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Spring Gear Test

We at Outdoor Sports Marketing pride ourselves in representing the outdoor lifestyle our brands embody. Each of us strive to find time on our own or with our families to get out and pursue favorite outdoor activities- hiking, trail running, mountain biking, paddling etc- but it is rare that we all get outside together. "Life moves pretty fast", a wise man once said. "If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." While Ferris may find it easy to take a day off, it's a much larger challenge getting the whole OSM team to unplug and take off for the hills for a few days. But we managed to pull it off.

The goal of our 3 day backpacking trip was to get away, try out the products we sell, and discuss ways we as an agency can improve how we serve our customers. Through a highly scientific process ("Who has a map of Pisgah?" "Is that trail head less than an hour from the office?" "Can we get from that trail to Sierra Nevada Brewery quickly?"), we honed in on tackling a 15ish mile section of the gnarly Art Loeb Trail. The plan was to park off the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike down to the Fish Hatchery, passing through Pisgah National Forest and a portion of the Shining Rock Wilderness. This plan changed by necessity as we drove up to a closed gate on the Parkway blocking any further chance of getting to that part of the Art Loeb trail. Winners adjust, and fortunately we have Mackey, who came up with a quick alternative to getting us onto the trail further down the (accessible) road.

Our first day consisted of 4 miles up an access road and part of the Art Loeb trail, and we do mean up. Any thought of this being a leisurely stroll was quickly dispelled. We would be earning our fireside beverages. While the brands we represent make plenty of lightweight pack-able options, part of the goal of this trip was to try as much gear out as possible. On average, the ten of us were each loaded down with about 35lbs of gear, food and water in our very capable and comfortable Osprey packs.

Upon finding Deep Gap shelter occupied, we doubled back down the trail to a gorgeous, slightly exposed ridge line camp site. After setting up our various shelter options for the night (thank you, MSR and Therm-A-Rest), half the group set off to get water, while the other half set about gathering firewood. The water gatherers returned gushing (see what I did there) about the brand new MSR Guardian Water Filter. It's rare that folks fight over who gets to go for water, but the Guardian was that impressive. Successive water gatherings drew much larger crowds, all quite willing to take a turn pumping the incredibly fast and effective Guardian. We kicked off our Vasque boots, slipped on our Chaco sandals, and settled in for a highly productive discussion regarding our place in the outdoor industry while enjoying a beautiful sunset and, eventually, a camp fire. The MSR Windburners we brought boiled the water necessary for our quick dehydrated dinners at a highly efficient rate, surviving the ever growing wind gusts we would experience that evening on the ridge. As the camp fire died down, we broke for our own shelters, having enjoyed a wide ranging collection of topics- as well as a plan to form an OSM band (don't hold your breath).

Day 2 began with a lung busting climb up Pilot Mountain, which did afford some wonderful views, but also reminded us of the work we had ahead. Fortunately, we all had highly comfortable and capable Vasque footwear on, with our feet swaddled in industry leading Smartwool socks. After a sharp decent down Pilot we broke for lunch, before heading down and completing our 6 mile hike to the Butter Gap shelter. Fortunately, we had this shelter to ourselves- well, after the all-to-happy-to-show-us-her-gun toting lady headed off on the rest of her hike. Another productive evening of discussions around the campfire- albeit with a little less red wine, as we'd emptied most our Platy bottles the night before- wrapped and we again found our way to our respective shelters for the evening.

Day 3 was by far the shortest and easiest day of hiking out to our vehicles at the Fish Hatchery along the Davidson River- a rather strategic decision centered on getting everyone to the Sierra Nevada brewery for a week ending beer. We were all reminded of why we love the industry we serve, and reminded that we all need to do more of these kinds of trips. Not only did it provide our team with some much needed opportunity to game plan and discuss our successes and failures, but it allowed each of us a very brief chance to unplug and relax. We all left the woods recharged and excited for the Spring 16 season.

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