2020 In Review
An Interview with Pathloom Founder, Ankit Jain
Point Reyes National Seashore: Inverness, CA - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue
2020 was an… interesting year, to say the least. As a whole, the entire year presented challenges never before seen by the majority of the planet. While very few of us will be sad to turn the calendar to the new year, we want to salute each and every one of you who made the best of their situation, and persevered through what we seriously hope to look back on as one of the most difficult times of our collective lives.
We here at Pathloom also won’t be sorry to see 2020 go, but we did want to take the time to reflect on all we have achieved in the face of such adversity as well. We are immensely proud of the progress we’ve made on the development of our outdoor trip planning app, and we want to thank all of our beta testers for their valuable feedback over the past few months. We are beyond excited to see the continued growth of the Pathloom community - we can’t wait to bring you more exclusive content while we continue to work hard on our app!
As a final send-off to this year from hell, we sat down with our CEO and Founder, Ankit Jain, for a Q&A session. Check out what he had to say about growing a business through a pandemic, his favorite trips taken this year, and what he’s looking forward to most in 2021!
Death Valley National Park: Badwater, CA - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue
How have you been staying sane during the Pandemic?
(Ankit): Two main things: going outdoors and working hard to grow Pathloom - which has been quite the lifeline for me in 2020. I've kept myself busy with accelerating various elements of the company - including our marketing and product efforts, and growing the team. Outside of business - video conferencing, whether with friends or colleagues, has kept some semblance of normalcy for me (at least virtually) without which I would be deprived of the majority of my social interaction this year. Also, taking small weekend trips, as well as more ambitious week-long trips, has been a key part of my year. Some of the more exciting ones include the Tahoe Rim Trail thru-hike, an epic Death Valley road trip, and coastal backpacking at Point Reyes National Seashore!
How has Covid impacted the development of Pathloom as a company?
As Pathloom is an early-stage startup in the outdoors space, the pandemic has not had an adverse effect on demand as compared with companies in other industries. In fact, there has been a surge in demand for outdoor recreation through the pandemic, where 80% of Americans engaged in some form of outdoor recreation - and 32% of them were doing so for the first time! To account for such a significant rise in demand for outdoor recreation, we adjusted our product life cycle by pushing out an early beta version of our app. This in-turn helped us acquire valuable feedback from our initial beta users which we are using to guide our product journey.
What accomplishment are you most proud of this year with Pathloom?
Building up a core team that shares the vision of Pathloom has been a fruitful journey. At the start of 2020, I was essentially a one-man show, with help from a few key advisors. However, as the year progressed, I was able to connect with a number of amazing people who bring crucial skills and passion to our organization, and I am proud to work with them to grow Pathloom and help get more people outdoors!
Mount Tamalpias State Park: Marin County, CA - Photo Credit: Zack Edwards
What’s your favorite feature in the current beta app?
The travel range filter, the first of its kind for trip planning apps. It offers an easy way for you to filter your results based on how far you want to travel from a specific location. Whether you are planning a trip near your home or in another state, this feature will ultimately help you narrow down the results to your exact travel preferences so that you can discover unique places and plan for your trip easily.
What's your favorite article of the year on the Pathloom Blog?
All About Bears! It's an insightful and resourceful article for anyone going into bear territory. Excursions in wildlife areas require caution and planning for a safe and fun experience. The article does a great job diving into general information about traversing bear country, how to prepare for such a trip, differentiating between grizzly and black bears, and tips for encounters. Plus, the majestic bear photos never get old.
Tell me about your best hiking/backpacking/outdoor excursion this year?
