I recently supported a crowd-funding campaign by Carrot Quinn, a fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador who was raising funds for a second Pacific Crest Trail through-hike. This is the second time I’ve ever supported a crowd-funding campaign (the first was to support the Continental Divide Trail Coalition), and probably the only time I will ever contribute cold, hard cash to a through-hike attempt. Why, why, and why?
Why I Don’t Do Crowd-Funding
The simplest answer is I’m not a gambling man. I can’t afford to spend money now on things I may never see. Aside from health and auto insurance, and membership to trail-maintenance organizations that maintain my favorite trails, I can’t justify spending money on anything that doesn’t give me instant gratification. Maybe that will change someday, but if it does, I would still only give my money where I know I’m not throwing it away.
Why I Supported Carrot
Carrot has proven herself capable of not only hiking the PCT, but also of writing beautifully. The crowd-funding campaign was essentially a pre-order for her already-written-but-yet-to-be-published book, so really, I just pre-ordered her book. She has already produced possibly the best blog ever written about hiking the entire PCT, which proves to me that she has the discipline and chops to keep on writing.
You may remember a slew of disastrous Kickstarter campaigns over the past few years by people planning giant expeditions with little or no prior experience. Lack of experience, and over-ambitious plans are usually easy to spot. There is no shortage of similar campaigns to fund Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail through-hikes in order to film documentaries and write travel memoirs. Take one look at the past experience in either hiking or film-making/writing that most of these people display, and you’ll come up blank 99% of the time.
Why I Probably Won’t Support Other Crowd-Funded Through-Hikes
The answer to this one is simple numbers. Few people try to crowd-fund their hikes, and the percentage of those who really deserve to have someone else pay for their adventure is miniscule. And who deserves to have others pay for their hike? People who have proven they can produce something worth paying for, usually by producing it, or another similar product, before the hike even starts. A good book, for instance. Or many good books. Take Chris Townsend’s Cairngorms In Winter project a few years back. Chris was already very well-known through his writing and travels, so his backers for the Kickstarter campaign knew what they were getting into. Lo and behold, the project succeeded, and produced a professional, finished product. People were paying for the film, not for Chris and Terry to just hang out in Scotland for a few months, and they knew it was a project worth supporting because both had done plenty of other work to show their abilities in the past.
My advice to people who want money for a through-hike is to work hard, save your pennies before the hike, and be thrifty on the trail. Build a reputation before you ask strangers for money, and have a unique reason to ask for funding.