Texas backpacker shares his experience with ‘My Life Outdoors’
By Steve Barrett
Creative Content Writer, Hilltop Packs LLC
Backpacker Steven Smith really loves the outdoors, which is why he wants to share his adventures with the world.
Smith, has lived in Texas his whole life and currently lives in the eastern part of the state with his wife and four children, has operated his own YouTube channel, titled “My Life Outdoors,” for the past year-and-a-half.
Unlike many of his peers with a YouTube presence, Smith works full-time on his channel, filming his own videos, writing “scripts” and notes for episodes and editing each video himself.
Smith, a former youth minister who resigned after he experienced burnout, said he finds peace in the outdoors and is happy to be making his channel a main priority.
“I originally planned on just taking a year off from youth ministry, but during that year my YouTube channel really started taking off, so I decided to make ‘My Life Outdoors’ my full-time gig,” he said.
Growing up, Smith always wanted to be a kayaker; he didn’t play organized sports but his parents took him skiing twice a year, where he said he fell in love with the mountains.
“Every summer we’d go down to the hill country of Texas with several rivers, where we would go tubing and rafting, and it was so much fun,” he said. “I remember one year, in my early high school years, we were tubing along the beautiful Guadalupe River (in Texas), and I saw a sign in a storefront that said ‘Kayaking Lessons.’ I remember looking at that sign and saying, ‘I want to learn how to kayak.’ Floating on inner tubes is fun, but I wanted to do something more challenging.”
Soon after, Smith bough a kayak, then another … and he then started getting more serious about doing day trips on different rivers. Eventually, he decided to kayak a longer stretch of river and spend the night. That’s when he realized he needed backpacking gear.
“I had a lot of stuff to go backpacking but I didn’t have a backpack,” he said. “So, I bought one and then talked to a friend who has a backpacking background, and we set out on my first hike, which was amazing. It was then and there that I fell in love with the outdoors lifestyle.”
That first trip was a trek at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, where he hiked to the highest peak in Texas at 8,900 feet.
As he continued to embark on hikes, he gradually upgraded his gear. He has been backpacking for the past 15 years, roughly covering 2,000 miles. The highest peak he encountered was 13,600 feet in Colorado. Throughout his adventures, he has hiked in numerous locations, including Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, California, New York, the Smokey Mountains, Louisiana and Arkansas.
One of his most memorable hikes occurred 9 years ago, when he and his daughter – who was 12 years old at the time – trekked along the Buffalo River in Arkansas.
“This was a planned ‘pack and paddle’ trip, where we intended to kayak down the river,” he recalled. “We were out there for a few days, when it started raining and kept raining for days, causing the river to be swollen, ripping and roaring. We had to cross the river to get to our car, but the rain made it impossible to cross.”
Worried about his food rations, Smith said he and his daughter were relieved when a total stranger who was loading his boat, saw them and asked them if they needed help. After they were escorted safely to the other side, a park ranger who earlier tried to help them returned, at which point Smith was given a stern lecture about safety.
“That lasted about 20 minutes,” he said. “It was a really dangerous situation but ultimately we made it out okay. I certainly learned a lesson or two that day.”
As for his YouTube channel, “My Life Outdoors” started as a blog in 2010, which he wrote for several years.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I enjoyed writing them,” he said. “However, the site that was running my blog ended up shutting down for a few years, so I forgot about writing them for a while. It was around 2018 when I decided that I wanted to revive the blog.”
During the revival period, a friend began encouraging Smith to start making videos. During a hiking trip in 2019, he filmed his first video for the channel; he ended up making five total videos in 2019, and even though he made no videos in 2020 due to the pandemic, his channel ended up bringing in over 600 subscribers.
When the videos returned in March 2021, he committed himself making a new video every week for the channel, which took up a great deal of time. It was then when he decided to make “My Life Outdoors” a full-time job.
Currently, the channel has over 68,000 subscribers and roughly 90 videos, most of which focus exclusively onb backpacking, gear and his experiences.
One of his favorite videos is called “Backpacking Sucks!,” where he lightheartedly discusses terrible things that can happen while hiking and how backpackers can get through those ordeals.
Smith is constantly coming up with creative ideas for video topics, and he said he has enough topic ideas to last him for a while. And, in addition to the YouTube channel, Smith has a strong presence on TikTok (over 25,000 followers) and is making inroads on Instagram.
Between his YouTube channel and family, Smith has limited free time, and when he has time for hobbies he loves to restore classic cars and he enjoys woodworking and baking sourdough bread.
When asked why he has such a strong passion for the backpacking and hiking lifestyle, Smith said he could narrow it down to one word.
“Simplicity,” he said. “When I am hiking, there are only a few things I have to worry about: Where to sleep, what to eat and remembering to put one foot in front of the other. This lifestyle takes all of the stress and worry of everyday life and strips it down to a basic form of living. It is amazing.”
You can find Steven's Youtube Channel here
Steven's website can be found here