This week’s giveaway will feature products from Trek Light Gear. As an introduction to Trek Light Gear, I conducted an interview with co-founder and CEO, Seth Haber. Trek Light Gear is one of the leading companies producing high-quality lightweight hammocks today. Designed to be used anywhere, the company is built around Seth’s personal revelation,
What better way to get outside, relax and take a break from a busy life than to lay in a hammock? And, what if you could easily take that hammock, that little piece of heaven, with you wherever you went?
Based out of Colorado, Trek Light Gear has made the rounds to countless shows, conventions and festivals to spread the noble philosophy that “no matter how crazy your life is, you are never too busy to take a few moments and relax.”
Interview with Seth Haber, CEO, Trek Light Gear:
Hello, Seth. I’d first like to thank you for allowing us to do this interview with you and for generously donating to the Spring in to Adventure Giveaway for Backcountry Expedition Week.
Q: First, can you tell us a little about the products that you’ve sent in for this giveaway?
We’re giving away one of our Double Hammocks along with our Go Anywhere Rope Kit which makes it easy to hang the hammock anywhere you go. The Double is our most comfortable and most popular hammock model, weighing only 20oz and holding up to 400lbs. We’re also including a pair of our ultralight carabiners which can be used to hang the hammock or for anything else – they weigh less than an ounce each and are rated up to 1100lbs.
Q: The description of the Double Hammock on the website lists it as weighing in around 20 ounces. About how much space does it take up in a pack?
The hammock itself packs down into its own pouch which only measures about 5”x8”. And because the material packs so well, that pouch can then be compressed even further when stuffing it into a pack – the entire Double Hammock packs down to about the size of a softball when compressed. Another great feature is that the carry pouch itself is permanently attached to the hammock and functions as a pocket while using the hammock – a great, multi-use feature that means you’ll never lose it and there’s no extra weight to carry.
Q: What material are the hammocks made out of? What made you decide on this fabric?
The hammocks are made out of a nylon material that’s commonly referred to as ‘parachute nylon’. After checking out a variety of different ways to make a hammock, I found that the parachute nylon offered the perfect combination of the 5 factors that are most important: durability, breathability, strength, weight and comfort. The material won’t rot or mildew which is a major problem with other woven cotton or cloth hammocks. It breathes extremely well in the heat and doesn’t stretch during use.
Q: With so many different styles of hammocks out there, what inspired you to take the direction you have with the design of the hammocks?
I’m a big fan of simple design and the ‘less is more’ philosophy. When you get into more complicated hammock designs you’ll often find that there’s more to break, repair, etc. and the improvements offered are often appealing to a smaller set of people. When it comes to the hammock, I discovered that the same basic hammock design that’s been in use for centuries around the world is ultimately pretty perfect in its simplicity. It’s not something I invented by any means, it’s simply using a traditional design with different materials.
By traditional design, I’m referring to the woven string hammock design found commonly in Central and South America, not the wooden spreader bar style hammock that’s common in many backyards in the US. Those are an unfortunate departure from what a hammock should be and if you’re curious to know what I mean by that I highly recommend reading this blog post: “These Aren’t The Hammocks You’re Looking For: How You’ve Been Hammock Brainwashed”
Even though we’re using a modern material instead of woven strings, the basic design principles of a Trek Light Gear hammock is really as old as the hammock itself.
Q: In your experience, how long should someone expect their hammock to hold up to regular use? When do you know it’s time to start looking for a replacement?
The best answer to that question is that we’re still at 9 years and counting for a number of our original customers. It honestly amazes even me but people continue to stop by our kiosk in Boulder and let us know that they’re still using their hammocks they bought during our first summer in business.
That being said though, I’ve definitely seen hammocks that people have put through the ringer so to speak. Holes or small tears in the hammock can be pretty easily repaired (we sell a great repair patch through our site) but a growing number of holes or a major tear in the material is a sure sign that it’s time for a new hammock.
What’s most encouraging is that just about every time I hear from a customer who’s worn out their hammock, they follow it up by telling me how happy they are with how long it lasted and the abuse it took and that they can’t wait to get a new one.
Q: What do you recommend for taking care of our hammocks to insure they last a long time?
