We Chat With 2019's Awe x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship Winner

Posted by Cassie Ryan on Mar 12, 2020 10:23:37 AM

MelissaBlog-Featured

Last year, we worked with our friends at AWExpeditions to create a scholarship for one woman to travel to Nepal for a mountaineering trip of a lifetime. We are excited to announce that we have again partnered with AWExpeditions to bring the Summit Scholarship back for year two! We caught up with Melissa, last year's Summit Scholarship recipient, to talk about her experience trekking to Everest Basecamp and summiting 20,305ft Island Peak with AWE. Read her interview here and prepare to be inspired.

 

Q: Hi Melissa! First off, tell us a little about yourself and how you got into mountaineering.

Sure! I have lived in Boulder, Colorado the last 8 years where I’ve been enjoying the Rocky Mountains, but am originally from California where I grew up exploring the Sierras and Cascades. I work as a water resource engineer and hydrologist, and feel lucky to work in a profession in which I can connect to the outdoor places I love. Although I enjoyed the outdoors growing up, moving to Colorado after college multiplied the opportunities for getting outside. I made a conscious effort to try every activity that sounded fun and at least a little bit terrifying, all of which led me to appreciate the numerous dramatic peaks in the Rockies. I had the opportunity to learn how to ice climb, started overcoming my fear of heights by scrambling (climbing low-grade exposed rock without a rope), then transitioned from resort snowboarding to backcountry skiing to spend more time in the wilderness. Simultaneously, I pushed myself to move higher and further on my trail runs. I started snow climbing after recovering from a near-death accident in order to conquer my PTSD and fell in love with it. I realized that all of these activities could naturally blend together as interesting and fun mountaineering objectives. 

 

Q: Why did you apply for the AWE x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship and how did it feel to win?

The AWE x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship embodied my journey into outdoor independence. Although I found great outdoor communities, nearly all my foundational experiences in the outdoors relied on a male partner.  I often depended on a significant other to plan objectives and felt like I needed him there to feel secure in challenging environments. If I wasn’t invited on outings or my partner wasn’t available, I felt like I couldn’t do the things I wanted to. After being excluded from a series of trips that I felt prepared for because I was told I couldn’t handle them, I decided to take charge of the situation by training myself to execute trips independently. I started getting outside more on my own and took classes to educate myself. I realized that many other female friends felt a similar lack of empowerment and began pushing others to do more all-female trips. The AWE x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship emphasizes female empowerment in the outdoors to encourage more equality in high altitude mountaineering and break down some of the barriers women have historically faced in getting into the sport. While I had spent a lot of time building the essential skills for mountaineering, I still wasn’t sure how to put together a high altitude expedition. Sunny Stroeer and her partners have recognized that this is a huge factor in the lack of female mountaineers and this scholarship was a great opportunity to break into the sport in a more controlled environment led by a woman that encompassed all of these values.  I was incredibly honored to win this scholarship. From what I understand there were women from over 20 countries who applied for this opportunity, all of whom had incredible stories. This speaks to the importance of the work Sunny, Nite Ize, and Lowa are all promoting.

 

Q: How did you train for the expedition to Everest Base Camp and Island Peak?

 Living in Colorado, I am lucky to have access to many peaks in the 14,000 ft elevation range. We had a fairly long winter prior to the expedition, so I spent the spring climbing and skiing the taller mountains in the state using the technical gear (crampons and ice axe) I would use on Island Peak. Over the summer, I got up to 14,000 ft. one to two days a week by squeezing in trail runs and scrambles up high into the dark hours after work and doing longer (7-12 hour) pushes on ridges at altitude on the weekends. I had just transitioned from graduate school to a full time job so efficiency was essential. My main goal was to stay acclimated and prolong my endurance as much as possible. Speed was not as critical as the expedition would require long days carrying a heavy pack at altitude.

 

MelissaBlog-Rocks

 

Q: What surprised you the most while on your expedition?

 This was my first trip to the Himalayas, and I made a point not to look up photos of the hiking region prior to the expedition apart from the necessary technical aspects of the climb. I was blown away by the dramatic, lush canyons below treeline and the enormous rivers we crossed over precarious suspension bridges. Once we climbed into the alpine, the mountains were on a scale that dwarfed every previous experience I had. It is an incredible feeling, hiking on a plateau at 14,000 ft. and seeing mountains stretch more than 10,000 ft. above you. That said, I think the Sherpa people were just as impressive. They live at elevations up to 17,000 ft. and are the loveliest and most generous people I’ve encountered.

 

 

Q: What was it like to reach the summit?

