HIKER SPOTLIGHT: Brian and Nick Cornell

Brian Cornell

Brian Cornell

Nick Cornell

Nick Cornell


Where do you both call home?

BRIAN: Originially from the Front Royal, Virginia but for the last three years my home has been Mammoth Lakes, California.

NICK: Most recently I spent this past winter living in Mammoth Lakes, California. However now all my belongings are in storage with my parents in Virginia. Legally though, I am a resident of Montana.

What do you currently do for a living and how did you get into this field?

BRIAN: I have worked seasonal jobs as a ski instructor and a rental technician but for the past year before departing, I was working in packaging at Mammoth Brewing Company in Mammoth Lakes.

NICK: For the past few years I have been doing seasonal work. I have worked in the ski industry during the winters and spent summers thru hiking or working in Glacier National Park as a tour guide. These jobs only operate on 5 to 6 month obligations so it make it easy to get a whole summer off to go for a hike.

Why did you choose the CDT for your upcoming Thru hike?

BRIAN: Less crowded, more of a challenge, and my brother asked if I wanted to go for a hike.

NICK: Well I wanted to finish my Triple Crown. I wanted the adventure of it, it seems like the CDT now is what the PCT was like 15 years ago.

What other trails have you both hiked?

BRIAN: Hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2014, also with Nick! Spent the last two summers exploring the Sierra around Mammoth Lakes.

NICK: The AT in 2014 and the PCT in 2016.

What will be your starting base weight at the beginning of your trip (all carried weight in your pack, minus consumables like water, food and fuel)? What will your Max weight be with everything?

BRIAN: My base weight was 12.5 lbs at the beginning of the trail but I think I’ve already gotten it down to 12 lbs, possibly less.

NICK: My base weight is 9.5 pounds. My pack with 4 days of food and 4 liters of water, for example, would be about 26 pounds total. I doubt that I will ever be carrying over 30 pounds.

What are the Top 3 pieces of gear you can’t live without?

BRIAN: Enlightened Equipment 20 degree quilt, chapstick and my glasses.  A way to stay warm, properly moisturized lips and my eyes so I can navigate and look at the beautiful scenery.

NICK: I've been a fan of my 20° Enlightened Equipment quilt. I also have enjoyed my Zpacks Hexamid shelter. I have only set it up 3 times so far this trip, but it only weighs 17 ounces so it us not a burden to carry around. Lastly I have of course enjoyed wearing my Waymark pack. This is the first time trying a frameless pack and the first time using a 40 liter pack. It fits well and comfortably carries everything in my kit.

What Luxury items will you be carrying that aren’t critical to your survival or safety?

BRIAN: Journal/pen to write and a small book about mindfulness.  Might pick up a novel soon if I can find a decent used book store in New Mexico.

NICK: I'm carrying a little blow up pillow this time! I think it is improving my sleep. My umbrella is also a luxury item. It comes in handy for the sun and for the rain. It might get ditched soon though.

Name 1 thing you will miss most about leaving civilization for your hike.

BRIAN: I already miss eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day.  Although I am doing better with packing some produce out to eat within the first couple days out of town.

NICK: A kitchen and a real grocery store! I was vegan before starting this hike and it has been fun to get creative in the kitchen. I'm not staying completely vegan on trail, but I'll be close. I also hike stoveless so a kitchen would be a treat.

What skill you would like to learn that would help you on the trail?

BRIAN: If I could learn how to sleep on my back that would be great.  I’m a side sleeper which cause me to wake up in the middle of the night quite often with hip or shoulder pain.  Something about sleeping on my back just has never felt quite right.

NICK: I would like to improve my efficiency. So every little movement, whether I am hiking or setting up camp, becomes a part of an efficient and economical day on the trail.

What is 1 personal strength you feel will help you most on the trail?

BRIAN: I love being outside.

NICK: I feel comfortable pushing my body and staying mentally strong. I would like to see where my limit is.

What is 1 personal weakness that will conflict with this strength?

BRIAN: Sometimes I find it difficult to get out of my quilt early in the morning to face the cold.  Being on vacation, the temptation to sleep in takes over me but I always feel better when I rise with, or even before the sun.

NICK: Sometimes I tend to make my hiking more about the miles rather then taking in the experiences. I do get very motivated by my mileage, but I would like to find a balance. That balance can come day by day or maybe even between different hikes.

Name 1 person, a trail celebrity or other, who has inspired you most to get on the trail.

BRIAN: Buddy Backpacker; if he can hike the CDT, then I sure as hell can.

NICK: Nobody comes to mind. I feel you have to do these hikes for your own inspiration.

Name 1 person you’d like to meet on the trail.


NICK: I just want to meet some cool people. I have friends I still talk to from the AT and PCT, most people out here are pretty cool.

Name 1 animal you have seen or would most like to see on the trail.

BRIAN: I wouldn’t mind seeing a grizzly up north, at a safe distance of course. 

NICK: I would like to see a mountain lion, only if I am with someone else though and not alone.

What lessons can we take from the wilderness, and how can we apply them to Urban life?

BRIAN: The ability to live simply and to do with less!  Living out of a backpack for 5 months really makes you realize that you don’t need much to be happy. 

NICK: Spending months hiking through diverse wilderness areas makes you appreciate each one individually. I think we all should carry an appreciation for nature in this world. Whether you see it outside your window as one tree on a sidewalk or you see it as an expansive national park, each one matters. Nature should not be seen as a resource for us to use, rather it should be seen as a resource for us to learn from.

Tell us how we can connect with you and your organizations on all of your social networks:

BRIAN: Instagram is @lifeofbri92 and my blog is at www.thetrek.co/author/brian-cornell

NICK: https://thetrek.co/author/nick-cornell/   Instagram @nickrc90