Our Vargo Ambassador team is comprised of some the toughest and funnest people out there on the trail. However, we were missing something (quite obvious)–a female teammate! Luckily Rebecca Barfoot made herself known as she related a story to us about her gratitude for the Vargo Triad Stove as it “saved her butt” at 12,000′ and sub-freezing temps. We were riveted. We wanted her on the team!
Besides skills and experiences on and off the trail, Rebecca is a devoted artist whose work embodies her love for the outdoors. Well rounded and bad ass. Read on and get to know our newest Vargo Ambassador. Welcome, Rebecca!
Vargo: Welcome to Team Vargo, especially as its first female ambassador! Tell the rest of us a little about yourself and your back country experience.
Rebecca Barfoot: My most extensive back country experience is as a backpacker and, then, as a climber. Back in the 90’s my first major solo trip was on the Appalachian Trail. I remember I had a little Sierra Stove, in which you could build a tiny fire out of twigs while its battery-powered fan kept the fire going. It was cool but the design was a bit awkward. There was no such thing as a Vargo Hexagon Wood Stove then! After moving west (I’m originally from NH) I explored the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and all the wilderness areas I could get my booted feet into while exploring gear options along the way–everything from heavy to cheap, improvised, light, expensive, or just doing without! Later on, rock-climbing lent a technical and more “upward” pursuit to my mountain forays. Tackling obscure/hard-to-get-to 13ers was my focus. I started mountain biking after dislocating my shoulder in a climbing accident a number of years ago. Currently, I do some racing for a small grassroots team based in the Southwest, Big Wheel Racing, which specializes in long endurance events (100 milers and 12/24 hour events, etc.). But this year has been all about bikepacking and soul riding for me.
Vargo: What got you into outdoor adventures? What continues to influence you to get outside?
Rebecca Barfoot: I’ve always had a very essential need to be outside in the natural world; to leave behind the din of town and To-Do lists and drop into myself in a deeper and more expansive way. It’s also about noticing the rich details of the environment I’m exploring; the leaves of a tree, the texture of redrock, a vibrant sunset; even a subtle shift in light, wind or temperature, and noticing animal tracks. These are the visceral experiences of being alive that we are losing touch with.
Somewhere along the way I realized I never wanted to come in!! And this is especially true as our world speeds up. In many ways, I am more at home in the freedom and simplicity of the outdoor world than I am inside four walls with a paycheck.
Vargo: Being a female, you tend to participate in what are typically male dominated activities (backpacking, climbing, mountain biking, etc.) though which could be enjoyed by even more females. What’s your take on this apparent division? What’s your encouragement to other women to enjoy these sorts of activities?
Rebecca Barfoot: I learned long ago that a solo female on an extended back country adventure was not the norm and even after so many years traveling self-supported on foot, bike, and kayak, people never fail to ask, “Are you all by yourself out here?” It’s been an awesome way to serve as an “ambassador” of sorts for women having their own adventures in the mountains and helping them realize they can be as self-sufficient as they want to be in the outdoors. They see a confident and well prepared solo traveler making good decisions, traveling light, and *enjoying it* oh-so-much. I know this has inspired both friends and strangers (male and female) who perhaps might not venture out without a buddy.
Vargo: Where’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to? Any plans to return?
Rebecca Barfoot: That’s a tough one! I think Greenland tops my current list. There’s something both timeless and ethereal about the energy of the inland glacier, the icebergs, and camping and kayaking in a place where I know I’m gazillions of miles from anywhere- and where in summer the sun never sets!
I also love “my” mountains in southwest Colorado. I have such an intimate connection to places like the rugged Wemincuche wilderness with its little off-trail lakes and remote peaks that will always be special to me. There’s a comfort in knowing I can always go back – and that these places will always be protected.
Vargo: You’re on the record for saying that the Vargo Triad Alcohol Stove “saved your butt” on one of your adventures. Can you tell us more about that situation and how the Triad helped you through it?
Rebecca Barfoot: I made a very late season bid to mountain bike the 500 mile Colorado trail this past fall, knowing I’d have to face potential winter conditions and that I’d have to carry more gear (a warmer bag, more clothes and food, and definitely a stove). I got caught out in a sudden snowstorm on the Monarch Crest, and made a forced bivy at 12,000’. I was able to fire up the Triad without any problem at all, despite that it was well below freezing and snow kept sifting into my shelter to cover me and my gear all night!
Vargo: For us “gear nuts”, what have you found to be the gear you’ve stuck with the most through your various adventures? Any specific gear advice you’d give to other women (and men)? Your favorite “luxury” item you always carry?
Rebecca Barfoot: My adventures are varied, but my gear is not. It’s the simple, no frills gear that always performs better and lasts longer. Vargo gear embodies this, and I particularly like this about the Triad. It should also be said that I’m a great improviser. I’ve been using the rainfly from an old backpacking tent (c.1997) as my light bikepacking bivy! I set it up with just the poles stuck in the ground and a piece of Tyvek over the ground.
To the women out there, go light but don’t be afraid to be comfortable also. Being in the back country becomes a suffer-fest if you’re carrying too much – or too little. When I’m chronically cold, hungry, tired and wet, I’m reduced to survival mode and the journey loses its joy. Also, if you’re new to backpacking, try using a set of trekking poles (old ski poles work great) to save your feet and knees, especially on long steep descents.
I do have one luxury item, but it’s light!! I always carry paper and pencil (because pen ink freezes) for recording my thoughts along the journey and sometimes even carry a tiny set of paints for sketching on break time. Super old school!!! I’ve also been known to carry, uh…hard cover book with me. But that’s a bit revealing isn’t it…
Vargo: What’s your hardest lesson learned from the trail?
Rebecca Barfoot: Humility!! I’ve learned not to create crushing expectations of myself or the adventure. Much like relaxing my grip while cycling technical terrain, I remind myself to let go of outcome and get in the flow. I’m just grateful to be out in all these beautiful places, no matter what gets dished out.
Vargo: You’re also a talented artist who weaves her love and respect for the outdoors into her work. For you, how are the two connected and what’s your desired outcome of your artwork?
Rebecca Barfoot: I should say that all my outdoor experience is inextricably linked to a total love and respect for the outdoors and some of the last remaining wilderness areas on the planet. My work as a visual artist increasingly engages with topics of environment, ecology, wilderness, and humanity’s impact on our precious earth. This is what brought me to Arctic Greenland last year, where I was able to explore more ideas related to place and environment from the vantage point of the far north – one of the regions hardest hit by anthropogenic climate change. I was able to research, make art, and also kayak for several weeks in remote Baffin Bay amidst towering icebergs and perilously melting glaciers.
Vargo: How can people follow your adventures in art and the outdoors?
Rebecca Barfoot: A new page within my artist website is here: http://www.rebeccabarfoot.com/580700/art-of-living/ and my blog: www.rebeccabarfoot.blogspot.com.