 Reaching the summit was even more satisfying and fulfilling than I anticipated. I say that because I had tried not to put too much pressure on myself to reach the summit so that I could embrace the experience regardless of the outcome. However, at about 19,000 ft. I really began to struggle physically with the altitude and wasn’t sure if I could finish the route. I think I had become weaker from having issues with sleep apnea at altitude a few days before summit day in which I would stop breathing at night and wake myself up. The final push is a 1,000 ft., steep headwall on which you need to simultaneously ascend with a jumar in one hand while climbing with an ice axe with your other hand. My team noticed that I was starting to deteriorate and provided an enormous amount of emotional support to help boost me up the final part of the climb. Pushing through that mental barrier was huge for me in recognizing my potential. It was also wonderful to celebrate with the team on the summit with a 100% success rate. One of our Sherpas celebrated by taking his shirt off (at 6,000m!) and opening a can of beer to share with the team. And I suppose I should mention that the views were spectacular!

MelissaBlog-Resting

 

Q: What Nite Ize product came in most handy on the trip?

I enjoyed using a variety of Nite Ize products on the trip, but I really relied on the INOVA STS PowerSwitch headlamp. Throughout the trip we had minimal to no lighting at night in our teahouse rooms and on our summit day we spent the first many hours hiking in the dark through technical terrain. I have often been disappointed with the brightness and reach of headlamps I’ve used, but this one is incredibly bright on high power. It also has a dimming feature to conserve power, as well as a red light function to use in the evening at camp when you don’t want to blind your climbing team. The other feature that was really helpful was the ability to swipe the top of the headlamp to change the settings and toggle it on and off. On Island Peak I was wearing enormous mittens and usually trying to press a button on a headlamp is challenging, but this technology allows you to have full functionality without exposing your hands. The other great feature is that the headlamp is both rechargeable and uses AAA batteries so you have backup methods for charging. I should also mention that the Nite Ize team was incredible to work with and was very generous in its support of this scholarship.

 

Q: What was your favorite part of the trip as a whole?

Everything! But if I have to choose something, I would say the relationships I formed along the way. I shared a room and tent with Kerry, one of my new role models and the other female participant on the trip. We bonded over our suffering, laughed at the deteriorating state of our cleanliness and ultimately pushed each other up the summit. I had wonderful talks with Sunny and her husband Paul, a climbing icon himself, about making goals happen and about general life wisdom. Alex, the only male participant kept the climb light-hearted with his humor. This team of strangers quickly became more like a family to me and I know these relationships will last the rest of my life. On top of that, our two Sherpas, MIngma and Phurba, introduced me to a completely new culture and became good friends. These two had climbed Everest multiple times as well as many more technically challenging peaks - coming from the land of super-athletes in Boulder, this was definitely a humbling experience.

Melissa-Blog-Climbing

 

Q: What’s the next adventure you hope to tackle?

This year I have a few smaller objectives including skiing a few more of the volcanoes in the Cascades  and completing the longest and steepest ultra running race I’ve done. However, next year I would like to try to ski Denali. It is almost exactly the same elevation as Island Peak, but has more relief and more objective hazards. I love Alaska and think skiing a high altitude peak would be incredible. Immediately after the trip I thought I wouldn’t be interested in more high altitude climbs because of the health challenges, but my memory seems to change over time...

 

We're excited to take the Summit Scholarship into year two by sponsoring one woman to join AWE on their expedition to climb Kilimanjaro this fall! If reading this has piqued your interest, applications are open on www.awexpeditions.org from March 16th - April 15th, 2020.

Topics: Adventure, Field Team, Mountaineering, AWE

5 Ways to Make The Most Out of Your Leap Day

Posted by Taylor Orebaugh on Feb 20, 2020 3:13:22 PM

4 Ways to Make The Most Out of Your Leap Day

Once every four years, we get an extra day in February as part of our Leap Year, called Leap Day. As a result, we have a 366-day calendar year in 2020. What will you do with your extra 24 hours?

 

1. Hit the road with an adventure in mind.

Steelie Windshield Mount

An extra day means an extra chance to check something off the bucket list, whether it’s an adventure to a small nearby town, a hike to a hidden lake, or a sledding trip with the kids. If you’re planning to be around water or snow, bring a RunOff Waterproof Pocket to keep your phone, ID, and cards dry and accessible. Don't forget your Steelie to help navigate your way to adventure!

 

2. Clear out that cluttered basement or garage.

How to Organize Your Garage

Leap Day is your opportunity to take on that cluttered part of your home without losing time. Grab 3 boxes and label them “keep”, “donate”, and “trash”, placing items into their respective boxes as you make your way through the space. Once you’ve cleared out the mess, use Gear Ties to organize tangled cords and bundles, and large S-Biners to hang up old backpacks, tools, and supplies. 

