Tom Powell is a graphic designer and photographer from the UK who is currently on a road cycling trip down the west coast of the USA. We discovered Tom’s photography in Gestalten’s recently released book The Outsiders – a beautiful showcase of products, brands and ideas that capture the evolving ethos of today’s outdoor and lifestyle entrepreneurs.
We caught up with Tom via email while he was taking a few rainy days off the bike in Humboldt County, California.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m from the UK and worked as a graphic designer for a long time. I’ve worked in the outdoor industry, including a Mountain Equipment co-op in Canada, so I had a lot of opportunities to get outside and adventure with like-minded people. I’d find it pretty frustrating to sit in front of a screen all week, laying up ads of people doing fun things.
Lately I’ve been getting into cycle touring so I’m shooting a lot of that at the moment. I finished a trip through Spain and Portugal in May which was fun — a friend and I towed our surfboards on trailers down the coast. I’m also on a bike tour now heading south to Mexico from Portland on the west coast of America. It’s incredible.
I also recently designed a window display for a design shop in Bristol called Something Else, for the launch of The Outsiders book. That was a fun project: some photography, some design and a lot of coffee.
How did The Outsiders come about and what’s the response been like?
The Outsiders came out of nowhere, really. They saw some of my photos and asked if I’d be into it. I’ve been stoked by some of the responses I’ve had, including emails from people quitting their jobs to go travelling. Friends are also a lot more willing to put up with my photo stops now, too.
You are currently cycling the west coast of North America. Tell us about the trip.
I initially planned to ride from Portland to San Francisco, but I’m nearly there and I’m having the best ride, so I think I’ll head to Mexico. It’s so much fun. Bike touring is a great way to travel — it’s kind of like holding a microscope up to your trip. Everything is so much slower and you experience the changes in landscape and weather as you’re going through them. It’s also amazing as a photographer, because you can stop to take shots whenever you want.
I like the people you meet touring, too, everyone is so into it. There are about 20 people I’m coming across or hearing stories about all on the same route. I’m currently riding with an Australian with a surfboard, and two others from Washington state. We formed a bike gang called the Redwood Orphans. Watch out, west coast.
"If you have wool socks and thermals for camp at the end of any cold or wet day, you'll be happy. Dry bags, a tarp and head torches are also pretty essential. Oh, and an AeroPress is the best luxury."Tom Powell
You’re mostly camping on this trip, how has that been? Any camp tips for cyclists?
Camping is so different depending on the location, but in the Pacific Northwest, which is really damp and cold, I wouldn’t want to be without wool. I pretty much live in my merino top: I can ride and sleep in it, and it never smells. If you have wool socks and thermals for camp at the end of any cold or wet day, you’ll be happy. Dry bags, a tarp and head torches are also pretty essential. Oh, and an AeroPress is the best luxury.
What’s next for Tom Powell?
I’m planning on moving to New Zealand next year, so I’ll see what that brings. I’ll definitely be doing some bike touring there and I’ll also be getting a van so I can get some surfing roadtrips in. For now, I’m just concentrating on keeping the raccoons out of my tent and getting across the Mexican border.