Hi, there! Thanks for checking out PackDen, and welcome to my first blog article EVER.
My name is Dayna Del Mar, and I am the founder and CEO of PackDen. It feels funny to say that because, up until a year ago, never in a million years would I have imagined myself as a founder of a tech company. But my path to PackDen has been anything but ordinary.
Unlike most tech founders, I didn’t major in computer science or business, I didn’t graduate from high school when I was 14 and I don’t live in Silicon Valley. My resume looks a little bit different:
Long Island native
Luxury yacht stewardess
Talent acquisition specialist
Incurable adventure seeker
That last bullet is what drew me to the Pacific Northwest in 2013. For someone like me, Portland seemed like the perfect place: a big-little city, hundreds of waterfall hikes within 100 miles and close to wine country. At that time I was very much a dabbler: I hiked and car camped in the summers and went on the occasional ski trip. Mostly I just wanted to be outside as much as possible, whether I was camped out at a music festival, touring wine country, sailing on the river or picnicking in the park.
But last year, my life changed in a few big ways. I was fresh out of a relationship that had previously rooted me into a strong network of friends in Portland. When my relationship ended, I discovered that I was basically back to square one in terms of friends. To be honest, I felt entirely alone.
I decided I needed to do something epic to focus my mind on the life I wanted to create, rather than what I had lost. So I booked my very first trek—an 11-day hike in Annapurna Sanctuary of the Himalayas in Nepal.
I was thrilled, I was terrified, I was...in serious need of training.
I learned about the #52HikeChallenge and decided that it was a great way to commit myself and achieve top condition in the 10 months prior to my trip. The problem was, who would I hike with?
Adventuring solo can be intimidating! Even as a committed adventurer, this has been my experience in so many different situations: new to a city, new to an activity, having the ability to work remotely, wanderlusty solo travel...and this list just continues. Whether it’s a change of life or a lifestyle that enables frequent adventuring, getting out there with a buddy is easier safer and more fun.
The more I progressed on the #52HikeChallenge, the more I sought out ways to connect with people. On Instagram I found new friends through Mtn Chicks, PNW Outdoor Women, PNWonderland and Oregon Explored. At first I thought they were just accounts designed to feature other instagrammers, but I soon learned that some of them were actual communities of kindred souls who used a wide variety of mediums to connect in person: Facebook pages, Facebook groups, email lists, hashtags, “click the link in bio” and so forth.
Also, I eventually learned that people would actually connect through shared interests via hashtaggery and comment streams that could lead to in-person friendships. While I found sleuthing into hashtags to find folks intriguing, it was also exhaustive and time-consuming.
I also gave Meetup a try. In the past, I’ve loved using Meetups to find different groups in the tech community, so in theory it was a perfect solution — search for a hiking group and meet the humans who hike. For me, not so much. I wasn’t able to connect with humans and develop mutually trusting relationships. I attended a happy hour event and the people all seemed to already know each other and clique off. I didn’t feel welcome and wound up feeling even more alone than when I started.
I saw some evening weekday urban hikes, but I got stagefright. I mean seriously, just show up at a trailhead and go hike with these strangers? Are they mostly men? Mostly women? Are they around my age? Are they cool with dogs? Will they judge my pace? Will they judge my gear? Are they LGBTQ friendly? I got anxious and bailed, never to look back. Some people might feel comfortable with this setup, which is rad — I envy you! But I would have preferred to know something about the humans in the group first, maybe engage in a chat or see some profiles, perhaps even grab a coffee with a person or two and get to know them a little before embarking on a hike. After all, I was a newbie. Outdoor safety also includes being comfortable to open yourself up to new experiences and opportunities, and this just didn’t jive with me.
Fast forward to July 2017 and I was on my first hiking-focused solo tip to Calgary, Alberta to dine in the city in the evenings and explore Banff in the daytime. I heard that Bumble had recently introduced its BFF features for platonic friendships.
“Perfect!” I thought. “I’ll just swipe during breakfast, head to the mountains to hike and come back to plans for cocktails and dinner with new friends.” When I am exploring a new city, I not only love to find great dining experiences, but also connect with the people that make up the culture. But again, my plan failed. This time it was due to the algorithm and matching criteria.
Had I just stayed in Calgary and not explored, I probably would have found some great new friends, but the point of my trip was to hike! Since I was off-grid and away from the city, no one could swipe into my profile and therefore I made no connections. Just because I chose to go on a solo adventure doesn’t mean I didn’t want to make friends.
I thought I’d give Meetup one more try. If I could just proactively connect with people who were registered as part of a Calgary hiking group on Meetup, then perhaps I could make a friend. I clicked and clicked and sent out a couple dozen messages to people who looked promising. But people don’t check Meetup daily and tend not to see messages in real time. I did hear back from people — eventually — but not during my six days in Calgary. The result: I was hiking solo and dining alone. No new friends. In my experience, Meetup was great as a way to search events in community, but not necessarily to connect with humans on a 1:1 basis.
All of these disconnected mediums scattered across the interwebs, a patchwork of functionality — oy! I couldn’t help but think there must be a better, more cohesive way to do this. And so, the seedling idea of PackDen was born! Wouldn’t it be neat if we could build a platform that proactively connects people to one another so they can adventure outdoors? The wilderness wanderers, the outdoor adventurers, the first-time hikers, the newbie moms wanting to hike with other moms, the dog lovers, the “nontraditional” hikers...all the humans!
PackDen was born as a platform that puts community first, but since then it has continued to evolve into a multifunctional platform that does so much more! We love the outdoors and want to help eliminate the barriers to entry so that everyone can get outside and explore. We want to connect people to one another and the gear they need to get outdoors.
Follow me on my journey as we realize PackDen and bring it to fruition. January of 2018 I went all in, and our small-but-mighty team is now building our MVP/Beta launch. We’d love for you to join our group of beta testers — sign up here.