Bruce Kirkby and friends hiking in South Korea

Where to travel now: fall edition

With busy summer vacation months behind us and peak season airline rates dropping, there’s perhaps no better time to take off and do some exploring than autumn. MEC Ambassadors spend a fair amount of time abroad for work and play, so we put a challenge to them: tell us where to travel now.

Allan Prazsky

Allan Prazsky biking on the Big Island of Hawaii
Where to?

Big Island of Hawaii

Reasons for your trip?

No better way to kick off the training season than riding and relaxing, and trolling the shores and mountains in a warm climate that constantly invites you to stretch your limits. I spent a lot of time either poolside or on white sandy beaches.

What gear did you bring?

Ridley Noah SL20 Bike, Garmin Edge 520 GPS, Castelli bib shorts and jersey, DeFeet socks, ProBars.

What did you wish you’d brought?

More ProBars to get me through the long, hot miles.

Best thing you ate/saw/did?

The moment you land and breathe in the first sniff of humidity and warmth, you know you’ve landed someplace special. The colours here are incredibly vivid and the ambient air is a perfect temperature. The roads are exceptional with nary a pothole. Climbing up through Waimea and high into the Kohala Mountains was magical – upon cresting, I saw the open Pacific Ocean, then swooped down a long, winding decent into Hawi and returned along the rugged, rolling west coast. A must for any cyclist.

Travel tips?

Make sure you know about tides and sneaker waves. A tranquil ocean visit can quickly turn into a hospital visit via a large, unexpected wave.

Bruce Kirkby

Hiking in South Korea
Where to?

South Korea

Reasons for your trip?

For a writing assignment to explore and report on the burgeoning hiking frenzy that is currently sweeping the country.

What gear did you bring?

The MEC Forge 50 Backpack was great for carry-on, in airports, taxis and on the trail. It easily carried all my camera gear, plus overnight equipment and food. I was impressed. My Vasque Breeze GTX hiking boots were lightweight and comfortable on the plane, but rugged enough for rocky overnight trails with a hefty pack. To find my way around huts, I also brought the Petzl Tikka Headlamp. It was great for scrambling up to high peaks for sunrise.

What did you wish you’d brought?

Ear plugs and my Therm-a-rest Prolite Plus Sleeping Pad. The Korean mountain huts are amazing, but almost always crowded, and in the big dorm rooms, someone always snores. My Korean friend insisted I wouldn’t need my pad, as the mountain huts rent blankets, but that wasn’t enough to cushion my hips and back against the wooden floors.

Best thing you ate/saw/did?

Korea’s hiking trails are world-class. Nearly all of them include infrastructure – ladders, cables, staircases – that has been bolted to the sheer limestone faces, which makes for exciting travel and allows access to terrain that would be otherwise inaccessible. Even within Seoul city limits, you can find soaring summits, exposed ridges and quiet forest trails sprinkled with monasteries. Korea’s food is also amazing. And while I love it all, bibimbap and barbecue are my favourites. From the busy cities to the quiet villages, I could never get enough.

Travel tips?

If you’re in Korea, you simply must go hiking. It’s that good. Don’t be intimidated by fancily dressed locals, who tend to buy the best of everything, including hiking gear – they’re very friendly. With just a simple hello, they’ll invite you to share in their elaborate mountaintop picnics. The Korean mountains are steep and rugged, so keep your distances short. The trails are wide and well cared for though, so don’t be put off. And there are plenty of hikers around who are eager to help with directions and advice.

Kalob Grady

Camping and kayaking in Chile
Where to?

Patagonia, Chile

Reasons for your trip?

Exploring, adventuring and kayaking. Kayaking lets you see new and interesting places by accessing areas and locations not available otherwise. Travelling with a team of friends and discovering new rivers while also enjoying an area’s classic attractions is the best.

What gear did you bring?

As kayakers, our on-river gear is always important for safety and progression, but the off-water gear is where life can be made easy or hard. I brought my MEC Tarn 2 Tent, Therm-a-rest Prolite Sleeping Pad and MEC Phoenix -12C Sleeping Bag. They’re easy to trek around with and afford me good sleeps.

What did you wish you’d brought?

Individual coffee presses are incredible, but a large 8–12 cup press to get everyone up and at it in the morning would’ve been nice.

Best thing you ate/saw/did?

On an asado (outdoor barbeque), we had a dinner prepared for us by locals after finishing a day on one of my favourite rivers in Patagonia, the Futaleufu River. A sunrise one morning over the harbour in Hornopiren was spectacular. The light crested over the Andes’ peaks and beamed through clouds to create an epic effect on the boats beached by low tide. Another definite highlight was running one of my favourite waterfalls, Demshitz Drop on the Rio Nevados, and watching others successfully descend the drop for the first time as well.

Travel tips?

Stop in the town of Pucon. There’s a hike up El Volcan Villarica that is incredible. And off the beaten path 15 minutes out of town, the El Cani hike lets you see a massive volcano that dominates the landscape from the summit.

Joe Schuster

Skier, camper and surfer in Chile
Where to?

Chile

Reasons for your trip?

Skiing at Valle Nevado, hanging out in Santiago and Valparaiso, and surfing and camping on the coast around Pichilemu.

What gear did you bring?

A whole bunch of MEC gear: the Centre Point Jacket and Sidecut Pants, Pom Pom HatVolt 3 Tent, Talon -3 Sleeping Bag, Fusion Wetsuit, booties and gloves and the Duffle Bag.

What did you wish you’d brought?

We weren’t missing anything.

Best thing you ate/saw/did?

We had a great meal at a French restaurant at Valle Nevado. Also, one day we drove out to the middle of nowhere on the coast to find deserted beaches with awesome waves. We had the entire place to ourselves and were able to camp right on the beach.

Travel tips?

Rent a car and go visit the mountains as well as the beaches on the coast. If you want to see a city, visit Valparaiso instead of Santiago; it’s way more beautiful and all the wineries are closer.

Reuben Krabbe

Biking on the Dempster Highway
Where to?

Dempster Highway, along the Canada/US border between Dawson, YT and Inuvik, NWT

Reasons for your trip?

I joined my dad for the last leg of his dream journey – 633km of biking. I’ve always been surrounded by roadies and gravel grinders, and finally wanted to experience what they so loved.

What gear did you bring?

Camp gear and clothes: MEC Volt 2 Tent, Jetboil stove, SteriPen water purifier, MEC dry bag, SPOTMEC merino base layer, Oakley Two Face sunglasses.

Bike gear: Provincial Road 222 Bike, BOB trailer, Mavic helmet and Shimano pedals.

What did you wish you’d brought?

I wish I’d bought a proper bike fit.

Best thing you ate/saw/did?

I loved seeing the wildlife and diverse landscape – there are so many different mountain styles, interior plateaus, river valleys, tributaries and mountain passes. We saw grizzly bears, moose and deer. The best food we had was a regular pasta dinner supplemented with beer and smoked salmon from a camp-neighbour from Germany. 

Travel tips?

Test everything first, and in the manner it’ll be used in the future. Try riding your bike fully weighted for the full average distance you’ll need to travel. It will make you realize how much you want to cut from your packing list and how big the undertaking will be.

Cat Carkner rock climbing
MEC Ambassadors

Aficionados of the outdoor sports MEC promotes. They pioneer and innovate, test gear in the field, and inspire all of us to get outside.