Balancing Words & Wanderlust: Sam Schild as an Outdoor Writer, Bikepacker, Thru Hiker, & Trail Runner


Tayson Whittaker: All right, Sam, I'm super excited to have you here. I wasn't quite sure what to expect if I was gonna catch you, you know, calling me from your, your van or your, if that's what you call your van or if you'd be out on the road on the trail where you're at. But it looks like you're actually in a building at this point in time. So, getting some work done and you just never know, never know. It's you, man, you, you live a pretty awesome life. But, how are you doing today?

Sam Schild: I'm, I'm doing good. Yeah. Yeah, I'm at my house in Denver, Colorado. I actually just moved into a different house. and I live in a finished attic room in the house that my friend owns. So I'm fortunate, I'm fortunate to be renting from like a friend and not just a random landlord, but yeah, I'm a and I've been around, I've been in Denver for the past like month or so, kind of working pretty hard on a lot of writing projects, but I'm pretty soon the call of the, the, the van and the camping anywhere and working remotely will, pull me away again.

Tayson Whittaker: So, I guess what you're saying is you actually do some work at times and then you see you blitz that and then you take back, take off, back out to the trailer.

Sam Schild: Yeah, I mean, that's, that's pretty much been what I've, that's been my M O for like the past decade. Really? It's like blitz, a bunch of work and then, like, for several months at a time and then go, take off for a while and then come back and work really hard and then take off for a while. this, yeah, like the past two months or so I've, I don't even know how many words I've written but it's probably been close to, like, a million words. Sometimes grammar tells me, like, I look at my grammar word count for the week and some weeks at like busy times a year, it's been like close to half a million words that it checks. So that's, I, that's a ton. So, but I'm getting to the end of that, of the work blitz and now it's time for the play in the mountains and work, work a little less time.

Tayson Whittaker: If the snow level ever melts off, you'll, you'll about have timed this perfectly. So, you write for a ton of different publications, I guess you're technically a freelance writer. that's a ton of articles and, and words to, I guess, have been written, written, written if I can talk here. Like, how, like, how many different publications were you writing for over this last month or two in this?

Sam Schild: It was like three, I think where? And it was a lot of, it was a lot of, it was, it was like three publications and I have a couple like copywriting clients also. I actually do like to try to do more like, copywriter versus, like, outdoor writing or, you know, maybe it's probably more like a 60-40 split for outdoor writing versus copy writing. But, try to do, I try to mix it up so it's not just all outdoorsy stuff but, yeah, about three publications of,

Tayson Whittaker: go, go, go ahead.

Sam Schild: I was just gonna say, yeah, I was like, 33 or so publications and sometimes I just get a lot of assignments from one, from one publication and then I just, like, turn them all out pretty fast. And that's, that's kind of what I've been doing lately,

Tayson Whittaker: I think, to the general public they're, it's, it, they're, they, they didn't understand before or they haven't understood before. They meet outdoor writers that a lot of you guys are freelance, I think, like, historically before I started meeting writers personally, it was like, ok, you write for one magazine? You are a Backpackers magazine, writer and that's it. Right. But it seems like the majority of everyone writing in this outdoor space is actually freelancer. Is that correct?

Sam Schild: Yeah, that's it. That's pretty, pretty common for most of the outdoor writers to be freelancers. There's probably, like, I don't know, a couple staff writers per publication and they're, they're actually more the editors than the writers. Like, if you're, if you're a writer and not an editor, chances are you're a freelancer.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. Does that bring in any uncertainty for you or, or did it when you first started down this path?

Sam Schild: Oh, yeah, all the time. I have lined up as far as income streams right now. I have, like, very, very, very little in the future that I actually have like that. I know I'll have so much in my, but so I'll have to, like, pitch a lot of stories in the next, like month to, to have some to, like, have some income. But, other times, you know, it's definitely like a feast and famine thing a little bit and, but I'm sort of used to it. I've, like, worked a lot of, like, crappy jobs over the years, just like, in between doing stuff that I actually care about. So I'm like, I'm pretty used to, like, not always having a ton of money and I live pretty simply. So it works out for me.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer in this space?

Sam Schild: maybe about, like, three years ago was when I first, like, started to get the idea. because so I, like, at once upon a time I worked for a newspaper and then I graduated from college and then that, that was around 2009 when the first, like, when the big recession started and then newspapers weren't doing so hot at that point. So I went to grad school and like, was teaching at Temple University. And then I got an MFA in writing and then realized that being an adjunct professor, which is like, pretty much the job that you could get if you have a graduate degree in writing. And that was just like a contract job also. And that those contracts were like less than some of the copywriting gigs I get now for a whole semester's worth of teaching. So, and then, so I did that for a little while and then I just quit, I rode my bike across the country and like, started working in bike shops. And, so, like about three years ago I just started thinking, like, man, I can't just work in bike shops forever. I'm like, in my thirties, I see like some other people that have just worked in bike shops until they're older and that I just knew that that wasn't for me. so then I started, like, thinking like, well, I love out, I love the outdoors and I'm really good at riding and I bet I could combine those things. And so then I just kind of started trying and,, so I'm still figuring it out but it's kind of working out these days.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah, that's, that's interesting. So, you took quite a break from writing, I mean, from the time you did that kind of college and, and went into bike shops and, and all that. I didn't realize that I thought you just wrote straight through. But, no, that's, that's really interesting. So then I guess from there you've done some pretty amazing things, right? Because I, I, I think I, I want to get into how simply you live and I think that's a really fascinating, you know, minimalist aspect that allows you to go and do just so much. but let's, let's back up, I guess, and just start about, start back with you riding your bike across the country. Like, what, what was that about for you?

