Interview – Meet Jake Bramante of Hike734.com

1. Please tell us a little more about yourself.

I was raised in northwestern Montana. As a kid, I wanted to be a biologist, but ended up going to college for an IT career.

I moved back to Montana and worked the corporate gig for 9 years.

Jake Bramante of Hike734 dot com

Concurrently, I began to explore the landscape that I took for granted and became an avid hiker and backpacker. I also found an interest in video production. The entrepreneur bug finally overcame me in 2009 as I saw my life turning into a Dilbert comic strip.

I sold my house then, the following spring, quit my job. My plan was to run a video production company, but I was willing to let it take a life of its own. I gave myself two years.

2. What was the trigger for starting Hike734.com?

Glacier National Park's

During the two years of figuring out my video production business, I wondered if anyone had ever hiked all 734 miles of Glacier National Park’s trails in one year.

I found that nobody had and set out to do that the following spring. My site went live in January of 2011 when I announced my project.

3. How did you find your passion for hiking and how did it transform your life?

Jake bramante map

Growing up, we never formally went hiking or backpacking. We lived on 7.5 wooded acres bordering friends and Forest Service land. We would run around, build forts, catch snakes, climb trees etc. When I moved back from college in Phoenix, I realized that I’d taken it for granted.

We’d also moved my senior year of high school close to Glacier National Park. I started buying gear and finding people to go with. My first extended backpacking trip included a nerf football. I obviously had a lot to learn.

4. What is your hiking gear of choice?

XT Wings shoesMy hiking gear of choice… hmmm. I’ll start with shoes. I’m a proponent of trail runners. I’ve been hiking on Salomon shoes for the past 12 years or so from the XA Pro to the XA Pro 3D to the XT Wings. I think a hiking shoe needs to be comfortable and I prefer something that moves with you. Boots generally don’t, so you get blisters. I don’t get blisters and my feet don’t look like a big callous.

My second answer to that question is trying to get lighter. I’m not an ultralight fanatic, but I’m working on shaving weight. Since I’m a hiking video blogger, I need to take a camera with me and I need something that zooms in and gets great wide shots. I’ve hiked with a Canon 7D and two heavy lenses. I’m trying out Panasonic’s new DMC-FZ1000 which brings me from 9lbs of camera gear to under 2lbs. The quality will go down a bit, but my body will make it and I’m a happy hiker. I can hike with lighter day packs and am not feeling like an abused pack mule at the end of a backpacking trip.

Also, I’m starting to play around with soda can stoves and really enjoying that. Bonus: Platypus Big Zip. The only hydration bladder that doesn’t flavor my water. I can put water in it and let it sit in my closet for a month and it doesn’t taste any different. It is clear so you can see what’s going on inside, has a zip-loc opening to get inside to clean it out and is bomber. I’ve never had one fail on me.

5. What multi tool do you use and which one do you recommend?

Leatherman 830039 New Wave Multitool

It’s funny that you ask about the multi-tool.

I’ve had great gear such as bomber tents and such, so I’ve not really had the need for a multi-tool. When Morry first asked me, I just started the process of going through my emergency supplies and evaluating what I should be bringing.

Since then, the Leatherman Wave has made it back into my pack. Not the lightest of the lot, but not the heaviest either and it’s just quality.

6. Please offer 5 tips for the beginner hiker.

Alrighty, here are my tips.

backpack tips

  1. Trail runners. Unless you need to strap crampons on, get trail runners. Also, forego goretex on your feet. If it’s raining out, your feet will probably get wet either way (if not from the rain, from the sweat). Gore-tex boots and shoes take forever to dry out.
  2. Hats, gloves, rain jacket. Now this probably doesn’t apply to everywhere, but if you’re hiking in mountains, I don’t care how great the forecast is, throw these three items in your pack.
  3. Food for backpacking. First thing is that most people bring waaaay too much food. The best way I’ve found to bring the right amount of food is to lay it out by meal by day, (lunch on first day, dinner on first night, breakfast on day 2, lunch on day 2, etc…) Throw in a little bit extra and have a nice protein packed bar or two for emergencies. I’ve seen people pull out 2lbs of trail mix for a three day trip. That was just for snacking. Trust me, you’ll never go through that much. Bonus: make sure that you have a lot of flavor profiles. It’s very easy to get sick of the peanut taste. Right now I’ve been day hiking with a couple pieces of jerky, string cheese, Fritos, corn chex, gorp, an apple, a hammer nutrition bar (based on dates… the fruit) and hammer nutritions perpetuem in either mocha or orange vanilla.
  4. Simplify. I’m a big fan of less zippers, less pockets, less issues. Don’t get crazy with the latest and greatest. Spend the money on lighter and stay away from too many features. Read blogs, talk to friends etc. Talk to your local hiking/climbing shop for what you should be buying, then support those places because they just gave you advice for free. Make sure the people that are giving you advice get out. Sometimes the best backpack is one that hasn’t changed designs in four years and you won’t be reading reviews about it because it doesn’t have built in solar panels and a new whiz-bang, innovative suspension system.
  5. Get out. Different gear works differently for different people. I only have a few things (such as my Patagonia R1 Pullover fleece) that I still use. Most everything else has been traded up. Start with a nice day pack, comfy trail runners, hydration, some good trail food

7. What is the tool that you would like to have close in a survival situation?

Leatherman Wave Black Oxide Finish Multi Tool with Nylon MOLLE Sheath

I suppose a knife would be the right answer here. My Leatherman Wave or a similar tool would probably be better as it allows for better sawing and such. For the most part, I’m the kind of guy to make sure that everyone knows where I’m going and when I’ll be back. I also carry a SPOT device and some pain killers. Most of my trips have me on trails, so getting lost isn’t as big of an issue. More likely would be a fall where I broke something. In that scenario, I’d take some Lortab, press the SPOT and secure my position. They’d know where to find me at that point.

8. What was your best hike?

Tough call on my “best hike”. I’ve had too many good days. A great one was the day that I was hiking a big day as part of my project. It was the fall and I had been hiking hard all summer, so I felt strong.

It was something like 24 miles with 6,000 vertical. I was about 2/3 of the way through when I came across three black wolves. They spent some time running around me checking me out (not stalking and creeping, but loping around). After they figured I wasn’t anything to eat, they took off, howled back and forth to each other and disappeared. Pretty amazing.

9. How is the hiker/adventurer that you follow and appreciate the most?

Steven Gnam

I don’t actually follow any hikers really. Okay, that’s not true as I type this. My friend Steven Gnam – Stevengnamphotography.com is this incredible photographer, outdoorsman, wildlands advocate.

His photography moves me like none other and him as well as some mutual friends, go out and do these monster days and huge backpacking trips. They capture amazing stuff. They make me feel old, fat and lazy. They also make me better.

10. A message to your readers and fans

Thanks for the support and being part of the community! I’m thankful that I get to do what I do and it doesn’t happen without people getting involved, giving me ideas, asking for help and purchasing my products. It grows when people share and allows me to come out with better tools so folks can have a better time out in the woods. Basically, I’m just thankful!

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