‘Adventure Journalism’

Stephen Regenold, a.k.a. “Gear Junkie,” wrote last month on his work life and hybrid career as an “adventurer journalist” for the blog VentureThere.com. This is an excerpt from the story. . .

March 25, 2010. It’s tax season again, and as I fill out forms and add up receipts to tally expenses for my accountant, I see literally the fine lines that define my career. Was that camping trip last July, where I tested gear for a magazine, work or play? (A little of both.) How much of that new bike I purchased can I write off as a “business” expense? In truth, I am a lucky man to be able to do what I love. I get paid to test gear and travel to report on outdoors adventure.

Earlier this year, my trip to do a major adventure race in Chile epitomized the work/play dichotomy of my career and my life. It is indeed a bit of a case study in what I do. I thought a quick dissection might be interesting to lay out. . .

The story starts (or ends, as it is) in late February. It was just a couple days before the major earthquake struck Chile that month when my flight landed in Minneapolis. I was back in the USA after almost three weeks away exploring the tip of the South American continent as a competitor in the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race. The earthquake made for a close call and a dramatic (and sad) wrap-up to my multi-month involvement with Chile, where I’d completed an expedition in the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego.

Regenold “working” in Patagonia; photo by T.C. Worley

The race was a head-swirling, knee-killing event, including more than 350 miles of wilderness traversed on mountain bike, kayak, and on foot through forests, deserts, mountains, and bogs. In total, we were on the move for six days, three hours, and 31 minutes before finding the finish line on the remote Isla Navarino near Cape Horn.

As a journalist, I have long prided myself on immersion into my stories and my subject matter. The Wenger Patagonian Race was the epitome of this theme. In addition to “live” coverage of the race on our website by a separate Gear Junkie reporter who traveled with my team to Chile, I took notes (mostly mental, a few written) while on the course. I interviewed other racers and staff. After the race, still delusional in a hostel in a remote Chilean town, I scrawled out eight pages of thoughts in a journal — a mind dump after an experience I may never relive.

Back home a few days later, I got to work. As a syndicated columnist, my reviews and stories appear in multiple publications. I had many story assignments lined up before I left for Chile. And since returning, I have been pitching stories to publications that range from niche adventure titles to mainstream media like daily newspapers.

Unpacking a bike, day one of the Wenger race; photo by T.C. Worley

Since the Wenger race ended, I have written extensively on the event and gear used in the race for my syndicate newspapers, for Outside magazine online, and for the Gear Junkie blog. Indeed, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of long days writing, editing, sorting photos, and organizing information and notes to critique and report on the dozens of pieces of gear I employed during the event. It is a real “job” when I get home, a desk, an office, and a laptop computer included.

But the results are neat to see. A few examples already published include my “Gear Manifesto” article on GearJunkie.com; “Patagonia Race Report”; columns for Outside magazine online, like this (click to link); a feature story for a daily newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune; and my column, which appears in papers like the Billings Gazette and the Casper Star-Tribune.

Overall, the race was a success on several levels. Both as a journalist and a racer, the Patagonian experience was extremely fulfilling. Not to mention — despite a persistent, lingering ache behind my right kneecap — a huge amount of fun at the same time.

Signing off for now. I gotta get back to work. . .

—Stephen Regenold

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Stephen Regenold is Founder and Editor-In-Chief of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for nearly two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of four small kids, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.

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