The hammock is built tough but the key is really just to remember that it’s made with a lightweight material that needs to be treated with respect. Be aware of what you’re wearing when you get into it, you don’t want to hop into your hammock with something sharp or abrasive on your clothing or shoes that could tear the material.
If you’re camping, be mindful of how close to the campfire you setup your hammock. It’s no different than how you would think of any other camping gear in that regard – embers can have a certain knack for seeking out your favorite pieces of gear and burning holes through them if you’re not careful.
Last but not least, the hammock is designed so you can put it up and take it down literally within seconds. Like flaming embers, UV rays can be gear-killers, so you don’t want to leave the hammock outside in the direct sun for long periods of time. By no means does that mean that you shouldn’t use your hammock in the sun or that you should ever worry about having it out while you enjoy a fun day in the sun. It’s long term exposure that does the damage and over time those powerful UV rays are going to fade the colors and eventually weaken the material to the point that it can tear much easier. A few extra seconds to bring your hammock in when you’re done will likely have the biggest impact on how many years of enjoyment you get out of it.
Q: I love that your site has a guide to sleeping in a hammock. Do you find that a lot of people have trouble sleeping in hammocks simply because they don’t know how to properly lay in one?
Absolutely. The Sleeping In A Hammock Guide has been the most viewed blog post on our site since I published it. I didn’t start a hammock company because I was a hammock aficionado or expert, I discovered the benefits of a hammock and eventually found myself learning more about it and spreading that message to others. As part of my job I’m often at festivals and trade shows talking to thousands of people about hammocks and I started to realize that there are a lot of misconceptions about hammocks and how to properly hang them and use them comfortably. Telling someone how to properly setup and use a hammock may sound ridiculous if you think there’s nothing to it, but it’s amazing how understanding a few simple concepts can make such a big difference in the experience.
It took me a while to funnel what I’ve learned into a guide that I could publish but since I posted it I’ve gotten hundreds of emails and phone calls from people who tell me I’ve literally helped them get the best sleep of their lives – definitely not something I ever expected when I wrote it. Without rehashing it here you should just read the guide!
Q: How long has Trek Light Gear been in business?
The first event I did was in 2003 at a street festival in Boulder. At the beginning I felt like I was simply sharing a cool idea with other people and if it earned me some summer beer money I was happy. It wasn’t until 2005 that I actually formed an LLC, launched a basic website and started focusing on what it really meant to have a business and where it could go. In 2008, I finally walked away from my full-time job to focus on Trek Light Gear and it’s been a wild ride ever since.
Q: Your website, and your company philosophy in general, seem to be all about not just getting outdoors, but finding the moments that make being outdoors special. This is a great message to have woven into the core values of your business. How does Trek Light encourage this philosophy in their customers and the community?
I love the question because you really nailed one of the important aspects of what the Trek Light brand and the hammock in particular represents to me.
I see our hammock as a vehicle for experiencing life. When you lay back in the hammock things slow down – you have a chance to breathe, relax, think, and appreciate your surroundings. You’re suddenly blissfully comfortable and it has the interesting effect of making you feel at peace and lucky to be where you are. It’s those moments when you can’t help but think ‘life is good’ even when you’ve got stressful things going on in your life. You mentioned the outdoors and that’s obviously a huge focus, but it doesn’t even have to be outdoors – a hammock setup indoors is incredible and helps you find those moments just the same.
The idea that ‘life is better in a hammock’ is something that I felt early on and it’s woven into every aspect of the company. I’ve been so touched by the emails and calls I’ve gotten from people who have told me that the hammock has actually changed their lives or made one of their adventures what it was. It’s incredible when you think about it – a backpack won’t make your life more memorable. Neither will a tent, clothing or so many other outdoor gear products out there. But I hear it all the time from people who’ve discovered the effect the hammock has on them and it’s something I’ll never take for granted as a business owner.
Q: Your site also talks about hammock camping being a more “environmentally friendly” way to experience the outdoors. Can you elaborate on this a little for us?
