I should have known

February 23, 2007

How could I have been so stupid? It took me a while, but I figured out who found my site while searching for information on “no underwear” hiking.

It should have been obvious.

Britney Spears
Britney Spears

I understand she’s been under some stress lately. Perhaps she is in search of the quiet and solitude of the outdoors.

That must be it.

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Commando tracking

February 22, 2007

It shouldn’t be a surprise that bloggers crave an audience for their words. We all want to know that someone is interested in what we say.

I’m sure I’m no different than every other blogger in the world when I admit I often check the stats of my blog to see how many people visit. I also check a feature offered by WordPress.com that shows the keywords people type in a search engine that provides results leading them here.

Scanning the list can be informative. It can also be baffling.

I’m still trying to figure out this one: a seach for “no underwear” hiking.

Wordpress search terms

Let’s think about that a minute.

Okay, think about it if you can without too graphic a mental picture.

Is there a reason why someone wants to know more about hiking without underwear? Do they really need to read up about it?

Perhaps a better question would be, what did I write that would lead a person wanting to hike without underwear to my site? To answer that, I did my own Google search.

Google search

Turns out, my site was the third item in the search results, thanks to a comment made in a post I wrote on preparing a packing list for last summer’s trip to Colorado. For whatever reason that person was searching for “no underwear” hiking, I’m sure that result was a disappointment.

But if someone wants to go commando on a hike, I’m not offended by that. I can turn the other cheek.

Uh, never mind.

Maybe it’s best I stop checking the search keywords list. It might be better to not know too much about my readers.


That ultralight backpacking stuff is over-rated

February 20, 2007

22-lb sleeping bagWhen weight is no object, here’s the ultimate item for your kit: A 22-lb. sleeping bag.

Buy it now for just $429.00!

The forklift you’ll need to carry it is not included.

(Thanks to Doug Matthews via AT-L for the link.)


Happy feet

February 19, 2007

Zamberlan Java XCRWhen I buy backpacking gear, I frequently spend months comparing features and looking for the best prices. I hunt down reviews and sift through specifications until I’m confident I’m making a wise buying decision.

But I don’t do that when I buy shoes.

I know that doesn’t make much sense, considering that most people think what you put on your feet is your most important gear. But I don’t do that because I got smart and let someone else do the work for me.

I go to a store that has employees who know hiking/backpacking footwear and spend a lot of effort to make sure their customers get fitted properly. I drive a couple hours to get there and sometimes spend a couple hours being measured and fitted for shoes.

At the risk of making this post a free commercial for Diamond Brand Outdoors, I feel I need to single out this store because, in my mind, it is noteworthy.

A few other stores claim to use the Phil Oren FitSystem method of fitting footwear, but Diamond Brand is the only one I’ve found that practices it like a religion.

Though I seem to be gushing about this store, what I really want to extol is the new pair of hiking boots I bought yesterday, a pair of Zamberlan Java XCR mid-cut boots. I wore them all day today because I figured I should make an attempt to break them in before a backpacking trip I’m making this weekend.

There’s no such thing as boots that don’t need breaking in, but it’s almost as if I needn’t bother with these. They were comfortable all day long.

Okay, so sitting at my desk most of the day doesn’t exact duplicate the pounding my feet get on the trail, but I’ve never worn boots all day and not have them feel sore eventually, hiking or not.

The real proof will come this weekend. The hike will be from Carver’s Gap to Big Hump Mountain, a mere seven miles in distance on the Appalachian Trail, but brutal for the elevation changes. And the forecast is for sloppy weather, which should give a good test of the Gore-Tex lining.

One more point to make about these boots: I paid for them, unlike Tom “The Corporate Slut” Mangan, who got his Zamberlans for free.

(Sorry, Tom, I couldn’t resist that.)


Who’s surprised by this?

February 6, 2007

Shell hires Bush’s environmental adviser

(via R. Neal)


Googlejuiced

February 6, 2007

Google GulpTom Mangan writes about a receiving an inquiry from an outdoor clothing company interested in setting up an affiliate program with his blog:

I can’t imagine I’ve got enough readers to make it worth the trouble but even if I did, a commission set-up strikes me as problematic.

