Some men are lucky enough to hear voices. The crazy thing is, these men aren’t crazy. They’re just hearing the call of the wilder. And it won’t shut up until they answer. So they ditch the comfort of a well-worn sofa and trade it in for a chance to die, or at least be the proud recipient of a frost-bitten toe. But since they don’t know what they’ll need out there, they load up their everything-proof Nike ACG Karst Backpack with as much as it can carry. And when they’re dwarfed by a downy birch or trekking through a rain-soaked valley, they’ll thank those voices and they’ll thank the twenty years of innovation behind those waterproof zippers. It’s called manners.

Once Upon a 20 Years Ago

This is a long story. All good stories are. If you don’t have time to read it, that’s fine. We all have things to do. How about we tell you how it ends? Here you go. We all lived happily ever after. Ta-da. There you have it. Now, for the curious types who walk into caves without flashlights and aren’t afraid to eat something that’s still moving, you may read on.

One morning back in 1978, some mountain men decided to climb a mountain. That may sound like no big deal considering climbing mountains is exactly how mountain men got their name, but this mountain wasn’t just a mountain. It was K2. (If you know anything about mountains and mountain climbing, you know K2 is not a nice place. If you don’t know anything about mountains and mountain climbing, you know that now.) And the real interesting thing about this particular climb is that these mountain men decided to climb all the way to base camp in running shoes.

You see, while every other man on the team was wearing the appropriate mountain climbing shoes (apart from the Sherpas who prefer to sport pelts on their feet), our men were wearing their Nike LDVs. What can we say? The dudes liked our shoes. They were lightweight and comfy. Not exactly craggy rock material, but lightweight and comfy nevertheless. It may sound like one of the worst ideas ever, but it actually turned out to be one of the best. Five thousand metres later, our mountain men made it to base camp alive. The preferred way to make it just about anywhere. They made it there in comfort and they made it there in style. The latter of which normally doesn’t mean too much when climbing a mountain. But in this case, it led to a fantastic photo op. Two bushy-bearded smiles later, that photo op led to something even fantasticer. If you believe in such words

Wanting to share their feat of glory with the makers of their tattered shoes (aka us), these mountain men wrote to us. It was a simple note with a simple photo. The contents really don’t matter at this point of the story, but let’s just say it said something like “Hey, man, look what we did in your shoes.” It was the 70s. People talked like that and got away with it.

These few simple words inspired us. We found this alone quite interesting because usually we are the ones who do the inspiring. “Wow,” we thought. “These two mountain men climbed halfway up a mountain called K2 in our running shoes. Just think how far they could climb if we made hiking shoes.” So, we thought. The answer we came up with was, “Pretty high.” And thus, Nike Hiking was born.

Nike Hiking began humbly, with three shoes. The Lava Dome. The Magma. And the Approach. But the shoes were far from humble. They were tough. Kick-rocks-in-the-mouth-and-knock-out-their-rock-teeth tough. Yet they were light and comfortable at all times, like all Nikes. The world didn’t know what to think. Neither did the people living in that world. But these people laced up their new Nike Hikes anyhow and got to climbing, hiking, running, jumping, spelunking, traversing and every other “ing” you can think of. It was some pretty cool stuff. People who never set foot outside of concrete jungles were now treading in real ones. They smelt air that smelt like air instead of air that smelt like smog. They saw shades of green that they never knew existed outside of the crayon box. And even those who didn’t venture past where the pavement ends looked like they did. At least from the ankles down. You didn’t need to be a hiker to like Nike Hike. Everyone was digging it.

But the great outdoors involved more than just mountains. That’s what made it so great. There were rivers, gorges, and valleys. Fjords even. In addition to mountain conditions, there were water conditions, trail conditions, snow conditions and countless other conditions. Like leaches in your pants, or squirrel hat, just to name a couple.

And there was a variety of outdoor activities waiting to happen in all of these places. Hiking was good, but it wasn’t good enough.

