Category Archives: Interview

Interview With UGQ Outdoor Equipment’s Paul McWalters

Readers, I always try to bring forth information about the outdoor industry that most of us just don’t get insight on regularly. Today I have an enormous treat for you. The following is a Q&A session with Paul McWalters, owner of UGQ Outdoor Equipment, maker of lightweight down filled backpacking quilts.

When I asked Paul if he would answer some of my questions centered around the “cottage”  industry, his products, and what it’s like to start your own outdoor gear company, he graciously acquiesced.  In the following lines you will find out about ultralight backpacking technology, cottage manufacturer insight, and a plethora of topics that I’ve just been dying to pick Paul’s brain on.

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UGQ Outdoor Equipment (UGQ)

If you’ve ever been interested in making your own gear (MYOG), running a small backpacking gear company, or what it’s like on the other side of the “order” button when you purchase gear, this Q&A will certainly prove insightful.

Not every day I get to find out what it’s like to start a gear manufacturing company!


 

Q: (me) When did you know you wanted to start your own gear company and how did you decide on what products you would offer?

A: (Paul) I didn’t plan on starting UGQ at first, making my own gear was out of necessity due to lack of funds available for purchasing from the already established companies and the limited number of companies offering the gear I needed. My job at the time had seen some pretty major income reductions resulting in no “play fund” so I would DIY what I needed. Ordered some fabric and down, borrowed a sewing machine, which I proceeded to break in five minutes, and got busy.

Next thing you know friends were asking me to make quilts or tarps for them, so they’d buy double the materials on their dime which gave me extra materials to continue making revised gear for myself. Pretty soon I had email inquiries and decided a small website would get the ball rolling, giving me some extra funds to enjoy some backpacking trips and gear purchases…. Boy, I wasn’t ready for what happened next, 25+ orders my first month, apparently there is a demand for this stuff. It hasn’t slowed down any since and we keep growing month after month, year after year.

Products offered again were a result of what I personally needed at the time and my preference for down gear. I could have gone the synthetic route but after 2 decades backpacking with down I knew what to expect from the products in terms of benefits and risk.

Q: What process did you use in determining the pricing of your products and sourcing the suppliers of your materials?

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UGQ Outdoor Equipment’s 40º Flight Jacket quilt

A: Lets talk about sourcing first as that is the biggest hurdle. Finding a reliable and stable supply chain is quite the process and we still run into supplier delays these days. But working with the same suppliers helps build relationships. They get to know your business and can help out with improved material offerings. By having a stable relationship you can secure better prices and service. We work with some of the biggest material suppliers in the world, knowing the BIG BOYS also using them instills a confidence in our materials and our end products. It not just about the lowest price available, it also about the quality and assurance of that quality that is important in finding suppliers. All our major materials are tested to make sure we are receiving the best we can.

To make a competitive product you need to secure wholesale pricing which mean buying materials in large amounts. Back when I started it wasn’t the easiest thing to do as cash flow was not there. I’d buy in bulk for fabrics but in small lots of 25-50 yards or so and I’d buy down 8-10# at a time. While both of those helped with pricing buying in much larger amounts secures much better pricing. We now have a commitment contract with our down supplier for a certain poundage annually. This provides for a locked in price to avoid market fluctuations. We order fabric direct from the mill in the 1000’s of meter per order which again provides for much better pricing.

All of these savings are passed to our customers, we have a material cost for each of our products and a labor cost that is used to determine pricing.

Q: How many iterations of your current Flight Jacket Top Quilt have you created since the very first “draft”?

A: Not as many as one may think, the Flight Jacket is a great top quilt and will always have a place in our product line. The general construction has not changed much and is pretty much industry standard for a top quilt. We have made many little improvements over time that get integrated into the Flight Jacket without much hoopla. We did have one major revision to the entire construction of the quilt roughly 18 months ago and that is the product we currently ship today.

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UGQ Outdoor Equipment’s Renegade quilt (Available Jan 2015)

The fun part of our business is new product development, for the past 8 months we have been working on a new radically designed TQ. The RENEGADE will be release Jan 1, 2015 for purchase and is a completely different approach to top quilt design and construction. Featuring a more thermally efficient chamber design and a contoured shape overall the RENEGADE is built to provide maximum performance and comfort. No other quilt on the market that we are aware of combines the construction methods employed on the RENEGADE making it the most advanced quilt soon to be available.

