Our testers are avid climbers, skiers, bikers, surfers, hikers, trail runners, and backpackers. Each of them has an eye for detail and an obsession to find the best. Many of our testers are professional outdoor guides who bring years of hands-on experience and backcountry wisdom to our reviews.
Chris McNamara, Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Author of the three best selling guidebooks to rock climbing in Yosemite National Park and eight other climbing guidebooks, Chris is the founder of OutdoorGearLab and serves as Editor-in-Chief. Outside Magazine has called Chris one of the world's finest aid climbers. Hes the winner of the Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association
, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 10,000 dangerous anchor bolts. Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris's life on earth had been spent on the face of El Capitan an accomplishment that left friends and family pondering Chris's sanity. He has climbed El Capitan more than 80 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. As a BASE jumper he claimed a slice of the "Golden Age of Wingsuit BASE first descents" by finding and jumping 10-plus significant new exits in the United States and Baffin Island. More info at ChrisMcNamara.com
and Chris Mac's YouTube Channel
. In his spare time, Chris also manages two South Lake Tahoe vacation rental homes (7 bedroom/18 guests
, and 5 bedroom/12 guests
). View Chris's Trip Reports
Cam McKenzie Ring, Managing Editor
Cam McKenzie Ring lived "off-the-grid" for five years in Yosemite National Park before moving to Las Vegas in 2008. Once she had power again she quickly began acquiring electrical kitchen appliances, including a juicer, and has been a regular user ever since. She currently develops recipes for a solar-powered cooker and is pretty sure she'd give up electricity and most of those gadgets again, as long as she could run a juicer off a solar panel or a bicycle.
Valentine Cullen, Marketing Manager
Valentine Cullen has been hiking and climbing in the Northern California forests and boogie boarding the bone chilling and shark infested waters of the rugged Pacific coast for over 30 years. Valentine has a degree in Creative Writing but also loves computer science. For seven years she ran her own photograph restoration and digital archiving business while raising her only daughter. Her favorite activities include anything that has to do with being submerged in water, (be it warm or freezing) hiking, climbing, bouldering, exploring, boogie boarding, standup paddleboarding, taking photographs of anything beautiful or interesting and just chilling at home cooking, making jewelry or working on random craft projects.
Jessica Lempe, Content Manager
Jessica Lempe grew up in the "Sunshine State" - Florida. After graduating from the University of Tampa with a Sociology degree, she discovered rock climbing and moved to beautiful Colorado, the real Sunshine State. Her interests include cooking, baking, rock climbing, reading, Permaculture, making things from scratch, and life in general. She now spends seven months of the year in Yosemite Valley, living in Camp 4 in the Search and Rescue site; the rest of the year is spent traveling around, living and learning.
Kenny Barker, Review Editor
Kenny Barker grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and started training at Vertical Adventures at the age of 14. He's been setting routes since 1998, and has worked with World Cup setters in Europe. He's not just a gym monkey, though. Kenny's been instrumental in the development of some of the hardest routes in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky. He currently resides in Las Vegas where he can climb outside year around, but still trains and sets inside several days a week.
Jeremy Bauman, Review Editor
Jeremy spends as much time as he can hunting for powder and climbing long, alpine route in Colorado. He loves every type of climbing though has rarely been seen bouldering. If you every strike up a conversation about gear with him, be prepared for a long discussion. He loves to cook and lives as comfortably on long backpacking trips as he does at home. Jeremy divides his time between guiding outdoor trips and marketing for small businesses. His passion is teaching people how to enjoy the outdoors as much as he does and he loves taking people into the hills.
Between his passion for all things climbing and his scientific work aboard commercial fishing boats, Jack estimates he gets to spend more than three quarters of each year outside. He hopes to save the world by helping to preserve the Pacific Halibut fishery and by eliminating the waste of misguided gear purchases.
Amanda Fenn, Review Editor
After graduating from DePauw University with a degree in anthropology and French, Amanda Fenn spent two years traveling and climbing in Europe, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2010, she moved to Bishop, California, to feed her adventure habit. After two years of climbing everything from big walls to boulders, she relocated to Boulder, Colorado, where she currently balances her freelance gigs with plenty of play.
Thomas Greene, Review Editor
Originally from Maine, Thomas has recently been splitting his time guiding in the mountains of California, Washington, and Alaska. Living in the Eastern Sierra and in a tiny town outside Mt. Rainier National Park has provided plenty of opportunity to read a ton of books, watch some bad movies, run, and maintain an awesome sunburn. Thomas has had the good fortune to guide in New Zealand, South America, Mexico, California, Washington, and Alaska. He has received training and certifications from NZMGA, AMGA, MSC, and AIARE.
Jessica Haist, Review Editor
Jessica is a recovered fashion major and urbanite who now spends all of her time living, working and playing in the mountains. Jessica originally hails from Toronto, Canada and now calls Mammoth Lakes California home. She is an avid skier, rock climber, backpacker, gardener and mountain biker. She has lived and worked all over North America pursuing her outdoor passions and work as an outdoor educator and guide. Jessica has recently completed her Masters Degree in Adventure Education from Prescott College in Arizona.
