Vollebak Wardrobe Treasure Hunt

I've written before about the clothing company Vollebak and their unique approach to making high-tech clothing. I get their marketing emails and about once a week they have a little tidbit about a new release, some new promotion (my favorite being an offer to purchase an item and pay 50% today, and the remainder is due in 2072...). While all of their emails are fun to read through, the most recent one caught my attention even more than usual. The subject line was normal enough, "We're about to drop a wardrobe filled with gear." Cool products "drop" all the time these days so that part was not exceptional, but once you got to the headline and saw the teaser image, things got much more interesting.

"We’ve just finished building our first Vollebak wardrobe. We’ve filled it with tens of thousands of dollars of free gear. Then next week we’re going to drop it somewhere on Earth and simply walk away. Here’s how to play."

Well, that is quite a bit more interesting. A giant metal vault, placed ANYWHERE on Earth, full of expensive clothing, and we have to find it? Included in the email was one artistic photo of a weathered metal box.

Wardrobe Teaser Image

The email said that there were two ways to play this game, guessing online and then, for just 48 hours you'd have the chance to physically hunt it down somewhere on earth. If you found it, you can keep the gear. I was intrigued, and my long-standing attempts at playing the Google Maps game, GeoGuessr, made this a somewhat irresistible little diversion. With only that one image to go off of, I made a random guess of somewhere in Norway, figuring that much of their gear was aimed at cold climates, the company was headquartered in the UK and had facilities in a variety of European countries. I sent off my guess and wondered what would happen next.

Blind guess in Norway

The next major step of the treasure hunt came with an email announcement that the wardrobe had landed somewhere on Earth.

"The Vollebak wardrobe doesn’t have a secret door through to Narnia. But it’s got something far better – tens of thousands of dollars of free Vollebak gear waiting for you to come and get it. And it’s just landed somewhere on Earth."

Once again they included one image, this time with the wardrobe apparently at a location, but far more valuable was a link to a video. I carefully watched the film, taking in as many details as I could. There were no words, no visible signs, no clear identifying marks so I had to rely purely on the environment and other vague details.

As I watched the video, a few main things stood out to me. The environment and plant life felt very Southwest-US to me, while the truck used to deliver the wardrobe was almost certainly an old US Army vehicle. The driver of the truck appeared to be a white, American rancher fellow so all of these things sent me off into research mode. The two main things that I thought I could use was a prominent desert tree and the truck. I freeze-framed the video and captured the tree and used Google's Reverse Image search to get more information. Google found a number of similar trees, all of which were in the Cholla family and those trees are isolated to the desert areas of the US Southwest. Perfect...

Next I did a variety of searches for the army truck to try to ID it, and also started looking for possible sources of that kind of truck. Amazingly in Phoenix, Arizona I located a club for military vehicle aficionados, and while looking through their galleries came across a truck that was almost exactly the same as the one in the video. My thinking is that Vollebak would need to source and hire a distinctive vehicle like that, and finding one in the desert SW, close to a major city airport all pointed to the right general place.

Possible truck in Phoenix...

With all that info in mind, I started to look at areas near Phoenix that had flat lands interspersed with a variety of hills, the right kind of dirt roads, but was close to the Phoenix metro area. Eventually I settled on the Saddle Mountain BLM lands, a vast area managed by the US Bureau of Land Management. BLM lands are generally free-use kind of places where you can camp without permits, traverse any part and go anywhere, which also boded well for the contest since Vollebak would need to truck in this massive item and simply leave it somewhere.

I sent in my next guess, with Google coordinates. Within an hour I got a reply from Vollebak...

"...you're pretty close, but you might want to do a little more research and check google maps if you're still up for it."

Hmm, interesting. So I had the general area but clearly missed something and was a bit off. I went back to the video and the other main element I could use was a distinctive rock formation. I noted it originally but got a little sidetracked by the army truck, so I went back and put some search effort into learning more. With some additional Google searching, reading some hiking blogs and looking through image galleries, it becomes clear that those rocks were very similar to ones found in the Ojito Wilderness, another vast desert area but this time outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. This area had some similar attributes to my last pick: same kind of terrain, near a big city, publicly accessible area (and not all that far from Phoenix, so maybe my truck theory still held up...). I scoured the satellite view maps and found a Y-junction of roads that looked very similar to one in the video. I decided that I was close, so sent in my final guess.

Once again, the response came quickly:

"Piping hot with that guess :)"

I was pretty content with my guess and a few hours later while looking at Reddit and reading through other peoples' experiences with the hunt, someone said they had located it and were on the way there. I quickly checked their coordinates and discovered that I did indeed have the right area, even the right road and in fact was just a 2.2mi walk away from its actual location! Boy, if I had lived out there I could have very easily gotten close enough that with some driving around and some binoculars I could have gotten to it myself!

Only 2.2mi away

All in all, that was an incredibly fun little adventure. It reminded me a lot of the antics of one of my other favorite brands, Oakley, also known for crazy ideas and clever marketing that captures the attention. While I didn't live close enough to the target to get my hands on any gear directly, I did get a 50% off promo code to use, and since I had my eye on a jacket that I couldn't justify at full price, for half price I could pull the trigger. Yes, they admittedly got me to spend money, which is certainly the point of a marketing effort like this, but the creativity and fun way they went about it gave me new respect for their approach. Well done, Vollebak, that was a treat.