Backcountry North Home

Employee Profiles

These are the faces that you see when you come into the store; we each have our own unique story,
but we all have one thing in common... we love the outdoors! Come
visit us at our Traverse City and Birmingham locations!


Sandy Graham

Biography: Water has always been my favorite place to play.  I swam through age group, high school and college. After that, there was finally time for other activities - all were outdoors. After years of trying many things, I found that my favorite was kayaking. I was a white water boater first, sea kayaker second.  Currently, I have three white water boats, CR250(rodeo), Jeffe (creek), Topo Duo (tandem), and two sea kayaks; an Artic Hawk (solo) and an Aleut (tandem). Time spent on the water is always good! My favorite quote - as well as the store motto - is "Stupid Oughta Hurt." 

The Motto of the Graham Clan is: "He who fears his fate too much, desserts are too small, put unto the touch, to win or lose it all." Interpretation: Crash and Bu

Favorite Activities:
Paddling, skiing,snowshoeing, mountain biking, and anything with Susie

Favorite Places:
Pyramid Point, Youghigheny River, Mt Washington, and anywhere Susie is

Favorite Gear:
Benchmade Mel Pardue knife, Smartwool T shirt, and my AT and Werner paddles. 

Favorite Trail Food:
Beef Jerky, sweet and sour shrimp, beef stroganoff, and anything Susie cooks.


Susie Graham

Biography: Sandy and I moved to Traverse City in June of 2001 and purchased Backcountry Outfitters. We had dreamed of living "up north" for many years - so we made the move when the opportunity came along.  I get to do the behind the scene jobs at Backcountry; pay the bills, pay the employees, sometimes soft good buyer, and shipping and receiving.
Before moving to TC I was a Medical Technologist at Crittenton Hospital in Rochester, MI for 20 years. 
Favorite Activities:
I love to kayak, snowshoe, downhill ski, and knit. My favorite places to kayak are along the Sleeping Bear National Lake-shore, Benjamin Islands in the North Channel, Parry Sound, Ontario and the inter-coastal waterways in Florida. I love to snowshoe on the dunes around TC.  My favorite ski area is Alta. I love to hit yarn shops anywhere I travel.  Innish Knits in Cedar is a favorite local shop.
Favorite Gear:
My titanium Atlas snowshoes, my Western Mountaineering down sleeping bag, all my Arc'teryx clothing, and my Patagonia down sweater.  I have to confess to a love/hate relationship with my Wilderness Systems Arctic Hawk kayak.  I also enjoy our Valley Aleut 2 tandem kayak.
Favorite Trail Food: I enjoy any mix of nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate.  I also like to chew on a bit of beef jerky for protein.

Traverse City



Cory S.

Outfitting You Since: February 2009
Store Location: Traverse City

Biography: I've been into the outdoors as long as I can remember, growing up in Traverse City was a natural environment for a kid like me, tons of outdoor spots, more water than you can think of, and even more cool little critters to catch!  I grew up on the water on Old Mission Peninsula, and at this point in my life can't imagine living very far away from it. Backpacking has been one of my staple activities for most of my adult life; the ability to get away from modern conveniences and back to your basic hierarchy of needs; (food, water, shelter) keeps me from ever feeling mundane. I am also a caver at heart, for the same reasons as backpacking; there is just something about being 2 miles into a cave system through a labyrinth of tunnels, knowing that a headlamp failure or a flash flood could mean your demise at any moment that just makes me feel alive. As I mentioned before, I love the water, I grew up on a boat and am also an experienced sailor, so moving into Sea Kayaking was a natural progression for me, I bought my first Sea Kayak two years ago and am working hard to hone my paddling skills to become a more proficient paddler.

Favorite Activities: Backpacking, Caving, Kayaking, Fishing, Snowboarding, Hiking, Boating, and BARBECUE!

Favorite Places: Isle Royale, the Pictured Rocks segment of the NCT, Voyaguers National Park, The Manitou islands, The Boardman River and my small collection of karsts/grottos spread across a couple of different states.

Favorite Gear: Petzl DUO 14 Headlamp, Garmin 60CSX GPS, Thermarest Prolite plus, Werner Carbon Paddles, My  Texas pit barbecue, Native Dash XP sunglasses. I am a huge Arcteryx fan; My Sidewinder SV, Alpha LT and NAOS 85 backpack are among my favorite notables. I also am a huge fan of Mountain hardwear tents, both my Trango 3.1 and my Skyledge 3.1, also my collection of kayaks which I have dubbed "The fleet", and lastly Yakima racks for allowing me to lug all those boats around.

Favorite Trail Food:
French bread with oil, Backcountry Pizza, Dark Chocolate, Rosemary and Olive oil Triscuits, Raspberry Crumble (see Eric R's Profile), Cheesecake, Eggs, Jerky, Taste of Thai Noodle bowls and shortbread cookies. I once met a guy that hauled a fresh whole pineapple into the backcountry of the North Country Trail, I would never do such a crazy thing, but appreciate him for sharing a bit of it with me around the fire. 


