The following was written by CT Ambassador Sean Fisher, an outdoors photographer and avid camper. You can follow him on instagram @mr.bootstraps.
When I was around 26, I found myself taking a road-trip about every two weeks. These would be most often solo-trips to some outdoor area here in the Cumberland Gap or Great Smoky Mountain area. I would just pack the necessities and hit the road at whatever hour I could manage – sometimes for a day trip and sometimes overnight. With some of the incredible sights I was witnessing, I felt compelled to up the ante in regards to documentation – the little iPhone 5 camera was simply out of it’s league; that’s when my first big-boy camera came into play. Before I knew it, I was a regular southern, adventure photographer.
Now 28 I’m in the final phases of releasing my photography site and the need for regular adventure content is at an all time high. I suppose you could say my road-trips have taken on their own identity, and they’ve become a little more systematized.
I find myself making it to the same location sometimes up to four times a year. Season, weather, time of day and shot composition can constantly give new life to a familiar spot. I’ve grown quite familiar with the navigation and time it takes to get to my favorite places, and I can create a tightly packed shooting itinerary. Here’s a common example of a Summer day trip of mine (Preface: I work in a busy Nashville hotel and my one day off for the week has just arrived!)
- Wake up at 3am and hit the road for sunrise at Savage Gulf
- Make it to the cliff tops by 5am to catch the sun rising over the canyon.
- While the light is still soft, make the 10 minute drive to catch some images of Greeter Falls.
- A breakfast/lunch crammed in here somewhere…Cracker Barrel Momma’s French Toast if I’m splurging on time.
- As the morning progresses, book it to the Smokies for the hopeful ETA to the park by 2pm.
- Hit the Alum Bluff Trail up Mt. LeConte – aiming for sunset at the summit cliff tops (5 mile trek up)
- Sunset shoot at 8:15pm.
- Dinner at the LeConte Summit Lodge – preparing for the headlamp hike back down the mountain.
- Either sleep in my car or load up on coffee for the long ridge home.
- Back in Nashville by 1am taking into account the time change.
With just short amounts of time available I try to keep my shooting and hiking days packed and busy. It is important to have the right gear to get me through those busy and days and long hikes. I truly look forward to these trips and I want to have everything in order for the next outing.
My Gear List
- Daypack: Topo Designs Kletter Sack – I love the vintage look of this brand. Check out more from Topo.
- Overnight: Osprey Atmos 65L – I’ve been so impressed with the functionality and intuitiveness of Osprey. I’ve had several of their day packs and the next step up to a 65 liter was a no brainer.
- Tent: Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy – I love the OR Bivy because of that same simplicity attitude. It’s a rock hard shell for my sleeping bag and it packs super small. Perfect for spending a night under the stars.
- Stove(s): MSR Windburner Stove and Biolite Stove – I went back and forth between the JetBoil stove and the MSR Windburner and the robustness of MRS won out for me. Water is boiled in less than a minute and it moves breakfast along on the trail that much quicker The BioLite stove is just plain awesome, and its perfect for giving a miniature camp fire under a tarp should rain be a problem. The fact that it charges your phone from the heat of the fire it produces just makes this millennial so warm and fuzzy inside.
- Headlamp: Black Diamond Storm – Black Diamond, need I say more. One of my favorite and most reliable brands
- Socks: Smartwool – Definitely worth the investment, why can’t every piece of fabric be made of smart wool?
- Any type of moisture wicking shirt – Patagonia and Mountain Hardware are the only brands of shirts with the moisture wicking fabric that I’ve used. Such a good way to go when you have a day of moving quickly. Try Patagonia’s LW Capilene.
- Rainshell: Arcteryx – Definitely the biggest investment out of my gear, but with the proper maintenance a rain shell of this caliber has proven worth it.
- Topo Designs Tech Pants
- I just got myself a pair and I love the slimmer fit. Have yet to really take these out on the trail or on a climb but the reviews of functionality are surprisingly great.
- Shorts: Topo Designs Climb Shorts.
- Made for the same material as the pants, these shorts can do it all. Perfect for the little bout of bouldering on the trail to the midday swim in the river. Too is such a cool newer brand to the scene. i really appreciate what they’re up to.
Coming from quite the background of ADHD, being able to just toss the gear in a tough trunk is absolutely amazing. Through some trial and error I can now pack my Container Store tub like a perfect game of Tetris and it’s always at the ready for the next trip.
To close out my first EVER blog article I’ll say this: while I do put a good amount of time and thought into planning the next road-trip, some of the best shots I’ve ever captured can totally be blamed on spontaneity. Rarely is it the shot I’ve constructed in my head and have been dreaming about for the past month that ends up being the piece of gold on the memory card. I say this in total support of Dwight Eisenhower’s quote, “Planning is everything, the plan is nothing.” Pour on the focus for the little details in planning a great trip – that excitement, mild obsessiveness and anticipation does the heart some good. When you’re out there on the trail though, don’t be afraid to mix it up for that extra hour or two of shooting once the fog clears up in the Smokies or when the rain has turned a usual triple into a raging waterfall.