Interview and Giveaway: Demerit Wear's Merit Badges for Outdoor Mishaps

I definitely earned this one!
Once upon a time, I was completely new to backpacking. I packed cotton long sleeve shirts for a November trip in Virginia. I had no idea what a compression sack was. I thought I was cool because I carried a foam sleeping pad, but assured myself I didn't need it, not knowing the ground would suck all of the warmth out of me. I'm awarding myself the Heavy Pack Demerit Badge. Another time, I wasn't new to backpacking, but the tent I planned to spend an incredibly rainy night in leaked. It leaked enough that I abandoned ship for a trip mate's shelter. I'm awarding myself the Flooded Demerit Badge.

Demerit Wear founder Steve Kosinski believes that we're too stuck on celebrating our successes. We should make an effort celebrate those special situations that make amazing stories after the trips are over - the failures, the mistakes, and the mishaps we've all had on our adventures. But Demeritwear also has badges for accomplishments, too, like summitting one of Colorado's 14ers or skiing a double black run.

Steve took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his unique company and why we should all adorn our packs with Demerit Badges.

What inspired you to start Demeritwear?
I was a failed Scout! My first two weeks in scouting consisted of a camping trip in late November. We were in tents, it snowed, I was ill-prepared with one of those cotton flannel sleeping bags with the ducks and hunters printed inside, I froze every night, and was clammy every morning. I was the new kid, so I was on cleanup every day, and I was afraid of the latrine. When I got back home my mom asked me how the camping trip was and I said "I QUIT!". Fast forward about 20 years, and I met my wife. She was deeply involved in the outdoor industry and taught me all about the right clothing and equipment. Looking back at that first experience, I thought I deserved an award just for surviving that trip.

Who did you create the patches for? Definitely someone who can laugh at themselves!  In fact, often when telling the story of a trip, it's the mishaps that are most remembered. At my first trade show, my booth was located in a far-off corner. No one came by for hours at a time. So when a woman stopped to ask about the badges, I gave her my best 30-second pitch. She looked at me, confused. "You mean they are for things you did WRONG?" I nodded with a smile. She said: "Who on earth would want THAT?" So I guess I made them for--NOT her.

Huge thanks to Steve for providing these for me to try out! They're super easy to attach to anything you own. I'm proudly sporting my "Heavy Pack" badge on my Lilypond Magnolia Tote, which I carry with me every day.

What do you want folks to gain from having the patches? A bit of healthy pride in ALL aspects of themselves, even if you did something stupid, even when you should have known (or did know) better. Around here we say "Awards for the Rest of Us!" which means that sometimes it seems that everyone else knows things that you do not, or has skills that you do not--but of course everyone was a beginner at some point, and that mistakes and mishaps can happen to even the most seasoned veteran. (Just ask them--I hear their stories all the time!) Demerit Wear is about telling your own story--the WHOLE story, both good and bad.

yep, I earned this one too!
Are there any others born out of personal experience? I definitely earned the new "Road Rage" badge. (I'm working on it!)  I have a 9-year-old, so I have earned everything from the "Crybaby" badge to the "Snowman Sculptor",  and "French Wine Snob" was actually made specifically for me. (My wife said I would never sell that patch to anyone else, but she was wrong about that!)

I'm most proud of earning the "Apres" patch.  I struggled to learn to ski. It took years of getting hurt, and x-rays, and lessons, and multiple seasons of being the slowest person in the group of professional double-black tree-skiers I hang around with before I could finally go everywhere they went and have fun doing it. Finally one year we were all sitting around after a long day having a beer when it hit me that I wasn't an outsider anymore. My wife leaned over to me and said "See? The best beer you'll ever drink is the one you've earned!"

Win a Demerit Wear Demerit Badge of Your Choice! 
To enter, leave a comment on this post with a story about an outdoor mishap or accomplishment you believe is deserving of a badge. It can be about anything from setting marshmallows on fire to forgetting to pack toilet paper, even running out of water. If you need inspiration, check out all of the patches for potential story subjects. Be creative; you might even inspire a new patch! 

Submit all entries by 5pm EST on Friday, September 7th, 2012. When you comment, be sure to leave a method of contact. The best story, as chosen by Steve and I, will receive a patch of their choice from the Demeritwear collection. To receive an extra entry, give the Adventure-Inspired facebook page a "like" and leave a separate comment letting me know you have. (If you already have, that still counts. Leave that extra comment!) Good luck! 

Keep an eye on the Demerit Wear website this fall. They're launching a customizable hoodie, a t-shirt with an oversized print of any patch in our line on the front, and re-launching the customizable neckerchief for dogs!


Katie BouĂ© said…
I've got a good one, but I was slightly surprised to see that there's no badge for it yet!

While on a big climbing trip to Red River Gorge a few months ago, I decided to take a rest day while the fellas tackled some seriously stout routes at a crag called "The Zoo." As a savvy outdoors-lady, I made sure to stay hydrated - which meant it wasn't long before I had to relieve myself. The wall was crowded, so I had to tromp off a bit into the bush to seek some privacy.

I popped a squat, let it rip, and enjoyed a bit of the scenic view from my potty stoop. As I pulled my shorts up, I noticed that I had quite literally just taken a whiz on a coiled up snake. In true blogger/social media maven fashion, I instantly whipped out my iPhone, and got (way too) close to the slithery little buddy to snap some shots. Lots, and lots of shots.

Afterwards, I scurried back to the group, and excitedly show them the pictures of my new little friend - and the boys immediately shouted, "You could have died, that was a rattlesnake!"

Oops. Looks like Demerit needs a "Almost peed on a poisonous snake" badge. ;)
Katie @advinspired said…
oh. my. goodness. that's crazy, Katie! good for you for staying
hydrated, but hooboy, I'm not sure I would've been able to handle
standing up and seeing the snake. that would be quite the Demerit Badge
to create...I can't imagine what it would look like :)
Wilderness Dave said…
Well, no need to have your winner right there...HAHA
Katie said…
aww c'mon Dave, you've gotta have a good one :) even stories like forgetting toilet paper, we can all relate to those! (and it makes some of us feel better that we're not the only ones :) )
Tiffany said…
The Duct Tape Badge! Or No Gaiter Badge? I forgot my gaiters one time - and it was kinda an important trip, doing Mt. Olympus in the Olympics, which included lots of snow/glacier travel - soooooo I whipped out two plastic bags I happened to have and the duct tape - whala! Gaiters! I'm sure others have better stories re: duct tape, but when you need to break out the duct tape, that means something failed. :) Love the badge concept!
Katie said…
oh man, duct tape is definitely on my must-have list when I'm camping or backpacking. the thought of you walking around the Olympics with plastic bags and duct tape on your feet...awesome!
Michael Dyer said…
I will be buying the "rain" patch for one of our Cub Scout Pack's leaders. He was in charge of our rocket derby and everything was going great until the sky opened up and Noah started feeling nostalgic. We had a canopy for the kids to huddle under but our leader ran out in the rain to reset rockets over and over until he was soaked to the skin. Every kid's rocket launched though and the kids had a blast.

A couple of weeks later the same leader came to my house to help set up our Independence Day parade float. Five minutes into the project the sky opened up again. He worked diligently through the rain to make sure the float got assembled.

He is our Cub Scout Pack's rainstorm hero!
Katie said…
sounds like he's just a rain magnet, that guy! but he sounds like an amazing human being too, doing all that work despite the bad conditions. he sounds like he deserves this one, at minimum :)
Michael Dyer said…
Yup, that is the rain patch I'm buying. :D
@ginabegin said…
Love these! So great to see a company with a sense of humor. :)