(Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, NH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 16--Somewhere in the southern Appalachians this spring, 11 hikers on the Appalachian Trail will be the envy of their footsore peers.
These "ambassadors" for outdoor gear makers will have the latest in boots, backpacks and especially housing and bedding.
They'll be spending the nights in unusually dry tents and will dream of the next day's adventures in incredibly comfortable sleeping pads and bags. Even better than their own beds at home.
Others among the several thousand "thru hikers" who every year set out from Springer Mountain, Georgia, for Mount Katahdin, Maine, 2,200 miles away will probably check out this gear and covet it. They likely will remember the odd brand name: NEMO.
This is marketing at its best. In your face and critical to your immediate comfort.
The "Thru-Hike Syndicate," as it's called, was the brainchild of bootmaker Vasque.
It got other gear makers to sign on, such as Osprey Packs , Leki Trekking Poles, Darn Tough socks. And of course Dover-based NEMO.
They all ponied up gear to outfit the 11 hikers chosen from around the nation in an extensive selection process. Among them is another Dover resident, Whitney Silberblatt.
Set to head off on the months-long trek soon, Silberblatt was at NEMO recently to pick out her tent and sleep system. She already knew of the brand from its growing reputation among extreme outdoor enthusiasts.
It also helped that the little company's headquarters is three floors above where she works as a manager at Blue Latitudes restaurant in the Choceco Mills building.
Silberblatt was planning to buy one of NEMO's tents and bags for her AT trip anyway before learning she had been picked to get the gear for free. To say she is excited doesn't reflect what's going through her head on the eve of her departure.
"I love my NEMO gear," she said. "A great company with awesome people and I am excited to represent the brand while on trail."
To agree to outfit 11 hikers with your best stuff is not a cheap decision, especially for a little firm that is trying to make a name for itself in a crowded field with giants watching your every new product. The plan is to make the Thru-Hike Syndicate an annual offering that one day could include other long trails such as the Pacific Crest.
It is the kind of serious commitment that NEMO embraces and the reason it has become known as the creator of cutting-edge products.
Why did it take so long for someone to come up with an air-supported tent that weighs less than your bag of snacks? Or a sleeping bag shaped like a spoon and has vents so you sleep like a baby? Or a foot-operated air pump built into your sleeping pad?
You could go on and on but let's just say there's a reason why military special forces teams use their gear.
Signing on to support the Thru-Hike Syndicate fit well with NEMO's mission, said Kate Ketschek, company spokeswoman.
"We need to inspire people to get outside," said Ketschek, especially the next generation. They are after all future buyers. If there are too many young couch potatoes only sweating while video gaming, sales will suffer.
There annually are several thousand ambitious hikers who set out to do the entire AT. Most start in Georgia soon, with dreams of walking it to completion sometime in late summer/early fall in Maine. Only a few hundred make it.
Having good gear can make all the difference. Being well rested each night will give Silberblatt and the other ambassadors the edge they need to fully enjoy the experience and maybe even go all the way.
In the process, they'll likely spread the word about the awesome equipment that's created right here.
Branding doesn't get much more personal than that.