An Interview with the Most Accomplished Cyber Hiker of All Time
The following is a guest post courtesy of Paul Mags, who lives in Moab, UT, where he drinks low-alcohol beer and contemplates the idea of opening up his own #VanLife store. As his colorful Mom said about him growing up, “He is so full of shit that his mouth is full.” Check out his site at Pmags.com.
Thru-hiking is an activity whose popularity has exploded in the past decade. The lure of the outdoors, adventure, and beauty calls to many. But not everyone can take off for weeks or even months at a time.
If you are like most people, you consume vlogs, read trail journals, and try to get out as much as you can with your precious weekend and vacation time. Any time spent outdoors is rewarding. And though you can’t thru-hike, somehow you continue to make the outdoors an important part of your life.
However, some more enlightened people online realize that this type of attitude is a fool’s game.
Why just dream about thru-hiking and going on weekend backpacking trips when you can have all the expertise of a long-distance hiker without actually going backpacking?
The informed person can post on subreddits, Facebook forums, Instagram, and YouTube channels and give the world their hard-earned gear collecting knowledge and vlog consumption. You can be an excellent keyboard warrior easily.
But can you be the best cyber hiker? Luckily, I was able to sit down with the Most Accomplished Cyber Hiker Of All Time—MACHO for short—and get his up-to-date knowledge on all-things cyber hiking.
PM: MACHO, you have a significant presence online. Your 10k+ plus followers on Facebook share all your reviews, and your Instagram photos of artfully posed DCFs shelters in your backyard get at least 100 comments. Amazing! How did you start your path to Cyber Hiking enlightenment?
MACHO: I felt rather lost and without purpose in my life. Then one day I added _hikes to my username and started feeling better. I posted gear reviews of things I bought from AliExpress frequently. More people followed me and gear companies started giving me free gear in abundance. I realized that I did not have actually to hike anymore in my free time. I could post my lighterpack spreadsheet that is sub-10lbs, create a plethora of Top Ten Gear Picks for gear given to me, and generally concentrate more on my cyber expertise rather than going outside. I can get a sunburn outside. Who wants that?
PM: So, MACHO, you give lots of knowledge of gear, perform pack shakedowns on ul/Reddit, and dole advice on how to hike long treks. I see lots of reviews for equipment on your YouTube channel. But no trip reports or even planning ideas for upcoming hikes. What do you think forms the basis of your outdoor knowledge?
MACHO: I’ve seen enough people screw up a thru-hike on Youtube to know what not to do. Would you rather just watch one video or read one blog and get one lousy idea? Or have an online hiking expert curate the best knowledge of all the different avenues for sharing hiking information. That person is me, of course. I don’t have time to go outside because of all the Facebook pages, Instagram feed, and YouTube channels I monitor in addition to my online presence, But it does not matter because, frankly, I know more than the backpackers who make these videos. I pick out the best information, so you don’t have to.
PM: I see. So, you’ve studied thru-hiking thoroughly. Is virtually exploring backpacking enough?
MACHO: I’ve watched every single minute of the most popular YouTube hiking videos. I know what I’m talking about. A person out hiking has one view: Their own. I study many different perspectives. And I am not biased by experience.
PM: OK. Moving along. What do you think is your best cyber hiking accomplishment?
MACHO: Did you see how I expertly shook down a PCT hiker on YouTube? Before this thru-hiker even stepped on the trail, I was able to give her my hard-won expertise over years of video watching. She may have hiked the CDT before and her own multi-week route through Nevada, but I know about the PCT. She never even heard of lighterpack. Can you believe it? I pointed her to my Instagram feed as another resource to get more familiar with the latest gear she obviously knows nothing about.
PM: What was her reaction to your generous advice?
MACHO: Well, she was a bit taken aback. I mean, just because someone is not asking for a gear shakedown does not mean they shouldn’t get one. Backpacking and using gear means that a person only knows about specific equipment. I bought and unbox more gear in a month than this hiker probably used in her hundreds of bag nights. Unbelievable!
PM: What advice do you think anyone dreaming of hiking a long trail should take from you?
MACHO: Virtual hiking requires specific knowledge and skillsets. I suggest doing lots of research. I want the best type of information you can find without actually having to step on the trail. Did you know, for example, that Guthooks offers the best VR experience? I highly recommend it. You can study a trail in-depth for when you need to advise about a trail you never stepped on before.
And being a cyber hiker, I can easily see what real-life backpackers see but in a much more efficient manner. For example, you can do a Google Earth flyover of the CDT. The San Juans are amazing. And I don’t have to worry about going through the snow, postholing, or getting my shoes wet. Cyber-Hiking is more civilized and far more “Leave No Trace” compliant, too.
PM: Thanks for your time, MACHO. Any last words you’d like to share with our readers?
MACHO: I’ve been upping my cyber-hiking game and giving people the reality of hiking the AT without stepping on it. I go to my local city park and take photos of moss and trees up close to post on my Instagram and tag them “#AT2019,” and no one is the wiser. I plan to branch out to #PCT2020 and #CDT2021 to get my Triple Crown of Cyber Hiking.
This post was done in partnership with Ultralight Jerk. Ultralight Jerk lives in Des Moines, Iowa where he runs a successful craft hot dog cart. When not making memes, he can be found near southern Appalachia filming fights in Waffle Houses at 2am. But isn’t it kinda strange that John Abela and Slenderman have never been seen in the same room? Follow Ultralight Jerk on Instagram.
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