Hiking the Te Araroa Trail – Comfort Theory New Zealand

 “You’re crazy, but I’m down.”

Written by Michael Branscum, photographer for Comfort Theory New Zealand

MichaelWe hadn’t spoken much in a few years. I knew she had been up to some pretty cool stuff; the kind of things I wanted to get into… things that I dreamed about as I sat in my cubicle digging up leads in an industry that I could not find a passion for. McKenzie was out creating films and content, working with great brands and highly accomplished photographers. It was the life I was looking for. But it felt so unattainable.

So I sent her an email. One of the lengthier emails of my time. Basically, it said, “I’m bored, you do cool stuff, what am I doing wrong?”

This was February of 2015. Little did I know that McKenzie was dreaming up one of her craziest ideas yet. In a nutshell, she said, “I want to thru-hike New Zealand and film the entire thing. And to make it happen I’ll need some major gear sponsors and funding. We’re calling ourselves Comfort Theory, and this is going to be the beginning of a new media company.” She continued to list some of the brands she had in mind, which happened to be some of the most badass brands in the industry.


After some additional detail, and McKenzie’s fail-safe methods of generating stoke, she ended with “do you want to join as the lead photographer?”. I simply replied: “You’re crazy, but I’m down.”

We all dream and scheme, and most of us find enough satisfaction in the mere thought of a big idea. We talk about it, maybe do some brainstorming on a whiteboard, go to sleep, and then it passes. For most of us, big ideas are often too big. At the end of the day, the same risk that attracts us to such thoughts also tends to ground us back into what we think is realistic. We let these ideas go because we don’t know how to start, or because when it comes time to execute, the mountain feels insurmountable.

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This one was different. An effort led by McKenzie and supported by a group of us. We couldn’t let each other down and let this slip away. Suddenly, we were spending all of our free time working on this “crazy” idea.


We built our list of ideal sponsors. At the time, I think we all laughed to ourselves at the odds of even getting the attention of some of them. This all just felt too far out, too big. Yet, at the same time, we all believed in it.

Fast-forward about six months and suddenly we had fourteen sponsors on board and the funding to pull this thing off. Near the top of that ideal list was Icebreaker. It was just too obvious, too perfect. Many of us were already in love with their gear. I’d been wearing Icebreaker from head to toe during my outdoor field trips for years. It fits well, never smells bad, doesn’t weigh much and performs like nothing else. When you’re just packing two shirts for six months of backpacking, dependability and odor-resistance is key. On top of all of this, Icebreaker was born in New Zealand, as are most of its sheep to this day. We would literally be walking in Icebreaker’s back yard, passing by many of the same sheep that grow this amazing material on their backs.


Needless to say, we were thrilled when Icebreaker saw the value in supporting this expedition and jumped on board as a sponsor. Their gear was invaluable, and their support both from HQ and in the stores along the way was unparalleled. We’re proud of what we accomplished in New Zealand, and are proud to have represented Icebreaker along the way. Gear rarely works as well as the marketing says it does. Icebreaker is an exception.

Catch the premiere of the “Comfort Theory New Zealand” project on Outside Television Oct 7th at 9pm EST. The half-hour short film will also be available online at SlingTV.com or for all international viewers head to comforttheory.com or email mckenzie@comforttheory.com for more info on how to watch.

12 Questions with McKenzie Barney

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