Sam Schild: , it was, that was something that, like, I had always wanted to do since I started, since I, like, once when I first got into riding bikes, which was sort of the first outdoorsy thing that I did. Like, when I was in high school, I started riding a bike a bunch and then I started thinking like I could ride farther and farther. And then I, like, found out that there were these, there were these bikes called touring bikes and then started going on like message boards, finding out about touring bike setups and stuff. And then I had, like, I had done a bunch of smaller bi bicycle tours from like the time I was about like 18 to like 23 or so. And I had like, the whole time I was just thinking like, man, I gotta ride up across the country someday. And, when I finished grad school. It seemed like the perfect time, especially since I was also kind of determined at that point that I didn't wanna do that as a career. So, I just kind of did it.

Tayson Whittaker: You've been bike touring since, like, before? It was cool.

Sam Schild: I feel like then now it's, yeah, like, I was, like, touring when it was only, like, nerds with those little velcro straps, holding their pants on and stuff.

Tayson Whittaker: You probably had that, the Velcro shoes to go with it. Right.

Sam Schild: I had, yeah, I had Velcro shoes that were like before boa was on bike shoes, you know. But, yeah, I was, I mean, I was bike touring before s was a brand but they only had the long haul trucker and the cross check at that point, like, they didn't have, like, 10 different versions of a touring bike for every different type of surface that you could possibly want to ride a bike on.

Tayson Whittaker: So, when you're in your late teens and you go on a bike tour, like, what does that look like? Like, how many miles are you going? Are you sleeping off the bike or are you going city to city? What, what's it like back then before, you know, gravel biking and all this other stuff starts to come into play.

Sam Schild: Yeah, it was, I was making my own routes with a paper Atlas that I carried with me. And, I had, like, really like a bad camping setup. I had this, like, shitty tent. Can I swear on this? Is that ok?

Tayson Whittaker: You're, you're good. You're good.

Sam Schild: Ok. I, yeah, I, I had like a really cheap tent. It was like a $50 tent that I bought on the internet before. Like, you could buy much on the internet and like a cheap sleeping bag and just like a rolled up foam sheet for a sleeping pad and like very little. And, I would just like, make routes on a paper outlet. So I had to stick to roads that were on a paper outlet. So, like mostly paved highways and stuff. And then I would just kind of ride, you know, ride all day, 60 to 80 miles a day pretty consistently and just like, find a, find a place to pull off the road and stealth camp basically did a lot of that.

Tayson Whittaker: That's wild. That's, that's just wild because I feel like so much of today's day and age is, you see it on Instagram, you see it online and then you start to, like, aspire to go and do those things. Right? And then, and then so like, people see other people through hiking and, and they see it and they see it and they see it and then pretty soon they're like, well, maybe I, maybe I wanna through hike and it kind of builds a different way. versus you, I, I doubt you were seeing many people doing this at that point. You were just, you just thought it was cool.

Sam Schild: Pretty much. Yeah, I, I, like, thought it was cool. I knew no one that was doing it but I was, like, just figuring it out.

Tayson Whittaker: So, what was the biggest pull for you, into getting into touring?

Sam Schild: , just being able to ride your bike even farther and, like, not have to, like, ride 50 miles and then be able to have to go back to where you started. So, just like the continued, like the, I guess the journey, like where you could just keep going and then, like, stop wherever you want relatively and then like camp and then just do it again.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. Was there like certain locations that you were, you were writing to or was it just like, I mean, you, you was it, this was, was this back east or where were you riding out of?

Sam Schild: so my first ever bicycle tour was around Lake Michigan because I lived in Chicago. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. And I thought, oh, well, I bet I could ride my bike around all of Lake Michigan because I knew there was like a bike path along the shore of the lake through Chicago. And then I just, like, looked at a paper map and saw that there was a road, there were roads that more or less followed the coast and, and I just, like, went for it.

Tayson Whittaker: That's awesome. Ok. That makes a little more sense. Like, I could see where you're, like, getting pulled in, like, to go and, I don't know, I get, I get pretty goal oriented where it's like, I'd have, like, I'd want to have maybe a small reason, at least. So, like, going all the way around the lake would be a pretty cool badge to, to have accomplished

Sam Schild: totally. And it was, like, close by and I, like, saw it all the time. So it seemed, it seemed pretty attainable. And I had done a couple, like, short overnight kind of things to, like, sort of figure out what I was doing. So, I, that was, that wasn't actually like my 1st 1st tour, but it was like the longest, the first, like, long one that wasn't like a day or two. And those, and the day or two ones were just, like, to point myself out my front door towards, like, the nearest state park, which is 100 miles away or something and then camp there and then ride home.

Tayson Whittaker: Hm. Yeah. So you do this touring? You go to college? You move out west, start working in a bike shop. When did you start hiking? Because you've done a ton of hiking as well? I mean, you've, you've, through or you've, you've hiked the, the CDT, right? And then the Colorado trail a handful of times. So, when did that come and the PCT?

Sam Schild: Well, that came into play because, so when I was, when I first moved to Colorado, I was living in Denver and I got this, like a free really cheap mountain bike from the bike shop. Like a customer brought it in and it needed like $500 worth of repairs and it was a $500 bike and they said I just wanna donate this thing. You can have it. And so then I, I took it and stripped it down to just the frame and then rebuilt it as like a 27 plus bike packing bike, like and jokingly said, said, like, oh, yeah, I'm gonna ride the Colorado trail with this and like I had never mountain bikes at all. So then I rode the Colorado trail with a trash bike. And, there's so many wilderness detours on the Colorado trail. Like there's one detour around Lost Creek Wilderness. It goes around, I think 30 or 40 miles of like a walking trail through the wilderness. And the detour is 100 and 50 miles of biking on dirt roads that are pretty hot and exposed and like steep climbing. So like after the third or fourth wilderness detour, I was just starting to think like, man, if I was just backpacking, I could be going through those wildernesses instead of like going around them where it's just a bunch of people with RVS camping and like, and I have a real wilderness experience. So then I got a backpacking backpack and started backpacking.

Tayson Whittaker: So, did you finish the CT on the bike? Then?

Sam Schild: I did. Yeah.

