Learning How to Vlog and YouTube Before the Trail

Learning how to vlog and navigate the pitfalls of YouTube really ate into my time to train for my thru-hike, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.  My first video, cringeworthy and production flawed, embodies the soul-consuming passion driving me to the trail and the need to self-inflict the pain of vlogging. I knew my story was important to not only me, my family, and their generations, but could inspire others. I wish to impart hard-earned wisdom for those considering filming their hikes and pass on YouTube secrets nobody mentions. I write this from the point of view of a new vlogger with a goal to not only film memories for my family but educate and inspire for years to come. Results may vary.

If you are considering vlogging your hike or have a new channel, maybe my learning curve can help you dial into important channel growing skills. If not a vlogger, peek into the secret life of filming and posting videos. Enjoy a fantastical fairy tale and stay for some great tips from a YouTube newbie.

A YouTube Fairy Tale

I thought YouTubing would not be time consuming. However, as an author and painter, I have been cursed with an unshakable trait of perfectionism. The combination of ignorance and drive for perfection was a time-sinking combination. YouTube was a new portfolio in an unknown medium, tantalizing my psyche with anticipated moments of ridicule and rejection from connoisseurs. As I trained for my thru-hike, I weeded out bad video equipment, groaned at the enormous electronics weight in my pack, and realized I was a terrible videographer. What made up for the lack of professional filming and production was the style I unknowingly developed with each video. My videos captured the uncharacteristic joy, funny bloopers, and a ton of laughs. I liked the change in my face and the supportive comments on my newbie videos and drove on. However, the new foray brought me to the stairs of a tempting, magical castle, sparkling in glitter and gold. However, a terrible prince and king demanding tributes perched inside while ruling Streaming Land.

Chapter 1: King YouTube and the Feckless Prince

Beyond my thru-hike, I want to continue my channel to educate, inspire, and draw more responsible outdoor enthusiasts to our tender environment. However, such lofty goals required the time to quickly learn the laws of the land. The hard to read and often undecipherable law volumes of Streaming Land seemed to strictly lay out rules and taxes if I wanted my content found. King YouTube wanted creators to prostrate themselves and their videos upon an altar dedicated to his feckless son, Prince Algorithm. By doing so, King YouTube promised, such videos about the “Appalachian Trail 2019” would be seen when searched. The smudged tome’s weird language listed the demands but changed often with what had to be an old eraser. I think I read; tributes to the king entailed, liked videos, many video comments on each upload, videos found on

Back from a long section hike, I check my video rankings thanks to a valuable service, TubeBuddy. Coffee knocked to the floor, appalled to discover my videos no longer had a search ranking, and once again at the lowest rung of Streaming Land notoriety. I ran to the king’s ministers only to have them shrug. They were required to change the laws of the land overnight and had no idea what they wrote in the wee hours of the morning. Maybe my video descriptions were too long? How could creators be expected to flawlessly obey new laws from Prince Algorithm and punished for failure?

The creator’s accomplice whispered in my ear, “There is a rumor the prince conspired with his father last night. The both want keywords in the description and title spoken in the video.” Shock dropped my draw to learn the prince’s spies had tapped our voices.

“You didn’t know?”

“Nobody explains the damn rules and this kingdom’s shifting secrets!” I hung my head as I ambled away. My channel was not created to boost subscriber numbers and to get rich but that is what the king demanded. Because I never did anything unless completely committed, I had a personal score to settle with the royals.

Chapter 2: Market Day in Streaming Land and the Dragon

Once I managed to gain more subscribers, I was permitted to serve King YouTube at court as a serving wench. Overhearing dinner conversations, I learned King YouTube had his own independent agenda. Imagine my surprise, when I nearly dropped a plate of duck. The king weakly bowed to demands of viewers more than imagined. He cared not for creators who drove the ad revenue engine of his kingdom nor the original purpose of the kingdom. The juxtaposition of creators stroking the prince’s ego and the king talking from the side of his mouth with viewers, seared into my mind.

Catering to the viewers, King YouTube created the most amazing market day in Streaming Land. Merchants (channel creators) were lined up for miles in neat little booths along the path to the glittering castle. The king encouraged viewers to linger at the stalls of their choosing while funneling by to attend festivities beyond the castle gates. The more people lingered within the kingdom, the happier the king and prince appeared. His bailiffs watched and recorded everything and dutifully presented reports.

The expansive reports discussed at council with ministers and King YouTube would decide which creators got the premier booths increasing channel exposure and traffic. More traffic equaled more money from the castle coffers. If booth dropped in numbers or caused subjects to leave Streaming Land, his wrath knew no bounds. As long the spoiled was made happy and stayed out of his father’s hair there will be peace in the land and we could all depend upon the opportunity to one day upgrade our booths.

A guard sniffed. “Just wait until enough rules are broken and the seeds of discontent awaken the dragon.”


“You never heard of the slumbering dragon beneath our feet able to destroy us? His name is Google.”

Secrets and deception at court.

One day in the garden, I overheard two high society creators chatting. “Did you hear the viewers whispering about some hiking channels are vlogging just to get free gear?”

The other creator snickered. “Nobody tells the world how expensive vlogging is. Besides, I heard thru-hiking alone is quite expensive.”

His companion shrugged. “And to think when someone made a PO box to just to receive gear for testing.”

“No way.”

“The poor bastard had to publicly donate to a charity to save their reputation.”

“Hiking creators still misjudge the right time or way is to ask for financial supporters.”

One of the creators reached out. “Wait. Hiking channels have poor numbers in comparison to our holdings. They are paupers in retrospect. I heard their videos are down-voted if they mention paltry affiliate links?”

His friend’s eyes twinkled. “Viewers have no idea how little those numbers earn and the expenses.”

“The most subscribers a hiking channel has is only 150k subscribers then it drastically falls off to 20k subs. Let’s help them.”

“And break with custom?”

I jammed my laptop closed and clutched it to my stomach with a new devised mission. Learn these secrets and tell my hiking peers. I was on my own and time was running out to discover the hidden secrets of a YouTuber before starting my thru-hike.

Here are snapshots of lessons learned from my recent experience and research. I am a newbie but always free to answer questions before I start the trail via email. [email protected]

































































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Comments 1

  • Bhavna Campbell : Dec 30th

    Thanks Aretmis! Your information about YouTube is so helpful! As a newbie, just figuring how to set up an account is mind boggling. Your tips have already helped me to set up a brand. Wish I was doing the AT next year but guess I have to wait till 2020. Looking forward to watching all of your videos. Have a great hike!


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