Tip: If you struggle letting go of things, use Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method. Hold each item in your hand and see if it “sparks joy” or makes you feel happy. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, donate or toss it.

 

3. Get Moving.

SpokeLit LED Wheel Light

While it may already be the last day of February, there’s no time like the present to start working towards your health goals. Pull the bike out of the garage or take off on an evening run to get some fresh air and be active at the same time. You can even bring the whole family along to spend quality time together while working up a sweat. Clip a TagLit Rechargeable Magnetic LED Marker to your clothing or a SpokeLit Rechargeable Wheel Light to your bike so you remain visible to drivers when you're out after sundown.

 

4. Give Back.

LeapDay-GiveBack

One surefire way to make yourself feel proud is to volunteer for a cause you're passionate about. Volunteering opportunities are endless, but some ideas to get you started are helping out at a local food bank, animal shelter, or senior center, participating in a public spaces cleanup, or you can even opt to donate blood. Websites like VolunteerMatch and JustServe are helpful resources for finding projects and organizations in your area. You'll be amazed at how good you'll feel after giving back to your community.

 

5. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your extra day off.  

S-Biner Ahhh... Aluminum Bottle Opener

In the same way that Leap Day adds balance to our calendar year, this extra day can add balance to your life, too. If you’re always sticking to a schedule and on-the-go, this is your chance to recharge, guilt-free. Crack open a cold one (with an Ahhh... Aluminum Bottle Opener of course), recline that chair, and enjoy a free day of relaxation, binge watching, and maybe even a nap. And if you took our advice on #4, you definitely deserve it!

 

What are you planning to do with your Leap Day? Let us know in the comments and we wish you an adventurous, productive, or relaxing free day!

Topics: leap year, Garage Organization, Gear Ties, Leap Day, Adventure, Bike, DIY, Home, Organization, Fitness, runoff, waterproof bags, dry bags, Steelie

Life’s Adventure Kit: Vanlife Edition

Posted by Sunny Stroeer on Jul 18, 2019 10:27:24 AM

By Nite Ize Field Team Member Sunny Stroeer

I am many things: I am an adventurer, a record breaker, a wife; a Harvard MBA, a recovering strategy consultant, and – as of the last four years - I am also somewhat of a serial #vanlifer. 

Vanlife has long graduated from its renegade counter-culture beginnings to cover a broad spectrum: from folks living out of their barely converted hatchbacks all the way to the fully-tricked-out $80,000 Sprinter van with 4WD and a custom interior that would give the most luxurious RV a run for its money.

My personal vanlife experience falls closer to the humble end of the spectrum - I bought my first dream mobile in 2015, an old Chevy Astro van named Eddie, for less than $3k on Craigslist. Ripping out the seats and a bit of basic carpentry gave me just enough headroom and storage space to have a little mobile adventure basecamp for one.

Sunny and Eddie

Paul and MerlotThree years and one wedding later, it was time to upsize so my husband Paul and I could live on the road as a couple. Once again, we scoured Craigslist and finally settled on a 2003 Ford E350 XL - a spacious but rusty bargain for $7k - whom we named Merlot the Van.

If there’s one thing that I have learned in my years of living on the road, it’s the importance of space and functionality in a van.  That’s why I’ve come to use and love a ton of Nite Ize gear; here are five of my favorites that I work with on a daily basis:

 

Gear Ties. Everybody loves Gear Ties, but it’s hard to overstate their usefulness in the van. We use them to secure our curtains, as a handy paper towel holder, for bookends, to hang lanterns, to organize our door storage space, and as a sunglasses holder in the driver’s cab. We’ve even used Gear Ties to fix a loose mounting bracket on our exhaust system that was causing a rattle!

Vanlife Gear Ties

GearLine. The GearLine is one of my new favorite tools. With space at a premium it’s important for us to be able to use hanging space efficiently, and that’s exactly what the GearLine was designed for. Back in my old one-person van I actually used to (poorly) jerry-rig a homemade version of the same concept, stringing paracord and spiffing it up with knots for spacers… but that didn’t work very well for anything but the lightest loads.  You can imagine my joy when I got my hands on my first GearLine.

Vanlife GearLine

Steelie. The Steelie phone mount system is an obvious choice for any driver, but we get a lot more use out of it than handsfree navigation: many surfaces in Merlot The Van are metal, and that means that my phone sticks to just about anything!

Pro tip: even though I use the Steelie Phone Socket directly on the van’s walls, you may want to consider using a Steelie Dash Mount to keep painted surfaces scratch-free.

