Maximizing Adventure Travel In The Utah Desert

Posted by Cassie Ryan on Jun 17, 2021 2:24:12 PM
Maximizing Adventure Travel in the Utah Desert
Written and photographed by Sunny Stroeer
 
Imagine a quaint, red rock western town that used to be one of the most isolated spots in the lower 48.  What comes to mind?  You may be thinking Moab or Sedona, but the town I am talking about is further off the beaten path than either of those: it is a small pioneer town in Southern Utah by the name of Kanab.
 
Kanab is located smack between Zion, Bryce, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is a fantastic jumping off point for many of the Colorado Plateau’s incredible national parks; it is also home to me personally, and to the guides of Dreamland Safari Tours - a hardy bunch of most excellent backcountry desert guides with decades of experience in delighting guests by creating access to hard-to-reach locations like the Wave, White Pocket, and more. 

 

Camping at White Pocket in Arizona
 
If you love hiking adventures and the varied geology of Utah, you have most likely heard about the Wave — it is both an iconic destination and incredibly tightly permitted: in any given year, upwards of a quarter million people apply in the hopes of obtaining one of the ~64 available daily permits. White Pocket is the Wave’s lesser known brother formation: it is a geologic and photographic wonderland, just about to burst onto the adventure aficionado scene, and not yet subject to permit regulations.  
 The Wave in Arizona at night
 
At Dreamland Safari Tours, we guide guests to both the Wave and White Pocket, as well as many other incredible locations – and we venture into the backcountry every day of the year. We need our gear to live up to the demands of an extreme environment where temperatures can easily vary by forty or fifty degrees over the course of a 24-hour cycle, and early-evening katabatic winds cascading off the Colorado Plateau create daily opportunities for sandblasted exfoliation. Needless to say: given the challenging conditions of our "office", we expect nothing but maximum performance and durability from our gear.  That’s why we rely on Nite Ize both to light our way during the many remote overnight trips that we host, and to help secure our gear and loads not just en route to a destination but also once at camp. 
 
Radiant Rechargeable Glow Sticks light the path
 
Among our lighting favorites are not just Nite Ize Radiant Headlamps and Lanterns, but particularly also the rechargeable glow sticks that we regularly use as an environmentally friendly way to light the path for our astro photographer guests to find their way back to camp after a night-time shoot. Prior to using Radiant Rechargeable Glow Sticks, we brought single use glow sticks that would make their way to the landfill once used; now, we simply collect our Radiant Glow Sticks at the end of the night, plug them into a USB charger, and they’re ready to go again for the next trip. As an outdoor company and proud member of 1% For The Planet, being environmentally conscious is important to us, and Nite Ize helps us reduce our impact.
 
Gear Ties have thousands of uses
 
In addition to an assortment of rechargeable lighting solutions, we of course also use tried-and-true S-Biners, GearTies and tie downs for every use in the book - from securing loads on the back of our pickup trucks, to hanging water dispensers to mounting easy-access paper towel holders: Nite Ize gear is infinitely versatile and has an almost unlimited number of uses, which is exactly the reason that we at Dreamland Safari Tours love it. By having Nite Ize as integral part of our guides’ gear setup, we get to maximize the time we spend on being fully focused on our guests - thanks to the peace of mind that comes with using awesome gear. 
 
Dreamland Camp at Night

 

Topics: Gear Ties, outdoors, Adventure, Field Team, "travel", camping, headlamp

How I Optimized My Gear (And My Mind) For the Iditarod Trail

Posted by Cassie Ryan on May 25, 2021 11:44:49 AM
Sunny Stroeer Iditerod Trail
By guest blogger (& record-setting endurance athlete) Sunny Stroeer

 

Imagine wanting to ski 350 miles through Alaska - next week, without much training or real experience on cross-country skis.  That’s the situation I found myself in a few months ago:  I was signed up to ski the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 350-mile race through the interior of Alaska.  The only challenge was that I am neither a skier, nor had I ever completed a 350 mile non-stop race — and in true “me” fashion I didn’t have the time to properly train for this behemoth of an adventure, either.  