Tayson Whittaker: Ok. because that, I was looking at that actually today and you've got a, you've got a website and I was just kind of going on a little rabbit hole there of just looking at that. But I mean, that still looks like a pretty incredible adventure to, to bike pack the C T

Sam Schild: totally. It was, it was amazing. I would do it again. It's so incredibly challenging, but I would totally do it again.

Tayson Whittaker: What makes it challenging?

Sam Schild:There's, it's, it's a hiking trail that they allow bikes on. It's not a biking trail. It's very, you know, it's too steep to ride for a good chunk of it. Like, not a good chunk of distance, but like, it feels like a long distance when you're pushing your bike up, something that would be challenging enough to just walk and you're pushing up a bike that's loaded with camping gear over and like pulling it over, like large screen fields and stuff. It's really hard. There's a lot of hiking your bike when you,

Tayson Whittaker: yeah, I was, I was kind of curious because I knew I knew there was, there's got to be some route rounds and things like that. But I didn't realize that, that, that you're still going through sections that just, I don't know, are that difficult that aren't route around what you say?

Sam Schild: Yeah. No, it's like, even last spring I took a friend that had never been bike packing. He wanted to, like, go out and try it out. And I was like, oh, we'll ride the first segment of the Colorado trail. It's pretty easy. And, when I, when I, like, got on it again I realized, like, oh, only the first six miles is pretty easy and then it gets, like, really steep and, like, chunky and there's like two ft stone steps that you have to either ride over or pull your bike over for like a whole climb. It's not like that, and that's pretty consistent. That's in the, like, the tame, lower elevation parts.

Tayson Whittaker: Jeez. So, how long did it take you to bike pack The Colorado trail?

Sam Schild: took 12 days. Yeah. Like, I'm pretty, I'm pretty confident that I could hike it faster than that.

Tayson Whittaker: The Colorado trail in less than 12.

Sam Schild: Yeah, I think so. I mean, like, it's like, it's really, you barely go faster on a bike or, I, at that point I barely went faster than I could go hiking now. I think.

Tayson Whittaker: So. Are you fast packing? I mean, because it's 480 miles, right?

Sam Schild: Yeah.

Tayson Whittaker: So, I mean, if you were to hike that 10 days you're going 48 miles a day. Are you just hiking or, or are you doing any kind of, fast packing, running, jogging.

Sam Schild: Probably just most, it would probably be mostly hiking, you know, a little, little jogging down hills. But, yeah, just walk all day. I mean, walking 50 miles in a day is like, yeah, 10, 12 hours of solid walking, maybe 13 hours, 13 hours of three MPH is, what, 39 miles. So then you would have to walk. What is that? Like, 15, 15, 16 hours at three MPH, still eight hours of sleep. It wouldn't be like, it wouldn't be like a walk in the park, real chill. But I think it'd be right. It'd be possible.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah, that seems really, really fast. We're, in fact, as a company, our plan this summer is to go out and do like a quarter of the trail and then maybe do that over the next four years, do like 100 100 to 100 and 20 miles and then come out the next year. So over about four years, we can, we can do it as a team. But when you put it that way, it's like, man, maybe we should just blitz, but that would be, that would be pretty intense.

Sam Schild: It'd be pretty intense. It'd be, let me know if you do it, I'd blitz it with you. But, it'd be like, it's like, very, it's challenging. It's really hard but it's like, pretty well graded for hiking the whole way. like, it's, I don't wanna say it's easy because it's not easy, but it's like, way, it's pretty, it's like smooth trail for the most part. And, like, on foot, it's, it's like, pretty doable. It's very doable. And, like, you, you can kind of zone out enough. It's pretty, it's very well maintained.

Tayson Whittaker: So, yeah, that's, that's good to know. I, like, we've done some sections in some high wildernesses that like 20 you get about to 25 miles a day and your feet are just killing it from stepping on rocks the whole time. And, definitely not super well graded. And, anyways, it's, it turns out to be a lot, a lot of time on foot. So I'll be, I'll be excited. I'm excited to go out to the Colorado trail. But, so is that your first through hike then? Was the Colorado trail?

Sam Schild: Yeah, that was my first through hike. That was, 2017.

Tayson Whittaker: Ok. So, you've been busy. You've been busy since then.

Sam Schild: I've been pretty busy since then. Yeah.
Tayson Whittaker: Did you do the AT first or the, or the PCT, or? Excuse me? Not the PCT or the CDT first.

Sam Schild: I did the PCT next. I did the PCT in 2019. Yeah. So, I did the CDT in 2021. But it seemed I was gonna do the CDT first because it was like going through Colorado and it felt obvious, like the next next trail to hike. But then I kind of let the prevailing, prevailing wisdom that says the CDT is more challenging and therefore I should do the PCT first prevail and I did the PC T first.

Tayson Whittaker: Well, now in your wisdom, what do you, what do you think about that comparison?

Sam Schild: I think the PCT is definitely easier. I don't think, I think the CDT is more rewarding and like, consistently more of a, like a wilderness experience. It's definitely more rugged and challenging, but more rewarding.

Tayson Whittaker: But imagine that on the PCT you're, you're hiking a lot with other hikers, like 70 to 80. Totally.

Sam Schild: Yeah. Feels like,, well, I hike the CDT Southbound too. So it's kind of like even harder to get a good idea, you know, like, I feel like the CDT northbound in New Mexico, you'd probably be pretty consistently hiking with other hikers if you wanted to. But even like, even then, like, it's not nearly as, you know, there's not 50 people a day starting the CDT in the spring in New Mexico, but there is absolutely 50 people a day starting the PCT, every day from March through May on is like, it, there's, it's a different level of crowded there. but CDT Southbound I saw, I think I met maybe 15 people the whole way and I hiked around a handful of them for a good chunk of time. And then I hiked around a handful of other people for another chunk of time and then a lot of the time I was alone too.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. So what going back to just like the challenging aspect of the CDT? I mean, it's more wilderness. You probably have longer gear carry or supply carries, right? Is that part of what makes it harder? Is it just the supply aspect or?

