i work with Gerber on an ongoing basis to create original branded content for the Gerber blog. The pieces are designed to be informational yet engaging, and—most importantly—to resonate with Gerber's target demographic.
see them all live on the Gerber Blog.
Where The Road Ends // fall 2017 > spring 2018
a team of US military veterans rode motorcycles from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to the southern tip of Argentina. Gerber was among the primary sponsors of the expedition, and i worked with them to create content for the Gerber blog based on reports from the team, including these two pieces. Learn more about the trip here >
Blogpost 1: December 2017
It’s difficult to imagine that an expedition stretching from the subzero tundra of the Arctic Circle to the sweltering deserts of South America, spanning some 19 thousand miles across 14 countries, could have a “dangerous part.” But for the Pan-American Highway, the Darién Gap is exactly that. A lawless expanse of swampy jungle occupying the borderland between Panama and Columbia, the Darién Gap is like that desolate stretch of forested road where you always lose cell reception—just for a minute—before picking it back up like emerging from an unseen tunnel. Except instead of your favorite song, it’s the highway itself that evaporates—suddenly, into a patchwork of muddied rivers and tropical flora, before slowly hissing back into clarity a hundred miles to the southeast.
Constructing roads or bridges through this region would be a logistical nightmare: extremely costly, both economically and environmentally. So there are none. The geography on the Colombian side is dominated by the Atrato River delta, which creates a flatland of marsh and swamp fifty miles wide at its narrowest. The Panamanian side features a mountainous rainforest that rises and falls dramatically, from yawning ravines drawing cavernous swaths across the valley floor, to the soaring peak of six-thousand foot Cerro Tacarcuna.
The region teems with peril. Exotic plants, snakes and insects. Stifling heat and humidity. And of course, drug smugglers, poachers, human traffickers, and antigovernment guerillas. Run a quick internet search of Darién Gap and you’ll find among the included terms “monsters,” “terrifying,” “missing tourist,” and “death.”
The dangerous part.
Which is exactly why our crew has spent the most time and energy planning for this stretch. It’s why they’ll be leaving Deadhorse, Alaska, amidst some of the coldest temperatures on the planet—so they can hit the Gap in the dry season, minimizing at least one threat from the roiling jungle: seasonal monsoons.
Where there is no path, the team will hack their way through vines and ferns and mangrove. Where there is no bridge, they’ll cross gullies and ravines using rudimentary rope-and-pulley systems—ferrying bikes and gear one piece at a time. And even as they plan for every pitfall, and meticulously navigate the route, there’s still the issue of food. The team will thoughtfully pack what they can, and rely on plantains and rice to round out their diet, both of which are plentiful in the region. They want to err on the side of caution, but space is limited so they’ll have to be intentional, hoping for the best and planning for the worst. Because even with all the planning, packing, and precautions, there’s only one thing this crew knows for certain: there are no certainties in the Darién Gap.
Blogpost 2: May 2018
On April 1, 2018, three army vets on exhausted Kawasaki KLRs—and one incredibly grimy support van—rolled into Ushuaia Argentina, marking the end of the 18,571-mile journey from Dead Horse Alaska over 178 days. (The group started with four bikes, but we’ll get to that.)
With the trip complete, we asked team rider Wayne Mitchell and videographer Jake Hamby to share some experiences from the first-ever motorcycle traverse of the Pan-American Highway.
Not surprisingly, the team accounted for every conceivable challenge along the way, yet still faced situations they weren’t prepared for. Through blistering cold, monsoon rains, and mechanical failure due to extreme conditions, they found ways to continue on, using only the tools and resources they had with them.
“Snow got into the electrical system of one of the bikes and we were unable to fix it. We ended up strapping a Gerber spotlight to the sidecar to provide a little emergency light to the rider.”
“Not even joking when I say I used my Gerber Center Drive every day to tighten bolts, open meals, tighten wires that held on my kickstand. I even had my motorcycle pants modified with belt loops so I could keep it on me.”
Riding through Alaska and Canada in November and December, temperatures often plummeted to 20º below at night. Studded tires became rock-hard and lost traction, engines refused to turn over, and heated riding gear failed.
“Motorcycles and people do not operate well in those conditions. We wore several layers of clothing, at one point I cut up a sleeping pad and stuck it into my pants because my knees and shins were cold.