Iditerod Trail Invitational
 
You may ask “Why would anyone WANT to do something like that?” That’s a great question, but it’s not what I want to talk about today. Instead, I want to talk about the how: HOW does one go about pulling off 350 miles on minimal training and in a new discipline in extreme cold? The answer is this: strategy.  Race strategy, gear strategy, and mental strategy.  When you find yourself in a situation where you are swimming upstream, be it as a rookie on the Iditarod Trail or while preparing for a stressful and difficult deadline at work, optimizing your strategy is critical.  
 
I knew that I had little margin for error in Alaska.  Failing to finish the race was the smallest risk that I faced - there were more severe consequences such as hypothermia, frostbite, and the possibility of real harm to limb if not life. As such, I put a lot of forethought into deciding both my strategy for the race itself, as well as into my strategy for the gear that would keep me alive.
 
Radiant 170 Task Light
 
Here’s what optimizing my setup looked like on the gear side: rather than pulling a sled, and having to work through both a new-to-me mode of travel (skiing) and the mechanics of dragging a sled over at times steep terrain, I opted to carry all my gear in a backpack.  I also knew that the biggest and potentially fatal danger out there was the possibility of breaking through the ice and getting wet - which, in subzero temperatures, can be a death sentence if you don’t have dry clothes to change into and ways to make a fire.  That’s why I kept a fire starter kit on my body, and carried a designated survival set of dry clothing in a Nite Ize RunOff Pouch: I needed to know that these clothes would stay dry even if I, and my backpack, were to be submerged in water. 
 
Another important gear consideration was lighting: I knew that I would have to travel through many a night during this ten-day race, and with 12 hours of darkness and the extreme cold of the Alaskan night I needed not just a reliable and rechargeable headlamp — I needed a multi-level, lightweight and adaptable lighting system to help me see through whiteouts and create depth perception in flat white light.  I choose a combination of my trusty INOVA STS PowerSwitch headlamp, and the new Radiant 170 Rechargeable Task Light which I attached to the chest strap of my pack.  I also used GearTies to secure extra gear to my pack, which came in beyond handy when one of my bindings broke at mile 250 and I was faced with the task of rigging a ski carrying system so I could complete the remaining 100 miles on foot. 
 
Gear Ties for Skis
 
But I didn’t just focus on optimizing my gear for the Iditarod; I also went into the race with a clear overarching strategy for how to get through those 350 miles, and a mental strategy for how to overcome the emotional low points and moments of wanting to give up that I knew I would inevitably encounter.  My overall strategy was simple: since I wasn’t properly trained going into this adventure, I needed to use the early days on the trail to get stronger rather than weaker. That’s why I did not push mileage in the first few days of the race: twenty to thirty miles a day was all I needed, and rather than trying to go hard and push through the nights I stopped every evening and got as much rest as possible - sometimes as much as eight hours of sleep.
 
In addition, I had made a simple rule for myself to optimize my mental game: I wouldn’t ever consider quitting, or dropping out of the race, before having slept.  The thing in ultra races is this: no matter how well prepared you are (or aren’t), there’ll be parts of the adventure that feel amazing and parts of it that feel terrible.  The secret is figuring out how to get through the terribly challenging sections without giving in to the temptation to quit. Often times that’s as easy as having quiet confidence in the knowledge that how you feel will change: no matter how difficult a section may be, or how exhausted you may feel - a good night’s rest will make all the difference.
 
Alaska Iditerod Trail
 
For what it’s worth, that’s precisely what I love about ultra-endurance challenges and the very reason that I WANT to take on crazy adventures like the Iditarod Trail Invitational: the lessons that the trail teaches me are 100% transferable to day-to-day events, and help me dial in my mental game across all areas of life. 
 
