Meet Lance Smith of Outlan Outdoors – Husband, father, hiker and YouTuber
By Steve Barrett
Creative Content Writer,
Lance Smith is living the American dream. He happily lives in his suburban home in Dayton, Ohio with his wife and their twin sons and two dogs, and he enjoys his job as an IT manager at Sinclair Community College, where he has worked for a decade.
And there is another side to Lance … a side that he shares with people just like him, all around the U.S. and even across the globe. A side that started with some interest long ago and gradually turned into a positive, healthy obsession.
You see, Lance is a hiking/backpacking enthusiast, a man who has explored nature on his own terms over countless treks and has embraced the lifestyle so fully that he created his own YouTube channel so that he could share his many adventures with others.
The 48-year-old life-long resident of Dayton, Ohio first experienced the thrill of hiking at the young age of 6, which was the very beginning of his long love for the outdoors.
“My grandparents would take me hiking every Sunday after church. They were super fit people so we would hike along local preserves for 6 to 8 miles,” he said. “I really got into it and enjoyed it at a very young age.”
They hiked along trails at GermanTown MetroPark in Montgomery County, Ohio, which contains 26 miles of hiking trails.
“(They) weren’t really into camping and backpacking, so I didn’t get into that until later in life,” he said.
He admits that as the years moved on his interests in hiking took a back seat.
“Life happened,” he said with a chuckle. “I kind of got out of hiking during my 20s and 30s, because of jobs and bills and family life. And living in the suburbs didn’t give me many opportunities to explore nature because I had to travel to do that.”
His love for hiking resurfaced in 2009, when a friend pulled him back in.
“Around 2009, my buddy invited me to go on a trip, and I just fell back in love with hiking again,” he said, “I also knew I really wanted to get into backpacking. So, I went all in. Started researching gear and planning treks across the U.S.”
His journeys have taken him across the country throughout the years and across numerous states, including Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Michigan.
“A big reason why I love the outdoors so much is that it’s a contrast from my day-to-day office job,” he said.
Lance’s first overnight backpacking trip was at Red River Gorge in Kentucky, in 2010.
“We didn’t hike that many miles, but we went pretty deep into the backcountry,” he said. “That was a little different for me, up to that point I hadn’t done anything like that before.
Since becoming re-invested in the hiking/backpacking lifestyle, he has averaged 6 or 7 hikes per year and has covered more than several hundred miles along his trips. His longest trek thus far was along the Laurel Highlands Trail – a 70-mile hiking trail in southwestern Pennsylvania – where he and his friends hiked more than 50 miles in one trip.
The highest elevation that he has reached thus far is 14,000 feet, which he did during a day-long hike at Mount Bierstadt, a mountain summit in the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
His most memorable trip so far was in 2020, when he hiked along the Seneca Creek Trail in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.
“I went up along Spruce Knob and when I was coming back the next day I traveled past a plane crash site and almost stepped on a rattlesnake,” he recalled. “I slept near the creek and it was storming heavily that night, and when I woke up all of the streams were swollen from the rain and I encountered a lot of high waters.
“That was one of my most unforgettable and awesome trips ever,” he said with a smile.
This trip was so memorable for him that he filmed a three-part video series about the adventure for his YouTube channel. Speaking of his channel, which he calls “OutLan Outdoors,” Lance said he created it way back in 2006, during YouTube’s infancy.
“At first I just put family videos and stuff like that on there. I barely used the channel. But I was on a hike in Virginia and I brought a video camera to take along with me, and I started filming myself hiking,” he said. “I thought it was cool and it would be fun to start recording all of my trips. Way back when, it was difficult to find hiking videos on YouTube, so around 2010 I began filming my adventures and sharing them with the world.”
Over the years since, Lance has upgraded his technology and increased the number of videos. He currently has over 2,800 subscribers and has uploaded more than 120 videos, most of which showcase the many trips he has experienced over the years and also include gear testing.
He admits he is a huge advocate of the “Leave No Trace” philosophy.
“I try to include reminders in my videos that we all must do our part in protecting our lands,” he said. “Everywhere I go on hikes, I see trash being littered and trees being damaged. It can be really bad.”
Lance stresses that hikers, especially beginners, need to research their gear.
“The right gear is tremendously important,” he said. “It helps make your trips more enjoyable and safer. You don’t have to buy the most expensive gear but you should do your research and find out what you need, how much you’re willing to take with you and how much weight you can handle.”
In addition to his YouTube channel, Lance can also be found on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. He also has launched the website www.outlanoutdoors.com.
He credits his family for accepting his passion for the outdoors.
“My wife and kids are so understanding and patient with my hiking addiction,” he said with a laugh. “They truly know how important this lifestyle is to me.”
With interest in hiking and backpacking dramatically increasing since COVID first began, Lance said that although he loves the idea of more people experiencing the lifestyle he is concerned about the increase in damages being done to nature.
“I’ve seen trails and creeks filled with litter and cliff sides spray painted, and I’ve seen campfires abandoned and trees chopped and nature be treated carelessly and thoughtlessly,” he said. “It’s nasty. That’s why educating people how to respect the outdoors is very important. You can’t replace nature.”
Lance added that a huge positive aspect of utilizing a YouTube channel is that he gets to meet others in the hiking/backpacking community.
“It’s been great to be able to not only become friends with other hikers but also to actually meet up and go on adventures together,” he said. “It’s been really cool to make contact and friendships with people who share the same adventures as me.”
When asked what advice he would give beginners, he said he would encourage novices to test all of their gear and learn to understand the gear before embarking on a big trip.
“That can truly be a literal lifesaver,” he said.
Outside of hiking, working at his “day job” and being a committed full-time husband and father, Lance finds time to enjoy tinkering with technology.
“I am a tech nerd, so I love anything tech-related,” he said. “Lately, I’ve gotten into 3D printing. I’m also a collector, and I collect G.I. Joe action figures – much to my wife’s angst. The 3D printer helps me print accessories for my action figures.”
When asked why the hiking/backpacking lifestyle is so special to him, Lance said it’s mostly about having the opportunities to become one with nature.
“For me, hiking and backpacking is the only true way to become one with nature and experience everything it has to offer,” he said. “Backpacking is a form of self-reliance that can take you deep into the backcountry to places no vehicle can go.
“I’ve seen animals, plants, and views that I never would have been able to see if I wasn’t far from the trailhead,” he continued. “And I love the exhilarating sense of adventure I get when the only things I have to keep me alive are on my back.”
Lance on Youtube