“Canada was actually colder than the Dalton Highway and we were camping most nights because of the distance between cities. Most mornings we used a portable heater to warm up each engine to get them to start.”
The US and Mexico provided a welcomed intermission from the elements, other than some occasional rain and high winds, but trading the freezing cold and snow of the Arctic for the monsoons of Central and South America was no improvement. A wetter-than-normal dry season in Panama left the team battling thick, unforgiving mud.
“Everything was coated in mud after the first day. The tires picked up heavy amounts of debris (mud, sticks, leaves, and one tuna can). It would block up the fender well and lock up the back tire. Sometimes we would have to stop every 300 meters and clear out the wheel and cut vines and grass away from the chain and axles.”
“Trying to ride through a giant mud pit in the jungle destroyed the clutches on the motorcycles. We used mechanical winches, pulleys, and good old-fashioned raw manpower to get through. At one point we created a zipline over a particularly rough section and sent the bikes across that way. We ended up abandoning one and just pushing the other three out.”
When the team finally emerged from the jungle, they were filthy, exhausted, and pushing three crippled bikes. They agreed to head into the nearest town for some much-needed rest and repairs before finishing the last leg of the journey. But the adventure was far from over.
“We popped out of the jungle onto the Atrato River and had to take a boat to Turbo, Colombia. The only boat available was extremely tiny, but the crew insisted we could put all three bikes, the nine of us, and the three of them on the boat. We crossed five miles of open ocean in the middle of the night and the boat had no lights. We were all hyper-aware of the fact that if the boat went down, that would be the end of it.”
“Even though we made it through the Darién in 8 days, we ended up spending nearly 15 more days in Columbia waiting for parts and repairing the bikes from the damage we did dragging them through the jungle. We had to make up lost time and most of us had to be back to work in the United States. We ended up doing a couple 500-mile days and rode at night on long stretches of desert or grasslands where the roads were straight and flat.”
Finally, mercifully, the team completed their journey. Tired, dirty, and thankful to be crossing the finish line, they dropped their kickstands down in Ushuaia Argentina. Although there is already talk of the next big adventure, for now the crew is enjoying the return to everyday life and focusing on producing a documentary film of the trip.
“Really, no one else has ever ridden from AK to Argentina through the Darién Gap in a continuous trip, and we captured it all. We’re really excited to finish the film and show some stuff that hasn’t been seen before.”
The team is aiming for a late-2019 release of the film.
The Pack Out From Hell // summer 2017
Gerber Badassador Randy Newberg submitted a recap of a recent hunting trip, and i created a blogpost out of the raw content, weaving in some product endorsements and links to some of his other work, while trying to tell the most compelling tale possible.
When you shoot an elk and he slides 40 feet downhill to the edge of a cliff, you know you shot him in a bad spot.
I was public-land hunting with my cameraman Marcus Hockett in the Uncompahgre Plateau of Western Colorado. Extremely warm temperatures had driven the elk into cool canyons, making them tough to find and, as I found out, even tougher to extract. We were nearing the end of a two-week road trip, living off of bad food and not enough sleep, so I was happy to get a clean shot at this beautiful bull, but the minute he hit the ground I knew I was in trouble. I knew the meat could spoil quickly in this unseasonal heat and, given we couldn’t pack it all out in a single trip, there was no time to waste.
I first tied the elk off to a couple small trees, to make sure he didn’t slide off the edge into the abyss. I used the Gerber Vital Pocket Folder and Gerber Gator Premium to dress the elk and cut the meat into manageable pieces to be packed out. (You can see a video on my quick and easy process for field dressing called the gutless method here, or read a distilled version on the Gerber blog.) I spent the next two and a half days hauling heavy packs up and down that canyon—traversing fourteen hundred vertical feet with each load, through thick oak brush and over rugged terrain—packing the elk out piece by grueling piece. My final trip with the head and antlers made me reconsider the wisdom of shooting a bull of this size, his long beams and wide-reaching tines catching every root, rock, twig and tree trunk on the way up. Finally, thankfully, I got every last piece out of the canyon and to my truck. But the bull definitely got the last laugh. It was one of the toughest extractions I’ve ever had, and I hope I never shoot another elk in a spot like that again.