It’s hard to talk about all the positive effects and benefits of camping with a hammock without coming across as anti-tent. I grew up camping in tents and have lots of great memories hanging out with groups of friends in the backyard or in the woods. Comfort aside, one of the truths about tent camping is that you’ve got a pretty large footprint where you’re crushing the soil and any plant growth underneath you. There are studies that show that even one night of having a tent on the ground can kill the grass, wildflowers, etc. underneath. If you’re camping in a group night after night or other people will be camping in the exact same spot when you leave, you can see how much of an impact it can have over time. Camping with a hammock minimizes the impact that you have on the soil a great deal. Instead of rolling around on the ground all night your only real impact to the ground is your footprints.
I also believe that one of the best ways to get people to care more about the environment is to get them to connect with nature. It became apparent to me that sleeping in a tent when you’re camping actually disconnects you from your surroundings – you’re in the woods but you’re practically indoors in your tent. When you’re in a hammock you’re literally sleeping under the stars (or under a tarp if there’s rain) and that ‘life is good’ feeling kicks in quick. You’ll realize that you feel a much stronger connection to your surroundings and anything that helps you feel that connection to nature is going to help make you more mindful of your impact.
Q: Would you consider Trek Light Gear a “Green” company?
I don’t let myself get hung up on the whole ‘green’ company thing. What we do speaks to how important environmental issues are to the brand and me personally.
We’ve got our ‘Buy A Hammock, Plant A Tree’ program which has planted thousands of trees around the country over the last few years for every hammock we’ve sold. The impact the program has had is incredible, there’s areas all over the world that desperately need reforestation and I’m immensely proud of the difference we’re making.
We’ve been promoting our Eco Totes (reusable shopping bags) since long before all the plastic bag bans started coming about in grocery stores around the world. I was reading an article one day that opened my eyes to just how bad the plastic bag pollution problem is – learning that something as disposable and commonplace in our culture as the plastic bag takes over 1,000 years to decompose and often winds up in our oceans. Suddenly I realized I could use the material we make our hammocks out of to do something about it. Considering the average person uses about 500 plastic bags a year, every single Eco Tote we get out there makes an incredible difference.
My goal is simply to promote the philosophy that if you enjoy the outdoors we all need to do our part to protect it, one small step at time. I want people to think about their impact on the planet – that’s definitely a big part of what the Trek Light name represents. It can be overwhelming for people or businesses who feel like they can’t possibly live up to the high standards of doing everything that being considered ‘green’ might cover. Just do your best – something as simple as recycling a bottle or using a reusable bag on your next grocery trip can have an incredible impact when enough of us simply care enough to do it.
Q: I think most of us would suspect that selling hammocks for a living has got to be one of the most relaxing jobs in the outdoor industry. What does the average day look like for the CEO of Trek Light Gear?
Of course the answer is that it’s not as much time spent lying around in a hammock as you’d think. But, there are lots of perks – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been somewhere hanging out in a hammock, out on a photo shoot or even just talking to someone about hammocks and had that amazing “I love my job” feeling. Realizing that while I’m relaxing in a hammock I’m actually at work, it never really gets old.
Right now I love being involved in every aspect of running a business – on any given day I’ve got a million things on my plate: marketing, accounting, customer service, graphic design, blogging, business development, you name it. The CEO in my title stands for Chief Everything Officer and it’s been an incredible learning experience for me. It can be pretty overwhelming most of the time, but it’s a great feeling to love your job and not have the same work routine to do day after day.
In February, I signed a lease on the first Trek Light Gear office space that isn’t in my living room or garage. It’s in a funky warehouse space in Boulder and we’re busy turning it into a showroom complete with hammocks hanging from the ceiling and lots of space to demo all of our products. There’s a few more projects to complete and then I can’t wait to show it off and invite people in.
Q: What do you look for when you are looking for the right place to hang a hammock?
The view is definitely the easy answer to that one. There’s something incredible about hanging a hammock with a beautiful view you can take in as you fall asleep or first thing when you wake up. To sit near the edge of a waterfall or watch the sunrise on the side of a mountain, those are the moments that are hard to beat. But, the beauty of having a portable hammock is that it also really doesn’t matter where you are. When you lie back and close your eyes or look up at the sky it doesn’t matter whether you’re on your back porch or on the edge of the Grand Canyon – life is good.
