By: Caet Cash
Remember your first backpacking trip? Was it a fond memory or a rite of passage? My job is to make sure that wet tents, heavy packs, and denim in the wilderness do not happen on these trips.
Blue Ridge Hiking Company exists in a unique niche within the commercial backpacking community. We don’t do glamping. We are not tour guides. Instead, we are a team of long distance backpackers who provide the education necessary to introduce the wilderness to everyone, at every stage of life.
We do everything from beginning backpacking trips to multi-day treks covering 55 miles of the Appalachian Trail. I have led a hike with a mom carrying her infant. I have gotten my ass kicked by triathaletes. I’ve watched Boston Marathon Runners crumble in the middle of multi-day treks. The hikes we are able to lead are as diverse as the hikers who show up at our door.
A constant in all of our trips, and a reason we differ from most commercial outfitters, is a foundation in lightweight gear. As a company, we believe that lightweight packing makes backpacking more comfortable—whether for an overnight, a weekend, or a trek between Maine and Georgia. It surprises many of our clients that we don’t burden them with a huge pack like they’ve seen on the big screen.
One of the biggest factors we work against with beginner—and even lifelong—backpackers is the misnomer that lightweight gear is only for “fast” backpackers. Lightweight backpacking is for anyone who wants to be more comfortable on the trail. Our mission is to get everyone on the trail, and lightweight backpacking helps us lower potential barriers to entry. With lighter packs, we can accommodate folks of varying abilities, hikers with injuries, and even hikers who want to have a lighter baseweight to accommodate heavy camera gear!
We practice what we preach, so all of our guides rock Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60-liter backpacks. Grant (the president of Gossamer Gear) would probably swoon if he knew how much weight I’ve had in my Mariposa. I routinely carry my entire personal kit, plus a medical bag and whatever gear my clients can’t carry. This has sometimes included five-pound tents, excess food, or a couple liters of water. I’ve had over fifty pounds in that poor Mariposa. I don’t recommend it, but if it’s the difference between a client being able to walk out or not, it is the choice we must make in the field for client safety.
At 5’2” and a hair over 100 pounds, lightweight gear is a necessity for me. I physically would not be able to carry clients’ gear in an emergency situation if my own baseweight were not under 10 pounds. Lightweight gear allows me to do my job. It allows me to step into the wilderness both comfortably and prepared.
Our goal at Blue Ridge Hiking Company is to introduce hikers to the wilderness safely and comfortably, so that their first trip in the woods is not a trial by fire, but a fun and memorable experience. We teach them everything from packing a backpack and using a stove to all of the leave no trace principles. In conjunction, we introduce them to the world of lightweight backpacking so that they can enjoy the wilderness however they choose, and for as long as they choose.
Caet Cash is a long distance hiker and micro van dweller living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. She holds the titles of wilderness guide and company gear guru at Blue Ridge Hiking Company. You can follow her adventures in southern Appalachia on Instagram. Blue Ridge Hiking Company was founded in 2008 by Appalachian Trail Record Holder Jennifer Pharr Davis and advocates for education and accessibility in the wilderness for all, y’all! Follow the adventures of the Blue Ridge Hiking Company team on Instagram, Facebook, and on its website.