Justin La Vigne is a seeker. He grew up in northern NJ, dreaming of escaping to mystical places after looking at his grandparents’ old National Geographic magazines. After undergraduate college on the East Coast, he moved to Arizona to obtain his Master’s of Science from Arizona State University in recreation management and tourism. In Arizona, he met his wife and declared, “I am going to thru hike the Appalachian Trail.” Even though his wife had no idea what that was, he convinced her to join him and they completed it in 2011. After 121 days on the trail, they both decided the corporate world was not for them, and started managing a hiker hostel on the AT in Virginia. Two years later, they got a call from Backpacker Magazine asking if they would like to lead a nationwide mobile marketing tour talking about gear and hiking based on their miles and miles of trail life. When Backpacker calls, you go. So they did.
It was during that tour that Justin discovered his love for gear testing. He was always a gear addict, but he truly has an eye for looking at gear critically. Without any writing background, his wife—who truly was a writer by trade—helped him organize his thoughts to coherent reviews, and that was his long and windy path to becoming a gear writer. He now writes for various publications.
During the past decade, Justin and his wife adopted a “life less ordinary,” living nomadically and traveling over the US and a few international destinations for adventures, education and seasonal work. More recently, the two settled in a small 300-square-foot single-room log cabin just outside of Denali National Park in Alaska, where he also works as a backcountry hiking guide.
Justin would love to go back to tell his 12-year-old self to keep that dreamer spirit alive, because a nontraditional lifestyle knocking off trails, mountains, National Parks and off-the-beaten-path locations can become a reality. Some life accomplishments he is most proud of include thru hiking the Appalachian Trail and New Zealand’s Te Aroroa and three years of work he did with the nonprofit Leave No Trace as a traveling trainer specializing on a goal of making three National Parks zero landfill.
● Topics of expertise: Technical gear writer. All gear new and old.
● Years of experience in these topics: 10 years
● Favorite topic to write about: backpacking gear
● Favorite piece of gear you’ve ever tested: Sylvan Sport Waylight Hiking Pole. Don’t
knock it until you try it.
● Past applicable professions: Former Parks and Recreation Direction, Walt Disney Cast
member, Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer, Backpacker Magazine Speaker, property
Education and Experience:
● Education: Undergraduate degree from York College of PA in Community Recreation,
M.S, from Arizona State University in Recreation Management and Tourism
● Certifications: Wilderness First Responder, Swiftwater rescue, Leave NoTrace Master
● Other place you write for: Outside, Backpacker, Outdoor Life, Outdoors.com, Gear
Junkie, Wide Open Spaces
About the Writer:
● Location: Healy, Alaska
● Places You’ve Lived or Extensively Traveled: I have lived in 13 states (Texas, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, Maine,
Massachusetts, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado and Alaska. Thru hiked the
Appalachian Trail, Te Araroa in New Zealand.
● Preferred Pronouns: he/him
Learn more about Justin at his website
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