Sarah Hegg, Review Editor
Sarah grew up in Minnesota but has spent most of her time since in the West. Sarah is an avid runner, logging 50-75 miles in a typical week of mountain trail running, and often competes in half-, full- and ultra-marathon races. She also spends much of her free time climbing, skiing, and exploring the outdoors. In her day-job, Sarah is a wildlife biologist, and you'll notice that as she brings her background and training as a professional scientist to the detailed analysis in her reviews.
Gentrye Houghton, Review Editor
Born and raised in West Texas, Gentrye Houghton was exposed to the great outdoors at an early age through trail rides, hikes around Palo Duro Canyon and skiing in New Mexico. After graduating with a Journalism Degree from Oklahoma State University, she was first exposed to rock climbing inside a little gym and bouldering around a little park in Tulsa, Okla. Through these experiences, an idea was sparked to return to Texas and bring climbing along with her, and she and her partner founded the only indoor climbing facility in Amarillo, Texas over five years ago. She currently resides in the beautiful Elk Range that surrounds Redstone, Colorado, where she plays in the hills with her husband and their Great Dane. Gentrye finds her connection to the world around her by spending long days in the mountains rock climbing, hiking, trail running and skiing.
Ryan Huetter, Review Editor
Ryan Huetter grew up near the coastal tidewaters of the Puget Sound in Washington State, but has since traded moss and rain for the sunshine and splitter cracks of the Sierra Nevada. Since graduating from Western Washington University in 2006 with a Bachelor's degree in Outdoor Adventure Management, he has called the Sierra home. Working as a full time mountain guide while pursuing IFMGA certification, he is able to enjoy the unbelievable year round skiing and climbing the Sierra is known for.
Ryan's passion for climbing has taken him around the world, from Yosemite Valley, where he has climbed over 20 different big wall routes, to seven seasons in Patagonia, where he has made many major ascents, including Fitz Roy and first ascents of remote alpine walls. But year after year the Sierra Nevada remains Ryan's base and he loves introducing people to the Range of Light. Ryan's favorite Sierra climb is the Third Pillar of Dana, coupled with fish tacos from the Mobil Station, of course.
Amber King, Review Editor
After finishing up her B.Sc and B.Ed in 2009, Amber moved to the U.S.A from Canada to spend time in the mountains of the West. Drawn in by dreams of climbing perfect cracks, and exploring new areas, she found herself in a few different places - Utah to Colorado to Arizona to Washington. Along her journey she discovered trail running as a new found love. Completing her first half-marathon, full-marathon, and ultra-marathon within one year, she is learning how to be an endurance athlete. She also loves to boat, back country snowboard, and rock climb. When she's not playing in the wilderness, you can find her planning experiential-based school trips as a high school science teacher.
Brandon Lampley, Review Editor
Brandon graduated from Duke University, receiving degrees in Environmental Science, Geology, and Psychology; he then promptly moved to California to climb in Yosemite and backpack throughout the Sierra Nevada. He has hiked and climbed in 48 States and 20 or so countries. Brandon has summited Denali and Ama Dablam, pioneered first ascents in the Indian and Chinese Himalaya, and topped out a few El Cap routes. Kayaking in the Sea of Cortes for a month was a lifetime highlight. When his shoulders said no more climbing for a while, he decided to abuse his feet, and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail with only 4 months off in between. Today he lives in the Colorado mountains when not traveling and playing. Brandon remodels historic homes and landmarks, and he trains and advises adventure athletes. He hikes, runs, and climbs in the mountains to stay sane.
McKenzie Long, Review Editor
McKenzie grew up in the Midwest with a winter layering system consisting of wearing two pairs of jeans and going inside for hot chocolate if she got wet. Fueled by her passion for climbing and the mountains, she relocated to Jackson, Wyoming for an unpaid internship at Alpinist Magazine
where she further educated herself on outdoor living through careful mimicry of more savvy individuals. Through a humbling sponsorship by the elite training facility Mountain Athlete, she worked on improving her strength, confidence, and mental stamina for mountain endeavors. Currently McKenzie lives in the heart of the Eastern Sierra in Mammoth Lakes, California where she runs her own freelance graphic design business, Cardinal Innovative
. She is the author of the second edition of the High Sierra SuperTopo
Luke Lydiard, Review Editor
Luke Lydiard was born and raised in the hills of Western Massachusetts where he spent most of his days finding ways to ride a snowboard. He quickly moved west seeking larger mountains and deeper snow. In the Eastern Sierra, Luke fell in love with climbing as much as snowboarding. He currently lives and works in Mammoth Lakes, California where he balances a full time job as a Paramedic Firefighter with traveling the world seeking inspiring lines for both ascending and descending. Luke has climbed rock, snow, and ice in France, Canada, Chile, Argentina, and Alaska.
Ian McEleney, Review Editor
After falling in love with mountains in New England, Ian traveled all over the country making ascents of everything from short roadside rock climbs to big walls to big peaks in the wilderness. Now he lives, plays, and guides in the Sierra Nevada, one of North America's best mountain playgrounds. He rounds the year out with forays to Red Rocks, Moab, Washington's Cascades, and Alaska. He likes ice cream, jackets with hoods, and well-earned rest days.