Sam Schild: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Like I CDT was pretty consistently at least 100 miles between resupply points. And that's, you know, that's, there's like the 100 mile wilderness on the AT, which is the thing that everybody talks about the whole trail, which is the longest distance between resupplies 100 miles. And then that's like, pretty common that, that's like almost the short, that's like a short one on the CDT in some regards. but so that's, that's challenging and then there's some parts of it that are just not very well traveled and not very well maintained and there's often the, well, you know, there's sometimes not even a trail and you're just cross country walking.

Tayson Whittaker: So, yeah. Yeah, I imagine it's much more grown in at times and just rougher in that sense of it for sure.

Sam Schild: Yeah, it's definitely rougher. Like, even in northern Colorado, I remember being on the CDT and then once the Colorado trail and the CDT join up, it immediately becomes, it feels like you're on a hiking freeway instead of, you know, cross country walking across a ridge line with no trail.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah, I did like a tiny section of the CDT down on the San Juan's and it was like a month or two after I had been on the A and I was just like, this is the most polarizing feeling I've ever had because like, on the A T it's like there's a blaze in the tree every 100 ft, the trails pristine, I mean, it's just, and then like on this one, I'm like climbing over, down tree, climbing over down tree climbing. And I'm like, this isn't, this year's down tree. This tree's been here for a couple of years, you know what I mean? Like, and no one has cut this tree out like it was, it was kind of mind boggling to me that they, you know, because like, I get it, like, if they like to me, most of those trails are at least maintained, like once a year, they come in and cut out trees. But this, in this scenario, I was like, these have clearly been here more than a year, you know. So it's like one is maintaining this trail.

Sam Schild: No. And like, it's some, it's pretty far away. From the nearest trailheads, like, often to get to some of these spots in the CDT it, you know, you'd have to carry a saw through the wilderness, like 30 miles to, to clear those downed trees off the trail. So, it's gonna be a while before that, before that happens.

Tayson Whittaker: You'd want some horses. Yeah, you'd want some horses or something to help you out with that, for sure.

Sam Schild: Absolutely.

Tayson Whittaker: So, you go, you do all these through hiking. You had this great but crazy first bike packing experience on the Colorado trail. But since then you've, you've really continued to do a lot of bike packing. So maybe, maybe walk me through. I, I wanna, I want you to sell me on bike packing and why I should give this a shot, like, describe maybe a great route that you've done. What, what makes it different and unique from, from backpacking. I'm, I'm just, I'm curious, I've never done it. but I'd love to hear why you actively do both.

Sam Schild: Ok. Yeah, I mean, so I think the things that are great about bike packing are things you could do like a couple 100 mile route through, like beautiful rolling, like desert terrain and like covered 50 to 100 miles in a day on dirt roads. See, absolutely nobody and still be able to, like, you know, cover 100 miles between water sources or something like that. And like, you could never do that hiking and, you know, there, you could never, there, there's like a, it's a, it's a totally different experience. You can go, you go slightly faster, you go way faster downhill. You can really, like, just long, long routes through the desert are where

Tayson Whittaker: I think I can say that I was like, it sounds like the advantage would be when you get into these really open landscapes, like, with a lot of miles between cities. And I'm like, it's basically like southeastern Utah and some of these routes are like, what's coming to mic. I'm like, everywhere else. There's just so many people, so many cities. Right.

Sam Schild: Yeah. No, I think, I think bike packing is best done in the American Southwest, like southern Utah. Southern Arizona. I just did an amazing route down there for the second time, actually called the Sky Islands, Odyssey. It's about a 250 mile loop that goes along the US Mexico border, like south of Tucson in like the very, so further, further south part of Arizona. And it's like through this amazing rolling landscape, with like all these massive mountains in every direction, you kind of ride through a couple, couple of the Sky Island Ranges and you just, there's always amazing views in every direction because you're just rolling up and down hills the whole time and the sunsets are awesome.The sunrises are awesome and you're like so far away from anything that the camping is amazing and you can carry a ton of water pretty easily on a bike.

Tayson Whittaker: Do you get stopped by, border patrol down there very often?

Sam Schild:, they usually, you know, as, as a white male, like, I, they just wave to me and keep going like, they, they don't, they don't even, they're, they're like, they're, they're used to it. They're just looking for me, they're looking for not me down there. Basically,

Tayson Whittaker: you don't have a big enough bag to, to have,

Sam Schild: I don't have a big enough bag. I like nice looking stuff.

Tayson Whittaker: So, so, what's harder on your body? Bike packing or hiking?

Sam Schild: Probably, probably hiking. Bike packing can be hard on your body. I think I've, I've gotten injured pretty bad with like a really loaded bike packing bike kind of falling on me when I was trying to push. I like intense hiker bike sections. But it's definitely, I think I'd say hiking is a little harder on your body, especially if you have a heavy pack.

Tayson Whittaker: So, yeah, so how heavy of how, like how much of your gear changes between backpacking and ultra light backpacking, let's say,, or, or through hiking or?

Sam Schild: Yeah, not, not that much I carry. So for bike packing, I have to carry a tent pole because I don't have a tracking pole. I normally use a trekking pole shelter. lately I've been just using a single checking pole, supported tarp or a single trekking pole supported tent. So I have a tent pole to use in the place of a trekking pole. And then I use bigger, more durable water bottles that won't, that can be held on a bike instead of just cheap, harder, cheap, like smart water bottles. I, yeah, I use like a, an jean or even I've been using one of these, like these big, like 40 ounce clean canteens on a bike too. They're super durable and they're a little bigger than an Al jean but not as big as the 1.5 liter na Jean. , but other than that, the gear is pretty similar. I usually wear a bike tour or bike pack, bike tour, whatever you wanna call it in, in bedrock sandals. Whereas I don't,

Tayson Whittaker: I was just gonna ask if you use clippings or something, just sandals, just sandals.

