Before I learned the importance of telling people my plans when I was heading out hiking, I was just darn lucky that nothing ever happened in the wilderness that would prevent me from getting out on my own.
Now I usually carry a satellite messaging device when I’m in the backcountry, but I also make sure to communicate my plans with others. A new web-based service for outdoor adventurers, iNeverSolo makes communicating your plans easier than ever. I caught up with Peter Downing, their marketing guy, to find out more about this new initiative.
MEGHAN: Tell me a bit about yourself and your role with iNeverSolo.
PETER: I am a long-time “outdoor guy” and marketing professional, a native Coloradoan who loves to ski, cycle, fly fish and run. I spent years as a competitive ultrarunner, with several Leadvilles (finishing 2nd and 4th way back in the 90’s) and a host of 50-milers, even a course record or two, under my belt. There’s still nothing I enjoy more than 3-4 hours on the trail, just me, my thoughts and a mountain. A good friend of mine introduced me to Jed Mitchell, the founder of iNeverSolo, who asked me to join him as his marketing guy. I loved the idea from the get-go; it just makes a ton of sense. So for the last year I’ve been working closely with Jed to help him realize this crazy dream of his and get iNeverSolo from being just an idea to something that can really help people.
MEGHAN: What is the inspiration behind iNeverSolo?
PETER: Jed is a budding pilot and he realized that something like the pilot’s basic flight plan – where, before you take off, you have to file a plan that tells people where you’re going, what route you’re taking and when you plan to land – would be of value to the growing population of outdoor types. He’s right, of course. It happens all the time: people head off to enjoy a day or more outdoors and suddenly the unexpected happens. They fall, get lost or get hurt. The one thing, it seems, that virtually all of them have in common is that no one knew where they went.
I heard Aron Ralston speak this summer in Salt Lake City and the one thing he said he wished he’d done is simply tell someone where the hell he’d gone. Such a simple notion. And think how different things might have been. Then I read in Outside that since Arons’s movie, 127 Hours, had come out, some 28 people had gotten lost and needed rescuing while trying to find his “boulder.” Twenty-eight. That’s extraordinary. And guess what? None of these folks had told anyone where they were going either.
Ultimately, the goal of iNeverSolo is simply to provide people with a free and easy-to-use system so that the unthinkable just might not happen.
MEGHAN: The website says this is a “A Whole New Concept.” Can you elaborate on this?
PETER: So far there just isn’t anything like it. Yes, there are GPS tracking systems, like the SPOT or InReach, but this is different in a number of ways. First, unlike these devices, iNeverSolo is totally free. People simply go to the site, register and create a plan. Our goal is to get enough traffic to the site so that sponsors and advertisers will cover the costs. Second, also unlike these devices, iNeverSolo isn’t “tracking” you. Instead it’s helping create a vital and virtual safety net in case something goes wrong during your adventure and you’re somehow stuck out there. It’s very simple and smart, using technology to help you without letting it interfere with your experience. iNeverSolo is taking a very “tried and true” notion – the pilot’s flight plan – and reapplying it to the wide variety of outdoor adventures.
Interestingly, the site is also developing followers in unanticipated areas. It has become a way for people to let others know about who they are meeting and where they are going for things like blind dates and Craigslist exchanges. We love that it has application in a variety of settings.
MEGHAN: Have you ever had an experience in the wilderness where you wished you’d had something like iNeverSolo?
PETER: As a matter of fact, I have, and, I suspect, many of your readers have as well. Several years ago, in late October, I’d gone out for a nice 3-4 hour run on one of my favourite high country trails. After ascending a long, gradual drainage, the trail tops out at just over 12,800 feet, follows a tricky ridgeline for a mile or so and then descends for some 5 miles back, in a big loop, to the trailhead at 9000 feet where I’d parked.
The run up toward the summit was spectacular, but as I trudged up the final couple hundred feet, a sudden blizzard moved in, creating a total whiteout. I was, literally, stuck on the summit and couldn’t see a foot in any direction. A wrong step might mean a 500-foot plunge. So I stood there, for nearly two hours, as some 8 inches of heavy, wet, snow fell. Of course, once it did finally clear, my descent was now a whole lot trickier, and slower. My 3-hour tour became an 8 hour slog – long and brutally cold. I made it home, but my wife was pissed – in fact, she was on the phone with the highway patrol when I walked in the door. I had only told her that I was headed out for a longish run in the hills, and she knew generally where I’d be. But, you can access several different trails from this trailhead and I hadn’t told her exactly which one I’d be on. It could so easily have turned out so much worse.
iNeverSolo is for situations just like this. It doesn’t prevent the snow or even make us smarter, darn it, but if something happens at least someone knows where to start looking.
MEGHAN: What has the response been to iNeverSolo so far?
PETER: We are brand new, having just launched the site in early October, but the response has been tremendous. Each of our great sponsors – Adventure Medical Kits, Survive Outdoors Longer, Sanuk, Petzl, GoMotion, SwimLabs, Rudy Project, FlyLow, Tour of the Moon, Copper Triangle – has been helping get the word out through their channels, and bloggers and outdoor users everywhere have been spreading the word. We’ve been getting responses from men and women all over the world, which is interesting and exciting. It reinforces our belief that iNeverSolo is something people need and will use. It’s just going to spread, I think.
MEGHAN: Plans change frequently on outdoor excursions and, at times, things may take longer than expected. How does iNeverSolo deal with these types of scenarios?
PETER: You are so right; conditions change, and plans change. Right now we are putting the finishing touches on a mobile site so that plans can be updated from a mobile phone or other device. Of course, that requires service and we all know that there are plenty of places “out there” where there is no such service. Pairing with a SPOT or other device certainly might make sense in such situations. The other option is to build a little flexibility into your plan when creating it at iNeverSolo. Since we all have experienced those changing circumstances, it makes sense, depending on the particular plan or adventure, to build in a few extra hours or even days to your particular plan.
MEGHAN: How do people sign up for iNeverSolo?
PETER: It’s so simple – just go to www.iNeverSolo.com and register. You can create a plan and off you go. And, of course, it’s totally free.
iNeverSolo: How It Works