In the past few decades, the outdoor recreation industry has produced many innovations—much of them aimed at people already experienced in backcountry travel. The majority have revolved around lighter and more versatile gear—such as footwear, packs and tents—and digital maps and GPS-based navigation. But very little of this innovation has focused on making it easier for people to experience wild and scenic places. Kalispell, Montana-based company and new PCTA partner RightOnTrek hopes to change this.
“RightOnTrek is dedicated to making the outdoors more accessible to everyone,” says founder and CEO Victoria Livschitz. And she is quick to add: “We’re committed to doing this responsibly to minimize impacts as much as possible. Which means not only providing sustainably-produced products, but helping educate people on reducing their impact as much as possible through Leave No Trace principles.”
RightOnTrek is actually a portfolio of outdoor recreation companies. A former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Victoria brings that passion for innovation to the outdoors. “We incubate interesting, beneficial and radical new ideas inside ‘RightOnTrek Labs’,” she says. The first company in the portfolio to launch is RightOnTrek Meals.
Victoria discovered backpacking in midlife when she felt burned-out from years of serial entrepreneurship. In 2017, she hiked the John Muir Trail section of the PCT, and it changed her life. “Mountains were my salvation,” she says. She began backpacking as much as she could, often hiking over a thousand miles in a year. Spending so much time in the outdoors made her keenly interested in creating meals she truly relished eating in the backcountry.
RightOnTrek meals are the result of extensive development over many miles of backcountry travel. “Our goal was to create meals that are very healthy while minimizing freeze-dried ingredients,” says Victoria. The result is meals that require fast-cooking in a pot—not the meal pouch. “We use ingredients designed to cook quickly with active heat in the backcountry. They have big flavor and big portions, and we have a wide range of meals to accommodate everyone with special dietary needs. As much as possible, we use compostable and bio-based packaging that is lightweight and also burns very cleanly in areas where having a campfire is safe and allowed.”
All RightOnTrek meals are made in Montana in small batches. The lineup currently includes ten dinners and six breakfasts and will continue to expand.
RightOnTrek’s plans go beyond backcountry meals. In Montana, the company is piloting a new service called Wilderness Edge which is essentially an automated outfitting service: you choose all the gear and meals you need for a backcountry trip online. Then when you arrive, you pick up everything from a locker station—what Victoria calls “the world’s first technical gear vending machines.” Available gear includes everything from the basics (packs, sleeping bags and tents) to more specialized gear such as GPS messaging devices, ice axes and crampons.
“It’s the perfect system for people who want to travel to go backpacking but don’t want to worry about preparing and bringing all their gear and food,” says Victoria. The online system remembers your preferences so it’s faster and easier to select on a subsequent trip.
Another innovative RightOnTrek service that is already well into the development process is a wilderness data platform called Wilderness Studio. Currently free to use, the platform serves as an information portal about every aspect of backcountry travel—including trail information, descriptions and photos, maps, and information about permits when required. The platform takes GPS tracks and overlays them with the latest updates from land managers, the latest weather conditions, where campfires are allowed, whether bear canisters are required, and much more. It also provides adventures curated by RightOnTrek’s team of experienced backcountry travelers, and also enables anyone to create their own adventures. The platform is expanding continually through the work of a dedicated team of researchers and software engineers who ensure all data is validated.
RightOnTrek cares deeply about protecting the wilderness experience.
In a time when a single post with photos on social media can result in a rush of people to some pristine wild place, Victoria says “Security through obscurity is bad; protecting lands by not giving people the information they need to visit those lands responsibly is not a good approach. Americans deserve to have access to public lands, so let’s put it out there with a strong emphasis on Leave No Trace principles.
People who inadvertently damage wild lands aren’t bad people—they just haven’t had access to information and education on how to minimize those impacts.”
At the core of RightOnTrek’s approach to helping people experience the outdoors is helping them find adventures close to home. This helps alleviate pressure on a few special places by promoting other equally beautiful places—including places that don’t require permits. “An example of this in Montana,” says Victoria, “is Glacier National Park. It’s incredibly difficult to get backcountry permits there. But then there is Bob Marshall Wilderness, which is just as spectacular and far less visited.”
Ultimately, RightOnTrek’s vision is a one-stop-shop where anyone can find everything they need to experience wild and scenic places in a responsible way that minimizes impacts and helps spread use over more places rather than concentrated in a few popular locations. From meals and gear to detailed planning information, it’s a broad vision driven by people who are passionate about doing it well.