Q: What are the greatest design improvements you’ve made to the Flight Jacket Top Quilts since your first draft and how do you believe they benefit the users of your products?

A: Our major redesign 18 months ago was a pretty big change. Up until then we had pretty much the same quilt as everyone else. They all had a few issues with down shifting and movement from chamber to chamber. The construction was known as open baffle meaning the ends of each chamber were open to the ends of the neighboring chamber. Marketed as letting you move down where you need it sure sounded good but I never have moved down from one chamber to another in a quilt or sleeping bag in over 20 years on the trails.

So we first redesigned the construction of the chamber to close them off, isolate them, keeping the right amount of down in each chamber. Then we narrowed the chambers from the industry standard of 5-8” to 4” maximum field chamber size. Both of these changes resulted in a much tighter and consistent down density which in the end keeps the user warmer.

We also switched to a 15d fabric at roughly the same time, a true garment-class fabric intended for down filled gear. After reviewing literally hundreds of samples we went with the 15 denier for its weight to performance ratio. It weighs .92oz per SY (square yard), independently tested to 850+ fill power down and has a DWR, durable water repellant, finish. At the time it was the best fabric available for our quilts. Just recently we have added a 10 denier .66 oz per SY fabric for the inner shells of our quilt. This provides for even more weight saving [versus] the 15 denier. We’ve opted to continue using the 15d for our outer shells for durability and it’s excellent DWR finish [which helps] keep both you and your down dry.

The inclusion of DWR treated downs has also been a major change. We were one of the first US based companies to start offering products filled with DWR treated downs. Our current offering that is standard in all our quilt is called HyperDRY and is about as close to water proof as it gets. Independent lab testing shows it outperforms virtually every synthetic fiber available today in terms of water repellency. This finish is applied at the nano level and designed to last for the life of the product. It also has been verified safe for the consumer and the environment which is of great importance to us and our customers.

Q: What advice would you give to DIY hikers who are looking to create the lightest and most individually tailored gear for their packs?

A: Understanding there are limits and understanding those limits is the key to making a durable and lightweight piece of gear whether it’s a quilt, tarp, or backpack. For example we now have access to 5d fabric. “D” stands for denier, the diameter of the thread used to weave the fabric. A 5d fabric is extremely light, .54oz SY, but can it survive the harsh environment of our packs as well as a 15d fabric? So when making one’s own personal gear the choice of hyper-light will result in the loss of some durability and only you can make that decision.

On a weekender or even a weeklong trip a piece of gear failing may be frustrating but will not trash the trip. On a thru hike it could certainly be a huge problem if you tear a tarp or lose half the down out of a quilt due to a poor fabric selection. So, weigh your choices carefully and choose wisely.

Q: Does UGQ ever plan to create synthetic fill quilts?

A: With the advances in DWR down and the more affordable duck downs on the market we do not see UGQ venturing into the synthetic fiber market in the near future. When, and I say when, there is a man-made fiber that equals all the properties of high fill-power downs we will certainly be the first in line. It will happen but it is hard to beat the quality of down that Mother Nature has provided us with.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge of operating a small business in the outdoor gear retail world?

A: Balancing work and personal life will always be a challenge for me. I take my commitment to [my] customers seriously; they have made a contract with us. They have provided funds and we have agreed to provide them (our customers) with a quality piece of gear made to their specifications. Sometimes I let this driving commitment occupy my life 24/7 and we all need proper balance in our lives. I’m committed to finding better balance as we grow, having staff takes some of the pressure off and I need to RELAX!!!! We are only human and we need family, friends and time off just like everyone else. Being a small business owner, burnout is always just around the corner, so care must be taken to take care of oneself as well as the customers.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone interested in starting their own backpacking gear company?

A: Be sure it is done from the heart in the pursuit of your dreams. Be sure to set reasonable expectations of yourself and be sure your commitment to others are reachable. We hate to say “no” to any request but if we can’t provide the requested service we will shoot straight and get it out front.