05_SunnyStroeer_NI_Vanlife

Vanlife RunOff BagsRunOff bags. The new line of RunOff bags has been getting tons of attention - and awards - since their introduction a few months ago. I love them in the van for three reasons:

    • Their revolutionary zipper seals gear and documents from the dust, dirt and spills that are all an inevitable part of living in a van.

    • They are hangable - remember what I said about the GearLine above!

    • The bags’ clear windows mean I know exactly what’s inside.

SlapLit LED Drink Wraps. Okay, these are just pure fun. One of the best parts of vanlife is getting to enjoy amazing views and a cold one at the end of a hot day of playing outdoors. Having different colored SlapLits to insulate, tell apart and light up our beverages is practical, yes, but mostly it’s simply just awesome.

07_SunnyStroeer_NI_VanLife

Now… these five items may be my favorites, but they are far from the full list of Nite Ize gear that Paul and I rely on to keep us organized and efficient in the van. We use a plethora of S-Biners, Nite Ize lanterns and headlamps - and the HideOut Magnetic Key Box has saved us more than once from getting locked out of the van.

08_SunnyStroeer_NI_Vanlife

In the end, vanlife is all about freedom and mobility - but in order to enjoy that freedom and mobility, you first have to learn to navigate minimal space in an organized and efficient way; that’s why Nite Ize is with us every mile of the road.

10_SunnyStroeer_NI_Vanlife-1

 

Follow Sunny's adventures on Instagram at @sstroeer, visit her website and blog at www.sunnystroeer.com, and check out her organization Aurora Women’s Expeditions (AWE) at @awexpeditions and www.awexpeditions.org.

Topics: Gear Ties, outdoors, Adventure, Field Team, Organization, runoff, waterproof bags

Miss Adventure: Move over Macgyver

Posted by Kristin Butcher on May 30, 2019 11:32:04 AM

The best adventures are half grand explorations. And half trying to keep it from going off the rails.

The plan was simple -- or as simple as it could be for a backcountry journey involving 100 miles of off-grid desert biking, 15 people, two support trucks, no cell service, four pounds of frozen meat, a blow piano, a few cases of beer, and a slightly soggy birthday cake.

As part of an annual birthday adventure, a friend of a friend organized a three-day trip mountain biking Utah's iconic White Rim trail.Since I only knew one person on the trip, I did what any newcomer to a high-consequence social situation would do.

I volunteered to bring all the tools, taking on the responsibility of fixing anything that could (and would) go wrong.Off-grid dessert biking in Moab

Here's the thing: I’m a tool junkie. MacGyver is my personal spirit animal. And I work for Nite Ize. By the time I finished packing, my tool bag weighed around 30 lbs and contained everything from kevlar tape to a full set of Allen wrenches.

It turns out that my bag of tricks would be put to the test before we even started pedaling. Over the next three days, as problem after problem arose, I was able to channel my inner Mary Poppins and pull just the right solution out of my ever-present tool bag. 

 

PROBLEM: Only having one key for a truck that will be driven by 15 different people. What could go wrong?

SOLUTION: Rig together a glow-in-the-dark, Bluetooth-enabled key tether using some Gear Ties, a super bright NextGlo marker kept, and the Tile from my key chain.

No one is losing these keys now.

 

PROBLEM: Accidentally launching your dry foods container out the unlatched rear hatch.

SOLUTION: Move aside duct tape, this is a job for the CamJam Tie Down Strap. After double wrapping and cinching the webbing around the structurally unsound container, we once again had a home for our chips, bread, and beans (so many beans).

CamJam Tie Down Strap

 

PROBLEM: Dropping your phone while taking the obligatory #liveunplugged Instagram selfie.

SOLUTION: Butterfingered friends, rejoice! The Hitch has a stretchy coil that I form into a wrist-strap to keep my phone secure during sketchy selfies. Combined with a Clip Case Rugged Holster, and I can have my selfie without my phone eating it too.

No more dropped phones due to precarious selfies

 

PROBLEM: Making hamburgers for 15 hungry people who just rode 30 miles using a four pound slab of frozen meat.

SOLUTION: Create a double boiler out of a pot and a baking sheet, then use a foil topper to channel steam upward to speed up the process. Pro tip: A cold beer wrapped in a SlapLit Drink Wrap makes it easier to forget about your stomach pangs as you wait for dinner to thaw.

Camp Life

 

PROBLEM: Lubes, grease, ThreadLoc, oh my! To keep the bikes running, I needed to pack several liquids in my tool bag that were almost guaranteed to leak.

SOLUTION: By packing my liquids in the RunOff Waterproof Toiletry Bag, I was able to keep my liquids organized, and more importantly, contained.

