From the Top of Georgia: Meet Bob “Sir-Packs-Alot” Gabrielsen

Bob “Sir-Packs-Alot” Gabrielsen is the owner of the Top of Georgia Hostel and Hiking Center, which serves thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. We caught up with this esteemed Triple Crowner, a thru-hiker who has completed the three longest trails in America, to learn more about his hostel and his tips for taking on the trail.

top of mount mitchell before sunset

Gabrielsen was born in New York State, but it was only until his family moved to northwestern Montana that his love for the wilderness blossomed. He started learning wilderness survival skills, which he called “play” at the time, with his Blackfoot Native American neighbors. He went on to become a National Park Ranger in Montana before becoming a professional guide at just 20 years old.

Bob Gabrielson-final

He first got involved with the Appalachian Trail and thru-hiking when he got married and moved to northern Georgia. He started volunteering on the trail and doing section hikes, which eventually led him into a 2003 thru-hike of the then 2,172-mile long trail. He caught the bug and went on to thru-hike the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2005 and the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail in 2007, which made him a Triple Crowner. But despite his thru-hikes throughout the country, he kept being drawn to the Appalachian Trail. All told, he has hiked more than 30,000 miles and spent thousand of nights on this East Coast, 2,185.9-mile footpath.

Appalachian Trail Approach Sign

After an incredible amount of time hiking and thru-hiking the trail, he told us his craziest Appalachian Trail experience by far was opening the Top of the Georgia Hostel. The hostel started as a dream. He hoped he could found a place where he could share his love for the trail and provide a center in a key Georgia location, within sight of the trail, where hikers could rest and resupply.

When the hostel opened in 2014, despite being in no guidebooks and hardly known, over 1,000 aspiring thru-hikers passed through their doors in March and April alone. Gabrielsen said, “I had always felt that my experience as a counselor with troubled adolescents was not productive. But without that experience, I would never have been ready for the hiker drama I saw.”


The hostel he owns is a part hostel, part school, and part gear shop. He hopes to dedicate the last few decades of his life to pay it forward to the next generation of thru-hikers by supporting their needs on the trail and teaching classes before they start. He relishes the moment when hikers find that they are stronger than they imagined, and they were capable of doing the entire hike, despite their initial doubts.

When asked why he started the hostel, his answer is simple, “the trail is like a ‘magical lady’ to me. Whenever I give to her or her hikers – she gives back five fold.” It’s easy to see that this is true. His most life-changing hiking moment came when the hiking community came together at the last minute to fundraise for the hostel. He told us, “it was like the way Jimmy Stewart was saved by the townsfolk at the end of the Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Trail to Chimney Tops

Bob’s Parting Thoughts…

Best Tip: A thru-hike is much more of a mental game than a physical game.

Best Gear: The Brooks-Range Mojave water repellent Down Jacket for northbound Appalachian Trail thru-hikers in March and April.

Best Section Hike: Max Patch Bald, North Carolina to Hot Springs, North Carolina. He thinks, “the bald is like the southern Appalachian version of the opening of the movie The Sound of Music and the little town’s main street is the trail.”

Brooks Range Mojave Black

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Climbing Essentials: The American Alpine Club

We’ve all seen the logo; opening our local slideshows, adorning gym posters and slapped on our partners’ helmets — maybe you’re a member yourself. The truth is that if you’re a climber, the American Alpine Club is the hub of your community. Membership costs about as much as a cam, and while it can’t exactly catch you when you fall, it’s just as useful to have in your pack.


The AAC has helped save members thousands of dollars in hundreds of rescues over the last twenty years, thanks to its complimentary member insurance, which includes $5,000 domestic accident insurance and $5,000 global rescue service. If you’re still trying to figure out Obamacare, AAC membership also provides access to deals on climber-friendly health and trip insurance.

Mountain Rescue Helicopter


Need a guide book for your next trip? AAC will send it to you for 28 days– all you have to pay is return-shipping back to their library in Golden. In addition, every year they’ll send you the American Alpine Journal, which is full of inspiration from the forefront of the sport, and Accidents in North American Mountaineering, which is a great way to learn what not to do. (Knot those rope-ends. Seriously.)



When that ratty jacket with the singe marks and duct-tape finally coughs up its last puff of down, rest easy knowing your AAC membership means discounts on some of your favorite brands (including 20% off Brooks-Range gear). It also means deals on magazines like Alpinist and Rock and Ice, lodging at the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch, and certain day guide services. So splurge a little and get some peanut butter to go with that ramen.



Maybe you’re ready to put together your first big expedition, or maybe you want to replace all the old anchors at your favorite crag. Maybe you’ve got a burning question you need to go research. The AAC gives out over $80,000 annually in grants to support our climbing adventures, wherever they might lead. They also devote more than $100,000 annually to help conserve and protect our favorite climbing areas across the globe. That means that the dues you pay come right back to you and the community you love.

Woman hiker walking in Himalaya Mountains, Nepal

We all know that no matter how simply we live, chasing our dreams can get expensive. The American Alpine Club exists to share knowledge, support development and encourage lives lived in the mountains. If you’re not already a member, have a look at their website and give it a thought– it’s a great community to be a part of.

For a little more from the folks at the AAC, watch their Campaign for Climbers video:

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A Life Serrated: Brooks-Range Pro Grade Scientist Line Snow Saws

The more time you spend traveling the snowy hills, the more time you’re going to spend it in the snow as well as touring on top of it. That’s because backcountry pros, glacier travelers, mountain guides and avalanche forecasters all share a common bond in the snow saw. After the holy trinity of backcountry rescue gear—beacon, shovel, probe—the next tool for gaining information from the snowpack is the esteemed snow saw. Light, efficient and invaluable in a snow pit, the snow saw is the quiet underdog that helps answer the deeper questions.

pyramid peak and maroon bells

Whether you consider yourself a snow scientist or merely a pit nerd, Brooks-Range has signature serrated tools down cold. The Scientist Saw line is everything an aspiring pit investigator wants, as well as what the venerable snow kook needs. With four saws in the series, we’re able to cater to any and every snow pit need.

All BR Scientist Saws are built from stainless steel for enhanced strength and durability in the field. For additional efficiency and pit tool management, they come with imperial and metric rulers etched on either side of the blade, along with snow crystal identification grids in 1mm, 2mm, and 3mm patterns for added ease of use and accuracy. Two ski straps can affix the saw to a shovel shaft or ski pole for a longer-reaching tool when isolating larger snow columns (like an Extended Column Test or Propagation Saw Test), cutting small cornices, or establishing an igloo quarry.

Scientist 35 Folding Snow Saw

The profile of Scientist snow saws feature a thin kerf on the teeth that leaves a smooth finish. What’s created is a professional work environment that aspirant and professional snow scientists alike can better observe the subtle signs and differences that tend to accompany snow pit studies.

Depending on the user’s needs, BR has built a straight 35cm saw, as well as a collapsible version that folds from 18 inches to 10 inches for maximizing compatibility. Newcomers will appreciate the ease of use when isolating columns for shovel shear tests and compression tests. There’s also a collapsible 70 cm saw for more ambitious workloads.

Scientist 100 Folding Snow Saw

Finally, Brooks-Range has partnered with the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) on developing the Scientist 100 Folding Snow Saw. Over a meter long when extended (44”), the 100 folds down to only 18” (45 cm) for maximum portability in the field. The extended saw was made in response to researchers and educators who needed a longer but efficient tool for more in depth tests and trials in the field. However much time you spend in the proverbial snow bank, Brooks-Range professional grade saws blend maximum efficiency with durable longevity.

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