Sam Schild: But they have a really nice, vibrant soul. So they actually like to talk really well with the platform pedal. So it works. They're honestly like some of the best cycling footwear I've worn and for bike packing, it's great because then you're, you don't have to like, worry about dirty socks. You don't even like one pair of sleep socks. And then other than that, I don't even carry socks. It kind of works out pretty well.

Tayson Whittaker: No, that's really interesting. I mean, you got full time ac, just blowing through there and, and no need to worry about your socks getting covered in dirt every day.

Sam Schild: No. Yeah. And then, like, I like your feet getting wet. It doesn't matter. You ride through a stream, you're ready.

Tayson Whittaker: So, that's awesome. That's pretty interesting. Actually. you mentioned a handful of durable water bottles. I feel like you may maybe have a story around, losing some water or just having issues with.

Sam Schild: Yeah, I, like, I've had, I, I went through a period where I was trying to, like, bring everything that I had, like, sort of learned from ultra light backpacking into bike packing and I was trying to use like smart water bottles on a, on a bike and when they're not full of water, they just get a little too, they get squishy. And so then like a bike. But, you know, like a bottle cage, even an oversized bottle cage designed to fit a size bottle, like doesn't really hold it very well and then you have to strap it down but then the strap won't hold it very well because the bottle is kind of collapsing. So it just, it just doesn't work out.

Tayson Whittaker: It just so you just need the rigidity.

Sam Schild: Yeah. Yeah, you just need rigidity.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. I, I have actually liked, in the high mountains where rocks get pretty sharp, dropped a smart water bottle and put a hole right in. It had to deal with that. So they're, they are breakable, I guess.

Sam Schild: Yeah, they're definitely breakable

Tayson Whittaker: a lot better than any of the water bladders I've used, but I've still had issues.

Sam Schild: Yeah, definitely. Especially if you're, especially the one that you're using, if you filter out of a smart water bottle, like try to filter onto it, that one always ends up breaking. Yeah.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah, for sure. So what's this year been like for you, man? Like you just mentioned, you went down back toward that. Sounds, it definitely sounds interesting to me. I'm, in fact, I do want to ask this is, it's like you've got gravel bikes and for those that don't know, basically a gravel bike is, is a non, I mean, there's no suspension, you've got specific tires on them that, that are capable on dirt roads. But also, I mean, there's not much to them, it's not like a big mud tire that's got any suspension in it. I mean, to me, I look at that and I, I can't help but think that it looks a little painful to ride those, but with gravel bikes, I mean, does that, does it just go away? Like do you just get an iron butt and you're just totally good or, or like, do you feel that by the end of the day, every time?

Sam Schild: , so I read, I ride more of a mountain bike than a gravel bike is what I'd say. I ride, I ride, like, usually when I'm bike packing, I have like 2.3 inch tires. Whereas a gravel bike can fit like maybe 1.5 to almost two inch tires tops. Generally, you know, there's always exceptions and like the, the, the limits of like what size tire you could fit on, like a drop. Our gravel bike is constantly being pushed and now there's like dropping our bikes that can fit three inch tires. So, you know, but like a standard, a pretty typical gravel bike, is like, in my opinion, almost a road bike and I ride a mountain bike on, on gravel roads. If I'm bike packing, it's way more comfortable. It still definitely doesn't have suspension and you still definitely kind of have a sore, sore body, sore butt at the end of the day. but you kind of like, learn to. So like be one with, with the one with all the bumps and like, you sort of like let your body, like, flow with them in a way, you sort of like stand up just enough that like the bike bouncing up and down does isn't like jostling you in the butt and then you're like, you kind of lean into it and you use, use your body weight to your advantage.

Tayson Whittaker: So I, I didn't catch that, did you say it's a mountain bike but still no suspension.

Sam Schild: Yeah, it's a mountain bike. It's a full rigid mountain bike.
Is what I ride,

Tayson Whittaker: Is it? Ok. So,, what do, is anyone bike packing with, like a class one style E bike? Like a, like a pedal assist E bike?

Sam Schild: Probably. Yeah,

Tayson Whittaker: It's not, not common though.

Sam Schild: Yeah, it's, I, I don't think it's, I mean, you, the range on an E bike is still, you know, 50 miles tops. And that's like, under ideal conditions with like, just a rider that doesn't weigh a lot and like, on pretty, unless steep terrain. So, like, if you think about that, you'd have to, like, carry multiple batteries or, you know, or something, or only do like a 25 mile route, you know, 25 or 50 mile total loop.
Tayson Whittaker: I asked this in part because I was at a, like an archery. So I grew up shooting bows and stuff. I was at this archery shoot at a ski resort last year and like, there's a handful of hunters that started to use, like the fat bike, big, big E bikes with big fat tires. Right? And one of them had this massive fold out solar panel and I was like, no way you can charge your E bike with that thing. Their claim was something like 1 to 2 hours of direct sunlight and it would top up the battery and I was like, I, I want, I haven't done any more digging on that, but I'm like, man, that's, that's actually pretty damn impressive. If it really is capable of doing that, it would, it would open up possibilities. But, yeah, I don't know, I, I, I feel like that's a stretch. I feel like that's a stretch. But yeah,

Sam Schild: Yeah, I feel like it's definitely doable. You have to, you would have to carry like a second, you know, you have to carry a battery besides the massive solar panel. You have to have a battery too, to be taking that power, putting it into that battery and then charging your E bike battery off of that. Probably, you know, unless you want to, because once you have a solar panel and then it's going directly into another, into like your E bike battery. Like any inconsistency inconsistency in the wattage can like, affect how that charges and stuff.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah, it just sounds heavy. Yeah, yeah, probably one of those scenarios is just

Sam Schild: simpler to just ride your bike,

Tayson Whittaker: Just ride the bike. So what have you, I mean, you mentioned that you have already done some bike packing this year. What else do you have going on? I mean, you just got through this sprint. Well, I guess let me ask this too. So you've been, you've been riding in the outdoor space for three years, but you've continued to be this big, I'll call it a full time adventurer. How does that go? Like, like is the dream, is the dream here that like you're, you're riding like, like physic, not, not riding your bike, but like riding with a pencil on trail about your experiences or is it like, you just go out and be on your experiences and then you come home and write about it, like, maybe walk me through a little bit of, of just like, what a work life balance is for someone like you.