Iditerod Trail Invitational Finish Line
 

 
Want to read more about the Iditarod and other epic adventures?  Follow Sunny on Instagram or check out a long-form essay about her time on the Iditarod Trail on her blog over at www.sunnystroeer.com

Topics: Gear Ties, Adventure, Field Team, headlamp

VisualIZE: the first women’s run of the Grand Canyon R3.alt

Posted by Cassie Ryan on Jan 22, 2021 1:18:07 PM

The first women’s run of the Grand Canyon R3.alt

By Nite Ize Field Team Member Sunny Stroeer

What’s the hardest part of any adventure? To me, the answer is clear: it’s that moment where you turn a wish into a goal and start to plan.   Many adventures, big and small, never get off the ground… and often for a reason that we don’t like to talk about: for a lack of trying. I should know - big adventures are my jam, like the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim ALT (or, for short, “R3.alt”) route that I completed with two girlfriends of mine this past October.  

RunOff Waterproof Large Packing CubeThe R3.alt is adventure running at its finest. It entails a double crossing of the Grand Canyon, which means 42 miles and over 10,000ft of vertical gain on rugged trails far, far off the pavement.  If that wasn’t enough, here’s an added challenge: there is no bridge across the Colorado River connecting the trails of this particular route at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, so you have to swim across the mighty Colorado in order to complete the adventure; you can imagine how thankful I was for Nite Ize’s awesome RunOff Waterproof Bags which helped bombproof my essential non-waterproof gear to ensure it would stay dry while we swam across the river. Through the hours of darkness, I was grateful for my Nite Ize Headlamp.  After a botched first attempt, and despite a few minor epics on the second attempt, my friends and I managed to pull off the R3.alt in 22 hours and 27 minutes and established the first women’s speed record on this backcountry route. 

As you consider what the R3.alt requires, you might argue that the hardest part of this adventure should be running 42 miles, or swimming across the Colorado River.  But here’s the kicker: running long distances is what I do, and the swim across the Colorado turned out to be less difficult than we had imagined (in large part thanks to a dry season which meant warm and slow-flowing water). 

Christin Healy Grand Canyon R3 Alt

So for this adventure, as for so many others, the true crux of the R3.alt was formulating the concrete goal of making it happen: the moment where I moved my internal dialogue from a hypothetical "wow what a cool route - I wish I could try that someday!" to the concrete "I am going to attempt the R3.alt." That simple change in words is often all it takes to turn a wish into a goal, and to start making a plan for how to accomplish said goal.

If it’s that simple, what keeps us from bridging the gap between ‘wishing’ and ‘planning’? Let me go back to my Grand Canyon R3.alt adventure for a moment.  When I first heard about the R3.alt route in 2018, it immediately captured my attention - as a wild “someday” idea, not as a goal. I didn’t know if I’d be able to get to the trailhead, or if I’d have the chops to jump into the mighty Colorado and swim across it; my internal dialogue was all about reasons why I wouldn’t ever be able to do the R3.alt, rather than about ways I could attempt the route. 

First women's run of Grand Canyon R3.alt

The reason for that is part an old habit of negative self-talk, and part mental laziness. I firmly believe that most of us, myself included, use the phrase "I wish" far more frequently than we should.  That’s why I differentiate between three different categories of "I wish" statements; hear me out. 

  1. Figure of speech without true intent: “I wish I could stay to chat but I gotta go.”  
  2. An honest wish related to something that we cannot influence: “I wish I was taller” or “I wish you felt better.” 
  3. Deliberate distancing from a desirable outcome: “I wish I could quit my job” or “I wish I was a better writer” or “I wish I could go travel.” 

I personally spend most of my time in categories one and three, but I constantly try to remind myself that the first category serves no purpose outside of social interactions.  The third category, on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds like: it is a way for us to deliberately distance ourselves from a challenging goal that we think we want but that is scary, difficult and/or time-intensive to pursue.  That third category is the category that I like to invest in, and  where I put work into converting my ‘I-wish-I-could’ wild dreams into ‘I-want-to-and-I-am-going-to-figure-out-how’ game plans.