Candice C.

Outfitting You Since: February 2009
Store Location: Traverse City

Biography: Spending time outside gives my life the balance it needs - so I attempt to do it whenever I can. :) I am currently working on my Bachelors degree in Marketing, but I'm taking my time and lovin' life while I'm at it. I'm a huge fan of exploring new places and showing friends old favorites - whether it be by foot or boat. I've been backpacking for years now, but more recently took up sea kayaking. I've paddled through Voyageurs National Park and along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, but I still have a ton to learn. I'm hoping to fine-tune my skills with my sea kayak, and try white water kayaking along the way. I was introduced to caving a number of years back and loved the thrill of it, so I now do it whenever I can. It makes me happy.
In addition to my love of backpacking, water, and small places, I have a slight obsession with photography and art- whether it be sketching, painting, scrapbooking, designing logos, brochures or websites. I take pictures whenever I can and usually have one of my cameras nearby at any point in time.

Favorite Activities: Backpacking, photography, snowshoeing, kayaking, hiking, spelunking, geocaching, sketching, watching thunderstorms, fishing, campfires with friends.

Favorite Places: Isle Royale National Park, Glacier National Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (you've GOT to hike up to Grand Portal Point), Voyageurs National Park, and Acadia National Park.

Favorite Gear: I love my Osprey Ariel 65 Backpack, Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 sleeping bag, and my ENO hammock. Other things that make me happy: my Keen Newport H2 sandals, Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket, TNF Metropolis Parka, Smartwool socks, MSR Titan Kettle and my little folding bucket (perfect for getting water at night and filtering it around the campfire).

Favorite Trail Food: Sour Patch kids! Smoked almonds, Arizona Arnold Palmer packets, jerky, and hot apple cider for cold nights. I'm a huge fan of Enertia Trail Foods; their Switchback Shells, Max Patch Mac and Cheese, and Wind River Cheesecake are amazing. Also a big fan of Backpackers Pantry Pad See You.


Michael O.

Outfitting You Since: June 2012
Store Location: Traverse City

Biography: My passion for the outside started at an early age in the abondoned 100-acre orchard behind my home. I was raised in a household of naturalists with a passion for simple living and good eating; thankfully it wore off on me. I graduated from Lake State in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. My wanderlust and hunger for new and dynamic adventures led me overseas after graduation to avail myself in all that European culture had to offer. Upon my return, I attempted to settle down in Kalamazoo... only to again catch the fever of my wanderlust. From there it's been a patchwork of locations, cities, and adventures from coast to coast all culminating in the joy and excitement of calling this, Traverse City, my home - or at least my home base for all future explorations and adventures.

Favorite Activities: Traveling, exploring, meeting new people, getting perspective, yoga, meditation, writing, cooking, après drinks and helping others.

Favorite Places: Next to the fire pit at my parents in Fenton, MI; the beach at Iroquois Point Lighthouse outside Sault Ste. Marie, MI; snorkeling Maui, HI; the river's edge outside Talkeetna, AK; the hills of Massarosa, Italy, and a few hidden places in between. 

Favorite Gear: Smartwool, Patagonia, Merrell, Mountain Khakis, and my iPhone 4s - mostly for the camera.

Favorite Trail Food: Trail mix, coffee, anything tasty, wild and indigenous 


Kody S.

Outfitting You Since: February 2009
Store Location: Traverse City

Biography: I have lived in Traverse City for all my life. I have travelled to places as far as Jamacia, and as close as Pyramid Point. My favorite camping memory is waking up with frost all around me on the desert floor of the Grand Canyon.

Favorite Activities: Hiking, snowboarding, backpacking, disc golf, paintball, tae-kwon-do, boxing and Jujitsu.

Favorite Places: Anywhere on the California coastline, the Verda Hot springs in Strawberry Arizona and Ricks Cafe, Negril Jamaica.

Favorite Gear:Any and all Arc'teryx - especially their SV series. My favorites are the Stingray GoreTex soft shell and the Hercules Hoody. More of my favorites include my HK (Heckler and Koch) edition Benchmade Knife, my Suuntto X6HR watch, my Mountain Hardwear Dragon jacket, Nitrous Down jacket, Phantom 0° down sleeping bag and my Snow Peak Lite Max stove.

Favorite Trail Food: High protein meals, trail mix, tuna, and beef jerky.


Sarah L.

Outfitting You Since: July 2011
Store Location: Traverse City

Biography: I grew up right on the river in Grayling, Michigan, so spending time outdoors in the woods and water has always been natural. My parents have given me the opportunity to travel to several states and countried while growing up, so I'm an explorer at heart! I love hanging in a hammock reading a book as well as being a beach bum.

