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How A Winter Kit Made The Perfect Trip

The Gearhead Connection: Vol. 4

You may remember our Gearhead Ashleigh McClary from our very first Gearhead Connection story, where she gave one customer a local’s tour of Park City Mountain Resort. She’s an avid skier (downhill and alpine touring) and loves to kayak, stand-up paddleboard, backpack, and hike, and even got married at Glacier Point in Yosemite. And—new for 2021—she’s now the proud owner of a Yeti mountain bike. On and off the trail (and even sometimes in the office), you’ll find her spending as much time as possible with her two labrador retrievers, Hank and Brice.

“The Ski to Sea Race day was such an amazing experience! Jason and I actually finished the last two legs of the race.”

In 2018, Backcountry sponsored an event in Bellingham, Washington called Ski to Sea, comprised of Backcountry employees, athletes, and even customers. Ashleigh represented Gearheads and raced the sea kayak leg of the race, while Jason—a longtime Backcountry customer—competed in the cyclocross leg. Over the course of the three-day event, all of the athletes got to know each other well, sharing meals and campfire stories together. 


It was only natural, then, when Jason requested Ashleigh as his personal Gearhead. They’ve been swapping stories ever since, and when Jason wrote a book—A Father’s Day Gift: Lifetime Adventures and Hidden Gems—he included a chapter about Backcountry and his experience at Ski to Sea. Yup, the goat is even appearing in literature now.

In February of 2021, Jason called Ashleigh for recommendations on winter camping boots. When Ashleigh asked for more details, she discovered that Jason was planning a winter backpacking trip with his son, MD, and his son’s best friend, Stosi, who had almost none of the necessary gear for the upcoming trip.


Jason’s plan was to head into California’s Sequoia National Park, which was covered in nine feet of fresh snow. Ashleigh knew just how important it would be for Stosi to go in properly equipped in order to have a positive experience. So, she coordinated with Backcountry’s Gear Closet Manager Justin to see what he could find. 


Between the Gear Closet and Ashleigh’s personal donations from her husband, she managed to put together an entire kit for Stosi—jacket, pants, boots, gloves, gaiters, and even a pillow! Ashleigh cleaned, waterproofed, and packaged everything up in time for the trip—and Stosi’s 15th birthday. 

“All of us were so stoked for Stosi to get this amazing gear.  He was now so prepared for his first winter backpacking trip.”

The winter of ‘20/’21 had been a tough one for Stosi, and this trip was exactly what he needed to add some good energy into his life. In the gear care package, Ashleigh included a special note for him, describing her own path towards a life of hiking and backpacking, from her start in South Carolina, to her journey west with her husband Jay. She encouraged Stosi to catch the same fire she did and explore the outdoors as much as possible.


Jason, MD, Stosi, and another friend—Josh—spent three days and two nights in Sequoia National Park, traveling to Emerald Lake via Wolverton Trail. They hauled heavy sleds full of gear over a challenging route featuring areas like Heart Attack Hill and Hump Hill.

“Josh had the heaviest pulk sled, around 100lbs maybe.  We all saw him working hard and Stosi asked him if he could take the sled for a while … so Stosi pulled the pulk sled with his pack on for a while.  I was so impressed at his thoughtfulness and strength.”


Once they reached their destination, they dug in—literally—to enjoy the wonders of winter camping. From sleeping in igloos and rustling up five-star camp meals, to snowball fights and snowy hikes, their winter expedition was a total success. For Jason, this trip was the culmination of over 25 years of visiting the Sequoias. Inspired by his own connection to the growth and renewal that can come from spending time in the backcountry, he hoped to share this same experience with Stosi. On March 24th Jason is headed back to the Sequoias as a professional guide, and he’s hired Stosi to assist as an apprentice along the way.

Stosi is a very special kid and needed something like this in his life right now.  I wanted to show him how much he is loved by our family and by those around him. [Ashleigh] is the real deal to customer service, helping others and going the extra 100 miles.


Your Turn

Wherever your next adventure might take you, we can help. From expert advice on gear to outfitting your trip in the right apparel, our Gearheads can assist in everything except actually getting you out there. Call 1-800-409-4502 or chat online for gear guidance, help with your order, or just to talk adventure.