RunOff Waterproof Toiletry Bag

 

PROBLEM: We needed our two way radios to be accessible, but not in the way.

SOLUTION: S-Biners to the rescue! You can never have too many S-Biner dual carabiners in your tool bag.

S-Biners to the rescue!

 

PROBLEM: After sweating for three days under the Utah sun, it's now time to pack up those stinky clothes and drive several hours back home.

SOLUTION: Packing all my odiferous gear in a RunOff bag, which is waterproof, compressible, and does a fine job of sealing in the stink.

RunOff Packing Cube

 

Whether adventure takes you off the grid or down the street, Nite Ize products have a knack for solving all the little unexpected moments that make adventures memorable.

Solve those little unexpected problems with Nite Ize

 

Topics: Gear Ties, outdoors, Adventure, "travel", Fitness

Nite Ize 2018 Field Team Gift Guide

Posted by Cassie Ryan on Dec 7, 2018 2:16:58 PM

For this year’s Holiday Gift Guide, we asked our Field Team to send us their top two to four Nite Ize products they are giving this season. As expected, Gear Ties came in as a very popular stocking stuffer. Check out the full list from our team and get into the spirit!

 

Anthony Johnson: Action Adventurer & Outdoor Photographer

“The Steelie car mount is our go-to for gifting. It is something that everyone can use, and a great stocking stuffer.”

“We also tend to gift the Nite Ize Radiant 300 Rechargeable Lantern. We've given these to our family and friends who enjoy the outdoors, whether through backpacking or camping or just enjoying grilling on their back porch. It is also fantastic that you can charge other USB devices off the lantern, making this particularly valuable gift for friends and family who spend time in the backwoods.”

“ Finally, for our cycling friends, we have given the Nite Ize Rechargeable Bike Light. You can never have too many bike lights, and these are so bright and rechargeable. The beam is great and makes it easy to see for early morning and evening rides. The multiple settings also allow you to use the lights to alert cars you're on the road. It's a ready safety feature.”

Radiant Rechargeable Bike Light 

Joe Allen: Outdoor Sportsman, HuntCo on The Pursuit Channel

“I always have 3 or 4 attached to my pack in the field. The uses are infinite. On a particular occasion I used one Gear Tie to secure all four legs before loaded this deer into the bed of a truck.”

Gear Tie Reusable Rubber Twist Tie

“This is another staple of my field pack to have handy in a pinch. I pulled out my lantern during this alligator hunt for extra light while securing the jaws and tagging the gator.”

“Our lamps are with us on every hunt to get us in and out in the dark. The red light option provides great light that isn’t as offensive to wild animals.”

INOVA STS Headlamp

“The S-Biner stays on every pack to help attach the extras.”

 

Jason Epperson: Family Travel & Adventure Blogger

“We love the SlapLit LED Bracelets for the kids. They're a great way to keep track of the kids when they’re running around outside at night, at home or in a campground.”

SlapLit LED Slap Wraps

“Gear Ties are great for any handyperson to wrap up extension cords and hoses, but they're also great for kids to play with to make 3D shapes.”


Willi Schmidt: Outdoor Sportsman

“S-Biners are a must for me in the field. I keep a couple attached to my backpack at all times, making it very convenient to attach items to the outside of my pack, quickly and easily. Whether they are plastic or metal, they don't add any meaningful weight and they get a lot of use.”

S-Biner Dual Carabiner

“I keep Gear Ties in my pack and in my truck. Many times they have come in handy, most notably when my truck's wheel lining was coming loose. They were the only thing that would work and they kept the truck together for the remainder of the hunt and the return drive home.”

Gear Tie Reusable Twist Tie

“This is a go-to lantern on my hunting adventures. With 300 lumens, it gives off plenty of light in a cabin, tent or even in the back of a truck. The ability to re-charge the battery and charge other electronic devices from the lantern make it very practical.”

“The Inova STS headlamp by Nite Ize is an absolute must for me when hunting.  It gives me hands free light for going into my hunting area. The Swipe-To-Shine, 265 lumens is easy to use and plenty bright. The ability use the red light and not spook game as an added bonus.”

 

Heidi Kumm: Fitness Buff & Dog Lover

“We love the dog stuff, especially the light up toys now that it's dark out before we get home from work! The GlowStreak ball + Flashflight Dog Discuit are a daily go-to!”

Flashflight Dog Discuit LED Flying Disc

 

Jose Flores: Outdoor Sportsman

“I love the Steelies. Whether I’m in my boat, truck, UTV, or wherever, I find something I can stick it to!”

Steelie Vent Mount Kit

“We love the dog stuff also! The light-up ball and flying disc are easy favorites for our dogs, as it’s all they can play with outside after 4 PM here in Alaska!”