Be sure to be adding something of value that is missing in the market. For us it was the high quality and attention to customer service, we saw both lacking from most vendors at the time when UGQ was started. Funny, it seems to have turned around as customers are now expecting the same level of quality and service that we deliver from all vendors.

Q: Have you found help, advice, and acceptance from other cottage manufacturers or has it been more tense and competitive in this rather niche market?

A: We’ve had the chance to meet many of the other vendors and I think for the most part everyone is pretty respectful of others. I’ve had many a conversation with some of them regarding work and life, pitfalls to avoid, things that do work and things that don’t. The Jacks at Jacks Are Better have lent their 12+ years of wisdom in business to us and I am grateful to them for their sharing of this knowledge.

When I started we were the small fish in the pond, folks were pretty welcoming but in the end we are all in business in similar markets and as you grow you start to represent more of a threat. We’ve bumped heads with some other vendors recently on issues. I always try to resolve them with both respect and honesty as I believe that is the best approach. Sometimes there will be no resolution but at least you remained respectful and can sleep at night on a clean conscience.

Q: What piece(s) of gear is on the Christmas list for the man who makes his own gear?

A: Oh Boy!!! I recently have gotten into moto camping and the new bike is in need of some pannier boxes to haul the gear. I have big dreams of cruising the world on my bike at some point in life but I need to work on this whole relaxing thing a bit more. Apart from that I’m pretty content with belongings, in my youth it was must have have have… now with the wisdom of age it comes down to how you use what you have and not what you have. Friends are also more important than any material item, memories are created with friends and family hold them tight cause in the end those memories are all you will have left in life.

Q: Where do you think the biggest growth is in the outdoor gear industry? What growth trends would you expect to see in the next ten years across the industry?

A: I think we will see more sustainable materials and supply chains, you are already seeing it from major companies. TNF and our down supplier launched a Responsible Down Standard that is being adopted by many outdoor manufacturers. It’s a program that tracks the down used in down filled products from hatchling to the end consumer product. There will be a number on the down filled gear and a website where you can track the down. All certified by a third party to the ethical treatment of the animals. That’s pretty cool thinking and I think we will see more of that in the future.

Advancements in down are still coming, there are lots of new products coming to market, thermal downs, biotech downs, blended downs and more. These will only make gear lighter and warmer. We see test reports on our HyperDRY 850+ well above 900FP on a regular basis and this is a direct result of the HyperDRY treatment. Maybe someday we will see a standard fill power in the 1000+ range, it wasn’t long ago that 650+ was considered King of the Hill….

Regardless of what the future brings I’m sure I’ll be carrying that pack for many years to come into the mountains, reconnecting with nature, old friends, and my inner being….


I know Paul personally and own products directly from UGQ. This is not only a company I would recommend without reservation to any reader, its also a company and a product which I often recommend by word of mouth. I make the recommendations (and write this article) without any kind of compensation from Paul or UGQ. I make recommendations because I value the service and product.

Why? Because Paul (and UGQ) are friendly, cooperative, helpful, and insightful. They create top of the line lightweight products with cutting edge technology and Paul is always happy to make a piece of gear exactly to my specifications.

I hope you’ve gained some insight into what it’s like to create a lightweight backpacking gear manufacturing company. I hope that Paul will continue to let me pick his brain about the industry as I am always hungry to learn as I’m sure you readers are as well.

Please, drop us a line in the comments if you have any questions for Paul. If you’ve got burning questions you’d like answered by insightful industry leaders leave us a comment or send me an email and I’ll get that question answered!

Find UGQ Outdoor Equipment on Facebook or their website.

Thanks, Paul and UGQ Outdoor Equipment!

Outdoor Job Search Ideas (Be Your Own Search Engine)

With a few days off from work as a full time ski instructor here in beautiful Park City, Utah I’ve been working to stay productive. This includes 6+ hour days of Google searching for summer jobs.

As I’ve been working over job applications it occurred to me that many of you probably are missing out on one of the most valuable and fine tuned job finding solutions.

I’m going to tell you how to maximize your changes of landing your dream outdoor job!

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Be Your Own Outdoor Job Search Engine.