Ian Nicholson, Review Editor
Ian is a man of the mountains. His overwhelming desire to spend as much time in them as possible has been the reason for him to spend the last seven years living in small rooms in dusty basements cluttered with gear and in the back of his pickup (sometimes in the parking lot of the local climbing gym). This drive and focus have taken Ian into the Kichatna Spires of Alaska and the Waddington Range of British Columbia (with the help of two Mountain Fellowship Grants from the American Alpine Club) as well as extensive trips through much of the Western United States and Canada. His pursuit of guiding has been tenacious. He was the youngest person to pass his American Mountain Guides Assn Rock and Alpine Guide exams (on his way towards becoming a fully certified International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations guide). Ian also holds an American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) Level 3 certification as well as an AIARE Level 1 avalanche instructor certification.
Tommy Penick, Review Editor
Tommy is a professional commercial and outdoor photographer who currently lives out of his converted 5x10 utility trailer throughout the continental US. Between traveling for assignment work, Tommy is an avid whitewater kayaker, mountain biker, and skier, and likes to see if he can do at least one every day.
Mike Phillips, Review Editor
Mike is a full time seasonal outdoor professional. In the winter you can find him doing avalanche control work and caring for injured skiers as a professional ski patroller at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, California or backcountry skiing on the East Side of the Sierra. During the drier months of summer he trades in the skis for lightweight packs as a backpacking guide on the John Muir Trail, Mt. Whitney, and less talked about regions of California's High Sierra. Mike calls the Eastern Sierra home, where he lives in a small house at the foot of a volcano in a little aspen grove with his fiancee and accident prone dog.
Lyra Pierotti, Review Editor
Lyra Pierotti is a mountain guide and journalist based in Washington State and the Eastern Sierra. She is an AMGA Certified Rock Guide, an AIARE avalanche instructor, and has guided all over the globe, from South America to Alaska, and the western U.S. to the Italian Dolomites.
Jediah Porter, Review Editor
Jediah Porter is a full-time part-timer. He works as a mountain guide and for OutdoorGearLab and as a substitute teacher. Guiding work requires an even mix of rock shoes, approach shoes, ice boots, and ski gear. Off the clock, he climbs and skis. He also engages in binges of mountain biking, canoeing, hunting, fishing, and trail-running. He goes by Jed and takes pride in using the right tool for the job, unless he doesn't have that tool. In which case he improvises. "If you don't have it, you don't need it". He has lived most of his adult life in the Eastern Sierra and tries to get to Alaska (for big mountains) and the East Coast (for family) once each year. Jed's web site is http://www.jediahporter.com
Ross Robinson, Review Editor
Hailing from a small town in Indiana, Ross loves spending his time surrounded by a few good friends in the great outdoors, especially hiking, climbing, and camping. He also enjoys keeping things fresh by traveling as much as possible. He's lived a few years in Germany (Sprechen Sie Deutsch?), and spent the last four years teaching science in Thailand. On weekends and school breaks, he explored and rock climbed in countries like Laos, Vietnam, and China. Having recently moved to Minnesota, Ross now likes cold things, like ice climbing and ice hockey. Here in the "North," he's also trying to learn Spanish while maintaining first place in his community kickball league.
Curtis Smith, Review Editor
Curtis Smith resides in South Lake Tahoe, Ca. He can be found out on the trails, at the races or training for the next one.
Briana Valorosi, Review Editor
Born and raised in Northern California, Briana has had the privilege to experience diverse landscapes, cultural richness, and the natural environment.
As a graduate of Sustainability Studies, she has gained a holistic approach to the interactions between people and their environments. Over the past seven years, she has been adventuring to the summits of Colorado's 14,000 ft peaks, climbed Tuolumne's granite domes, hiked hundreds of miles of trails from Lake Tahoe to Hawaii and Colorado, travelled internationally and nationally by plane, train, sailboat, and Subaru, and found solace in the beautiful deserts of the southwestern United States. Grateful for these experiences in the wild world, she is on a constant pursuit of adventure and fulfillment where the air is pure.
Andy Wellman, Review Editor
Andy Wellman is an adventurer, writer, and guidebook publisher who lives at 9,300 feet in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. He has been an avid rock climber for 16 years and in 2010 started Greener Grass Publishing while living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 2011 he impulsively went for a trail run when the conditions at his home crag were too wet for climbing and was instantly bit by the bug of trail running flow. These days he primarily chooses to run or backcountry ski in the mountains as a means to connect with nature, explore the world, and test his own limits.
Aaron Zanto, Review Editor
Aaron Zanto grew up playing in the mountains of Colorado. While completing his degree in Physical Science, he realized he preferred spending his time learning about and playing in natural environments. He used his student loan money to pay for his first mountaineering expedition, Aconcagua. In 1999, he moved to Lake Tahoe and since then hasn't stopped exploring the High Sierra and other ranges at home and abroad. His passion is high altitude granite, deep powder, and long dusty trails. He spends the majority of his free time climbing, skiing, and exploring with his wife and daughter. The rest of his time is spent fighting fires in Northern California.