G Series // summer 2017
The G Series is a custom made, limited release of automatic knives. Gerber plans to release a new model each year to be sold at Blade Show, with all proceeds going to the (American Knife and Tool Institute). Only 20 of the G1 were produced and each is branded with a unique serial number, making G1-001 the first ever of this series available for sale to the public. i created a blogpost introducing the new knife, focusing on the materials, process, and pride that go into the G Series knives.
Introducing G1-001: the first fully customized, ultra-premium, limited release knife from Gerber.
At Gerber, we’re passionate about what we do. We don’t just make knives, we craft some of the best knives in the world through insightful design, informed engineering, precise machining, and hand sharpening. And every knife we send out to our customers is built with the same uncompromising quality of craftsmanship. Now, for the first time ever, we’re applying that level of excellence to a limited release series, designed to be the finest knife we’ve ever made: the G1 series. We chose the Propel Auto as our base design, it’s one of our most trusted models; durable, elegantly balanced, quick deploying, and a natural fit in-hand. From there, nearly every detail of 001 is a refinement or advancement of process—we started with exceptional, then made it better. This knife boasts an acid washed bimetal blade of Hitachi Blue steel cladded with 410 stainless, custom machined titanium scales and backspacer, DLC coated fasteners, a concave machined plunge lock, false edge spearpoint blade, and a custom deployment button. Each knife is completely handmade and double inspected in our facility in Portland, Oregon—USA. And each bears the elite G1 Class lasermark with individual serial number identifying it as 1 of only 20 sold. It also comes with a matching serialized badge cut from the same steel, as a certificate of authenticity, and a customized Pelican case. To commemorate this game-changing series, Gerber will donate 100% of sales—not just profit—to the American Knife & Tool Institute. Gerber is a proud member of AKTI, a non-profit organization that serves to defend the interests and rights of knife manufacturers and users, and we’re honored to support them. Find more specs and photos of the G1-001 on our website, and watch for the official release of the series at Blade Show 2017.
Chaining Up // spring 2017
Gerber Badassador Randy Newberg provided a brief retelling of a recent mule deer hunt. I turned that into a writeup for the Gerber blog with no conversion goal or CTA, which is a great way to build brand equity.
Eastern Idaho is big and sparsely populated—by humans, anyway.
Mule deer like space so they go where they can find it, and I go where I can find them. This is how my cameraman Marcus and I ended up in my truck at the bottom of a long, snow-covered hill, hoping to get to the top and into the public lands beyond.
I had picked up a tip that there were plenty of mule deer and very few hunters there, and I was excited to see no sign of people along the way. It didn’t take long to realize why—the snow was deep. Our fresh tracks proved it was even deeper than we initially thought. The sawtooth ruts frozen into the trail underneath didn’t make the going any easier. We got bogged down pretty quick, but I chained up the back tires and we kept moving. A few minutes later we were stuck again—really stuck—and I had a decision to make.
They tell you not to chain up the front tires of a four-wheel drive truck. But I really wanted to make that land, and I’m not great at following “manufacturer recommendations.” I expect a lot out of my gear. Fragile equipment is not gear, and gear failure is not an option. So we chained up the front and pushed through the rest of the hill to the hunt site. The bow hunting was as good as promised, and let’s just say the trip home was a lot less eventful. When it comes to gear, I only bring the best. Then push it as hard as I push myself. Do that, and success will follow.
Gerber Giveback Spotlight // fall 2015
I was asked to create something honest, authentic, and feel-good, that also showcased Gerber's dedication to supporting many preservation groups and NPOs, one of which being Team Rubicon. I decided on an interview writeup that would offer a glimpse into a day in the life of an armed forces vet who is using her involvement with TR to transition back into civilian life, while still protecting and serving her country. I concepted interview questions and crafted responses into a feature-length blogpost that lends itself to becoming an entire series: the Gerber Giveback Spotlight.
Team Rubicon for Gerber
Team Rubicon (TR) is an organization uniting military veterans with first responders, dedicated to serving displaced victims of disaster and bridging the gap between the moment of disaster and conventional aid response. Laurie Reiprich is a veteran of the war in Iraq, and an active member of TR. Laurie has lived in Boise, Idaho, since her return home from Iraq in 2010. Today she prepares for a move to Santa Barbara, California, with her fiancé Jake, at the end of November. Laurie is an inspiration to many, and like so many inspirational people we meet, she seems to have as much appreciation for her work as the people and communities she serves. Recently we had the pleasure of getting a little of Laurie’s time.