While my previous article Four Best Places to Search for an Outdoor Job is still applicable and useful the advice therein has been regurgitated so many times in “outdoor” blogs that it’s not as helpful as I’d like to be for my readers. I want you to land the perfect outdoor job interview you’ve been dreaming of.

I still believe that the NOLS Alumni job posting bulletin (which is still accessible to non-alums) is probably the single most helpful (and least known) avenue of job acquisition in the outdoor education and adventure education industry. It attracts job postings from a huge number of potential employers in a single list delivered to your inbox each week. It also attracts highly qualified candidates and creates huge competition for employment.

The NOLS listserve and all other job posting sites (www.coolworks.com for example) are missing out on a huge number of potential employment opportunities and if you’re using them exclusively you’re killing your professional career.

Actually manually going out and finding businesses in need of guides, educators, and camp staff is a lot more work but often well worth your time investment.

Not every employer posts their openings to other sites and even among many employers some don’t list job openings at all.

That’s right, you may have to actually ask like I did. I landed an interview for a backpacking guide position simply by contacting the business which I was interested in working for. They didn’t even have any open job listings but, as I had guessed, it turned out they were in fact hiring.

I sent them a cover letter, email, resume, and supporting documents in a very professional email inquiring about seasonal guiding work. Later that same day I got an email back, they were impressed with my efforts to find employment and what’s more, they thought my credentials were very impressive. They wanted an interview!

Your avenue of approach on this email is critical! Keep it straightforward and make it clear you are inquiring about open positions. If you haven’t, go read up on how to interview for an outdoor job.

To get started, determine where you want to work. Then decide on a job type. Maybe you want a camp job in North Carolina. Search “North Carolina Summer Camp” and start clicking through the results.

Don’t be too specific with your searches. Try to be broad and use keywords, here’s a list of suggestions to get you started:

  • Outdoor Education
  • Adventure Education
  • Summer Camp
  • Trip Leader
  • Guide
  • Counselor
  • Naturalist
  • Interpreter
  • Jobs
  • Employment
  • Seasonal
  • Backpacking
  • Rafting
  • Climbing

Use regional keywords to hone in your location search. Try the name of a state like “Arizona Guide Employment” or the name of a region like “Appalachian Summer Camp”. If you are interested in a specific area of guiding you could try park or trail names such as “Pacific Crest Trail Guide” or “Denali Trip Leader”.

Try gaining some insight into the outdoor job market by reading up on these helpful outdoor job articles by me:

Entering The Outdoor Education Industry

Outdoor Job Trends and Opportunities

Most sites have their “Employment” link in the “About Us” or “Contact” section. Some sites are more straightforward but look hard and you’ll usually find the employment section.

Do yourself a favor, get off of Coolworks (their new format sucks anyways) and Backdoor Jobs. Everyone uses these methods of job searching and while they can be effective, they’re limiting you.

Don’t hold yourself back! Go after the job you really want. It’s out there. Go get it, friends!

Email me for any additional help you might need, I’d be happy to offer advice.

Outdoor Education Industry: Trends and Opportunities

The following is a question and answer type interview with Darran Wells, M.A. Assistant Professor Outdoor Education and Leadership, Central Wyoming College and long time NOLS instructor.


Q: What brought you in to the outdoor education industry? When did your passion turn into a career?

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Darran Wells, Assistant Professor of Outdoor Education and Leadership.

I became interested in the outdoors through mountain biking and distance running with my father while I was in high school. We also took annual trips to Colorado to ski in the winter. The first time I went up to the mountains in the Summer, I knew that was where I wanted to be.

It wasn’t until after college, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer living in central Africa, that I learned about NOLS and started thinking about a career as an outdoor professional. Some other PCV’s I met in Africa told me about the NOLS branch in Kenya. The more I looked into NOLS after my Peace Corps tour, the more I was sure I wanted to work there.

Q: What opportunities are in the job market today for outdoor educators that may not have previously existed or been as prevalent? Which areas of the industry are growing the most and shrinking the most?

Stats show that more traditional outdoor activities like hunting and fishing have been shrinking a bit over the last decade. There are a number of emerging outdoor activities that are seeing a lot of growth—Stand up Paddleboarding, Adventure and Obstacle racing, Kite surfing and kite skiing, snow biking, backcountry skiing and snowboarding, etc.