Favorite Activities: Music festivals, photography, skiing, snowboarding and sledding. Any form of arts and crafts, bike rides, leisurely kayak trips and bonefires! Yoga, reading, geocaching, the whole S'mores process, picking flowers, blowing bubbles, making snow angels, and sidewalk chalk. Also karaoke if the moment feels right!

Favorite Places: Hawaii, hands down, followed by Switzerland, Malaysia, and Coloado - in that order.

Favorite Gear: My Camelbak reservoir, hammock, Smartwool Socks, and lifestyle clothing!


Joe F.

Outfitting You Since: October 2008
Store Location: Traverse City

Biography: I have been to a lot of places, but its never enough. I am always going somewhere and planning new trips. Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end. If I haven't been there, I probably want to go, and if its a challenge, I want to go even more. I love it when things go as planned, but a young man once said to me "Joe, you know what a plan is? A list of stuff that never happens." At the time, those words were very hard to hear. I had to admit that I was unable to do something I wanted to do. Something I planned for and dreamed about for two years was impossible. I was not physically able to reach my goal, and I had to put my life on hold. Now, those words mean nothing to me - I live life without compromise, or at least I try. Do not give up, and do not be the face of regret! We have all seen it! I now live by these words; "If it is in your heart, make it happen."

Favorite Activities: Hiking and backpacking, climbing, snowshoeing, playing guitar, biking, paddling, and mainly going on an adventure!

Favorite Places: Lake George, New Paltz and the Gunks, NYC, the Red River Gorge, the Smokey Mountains, Grayso Highlands, McCaffe Knob, Tinker Cliffs, the Shenendoahs, Vermont, the White Mountains, Katahdin.

Favorite Gear: Arc'Teryx clothing, Suunto Core watch, Asolo Flame GTX boots, Smartwool baselayers, Western Mountaineering sleeping bag, and my camera. 

Favorite Trail Food: Hard salami, cheese sticks, Snyders of Hanover pretzels, peanut M&M's, cold pizza, Subway. 

Will H.

Outfitting You Since: May 2007
Store Location: Traverse City

Matt G.

Outfitting You Since: February 2008
Store Location: Traverse City

Alan S.

Outfitting You Since: August 2014
Store Location: Traverse City

Brian B.

Outfitting You Since: September 2014
Store Location: Traverse City

George R.

Outfitting You Since: August 2014
Store Location: Traverse City

Ciera B.

Outfitting You Since: September 2014
Store Location: Traverse City

Ali M.

Outfitting You Since: November 2014
Store Location: Traverse City



Rion N.

Outfitting You Since: March 2010
Store Location: Birmingham


Biography: Born in Houston, Texas and raised in Southfield, Michigan.  My love for barbecue still remains.  I've been going up north (Eastport, MI) a few times a year since I was six.  I started skiing when I was ten and did my first skiing trip out west to Steamboat Springs when I was twelve.  Since then I try to go out west whenever I can.  Graduated from Michigan State in '08 with a Telecommunication (digital media/graphic design) degree.


Favorite Activities: Skiing, Traveling, Photography, Going to Concerts, Kayaking, Jet Skiing, Eating, and Sleeping.

Favorite Places: Aspen, CO; Barcelona, Spain; London, England; Eastport, MI

Favorite Gear: My Patagonia Down Sweater, Cloudveil Boundary Jacket, Arc'Teryx Gamma AR, Cloudveil Run Don't Walk ½ Zip, Oakley A Frame Goggles, and Sanuk Kerouacs. 

Favorite Trail Food: Almonds, Dried Cranberries, Dark Chocolate and anything fried.

Michael P.

Outfitting You Since: January 2013
Store Location: Traverse City

Ashley Z.

Outfitting You Since: August 2014
Store Location: Traverse City


Jennifer T.

Outfitting You Since: February 2009
Store Location: Birmingham

Biography: Traverse City has always been my home, even when I moved away.  I have a degree in General Education from NMC and a degree in Apparel Design and Apparel Merchandising from CMU.  Straight out of college I went to work for a major retailer in the south as a Private Label Designer. From there, I returned home and love being with my family and friends after being away for so long.  I never felt completely at home in the south and decided that Traverse City was the only place for me.  Shortly after I moved home, I was hired at Back Country.  I love applying my eye for design to the clothing and merchandise within the store.  I love learning about all of the new equipment, their uses, and meeting new people.  I can’t wait to expand my knowledge base about the outdoor world.  Thanks for reading my bio and I hope that you stop by the store to introduce yourself!

Favorite Activities:
Traveling, being with my friends, going to the beach, sewing, and...I love doing anything that's creative

Favorite Places: London changed my life, I have traveled the world for my former career and loved every second of this city.  Paris is also amazing...but when it comes down to it my absolute FAVORITE place is wherever my family and friends are!

Favorite Gear: I love my Lole!  I wear it all the time, ask anyone at the store.  It's the perfect combination of function and fashion!