I've taken quite a few trips this year, and each brought their own unique and memorable experiences. If I had to pick one, I would have to go with the thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail. This was a different beast altogether when it comes to planning and actually being on the trip. I spent 11 days in the backcountry around Lake Tahoe, hiking and camping my way through the mountains. Although difficult, it was an amazing experience, one that I can’t wait to get back out and do again! We even made a YouTube video of the experience, it's on the Pathloom channel! I did encounter a bear and cub along the trail, my second bear encounter in the Tahoe region (no footage - I was a bit preoccupied with not getting charged at by Momma Bear!) All in all, I came out of it without a scratch - both parties responded appropriately to the situation and we each went on our merry way :)
Tahoe National Forest, CA - Photo Credit: Ankit Jain
Tell me about your favorite camping trip this year?
My favorite camping trip of the year was to one of my favorite forests in California - Shasta Trinity National Forest. This trip actually happened early in the year, when Mt. Shasta was still covered in snow. This was a solo weekend getaway, just a couple of nights. I met an awesome couple from Ashland, Oregon - we spent the evening by the fire chatting and laughing away while social distancing (this was actually my first in-person social interaction since the pandemic began!) I took two major hikes in the three days I was there, both through the snow. I had previously done both of these hikes many times in the past, but never in those conditions - it was a whole new experience altogether!
What's your ideal place to go camping during the wintertime?
Hands down, Death Valley National Park. Winter and early spring make for an amazing time to visit this region. The night temperatures in the basin are in the high 30’s to low 40’s - ideal for winter camping (at least for me). The views are stunning, and the shorter days make for amazing stargazing opportunities come nightfall. Plus, there's always something new to explore due to the park’s vast size - it’s the largest National Park in the contiguous United States! It's great for off-roading as well, which is how I like to camp down there - in a backcountry ‘middle of nowhere’ type setting. You really feel like you are on another planet, especially when you traverse some of the more remote regions of the park.
What outdoor activities do you tend to do more/less of during the wintertime?
My favorite trips are often to high-altitude regions, but during the winter, I tend to do fewer high-altitude trips due to frigid temperatures, snow, and road access. Instead, in the colder months I tend to do more local San Francisco Bay Area trips - the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, Point Reyes, Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Diablo, Mt. Madonna, Uvas Canyon, Henry Cowell Redwoods, Big Basin, etc. Some inners, a down jacket and a warm sleeping bag does the trick for me.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: Felton, CA - Photo Credit: Zack Edwards
Once Covid restrictions begin to relax and we can once again travel, where will be your #1 destination to go camping? Basically, what's the first thing you're going to do once things are ‘normal’ again?
I am not sure if things will ever be normal again, but as travel restrictions begin to lift, my number one destination would be the Himalayas in India. I've been waiting to go back to visit friends and family, but this year the pandemic has made that a bit difficult. Once I do go back to India to visit, making a trip to Leh is at the top of my bucket list. Leh lies in the district of Ladakh, in a high-altitude desert environment, and sits at a whopping altitude of almost 12,000 ft. Leh is one of the few regions I have yet to travel to on the Indian side of the Himalayas, and I know it will make for an unforgettable experience. I'm ready for that high-altitude adventure!
What's in store for Pathloom in 2021?
A lot! 2021 is a year the Pathloom team (and everybody else) is definitely looking forward to! As a company, we have many plans for the new year to grow in various fronts, including building our brand and establishing key partnerships. Our app has many exciting new features in development, including our overlays and our trip builder, which will enable you to find the perfect getaway spot and seamlessly plan your next outdoor adventure - all in one place. But this is only the beginning of our journey! We can't wait to have more outdoor enthusiasts adopt the app to plan their trips, and to work with our growing community to get valuable feedback so we can create the optimal trip planning experience. Plus, we have much more exciting content on the way as well. Keep an eye out for us in 2021!
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Check out these other articles by Pathloom which you may find helpful:
Pathloom Picks: Best Campsites of 2020
All Hands on Deck! Seeking Stories From The Trail
How to Recreate Safely During the Coronavirus Pandemic
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Pathloom is a Bay Area-based technology startup on a mission to get more people outdoors, more often by reimagining the way people discover the outdoors.