First women's run of Grand Canyon R3.alt

That’s the reason that my friends Lexi, Christin and I were able to pull off the R3.alt in the Grand Canyon this past October: not because we are the strongest athletes, but because we turned a wish into a goal and made a plan for how to get there. My wish for you in 2021 is that you may do the same in the areas of your life that matter to you.

Topics: outdoors, Adventure, Field Team, "travel", runoff

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

Light Up Your NightTime Dog Walks

Posted by Cassie Ryan on Nov 6, 2019 10:33:34 AM

Light Up Your Nighttime Dog Walks

By Pet Photographer Adam Goldberg, AGoldPhoto

Make nighttime walks with your pup simpler and safer

We recently teamed up with Nite Ize and the Seminole Heights Dog Pack to test LED products that make nighttime walks with your pup simpler and safer. With Daylight Savings Time ending, it gets darker earlier and the Nite Ize LED products make it easy to keep track of multiple pets in the dark.

The Seminole Heights Dog Pack typically convenes on Saturday mornings, so their members were excited to gather on a weeknight to light up the night.

Pictured below is the Nite Ize SpotLit Collar Light, which easily clips onto the D-ring of your pet’s collar or harness.  A simple push of a button lets you switch from a constant glow mode to an attention-grabbing flashing mode.

SpotLit Collar Light

We walked around the neighborhood and the SpotLit Collar Light attracted a lot of attention from passers-by, which is exactly what you want when walking in the dark.

We’ve met pups in the past that need to walk at unpopular hours due to leash aggression, so walking later at night is a necessity. Having a collar light will make those walks even safer.

SpotLit XL Rechargeable Collar Light

Darker dogs are especially difficult to see at night. The SpotLit Collar Light is necessity to ensure your night time walks are safe.

Nighttime Safety and Visibility For Dogs

We also tested out the NiteHowl Rechargeable LED Safety Necklace, which is made with flexible polymer that’s illuminated by bright LEDs and can be recharged for hours of nighttime fun and safety. The NiteHowl makes identifying multiple dogs easy with the ability to choose from one of three selectable colors (red, green, blue), plus a unique Disc-O mode. By illuminating the polymer with multiple colors at the same time, Disc-O mode creates a flowing color-blending pattern that’s as fun as it is functional.

NiteHowl Rechargeable LED Dog Safety Necklace

A crowd favorite during the Pack Walk was the Nite Ize Leash Lit. The Microlight will help light the path ahead and keep your favorite furry friend and yourself seen and safe. Four Gear Tie legs are attached to the bright white light so the LeashLit can easily wrap around leashes, treat bags, belts, and more to create a conveniently accessible light that is always right at hand. The design allows it to be quickly attached or removed, as well as stand on its own for hands-free lighting. Last but not least, the LeashLit will always be ready to shine a light on the inglorious task of cleaning up after Fido.

LeashLit

Stay safe with your pups at night!

All photos by AGoldPhoto

AGoldPhoto Pet Photography is made up of Tampa-based husband and wife team Mary and Adam Goldberg. AGoldPhoto hosts Pet Photo Shoot Fundraisers all over the country and raises awareness about pet rescue and adoption.

Topics: Dog Party, LED Pet Products, LED Dog Products, Field Team, Pets, LED Products

Running Wild In China

Posted by Cassie Ryan on Oct 2, 2019 10:24:32 AM
Fastest Known Time on the TransQilian
By Nite Ize Field Team Member Sunny Stroeer
 
Tears of gratitude are welling in my eyes. I slow down my steps, switch off my Radiant 300 Headlamp, and take a deep breath as I look up into the sea of brilliant stars. Even without a moon the night sky is on fire; the starlight is strong enough to faintly illuminate the boardwalk path that snakes out in front of me, leading farther into a beautiful Chinese mountain scape. 
 
