by Trenna Ahlstrom
Milt Hatt’s job is to select the right gear for students’ outdoor adventures. Gear is an essential part of outdoor therapy. Without the proper gear, students would not be able to succeed.
After five minutes of talking to Milt, it becomes obvious he takes this responsibility very seriously. More than seriously. Passionately. He talks about choosing the right kind of socks for the students to wear on hikes with the same kind of passionate intensity that sports fans use to discuss first season draft picks. And Milt knows what he is talking about.
Before coming to RedCliff Ascent, Milt worked in sporting goods sales for 16 years. He has held his position at RedCliff Ascent for 12 years. Milt has personally vetted and chosen each piece of clothing, gear, and equipment used at RedCliff Ascent.
“The gear that we use now, none of it is the same as when I started,” Milt said.
When Milt came to RedCliff Ascent, he brought the relationships that he had built with vendors and his knowledge of sporting goods. He used those assets to buy the best quality equipment at the best cost. And Milt does this job with zeal.
Every so often, you meet someone so perfectly suited to what they are doing that it is difficult to imagine that person doing anything else. The person gives the impression of being born to do their job. This is the impression that Milt Hatt gives when he talks about providing the RedCliff students with quality gear.
Whether selecting the perfect outer layer shell, the right filler for a sleeping bag or different socks for summer and winter, Milt’s attention to detail is boundless. When he talks about how and why he chooses the gear, Milt automatically puts himself in the perspective of the person who will use it.
“If I’ve got a crappy pair of socks and I’m out hiking, and my foot gets hot and sweaty, what am I going to get?” Milt asked. He supplied his own answer, “I’m going to get friction, which is going to give me blisters or Athlete’s foot or fungus. So, if I have a quality sock, the first thing I’m going to have is a sock that keeps my foot dry. Now, if I have a dry foot, I don’t have moisture. I don’t have friction. I don’t get Athlete’s foot. I don’t get fungus. I don’t get blisters.”
This is part of the reason why Milt insists, socks are almost more important than the boots. Milt makes certain that the students at RedCliff always have the most appropriate socks, boots, and other gear.
Of course, it’s not really about the socks, as Milt would be the first to admit.
“When you’re talking quality socks, that’s one little feature that is easy to explain, but… that quality issue applies to any piece of gear we have,” Milt said. This is something that Milt is eager to do.
There is no piece of gear or equipment that has escaped Milt’s critical attention, and the students and staff are better for it. This is because the real source of Milt’s passion for gear is genuine desire to do right by the teens that depend on that gear every day.
Milt grew up hunting, fishing, and camping with his five brothers. He has an intimate understanding of the importance of the right gear, and innate concern for others.
“I understand what the kids are doing. Such as, having a sleeping bag that is warm enough in the winter, and our Loki jackets that have attached mittens and a hood with a face shield. I know the value of good equipment having worked in the industry for over 25 years. I know the value of a backpack that fits. So, when I go looking for gear, I am not trying to find the cheapest thing out there, because I know that is just setting us up to fail.”
At RedCliff Ascent, the ultimate goal is to help teens succeed, and the gear should not hinder or burden them. Having the right gear is a part of that success. Milt Hatt’s job is to select the right gear for students’ outdoor adventures, and everyone on those adventures is safer for it.