Sam Schild: Sure. Yeah, I mean, so I guess ideally it would be like, go have an experience and then like afterwards, like, you know, you have some notes and then you write about it. and kind of just be doing that a bunch, like go back and forth, like go out, have a great experience, document it as much as you can. Like, I love taking pictures and shooting videos when I'm out there. But I'm not like, you know, journaling every night, like, and then like coming home and typing it up. But, you know, and then like, but then I'll get home and then I'll like, I'll, you know, then I'll do some, then I'll like do some work, like write for, write some, write some content for the outdoor industry, whatever, whatever that is. And then I'll like, you know, after, after a big sprint of doing that, I'll go back out there and do another trip. And I'm always, like, scheming more, more trips and like, you, it's always kind of like scheming trips and you're never not working entirely because, like, sometimes I'm like, testing some gear or at least, like, thinking about, like, what else where I'm gonna get like, my next, like, good writing gig and stuff like that. And now, like my, all my, you know, like my personal social media channels have sort of turned into like a marketing but, you know, like a marketing channel for getting like writing clients and stuff. So I'm still, I'm honestly still figuring it out and I think I'm getting, getting the hang of it. But yeah, like it's been, been a few years. This is really the first I've come, I'm in, I'm in my second year of doing it. Like, as my only job for a while I was kind of doing it while also working in a bike shop part time. And yeah, so I'm, I'm still figuring it out but I'm getting, I'm figuring out the balance and, yeah, learning every day.

Tayson Whittaker: So is it really common for you to come back and, and work for like a month or two, like you said, and then go back out on, on trail for like, like, like do you kind of do it in blocks like that? Is it like, how often or how long are the blocks?

Sam Schild: Yeah, I, I mean, I tried to do it in blocks and then like, so that I could kind of just go out and enjoy myself, like, have like an experience where I'm not, like, always thinking like, oh man, I have, I have these, you know, this list of things that I need, need to do in the next two weeks. , but, you know, there's some of that too, like, it's not all, like last summer I did a lot of like, 2 to 3 day trips and then come home and like, churn out a bunch of work and then go back out for a couple of days, come back home, churn out a bunch of work. Keep doing that. So, but, you know, I also like through, hiked, through, hiked the Grand Enchantment trail. So that was like another, that was like a month and a half where I didn't work at all.So, you know,

Tayson Whittaker: explain that one for people. What trail is that?

Sam Schild:, that one goes from Phoenix to Albuquerque in like Arizona and New Mexico. And it's about five, what is it, like, 700 miles? It's like 700 miles. That's a good amount of, like bushwhacking through the desert. It's really, really rugged and really cool and rewarding, but very, pretty, pretty challenging.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. Now it seems like you've come from Chicago and then you just love the desert. Now, like you between bike,

Sam Schild: I love the desert. It's so good. I'm probably gonna end up with a home base in Arizona or maybe even Utah and the next, or New Mexico in the next couple of years. Like, I, it's my, like, my, like, longer, longer kind of work life balance thing tends to be like, kind of spending more time at home during, like the winter when it's, when, you know, days are longer, colder, all those things. So it, like, sort of makes sense for my lifestyle to have that home be someplace that I could go and, like, go on trail runs and backpacking trips all winter long and bike packing trips. And I could do that. I did that for like, two months this winter in Arizona and it was awesome and I was just living out of my element at that time, but maybe I'll, maybe I'll upgrade the living situation at some point even.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. , yeah, I was actually just hanging out with a handful of people from Colorado and they're all talking about, like, skiing all winter long and they're like, and I start after a while. I'm like, man, maybe I should be doing a lot more skiing. Maybe I need to get into that. But I feel like where we are, where our headquarters are here in Cedar City, we can be 45 minutes to a ski resort or I can be 45 minutes to the desert. Right.

Sam Schild: Yeah.

Tayson Whittaker: So it's, it seems like over the past handful of years. I've just been gravitating towards 45 minutes into the desert and, and they keep doing the things that I enjoy kind of year round, whatever those are. So it is, it is, there is, there is a lot of attraction I think to the desert, especially just with how much more accessible it is. Yeah, like in the middle of the summer, it's not the best, but like in the three seasons, four season scenarios, it just allows you to do what you love year round. Really? So it's, there's, I, I can see how you fall in love with it for sure.

Sam Schild: Absolutely. Yeah. And like some like the oh man, the desert by where you are is just incredible. Like the, the rocks are just out of otherworldly and then the sunsets and sunrises are incredible and then the desert mountains are so cool. They're big and like there's a ton of relief and thank you. Like, they're so rocky and rugged. It's really fun. They're just, oh, I love them.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. No, I'm, I'm right there with you. It is. I mean, I, I love actually to bring people out here that have never spent much time in the desert because like the consistent thing that I feel like they say is just like, man, I feel like I'm walking on Mars right now. Like, I don't know where I'm at. I've never, I just never seen anything like you know, and, and that's, that's a lot of fun to me, one to keep me from ever taking it for granted. But, yeah, it's just true though. It's just true. It's like this is just such unique formations everywhere you look. Right. So,

