In 2013, along with Chase Christopher, I started The Mountain Project to showcase the beauty of the hunt, and the locations hunts occur. That's how I met Jim and Marsupial Gear. Today, I'm the marketing director at Marsupial Gear. When you get an email, odds are I am the voice behind it.
I grew up hunting but wasn't into gear.
And I quit hunting during college. But I put myself through school as a hippy-dippy backpacking wilderness guide. That was my job. I led backpack trips into the canyons of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Mostly, I just loved the wilderness and only ever wanted to be in it.
So after college, I combined my love of wilderness and backpacking with my desire to hunt again. I looked for gear to suit the task. My first exposure to equipment was from brands like Arc Tery'x and Mountain Hardware - the so-called "good stuff."
I spent time on the hunting forums, and it seemed (this was probably 2005 or so) that only a few brands were making serious gear for hunters. So I ordered a new backpack. It was camouflage. And it had a built-in rifle scabbard. Its capacity would expand to change from a solid day pack into an expedition pack should I need it. It seemed perfect - on paper.
The only drawback I could see was that it was heavy - several pounds heavier than my Arc Tery'x. But… it was camouflage.
Did I say it was camouflage?
I used that pack on one trip and realized it was garbage. The weight was absurd. The expansion straps weren't long enough to accommodate a full expansion of the pack. And that genius rifle scabbard, well, it hit my calf every time I stepped down from the rocks I navigated.
I called the company to express my concerns. They didn't receive them well. But I got them to send longer webbing straps so the pack would open more. Unfortunately, there was no solution to the scabbard issue. I sold that pack on the same forum that had spoken so highly of it. And I went on to use my normal backpacking gear for years after.
I'd always wondered why the "good" gear companies seemed to ignore the hunting market.
I wasn't the only one wondering that. This is how Sitka started, followed by KUIU, and now, not too many years later, the industry is flooded with high-quality gear explicitly made for hunting.
It's a great time to be a hunter. And before you tell me that your grandpa killed bucks in denim and flannel - I realize this is all the rage to do these days - remember that your grandpa wasn't spending days away from a vehicle, living out of a backpack, going deep into the wilderness to escape throngs of other hunters to find the biggest and oldest animals on the mountain.
Times have changed in many ways. Gear had to catch up.
And this brings me to the point. Like I wondered why established outdoor brands didn't make good gear for hunters, birders find themselves in a similar situation.
Take it from Pam Weedman.
She recently wrote to tell us how she uses a Marsupial Gear harness for a different kind of hunting, but one that she's no less passionate about than we all are about looking for deer.
See what Pam has to say below.
From: an Old Bird Lady
This is not a compelling hunting story. It is not a compelling anything. It's not even a real review, I guess. But I felt inspired to write to you. I accidentally found Marsupial Gear a while back. I don't even really remember how I found you. I read your emails, looked at all your products, and watched your videos. It's all fascinating and informative.
I am a 69-year-old woman in Arkansas who hunts birds. Not the same kind of bird hunting that I bet you expect to hear about, but a bird hunter nonetheless.
Let me explain.
Before it became more politically correct to be called a "birder" ( how very chic!), we were all just plain old nerdy birdwatchers. If you have seen The Beverly Hillbillies reruns, visualize Miss Jane Hathaway with her superior attitude, talking about a yellow-bellied sapsucker while wearing a starched scout uniform. Yep, that's the image, and, truthfully, sometimes it is undoubtedly comical to see a bunch of so-called birders. There are birders, and then there are birders ( who don't mind being called birdwatchers).
Birdwatching ( remember, I'm old ) has never been considered a very athletic sport that requires much skill. Well, here's the deal, and don't start yawning. You can enjoy watching birds even if you don't know what you're looking at, just like you real hunters can appreciate the great outdoors even when you don't get what you came for. But let's face it, none of us get all "dressed up," tromp through the woods, stay in a spot for what seems like forever (sometimes holding it in!), fight ticks and chiggers (I can't even mention snakes), and in all kinds of weather ONLY to enjoy the outdoors. You can go to a nice park and have a picnic if that's what you want.
It's about the hunt and the gear it takes to get the job done. I have never hunted with a rifle, shotgun, or slingshot. I wouldn't know where to begin. But I do know a fair amount of birding. I may have one chance a year to see a fantastic little migrating warbler passing through on its way to a breeding ground far away. It takes knowing where to look, what you're looking for, and being prepared for the weather and the unexpected. Sound familiar? I need to get a tiny little beauty flitting about in dense growth for a few seconds in my sights as quickly as possible before it's gone, maybe forever. I need the best gear I can afford.
I have been at this for a while. You folks are on to something. Birding is a huge business, but I have found that the hunting community has the goods—serious stuff. I bought your binocular pack and a couple of pouches. What an improvement over what is out there for us bird people! The regular open pack lets me keep my Swarovski 8x42s (bino bandits on) up close, get them out in a flash but still keep them secure. The best part for me is that if I need to keep my binoculars up for "a while," I can rest my elbows on the chest pack to stabilize them and decrease neck and shoulder fatigue. Who knew! After years of "warbler neck," I need all the help I can get. Adding the pouches was minimal extra weight and let me take my "stuff." The new generation of birders carries tons of gear - cameras, lenses, tripods, spotting scopes, sound recording equipment, etc. The possibilities from your sewing room are endless.
Keep those sewing rooms busy. Marsupial Gear isn't just for real hunters anymore. Old bird ladies and the next generation of birders need stuff too.
At Marsupial Gear, we feel honored to be regarded as such. Jim has high standards for every product that goes out the door. Sometimes I think he's obsessive about it. But, then, I often send out typos and broken links in the emails hitting your inbox, while we have very few products shipped that don't meet Jim's standard of quality. Perhaps I should be as obsessive as Jim is.