Outdoor organizations and programs which are nimble and well funded have been able to adapt these new activities as they have grown in popularity.

There continues to be a lot of growth in programs which can be run close to large urban centers. These usually involve artificial environments like climbing walls and human-made whitewater parks or ice parks.

Jobs in academia, either as faculty or recreation staff, have been steadily growing over the last decade as colleges and universities recognize the value of experiential and co-curricular education.

Q: Which categories of jobs (counselor, naturalist, guide, etc.) might be the most profitable places to begin searching for someone wishing to turn their outdoor passion into a career?

The harsh reality is that no outdoor jobs really pay as well as we might like. It is truly a lifestyle choice to work in the outdoors. As you might guess, the best paying jobs in the industry involve running large organizations that make outdoor equipment or provide education or recreation opportunities. But those higher-paying jobs usually to not get to spend as much time in the field.

The best paying jobs which do involve time in the field usually cater to higher end clients, like up-scale adventure tourism or resort guiding. There is also potential for good money in outdoor film-making.

Q: If you could prescribe a recipe for going from “zero-to-hero” to aspiring outdoor educators, what would that process entail for someone looking to move up the ladder in the industry?

It seems hard for me to get this point across to some aspiring outdoor professionals, but I’ll try again here…the most important thing you can do for your career is identify what you LOVE to do. Whether it’s teaching, guiding, or

something else, if you don’t love it, you won’t last. So many young people with or without college degrees just bounce from job to job to job throughout their 20’s. That is fine, but it means that it will take you longer to reach your niche, that place where you are really self-actualized and happy with your work. If you can spend some serious reflection time trying to identify that thing you love to do while you are younger, you will have more time to become the master of your field.

What gets people from zero to hero is their love of the work they are doing. If you are passionate about it, you will gravitate toward the best mentors in your field and you will eventually become a master yourself. If the passion for your work isn’t there, you might as well be on Wall Street making real money because you are going to need it to be happy.

The recipe goes like this: 1) Find that thing you love to do; 2) Identify the person or organization who is currently doing that thing the best in the world; 3) Go to them and offer to start at the bottom of the ladder. Don’t take no for an answer. If they require a degree or certification, go get it. 4) Have fun while working your ass off as you move through the organization.

If running a business is part of your passion, then you may be better off leaving and starting your own at some point. But don’t own your own business just because you think that is what success is. You will never be happy running an outdoor business unless you like the everyday work of running a business more than you like actually being outdoors.

Q: In your opinion, which certifications are the most valuable for an outdoor education job applicant? Which certifications might not be worth an aspiring outdoor educator’s time and money?

Wilderness First Responder certification has become an industry standard for any programs which run overnight wilderness trips or visit remote locations.

Today, there are so many certifications out there for the various outdoor activities you might participate in that it is nearly impossible to sort them all out. Certifying bodies include: ACA for boating, AMGA for climbing, AIARE for avalanche education, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute and SOLO for wilderness medicine training, PADI for diving, etc. etc. Which of these certifications you choose to pursue depends on what skills you are interested in. My best advice here is to simply avoid the start-ups. If you are looking for a certification, you want a proven organization that will be there in the long-run to stand behind your training. If they aren’t more than a couple of years old, they may not last and your certification card won’t have quite the same luster.

Q: How do I know if Central Wyoming College’s Outdoor Education and Leadership degree (or other institutional degrees) is a good option for me as a career building block?

In general, employers like to see 2 things on your resume: Formal education and experience in the field for which you are applying. That formal education may mean a college degree or some specific skills certifications or both. Degree programs which also provide an internship opportunity and expedition experience will set you up best for the job market.

If you want to work in academia, you need to be thinking about graduate school. I got my BA and worked at NOLS for 7 years before going to graduate school. But grad school wasn’t part of my plan until I’d been working in the field for 5 years and started thinking about a family and settling down.

If you aren’t sure if a college degree is highly valued at the place you would like to work, give them a call and ask. How many of their employees, on average, have an Associates degree or higher? What did they study?

Q: Will a NOLS course or Outward Bound course make me more valuable to employers? How do I decide which course to enroll in?

