"It's our future, let's build it together"

5 Questions with Henry Gilbert

February 6, 2020

You’ve built a product that makes it easier for consumers to get outdoors. How does Back40 differ from other gear rental companies? 

Henry Gilbert,
Founder of Back40

The key differentiators for Back40 are our online rental platform, which makes reserving equipment a breeze, and our forthcoming subscription membership program that provides individuals, families, businesses and organizations access to equipment all year long for a set annual price. Our goal is to provide unparalleled access to the outdoors through simple, affordable, efficient services.

In a state as rich in natural resources as Maine, it would seem easy to get outdoors. What are your customers’ main pain points in accessing Maine’s and New England’s wilderness?

We’ve identified 3 major pain points in accessing the outdoors: time, money and experience, with a major common denominator being equipment. It’s expensive, it takes up space, it’s a hassle to maintain and you need to know how to use it. At Back40, we are addressing all of these pain points through our rental operation, and will continue to build tools and solutions to address these pain points from other angles.

What is the origin of the name “Back40”?

In the Homestead Acts of the 1860’s, farmers were granted 160 acre sections of land, which was then often divided into 40 acre quarters, with the most remote quarter, often completely uncultivated, referred to as the back 40. Over time, the term was adopted to refer to any remote, uncultivated piece of land; the backcountry, aka our happy place.

Not only do you operate the online rental site, but you also fulfill and deliver gear. How do you execute a logistics chain as widespread and remote as New England’s outdoor recreation sites?

In the beginning, we offered delivery anywhere in New England and fulfilled the deliveries ourselves. This was essential to proving our market, but it was extremely time consuming. With the launch of our new membership model, we’re shifting our focus to the local market, establishing a permanent pickup site in Portland. While we will still be offering a delivery option, we’ll be limiting deliveries to partner campgrounds and offices.

In your Tech Talk at Central Maine Tech Night this month, you’ll be speaking about how you founded Back40. Can you give us a preview of your plans for growth within the next few years?

We’re currently moving away from the traditional direct-to-consumer rental model with the impending launch of our Gear Closet Membership program (don’t worry, you will always be able to place one-time rental orders). Gear Closet members will have nearly unlimited access to equipment all year long, in addition to exclusive partner discounts (campsites, recreation providers, etc.) and access to member-only events and outings, all for a set annual price. Furthermore, members will have access at all Back40 distribution sites, with the first few sites being established in major East Coast destinations.

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Last modified: June 18, 2021

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