Sam Schild: and like some of the most biodiverse, like ecosystems in the world are deserts. The Sonoran Desert has more plants than like any other ecosystem. I'm pretty sure like it's there and, like, people have this idea of the desert that it's just, like, devoid of life in a wasteland, but it's absolutely not. And, like, like, life there, like, has learned to thrive in these really harsh environments and I think that's really, really special.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. No, I, I totally agree. I think one of my favorite things on this podcast especially, I talk a lot about hiking big miles and seeing all sorts of countries. But, I mean, I love to just sit too. I, I can, I can sit there and just watch nature forever and, sometimes so sometimes I think about this, like, I, I think about, like, ok, I need to be successful in a career to make money to, you know, maybe one day I'll buy a cabin and I'll sit on this porch of the cabin and I'll enjoy this solitude and, and lack of busyness. And every time I tell myself that I'm like, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Because, like, I can backpack anywhere. I want to have a travel trailer that I take my family camping in all the time. It's like I can pull that to millions and millions of public land acres and sit there next to the trailer and watch the same thing today. And, and I think it's just really common as humans to get in this rat race of things. Right where it's just all you build for tomorrow. You, you work for retirement. Like me, I talk to my parents all the time, like I quit working for retirement. Like you guys need to take more time now, you know, like you're so like, I feel like I'm better than my parents. But then I look at guys like you and I'm like, I'm still not enjoying the journey nearly as much as I should be. And I think anyone who's listening to this can probably relate to that to some extent. So I'd, I'd love to hear, I guess just in your mind, why you choose to do what you do and what it is to, to live this minimalist lifestyle because like you mentioned and, and well, maybe we haven't covered enough. You live a pretty minimalist lifestyle. I, from my understanding of you, you, you don't acquire and retain a lot of things. You stay very mobile at times. I have no idea how many nights you, you know, you sleep out of your car and just travel around. But, you know, I guess just, just explain a little bit of your thoughts and the benefits of living this more minimalist lifestyle.

Sam Schild: Sure. Yeah. I mean, yeah, I think there's so much more to life than, like, accumulating a lot of things so that we could be comfortable one day at, like, some indeterminate point in the future when we can retire. Like, if you just live simply, you can like me. My philosophy is to live simply and then you can kind of be, you know, semi-retired all the time.
And you know, I go, I like, I retire like every couple of months for a month or two and like, let you know, have, have it as like a minimalist enough life that I could kind of make that work. I could like, you know, move into a place and then like sublease my room and or just like put the amount of stuff that I have in storage or just like put it all in my car and leave and then go, go and like, enjoy that same, like I like, you know, like that iconic backyard that you could have with that cabin that you save up your whole life for by just like, you know, going out someplace on plopping down some public land and sitting on the tailgate of my car and watching the sunset and cooking a simple dinner on a camp stove, you know, that's pretty magical. but, you know, there's, there's pros and cons to all of it. And I'm not saying like this is the only way, but it's the way that I'm kind of finding that works for me.

Tayson Whittaker: Well, let me, let me ask this because I think one of the best ways to view life is to try to fast forward life and then look backwards. So like, let's say we fast forward your life, Sam, 10 years down the road and if you were to turn around and look backwards, would you have regrets living this way?

Sam Schild: Absolutely not. No. I would never regret it. But I mean, I think that some people might say that I should have regrets because I, you know, 10 years from now, I probably still won't like own very many, like worldly things that have value and like, you know, the things that, you know, we're kind of taught that we should, we should be like working towards, I probably won't own any of that, but I will have like lived a very full life and have like tons and tons of experiences. And I think those are more, more infinitely more valuable than like a house that you have a mortgage on. For instance, Not that I wouldn't appreciate some housing stability every once in a while too.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. No, I think, I think that's really interesting because I, I'm remembering, I don't know, if it's a quote or a study that I read that just talked about how I believe it was a nurse was, was just always asking people in a nursing home as they were coming to the end of their life, like, what they regretted the most and most of them said that, you know, they wish that they'd worked less essentially. That was like one of their biggest regrets in life was just working too much. and I, I have, it's such an interesting dynamic, right? Because in a lot of ways, like I'm an employer, right? So it's like I need people to work. I can't be sitting here like all this podcast, be like, all right, everyone, we don't need to work anymore. Like, you know, come and go when you please and like, we wouldn't, we wouldn't do too well. but at the same time I think there is just, there's so much value in, in the experiences that you can make and, and optimizing those and, you know, I, I focus a lot on getting the most out of weekends or three day weekends and things like that. you, I do think that that's, and I think what's interesting is, you know, you've, you're a wind 100 years in history and you, you had to work like, it wasn't like you had the option to, to take vacations or whatever. Right? It was like you had to work to provide food, water, shelter, clothing. And now it's like we work but we work extra hard to provide better food, you know, better shelters, better clothes,

Sam Schild: more clothes than we need.

Tayson Whittaker: More. a whole, a whole lot more, especially I know you're not married Sam, but if you were, you would know the definition of more clothes than you need.

Sam Schild: I mean, once you start like, yeah, I believe you, like, once you, like, even I have more clothes than I need because when my friends get married I need to wear something other than like a T shirt and the, the dirty hat that I wear all the time and these cut off short

Tayson Whittaker: packing sandals.

Sam Schild: Yeah. Right.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. No, it's, it's, it's definitely a fascinating thing and I think that everyone should take time to think about that. you know, as, as much as you can and, and there's choices. Right? It's like, well, if you choose to try to take more time off, like, you're not going to make as much money, you're not gonna like, because I think that's the problem is everyone wants both sides of it. Right. They want progression in their career, they want more money, but they also want more time off. And it's like, well, those usually don't go super hand in hand. You get to, you get to choose one as more of a priority than the other. A lot of times but I think it is worth just constantly thinking about those kinds of questions and playing those out, for sure. Ok. Well, this has been awesome, man. I've really enjoyed this. I enjoy getting into some of these trains of thoughts. You've, you've, you've made me think a little more about bike packing. I think that would be something that would be a lot of fun and I, and where it's almost my backyard to get into some really great backpacking country. It's something I probably need to try at some point and give it a go. But is there anything that I didn't ask you about that, that you, you want to share that you're wealth of knowledge and experiences. So I know you've got tons to share.

Sam Schild: Yeah, I feel like I could just keep, keep talking all day, but I feel like we covered a ton. I don't think we really missed anything that I was thinking like, oh my God, I need to share this with Tayson.

Tayson Whittaker: So, if there are people that are interested in getting into bike packing, where's a good place to learn about that?