Q: Your Facebook Page has some great shots of Trek Light hammocks in amazing locations. One of the recent REI photo contest winners was a Trek Light hammock photo. Where was your favorite, or most memorable place you’ve hung your hammock?
There are a lot of spots that compete for a favorite in my mind, but if I had to choose it would probably be on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Lying in a hammock and listening to the waves crash on the beach as you drift off to sleep, you could call that my happy place.
The hammock has actually created powerful enough memories for me that I can often just close my eyes and put myself back in a particular spot – even around the office I can lie down in a hammock and suddenly remember the sounds or the way the breeze felt during one of those magical hammock experiences.
Q: I once spent a week camping in my hammock along a creek. I woke up in the middle of the night with something repeatedly bumping against the underside of the hammock. When I finally got my headlamp turned on and looked, there were dozens of tiny frogs making their way across my camp and as they jumped, some would hit the hammock. It was a very strange and memorable experience for me and one you really wouldn’t get sleeping in a tent. Have you ever had a strange or unique experience that would not have happened if you were NOT in your hammock?
That’s a great example of why I love being in a hammock instead of a tent whenever I can. One of my favorite experiences is just waking up in a hammock and watching the sunrise. You don’t have to go to the trouble of getting out of your tent, putting your shoes on or anything at all – you can just float in a hammock and watch nature come alive right before your eyes. I’ve woken up to see marmots running around my hammock, fish jumping in a nearby lake, bighorn sheep silhouetted on a mountain range – you realize why you’re out there camping in the first place. When I sleep in a tent, most of my mornings are spent complaining about the rock or root that kept me up all night and not wanting to really get up until it gets too hot in the tent to force me out.
Q: Trek Light recently added the Eco Totes to the product line. Can you tell us a little about what inspired the new product?
Contrary to the note on our website that still refers to them as being recently introduced (I need to update that!) they’ve actually been in our lineup for a number of years now. I talked about the Eco Totes while answering the ‘green’ question but it’s hard to say enough how important they are.
We’re all used to just showing up at the grocery store and getting paper or plastic bags, I definitely understand that the idea of bringing your own takes a little getting used to. But, we’ve got to educate ourselves on what’s actually happening every time you get a plastic bag – incredible amounts of oil and other valuable resources go into making something that people use once (twice if you’re lucky) before disposing. You use it for less than 20 minutes and then it sits around as waste for 1,000 years – that’s a no-brainer.
The idea behind the Eco Totes is that they make it easy to make the switch, they pack up into a tiny pouch so you can easily leave them in your car or have them with you when you need them. They’re also stronger than just about any similar bag out there because they’re made with the same material as our hammocks. There are lots of examples of things being sold as ‘reusable bags’ that look like they’ll wear out after only a few uses. I don’t see the point in calling something a reusable bag if it doesn’t hold up for many years of use.
Q: What’s next for Trek Light Gear? Any new projects in the pipeline you’d like to tell us about? Anything exciting coming up?
There’s lots of exciting things happening here right now. One thing I’m most excited about is a new backpack design we’ve got coming out soon, it’s a small daypack which can pack down into itself just like our Eco Totes and hammocks and it only weighs about 3oz. I’ve been testing one for the last few weeks and I’m amazed at how much I’m using it on a daily basis. It’ll be called the PackBack™ and you heard it here first. Look for it in Late Spring/Early Summer.
There may be a few other exciting product additions this year, but the big focus for me is in spreading the word even more about our current product line and building a strong retail presence in 2012. I’ve been focusing on grassroots marketing and building the brand through direct sales for the last 9 years and I’m excited to build on that foundation now by getting Trek Light Gear on as many retail shelves as possible. I’ve got competitors who have focused solely on getting into stores from the start, so there will be some fun challenges there but our passionate fan base speaks for itself in many ways. I’m looking forward to making it easier for people to discover Trek Light Gear in their favorite outdoor stores. It’s a whole new direction for the company but it’s really just an extension of what we’ve been doing all along.
Q: And finally, I have to ask: I noticed in your FAQ page someone has asked “Can the hammock be used as a parachute?”…how often do you really get that question?
You’d be amazed.
Slideshow from TrekLightGear.com Gallery…