you may never have more than 2 wks, the average in the US is under 2 wks! While the average in Italy is 42 days! But everything is negotiable in the hiring process, including vacation to some extent.

Money comes with age too, if you save for 20 yrs eventually you have enough to splurge on some cuben crap without feeling too guilty. Or conversely, you could be like many middle aged people and be up to eyeballs in debt. Your choice, your life, liv it the way you choose.

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Re: Re: Yep, it's choices on 04/30/2012 22:15:52 MDT Print View

Thanks Nick!

Oh and that reminds me - backpacking can be used to help you be a better parent and apply valuable life lessons.