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Current conversations with JMT hikers
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Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Bryson on 09/02/2013 18:39:27 MDT Print View

I am reading Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" for the second or third time, and I was smiling when he was on about going to the outfitter to get kitted out.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: RE: "Current conversations with JMT hikers" on 09/02/2013 23:48:42 MDT Print View

"But money is also a big factor"

research and just plain not buying extra crap goes a long ways.

I think having people be UL on a mainstream trail would help them do other trails or hikes instead of going on a deathmarch with a heavy ass pack for 2 weeks and hating it. It would go a long ways if more information was out there like the link above and people talked about it more instead of large entities like NOLS and AMC telling people they are unprepared and stupid without giant lists of crap.

JMT is relatively short.. go to a longer trail and the people who have made it the furthest generally have it figured out and the ones who didn't are probably at home. It takes a pretty stubborn person to walk 2000mi with a heavy pack surrounded by people who are carrying much less.

The problem with many outfitters is that they don't pay people well enough to afford to go out and do as much. also many require weekend/holiday work so opportunities are limited. I worked at EMS when i knew a lot about climbing, a bit about backpacking and next to nothing about shoes and kayaks (big kayaking area). I applied to REI over the winter..knowing a lot about climbing, a lot about backpacking, a lot about cycling, a bit about shoes and barely an interview over the phone and never heard again. And even if i got the job i couldn't afford to live on what they pay so it would have been short lived and they'd hire some college kid needing part time work.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 05:05:24 MDT Print View

There are some basic rules of retail sales that come into play here.

#1 - If the customer is looking to buy something you stock, you sell it to them, even if you think it is a bad choice.

#2 - Always recommend items that you stock, even if the customer could get a more appropriate item elsewhere.

#3 - Stock an inventory of popular items, even if they are not that great for their purpose. Car camping gear is far more popular than backpacking gear.

#4 - The customer is always right. Don't debate their decision no matter how uneducated their choice. If they like you, they will come back and buy the better item when they figure out they made a bad choice.

I remember interviewing for specialized software and electronic hardware retail sales jobs when I was young.
I had a complete knowledge of all items the stores sold. And the people who were selling the products had very little knowledge of how to run the items they sold.

I never got the jobs because the required sales experience was more important than knowledge of the products. They were not looking for nerds/gear heads.

I decided that retail sales was not for me after that and luckily got a technician job making much more money than I would have ever made in retail sales.

Richard May

Locale: Swamplands.
Buyers get what they want on 09/03/2013 07:53:55 MDT Print View

Steven, I think you make a good point. Stores stock and sell what customers want and buy.

I've never known a car salesperson who actually sells cars. The father at the Volvo dealership is actually buying security and the middle-aged man at the Porsche dealer is buying the fountain of youth. Good salespeople know this and exploit it. People want tough, durable and secure so they get big, bulky and heavy. After all, why spend good money on a flimsy, delicate piece of plastic?

Hey, salespeople have got to make a living. It takes less time to sell a tent that pitches itself to a newbie than take them outside and show them how to pitch a tarp, use a bivy and select the right kind of sleeping gear.

Frankly it's not their job. Arguably, as a community, that job is ours. Assuming, of course, it's your thing to evangelize.

When people start walking into outfitters asking for tarps they will start pushing tarps.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
re: bear cannisters on 09/03/2013 15:23:01 MDT Print View

I don't think that the bear cans are that big of a deal. I have been using the old original Jams, and even in the small/med size, I can get the 450 to fit. Just knowing you need a can should add to the decision process for that hike. The sheer logistics and planning for someone to come over and do the JMT should take that into account. When I went to the REI here in Idaho, to order a can, they didn't even know what they were. :)

Even worse is the fact that with a very limited amount of planning, one could spend almost every night on their JMT hike in what I would call "non bear habitat". Like any smart animal, they go where food is, and they won't be at altitude just for the sake of some hikers food stash. I was really surprised at how much of the JMT really wasn't very good bear country. Sure, they are and have been all over there for many centuries, but that doesn't mean they live there continuously. Most high country is very very void of serious food or forage. Its a short lived community at best. But on a good note, its nice to hear stats that show the incidents of bear confrontations over food have diminished so dramatically.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Did see some UL on the JMT on 09/03/2013 17:03:13 MDT Print View

We were on portions of the JMT two weeks ago (just now back from the trip) and crossed UL'ers at Thousand Island, and the passes at Ruby Lake and Garnet Lake. Three groups. We also met plenty of hikers that were carry large packs, as we were (despite all the UL tricks and tips we incorporate).

One thing very apparent with all three fast-moving, running-shoe wearing UL groups: not a bear canister among them. No carbon fiber chi-chi's, no blue Bear Vaults, not a single, boat-anchor Garcia. My boys found ways to ask, usually after someone commented on their packs. None of those crews has spare shoes, stools, fishing gear or free-standing tents. Two of them told us they shivered all night in the rain (6.5 hours) the night before, with rain blowing under their "tarps" up in the rocks below Donohue Pass.

We were 12 on trail, with 6 large Bear Vaults and 4 small for seven days on trail. We supplemented with a total of 14 trout, sizzled up in adobo seasoning, olive oil and an MSR skillet. We ate very well and donated a 2lb bag of nuts to hikers that told us they were running low on food. Cute packs, though. (And I am cutting back our nut cargo for the next one!)

