“The outdoors are for everyone,” says Henry Gilbert.
There really are so many places to explore and outdoor adventures to undertake in Maine, but knowing where to go or how to get started can be daunting, especially for beginners. If only we had a few experts to turn to for guidance.
To help connect Maine locals and visitors with knowledgeable local guides who’ll take them into the woods or out on the water for a memorable experience in a new-to-them place, Henry and co-founder Tom Ryan recently launched Back40.
The website rounds up a range of guided outdoor adventures – for novices and more experienced folks – offered by guides from around Maine, as well as New Hampshire and Vermont.
“Back40 is a user-friendly online platform that connects outdoor recreation guides with adventure seekers from near and far,” says Henry.
Adventure-seekers who’d like to try their hand at rock climbing, fly fishing, paddling, or cooking over a campfire can browse back40adventures.com, compare adventures and book their experience through the site, knowing they’ll be heading out alongside passionate local guides who really know and love what they do. “The goal of the site is to make the outdoors more accessible to all, while helping rural recreation providers build their businesses and reputations,” says Henry.
Having a one-stop resource also means less time Googling around to figure out what’s out there, who to reach out to, and what the available dates and prices are. That comes in handy whether you live in Maine year-round and are looking to try something new or you’re hoping to pack in some outdoor fun during a vacation.
“For adventurers, we have a ton of options,” says Tom. “And most can be tailored to both complete beginners as well as experts who are looking to tap into local knowledge. We’re here to help people of all experience levels build new skills and find rewarding experiences.”
The site was created out of Tom and Henry’s own love of outdoor adventure. Tom, an artist and freelance graphic designer, loves to surf, bike, ski, and hike. “I’ve been an outdoor adventurer since I was a little kid,” he says. “Being out under the sun, surrounded by nature, is where I feel like my best self.” Henry, who also lives in Portland and has a background in sustainable agriculture and rural business development, grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Maine after finishing college in Vermont. He’s been camping, hiking, surfing, snowboarding, and sailing his entire life, which has instilled in him “a passion and respect for the outdoors.”
Back40 is intended to bring more people outdoors, but also to promote local guides who make a living (in whole or in part) taking people on overnight camping trips or out for fly-fishing afternoons or a few hours on a rock face.
“We saw that, while Maine’s tourist economy is thriving, the economic benefits of this growth are often limited to just a few popular locations,” says Tom. “At the same time, we knew that there was an incredible wealth of local knowledge and some world-class stretches of wilderness across the state that weren’t getting the recognition they deserved.”
Ultimately, the site is about building connections within the outdoor community. “We want to help grow and strengthen that community and give access to people who never thought they’d climb up a rocky cliff, catch a brook trout, or go camping in the mountains,” says Tom.
Experienced guides looking to reach more people can post their own offerings and services on the site.
“On the guiding side, Back40 is for anyone that wants to lead outdoor adventures, grow their marketing reach, and develop connections within the outdoor community,” Tom says.
The guide requirements depend on the activity, says Henry. Back40 wants to make sure that adventurers are in good hands with all the guides on the site. “There is an application process for guides, and we do our due diligence to ensure that guides meet state requirements for their specific activities.”
On the whole, Back40 works with experienced guides, and they vet each guide to ensure he or she has the proper experience and credentials to lead their trips. “That being said, some adventures don’t carry such stringent requirements,” says Tom. “And we are open to anyone that is offering a high-quality and safe adventure.”
“Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or just starting to dabble, Back40 will connect you with a guide to to help you make the most of your time outdoors,” says Tom. “We want to show both locals and visitors that there are incredible outdoor adventures to be had right in our backyard”
If you’ve been wanting to go mountain biking, learn the art of waterfall photography, or spend a day canoeing on a Maine river, check out Back40 and find an adventure perfect for you. And know you’ll be getting great advice and an insider’s scoop from local guides who know New England’s woods and waters best.