The simple answer is yes. If you are looking for a position that involves leading people in the wilderness, employers will be very happy to see NOLS or OB experience on your resume. That is a known quantity for them and they like to know you have been trained to take care of yourself and others in the outdoors.

As for which course to enroll in…that will vary a bit depending on the skills or environments you are hoping to work in. Obviously, if you want to eventually get a job sea kayaking in Baja, take the NOLS course which offers you some experience sea kayaking in Baja.

In general, the Outdoor Educator Semester courses that NOLS offers are the best choice for aspiring outdoor educators. Very comprehensive and usually attract a great group of very motivated folks who are also interested in outdoor careers.

Q: What is the best way to increase personal marketability for job seekers?

Remember that you have 2 things to market: your formal education and your experience. If you don’t have both of those, you may not be qualified yet for the dream job. You may need to go back to school, get specific skills training, or get some experience with an entry-level position at a second-choice organization.

Have a great resume which documents both your professional and outdoor recreation experience and send it far and wide. Use social networks to let people know what you are looking for. Linked In seems to be popular for career networking these days. Ask people to recommend you on Linked In. Post your resume on internet job boards and listserves wherever you can. And email all of your friends and past contacts letting them know what you are looking for.  Conferences and umbrella organizations like AORE and AEE are great ways to make connections as well. Go to these conferences and bring copies of your resume!

The squeaky wheel really does get the grease here. Don’t be too afraid of “bothering” potential employers. Keep pestering them until they realize how qualified and serious you are about working for them.

You can read more about Darran Wells and Central Wyoming College’s Outdoor Education and Leadership degree program here.

Seeking Change: Entering the Outdoor Education Industry

The following is a question and answer type interview with outdoor educator, Jonathan Rasbach.

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Jonathan shares with us some answers to a few Outdoor Education prompts.

Q: What was your education and employment experience prior to Outdoor Education?

Before entering Outdoor Recreation, I was a high school World History and American Government teacher. I’d earned my B.A. in History from Cedarville University (OH) and earned my teaching credentials through a graduate program in education at Anderson University (IN).

Q: What sparked the need for change, inspiring you to pursue an outdoor education career path?

Initially, what drew me to the outdoors (and the West) was burnout. I just “had” to get away after my second year of teaching and decided that the Great Outdoors was the best getaway for my much-needed personal retreat.
By the end of that summer, I had rafted three rivers in Oregon and California, camped in nine of our National Parks, and road-tripped through twelve states over a nearly 40-day period. Throughout my next two years of teaching, my thoughts frequently drifted back to my adventures and to the expansive landscapes of the American West. Moreover, with a youth group I volunteered with, I was able to lead and then guide backpacking and hiking trips in the Tetons and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. Students who knew me in the classroom and saw me on the trail remarked how “alive” I seemed in the outdoor “classroom.”
Shortly after being offered tenure, I resigned from teaching to pursue a degree in Outdoor Recreation at Central Wyoming College. I believed that outdoor education was 1) a more effective vehicle for me to teach and positively influence young lives and 2) a personally healthier work environment than the traditional classroom.

Q: What path did you choose to get yourself into the industry? Would you, in retrospect, have taken a different approach?

The path to Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership was circuitous. It ultimately was chosen after burnout and many frustrating educational and vocational paths before. I never would have chosen this path upfront if I had known the destination from the beginning, but in retrospect I would not change a thing. Here’s why: I could have saved myself a good bit of money and pain had I not pursued the earlier paths, but I would not have found this path if I hadn’t been driven to it by frustration on previous trails. I spent very little time in the outdoors before my “trek West” and am a latecomer to outdoor-recreation, -education, and –leadership. I would not have foreseen this sort of pursuit/career, but retrospectively see God’s hand and wisdom in each phase of my ongoing journey. Each leg of the trip has prepared me uniquely for each subsequent stage and task. I’m glad that, if late, I’ve come to where I am by choice and with deliberate reflection.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring outdoor educators to help them tap into the industry?

Get as much experience in the outdoors and in life as you possibly can. Experience need not ever be wasted. Be broad/liberal in your pursuits, deep in your character and reflection, and firmly grounded in the hard and soft skills needed to lead, teach, and—if you’re fortunate—transform others in and through the Great Outdoors.