A lady on the trailhead shuttle commented that my pack looked really heavy. A full Tioga XL with 15 pounds of food and water will do that, and it ain't no lie, even if I do use some very light gear.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Did see some UL on the JMT on 09/03/2013 17:33:35 MDT Print View

"None of those crews has spare shoes, stools, fishing gear or free-standing tents."

why would you 'need' any of that? camp shoes are a nice thing to add for a thru hike but not a necessity..

sounds like they did some stuff right and some stuff wrong... some UL techniques take skills that need to be practiced.. tarp pitching for example. not having enough warm clothing for the conditions also sucks.

i've seen heavy weight people be unprepared and have flooded tents, flipped over free standing tents... etc having a crapload of gear doesn't guarantee anything.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 17:54:38 MDT Print View

Steven: What you write is all true in the vast majority of stores.

But, . . . .

I was an early convert to REI after going shopping in 1976, when I was a boy scout, and someone in the boot department told me to buy a lighter and less expensive boot than I had planned to. One reduced sales ticket can equal decades of loyal patronage.

When I was working in a backpacking/ski shop, my goal was not to necessarily make the sale (that day), but to make the customer glad they came to our store first. If they needed a different item than what we sold, I'd tell them so, and tell them where to get it. Fewer sales that day, perhaps, but there were a lot of customers who would start at our store, even for stuff we didn't come close to carrying (like specialized rock or ice climbing gear).

For me, when I'm a customer, I don't want to wade through aisle of crap, a la Walmart to find the few quality items. I'd rather go someplace where everything has been pre-screened for quality.

That was also my modus operandi while working in computer stores in the 1970's. But that another era and computers are now a commodity, not a purchase researched for many months. And, yes, nerds do need to learn how to do the ask and wrap up a sale.

One of many problems is that commissions work, in the short term. Sales are up. But the experience is less pleasant and often less productive for the customer.

Stu Pendious
(Beeen) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 17:57:19 MDT Print View

#4 - The customer is always right. Don't debate their decision no matter how uneducated their choice. If they like you, they will come back and buy the better item when they figure out they made a bad choice.

REI staff I don't think is taught #4. I routinely find myself lying to staff in REI, because if I tell them what something is for, they end up wasting a lot of time trying to talk me into something else.

Recently, I went in for new trail running shoes for my fiance. When she stated she did not want anything "waterproof", they asked her what she was using them for, and she of course proudly blurted out that they were for a 150+ mile backpacking trip. We spent the rest of that shoe buying experience getting sneered at, and having to defend the shoe over boot choice while continually explaining why we believed Gor-Tex didn't make a lot of sense for what we were doing.

Edited by Beeen on 09/03/2013 17:59:37 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 18:17:32 MDT Print View

My wife was purchasing a sleeping bag in REI last year and when I asked a question about fill power the sales persons eyes glazed over and had to ask a manager what fill power was. I was surprised as she working the sleeping bag section and not just so one we stopped.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 18:24:36 MDT Print View

"I was surprised as she working the sleeping bag section and not just so one we stopped."

REI has certainly lowered their staff training levels lately.


Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 18:44:28 MDT Print View

I have only shopped in REI the last 18 months but was in a MEC in Toronto 3 years ago and the staff where really on the ball.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 19:16:52 MDT Print View

"REI has certainly lowered their staff training levels lately."

I was in one a couple years ago and asked where the public gear scale was located (this used to be a common customer tool at REI stores). The sales person asked why I wanted it. Anyway after she asked several people including the store manager, there was no scale available.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Current conversations with JMT hikers on 09/03/2013 19:28:51 MDT Print View

Not in Colorado Springs or in the "Flagship Store" in Denver.

so now I take my own.

James Couch

Locale: Cascade Mountains
Scales at REI on 09/03/2013 19:38:40 MDT Print View

Check in the bike shop, there is a good chance they have one there.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Scales at REI on 09/03/2013 19:40:25 MDT Print View

Had to get rid of the scales as most manufacturers downright lie about their weights, if given.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: Scales at REI on 09/03/2013 20:00:01 MDT Print View

Or maybe they got sold in the garage sale,

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Did see some UL on the JMT on 09/03/2013 20:08:48 MDT Print View

Hi Erik,

I was on the JMT two weeks ago and could have been one of those fast-moving, running-shoe wearing UL'ers that you saw at Thousand Island Lake. I didn't have spare shoes, a stool, or a free-standing tent, but my partner had fishing gear and caught fish every day of our 7-day trip (we both prefer lemon pepper seasoning.) We weathered the 4 days of thunderstorms and hail just fine in our tarp without any problems getting wet at night. Here's a photo of Manfred taking a break next to our fully-packed backpacks:


One of the two backpacks has a Bearikade in it, which we shared for the trip. Can you guess which one?

Just a friendly counterpoint. :)


Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Scales at REI on 09/03/2013 20:51:46 MDT Print View

At mine, they have one in the backpack section. They hang all the 'torso-sizing tools' on it so it's a big hassle to use. The gram scale is in the bike shop.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
"Good salespeople know this and exploit it. " on 09/03/2013 21:00:44 MDT Print View

Which is why I hate dealing with all them. I can't be the only one. The worst are the ones that keep coming back to check multiple times after I say, "Just looking." I've started saying, "If I have a question, I'll ask someone." It works marginally better.