Hey, Laurie. First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. And, especially, thank you so much for all that you do to serve our country. Could you start by telling us a little about your Armed Forces service? I’ve been in the Air National Guard—Air Force—for 15 years. I was in the South Dakota Air National Guard for 9 years, where I was an Ammo Troop and was deployed to Iraq. Currently, I’m in the Utah Air National Guard, serving as an Intelligence Officer. After returning home, I remember feeling like I no longer fit in. I had grown up too fast and could no longer relate to the typical college-related struggles. I eventually settled back into my civilian life, but it certainly took some time and effort. That’s quite a journey. … What made you decide to join the military in the first place? I joined for a few reasons, the first of which was to follow the example set by my father; he spent over 20 years in the Army National Guard. I also saw it as a way to pay for college and to travel the world. I bet you’ve got enough stories from your service to write a book. Is there an experience that really sticks out in your mind for any reason? When traveling home from Iraq, we flew into Bangor, Maine, where we were greeted by a long line of WWII veterans wanting to shake our hands and welcome us home. Knowing that, in their eyes, we had ‘done good,’ and they were proud of our service, was an incredible feeling. This will be a familiar recollection for many veterans that traveled through that airport during the 2000’s, as these WWII veterans were doing this every week, they were committed to being there for us and they never stopped serving. What an amazing story. It’s remarkable to witness the closeness and the support within the veteran community. … On that note, tell us about TR. I first heard about the Team Rubicon in 2010, from a friend I had been in the military with that was also a classmate of Jake’s. I was immediately interested in being a part of the organization; I wasted no time! [I joined in] 2010, and I’ve been a Regional Manager since 2013. My focus is on volunteer engagement and creating service opportunities for them in their home communities while also ensuring our volunteers are trained and ready to deploy and respond to disasters. Often times, our work in the military can be about destruction and Team Rubicon gives us the opportunity comfort to those in need and help them rebuild, during what is likely one of the worst days of their lives. Very well said. Since TR is really focused on serving people and communities on those “worst days,” then moving on as traditional aid arrives, do you ever get to see the upside? Do you get to experience the hopefulness or fulfillment from the situations you work in? In the fall of 2013, Team Rubicon responded to the flooding in Colorado. We mucked out the basement of a WWII widow. She was in total disbelief that we were there to help her, free of charge. Once we were all finished, she hugged each of us and told us how proud her husband would’ve been of the work we were doing. We all left with lumps in our throats. I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than helping those in need and being around fellow volunteers who share that common goal. I also think my involvement with TR has led to a greater investment in my local community, to improve it in other ways, outside of a disaster. Team Rubicon has provided me with a wonderful community and a greater sense of purpose.
5 Steps to the Gutless Method// fall 2015
The topic was assigned to me, a method of field dressing an animal—specifically an elk or deer—that is cleaner and faster than traditional field dressing. (FAIR WARNING, this one is a little graphic.) I was given a 13-minute video to watch and asked to boil the information down to 5 steps, creating a short how-to that builds brand equity through quality content, and gives hunting enthusiasts a quick read and an easy way to remember the efficient technique.
Backcountry hunting is an exciting and rewarding way to experience the hunt. It offers longer seasons, greater abundance of tags, and more generous animal age classes. But one of the challenges of backcountry hunting is how to pack out an animal once you’ve made a kill, without leaving anything behind or letting the meat spoil.
The answer is the gutless method.
This can be the most important key to a successful backcountry elk hunt, or even a public-land deer hunt. When done right, all you need is a knife, a few game bags and a backpack, and you’ll be back at the cabin before sunset. If you’ve never tried the gutless method—or even if you have—check out these helpful tips and tricks, in our 5-step guide to the gutless method.
Step 1: Remove the Back strap.
a) Cut the hide along the spine, from the base of the head to the hipbone.
b) Cape the hide laterally on one side, a few inches from the spine, to reveal the back strap.
c) Remove the back strap from shoulder to hipbone, running your blade along the spine to fillet the meat away.