We needed to expand. A product line that could fit all of these needs seemed to make sense. We knew what we needed to do; all we needed was a name. Naming anything is not an easy task. Just ask any parent. You pick the wrong name and every kid jumps off the monkey bars when you call it. Or they get countless wedgies. Either way, we didn’t want our little offspring to sound generic or lame. We needed to give it a handle that said what it needed to say and was catchy enough for people to remember it. It also had to make sense. People needed to know that this gear was suitable for all conditions. Thus was born Nike All Conditions Gear. Nike ACG if you’re into the brevity thing.

With the name game won and out of the way, we had one more giant hurdle. We had to make some gear. Shoes were the obvious first choice. We were in the shoe business. It made sense. All we had to do was start making them. So we did. We made all kinds. Shoes that were actually moccasins, like the Nike Air Moc. Shoes that were both shoes and boots, like the Nike Air Mowabb. And for the runners who loved to run up mountains just as much as they loved to run down roads, we created crazy Franken-shoes like the Nike Air Wildwood specifically made for, you guessed it, running up mountains.

We had a bevy of options tailor-made for every condition out there. Each made of materials that would match and then best any sort of condition that came their way. The Nike Aquasock was one such invention. Though the Aquasock was more of a shoe than a sock, Aquashoe didn’t have the right ring to it. That aside, what mattered was that this shoe loved to get wet just as much as the people who wore it. And it hated slipping on moss and algae-covered rocks even more. Love/hate relationships don’t get much better than that.

All of this was all good, but it still wasn’t good enough. We are not easy to please and neither are the people who wear us. As much as we love feet, we are not footfetish people. We love the whole body and all it is capable of doing. And we know that the body performs better when it’s not exposed to elements it doesn’t want to be exposed to. Things like extreme cold, extreme heat and extreme anything else unpleasant.

People’s feet were covered, but the rest of them wasn’t. People are complicated beings with arms and legs and torsos and heads. We needed to supply the gear to cover those parts as well. So we designed the Minima and the Oregon Trail jackets. Jackets that repelled water. We made other jackets that welcomed warmth. They added everything an outdoorsman would want except the added weight. Cumbersome is no way to go through life, let alone up a mountain. Or down a mountain for that matter.

It wasn’t just about the people trying to get up the mountain. There were lots of them that wanted to get down as fast as they could. Skiers and snowboarders. They preferred the beautiful scenery when it was a blur going by at 60 mph or for that brief second when the world turns upside down as they rodeo flip off a small embankment or the side of a mountain. It was this mentality that we had to keep in mind. When you regularly put yourself in the position to fly off the side of a mountain, it’s best to let people know where you are. So we made the Comm Jacket, equipped with a walkie-talkie pocket. It let you let everyone else know where you were and where they could find you

We made a lot of stuff. People like stuff. Especially stuff that is well made. So they bought a lot of our stuff. The thing about stuff is, it accumulates. You need a place to put it. This is especially true when you are out and about. It’s an irrefutable fact that it’s not too smart to try and climb a mountain when you’re carrying a bunch of stuff in your arms. Things happen on mountains. Bad things. Like falling forwards or backwards. You need your arms at times like these. But you also need your stuff. What to do? What to do?

Bags. Bags were the answer. Bags carry your stuff for you. Kind of, anyway. You still have to carry the bag, which requires arms. Unless that bag is a backpack. In which case, you’ve got two perfectly good shoulders doing nothing. We should use them. The Nike ACG Karst Backpack did just this. Unlike the bookworm backpacks of our school days, the Karst didn’t take crap from anyone. It could get snagged on a tree without getting torn and rained on without getting wet. And it could carry all of your stuff at the same time.

And so the story went. We kept making and improving and then improving on what we were making. There was the Nike Air Terra, the Air Zoom Wallowa and the Son Of Lava Dome. In addition to the killer names we gave to our products, there was killer technology behind them. Not the kind of technology that actually kills things, but saves them. Namely you and the 206 bones that make up your body. If not for Nike ACG, the world wouldn’t know about things like sticky rubber or shoes that rinse and spit.