I completely agree, Tom. It’s just not worth the bother, let alone the chance of sacrificing your credibility.

I got a similar email a few months ago from a guy who said he represented Lands’ End. He said:

“I was wondering what the policy was for adding links to your blog, and if you would be willing to add a link to Lands’ End. We are willing to discuss sponsorship opportunities as well.”

Just as Tom reacted, when I received that message I thought my blog was too small and lacked enough influence for Lands’ End to gain anything from a link.

The offers Tom and I received recently are different than the ones I wrote about in May. In that post I mentioned several requests I received to write about certain sites. Of those requests, I found one particularly bothersome. It offered a chance to win a trip if I wrote about the site.

Those earlier inquires were intended to build “buzz” about a site. But the latest ones are just looking for links. Sure, those companies would love to sell the products that are mentioned on our sites, but that’s not what they’re after.

They’re looking for Google juice.

Link traffic is the new currency of the Internet, thanks to Google. The value of that currency is called Google juice, or officially by Google, pagerank. That’s the position where each site appears in a search using a particular keyword or phrase.

There are ways to determine that value, though they are inexact and the results vary widely. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I checked the value of my site at Linkvendor.com. Its calculator said a link on my home page is worth $3.50.

Interestingly, the calculator said a link on Tom’s home page has the same value. I’m surprised by that, considering he is much more active with his blogging. He does a better job generating comments, which presumably is a reflection of higher traffic.

Compare our value of $3.50 to the supposed value of a link on the home page of the New York Times: $1,536.31. Is nytimes.com 439 times more valuable than our sites? Who knows.

I don’t know anything about the methodology or validity of this information, but I’m sure Lands’ End, Patagonia, and all the other companies seeking links on blogs know the value of their pagerank. They also know that cultivating a little goodwill with bloggers, thereby gaining more links, can go a long way to boosting that pagerank.

And that’s what it comes down to.

I never bothered replying to the guy who asked about linking to Lands’ End, just as I’ve never replied to any other request like it. I don’t intend to get into the business of endorsements and blogging for dollars.

On the other hand, I am looking for an ultralight (under 10 ounces) rain jacket and all the ones I’ve seen so far cost well over $200. I wonder how many links that’s worth.


Trying to catch up on a couple items

February 5, 2007

Bob Butler
Bob Butler
Back in December 2005 I noted here that the hiking podcast called Trailcast had returned with new episodes after a long hiatus.

But a few months later Bob Butler suddenly stopped production again.

Apparently I’m not the only one who’s been wondering what happened to him and why he stopped producing new episodes. Occasionally, I get hits here from people when a search engine link leads them to my blog post.

His Web site makes no mention of where he is or what he’s doing.

So what happened to Butler and why did he disappear without so much as a good bye?

It took another podcaster to solve the mystery. Bob Cartwright, whose backpackinglight.co.uk podcasts is a regular listen for me, tracked Butler down and interviewed him.

Butler told Cartwright he bought a house and fell in love and just got too busy to produce the podcast right now. So Butler’s disapperance isn’t really a mystery, but the interview is interesting just the same.



Ron Zaleski
Back in August I wrote about Ron Zaleski, a former Marine who was on a southbound thru-hike of the AT. He was hiking barefoot and for a cause. I made a few comments about that, but mostly complained that he claimed to be the first person to thru-hike the AT barefoot. Even today his site makes that claim, despite the fact that it’s been done before.Search engines also sometimes lead people here because of my post.After noticing another reference to him in my blog statistics page recently I decided to find out if he finished his thru-hike.

It doesn’t look like he did, but I can’t tell for sure. He too just disappeared.

The last entry in his journal is dated October 5 and still a couple months away from Springer Moutain, Ga.

Got up and my legs are still numb. I called to see a chiropractor and have decided to scale back the mileage. I realized that I am no good if I end up in the hospital. We will see what happens. Am taking a zero to give it a chance.

For you non-hikers, a zero is a “zero day,” or a day off from the trail. From the looks of it, he took more than one.