“This season I started to use the lanterns and headlamps much more. I really like the new design on the headlamps. The rechargeable option for the lanterns was a hit this fall.”

Radiant 300 Rechargeable Lantern

 

Tara Schatz: Action Adventurer & Dog Trainer

"In the winter, we have no choice but to walk our pups in the dark. We use the Spotlit clip-on LED lights to keep our dark dogs visible to others, whether we're on the trail or walking through town."

SpotLit LED Carabiner Light

"Gear ties are indispensable for hikers, campers, and outdoor adventurers. We use them to pack our backpacks, keep our gear inside of our canoe, and organizing for road trips."

"I take a lot of solo road trips, and the Steelie Dash Mount is the best smartphone mount I've ever used. It provides easy access to my maps and my music."

 

Rob “Reker” Kretsch: Outdoor Sportsman

“As stocking stuffers, I’m giving out the See’em Spoke Lights for the little one’s new bike and Gear Ties and CamJam Tie Down straps for all the adults. The Gear Ties are by far the most used piece of gear I own.”

CamJam Tie Down Straps

 

Whether you’re shopping for outdoor enthusiasts, tech and gadget gurus, DIY masters, kids or dogs, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list!

Topics: Visibility and Safety, hunting, outdoors, LED Dog Products, Adventure, Field Team

Field Team Spotlight: Extinct or Alive Host Forrest Galante

Posted by Dave Taylor on Nov 6, 2018 12:06:12 PM

From catching venomous snakes as a child to searching the wild for animals thought to be extinct, Animal Planet  star Forrest Galante has a story (or ten) to tell.

Q: Hi Forrest! Tell us about yourself and how you got into wildlife adventuring?

I grew up in the Southern African Bush of Zimbabwe Africa. When I wasn't on safari with my family, which is what they did, I was living on a farm so I’ve been surrounded by wildlife my entire life. In fact, I’ve been involved with wildlife from a very young age when I used to catch and sneak venomous snakes into the house without my parents knowing. Now I do it professionally!

Q: What is wildlife adventuring? How does it differ from people just encountering wild animals?

I don't know that there is a specific difference for wildlife adventuring. I'm a scientist, a wildlife biologist by trade, and I've taken that biology to an extreme level where it's an adventure to do the type of surveys and studies that I do on an ongoing basis. A biologist may conduct a survey in one location for a short amount of time, but as a wildlife adventurer, I conduct lots of surveys in extremely remote places throughout the world. Oftentimes no other people have ever been there, let alone a western academic.

Q: Your Animal Planet TV show Extinct or Alive is fun and crazy. How did you come up with the show idea and what's the craziest experience you've had while filming the show?

You’re right, Extinct or Alive is fun and it’s crazy. The idea came when a producer approached me and said, "Hey, you're a crazy wildlife biologist and I love the stuff you do, I have this idea for tracking down supposedly extinct animals, do you think any of them could still be alive?" I turned to him and said, "As a matter of fact I know that some of these ostensibly extinct animals are still alive because my grandfather discovered a coelacanth that had been thought to have been extinct for 66 million years. If he can find that, I'm certain that we can find some of these other not-really-extinct animals." That's how the show came about.

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The craziest experience I've had, well, it’s a long list, from climbing treetops in the Madagascan jungle canopy to chasing giant lemurs to repelling down thousand foot cliffs to seeing the grind at Wale Slaughter in the Faroe Islands. There have been a lot of ups and downs, high and low moments! If have to pick just one, though, the craziest experience was actually uncovering evidence of the Zanzibar leopard, a large 100 pound cat believed to be extinct for over a century. That was the pinnacle of my career, and was by far the craziest and best experience.

Q: You are known as the perfect combination of Steve Irwin, Bear Grylls and Jacques Cousteau. Can you tell us what inspires you about each of these three adventurers?

I think the names speak for themselves. Steve Irwin is my original hero, the king of wildlife media, the man who entertained us all by showing how incredible wildlife can be. He is just a legend.

Bear Grylls and his survival knowledge, his showmanship, his expertise in the outdoors and getting through tough situations is unparalleled and he's just the most entertaining guy that's been on television in a long time.

Jacques Cousteau, what a hero of underwater adventure. His discoveries beneath the surface are unparalleled, he is an incredible adventurer, incredible seaman, ocean explorer, a six-time world record holding freediver, spear fisherman, hundred-ton ship captain, and dive master.

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I feel like all of my accomplishments just pale in comparison to anything Jacques Cousteau ever did. These are three truly inspirational men, and to be considered a combination of those three is tremendously flattering.

Q: What pets do you have? We expect that they're probably quite exotic and possibly numerous too.

