Interview: Victoria Livschitz – RightOnTrek
Victoria Livschitz is a founder of RightOnTrek, a company dedicated to helping people who want to expand their outdoors experiences.
Where are you from and how did you get started hiking and backpacking?
I grew up on the shores of Baltic Sea in Lithuania. As a child, I spent a lot of time in the woods with my parents – foraging for mushrooms, harvesting wild nuts and berries or fishing. But then adult life happened… I got married, moved to the US in search of a better life, had three kids and built a successful career in Silicon Valley as a serial high tech entrepreneur.. none of which involved spending time outdoors. So it wasn’t until fairly late in life, when the pressure and stress built up over the years triggered a major burnout, that I discovered the mountains, experienced their healing powers, fell in love with the great outdoors and found my way “back to backcountry”, which became a hugely important part of my life.
How did you decide to start RightOnTrek?
Three years ago I was hiking and backpacking in Patagonia with my daughter Jennifer. It was an amazing, joyous adventure for both of us. I felt so lucky to be able to experience the magic of wilderness and share it with my daughter that I began to wonder why so few people do it. When I got back home, that curiosity quickly turned into serious market research. The data confirmed that the number of people that participate in outdoor recreation is growing steadily, and also that backpacking and trail running are amongst the leading activities for the “newcomers”. And yet, nearly 100 million Americans say they wish they’d go camping and backpacking, but they don’t. They miss out on these amazing experiences because the barriers are simply too great.
What are some of the barriers to backpacking that RightOnTrek addresses?
I found five specific reasons that hold people back.
- Information. Where should I go and how do I get there? How do I know it’s safe and within my physical abilities? Do I need a permit and how do I get one? Where should I camp, find water or resupply?
- Skills. How do I know which direction to go, where to find a campsite, how to pitch a tent, when to purify water or how to survive the encounter with a bear, mountain lion or rattlesnake?
- Technical clothing and gear. Where will I get the right gear that costs thousands of dollars, when I don’t even know what I need in the first place?
- Trail nutrition. What do I eat on the trail, especially if I am allergic to some foods or follow a certain diet?
- The social nature of the wilderness adventures. How do we work together to design this trip, share information and itineraries, chat and collaborate, agree on who is bringing what, arrange for a carpool, and such.
That’s when I put on my hat of a serial founder, investor and CEO, and said: “I want to fix this”. And that’s how RightOnTrek was born.
How do you go about lowering these barriers?
The five points I just mentioned are the barriers we aim to eliminate or at least significantly lower with a combination of technology, products and services. To combat the lack of information and skills to plan and execute an amazing, yet safe wilderness adventure, we are building a massive database of wilderness objects with their recreational use, along with detailed adventure itineraries for all tastes and skill levels. We call this database The Wilderness Wonders and Wanderings. Just think of what Google has done at the dawn of the Internet to map out the roads, gas stations, hotels and various businesses to provide all of us with easy-to-use DYI tools to put together an adventure road trip. Now imagine a similarly convenient and rich information about the wilderness travels on foot, bike, skis, canoe or horse. We want this database to be easy to search and completely free. It’s a complex undertaking, but that’s the aspiration of our trail data team and we are chipping away at complexity and making progress. Our current focus is primarily on the PCT corridor.
To help solve the issue of access to quality gear and nutritious food, we are building a number of products and services. That includes a full catalog of healthy, delicious, freshly made, cook-on-trail hot Adventure Meals in fully compostable packaging, along with completely customizable multi-day Adventure Meal Plans for individuals, families and groups. We are also piloting a gear rental service that will make it possible to order a full gear set for a person or a group during the planning phase of your trip, then pick it up near the trailhead (along with the meals, of course) and return once you are done. We are even experimenting with the Wilderness Express service that can shuttle people, food and gear between trailheads and Self-Service Wilderness Lockers where gear and food can be left for pickups and returns. We’ve got lots of ideas that are in the drawing board and limited scope pilots as we speak.
Finally, to address the social nature of the wilderness adventures, we are building some awesome collaborative adventure planning tools. Some of them should be launching in just a few weeks, in time for this summer season. These tools will also be free and make it easy and fun to find a great adventure itinerary, pick the dates, invite your friends, research the permits, weather, wildlife or hazards, find out the latest information about the park closures, discuss various aspects of the trip in group chats, generate the detailed gpx tracks and print take-with-you paper maps.
We are a small company with a big mission, so we can’t build everything we want all at once. But we’ve been working on this for close to three years now, and some of the tools, products and services are starting to come out. Which is very exciting, and we have been very encouraged by the reception so far.
Favorite big three gear items for three season backpacking (shelter, pack, sleep system)?
My go-to three-season setup is a Zpack’s pocket tarp with doors paired with MLD superlight solo bivy, SWD 35L Superior frameless backpack and Hammock Gear 20F Burrow quilt.
How can we learn more about RightOnTrek?
Visit the RightOnTrek website.