Step 2: Remove the Front Shoulder.
a) Lay the animal to one side and finish skinning the exposed side up to the shoulder.
b) Cuff the hide at the front knee and make a cut a few inches up the back of the leg, starting from the cuff. This will let you pull the leg through the hide, and help your taxidermist fit the hide onto a form later.
c) Fold the leg at the knee and pull it through the hole.
d) Lifting the leg away from the torso, cut along the chest cavity between the front shoulder and brisket to remove the front shoulder.
Step 3: Remove the Hindquarter.
a) Leave the hide on the hindquarter until after it’s off the animal, to keep the meat cleaner.
b) Pull the back leg away from the torso and cut along the groin. If you’re required to show proof of sex, retain the testicles with the hindquarter as you cut.
c) Cut completely along the pelvic bone, severing the tendon at the hip socket, and guiding the meat over the small “pin-bone.”
d) Finish cutting the hide along the spine where you left off earlier, from the hipbone to the base of the tail.
e) Lay the hindquarter open and separate the meat from the hide.
f) At the hock joint of the back leg, find and break the knuckle, and cut through it, to make removing the hide easier. Then pull the hindquarter free.
Step 4: Remove Neck, Brisket, and Rib Meat, and Tenderloin.
a) Cut away any exposed neck, brisket and rib meat, avoiding meat that’s been bloodshot.
b) Finish with the tenderloin, which runs underneath the spine near the hindquarters. Feel for where the muscle is connected at both ends and cut it loose.
Flip the animal over and repeat steps 1 through 4 on the other side.
Step 5: Remove the Head.
a) Cut into the top joint of the spine, where it meets the skull, cleaving away all the meat and tendons.
b) Once you’ve cut most of the tissue, twist the animal’s head to one side, and give it a strong jerk; the joint you’ve cut into should pop free.
c) Cut any additional meat and tissue in the neck to finish removing the head.
Depending on how the animal falls and what the terrain is like, you may choose to do these steps in a slightly different order. When done right, it’s a quick, clean and effective process that lets you avoid opening the body cavity of the animal, while getting the meat exposed and cooling as quickly as possible. And when you’re finished you’ve got several manageable pieces that can be easily loaded up and packed out. That’s why the gutless method is considered by many to be an essential piece of knowledge for a successful backcountry hunt.
Billy's First Shot // fall 2015
This was maybe one of my favorite assignments ever. The team asked me for a story of some gun/knife/piece of equipment that's been passed down through generations in my own family. I shamelessly solicited stories from family members, and ultimately chose this one. Details, including some names, have been altered, but the intent remains intact.
It’s a cool fall morning in Northern Wisconsin as the five of us amble reverently through the crisp leaves underfoot. Dad leads the way, my two brothers and I follow, each carrying a gun at our side, safety on, pointed at the ground—just like Dad taught us. But the gun of the day is a Winchester 67 single-shot, bolt-action .22 caliber rifle. And the young man carrying it is the fifth member of our group, my brother’s son, Billy.
When my great uncle Jim returned home from WWII, Grandpa had a gift for him: the Winchester 67. Jim enjoyed the gun for years, and eventually passed it down to my dad, Gary. It was the first gun Dad shot and his dad, Grandpa George, taught him how to care for it and how to handle it safely. Years later, Dad taught my brothers and me to use that very same gun. Its small size and weight and single-shot chamber makes it easy to handle—a perfect first gun. But it’s so much more than a gun. It’s a piece of our family’s heritage, tied to the respect and reverence we share for hunting as a way of life, an heirloom that unites us across generations.
My nephew stops suddenly. He pulls back the manual-action bolt till it clicks, sets the wooden stock against his shoulder, and takes aim at a foraging grey squirrel. The rest of us freeze. It's a long shot, and the bullet sails. There won’t be a trophy kill, but that doesn’t change the significance of the moment. Billy flips the smoking shell from the chamber, takes a live round from my dad’s hand, and drops it into place. He continues walking slowly through the leaves, eyes scanning the trees, the Winchester 67 at his side, safety on, pointed at the ground—just like his grandpa taught him.
That day is just one of the countless memories that come to mind when I see the Winchester hanging over the door in my parents’ home. Dad continues to take great care of it, and it’s as trusty today as the day my great uncle came home from the war. It’s a beloved tool and a rite of passage, and to most of us out here, those are the things that matter; taking pride in doing things a certain way, caring for your tools, respecting the hunt, and always making time to honor tradition with family.