We were proud of what we had done. But then we looked around and realized there was even more we could do. We were making the gear that let us get closer to this earth we love so much, but we weren’t doing enough to show the earth that we loved it. Actions speak louder than words, a wise man or woman once said. And he or she was right. It was time to treat Gaea like the hot, hot temptress she is. It was time to consider her feelings. It was time for Nike Considered.

There is nothing wrong with people leaving their mark upon the earth. For years we were actually helping people do it with the footprints they left in their Nike ACGs. Nike Considered was established to make sure that we were doing it while leaving as little an eco-footprint as possible.

Looking around, we realized we were wasting when we didn’t have to. So we stopped. We started using recycled materials for our shoes and stopped using glue to hold them together. Our Considered Lava Dome and Blazerboat were two particular shoes that we made by these higher standards. We also made the C1 Considered Trail Jacket, which returned this goodwill by keeping our considerate bodies dry and cosy whenever it was wet and not cosy. This trash-to-treasure approach was, and still is, a beautiful thing. And we’re proud of that. If pride really is a sin, we’ll see you in hell.

What lies ahead for Nike ACG even we don’t know. Sure, we have some guesses since we’re the ones making it. But like every other trail that’s never been crossed, we won’t really know what to expect till we cross it. And you’ll know when we know because you’ll be crossing it with us. And we all lived happily ever after.

That Smell

You outside, day 1: you still smell like home.

You outside, night 1: home plus sweat plus fire.

You outside, day 3: something smells like onions but you don’t remember packing any.

You outside, day 4: dead opossum or dead something else that smells bad when dead.

You outside, day 7: you don’t seem to notice your own stink. This is comforting and scary.

Lesser known quotes by famous outdoor enthusiasts

“No beauty can match that of nature. This makes me cry a little bit every time I look in the mirror.”

-John Muir

“I never saw a moor,

I never saw the sea;

Yet know I how the heather looks,

And what a wave must be.

At least I think I do.

It’s hard to say for sure

having never seen them.”

-Emily Dickinson

Mountain Men and Beards

You can tell a lot about a mountain man by his beard. If the beard is long, this man has been

out in the woods for a long time. If the beard is full of sticks and twigs, this beard might be

smuggling birds. If the mountain man doesn’t have a beard, he might be a mountain woman.

But don’t ask him this. It’s a lose-lose situation.

The Mob Mentality Of Snow

The snowflake. Unique. White. Cold. Only under a microscope can we really appreciate

the beauty of nature’s grand design. But, put that snowflake in the company of others and

suddenly they take on the single-minded vision to kill you. Their vision of your death comes in

many forms. Avalanches, snow-covered crevasses, even snow blindness. Snow actually tries

to blind you. That’s not cool. We would suggest going Hammurabi on the snow and gouge out

its eyes in revenge, but they’re just so tiny and cute it’s too hard to find their eyes.

To Build A Fire

Whether you believe in Prometheus or not (and we do), you have

to admit that fire is one of the greatest gifts given to man. And like

all great gifts, you’re going to have to pry it from our cold dead

hands if you think we’re going to give it back. Ironically, cold,

dead hands are exactly what you’ll have should you not have

fire on those cold, cold nights. Unless you’re wearing mittens, in

which case they’ll just be dead.

The Ever- Falling Value Of The Dollar

If you think a dollar won’t get you very far these days, try

spending it out in the great outdoors. It’s practically useless. A

good pair of dry socks is worth more. A bad pair of dry socks is

worth more. Paper money might be worth something when it

comes to wiping, but you don’t know where that money

has been.

That Eerie Sound

When you get away from the car horns, the air brakes and

the disgruntledness, the only thing you can hear is silence.

It’s a beautiful thing. Then the sun goes down and the crickets

ruin everything.