Hang on to your hat! My wife calculated that I have 91 pets, though that includes our pond which has over 20 turtles. We also have a miniature horse, a miniature donkey, a miniature pig who is a rescue from Hurricane Katrina, a giant cicada, various tortoises, peacocks, guinea fowl, turkeys, chickens, giant Flemish rabbits, dogs and snakes. I have two snakes that I'm looking at right now on my computer desk. Oh! And a bunch of hermit crabs too.

It's a long list and they're almost all rescues, something that we love to do. We also love taking care of them too.

screenshot-4Q: If you could travel anywhere on the planet for your next adventure, where would you head?

The number one place on my bucket list right now is the Pantanal. It's in the Brazilian Amazon and is the largest wetland in South America. Clear water, giant caimans, fresh water turtles and huge anacondas, not to mention jaguars and all the crazy South American fauna. I've been to South America before but I've never made it to the Pantanal, so that is top of my list at the moment.

Q: When you're not wrestling dangerous and exotic creatures, what's your day job?

This is it! My day job is planning for the wrestling of dangerous and exotic creatures. I spent tons of time doing research, investigating stories of extinct creatures, looking at these critically endangered animals, and time-sensitive situations, and then I work towards funding, financing, filming and exploring them all. My day job when I'm not in the bush is planning how to get back into the bush.

Q: What’s your favorite Nite Ize product and why?

Oh man, this is such an easy one for me. It's the INOVA® T10R™. It is the greatest flashlight on earth. I mean it’s unbelievable how bright it is and how well it works. Mine's been underwater, through torrential downpours, dropped in the mud, dropped off cliffs, and it keeps going. It's absolutely bulletproof and that intense spotlight beam is the most essential tool that I have for spotting wildlife at night. If I walked through the jungle at night looking for things up in the canopy without that INOVA T10R, I would be unable to spot half the animals that I’ve identified in the last year.

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People love the flashlight, too. Thanks to your team at Nite Ize, I've been able to share it with three or four different crew members and they all say it's now one of their most valued possessions. I cannot recommend that flashlight enough!

After the T10R,  Gear Ties® are a huge win too. Heck, Gear Ties hold my life together. From the cable that is currently attached to my iPhone with a microphone on it, to cords all around my house, to keeping spear guns together on my boat, to strapping things to the struts of helicopters, I use Gear Ties for everything. They are in every corner of my life!

Q: What else is happening in your world, Forrest?

My passions are deep and intense. I'm an avid rugby player, love the game and coach youth rugby. I do a lot of freediving and spearfishing. I harvest all of my own edible proteins sustainably from the ocean and do a ton of mushroom foraging too.

And I use Nite Ize products for all of it! Whether it is the INOVA flashlight or the headlamps or the Gear Ties to hold my dive gear together or the GearLine®, all of it is super valuable to me and I'm so grateful to have your support and innovations. Thank you guys!

Q: Great stuff, really fun to talk with you. How can people keep up with your adventures and find you on social media?

You can find me as @Forrest.Galante on Instagram, @ForrestGalante on Facebook and @ForrestGalante on Twitter. I do have a YouTube channel. It's mostly diving and spearfishing related, but I’m much more active on the other three channels.

And then there’s the TV show. Check out Extinct or Alive on Animal Planet. It's available on Animal Planet Go or Amazon at any time. It's a great show, it's family friendly, it's fun, it's an adventure show and it inspires hope and conservation. Kids love it, adults love it. If you're into wildlife, if you're into adventure, please check it out!

Topics: Adventure, Field Team

One Man, One Row Boat, and 2,485 Miles of Ocean: The Colin Sanders Interview

Posted by Dave Taylor on Oct 19, 2018 1:32:04 PM

Nite Ize Field Team member Colin Sanders accomplished a feat most would consider impossible when he rowed for 83 days straight to cross the Atlantic, alone, in a rowboat. We were able to talk to him about his adventures, struggles, and triumphs -- and about how this massive goal was fueled by wanting to help others.

 

Q: Hi Colin! First off, tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into ultra long distance rowing?

About four years ago I decided I needed a grand adventure, something that would challenge me physically, mentally, emotionally and even financially. I spent a lot of time skiing in the mountains when I was younger and always suffered from the altitude. Climbing Everest was out. To be honest, climbing Everest seemed mundane in some ways anyway, since thousands of people have summited at this point.


Solo rowing the Atlantic was different and definitely more unusual. Few have done it and it fit my personality better. When people ask me why I rowed across the Atlantic Ocean my answer is typically “ego and self-gratification”. Sometimes I wish there was a more profound motivation but at age 64 I think I had something to prove to myself, that I could take on something incredibly tough and succeed.