How to Blog Successfully

The following is a question and answer type interview with successful fellow blogger, Constantin Gabor.

I first met Constantin Gabor when exploring other blogs in an adventure-type niche where I blogged a while back. Exceptionally friendly and insightful, I turned to Constantin when I decided I wanted to conduct an interview with someone who has an established and successful web presence in the outdoor industry.

Here, Constantin shares with us how and why he began blogging, and provides insight as to how we might all start a sucessful blogging career.

Fellow blogger, Contantin Gabor.

Fellow blogger, Contantin Gabor.

Q: How did you get involved with blogging and maintaining your own website(s)?
It all began in 2009 when the financial crisis found me working in real estate until… I was no longer working. Coz the real estate market just melted.

So with a lot of time on my plate, I started a blog.

Q: What were your initial motivations and goals for creating web content? Have you achieved those?
Ego was my first motivation. I used to be a serious rock climber and mountaineer and I journaled some of my outdoor adventure on the blog.

Have I achieved the ego enhancing motivation?

I guess I did for a while. At some point it didn’t matter anymore. I realized I don’t actually like to brag and my spare time is MY spare time – there’s no need to blog about my climbing accomplishments.

Q: Have your goals and expectations changed from the beginning? What is your new direction compared to when you began?
Yes, they certainly have.

Since I was jobless (living off savings) I started to notice this blogging as a business thing. So I gradually transitioned to solving problems with content (and less personal journal).

Q: What is the best part of being a webmaster and blogger?
Being a sovereign on your own ideas, your own work and your own time.

Q: From your experience, does blogging constitute a viable means of profit and income for the amateur?
Yes. The space is crowded now but if you have solid content and focus on serving a niche better than most players, you can definitely make money blogging.

Q: In your experience what is the key to generating a large and loyal reader base? What brings viewers in? What drives them away?
An answer to their problem is what draws readers in. Once they’re there, your writing style and personality helps as well.

If you want to send your readers away, focus on yourself: write about yourself, list your merits, etc. Nobody cares, so they go away.

Q: If you could give a new webmaster/blogger a recipe for “zero-to-hero” success, what would you suggest?
I won’t talk about tactics (SEO, plugins, email marketing) – you can Google those.

You need two things to make money blogging (let’s define making enough money as “hero” and making no money as “zero”):

1. Market
2. Passion

Notice that market is first, not passion.

What does market mean?

Well, think about this: you can be the greatest miniature-rice-seed-painter in the world and have the best blog on the topic with solid articles about how to make miniature paintings on rice seeds. All you got is passion.

If there’s no market, you cannot make money. In other words, if there isn’t a critical number of people who are interested in that subject, it means if you have no audience. And with no audience, you can’t do much in terms of business.

Now, about passion, you need lots of it. So you have to be lucky enough to be passioned about something that constitutes a market (example: outdoor gear, video editing, weight loss, marketing, etc.).

The passion is what fuels you in the long run. And that will make all the difference between you and the rest. Most new bloggers wanna run a sprint (and expect to win) but this game is a marathon. So you need to build a site to be proud of – that takes time and passion.

Now, let’s get back to market coz this is very important.

If there is an irrational passion for a subject then that might be good sign there’s a market. One example would be the iPhone/iPad craze. Any good blog about new apps, tricks and hacks for iPones and so on will be able to make money (affiliate sales on iPhones or on paid apps, direct advertising, related gear and accessories sponsored reviews, etc.).

The classic example of a market (and better to follow) is the pain/problem. Examples: I can’t loose weight (embarrassing problem), my editing software won’t import MP4 files (frustrating problem), my teeth are yellow – how can I make them whiter (embarrassing problem).

And a market implies a product which means some of your readers will want to spend money.

Once you master this aspect – who is your target market and how can you help them – you’ll start seeing results. Basically, blog to teach (and teaching sells).

And stay away from personal journal land. Blog about you only if it’s relevant to the topic you’re teaching – that makes sense and it’sallowed.

Start rocking now!

Bio: Constantin Gabor is an outdoorsy guy who loves video editing, marketing and entrepreneurship. Check out his personal blog at ConstantinGabor.com.