Sam Schild: So bike packing dot com is like a very, it's a pretty comprehensive resource on the internet that has like a lot. It has a whole network of routes that people can create and then they kind of vet to make sure they're good routes like with, you know, like, you know, like public land access, water, food and water access, et cetera, et cetera, like legal. And so that's a pretty good place to start. I've written a few, like bike packing guides as well. You could find them, like for the Colorado trail and the Co Capelli Trail, which are two of my, you know, favorite bike packing routes that I've done. So I've written, like, if you just Google bike packing those trails, you'll find my guides and stuff. and really, like, there's a ton, a ton of information on the internet. But I think bike packing dot com is a really good place to start

Tayson Whittaker: if you're someone like me who has everything for ultralight backpacking, but I wanted to convert over. So I've got to get a bike. I've got to get some biking equipment. What kind of an investment am I looking for? We'll just say a beginner's setup.

Sam Schild: Yeah. kind of a lot. Bikes are expensive. Like I would say you could get away, you know, you'd probably end up spending at least probably $1000 on a bike. I mean, if you could find something that was suitable to use, it would probably be like around 1000 bucks. new would probably be closer to 1500 to $2000. , you could be thrifty and they get a less expensive bike. But, and like that's probably a good way to start. But like, you know, there's kind of no way of getting around it. Bikes are expensive. Other than that though, if you have ultralight backpacking equipment, you could basically, you would just also need a frame bag. I handle our bag and a seat bag or like a rack and a bag you could put on the rack. So, not, not that much stuff. It's definitely not as simple as backpacking where you just put it all in one bag though.

Tayson Whittaker: So, and invest a little bit in some bags, huh?

Sam Schild: Yeah, bags probably would be a few $100 minimum. So, pretty kind of a lot.

Tayson Whittaker: And, when you said you sleep in a, in a tarp, or with the tarp, are, are you using like, are you sealed in there or are you just cowboy camping under the tarp?

Sam Schild: I mean, I'm just cowboy camping under the, I usually carry,

Tayson Whittaker: You kill me. The dude, the desert is so, oh, I can't, I can't kill in the desert, man. There's just so many scorpions and bugs and,

Sam Schild: yeah, I just don't think about them. It's been, it's been ok.

Tayson Whittaker: So far I've had some experiences where I just got into a campsite, just spiders everywhere. Or, had, had some different guys in the office that were still doing that for a while. They'd pick up their pad in the morning and there'd be a tarantula under it. Excuse me? A scorpion under it. I was just like, yeah, I, I don't do it in the desert anymore. I just, I don't do a period anymore actually.

Sam Schild: That's reasonable. Yeah, I like, I don't know, I've had, like, enough, like, I've had multiple tents that, like, you know, like fully enclosed tents and then I'll, like, use them for long enough that the, the zipper, like, gets a bunch of dust in it. Then it stops dipping and then, so then I end up just using a tent as if it's a tarp anyways. And then I just stopped using Tense as much. I, so sometimes I use the 10 still and it's definitely cozier but tarps like it, it just feels so simple, right? Like super easy to set up. You feel like you feel more like you're sleeping outside, it's a little breezier and feels that you get more fresh air.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. And yeah, less rain, less rain in the desert, I guess so.

Sam Schild: Yeah. So I've weathered like a good amount of storms in a tarp too and it's, you know, like it's fine.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. So last question, let's say someone is interested in becoming a writer in the outdoor space, right? Like I imagine, like when I was a kid I was really interested in motorcycles. Like I grew up on a motorcycle and that would have been like my dream job Right. It's like, man, if I could ride motorcycles and then I could just ride motorcycles and then I could just dream about motorcycles. So let's say we've got someone out there who's listening that just feels that way about backpacking or the outdoor industry in general, what advice would you have for them? If they wanted to get into writing,,

Sam Schild: start doing it, start documenting your, like any journeys that you're taking, like, both photos and written, you know, like, start a website, start a blog, just start doing it and you know, just like, keep at it and just try and just like, keep writing stuff and like, you have to like, come up with cool stories and pitch them to pitch them to editors at publications and then someone will eventually say like, hey, this sounds interesting. Yeah, I want you to do that or often it'll be more like, we don't want that, but we actually really need this person to write this thing while you do that. So, you know, like, just like, do it and then keep at it and don't, don't, like, be ready for some rejection and just like, keep at it and eventually eventually you'll start gaining traction.

Tayson Whittaker: So you've, you've talked a little bit about copywriting as well. I imagine you have to use a lot of that just when you're pitching articles too, right? I mean, you're, you're trying to sell your skills. Right.

Sam Schild: Yeah. Yeah. Totally. Like, I feel like I'm a good copywriter because I can, you know, I could, I could essentially write a full, fully fleshed out essay in four sentences in which, and that's what a pitch is. You know, you're like, you're writing a pitch or you're writing like a letter of introduction to, like, a potential, like, you know, like a potential copyright client. You're, like, selling yourself in as few words as possible because everyone's busy. Everyone, like, doesn't have a ton of time to read your whole life story just to find out whether or not they wanna work with you and you know, you tell them what they need to know and like, that's it. And so, yeah.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah. Well, it's been awesome, Sam. Where do people go if they wanna read any of your stories or? I guess I know you've got an Instagram account. They can go see some of your awesome photos.

Sam Schild: Yeah, I have it. So I have an Instagram account. It's sia_lizard and then I have a website. It's Sam shield dot com and I'll be updating my website soon now that I'm done with the split of like copywriting gigs and stuff. And, yeah, that's, those are the two main places to find me.

Tayson Whittaker: Awesome. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. I think it's super fascinating. I, I love what you do and and I love just the fact that you're, you're living the dream man. You're living your best life. And I think it's, it's really inspiring. So appreciate it.

Sam Schild: Cool. Thanks Tayson. I appreciate you having me on and this is really fun.

Tayson Whittaker: Yeah.

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Living Ultralight is not just about the lowest pack weight. It's about more enjoyable experiences!

Tayson Whittaker