Q: How does a multi-week rowing journey work? Do you row for 8+ hours a day and rest the other 16? Heck, don’t you drift while you're not rowing? 

I rowed for 10-14 hours each day. At the beginning of the trip I had a routine where I rowed for three hours then took 15 minutes off. Again and again. As I got further across the ocean and started to wear down physically I had to shorten the shifts and take more frequent breaks.

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I would usually start just as the sun was rising because rowing in the dark just isn’t fun, particularly when the seas are rough.

When I stowed the oars at night I just drifted. Depending on how big and steep the waves were that evening, I had to decide whether to drift free, put a warp off the stern or para anchor.

Note: A “warp” is a thick line that provides drag and some directional stability downwind and a para anchor, also called a drogue, is about the size of a bushel basket and gives the boat enough drag to produce excellent downwind stability.

It was always a fine line because I always wanted to pick up as much free distance as possible by drifting and the MRE drag I had, the less I would drift. Insufficient directional stability downwind could end up turning the boat sideways to the wind and waves and even end up with the boat capsizing.

And capsize it did. New Year’s Eve while the boat was on the warp. She got hit by a large wave as it broke and ended up rolling over and over several times. Anything not locked down flew everywhere, including a liter of olive oil!

The boat righted itself but after composing myself I had to go on deck in the pitch dark - in a really choppy sea with big waves - to pull the warp in and set the drogue. Setting the drogue isn’t easy even in the smoothest of waters because it uses a bridle attached to each side of the stern, but in big waves, high wind and darkness? It was very tough.

Q: How do you train for a rowing marathon like you did? You just rowed across the Atlantic Ocean! How on Earth did you prep for that?

I had a really great trainer. It was a partly strength in the upper body, but a lot more about core strength and flexibility. We spent a lot of time on stretching to ensure that my back and core were the strongest possible. I actually spent very little time with an indoor rowing machine because it has little in common with ocean rowing when you often only have one oar in the water at any given time. 

Q: Your Trans-Atlantic journey was from Puerto de Mogan in the Canary Islands to English Harbour in Antigua. How did you choose that route and did you ever run afoul of whales, sharks or enormous cargo ships en route?

Actually, that particular route is the classic course to get across the Atlantic Ocean. Originally, I was going to head for Barbados, but I just couldn’t get far enough south to make that a viable destination. Halfway across Stokey my UK-based navigator said, “You’re going to Antigua, mate!”.

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I did see the odd cargo ship but really not that many ships at all. Part of that is the vastness of the ocean: They could have been passing within five miles and I would have never known. In terms of wildlife, I remember seeing one pilot whale, lots of dolphins and several swordfish but no sharks at all.

Q: What’s one aspect of the row that was the toughest?

The emotional and mental side of the journey was the most difficult. Being completely alone for 83 days was hard, especially in tough sea conditions. The loss of my music 28 days out was a real blow to my emotional state too: I had spent a year curating downloads on Spotify, never realizing that you have to sign in every 30 days to keep the downloads active. I didn’t know that and one month into the trip suddenly had no music at all. I ended up giving monologues and speeches on a wide variety of subjects that I knew something about, singing songs, coming up with thought experiments, and trying not to go crazy out there in the middle of the ocean. It wasn’t easy, but I made it! 

Q: What's your favorite Nite Ize product and why?

I started out with a lot of Nite Ize gear, but to be honest, it wasn’t until I was doing the actual row that I realized the excellent quality of all the products. The Gear Ties I used every single day. It was typically so rough at sea that it was critical that they quickly and easily secured equipment on the deck. I also used the S-Biner Marine to secure equipment that I viewed as “mission critical”, including my multitools and water bottles. They were on deck every single day and at the end of the journey none of them had a single spot of rust. I could hardly believe it, because so many other tools or pieces of my kit rusted or corroded with the constant salt water exposure. The Nite Ize equipment never, ever corroded!

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Q: Are you ready to circumnavigate the entire Earth in your boat now? What is your next grand adventure?

Ummmm no. The Atlantic was enough at 4000 km (2485 miles). Not sure what my next adventure will be, but it’ll be something. I have lots of living to do yet!

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your charity A Million Possibilities?

I raised about $150K for Community Living Ontario. Community Living supports people like my son Jeff, who has intellectual disabilities. We came up with the name “A Million Possibilities” hoping to raise $1 for each stroke I took crossing the Atlantic. Ultimately, we didn’t raise a million dollars but we were still very happy with the results. 

Congrats on your remarkable achievement, Colin. We look forward to hearing about your next adventure!

 

Topics: outdoors, Adventure, Field Team

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