It is 3:15am and I am by myself, deep in the Qilian mountains of remote Western China. A shooting star traces a bright arch in the sky above me. I shake my head in wonder, take another deep breath, and switch my light back on.  “Onwards - let’s do this!” I mumble to myself as I break into a light jog on the boardwalk.
 
Sunny Strooer Fastest Known Time
 
“This” is a speed record: I am in China to try and break the fastest known time (abbreviated as ‘FKT’ among trail runners) on a 65 mile loop course high up in the Qilian mountain range.
 
As an adventure athlete and ultra runner, long distance trails are my speciality. I am actually not a particularly fast runner, but thanks to years of training I can keep going for hours or even days without stopping. The higher up and harder the terrain, the better I tend to do.  That’s why this course, the TransQilian, is a compelling objective for me: it starts at 9,600ft above sea level and climbs as high as 14,600ft where it crosses a remote and technical mountain pass, nestled below towering glaciated peaks. 
 
Sunny Stroeer Ultra Runner
 
Right now I am only about a mile into the record attempt – I started running barely fifteen minutes ago, at 3am, after waking up in the middle of the night. I know that the boardwalk that I am following right now will give way to high alpine tundra and talus in just a few short miles, and I will no longer be alone: there are a handful of strong local Chinese ultra runners waiting to accompany me for sections of the course as pacers, to help with navigation and ensure my safety. 
 
This is what drives my deep sense of gratitude as I move through this starry mountain night: not only do I get to run here and experience a side of China that I didn’t know existed; I get to do it with the support of the budding local adventure community, feeling welcomed and embraced by a group of mountain athletes who are on the verge of changing the landscape of the global running world
 
In a matter of minutes I reach the end of the boardwalk and my first two Chinese pacers. Together we continue through the night, now on rough mountain trails that lead higher and higher up.  It is dark and cold and the altitude makes breathing more difficult with each step we take. We are near 13,000ft when dawn finally breaks; a warm glowing red and orange line on the horizon announces the arrival of the morning.  
 
Sunny Stroeer TransQilian
The difficulty of the terrain increases the higher we go.  We approach the course high point in a steep, talus filled bowl.  The line that I have chosen is different - steeper and more direct - than that of my companions; I can hear the worry in their voices as they shout at me in Chinese, presumably beckoning me to abandon my route choice and come join them in lower angle terrain.  I shout back in English, knowing they won’t be able to understand: “It’s fine! I’ll see you at the top…”
 
From here on out, the course blends into a flurry of trails and climbs and rocks and miles. Beautiful single track trail alternates with dirt roads through deep and narrow gorges; creek crossings lead to steep alpine tundra with wide open views. The first aid station goes by in a blur, together with a change of pacers; then another, and another - before I know it I am at the last aid station before the finish, fifty miles and almost eighteen hours into my record run. One last fuel break surrounded by a dozen pacers, crew and fans (I’m very glad for my SlapLit drink wrap here to keep tabs on which beverage is mine!) and I am on my way again.  
 
At this point my feet are tired and my legs are sore from a full night and day of racing - but my feeling of gratitude is as fresh as it was back on that boardwalk at the beginning of my run. I now know that I am about to break the TransQilian speed record by a good four hours… but that is not the point; because records are never the point: they are just a reason for others to care about the feat. At the end of the day, it’s the experience that counts - and what an adventure this one has been, start to finish! 
 
Sunny Stroeer FKT on the TransQilian
 
#LifesAdventureKit
 
—— 
Nite Ize Field Team member Sunny Stroeer completed the TransQilian course in 20 hours and 59 minutes, breaking the previous (men’s!) course record by over four hours. You can read more about the speed record and its genesis over on Sunny’s blog here and here, or follow Sunny’s adventures on Instagram
 
Sunny Stroeer
 
Sunny used the following Nite Ize Gear in China: 

Topics: Field Team

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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